Mel and I were able to get together with Bill for dinner last night at Carlos O'Kelly's. We had planned on dinner together Saturday night, but the storm caused us to cancel our plans. When we got there around five o'clock, they weren't too busy. I thought that they might be busier than they were because of people who still didn't have electricity. On that count, we were quite lucky. We did not lose power at all during the storm. After dinner we stopped at Home Depot because we needed a new furnace filter. When we arrived there were a lot of cars lined up from the building all the way down an aisle in the parking lot. I presume that they were lined up to pick up generators because they did not have electricity restored yet. I'm glad that we were not in that situation!


Good News at Work

I got some good news at work Friday. While on our daily morning walk across the parking lot to the Subway/BP station, we as the manager who was with us where our raises were since by this time last year we had already received raises. So he called our manager to tell him that we were threatening to walk out if we didn't get raises. One of us, not me, had jokingly made a comment to that effect. Anyway, by the end of the day, our manager, who works at a different location from us, had called each of us to let us know about raises we will be getting. I am pretty pleased with the amount, and it's coming just in time, as I am sure that we will be able to use the extra money with the baby coming in a little over a month from now. Now, I am just waiting to get a promotion which should result in an additional increase in pay.


The Black Angel

For a while last year, I was posting a "Photo of the Week." When I revised the layout of my blog, I ceased that feature. Well, I am bringing it back in a sense. I don't want to feel bound to a set schedule for posting new photos. I'd like to post a photo every week, but sometimes I'll be too busy or I am unable to find a photo. So, let's just call this a "Featured Photo."

In the first of these photos, I am at the Ruth Anne Dodge Memorial, also known as the Black Angel, in Council Bluffs, Iowa, with my cousin Laura, my sister Rebecca, and Jon, the husband of another cousin of mine. This photo was taken around Christmas in 2002 when we were visiting my grandmother who lived there at the time. My uncle Jim was driving us around town, showing us the sights of Council Bluffs.

Stuck at Home

We are stuck in the house today due to some amazingly bad weather. I did step outside a couple hours ago to spread ice melt on the steps up to our front door; I don't want the mail carrier to slip and fall when he delivers the mail today. Prior to spreading the ice melt though, there was about a quarter inch of ice on the steps. It looks like our dinner plans with Bill are cancelled. I'm just glad that this weather is happening on the weekend. That allowed me to sleep in after being rudely awoken around 4:30 this morning by an alarm on the weather alert radio. I was so grateful though to be alerted to the fact that we are under a blizzard warning. It made me feel much safer as I went back to sleep. :)


He's Out!

Well, that didn't take long. Tom Vilsack, our former governor, has withdrawn from the 2008 presidential race. He is claiming that he left the race because of money issues. Apparently he was having a difficult time raising enough money to be a serious contender. I have to wonder though if his lack of money is his only reason for dropping out. He didn't place too highly in any of the polls I had seen, and I think it would have been pretty bad for his campaign if he didn't place in the top few places in the Iowa caucuses next January. Of course, being viewed as a non-serious contender for the nomination couldn't have helped his fundraising any. Jon Stewart has been giving Vilsack a lot of crap on The Daily Show. I guess I'll have to tune in Monday night to see what he has to say about this development.

The Return of the Winter Weather

Mel and I just got home from doing some grocery shopping at Hy-Vee, and man that place sure was crowded. In an effort to get people checked out, the manager had us go to the express lane with out well-over-twelve items. Right now, we have plans on meeting my friend Bill for dinner tomorrow night at Carlos O'Kelly's, however if we get a lot of ice as the weather forecasters are predicting, we may have to cancel out dinner date. If that happens, perhaps we can make it up next weekend.


A Messy Ride

Yesterday I thought about going for a bike ride but decided against it. Today however, I did go for a bike ride. I spent fifty-three minutes dodging potholes and rivers of melting snow and ice as I rode nearly eleven miles. The temperature was in the low fifties, which was still a bit cold. I was wearing three T-shirts to keep warm; one of them was long-sleeved. Most of my clothing didn't get too dirty as the bag on the back of my bike caught most of the grime as the rear wheel flung it upward. I am doing some laundry though to get what little mud is on my clothes off of them before it dries.

I was able to get out for my bike ride pretty easy because I worked from home today. Mel had an eleven-o'clock appointment at the baby doctor today and I wanted to go along. I had considered going to work for a few hours before coming home, and then working from home in the afternoon. Alternatively, I considered working from home until after the appointment and then going in to work. Either way, I would have spent just a few hours at work, so I decided it made the most sense to just stay home. I actually think I get more work done when I am working from home. I don't have to deal with the distractions of being in the office, and it was nice to be away from all of the candy dishes today!

The appointment went well as everything seems to be going fine. The baby's heart rate was good and there were not any signs of problems. I can hardly believe that in about a month and a half I will be a father!

No Candy

Yesterday morning when I did my weekly weigh-in, I discovered that I had gained 1.2 pounds from the previous week. If I am going to get serious about losing some weight--I now have 32.0 pounds to lose before I reach my goal--I am going to really need to watch what I eat. With Lent beginning today, I decided that it is a perfect time to give up something that I enjoy. Last year I abstained from drinking soda during Lent, at least for the most part. I think I did end up having one or two sodas at some period during the forty-six-day period. This year I am going to forgo all candy. Fortunately, on Sunday I finished the Jelly Belly jelly beans that Mel gave be for Valentine's Day. Of course that may be part of why I gained this weight in the last week. The hardest part of giving up candy will be avoiding all of the assorted candy dishes that people have around the office, starting with the one across the aisle from my cubicle. Fortunately, there hasn't really been any candy there that I crave for lately. Around the corner though, there is usually a dish of chocolate just waiting for my arrival. Nevertheless, I think this is something that I can definitely do, and it should help to improve my health over the next month and a half.


Missing the Classroom

The past month or so, I have found that I have really been missing my old career, teaching. Now don't get me wrong, I enjoy my current career developing math assessments, but working as a math content specialist doesn't give me the same sense of accomplishment that teaching sometimes did. I really miss the personal satisfaction I got by helping a student to learn something new and to really understand it.

This feeling I have had that I miss teaching has really intensified this week. On Sunday I saw a job listing in the newspaper for a math teaching position at a local high school. The job includes teaching Algebra 2 and more advanced classes. This would be a great job as I don't think it would have some of the issues that I had problems with when I taught. From previous experience, students who take these upper-level classes are usually more serious about them and really want to learn. The same isn't necessarily true of students in lower-level, required classes. However, leaving my current job to return to teaching isn't really an option for me at this point. For starters, it would result in my taking a pay cut of about twenty percent! Even if it weren't for the quickly approaching arrival of our baby, a pay cut of this magnitude would be hard to manage. Besides, as Mel pointed out to me earlier tonight, quite often I was not all that happy teaching.

Warm Enough for a Bike Ride?

While riding home from work today in my car pool, I seriously considered going for a bike ride once I got home. It would have been my first bike ride since July 29 last year, the last day of RAGBRAI. However, after sitting down at the computer to check my email, I decided that with a wind chill factor of 35°F, it is a bit too cold for a bike ride, especially since I don't really have any cold-weather cycling gear.


Being Productive

I haven't blogged in the past few days, so here's an update on what I have been up to. Yesterday was a fairly productive day for me. I started out the morning by driving to the American Red Cross to donate a pint of blood. Immediately following that, I had my car serviced, then I returned home. I spend much of the afternoon installing a closet organization system in my closet. Now, I am able to get all of my hanging clothes in my closet, instead of having some of it in the guest bedroom closet. Also, everything is a lot easier to find now as it is organized!

I am going to continue my productiveness today by doing a few hours worth or work for my job. I have had a lot of work the past several days that is all due tomorrow, and I don't think there are enough hours in the day tomorrow to finish it all, so working today is my only option. Well, I could get it done late, but that isn't a very good way to deal with it.


Happy Valentine's Day

Happy Valentine's Day everyone. Mel and I had a nice evening going out to dinner at Olive Garden tonight. It was pretty crowded there, but we only had to wait forty-five minutes for our table. Dinner was good, but unfortunately they were out of the dessert that Mel wanted. She ended up getting a Blizzard from Dairy Queen instead.

Mel got me a Best Buy gift card for a Valentine's Day present. I have been considering buying a video camera so I can make video recordings of the baby. I have already received some Best Buy gift cards for Christmas, so this will add to them in getting enough to afford a camera. I still need to decide what exactly I want though.

One of the presents that I got for Mel was a talking stuffed animal from Hallmark. Its name is Leonardo and he has a tail that moves back and forth when he talks in his Latin accent. She really seems to like the cat


Back to Losing Weight

I was wondering if I would end up gaining some weight this past week since there was so much food at my grandfather's birthday party, including some massive chicken pieces. However, I was able to lose weight. In fact I am only two-tenths of a pound above where I had hoped to be at this time.

Since Last Week: -1.8 lbs.
YTD Change: -5.8 lbs.
Pounds to Goal: 30.8

Snow Day, Woohoo!

I'm working from home today because of all the snow that has fallen. And from the emails I have seen on my work computer, I am not the only one who is working from home. I imagine that the office will be a very quiet place today for anyone who actually does show up for work.


That's One Messed Up Dude

Mel and I went to see Hannibal Rising yesterday afternoon. She really wanted to see it because she had recently finished reading the book. Initially, I wasn't all that excited about seeing it, however I have to admit that the movie was pretty good. I did find it a bit disturbing that the "hero" of the movie, Hannibal Lecter, is the villain of the other movies in the series. It did feel a bit strange rooting for a serial killer, but I guess his victims deserved it.


First Sign of Spring

I noticed one of the first signs of spring yesterday, and I am not referring to the slightly warmer temperatures. The occurrence that indicated to me that spring is nearing is that our neighborhood Dairy Queen is once again open! I really need to avoid the DQ if I want to lose some weight, however I bet I'll be making a trip or two there in the upcoming months as my wife craves a Blizzard during the final two months of her pregnancy!


Happy Birthday Grandpa!

This afternoon, Mel and I went to my grandparents' house in Keystone, Iowa, to celebrate my grandfather's ninetieth birthday. We had a nice dinner with broasted chicken from the restaurant in town. And as usual, my grandmother talked about how the cake and other things that she made weren't good enough. Of course they were great. There usually isn't a problem with any of the food when Grandma says there is something wrong with it.

Hanging Out With Bill

Mel had to work last night, so that meant that I was home alone. So, I decided to get together with my good friend Bill. I went over to his place for a little while while he was waiting for his son to get picked up for a sleepover. We then ended up playing pool for a while at Fat Wally's in downtown Cedar Rapids. It was pretty evident from the quality of pool that I played that it had been a while since I had picked up a pool cue. Nonetheless, it was a good time.


It's Choco Taco Time!

Today I finally joined my fellow math content specialists at work in what has become a weekly ritual, Choco Taco time! A few weeks ago, a few of the people I work with decided to go up to the frozen food vending machine in the cafeteria at work on a Friday afternoon for an ice cream treat. One of the items that are for sale is the Choco Taco, which is vanilla ice cream with chocolate swirled in, inside a sugar-cone taco shell, with chocolate and peanuts on top. Now every Friday at 3:00 is Choco Taco time. This is usually indicated now with an email sent to all the math staff in our office by one of us.
Last week when everyone went up for the delicious ice cream treats, there were no Choco Tacos in the vending machine. One of our managers bumped into someone from the vending company, informing him that the lack of Choco Tacos in the vending machine was hurting employee morale, so this week, the machine was stocked with at least a dozen Choco Tacos. After our trip for the tacos today, there was but one left in the machine. I guess the math staff aren't the only ones in the building who like their tacos chocolaty.


Lots of Computer Time Tonight

I spent quite a bit of time on the computer tonight. It wouldn't be so bad if it weren't so cold in the basement. My hands are beginning to cramp up due to the cold. Anyway, I spent most of my time on the computer tonight getting our taxes done. I have to say that I was pleasantly surprised about how they came out. I also registered both Mel and myself for this summer's RAGBRAI. I really can't wait for the ride. Not only do I enjoy the ride itself, but I enjoy seeing my RAGBRAI friends who I only see for one week each year even though I live in the same city as some of the people I ride with.


Exciting News

Ok, calling this news "exciting" may be a bit extreme, but the news is interesting nonetheless. Both the Cedar Rapids Gazette and the Iowa City Press Citizen have reported that Chick-fil-A is expanding in the area. They will be opening a location at Coral Ridge Mall in Coralville and they will be adding some standalone locations in Cedar Rapids in the upcoming years. I haven't eaten at Chick-fil-A in years even though they currently have a location in Cedar Rapids. That restaurant is located in Westdale Mall, and why would I ever have a need to go there? I am probably at Coral Ridge Mall more often than I am at Westdale Mall, and I don't even live in Coralville. Of course, I sometimes pass through on my way to and from work, making it a more convenient location for me to shop at. The articles in both papers didn't seem to indicate that a new Chick-fil-A would be springing up any time soon in Cedar Rapids, but that's alright. I am trying to lose weight now, and I may just be able to reach my goal before it opens.


A New Podcast

Recently I have begun listening to a podcast that I read about on CNN's website--Grammar Girl's Quick and Dirty Tips for Better Writing. I have always been a bit of a fan of proper grammar, and just as mathematics mistakes drive me crazy, grammar issues can really bug me as well. I often have to restrain myself from correcting people's grammar. Even though I think my grammar skills are pretty good, I still learn some from Grammar Girl's podcasts. Now if I could just cure myself of screaming at newscasters on TV when they use incorrect grammar, I would be a bit happier. Better yet, maybe people who speak publicly for a living should learn to speak correctly!

Winter Carnival

Last week, I mentioned that I would post a photo from the Saint Paul Winter Carnival that I went to while on my business trip to Minnesota. Well, here it is.

Starting Over

Ok, I'm not really starting over, but in the past two weeks, I gained back much of the weight I have lost since the beginning of the year. Maybe I should have skipped the piece of cheesecake from the Cheesecake Factory when I was on my business trip last week. Well, I should still be on track to lose the amount of weight I want to by my birthday.

Since Two Weeks Ago: +5.6 lbs.
YTD Change: -4.0 lbs.
Pounds to Goal: 32.6


Deciding on the SILO Tax

Next week, on February 13, residents of Linn County will be voting on whether to approve a ten-year one-cent school infrastructure local option sales tax. I am still deciding how I will vote on this matter. One of the things that the Cedar Rapids Community School District plans to spend the money it would receive on is to improve heating and air conditioning at the three high schools and in two of the district's middle schools. It would be nice to have the schools all air conditioned. I can remember teaching at the beginning and end of school years in unbearable heat. It is very hard to get the job done when everyone is so miserably hot. They are also saying that they will upgrade technology along with other uses of the tax.

One thing that pushes me toward voting for the tax is the vocal opposition of Carol Martin and Dick Fredericks. These two individuals seem to always be opposed to anything that the school district or the city try to do. Martin has been a fixture at city government meetings for years. She always seems to have something to complain about. The website that their organization has just rambles on and on about how the Cedar Rapids Schools do not need the money. They also cite some rather sketchy statistics to attempt to prove their point.

Anyway, I guess I have a little over a week before I have to make a final decision on this issue. I am sure that will be enough time for me to make up my mind.

Overcharged at the Wal-Mart

I was overcharged at the Marion Wal-Mart this afternoon. Had my wife not been along with me, I would have confronted the cashier to point out the incorrect price, but Mel insisted that I not bother with it. The item I was overcharged on was a cucumber. The signage by the cucumbers indicated that they were priced at .68¢ each. However, when it was rung up at the cash register, I was charged $.68, one hundred times the price shown on the sign! Wal-Mart's policy is, or at least was at one time, to give a discount of $5.00 if something is mispriced, or to give the item for free if it is priced under $5.00. I am not sure if that is still the policy or not, but next time I am shopping at Wal-Mart without my wife, I will be certain to point out any pricing discrepancies that I notice!


A Musical Trip to Des Moines

Less than twenty-four hours after returning home from a business trip to Minnesota, I had to go out on another road trip. However, this one was for pleasure, not business. Mel and I went to Des Moines to see The Phantom of the Opera at the Civic Center of Greater Des Moines. This was one of my Christmas presents to Mel this past Christmas. It was a really good show. While we were waiting to see the show, we noticed that Monty Python's Spamalot is coming to the Civic Center in July. I'd really love to see that show too, but unfortunately it won't fit into our schedules. After the show, we had a scrumptious dinner at Romano's Macaroni Grill before returning home.


Fox News Alert: Hairstyles of the '70s

At a press conference this afternoon, the two men charged in yesterday's advertising stunt gone wrong in Boston tried to educate the press about hairstyles of the 1970s. The press seemed quite frustrated with the pair, but when your lawyer tells you not to discuss a pending case, I think that's probably good advice. I did like how one reporter did actually ask a question regarding the case in a way to elicit a response. He had to phrase his question in the form of a hair issue.


We finished up with our meetings up in Minnesota late this afternoon. However, we did finish a bit too late today to go home tonight, so we will be leaving for home tomorrow morning. This gave me the opportunity to have dinner with my sister and a friend of ours, Martha. Because I didn't want to leave the others I came to the Twin Cities with stranded, my sister picked me up from my hotel and we went to a Red Robin restaurant for dinner. We got there a little after 6:00, but it was around 6:30 until Martha arrived. After dinner, we sat at the restaurant talking for a while, so I didn't get back to the hotel until around 8:30.