A Cool Time at the Winter Carnival

This evening after working all day, the two coworkers who I came to the Twin Cities with and I went to the Saint Paul Winter Carnival. We wandered around there for about an hour, checking out the ice and snow sculptures, walking through the ice maze, and having a bite to eat at the Minnesota Hot Dish Tent. I have some photos from the carnival to post in my blog, but I did not bring the cable to connect the camera to computer with me this week. So I guess I will have to wait to post the photos until I get home.


Good Meetings

We have had good, successful meetings with our customer the past two days. Now we just have two more days left to finish up the tasks that we need to complete before returning home. We will be finishing up Thursday afternoon. Tonight, the two people I came up with and I got together with six others from our company who came to the Twin Cities for work as well to go out for dinner. We went to Joe Senser's Grill & Bar which is a frequent dinner stop for us when we come here for work. Despite that, I had never been there before. I usually try to get together with my sister, who lives up here, for dinner at least once each time I am here. That night must be when my coworkers typically go there. The food there was alright, but it isn't something I would actively seek. We did enjoy playing the Buzztime trivia game while we were there. We also stuck around to watch American Idol before returning to our hotel.


The Weekend Ends

As this weekend draws to a close, I am sitting in my hotel room in Roseville, Minnesota, watching Star Trek on the TV. I actually had a pretty busy weekend, as I have been having recently. Friday night after work, I met Bill, Bill's son, and Jason for dinner. We went to the Metro Buffet. It had been a while since I had been there and it was as good as usual. Going in the evening for dinner instead of having lunch there meant that the sushi that was available for no extra charge was of higher quality. Yum. After dinner, we all went back to Bill's apartment and played the game Worms on his PlayStation. I think I won one of the games we played, but even if I didn't, it was a good time.

On Saturday, Mel and I drove to Humboldt to celebrate her father's birthday. We had a good lunch and played cards for a while. We didn't get back home until fairly late.

Today, Mel and I skipped church, taking the opportunity to sleep in instead. Early this afternoon, I had to leave home to head up to the Saint Paul area for work, where I'll be for most of the week.



The Des Moines Register has announced the overnight towns for this summer's RAGBRAI, and it is supposed to be the flattest RAGBRAI ever! I have blogged about RAGBRAI in the past, but if you haven't read any of those entries, and you don't know what RAGBRAI is, it is a bike ride across Iowa that is sponsored by the Des Moines Register. It takes place the last full week of July. I have ridden on the past seven RAGBRAIs making this year's ride my eighth if I go. Mel has stated that she would like to join me on RAGBRAI this year. Her sister has even volunteered to babysit our baby the entire week if we both go. I had previously been worried about how we would find the time to properly train for the ride, and I still have some concerns about how much training we'll be able to do together. We would have to get a baby seat for one of our bikes, but I don't know at what age that is safe for babies. Also, with a baby in tow, I would not be at all comfortable riding down steep hills at full speed. But, with this year's ride being flatter than any other RAGBRAI before, maybe training on hills won't be as much of an issue. Oh, we'd still have to train, but I think we could manage.

The Register is reporting that Lance Armstrong will be riding all of this year's ride. He rode RAGBRAI a couple of days last summer. I hope that his presence on the ride won't be disruptive. Last year I heard that some people were riding unsafely, trying to keep up with Armstrong.

While you could follow the above link or even go to the official RAGBRAI web site, I am going to list the overnight towns here:

  • Sunday - Rock Rapids to Spencer
  • Monday - Spencer to Humboldt (where my parents-in-law live)
  • Tuesday - Humboldt to Hampton
  • Wednesday - Hampton to Cedar Falls
  • Thursday - Cedar Falls to Independence
  • Friday - Independence to Dyersville
  • Saturday - Dyersville to Bellevue

I will have to check to make sure that I will be able to take the whole week off from work, and that we can afford it, but I think this has the potential to be a great RAGBRAI!


There Are Klingons in the White House!

In case you haven't heard, Representative David Wu from Oregon recently made a speech on the floor of the House of Representatives comparing the Bush administration to Klingons. This was apparently originally in reference to a book about the administration called Rise of the Vulcans: The History of Bush's War Cabinet. Of course with such a crazy speech, it was featured on the Daily Show. Below is the video, and commentary, on the speech from the Daily Show. Jon Stewart had a couple of "experts" help provide an in-depth analysis of the speech. I encourage you all to view this video clip. In case it gets pulled from YouTube, I am also including an additional link to the speech.

Westdale Mall

The inevitable demise of Cedar Rapids’ Westdale Mall is growing even closer with the announcement today that Von Maur, one of the mall’s anchor stores, will be closing their location there for good next week. Today was the last day that one of the mall’s original tenants, Waldenbooks, was set to close, and my wife heard from her hairstylist that JCPenney is looking into finding a new location in town. If JCPenney were to leave the mall as well, I think that would be the end of Westdale Mall for sure. JCPenney is about the only reason I go to Westdale Mall anymore. There is much better shopping at Lindale Mall and in its immediate vicinity. I also find myself taking care of some of my shopping at Coral Ridge Mall in Coralville, since it is on my way home from work in Iowa City. I really hope Westdale Mall can be saved, but I really don’t see that. At least it’s fortunate that the Von Maur employees from Westdale Mall will be offered positions at the store’s Lindale Mall location or at their location in Iowa City.


I Didn't Expect This

I was really thinking that my weight would be up this week from last week, or at the very least, equal to last week's weight. This was due to having eaten out more often planned this past week. Also, Mel baked cookies while she was home from work last week, and I admit that I had one or two too many cookies this weekend. (I'm sure Mel will say it was more than one or two.) But I am still ahead of my goal of losing one pound per week.

Since Last Week: -1.4 lbs.
YTD Change: -9.6 lbs.
Pounds to Goal: 27.0


Check Out the Nursery

As I promised some time ago, I am posting some photos of the baby's nursery in my blog. Well, since I put up the window shades up on Saturday and some Winnie the Pooh wall stickers on Sunday, I figured the room was enough done to finally show it off. We aren't done yet. We want to get some valances for the windows; we have registered for some at Babies R Us. Also, the crib still needs bedding, but we have registered for that as well. We have fewer than three months to go now!


Time to Exercise

I repaired our NordicTrack elliptical machine tonight. I called customer service about a week and a half ago, before the one-year warranty expired. After describing the problem, I we were shipped the new part, a new console. I had my doubts that it , was the problem, but lo and behold, the elliptical now works. So now I can get to the exercise part of my New Year's resolutions. This should also help with the weight loss. I haven't been as careful as I should have the past week or so in watching what I eat, so exercising should help to counter balance any junk food I may eat.

Here We Go Again

With just a mere 656 days until the 2008 presidential election, I just saw a political ad which I am sure is designed to sway me from voting for John McCain (not that there was much of a possibility of that happening). I guess the Iowa presidential caucuses are much sooner than that, being only 361 days from today, but I have a feeling that I will be sick of the political ads long before even that day arrives. It sure will be a long 1 year and 291 days when it comes to commercial-watching on TV.


Pregnancy Class

Mel and I just got home from attending a pregnancy class at Saint Luke's Hospital. Well, we actually got home about twenty minutes ago. Right after we got home, I stayed outside to spread ice melt on our driveway and sidewalk as they are quite icy, but I digress. So back to the pregnancy class. This class covered late pregnancy. Mel went to a middle pregnancy class last month which I had to miss because I was in Minnesota on a business trip. Anyway, in this class, the teacher explained to us changes that the moms-to-be are experiencing and went through the whole process of giving birth. We even saw a video of a woman giving birth. Toward the end of the class, the teacher explained different options for pain management. Mel is insisting on being drugged. That's fine with me! I'm just glad that I don't have to get stuck with that big needle as I really hate needles!


I had a fairly busy day at work today. About two hours of my morning was spent in meetings and the remaining time, I was very busy working on some challenging test items. The high point of my work day was lunchtime. Since she has the whole week off from work, Mel had to come down to the Coral Ridge Mall in Coralville to pick up her ring. It had been at the jeweler's being repaired. After she got her ring, and I was finished with my math team meeting, we got together for lunch at the Vine. We had a nice lunch before I had to return to work. It would be nice if she could come down for lunch more often on days that she has off. Perhaps we'll need to look into this.


Making Progress

I didn't lose as much weight during the past week as I did the week before, but I am still making progress. This is good considering that I wasn't as careful about what I ate this week. Oh, I tried not to eat too much, but my choices for what to eat weren't always the best.

Since Last Week: -1.8 lbs.
YTD Change: -8.2 lbs.
Pounds to Goal: 28.4


Preparing for the Baby

Today Mel and I took another step in preparing for the baby's arrival. We checked out a possibility for a daycare provider for the baby. I had gotten the name of someone from a coworker of mine. She has been using this person to watch her daughter who was born last February. In fact, when we stopped by the daycare provider's house, my coworker's daughter was the only child there. Some of the others were not there due to the holiday today. It seems like a nice place, plus the cost is very reasonable and it's just one mile from our house. So, we have now chosen a daycare provider for our baby.



Finally we got some snow! Yesterday it snowed a little. It was enough that I needed to clear it from the driveway and sidewalk, but not enough to use the snow blower, so I ended up shoveling the snow. That wasn't too bad though.

Yesterday Mel and I ran around town doing some errands. We ordered some shades for the windows in the nursery. They should be in within a couple weeks. It will be very nice to finally have some window coverings in that room. Also, since there weren't any movies playing that we wanted to see, we ended up renting a couple DVDs. We watched one of them last night, The Covenant. It was a pretty good movie. We rented a second movie that we haven't watched yet, Lady in the Water. We'll probably get around to watching it tomorrow since neither of us has to work.

We spent today in Waterloo. There was a benefit lunch for a friend of Mel's. Her friend's husband has had some health issues, so their church was holding a benefit to raise money for them. Afterwards, we spent some time at my mother's condo before going out to dinner at the Other Place on University Avenue in Cedar Falls. We really like the pizza there. The other food is great too, but the pizza is terrific! After dinner we struggled home to Cedar Rapids, driving in the snow. It probably took us a hour and fifteen minutes to get home, about twenty-five percent longer than it usually does. At least we don't have anywhere to go tomorrow morning. That should give the street crews time to clean the streets before we head out.


End of the Week Update

It's finally Friday. I didn't do much blogging this week, so here's an update on the week's events. Monday was just another typical work day, as was Tuesday. On Wednesday Mel had another doctor appointment. Everything is doing well with the baby--just twelve more weeks to go! Nothing unusual happened at work, nor at home, the rest of the week. Now I will have a three-day holiday weekend. Mel and I had hoped to go to a movie some time this weekend, but after checking in the newspaper, there don't seem to be any movies playing that we both want to see. I guess we'll have to find something else to do to keep ourselves busy for the weekend.


Doing Well So Far

It's been one week since I began watching what I have eaten this year in an attempt to lose some weight. My weight loss for the first week seems pretty extreme, but I am sure it will level off as time goes by. That seems to be the way things work when I watch what I eat.

Since Last Week: -6.4 lbs.
YTD Change: -6.4 lbs.
Pounds to Goal: 30.2


Getting the Elliptical Fixed

I am trying to get our elliptical machine fixed so I can get some exercise. This should help with my weight loss goal for the year. I finally got a hold of NordicTrack customer service today. After describing the problem with our machine, the customer service representative ordered a new console for our elliptical machine. I hope that fixes the problem, but I really think the problem may be more of a mechanical issue than an issue with the console. I guess I'll find out when our new parts arrive. At least it is still covered under its warranty.


Another Weekend Out of Town

For the third weekend in a row, Mel and I had to leave town. Two weekends ago it was for Christmas. Last weekend it was for a New Year's Eve party and to celebrate Christmas one last time for the season. This weekend, we went to Ames for the wedding of one of my cousins. This cousin of mine had been dating his girlfriend for about six years when they finally got engaged. I think his mother thought the day would never happen when he would propose. The wedding was very nice. When the dancing began at the wedding reception, they were playing a lot of older music at first. At one point, while the song "Brick House" was playing, I commented that they should play something more recent. I then sarcastically suggested that the DJ could play Justin Timberlake's "SexyBack." Much to the surprise of my sister, Mel, and myself, the next song to be played was indeed "SexyBack." We could not believe it. Was was even more interesting though was that as soon as "SexyBack" began being played, the dance floor pretty much cleared. There was a teenager or two who started dancing, but that was about it. I would have had no idea how to dance to that song.

This morning, Mel and I left our hotel in Ames to go to Des Moines. We had to pick up the changing table/dresser that we had ordered at Babies "R" Us in Clive when we were there last month. After getting home to Cedar Rapids, I had to have my friend Homercles come over to help us get it into the house. I hung the Winnie the Pooh wallpaper border that we purchased a few months ago. Now the baby's nursery is really beginning to come together. Perhaps I'll post a photo of the nursery to my blog some time in the future. The baby's due date is three months from yesterday. I am sure these final three months will go by faster than we will expect. I suppose we should enjoy our final days of freedom before the baby is born.

There is one thing that I did miss out on this weekend. Yesterday was the date of the wrestling tournament at Highland High School in Riverside, Iowa. I started helping out with the tournament in 2000, during the first year that I taught at Highland. Even after leaving Highland in 2002, I have returned to help out with the tournament. I have really enjoyed helping out and seeing some of the people I used to work with as well as some of my former students. I am not sure if I will help out next year. This year the students who I had as seventh graders in my last year teaching there are seniors, so next year, I will know none of the students. I may still help out though if I am not busy with other commitments, but I think I will probably be busy taking care of my child.


The Weekend

I'm glad that the weekend is finally here, and this was a short work week! I've been really busy at work lately with some fairly mentally taxing activities and my mind needs a rest from it. I'll have more of the same work to work on next week though. The end of December and beginning of January have really messed up work schedules for me. I had two four-day weeks, actually I only worked three days last week because I used my last vacation day. Next week will be a full week, then I'll have another four-day week because Martin Luther King, Jr. Day. Personally I wouldn't mind working on the fifteenth, instead getting an additional day off some time later in the year when the weather is nicer, but I guess I can't complain. Besides, the weather hasn't really been all that bad lately. It would be nice to see a little winter some time though.


Pat Robertson or Nostradamus

Who does Pat Robertson think he is, Nostradamus? Robertson is predicting that terrorists will cause a mass killing in the U.S. this year. Oh, and he claims that God told him so. According to his prophesy however, we will have until after September to wait for the inevitable attack. Let's see how Robertson's past prognostications have turned up. According to the CNN.com article, Pat Robertson predicted at the beginning of 2004 that George W. Bush would easily win reelection. Well Bush did win, but as I recall, the election was pretty close. In 2005, Robertson predicted that Bush would have victory over victory in his second term, including passing Social Security reform proposals. That didn't turn out too well for Bush, but he did nominate conservatives to the Supreme Court, but who couldn't have seen that coming. Finally, last year he said that storms and a possibly a tsunami would crash into the U.S. coastline. I don't seem to recall that happening. He did say that the flooding in New England was close enough though.


A New Link, and One More Resolution

I have added a new link to the list of blogs I read, the Mind of IrishWalsh. I have read head blog off and on for some time from a link on Homercles's blog, but I decided it's time to add my own link. I may not agree with his politics, but his blog can be an interesting read.

And speaking of reading, one more thing I plan on doing more of this year, at least until the baby is born, is to read more. I got plenty of books for Christmas so I had better get started reading them. I just have to decided which one to start with now.

Happy New Year!

Happy new year everyone! I started my year at a hotel in Cedar Falls partying with relatives of my wife. On New Year's Day, Mel and I then went to her grandmother's house to finish up our Christmas celebrations. One of the presents I received was the movie Clerks II on DVD. Mel and I watched it last night and I have to say that it was one seriously messed up movies. I was surprised by some of the content of the movie. I wouldn't have been surprised if that movie had received an NC-17 rating.

This new year is starting with some New Year's resolutions for me.
  1. One of them is to cut back significantly on my soda consumption, limiting myself to no more than twenty-four ounces per day. I am going to be replacing a lot of my soda with water. That should help me be a bit healthier.
  2. I am also going to try very hard to watch what I eat and try to lose some weight. In the past month I gained about ten pounds! A good part of that is probably due to my eleven-day business trip in the middle of the month. Holiday candy probably didn't help much either. I have 36.6 pounds to lose to reach my goal. I don't expect this to happen overnight or even within a month or two, but with perseverance, I can reach achieve this goal by my thirty-fifth birthday this October.
  3. Finally, I am going to exercise more -- at least three times a week for a minimum of twenty minutes each time. Getting our elliptical fixed will help with this. I tried to call to get it fixed today, but the number I called was for repairs under the extended warranty. That doesn't go into effect until the one-year standard warranty expires in a few weeks. So tomorrow, I will need to call the regular warranty number to get the machine fixed.

If I should slip and fail in some of these resolutions, I need to remember that it isn't a reason to quit altogether. I will probably have some lapses. For example, I exceeded my soda limit by sixteen ounces. The first Tuesday of each month is free coffee and soda day at work. I filled my twenty-ounce mug two times. Without the free soda at work tomorrow, I should do better.