Math Conference

A few weeks ago, I asked my manager at work if I could go to the Midwest regional conference of the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics in Kansas City, Missouri, this fall. At the time, he did not think I would be able to go, but he would check. The fact that I have not yet gone to a conference for work would be a plus in my favor. Well, I got an email from my manager today authorizing me to go to the NCTM conference in Kansas City. The last time I was an an education conference was the Iowa Association of Middle Level Educators meeting in Des Moines, which I went to when I taught at Highland Junior/Senior High School in Riverside, Iowa. I think this conference will be bigger than that one. Hopefully I am able to attend several interesting sessions when I go in October.


Back to Routine

Today Mel and I drove to the convenience store just west of the Meskwaki Casino in Tama to meet my sister-in-law and brother-in-law from Ankeny to get Emma back from her week at their house. It was really good to see her again. She seems to have grown while she was away, and we learned that she rolled over from her back to her stomach this past week. We haven't witnessed that yet, although it looked like she was about ready to roll over for us this afternoon.

After we got back home, our lives are returning to our everyday routine. My mother did stop by for a few minutes after dropping my sister's friend off at the airport here in Cedar Rapids, but other than that, nothing out of the ordinary happened this afternoon. We did some grocery shopping, but that was all we really did. I am returning to counting my Weight Watchers points. My weight this morning was at least four pounds greater than it was before we left for RAGBRAI. I think that if I follow the plan very closely the next couple days, I should at least be at the same weight that I was prior to RAGBRAI. One might think that riding a bike over four hundred miles in a week would really help in weight loss, and I suppose it might if I didn't increase my calorie intake as much as I did for the week.

Tomorrow I head back to work. I am sure that I'll have a couple hundred emails to read through when I arrive in the office. Several of them will probably be notices that people are out of the office or leaving early to work from home. I really wish people would stop sending those emails. If someone really feels the need to send such an email, he or she should just send it to the people to whom it would be relevant. There will also be a fair share of emails about network issues, which I normally ignore when I receive them. Oh well, I guess I won't have to find something to keep myself busy when I arrive at work tomorrow.

RAGBRAI XXXV Photos: Saturday

RAGBRAI XXXV finished yesterday, going from Dyersville to Bellevue.

This is the first of the sizable hills on Saturday. This one was shortly before Bernard, Iowa.

Here, several of the Superior Hawgs are getting ready to depart Bellevue for home!

That's it for RAGBRAI XXXV. Be sure to check out Dave's RAGBRAI Page for more photos and stories from the Superior Hawgs' bike ride across Iowa this year!

RAGBRAI XXXV Photos: Friday

These are some photos from Friday's ride from Independence to Dyersville.

Mel is standing in the kybo line in Manchester. She's the one to the left of the guy in the Hawkeye jersey.

Here's a bike with a giant purple stuffed lobster riding on the back.

This is one bike I would not want to be riding!

RAGBRAI XXXV Photos: Thursday

I didn't take any photos along the route on Thursday from Cedar Falls to Independence. This photo shows several of the Superior Hawgs riding in the back of a pickup truck to downtown Independence, Iowa, for dinner.

RAGBRAI XXXV Photos: Wednesday

On Wednesday, we rode from Hampton to Cedar Falls.

We stopped for Chris Cakes for breakfast.

Here's a shot of my sister riding on her way to Cedar Falls.

Cyclists ride past the UNI-Dome in Cedar Falls, Iowa.

RAGBRAI XXXV Photos: Tuesday

On Tuesday we rode from Humboldt to Hampton.

This is Alexander's Kitchen Klatter Band in Alexander, Iowa. They were joined by a RAGBRAI rider for a song or two.

On Tuesday we crossed over Interstate 35.

RAGBRAI XXXV Photos: Monday

These are the photos from the second day of RAGBRAI XXXV, riding from Spencer to Humboldt.

This is the line for pancakes at the fire house in Webb, Iowa. We stood in line for about an hour, making this the longest time I have ever stood in a line on RAGBRAI!

Here are Mel and me somewhere along the route. The fact that we were both wearing the same color was a coincidence. We didn't discuss our wardrobe for the day ahead of time.

RAGBRAI XXXV Photos: Sunday

Here are some photos from Sunday's ride from Rock Rapids to Spencer.

Mel is riding her bike on the way to Ashton.

This photo shows cyclists riding by the grain elevator in Ashton, Iowa.

RAGBRAI XXXV Photos: On the Way to Rock Rapids

Mel and my sister enjoy lunch at McDonald's in Fort Dodge, Iowa, on the way to Rock Rapids for the beginning of RAGBRAI XXXV.

Here is a good portion of the Superior Hawgs on our team bus.

And here's the Superior Hawgs bus crew, Larry, Wally, and Jerry.

RAGBRAI XXXV: The Rest of the Week

When I wrote my previous blog entry on RAGBRAI during the day on Wednesday, I indicated that the day hadn't been going too badly. I may have spoken too soon. Well, the day still wasn't too bad, but after leaving Applington, the wind picked up, making the remainder of the day a bit more difficult. When I made the last turn before getting to Cedar Falls, I was able to see the top of the UNI-Dome, although it was ten or so miles away. It was kind of like the feeling of seeing a grain elevator or a water tower, indicating that the next town is near, but it was still quite a ways away. After cleaning up upon arriving in Cedar Falls, Mel's aunt and uncle, as well as her cousin's daughter, picked us up so we could go to dinner away from the RAGBRAI crowds. We went to the OP on University Avenue, where we proceeded to have some delicious pizza. After dinner, we were dropped off near the UNI-Dome so we could do some shopping at the bike expo. Unfortunately, the T-shirts that we had hoped to buy were sold out in out sizes. I guess that when you see a T-shirt you want on RAGBRAI, you should buy it then, because if you wait, they may run out.

All week, Mel's right hand had been bothering her, imparing her fine motor skills. Concerned about this, she called My Nurse to get some advice. She was advised to get it checked out at the hospital emergency room. Being that we were ready for bed, we waited until the morning to do this. My mom took us both to Sartori Memorial Hospital in Cedar Falls to have her hand looked at. After spending a couple of hours there, the solution was for her to increase the dosage of her anti-inflammatory medication. Then we were let go. Unfortunately, by this time, it was nearly 9:30, which would have given us a very late start for our day. So, we had my mother drop us and our bikes off a couple miles to the west of Dunkerton, where we resumed our bike ride across Iowa. This cut out day's ride to about 33 miles, which was enough with the heat of the day.

Thursday night there was a thunderstorm while we were in Independence. Fortunately the winds were not too strong. The tent managed to keep most of the rainwater out, with just a little getting in when Mel left the tent briefly during the storm. So Friday morning, we packed up our wet tent and set out for our ride to Dyersville. The weather was really nice with cooler temperatures than the earlier part of the week. Despite the fact that we rode twice as far as we had the day before, we both felt that it was an easier ride. I guess the lower temperatures really helped.

Saturday morning, after packing up our tent for the last time on RAGBRAI XXXV, we set off for Bellevue. Not wanting to keep everyone waiting for us, and wanting to make the 1:00 meeting time in Bellevue, we didn't stop as often or for as long. We did stop for breakfast in Cascade where we had Chris Cakes pancakes, which Mel had not yet experienced on the ride. Our next stop was in Bernard where we just had some Gatorade to help replenish ourselves. We had hoped to stop in La Motte for a bite to eat, but they seemed to be all out of food, with the exception of corn on the cob. We did wait about half an hour in line for some drinks though. So after having out drinks and eating the Cliff Bar I had on my bike, we set off to finish the ride.

Saturday was by far the hilliest day on the RAGBRAI route this year. There were some pretty steep and long hills to contend with, but that is to be expected as one approaches the Mississippi River valley. By the time we saw somewhere to get food, Tender Tom's Turkey, the line was really long; probably due to the lack of food in La Motte, and we had fewer than ten miles to go, so we continued on. We managed to get to Bellevue and reach the Superior Hawgs bus just short of 1:00 in the afternoon. After loading up the bus, we were on our way back to Evansdale by 1:30.

I had a really great time this year. As I often do, earlier in the week, I was thinking that this would be my last year to ride on RAGBRAI. However, as the soreness continued, but with the feeling of being more in shape for the ride, that thought went away. Now I can not wait until next year when Mel and I can ride on RAGBRAI XXXVI!


RAGBRAI XXXV: The First Three and a Half Days

I haven't been blogging much this week because I have been riding my bike across Iowa on RAGBRAI XXXV. Today is the fourth day of the ride. Our trip to Rock Rapids on our team bus on Sunday was fairly uneventful. We actually made it all the way without anything on the bus breaking down.

The first day of riding on Sunday wasn't too bad, although it was pretty windy, and of course, we were riding into the wind for a good part of the day. There were some small hills, but overall they weren't too bad. The wind really picked up for the final third of the day, so that wasn't too good. We had a good camping location in Spencer that night, so we were able to get some good sleep, unlike the previous night in Rock Rapids when the bad playing downtown kept me awake until almost 12:30 in the morning!

Monday's ride from Spencer to Humboldt went alright, but we did have an hour-long wait in line for breakfast at the Webb fire station. On top of that, Mel's bike needed repairs not once, but twice! We did stop at Mel's parents' house a few miles out of Humboldt, so we didn't make it to our campground until about 5:30.

Yesterday, we rode from Humboldt to Hampton. It was a bit hillier than I expected it to be, with this year's RAGBRAI route being one of the least hilly routes ever for the ride, but the headwinds were not nice, especially since we were riding into the wind for almost half of the day. We did have a delicious spaghetti dinner at a Lutheran church in Hampton, complete with corn on the cob that was picked fresh that morning!

As I write this, I am sitting in the Iowa Telecom trailer in Applington. We have about 25 or so miles left on the route today. Mel was feeling a bit sore and still tired from yesterday, so she is riding the Superior Hawgs bus today instead of her bike, so I am riding with my sister Rebecca and her friend Janelle. The route hasn't been too bad today, although there have been some hills. After the hills, Janelle and I have to wait for my sister to catch up, since the hills tend to slow her down a bit. Anyway, I better get back on the bike so I can get to Cedar Falls.


Bill O'Reilly is a Primate

Apparently Bill O'Reilly thinks that the pope is not a primate. In a segment of his show the other day, he showed displeasure in, among other things, a comment on Daily Kos in which the pope was called a primate. I don't know what his problem is since the pope is in fact a primate on two different counts. First, one definition of primate on Merriam-Webster Online says a primate is, "any of an order (Primates) of mammals that are characterized especially by advanced development of binocular vision, specialization of the appendages for grasping, and enlargement of the cerebral hemispheres and that include humans, apes, monkeys, and related forms (as lemurs and tarsiers)." Secondly, the same entry says that a primate is also "a bishop who has precedence in a province, a group of provinces, or a nation." Again, this seems to me to describe the pope. Either way, I think I can be fairly confident in saying that Bill O'Reilly is a primate!

Severe Weather

For the third day in a row, it looks like we may be in for some severe weather. As I write this, there is a tornado warning in Grundy County, not far from here. It looks like the storm is heading this way. Yesterday we had severe thunderstorms early in the morning and the day before was quite stormy as well.

I just hope that the severe weather stays away next week during RAGBRAI. For the past two years, there was severe weather overnight at least one night. I didn't have much of a problem with it last year, although as I took shelter in our team bus, I was afraid that my tent poles were going to break. The year before was a different story though. On Sunday night of he 2005 RAGBRAI, there was an intense storm. I decided to take cover in our bus as my tent was being blown down on to me. However, after I fled the tent, the wind caught it. Unfortunately I didn't have the stakes in very good and the tent started to blow away, ending up in a fence just a few feet away. My tent did end up getting some tears in it, which I mended with duct tape for the remainder of the week, and all of my clothes in the tent were soaked!

Weight Watchers Week 12

Losing an additional 1.8 pounds this week, I have increased my total weight loss to 24 pounds, making this week the week I achieved my 10% target, the point at which I lost 10% of my weight. I am now down to 207.2 pounds! Because I'll be on RAGBRAI, I will not be weighing in next week. I am also not going to be as careful about tracking my points for the week since I will be getting plenty of exercise. Besides, I'll need all the energy I can get.



Yesterday I got stuck at work late because of a tornado warning in the county in which I work. The sever weather continued into the night, with our weather alert radio going off five times in the night. At one point, I decided to get out of bed and check out the weather. I shot a video showing the river of rainwater running down my street. About two minutes and seventeen seconds into the video, there is a close lightning strike!


One Week

One week from now I will be sitting outdoors somewhere in Spencer, Iowa, having completed the first day of RAGBRAI XXXV. In order to train some more this weekend, Mel and I took Emma to Mel's aunt's house in Robins Saturday morning, so we could both go on a lengthy bike ride. We rode for a couple of hours before we returned to pick Emma up. We went out again today for a shorter ride. Since we had Emma with us, we had to take turns riding while the other of us walked, pushing Emma in her stroller.

On a more serious note, the mother of a good friend of mine passed away early Saturday morning. She had been suffering from cancer for several months. I'd like to think that I can relate to what my friend is going through since I lost my father just over two years ago, but everyone is different with how they deal with loss. Also, with my father it was completely unexpected, but she had known that this was coming. Either way, dealing with the loss of a parent is tough. And to make matters worse, she isn't returning to Cedar Rapids until tomorrow night, after the visitation at the funeral home begins, since she had to book a flight back from Las Vegas. Mel and I will wait until she gets back to attend the visitation so we can extend our condolences to her in person.


Fish Issues

A few days ago, the pump for the filter in our aquarium quit working. I finally made it to the pet store tonight to look for a replacement pump. Unfortunately, the pump we have is so old, that the pet store no longer carries it, nor do they have anything that is remotely similar. We should be able to replace it with a different style of pump, but I wanted to make sure it would fit before buying it. It looks like it will work, so I will be picking it up tomorrow.


Sleeping Baby

After dinner tonight, Emma and I went for a forty-five-minute walk. Well, I did the walking, she came along for the ride. I decided that I really needed to get some exercise, since I hadn't really gotten any exercise since Saturday. I am looking forward to this Saturday, when we drop Emma off at Mel's aunt's house here in town so we can both go for a bike ride that's longer than an hour.

Right now Emma is sleeping. I love to look at her while she sleeps. She just looks so peaceful lying in her crib with her arms outstretched and the pacifier bobbing slightly in her mouth as she sucks on it in her sleep. Tonight was nice in that she didn't scream too much. It really helped that I had her bottle ready before she was hungry. She took about six ounces of her last bottle around 8:00 tonight, then she fell asleep as I held her. She did wake up briefly when I put her down, but she quickly fell asleep.


Weight Watchers Week 11

The weight loss has resumed! After gaining 2.2 pounds, I managed to lose 3 pounds this week, bringing the difference between my starting weight and my current weight to 22.2 pounds. If I manage to lose at least 0.9 pound this week, I will have lost 10% of my initial weight!


Emma and Me

It's that time of the month again when Mel has to work the second shift all week. That means it's just Emma and me home at night. While I do enjoy the quality time with my daughter, it can be a bit frustrating trying to get things done, such as cooking dinner, while taking care of a three-month-old. When she goes to bed though, I have a chance to get a few things done. One of the things I hope to accomplish this week after putting Emma to bed is getting our personal web site updated. I have some videos of Emma that I want to put online for my family to see, but I haven't had the chance to get it done. I also want to get some photos loaded onto the digital picture frame that I got for Father's Day. In fact, that's what I am going to work on as soon as I finish writing this blog entry.


Bike Ride

I had a good time on my bike ride today. After dropping Emma off with Mel's aunt in Waterloo, I headed to the Shell Rock trail head of the Rolling Prairie Tri-County Trail. I got there a bit early, so I decided to get in a few extra miles before the ride started. I ended up riding about five miles before the official beginning of the ride. It was pretty hot today, but I didn't think it was too bad. RAGBRAI is likely to be just as hot in a few weeks, so I better get used to it now. One thing that made the ride somewhat difficult is that the portion of the trail that we rode--from Shell Rock to Clarksville--is not paved. Instead, it has a crushed limestone surface. This wouldn't have been a problem if I didn't have road tires on my bike, but unfortunately that's all I have. The trail is supposed to be paved in August or September of this year, so if they hold this ride again next year, it should be a much smoother ride.


Cycling and Back to Work

Mel had both yesterday and today off from work, not for the Independence Day holiday, but because she has to work this weekend. Since Mel had the day off, and I didn't have much to do at work, I decided to take a personal day yesterday. Because it was a weekday, we were able to take Emma to day care and then have the day to ourselves. This allowed us to go on a bicycling trip together. We ended up riding for an hour and a half. This was the longest either of us had ridden yet this year training for RAGBRAI which takes place in just a few weeks. It was a pretty good ride. Tomorrow, I am going for a bike ride again. This time it is on a bike ride to benefit a scholarship fund that was founded in honor of Mel's cousin who passed away in June last year. It starts in Shell Rock, Iowa. Unfortunately, Mel has to work so she can not come. I will be riding for both of us though.

Today I went back to work, after having two days off in the middle of the week. I did not have much to work on for the project to which I am currently assigned, so I helped out on a different project. I was glad to have that work to do, since otherwise I would have been quite bored all day. Well, after this day of work, it's time for two days off once again.


Happy Independence Day!

Happy Independence Day everyone! As I stated in the previous posting, we went to Mel's cousin's house across town last night for a Fourth of July cookout. It was a fun time. There were a lot of guests there, including lots of kids. Emma wasn't even the youngest there. There was at least one baby there who was younger than she was. We were out pretty late, not getting home until almost 11:00, well past Emma's bedtime. She did sleep quite a bit while we were there though and still managed to wake up at 5:45 this morning, keeping me from being able to sleep in on this day off from work.

Weight Watchers Week 10

Well, it finally happened. For the first week in the ten weeks that I have been on Weight Watchers, I had a net weight gain for the week. It really doesn't surprise me. This week has been a particularly bad one for watching what I ate. I did pretty good through Saturday, but I ate too much food at the family reunion on Sunday, and I didn't pay attention to my points there. Then before going to the Weird Al concert that night, Mel and I went to Carlos O'Kelly's for dinner where I also ate too much. Then last night, we went to Mel's cousin's house for an early Independence Day cookout where I also ate a bit too much. I have no doubt that I will do better with the Weight Watchers this week. I just need to be sure to count the points on everything I eat! Oh by the way, my weight gain for the week was 2.6 pounds, reducing my weight loss since beginning Weight Watchers to 19.2 pounds. This makes my average weight loss per week 1.92 pounds, which is still pretty good though.


Weird Al

While we had a family reunion around lunch time, the real excitement of the day was in the evening. After learning that he was coming to Cedar Rapids to perform at the Paramount Theater, I won a pair of tickets to the Weird Al Yankovic concert from Z102.9, a local radio station. It had been quite some time since I had last seen him perform when he toured following the release of his Running With Scissors album in 1999. I had also seen a performance of the Bad Hair Day tour at the Paramount Theater. Having seen Weird Al in concert twice before, I knew that this would be a terrific concert. Mel had never seen him perform before. Neither of us was disappointed in the concert!

Like previous Weird Al concerts I had seen before, there were plenty of costume changes. Not only did he perform a lot of songs from he most recent album, Straight Outta Lynwood, but he also included plenty of songs from his previous albums. While he changed costumes, fake interviews between Weird Al and other musical celebrities were shown on the video screens. Some of them were the same as ones I had seen in his previous concerts, but others were new.

I wasn't the only one in the audience who had seen some of those clips before. Seated right in front of us in the theater was a somewhat heavyset man wearing a baseball cap and an autographed Weird Al Yankovic jersey. Not only did he mouth the words to all of the songs, but he was also mouthing along with the words in the video clips! Besides that, he attempted, with a high degree of success, to mimic all of the gestures Weird Al did in his performance and in the video clips. This guy was a bit distracting, but it didn't detract much from our enjoyment of the performance.

One thing I have to remember before I go to another concert though is to bring along a pair of earplugs. My ears are still ringing slightly from the excessively loud noise. I know, that makes me seem like an old man, but I would like to be able to hear future concerts.

I took along a digital camera and got a couple of photos that turned out somewhat. The first one shown below is of Weird Al wearing a SpongeBob SquarePants shirt and a tutu with boxers with hearts on them underneath. This was the end of his removing pieces of clothing during his performance of "You're Pitiful," his parody of Jame Blunt's "You're Beautiful."

The second photo was taken during the beginning of the encore in which he sang a song about how everyone has a cell phone. People were waving their cell phones in the air during the song. This preceded his performance of the song "Albuquerque," which ended the concert.

I am very much looking forward to when Weird Al Yankovic releases another album and goes on tour again. I'll be sure to be there. This concert was more than worth the thirty-dollar price that the tickets cost, even though we got ours for free!

Witt Family Reunion

Yesterday we all went to Keystone, Iowa, for family reunion. The reunion was for the part of my family that is related to us through my maternal grandmother. Aside from my mother, my grandmother, an aunt and uncle, and my cousin and his wife, we didn't really know anyone there. There were a couple of relatives who we see semi-regularly, but to the rest of them our identities were as much a mystery to them as theirs were to us. That made things a lot less awkward than it would have been had I been expected to know who everyone was. I think we are planning another reunion for next summer. If we start going to these things more regularly, I fear that before long, I'll be expected to actually remember who everyone is!