12.28.2007

Bye Bye Bennigan's

Since I moved to Cedar Rapids from Iowa City in 2002, including when I lived in Waterloo, my friend Homercles and I have taken each other out to dinner for our birthdays. With just a few exceptions, the dinner has always been at the Bennigan's at Lindale Mall. Now I just read a news story on KCRG-TV9's website saying that Bennigan's, as well as three other stores, will be leaving Lindale Mall by the end of next month. In fact, he, Mel, and I had dinner there just last week. We even have a Bennigan's gift card that we still have a balance on. I suppose we better get back soon to use it, otherwise we'll have to drive down to the Coral Ridge Mall in Coralville to use up the balance of the card as that is the closest Bennigan's location other than the one at Lindale Mall. To make this even more disappointing, Weight Watchers recently has begun including points values for some Bennigan's items on its website and in the new edition of its dining out points guide. Maybe something good will replace it though.

Evaluating My 2007 New Year's Resolutions and Some Resolutions for 2008

My first blog posting of the year, on January 2, listed three New Year's resolutions that I came up with to improve my life. Now as the year is drawing to a close, I can only find it appropriate to evaluate how I did on my resolutions.

My first resolution was to cut back on the amount of soda I drink, limiting myself to just twenty-four ounces each day. Well, that resolution was a bust! Most days at work, I begin my day by walking across the parking lot to the Subway restaurant where my coworkers and I can get soda refills in thirty-two-ounce or larger cups for just twenty seven cents! I rarely skip that.

I did make some progress though on my second resolution, to lose weight. My goal was to get my weight down to 200 pounds on my birthday, October 20. I almost succeeded in reaching that goal. A few weeks prior to my birthday, my weight was down to 199 pounds, but by my birthday it was back up to 202.8 pounds. As of my weigh-in on Wednesday of last week, my weight was at 201.8 pounds. It was significantly higher this past Wednesday, although it was still under 210 pounds.

The final resolution I made was to exercise more, at least twenty minutes per day, three days a week. I don't think I ever reached that goal. I did exercise more when I began Weight Watchers at the end of April, but that has dropped off quite a bit.

Now that I have evaluated how I did on this past year's New Year's resolutions, I am going to come up with some for 2008. Some of these will be very similar to my resolutions for 2007.
  1. Drink less pop! Currently I probably drink in excess of 100 ounces of pop each day on average. While this is all diet pop, that still can not be healthy. I'm not going to quit cold turkey, but I am going to begin easing off the pop as the year begins. My goal is to drink an average of 40 or fewer ounces of pop per day each week by the end of February.
  2. I am going to continue watching my weight and get it down to 195 pounds. This shouldn't be too tough as I am less than 15 pounds from this goal. My timeline for this goal involves losing an average of half a pound each week, a very doable rate. Hopefully the final pounds I wish to shed will come off a bit faster than that.
  3. I still need to exercise more. This year for Christmas, Mel got me a pedometer. I have used it the past three days, and except for today when I worked from home, I walked over 7,000 steps each day. I would like to average 10,000 steps per day each week. I want to achieve this goal by the end of February as well.
  4. I also need to exercise more using the elliptical trainer and the Bowflex. I want to use these at least three days each week.

Now I know that New Year's resolutions seem to be made to be broken, but I think I can do it this year if I put my mind to it.

I Love Our Neighborhood!

We live in a really nice neighborhood. When Mel, Emma, and I returned home Christmas evening, after being gone for three and a half days, I was expecting to have to clear away the eight or so inches of snow that had fallen since leaving Saturday morning for Mel's parents' house. We were quite surprised to find that the snow had been cleared away, not only from our sidewalk, but also from our driveway. Our neighbor, two houses down the street, Pete, will occasionally use his snow blower to clear the snow from the sidewalk all the way to the end of the block, so that wasn't as much of a surprise as finding or clean driveway was. I suspected that he had been the one who did it. As I was unloading our truck, Dean, our neighbor across the street confirmed my suspicion. So today, while I was snow blowing the freshly-fallen snow from our sidewalk and driveway, I went over to Pete's house to personally thank him as he was out finishing up some shoveling of snow from his property. I got into a nice conversation with Pete. I have lived plenty of places, but I think this is the only place I have lived with neighbors who would be this helpful.

New Foods

On Thursday of last week, Mel took Emma to the doctor for her nine-month check-up. While there we were told that Emma should now be eating stage three foods instead of the stage two foods we had been feeding her. So the past week, we have begun feeding Emma some Gerber Stage 3 baby food. Emma hadn't had any problems recently with the stage two foods she had been eating, but getting her to eat the stage three foods has been a bit of a struggle, especially the chunkier foods.

I have tried a couple different techniques to get Emma to eat her chunkier stage three foods the past couple days before coming up with a plan which worked quite well tonight. First, I let Emma play with a second spoon. When she tried to put her spoon in her mouth, I stuck the spoon with the food on it into her mouth. Next, I noticed that when I wiped her face with a damp paper towel to clean her up, she would open her mouth, so I started doing that, inserting the spoon of food when her mouth was open. That worked alright, but she caught on pretty quickly. Finally this evening, while trying to feed her the Gerber broccoli and carrots with cheese, I started alternating spoonfuls of the vegetables with spoonfuls of banana, which she likes. This actually seemed to work quite well. I will have to try it again tomorrow. Hopefully though, she will soon begin to actually like the chunkier vegetables and meat entrees.

12.27.2007

Back to Work

I actually should have made this posting yesterday as I had to return to work already on Wednesday, the day after Christmas. However, I am only working during the morning this week. I am using the rest of my vacation time for the afternoons this week since Mel has to work evenings this week and Emma's daycare provider is taking the week off.

Yesterday for lunch, Mel, Emma, and I got together for lunch with Homercles as well as my friend from Las Vegas, Anna, at the Irish Democrat. It was good to see them, especially since Anna doesn't make it back to Cedar Rapids too often. Hopefully Mel and I will be able to go out to Las Vegas sometime this spring on vacation and we'll be able to see her then.

It was pretty quiet at work today since there are not many people here. I did get quite a bit of work done this morning as I listened to the CD I gave Mel for Christmas, the Jolly Rogers' live album, No Refunds. I have to say that it is quite an enjoyable CD. I also put out some of the things I got for Christmas, such as my Bad President daily calendar. It's actually a sixteen-month calendar, so I had to remove all the pages from mid-September, when the calendar began, until today. The calendar even goes twenty days into next year, ending on Inauguration Day, January 20, 2009.

If you read my blog regularly, you may have noticed that I skipped my weekly Wednesday Weight Watchers posting. Well, let's just say that the Christmas weekend was not very good for my diet. I will be getting back on track this week and plan on resuming the Weight Watchers postings next Wednesday, January 2, 2008.

12.21.2007

Holiday Weekend

I got a slightly early start to the Christmas holiday weekend today when one of the vice presidents at work walked around the office this afternoon telling everyone not to "stay too late." I took this as a code for "go ahead and go home." So I went home early.


We are also getting an early start to our travels this weekend. We had planned on going to my parents-in-law's house on Sunday. however, with the winter storm and the several inches of ice and snow that it is predicted to dump on us, we have decided that we should leave for their house in Humboldt, Iowa, tomorrow morning instead.

While I would have loved to stay home an extra day, and sleep in my own bed for another night, on the plus side, leaving early than we planned means that there is one less day that I will have to deal with political campaigns calling.

12.19.2007

Weight Watchers Week 34

All I can say about this past week is this: too many Christmas cookies and chocolates! I really wish my weigh-in day had been yesterday, because yesterday morning my weight was only up 0.4 pound from last week to 200.8 pounds. This morning however, my weight was up an additional 1.0 pound to a total of 201.8 pounds! This next week will be pretty tough with family Christmas celebrations three days in a row beginning on Sunday. And today I will have to stay focused on what I eat at the holiday potluck at work for lunch, and on what I have for dinner at Bennigan's with my friend Homercles tonight. If I don't lose any weight this upcoming week but am able to maintain instead, I will be happy.

12.17.2007

Too Busy to Blog

I feel like I have been too busy to blog lately. This weekend I was especially busy. Saturday morning I donated a pint of blood at the American Red Cross blood drive in town. I had been scheduled to give blood at the blood drive at work last month, but I was sick then and was unable to give blood. As my blood type is O-, my blood is in high demand, and while I really hate needles, I am more than happy to put up with them to give blood. It doesn't cost me anything, and it can help others. After my blood donation, I had a few errands to run before returning home.

In the afternoon on Saturday, Mel, Emma, and I went out shopping once again to get the very last things we needed to get before Christmas. While we were shopping at Lindale Mall, we stopped so Emma could visit with Santa Claus. We got her photo taken with him, shown below. She was really good for Santa. It only took two shots before we were able to get a photo of her smiling, although Santa did have to pull her left hand out of her mouth!


Sunday was a somewhat busy day as well. After church in the morning, we took a photo for our Christmas cards. I picked up the cards this morning from Walgreens and plan on getting them out in the mail tomorrow morning on my way to work. Mel and I also went shopping separately in the afternoon. I went shopping for groceries, while Mel, along with Emma, finished up some Christmas shopping for which I could not be present.

12.12.2007

Weight Watchers Week 33

My weight loss continued this week with a loss of an additional 0.6 pound, bringing my weight down to 200.4 pounds, for a net change of 31.0 pounds in the past 33 weeks. This does bring my average weight loss to less than one pound per week, but I suppose that is a healthy rate at which to lose weight. From what I have ready, a rapid weight loss is more difficult to sustain over time. Now I have just 5.4 more pounds to lose before I reach my goal of 195 pounds!

12.11.2007

A Couple More Ice Storm Photos

Here are a couple more photos from today's ice storm in Cedar Rapids.

The first shows the DirecTV sattelites on the roof of our house, covered with ice.


This second photo shows the tree in our front yard covered with ice.

Ice Ice Baby

The results of freezing rain can be beautiful. I'm just glad that I don't have to go back out in it today! I took a short break from my work earlier this morning and stepped outside to check out the weather. As I was outside taking a few photos of the ice on the trees, I kept hearing snapping sounds in the background as branches broke from trees in the neighborhood and fell to the ground. I also heard what I thought was crackling sounds coming from a nearby electrical transformer, but I am not sure about that. Fortunately I sill have electricity. Without it, it would be pretty challenging to get any work done from home today.


The Weather Outside Is Frightful

And because of the weather, I'll be working from home today. I spent most of yesterday at work unpacking into my new cubicle. It naturally looks very much like my old cubicle, but for some reason, there is a very different feel to it. Currently I can not open one of my filing cabinets because it is locked shut, and the lock has yet to be installed. Hopefully they get that done today or tomorrow so once I am back in the office I can move things from the overhead bin into the file cabinet where it belongs.

12.08.2007

Friday Wrap-Up

I was able to make it to work just fine as the roads had been cleaned up pretty well from the snow the day before. It was not a very productive day at work however. Oh, I did get a significant amount of work done, but a group of nine of us went to HuHot in Coralville for lunch as it was the last day in the office for one of my coworkers. It was the person with whom I used to carpool. She is moving to the Dallas, Texas, area this weekend, and will be working from home from now on. Upon returning to the office following out extended lunch, I finished up some work and then completed the packing of my office since the movers are coming this weekend to move our belongings to our new cubicle locations within the building. I'll be having a lot of fun on Monday unpacking all of my stuff and getting everything set up, ready to get some work done.

Because we had to be all packed by 4:00, I was able to leave work early yesterday. Since everything was packed, it would have been pretty challenging to do any work. I was actually done packing by 3:15, so I left at that time.

After I got home, Mel, Emma, and I went across town to do some Christmas shopping. We just about have all of our gift shopping complete now. I do have a couple of things to pick up today, but that should be it. We also stopped by FedEx to pick up a delivery that couldn't be left since neither of us was home when they attempted to make a delivery yesterday afternoon. It was our new cell phones. On Sunday, when our contract with U.S. Cellular is up, we are going to activate the service on our new LG cell phones from Verizon Wireless.

12.06.2007

Yuck!

Most of this afternoon snow fell across eastern Iowa. That meant that what is normally a thirty-five-minute commute home from Iowa City to Cedar Rapids took about an hour and a half! For most of my drive, I did not exceed thirty-five miles per hour, and for the first half of the drive, my speed was significantly slower. It took me twenty minutes to go from the exit on Interstate 80 that is next to the Coral Ridge Mall to the exit from I-80 to I-35! That is a distance of just a few miles.

Hopefully the roads are better in the morning. If the roads are really bad, I could normally work from home, but I do need to go into the office tomorrow. We are moving cubicles at work and we have to have everything packed up by 4:00 tomorrow afternoon. I don't have much left to do, but I still have to get it all finished up. In fact, the rest of the packing that I need to do will take less than half an hour. I'm sure the roads will be better by morning though, so this is probably just a moot point.

12.05.2007

Weight Watchers Week 32

I did much better this week with watching what I ate, losing 1.4 pounds bringing my weight down to 201.0 pounds. This makes the difference from my starting weight 30.4 pounds. Now I have just 6 pounds to go to reach my goal of 195 pounds!

12.01.2007

Upset with Pizza Hut

Around 5:30 this evening, Mel and I decided to order a pizza from out local Pizza Hut on Mount Vernon Road in Cedar Rapids. I placed the order through the Pizza Hut website. Shortly afterward, I received an email indicating that the pizza would be ready for pickup around 5:50. Well, at that time, I drove to the Pizza Hut only to learn that they were closed. Apparently they closed at 5:00 due to the bad weather. I thought that it would have been nice to have been informed that they were closed, either by phone or email, shortly after placing the order. Well, some time during my drive back home, the store called home to let us know that they were closed. We ended up getting a pizza from Papa Murphy's instead.

11.29.2007

A Political Dilemma

I have a bit of a dilemma politically. The candidate who I am currently planning on supporting during the January 3 caucus in Iowa wants to eliminate No Child Left Behind. While I think NCLB has many issues, and philosophically I wouldn't be sad if the program were scrapped, my job developing tests owes quite a lot to NCLB. Now I don't think the testing industry would disappear if NCLB were to go away, but I don't think it would be good for business.

The candidate I am supporting is not one of the top tier candidates, so it isn't likely that he will win the nomination, but it does bother me a bit to be supporting someone who has a position which would hurt the business I work for. Now there are other aspects of the candidate that I like for which he has earned my support. I do have a backup candidate who is in the top tier of candidates running who will get my support should my candidate's group not be large enough to be deemed viable at the caucus site I attend and he does not plan on eliminating NCLB, so my job is probably secure in that sense.

11.28.2007

Weight Watchers Week 31

Thanksgiving week was a good one to me from a culinary perspective, but not from a weight-loss perspective. I ended up gaining 2.4 pounds this past week, bringing my weight back up to 202.4 pounds for a net weight loss of 29.0 pounds. Not being able to get my weight much lower than 200 pounds is becoming frustrating. I suppose I just need to follow the plan, and it should work. I admit, I have been doing some snacking at work that hasn't been recorded into the Points Tracker. Recording everything I eat is definitely what I want to do if I want to lose the last 7.4 pounds needed to reach my goal of 195 pounds.

11.26.2007

Emma Stands

On Wednesday I posted a video of Emma crawling, which she just began doing the Friday before. Then, this past Saturday, Emma began to pull herself up to a standing position all by herself! I tried to get a picture of her standing then, but she fell down before I could get the camera ready. Tonight I finally got a picture of Emma standing. It won't be long now, maybe a month or so, before she begins walking. Then we're in for trouble.

11.25.2007

Fist Fight at the Galaxy 16 Cine

The Cedar Rapids Gazette is reporting that the manager and four other employees of the Wehrenberg Theatres Galaxy 16 Cine in Cedar Rapids today. According to the article, a group of moviegoers were being disruptive during the movie. Other patrons complained to theater staff about the group and after not settling down when confronted by the manager, the manager asked them to leave. They then assaulted the manager and other staff who came to his assistance before fleeing the movie theater. One thing the article did not mention, but which I am interested in, is what movie they were viewing. I'm just curious, that's all.

Shopping with Baby

For the third time in three days, Emma and I went shopping. On Friday we went to Westdale Mall; yesterday we went to Home Depot and Wal-Mart; today we went to K-mart, Kohl's, and Lindale Mall. I have noticed that strangers really like to talk to parents about their babies, or even just to talk to the babies themselves. I don't mind as I enjoy talking about Emma to people who will listen. I just find it interesting how strangers will just begin talking to me about her. In shopping with Emma, I learn about other people's babies as well since they will invariably tell me that they have a grandchild around her age. They will then proceed to tell me about the developmental milestones that these other children have achieved. Children, especially little girls, also love to look at and talk to Emma when they see her.

The one thing I don't like though is when they get the baby's gender wrong. Now I understand that it can be difficult to tell baby boys from baby girls, but they could at least ask if it's not apparent. To avoid the possible gender confusion, I try to put Emma in clothes that are obviously "girl" clothes -- pink, purple, or flowered clothing. Now I thought that Emma's red turtleneck shirt with black pants that she was wearing today looked feminine, but apparently that was not the case as I had more people think she was a boy today than usually do when I am shopping with her. I guess I need to go back to the girlie colors next time we go shopping.

There was one really cute moment of our shopping expedition today. After we entered the elevator in Younkers, we were followed by a couple who each had a stroller with them as well. The man of the couple was pushing a double stroller with twin boys who appeared to be about Emma's age. The woman had a stroller with a somewhat older girl in it. As the three of us with our collective four children rode the elevator down, the children all just looked at other, not sure what to think.

11.24.2007

95th Birthday

Tonight we all went out to dinner for my great uncle's ninety-fifth birthday. We typically celebrate his birthday in the Amana Colonies, and tonight was no different in that respect. One difference tonight is that we went to a different restaurant than we usually do. We went to the Ox Yoke Inn, and I have to say that it was a good decision. I felt that the food there was better than it is at the restaurant we usually go to. They didn't have as big a selection of salads there, but there was enough, and the hot dishes were really good. I really hope that we go there again the next time we go to the Amanas for dinner.

11.23.2007

Black Friday

The Christmas shopping season unofficially began today, and I did my duty as an American in spending money to help the economy. However, my shopping began by returning a pair of jeans that Mel bought last Saturday. After putting the jeans on at home, she discovered that one of the legs of the pair of jeans was an inch or two longer than the other leg. Well, that's no good. I did do some actual buying of goods though while I was out. I bought one Christmas present. I also bought some Pyrex storage containers. It was an eighteen-piece set that had a regular price of forty five dollars. After all the discounts I received on the product, it ended up costing me just eight dollars! Now that was a bargain!

11.22.2007

Thanksgiving Dinner

Mel had to work today (as well as tomorrow and both days this weekend) so my mom and sister came to our house for Thanksgiving dinner which we has this evening. It was the first time my mom had ever cooked a turkey, and it turned out really good. It was also the first time I had ever carved a turkey, and I think I did an adequate job getting the meat off the turkey carcass if I do say so myself. I actually enjoyed having a Thanksgiving dinner for which I did not actually have to travel anywhere. It was also only the four of us, plus Emma who slept during dinner, so it wasn't too crowded and there weren't really all that many dishes. And because there were only four of us eating the twelve-plus-pound bird, there is plenty of turkey left over for sandwiches the next day or so.

Emma Crawls!

For about a month now, Emma has been able to get around the room by crawling backward and by scooting forward. Last Friday Emma began crawling forward! Here's a short video of her crawling in the living room.


Write Your Own Caption

I saw this photo of a stormtrooper, an Imperial officer, and Darth Vader in the local newspaper yesterday. It was taken at a local sci-fi convention. I don't want to say anything unkind, so I will leave the comments up to you, the reader.

First Snow of the Season

We had our first real snow of the season yesterday in Cedar Rapids. It actually accumulated some in the grass. Fortunately, all the snow on the driveway and sidewalk melted, so I didn't have to shovel it off. As the snow began to fall yesterday, I noticed my neighbor across the street mowing his lawn! During the summer he typically mows about once every three days. I guess he wanted to get one last mowing in before putting the mower away for the season.

Last night was also the first time that Emma was out in the snow. She seemed a bit confused by the freezing bits of frozen water falling on her face, but it didn't really bother her. She experienced the snow as we were walking into the Irish Democrat to meet a friend of mine for dinner. It was a nice dinner. I tried something other than my typical order last night. Instead of the ribs and chicken strips, I had the Democrat burger. It was good, but I think I like the ribs and chicken strips better.

11.21.2007

Walker, Presidential-Candidate Endorser

Chuck Norris has endorsed former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee for the Republican nomination for president. And Huckabee's plan to stop illegal immigration, Chuck Norris. There is a pretty long border separating the U.S. from Mexico. I don't really think that Chuck Norris will be able to adequately stop people from entering this country illegally. Who knows, if Mike Huckabee wins the nomination, maybe he'll make Chuck Norris his running mate. Chuck could really kick some diplomatic ass!

Sleeping Through the Night

Monday night and last night were the first nights in a couple weeks that Emma slept through the night, at least for the most part. She did wake up once each of those two nights around 11:00, but giving her pacifier back to her was all it took to get her back to sleep. She even slept in a little bit, not waking up until 6:15 yesterday morning and 6:00 this morning. Emma must be feeling a bit better since being sick last week.

Weight Watchers Week 30

Once again, I was scolded by the Weight Watchers website for losing too much weight this week, losing 3.8 pounds bringing my weight down to 200.0 pounds. This is just one pound above my lowest weigh-in weight since beginning Weight Watchers thirty weeks ago. This brings the difference between my starting weight and my current weight 31.4 pounds.

Will the weight loss continue this week, or will I maintain or gain? We are going to the Irish Democrat for dinner with a friend tonight and having a Thanksgiving dinner tomorrow night. Then on Saturday we are going to the Ox Yoke Inn in Amana for my great uncle's ninety-fifth birthday. With all this eating, maintaining my weight loss will be a challenge, but I think I can do it. Anyway, I am just five pounds from my goal, so if I don't lose any weight this week, that's alright too.

11.17.2007

Saturday

I had to work for a couple of hours this morning. It has been a while since I have done work on the weekend, not counting travel time for business trips. This work was participating in the training of some subcontractors for the project I am working on.

Early this afternoon, Mel, Emma, and I went shopping. We had to get a birthday present for Mel's cousin's five-year-old daughter. After buying a Barbie doll for her at Target, we went to JCPenney because I wanted to try on some jeans so I would know the style and size to ask for when I complete the Christmas list that my mother would like me to complete. Because of the good price on the jeans, I ended up buying one pair today, although I can still use some more. I also ended up buying three polo shirts. I normally would not have made such a purchase so close to Christmas, but it was a deal I couldn't pass on. I was able to get three thirty-six-dollar polo shirts for $2.54 each! This will make a good addition to my wardrobe as I haven't added many new polo shirts in quite a while.

After our shopping expedition at Westdale Mall, we went to the birthday party at Pump It Up in southwest Cedar Rapids. Pump It Up is a place where kids can go and play on inflatable slides, bouncing areas, and other similar things. The hour and a half we were there was quite enough. The twenty-something children around the age of five seemed to have a great time, although it was a bit noisy.

After the birthday party we headed home so Mel could get ready to go to a RoughRiders game with her friend Penny for Penny's son's sixth birthday party. While Mel was at the hockey game, I had a friend over to visit. We played a few board games. I hadn't seen this friend in a while, so it was good to have him over.

Now that I have finished writing this blog entry, I am going to check if Emma has gotten back to sleep so that I might be able to go back to bed for the evening. Hopefully she sleeps through until morning. That would be a nice change from her new routing of waking up at midnight and at three in the morning as she has the past few nights.

11.15.2007

Badges? We don't need no stinking badges!

Well, actually I do need a badge to get into the building at work, and today I got a new badge. This summer my company changed its identity by eliminating a couple of words from its name, and therefore the company logo also changed. So today some of us got badges with the new company logo. It's nice to have a new badge since the one I had was getting a bit worn and the picture on it was fading. Now my work badge has a nicer looking picture on it.

11.14.2007

Back to the Dentist

After my headache didn't subside following my dentist visit last week, I got a prescription for an antibiotic from my doctor, thinking that I had an ear infection. After completing the round of antibiotics, I still had some pain, although noticeably less. However, this pain was located more in the area of one of my teeth, and it seemed to come on more while and after eating. So this morning, my dentist removed the filling that I had in that tooth and replaced it with a filling of medicated cement. So far I haven't felt any pain, but that could be due to the fact that the effects of the local anesthetic hasn't completely worn off yet.

Weight Watchers Week 29

I managed to turn things around this week and lose a significant amount of weight, 5.4 pounds to be exact. The difference between this past week and the prior two weeks is that I actually paid attention to what I was eating and recorded my Weight Watchers POINTS. Now my weight is down to 203.8 pounds for a difference of 27.6 pounds from when I started Weight Watchers. Now I just have 8.8 pounds to go until I reach my final goal of 195 pounds!

11.13.2007

Laryngotracheobronchitis

Yesterday afternoon I got a phone call from my daughter's daycare provider informing me that she had just coughed up some of her formula and did not sound good. So last night, Mel and I took Emma to the doctor where she was diagnosed as having croup, a viral infection that causes a tight, low-pitched barking cough. She is also making a raspy breathing sound called stridor. The doctor made her diagnosis the moment she walked into the exam room and her Emma breathing across the room. For treatment, Emma got a shot in her leg. The shot seems to be doing some good as her breathing is sounding a little better this morning than it did last night. However, due to the fact that she is contagious, she is staying home with me today and tomorrow. That actually works out pretty well for me as I didn't have a lot of work to do today.

So far today, I have done about a hour of work while Emma was napping. Other than that, she and I have been doing a lot of cuddling, trying to comfort her despite the fact that she is uncomfortable. She recently began another nap. Hopefully she feels even better when she wakes up.

11.10.2007

Kitchen Stuff

Mel, Emma, and I went to Ankeny today to visit Mel's sister and her family. While that was one of the reasons we went there, we also went to attend the Pampered Chef party that Mel's sister was hosting. I had never attended one of these sales parties before, and that's probably a good thing as there are a lot of kitchen gadgets in the catalog that I would be very tempted to buy. We did end up buying a few items, but there were other things I wouldn't mind getting. Perhaps we can get a few more in the future.

11.09.2007

RoughRiders Hockey

Tonight I went to my first Cedar Rapids RoughRiders hockey game. In fact, except for a hockey game of one my of eighth graders several years ago at the Coral Ridge Mall, this was the first hockey game I ever attended. It was fun, but I think I should read up on the rules of hockey before going to see another hockey game. It would probably be even more enjoyable to watch if I understood everything, or even most, of what was going on. Unfortunately, the RoughRiders lost 4 to 2 to the Omaha Lancers. We went to the game tonight because Mel's work got tickets for employees and their families who wanted to attend. We plan on going to another RoughRiders game next month with one of Mel's coworkers, Penny, and Penny's sister, a former student of mine and a former coworker of Mel.

Prior to the hockey game, Mel and I went to dinner at Applebee's. Unlike the previous time we went to Applebee's, I ordered dinner from their WeightWatchers menu tonight. The meal was quite tasty, and it wasn't too bad for me. Unfortunately, we were delayed in getting our check because the people at the table behind use had an awful lot of questions for the waitress, so she couldn't get us our check right away. We ended up arriving at the hockey game just as it was about to begin.

11.08.2007

Home Two Days in a Row

I worked from home yesterday as I have been doing on Wednesdays for a few weeks now. Today I stayed home again though because I wasn't feeling too well, and I needed to take Emma to the doctor as well. Emma is just fine. Taking her to the doctor was just a precaution as we thought she could be coming down with an ear infection. However, the doctor didn't find anything wrong.

I, on the other hand, do have something wrong. For about a week now, I have been getting headaches on the right side of my head. Initially I blamed it on a tooth that I have previously had a filling in. I figured that it had developed another cavity. I went to the dentist yesterday for a regular checkup and I asked him to check out the tooth. There was nothing wrong there. Despite that, my headaches have gotten progressively worse over the course of the week. After my dentist appointment, I noticed that the dull, throbbing pain was located more in the area around my inner right ear, so I began to think that I had an ear infection. I tried to get in to see my doctor today, but she didn't have any appointments available. Despite that, my description of my symptoms to her nurse was enough for her to phone a prescription for an antibiotic to the pharmacy. With all errands I had to run today -- taking Emma to the doctor and to daycare, and picking up my prescription -- I managed to get some work done that had to be completed today.

11.07.2007

My Blog's Reading Level

After seeing that Brent from Law & Disorder found a website that rates one's blog's reading level, and finding out this his is rated "elementary school," I decided to check out what the website thought my blog's reading level was. Here are the results:

cash advance

I can't say that I am at all disapointed by the results.

The Google

One of the things that I like to do with my blog is determine how people stumble upon visiting Mathman's Ramblings. The counter I use tracks such information, providing me with web site addresses of the pages from which people follow links to my blog. Sometimes I am amazed at what searches people do to find me and with where I place in some web searches. One recent example is a person from Portland, Oregon, who found my blog around 10:40 last night by Googling "maiden wine bitter dregs." In early September I wrote about the song sung by Spock in an episode of Star Trek, "Plato's Stepchildren," so it didn't surprise me that such a search would lead to my blog, but what I did find a bit surprising is that my blog is the third entry in the search as of 6:30 this morning, preceded only by a link to a YouTube video of the song, and the entry about it on Memory Alpha, the Star Trek wiki.

Weight Watchers Weeks 27 and 28

I knew the news wouldn't be good this morning when I weighed in once again after not weighing in last week because of my business trip to Atlanta. My last weigh-in before my trip began on Sunday of last week was 202.4 pounds. This morning's weight was 209.2 pounds, for an increase of 6.8 pounds in the past two weeks. This makes the change in my weight since starting Weight Watchers 22.2 pounds, down from the maximum of 32.4 pounds that occurred on October 3 when my weight was down to 199 pounds. This week, I am going to carefully follow the Weight Watchers Flex plan and get the exercise that I need. This should help to get me back on track.

11.06.2007

City Election Day

Today is Election Day 2007 and there isn't much to vote on in my precinct in Cedar Rapids. The only race that I can vote on is one at-large city council seat. So, I get to choose between four candidates for one city council seat. Two of them are names I recognize, Tom Podzimek, the incumbent who seems to be doing a fairly decent job, and P. Thomas Larson, who has been running (and losing) in almost every city election I can remember for a very long time. In addition to these two, there are relative newcomers to Cedar Rapids politics, Nancy L. Bruner and Larry D. Sharp. They may have run for office previously, but I honestly can't remember them. Once dropping Emma off at daycare this morning, I will be stopping at my polling place to cast my ballot. I don't anticipate much of a wait in line as the county auditor is not forecasting much of a turnout for the election today.

11.04.2007

Return to Standard Time

Last night before going to bed, I went throughout the house setting every clock back an hour in preparation of the the of standard time at 2:00 this morning. Lately, Emma has been waking up around 5:30 in the morning, which works out pretty well on weekdays, since that's around the time Mel and I get up for work, but naturally, Emma doesn't quite understand the concept of daylight saving time/standard time. Of course, there are many adults who don't understand it either. Anyway, despite my trying to explain to my seven-month-old baby that she could sleep an extra hour this morning, she decided to wake up at about 4:15, which to her is about the same time she has been waking up every day. Since I volunteered to get up with her, I do not get the extra hour of sleep that often comes with standard time. Perhaps I'll go back to bed if I can get her to go back to sleep this morning. Now I just have to figure out how to get the baby to adjust to the change back to standard time.

11.02.2007

Free Time in the ATL

We got done with the work we had to do in Atlanta yesterday afternoon, but we didn't finish with enough time for me to catch a flight last night, so today two of my coworkers and I did a little sightseeing in Atlanta. We went downtown to see the World of Coca-Cola. I got my picture taken on my cellphone camera with the Coca-Cola polar bear. The World of Coca-Cola was neat. We saw a 4-D movie with a hundred or so fourth graders who were there on a field trip for school. The movie was fun, but my favorite part was the tasting experience which offered over seventy different products that produces for different parts of the world. I tried every one of them except for the varieties that are commonly available in the United States. One of my favorites was Sprite Ice from India. If you drink it really fast, it actually seems to get colder as it is drunk. I also liked the pineapple-flavored soft drink that they sell in South Africa.

World of Coca-Cola Polar Bear
After visiting the World of Coca-Cola, the three of us walked through Centennial Olympic Park to get to the CNN Center where we had lunch at Jocks & Jills Sports Grill. We had a good lunch before returning to our hotel which we promptly left to get to the airport.

CNN Center Atlanta

I got to the airport a little after 2:00, but my flight wasn't scheduled to leave until 7:45, so I had a lot of time to kill. I ended up watching a couple of Star Trek episodes, "Requiem for Methuselah" and "The Cloud Minders," on DVD on my laptop computer. That took up some of the time. I also walked up and down the concourse and had dinner. Fortunately, the flight left on time and I arrived back in Cedar Rapids around 9:00 tonight.

11.01.2007

Embassy Suites

Despite the fact that I haven't been sleeping that great, I do like the hotel that we are staying at, the Embassy Suites Hotel Atlanta Airport. They serve a really good breakfast each morning with made-to-order omelets available. The lunches we have had at the hotel have been really good. I've heard that today's lunch is grilled chicken and grilled salmon. I am really looking forward to the salmon. Then, each evening from 5:30 to 7:30 is the Manager's Reception in the hotel atrium with free drinks. I have been limiting myself to no more than two drinks at the reception. Despite that, I think I am still going to be returning home from this business trip at least ten pounds heavier! I have no plans on weighing myself until my next regular weigh-in day though, next Wednesday.

One problem with staying at the hotel near the airport is that I haven't really seen Atlanta at all. I could be staying in a hotel in any city for what I have experienced being here. After arriving at the airport, I took the shuttle to the hotel. I did leave the hotel Tuesday night with a group of my coworkers to walk to a restaurant, Joe's Restaurant and Bar, for dinner. This is the only restaurant within walking distance from the hotel, aside from the hotel's own restaurant of course. But I suppose that is a common issue with business trips, as the last trip I went on, to Philadelphia, was quite similar. At least with the last project I worked on, we drove to our destination, so we had a rental car and were therefore able to get out to a wider variety of places to dine.

Still Not Sleeping Well

I have not slept well at all this week at the hotel at which I am staying in Atlanta. At the beginning of the week, I thought it was due to the temperature in the room as I had a hard time setting it where I want it to be, but at this point I think it is because I am coming down with a cold. I just haven't been feeling that great, and I think it's affecting my sleep. Also, the flight coming into Hartsfield-Jackson Airport at 5:00 in the morning doesn't help much since it sounds like it's right outside the window of my hotel room.

10.31.2007

Pumpkin Tax

You know, I could have beaten everyone to the punch a couple of weeks ago when I bought a pumpkin and noticed that I was charged sales tax for it. Apparently the fact that Iowa has begun charging sales tax on pumpkins that it thinks people are going to use for decoration instead of for consumption has made the national news today with stories on CNN.com and FoxNews.com. After getting home from the Hy-Vee Drugstore where I bought the pumpkin, I did a Google search and found a page on Iowa's Department of Revenue website informing me that pumpkins that are advertised for use as decorations are charged sales tax. I could have filled out a form indicating that I was planning on using the vegetable for food (what an amazing idea) and avoided paying the sales tax. I do enjoy eating pumpkin seeds, so if I had planned on doing so, I would not have even had to lie to say that I planned on using the pumpkin for food. If the state pulls this kind of "trick" again next year, I think that's just what I'll do to avoid the 6% tax on the purchase price of the pumpkin.

Happy Halloween!

Being in Atlanta, I am missing out on Emma's first Halloween. As she is just seven months old, I am certain that she won't understand the concept of trick-or-treating at all, but it still would have been nice to have been there. Mel has to work this evening as well, so Emma is going to end up going trick-or-treating with one of Mel's coworkers and the coworker's son. Since neither of us would see Emma tonight, we put her in her Halloween costume a couple weekends ago so we could take a picture of Emma in her first costume and with her first jack-o'-lantern.

10.29.2007

Room Service

We didn't wrap up today's work until around 6:40 this evening. After working eleven hours today, I decided to spend about an hour socializing with my coworkers and some of our committee members before returning to my room. With my regular Monday night television viewing beginning in just twenty minutes, I decided to order room service for the first time in my life. I ordered a tasty chicken quesadilla and an order of calamari. It was pretty cool having someone deliver food to my hotel room, despite the added expense. Actually it didn't cost any more than the already overpriced hotel food would have cost had I ordered it in the restaurant, although a seventeen percent tip was already included in the price. Besides, it doesn't really cost me anything as I get to put it on my expense report once I return to the office on Monday. Now that I have had dinner in my room, I will be able to get to work on some other work that I need to complete tonight, extending my eleven-hour workday further.

Good Morning from Atlanta!

I woke up early this morning in my hotel room in Atlanta, Georgia, where I am all week for a business trip. I did not sleep very well last night as it was a bit warm. As I was getting ready for bed last night, I decided that it was too cold in my room, so I adjusted the thermostat. Unfortunately, the options were "warmer" or "colder," so I couldn't set it for a specific temperature as I would like to have done. Apparently I set it for too warm a temperature. Anyway, after waking several times during the night, I ended up getting out of bed at about 5:45. Normally I get up around 5:30 in the morning, but that is Central time, so I essentially got up 45 minutes earlier than I would otherwise. Hopefully I sleep better tonight.

Last night after I arrived at the hotel, I headed down to the hotel bar to get dinner as the restaurant was closed. While there I ran into a couple other people who are here for the same meeting I am here for. After talking with them for just a moment, I learned that one of them previously lived in Cedar Rapids, teaching for over twenty years at one of the Catholic middle schools in town during that time. So, I joined the two of them for dinner before returning to my room for the evening.

I had better finish getting ready as I am supposed to meet some others downstairs for breakfast in ten minutes.

10.27.2007

Company

Thursday evening I got a phone call from my sister asking if she could stay at our house this weekend. A couple of her friends in Denver, Colorado, were flying into Cedar Rapids so they could go to Iowa City to see the Iowa football game today and she wanted to come down from the Twin Cities to see them. Naturally we extended an invitation to her, as well as her friends, for the weekend. Mel has to work this weekend, so that meant that my sister got to go grocery shopping with Emma and me this morning. She seemed to enjoy pushing Emma around Wal-Mart in the shopping cart, and Emma seemed to enjoy it too, although she did spit up all over herself while we were at the checkout.

My sister's friends arrived early this afternoon, too late to go to the actual football game, but with enough time to see the end of the game on TV. Later this afternoon, the three of them went to Iowa City to relive their college days. My sister didn't go to school there, but the other two did.

10.26.2007

Saw IV

I took a day of vacation from work today so I could spend some time with Mel before she goes to work this weekend and before I leave town on Sunday for a week in Atlanta. We bought Emma some clothes as she still does not have much long-sleeved clothing. We also had lunch at Carlos O'Kelly's. After lunch we went to the Wehrenberg Galaxy 16 Cine to see Saw IV. I must admit, that seeing Saw IV was not my idea, but Mel wanted to see it, and besides, I have seen the previous three movies in the Saw series. Saw IV was not a bad movie, in fact, I enjoyed it for the most part. I admit that I did look away for a few instances as it was a bit gruesome at times. I am sure that this time next year, we will be going to see Saw V.

10.24.2007

Weight Watchers Week 26

I was back to having a loss of weight for the week with my weight down 0.4 pound. This brought my net weight loss to 29.0 pounds. I will not be weighing in next week as I will be in Atlanta for work.

10.21.2007

A Good Birthday

I had a very good birthday yesterday. Mel, Emma, and I spent quite a bit of time at the Coral Ridge Mall in Coralville. After eating lunch in the food court, we made Emma a stuffed bunny at the Build-a-Bear workshop. After a couple of hours of wandering around the mall, we returned home. We ended up going to Applebee's for dinner. I had originally intended on having one of their Weight Watchers entrees, but I decided against it and ended up having a steak instead. They now allow you to choose two of several side dished to go along with the steak and one of a few different toppings. The steak was quite good. I also ended up getting dessert there. Instead one of their larger desserts, I had one of their new dessert shooters. It was a dessert in a large shot-glass-sized container. It was good, and it allowed be to have dessert without overindulging. This was good since Mel had baked a birthday cake for me. It was also quite tasty.

While I didn't get around to planting the flower bulbs yesterday, I did get them planted today. However, I couldn't put them all where I wanted as the ground was a bit too hard where I was attempting to plant half of the bulbs. So assuming that the bulbs all perform as I hope they do in the spring, we should have a very colorful front step to our house as all 108 bulbs are planted directly in front of the front steps to the house!

10.20.2007

Thirty-five

Today is my thirty-fifth birthday! We are not planning much to celebrate my birthday. We are going to be going to the Coral Ridge Mall today to go to the Build-a-Bear Workshop there to make a free stuffed animal up to $12 in value. I got a coupon from them a couple weeks ago for my birthday. I'll probably give the animal to Emma as I don't really have much use for an additional Build-a-Bear right now. I do have one that Mel gave to me for Saint Patrick's Day a couple years ago, but I think one is probably enough for me.

According to the Build-a-Bear coupon I received, this Sweetest Day weekend. As I had never heard of this "holiday" before, I did a little research. According to the ever-reliable Wikipedia, Sweetest Day, which is the third Saturday of October, is celebrated mostly in the Great Lakes region and parts of northeastern United States. It is supposed to be an "occasion which offers all of us an opportunity to remember not only the sick, aged and orphaned, but also friends, relatives and associates whose helpfulness and kindness we have enjoyed." I have no plans on celebrating this holiday, which seems to me to have been invented only to promote candy sales, but I will still get my free, or discounted, stuffed animal.

We are also planning on going out to eat tonight for my birthday, but we haven't yet decided where to go. I would like to go somewhere that has food that won't ruin my diet. I am so close to my goal that even on my birthday, I do not want to overindulge.

Finally, I think today is the day that I will finally get to plant the flower bulbs that we received almost two weeks ago. I really need to get that done before it gets too cold, and I think the weather should cooperate today!

10.17.2007

The Best Laid Plans...

As I was working from home today, and I needed to get the lawn mowed, I thought I'd start working earlier than I usually would so I would finish my work with enough time to get the lawn mowed before picking Emma up from daycare. That plan seemed fine until it started to rain just as I was about to go to the garage to get the lawnmower out. I guess I'll have to wait until later to do the mowing.

Weight Watchers Week 25

As I expected, my weight is up this week -- 1.8 pounds. This brings my weight up to 202.8 pounds for a net loss of 28.6 pounds. I will do better this week. I really want to keep my weight below 200 pounds!

10.16.2007

Bad Choices

Despite a lot of poor choices I have made this week with regards to eating, this morning my weight was even with my weight when I weighed in last Wednesday morning.
  • For lunch Wednesday, I went to the Cork 'n' Form with my mother and grandmother for lunch. I didn't make the healthiest choice then.
  • Thursday night, Mel had some friends over and we ordered pan pizza from Pizza Hut. Once again, I ate more pizza than I really should have, and then we each finished our dinner with a brownie sundae.
  • Friday night I had dinner with Homercles at Bennigan's. Sure, I could have made a healthier choice than the burger I had, along with the appetizers that we ordered, but I didn't.
  • On Saturday we went to the Amana Colonies for lunch and I ate too much there as well.
  • I did better on Sunday and Monday. While I didn't count my Weight Watchers points carefully, I was at least mindful about what I was eating.
  • Then tonight, I had dinner with my mom since she was in town for a class she was taking. We went to Red Robin for dinner. The large burger there was quite tasty, but I am sure it will result in my gaining a pound or so for the week. I guess we'll find out tomorrow morning.

Now I should be able to eat out on occasion and not feel guilty about it, and it shouldn't ruin my diet, but having less-than-healthy dinners or lunches five times in a week is a bit much. I need to be able to have an occasional not-so-good-for-me dinner, but this was just too much. Making poor choices when eating out is a real weakness of mine, one that I really need to get under control before I go on a week-long business trip to Atlanta, Georgia, in a couple weeks. My birthday is Saturday, and I would like to go out to eat with Mel and Emma to celebrate, but I think I need to pick a restaurant for once where I can make a choice that will be good without overindulging.

10.13.2007

An Unexpected Day Out

Today I had planned on planting the variety of bulbs that I received on Monday from Breck's Nurseries, but before I got outside to work on that I got a call from my mother inviting us all to meet her, my grandmother, my aunt and uncle, and one of my cousins at the Brick Haus in Amana for lunch. After getting that phone call, we quickly got ready and departed for lunch. After eating, Mel, Emma, and I wandered around Amana for a while, stopping at the Fudge Factory and the Chocolate Haus where we picked up some snacks for later this evening. We also ended up buying Emma a toy at Lehm Books and Gifts. Hopefully I can get the bulbs planted tomorrow after church as it needs to get done.

10.11.2007

I Wish Someone Would Make Her Shut Up Already!

Ann Coulter this week continued to prove to the world just what an arrogant bitch she truly is. She claimed on Donny Deutsch's CNBC show The Big Idea that the United States would be a better place if everyone in it were Christians. She also said that Jews need to be "perfected" by becoming Christians. Gee, I thought that one of the principles that this country was founded on was the freedom of religion. Apparently that's only alright if the religion one subscribes to is a form of Christianity. I am really surprised that she didn't specify a particular denomination of Christianity that all us Americans should follow.

Now I titled this blog entry by wishing someone would make Ann Coulter shut up, but on second thought, maybe that isn't a good idea. She of course has the right to her views and the right to express them. Besides, every time she opens her mouth, it shows just how intolerant and unintelligent some Republicans can be.

Me, Agree with Bush?

President Bush recently recommended that a House committee not vote to label the killing of Armenians by Ottoman Turkish forces during World War I as genocide. I figured that nothing good would come from putting such a label on atrocities that occurred over ninety years ago! The people who did the killing are no longer alive. The only thing that could possibly come out of voting for this is to antagonize Turkey, one of our allies. And now, since the House Committee on Foreign Affairs voted for the genocide label, Turkey has recalled its ambassador to the U.S.

I heard someone earlier today say that we shouldn't only condemn such atrocities when it doesn't inconvenience us, such as the genocide in Sudan. However this seemed like a poor example since this is something that is happening now! If genocide in Turkey were happening today, or maybe a bit more recently than ninety years ago, it might make more sense to condemn them, but it doesn't recall accomplish anything to do so now. Now we have Turkey, one of our allies upset with us, and while I don't think we should be in Iraq, that doesn't change the fact that we are. With a great portion of the supplies being sent to Iraq from the United States passing through Turkey, it would seem to me that pissing off the Turks wouldn't be a good idea.

Screw You, Crawford County

The board of supervisors of Crawford County, Iowa, has decided to ban RAGBRAI, the Des Moines Register's Annual Great Bike Ride Across Iowa, from its county because of a lawsuit for which they settled with the plaintiff for $350,000. Betty Jo Ullrich, of Davenport, sued the county following the death of her husband, Kirk Ullrich, who died in 2004 while riding through Crawford County on RAGBRAI. Mr. Ullrich got the front tire of his bike stuck in the crack in the center of the road while riding down a hill at a high rate of speed. He was thrown from his bike and killed by the impact. I was actually stopped at the top of the hill two hills back from where the accident occurred. It was the second accident to happen on that hill that day.

Mrs. Ullrich was contending that the accident was, in part, the county's fault since they didn't have the road maintained well enough and failed to warn people about the danger following the first accident. Now it shouldn't take a genius to realize that riding a bike with skinny tires on a road with cracks on it can be potentially dangerous! Since riding on my first RAGBRAI in 2000, I have always paid close attention to the road on which I am riding. It's too bad that Mrs. Ullrich felt the need to sue someone over her husband's death which was probably as much his fault as it was anyone else's.

Even with Crawford County now banning RAGBRAI from the confines of its borders, there are still 98 counties in which RAGBRAI can go for now. Unless other counties follow suit, the rest of the state is still open for the ride. As for Crawford County, I plan on boycotting any businesses there, and I will not be passing through there. Of course, that won't affect them at all since I probably wouldn't have been there anyway, but if they don't want me and my bike there, I'll just stay away. Hopefully this isn't then beginning of the end of RAGBRAI.

10.10.2007

Cork 'n' Fork

While I was working from home this morning, my mother called to let me know that she was bringing my grandmother to town to see her eye doctor. Because they would be here around lunch time, I met them for lunch down the street at the Cork 'n' Fork. As usual, the food was quite yummy, although it was a bit cold inside. After lunch, which was a bit earlier than I usually do lunch, I returned home to finish my work day at home.

Amusing Video

I have often wondered if politicians ever get angry when being interviewed for comedy programs such as The Daily Show. Here's a video of New York City Councilman James Oddo , a Republican, being interviewed by Pia Haraldsen for the Norwegian program Rikets Rost. This video certainly answers that question! A short warning, this video contains obscenities

Weight Watchers Week 24

I had a two-pound weight gain this week, which I have to say was expected. With all the eating out I did in the past week, due to being out of town, I did not really follow the Weight Watchers plan at all, only counting points on Monday during the past week. That's alright though, as my weight is still just 201 pounds. I will be able to get it below 200 pounds again in the next week or so.

10.09.2007

WFH

Tomorrow is the first day that I will be working from home on a regular basis. I have worked from home before for my current job on occasion, but beginning tomorrow, I will be working from home most every Wednesday. As I may be losing my carpooling companion, this will help make up part of the increase in commuting expenses. I brought enough work home with me that I should be able to keep myself busy the entire day. I have every reason to believe that this should work out well.

10.06.2007

One More Day

The services for my grandmother will finally end today. This has been a long week, viewing her body at the funeral home in Hastings, Minnesota, on Wednesday, attending the funeral service in Woodbury, Minnesota, yesterday, and today going to Gladbrook, Iowa, for the burial of her remains. I suppose with friends and family spread out all over, this long, drawn-out process was inevitable. I think this will be the first time I will have seen where my paternal grandfather's grave site.

Anyway, since the services in the Twin Cities were held area with the final services today in Iowa, most of the family decided to travel to Iowa yesterday afternoon. Since we were returning to Iowa, we decided to go back to our house. It was really nice to be back in our own house, sleeping in our own beds. I think Emma slept much better being in her crib.

10.04.2007

Visit to the Funeral Home

Yesterday, Mel, Emma, my sister, my mother, and I all drove to the funeral home to see my grandmother before she was cremated. I had never before seen someone at a funeral home prior to cremation, and before we got there, I didn't really know what to expect. Instead of being all made up, lying in a casket, my grandmother's body was lying on a gurney like they would have used to bring her into the funeral home. She was covered with a blanket up to her shoulders, but that was it. We spent about ten or fifteen minutes in the basement of the funeral home where she was before leaving. That will be the last time I see her as she was cremated last night. Her remains will not be at the funeral tomorrow, but someone will be taking them back to Iowa on Saturday for her inurnment.

We spent the remainder of the evening at my aunt and uncle's house in Cottage Grove. My aunt and uncle from the Chicago area as well as their son and daughter-in-law were also there. Everyone enjoyed seeing Emma.

This morning, Mel, Emma, my mother, and I went to the Mall of America to do a little shopping. Apparently most of the clothes we brought with us for Emma, as well as most of the clothes we still have at home, doesn't really fit anymore. So we got some new onesies for Emma. We then met my sister for lunch at Don Pablo's. Later this afternoon, we will probably return to my aunt and uncle's house where my uncle and his son who live in North Carolina should now be since their arrival in Minnesota this morning.

10.03.2007

Weight Watchers Week 23

I lost an additional 0.8 pound this week, bringing my total weight loss to 32.4 pounds. I have revised my goal weight several times. At first, I had a goal around 185 pounds, but thinking that was maybe a bit too low for me, I increased my goal to 190 pounds. I set that as my goal because I want to weigh less than 200 pounds, and I figured that 190 pounds is sufficiently lower than 200 pounds so even with slight fluctuations in weight, I will remain in the range of weights that I am happy with.

Now though, I am once again reconsidering my final weight goal. I am afraid that if I do get my weight down to 190 pounds, my new pants with a waist size of 34 inches will be too big and I would have to go down to a size 32 or 33. That in itself is not an issue, but being tall, it is getting more difficult to find pants with the 36-inch inseam that I need. I have found some Dockers in size 34x36, although I had to order them online, and JCPenney does have casual pants in waist sizes of both 32 and 34 that they will hem to any inseam length requested. However, I think that finding jeans in size 32x36 will be extremely difficult, and I think I can probably forget about 33x36. Perhaps I should do some research to see if these sizes are available. I don't necessarily want to set my weight-loss goal based on the availability of clothes, but it is something I need to consider.

10.02.2007

Satellite TV

I am beginning to really dislike having satellite TV. Sure, it's great most of the time, and we do get a lot of channels, but I am getting really sick of the disruptions to satellite service caused by inclement weather. We just had a major downpour of rain, during which time, we lost the satellite signal. When the rain calmed significantly, we still had issues with receiving the signal. Perhaps this inconvenience is not too big a price to pay considering that it does cost slightly less than what the cable bill was and we do receive quite a few channels, but when I am trying to watch TV and we are not getting any satellite signal, it is annoying!

10.01.2007

Grandma E.

A few weekends ago, Mel, Emma, and I went to see my grandmother in the Twin Cities area. She has been suffering from cancer for the past several months and had stopped treatment. This morning I got the phone call that I had been anticipating for some time. My grandmother had passed away. We had been hoping to return to the care center at which she was staying in a couple weeks to see her again, but that will not happen now. At least she got so see her great-granddaughter Emma again before she passed. My mother had been visiting her this weekend and told me this weekend that Grandma was not doing too well. As I have indicated, I can't say that I was at all surprised, and she is now free from any suffering she had from the cancer, but it is still sad nonetheless.

This is the second grandparent I have lost this year, with my mom's father passing away in March, less than two weeks before Emma was born. My dad's father died when I was in eighth grade, so I have had three only living grandparents for about twenty years now. Now I have just one grandparent left.

I didn't think that I would be too upset when my grandmother, my dad's mother, died, but it has been a little difficult. In the fall of 1997, when I was student teaching in Council Bluffs, Iowa, I lived at my grandmother's condo there. At the time, she was undergoing treatment for breast cancer. Living with her during that time, I was able to help her out when she needed assistance getting to doctor appointments and with shopping. I had a good time living there. Maybe that is part of the reason this is somewhat difficult.

Perhaps another reason why losing Grandma E. is more difficult than I thought it would be is that I am losing a connection I had with my father who passed away a little over two years ago. Of course having her around wasn't the same as having my father, but it was a connection to him.

Mel, Emma, and I will be heading up to the Twin Cities this week to see Grandma one last time before she is cremated. I am just glad that we were able to see her a couple weeks ago when she was still cognizant of her surroundings and that everyone else in the family was able to make it there to see her.

9.29.2007

Dinner and a Movie

After dropping off our daughter with Mel's aunt and uncle in Robins, Mel and I went to see a movie and out to dinner without any children coming along. We finally saw Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix. It opened this weekend at the Collins Road Theatres in Marion. Since we never got around to seeing it when it was in its original run in town, this worked, plus we saved some money on the ticket price. After the movie, we went to Biaggi's for dinner. That was the same place we went the first time we went to dinner and a movie without Emma after she was born. I managed to save most of my Weight Watchers POINTS for this evening, so I did pretty well with not eating too much today.

9.28.2007

Wrapping Up the Week

This week was fairly busy for me at work. I had plenty of tasks to keep me busy until I went home this afternoon. My manager was in the office this week. He works in our Austin, Texas, office so I do not see him very often. However even though he was in the area this week, I did not see much of him until today. A dozen of my coworkers and I went out to lunch with him today. We went to Mondo's Tomato Pie in Coralville. I tried to pick a meal that would not be too unhealthy since Mel and I are going out for dinner again tomorrow night, without Emma. I think I did a good job by picking the French dip sandwich which came with mashed potatoes. I wonder if I will be able to pick a healthy entree tomorrow night when we go out to dinner.

9.26.2007

Weight Watchers Week 22

199.8 pounds!

My weight is finally below 200 pounds! Actually, it did dip slightly below that mark at least twice in the past few weeks, but by Wednesday, my weigh-in day, it was always back up over 200 pounds. This is probably the first time my weight has been this low since my freshman year of college, although I am just guessing about that since I didn't pay much attention to my weight back then.

I lost three pounds since last Wednesday, which means that the Weight Watchers website once again scolded me for losing too much weight. My net weight loss since beginning Weight Watchers in April is now 31.6 pounds.

9.25.2007

It's Been a Few Days

It has been a few days since I have blogged. I am slowly getting software reinstalled on our computer. All of the essentials are installed, but I have a few things to finish adding to the computer. I have to say that Windows is running noticeably faster than it had been.

This weekend I saw a couple of movies. First, on Saturday Mel and I rented Fracture, starring Anthony Hopkins and Ryan Gosling. We picked up the movie at Mr. Movies on our way back home from an hour-long walk. It was a very good movie. In the movie, Hopkins's character shoots his wife in the head then waits for the police to arrive, confessing to the shooting. The rest of the movie shows his trial, with Gosling's character as the prosecuting attorney, as the antagonist tries to get off from the attempted murder charges.

Then on Sunday, I got together with some friends to see The Simpsons Movie. This was also a very good movie. Much like an episode of The Simpsons on TV, the movie's plot changed directions several times toward the beginning before settling on a main plot line. There were references to occurrences in the many seasons of The Simpsons that added to the humor.

Prior to going to see The Simpsons Movie on Sunday, Mel, Emma, and I went to the baptism of the baby of one of Mel's former coworkers. After the baptism at the church, we went to a party at the former coworker's boyfriend's parents' house. They live just a few blocks away from us. We had a good time there, although I did eat a bit more than I think I should have. I still think I am on track for losing weight this week though, so I shouldn't worry too much about that. But I guess we'll see about that tomorrow morning.

9.21.2007

Computer Issues

For the past several months, our home computer has been extremely slow, so today I decided to backup all out data files onto our external hard drive and reformat the hard drive. I figured that this would take care of any crap on the computer that is bogging down its performance. I did this this morning before taking Emma to her six-month doctor appointment. Besides the appointment and going to Wal-Mart to get her pictures taken, I worked on restoring the computer for much of the day. I had some issues getting the Internet working once again. Apparently, the drivers for the Ethernet controller were not on any of the CDs I had. Fortunately, the DSL modem I have can be connected to the computer via a USB connection. This allowed me to get online where I was able to find the necessary drivers. Now I am reinstalling the software that we actually use. This is taking a bit longer than I predicted it would, although the computer itself is much faster than it had been recently!

9.20.2007

Six Months

I can't believe that it was six months ago that Emma was born. She is half a year old today! It doesn't seem like it has been that long. In these six months she has changed so much. She now has some teeth, can roll over completely (requiring that a gate be installed above the stairs in our house to keep her from rolling down them), and she is now eating baby food, not just formula. She is also making all sorts of noises, more than just crying, She has recently begun making growling noises, and of course she also laughs quite a bit.

She looks like she is about ready to sit up on her own, and she may begin crawling soon. She has her six-month doctor appointment tomorrow and in the afternoon we are getting her picture taken. Hopefully she smiles this time. She would not smile for the photographer for her three-month pictures. Anyway, we do have plenty of pictures of her smiling that we took ourselves.

Read for the Record

Today I will be reading The Story of Ferdinand, written by Munro Leaf and illustrated by Robert Lawson, to two classes of students at an elementary school in Coralville as part of Jumpstart's Read for the Record which is sponsored in part by the company I work for. This is the second year for read for the Record. Last year, The Little Engine That Could was read to more than 150,000 people. One goal for this year is to break last year's record. The purpose for this event is to raise awareness about disparities in early education, supporting early education, and fundraising for Jumpstart. Tonight, Mel and I will be reading the same book to Emma.

9.19.2007

Weight Watchers Week 21

My weight is now up to 202.8 pounds, making for a gain of 1.2 pounds this week. Considering all the eating out I did this weekend while in Minnesota, including two trips to McDonald's, this doesn't really surprise me.

After two weeks of weight gains, I am going to make a couple of changes in how I follow my diet this week. First, I am going to record every little thing I eat for the entire week. This means that I will curtail my snacking on foods that people set out at work, or if I do eat something, I will determine the number of Weight Watchers POINTS it is and record it! Second, I really need to be getting regular exercise. This is an important part of the Weight Watchers program, one which I have been largely ignoring the last few weeks. I will have to start making the time to get some exercise.

9.18.2007

Vote for My Photo!

A week or so ago, I posted this photo of a spider that was outside my office. Besides posting the photo in my blog, I submitted it to the Cedar Rapids Gazette for their summer photo contest. I thought it was a good photo, but I was quite surprised this morning to learn, quite by chance, that it won the contest for the week. Of the ten photos that were candidates for voting, my photo received forty-eight percent of the votes cast! Anyway, now the Gazette has the eight winning photos posted and is taking votes for the best of those photos. I would appreciate it if my readers would go to their website and vote for my photo. Thank you in advance.

9.17.2007

Sick Girl

I got to stay home from work for most of the day today. Mel noticed this weekend that Emma hasn't been feeling well. It looked like she had come down with a cold, and maybe an ear infection. Since I have a fairly flexible work situation, where I am able to work from home or shift my work hours somewhat, I stayed home with Emma today. The only problem was that I hadn't brought my work computer home since we were going out of town for the weekend. So, Emma and I took a trip to Iowa City to pick up my computer and some work to work on. I didn't get a whole lot done during the day because Emma was quite a bit fussy, especially this afternoon following her doctor appointment. So instead of working much this afternoon, I got my work done this evening after Emma, and Mel, had gone to bed.

It turns out that Emma just has a cold, otherwise she is fine. I should be able to return to the office tomorrow.

Grandma

Before returning home from Minnesota yesterday, Mel, Emma, and I stopped to see Grandma one more time. I wrote in my previous blog posting how Grandma is doing. From what I have been told, she hopes to make it to Christmas this year, but I do not believe that others share her optimism. I was told that she may go downhill pretty quickly once all of her friends and family have stopped by to see her, and I think we were among the finally people who hadn't yet stopped by to visit with her. Hopefully we will be able to make it up to see her again in the coming months, but this may have been the last time we get to see Grandma.

9.16.2007

Minnesota

I have been in Minnesota this weekend with Mel and Emma. We left Friday afternoon after Mel and I each got home from work and we arrived at my sister's house in Woodbury around 9:30 Friday night. Emma slept for most of the car ride up here, only really waking up when we stopped at McDonald's in Clear Lake, Iowa, for dinner. Betweeh feeding her the baby food squash we had and her bottle of formula, as well as taking time for us adults to eat, I think we spent about an hour at the McDonald's. That has to be the longest I have spent at any McDonald's.

Yesterday morning we did some shopping at Babies "R" Us. We needed some new car seats for Emma as she is about to outgrow the one she has. We had some coupons for Babies "R" Us, but the closest one to where we live is in the Des Moines area, so we thought we'd stop at the one near my sister's house. Now we just have to figure out how to fit the two car seats into the car for the drive back home.

After shopping, we all headed down to Hastings, Minnesota, to see my grandmother who is in a care center there. She is doing pretty well considering that she is suffering from cancer and has decided to discontinue treatment for it. She is sometimes hard to understand when she is talking because she tends to switch around consonants in words she is pronouncing. She also has a tendency to use the wrong name or to refer to people using the wrong gender or relationship. Nevertheless, we understood most of what she said. We are planning on stopping there on the way back home to see her one more time before returning to Iowa.

Before seeing my grandmother yesterday, we had lunch at Green Mill with my aunt and uncle who live in Cottage Grove. It had been a few months since we had seen them. We had a nice lunch of pizza before heading back to the care center to see my grandmother.

For dinner yesterday, Mel, Emma, my sister, and I went to Saint Paul to meet some of my sister's friends for dinner at Fabulous Fern's. They had really good food there. I would recommend it as a place to go for my coworkers who occasionally come to the Twin Cities for work, but I am not sure I could give them adequate directions on how to find the place.

9.12.2007

Voice Overs

A few weeks ago, a coworker of mine brought in the fall catalog for classes offered by the Iowa City Parks and Recreation Department. One of the classes was titled "You're On the Air." It is a class about how to get into voice-over work. A few years ago, one of the people with whom I ride on RAGBRAI mentioned to me that she thought I would be good at voice-over work. Since that time, it has been something that I have been interested in, but I just haven't had any idea as to how to get into it. I had mentioned this desire to my coworker some time ago, so when she saw this class, she thought of me. Today I registered for the two-hour class that is being taught early next month. Now I don't want to even start thinking that this will become a new career for me, but if I can get into it, voice-over work could help to supplement my income, and it could be fun.

Weight Watchers Week 20

Well, I gained 0.6 pound this week. This is just the third time in the twenty weeks I have been on Weight Watchers that I gained weight. My downfall seems to be weekends and the inability to get myself back on track after the weekend. However, my weight loss has required me to start buying some new clothes. I had three pairs of jeans with a waist size of 36. Those were getting a big baggy, so on Monday I bought two pairs of jeans with a waist size of 34! I have no idea when I last wore clothes with that small a waist size. It was probably when I was in college, and it was just a few years ago that I was wearing size 40 jeans! So overall, I think I am doing pretty well.

Perhaps this bit of news will help me with the weight loss and then the eventual maintaining of my weight. The Gazette reported earlier this week that T.G.I. Friday's has decided not to put a restaurant by Westdale Mall in Cedar Rapids. I enjoy Friday's and had been hoping that they would return to the area, but I guess that will not be.

9.11.2007

Staying Home Today

After waking up this morning, I was not feeling very well, so I emailed my manager and some coworkers to let them know I'd be staying home sick today. After dropping Emma off at daycare and stopping by my voting precinct to vote in today's school board election, I returned home to recuperate. It's been over a year since I have stayed home sick from work. The only sick time I have used this year has been for Mel's or Emma's doctor appointments, so it's probably alright that I miss a day of work.

9.09.2007

Home Improvement

Today I got around to taking care of a home improvement project that I had been meaning to get to for a while. I stained the deck! I bought all the materials I needed last weekend when I started by cleaning the deck. Since then, everything that had been on the deck has been sitting on the lawn at the bottom of the stairs from the deck. Thankfully, we didn't need to mow the lawn this week, otherwise everything would have been in the way. The lawn does need mowing now however, so tomorrow afternoon, I'll put everything back on the deck so that I can mow. Now I need to find the time to pull the weeds from the large patch of dirt where our bushes used to be, so I can plant some grass seed there. Maybe there will be time some evening this week.

Nerd Test

Reading Side Notes and Detours, I saw that she had taken a test to see what kind of nerd she was. She ended up being a history/literature geek. Taking the test myself, I have affirmed what I have long known. I am a cool nerd king! Of course, the fact that I am watching The Empire Strikes Back while taking this quiz only serves to reinforce the 98 percentile rating I received in the Sci-Fi/Comic category.

NerdTests.com says I'm a Cool Nerd King.  What are you?  Click here!

9.06.2007

New iPods

I've had my black, four gigabyte iPod nano since November 2005. Now, less than two years after joining the millions of iPod users in the world, my iPod is now two generations behind. Apple just released new versions of their iPods. Shown on the right is the new iPod nano. This new model has a slightly larger screen and is a bit wider than the nano I own. The new version can also play videos and has a longer battery life than my iPod does. Apple also released a version of the iPod, called the iPod touch, that resembles the iPhone, having many of its capabilities, although not the phone itself. My iPod nano is still working quite well, but I have to say that if I were in the market for an iPod today, this would be at the top of my list.

9.05.2007

Weight Watchers Week 19

Somehow I managed to lose 2.4 pounds since last Wednesday, giving me a total weight loss of 30.4 pounds since beginning Weight Watchers nineteen weeks ago. I was really expecting my weight to be approximately what it was last week. I had started the week counting points really well, but over the three-day weekend, I was not as careful with counting the Weight Watchers points as I could have been. We had Godfather's Pizza on Sunday which made me exceed my weekly points. I did actually look up the points for each slice, using the nutritional information available on their website, but I didn't enter all that I ate into the points tracker on the Weight Watchers website.

With my weight now down to 201 pounds, I am very close to being below 200 pounds, which is a goal that I would really like to reach, and it is definitely in sight now. Last week I indicated that I wanted to get my weight down to 187 pounds. After talking with my wife and a friend of mine this weekend, I may not try to get my weight that low. They both think I'd look way to skinny if I got my weight down that low. I do at least want to get my weight low enough below 200 pounds though so that even if it fluctuates some, I will still weigh under 200 pounds.

9.02.2007

Bitter Dregs

With Mel working this weekend, Emma and I have been watching the third season of Star Trek on DVD. Ok, Emma probably couldn't care less about watching Star Trek, but I have been enjoying it. Watching the episode "Plato's Stepchildren" this morning inspired me to look to YouTube for a particular video clip from the episode. Here, I present Mr. Spock singing the song Maiden Wine!

8.31.2007

The Spider at Work

Earlier this week, I noticed a fairly good-sized spider sitting in its web in the garden next to the path up to the building I work in. It has been there all week working on its web. I had one of my digital cameras at work this week to take some photos for our internal web site, so I decided I'd take a couple shots of the spider in its web.

After doing a little research, I think the spider is a Argiope trifasciata, also called a banded garden spider. If anyone has any better information about the spider, please let me know.


8.29.2007

Gas Prices

I don't often complain about gas prices, but I have been astonished lately about some gas price changes. It seems like every decrease in gas prices by a penny or two will be followed the next day by an increase of greater magnitude. Yesterday I noticed that gas has decreased in price by four cents. Then on my way home today, it had jumped up a whole dime a gallon! I recently read a prediction that gas prices would drop to $2.25 within a few months. I just do not see that happening.

A Practical Use For Mathematics

A team of Cambridge mathematicians has recently used math to show that actress Jessica Alba has "the ultimate sexy strut." Apparently, it's because the ratio between her hips and her waist is close to 0.7, the sexy ratio, as it can now be called. I'm sure many of my readers will be surprised to find that mathematics can have such practical applications.