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.


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.

Weight Watchers Week 18

This morning my weight was down to 203.4 pounds, 1.8 pounds less than last week's weight. This gets me back to the weight I was on Monday, August 6, the day I left for my business trip to Philadelphia. Now the change in my weight from the start is 28 pounds. I have 16.4 pounds to go before I reach my goal of 187 pounds.


Last Week for Shorts

With Labor Day falling on September 3, next Monday, this is the last week for quite some time that I get to wear shorts to work. I'll be sure to take advantage of the shorts-wearing opportunity while it lasts. Starting next Tuesday, it's back to long pants for me, at least until after Memorial Day next spring.


Company Picnic

Mel, Emma, and I went to Mel's company picnic today in Tucker Park in Hiawatha. I enjoyed meeting some of Mel's coworkers. I had heard a lot about some of them. Now I can put a face to each of the names I hear when Mel relates to me about her day at work. We had a good time. The food from Nelson's Meat Market was really good. We also had a visit from the Peppy's Ice Cream truck, courtesy of the company Mel works for. Toward the end of the picnic, we got tote bags that had small gifts in them, a company-logo water bottle and baseball cap. Some of the bags also had an envelope with an additional prize. In our bag was an envelope containing a Visa gift card. That was pretty cool. The only thing about the picnic that wasn't great was that I ate too much, but of course, I have no one to blame for that besides myself.


Green Beans

I tried feeding Emma green beans again last night. She doesn't seem to appreciate them as food. Instead, I think Emma prefers to use the green beans for a facial.


Weight Watchers Week 17

This week I lost 0.6 pound, which is less than I would have liked to have lost. However, since I ate a bit much a couple days in the week, and since I didn't keep good track of my points this week, I am happy with the weight I managed to lose. This brings my weight down to 205.2 pounds, leaving me with an additional 18.2 pounds to lose before I reach my goal of 187 pounds. This will put be 5 pounds under the maximum healthy weight for my height and age.


Dinner at Grandma's

Last night we went to my grandmother's house in Keystone, Iowa, to celebrate her birthday and to have dinner. We also got to see an aunt and uncle, my sister who we hadn't seen since around Mother's Day, and my cousin and his wife who we haven't seen since January.

The first thing we did when we got to Keystone though was to check out the grand opening of the new Keystone Turner Hall. It was a very nice facility with a very big bar and a six-lane bowling alley. This was Emma's first trip to a bar. The new building replaced one which burned down a little over a year ago.

Dinner was good. We had broasted chicken from the Chuck Wagon Restaurant in town. They weren't too busy when we went there to pick up the chicken as everyone in town was at the Turner Hall.

Ann "She-Devil" Coulter

According to reports, John Edwards has apparently referred to Ann Coulter as a "she-devil." I can't say that I disagree with him one bit.


Weight Watchers Week 16

As expected, I gained weight this week. I didn't really follow the Weight Watchers plan while I was in Philadelphia for work last week. I have a real weakness for food that I do not have to pay for. Anyway, I gained 2.4 pounds for the week, making my total weight loss since beginning Weight Watchers 25.6 pounds. This gain isn't too bad, and after all, it is just the second time in the sixteen weeks I have been participating in Weight Watchers that I had a gain for the week.

I should be able to get back on track with weight loss, although I will have a couple of obstacles this week. First of all, I am getting together for dinner with a friend tonight. We're going to Bennigan's, and they do not publish nutritional information on their food. That will make figuring out my points tonight a bit more difficult, although I think I will be able to estimate the points. Then on Saturday, we are going to Keystone, Iowa, to celebrate my grandmother's birthday. We'll be having either broasted or fried chicken. I should be able to determine the points values for that, but I know it will be relatively high.


That's a Lot of Money!

FOX News is reporting that a South Carolina inmate is suing NFL quarterback Michael Vick for $63,000,000,000 billion dollars for stealing his pit bulls, as well as for other infractions. That is an awful lot of money! Later on in the article, it reports that the inmate wants $63 billion dollars backed by gold and silver delivered to the gate of the prison.

Whoever wrote the story apparently does not know the difference between 63,000,000,000 billion and 63 billion. See, the lawsuit says he wants 63,000,000,000 billion dollars, not 63 billion dollars. That means he is actually seeking $63,000,000,000,000,000,000 (sixty-three billion billion dollars or sixty-three quintillion dollars)! I do not know if there are $63 quintillion dollars even in existence. Of course, I bet the inmate has little chance of winning any sort of lawsuit.

Furthermore, the FOX News article, but not the plaintiff's lawsuit, also misuses the dollar sign in their article. The put a dollar sign before the number and the word after the number. They need to pick one or the other, not both. If I say $1 dollar, that's just wrong. I should have written either $1 or 1 dollar. With both the dollar sign and the word dollars, the units being represented are dollars squared, and that makes absolutely no sense at all.


Salmon Pizza

Waiting for my flight from Saint Louis to Cedar Rapids, I decided to try the salmon pizza at Wolfgang Puck Express for dinner. It is really quite good! They put a dill spread on the crust after baking it. Then the entire pizza is covered with smoked salmon. I figured I wouldn't be able to try it back home, so I'd get it here. I would definitely try it again, especially if my company is paying for it.


The Phillies

Tonight I went to my very first Major League Baseball game. In fact, this was the first professional sporting event I have ever been to. As you can see from the umbrellas in the photo to the right, it was raining at Citizens Bank Stadium this evening when we went to see the Philadelphia Phillies play the Florida Marlins. Had the tickets not been purchased last week, I am guessing that we would have decided to pass on going to the ball game. However, our twenty-dollar tickets to the game had already been purchased, so we decided that we might as well go.

We did have some problems getting to the stadium. Despite the fact that the stadium was relatively close to our hotel, we missed the first half of the game because it took a very long time for the cab to pick us up from the hotel! Once we got there, we all got some ballpark food for dinner. Three of the five of us, my manager and the employee of our subcontractor who was here excluded, went to our seats on the pavilion deck where we proceeded to be rained on while eating our food. We eventually decided to stand below the deck watching the game among the crowd who had apparently decided to stand in a dry region of the ballpark rather than becoming soaked from the rain.

It was a lot of fun watching the game. I would really like an opportunity to go to another major league sporting event in the future. Since we are in Philadelphia, and one of the coworkers I was with was originally from the Philly area, we were cheering for the Phillies. Unfortunately they lost to the Marlins tonight. It was then that my manager, who used to live in Florida, told us that he had just decided then to cheer for Florida.

We were able to get a cab ride back to the hotel relatively easily, although I think the driver overcharged us as the cost was about ten dollars more than it cost to get to the stadium. After hearing our destination, he just gave us the price for the ride; he didn't start the meter. At least the cost of the ride can be put on the expense report.


Two Days Down, One and a Half Days to Go

I have finished with my first two days of meetings in Philadelphia. I know have just one day left of meetings with the full committee with which I am meeting. Then Friday morning I have to meet with just a couple members of the group to ensure that we all recorded the same information. After meeting Friday morning, I'll be headed home.

Tonight was the first time I left the hotel since I arrived Monday evening. The group of us from work walked to Ruby Tuesday, the only restaurant within walking distance of the Philadelphia Airport Embassy Suites where we are all staying. It was nice to have a dinner outside the hotel. The hotel restaurant was good last night, but it took a long time to get out food, and the menu is quite limited. After dinner, the four of us stopped at the hotel bar for a couple of drinks. It was nice sitting down with coworkers who I don't see too often since they work in a different office from me for socializing.



I hate flying! Actually, it's not really the flying itself that I hate, it's the takeoffs and landings that I really dislike. I don't know why, but I get nervous about those parts of the flight. Besides taking off and landing, I really hate the experience of waiting for the flight. Both of the flights I was on today were delayed. My flight from Cedar Rapids to O'Hare was delayed by about half an hour. At that time, I was thankful that I had a layover there of about an hour and a half. Well, it turned out that I really had nothing to worry about as my flight from O'Hare to Philadelphia was delayed by almost two hours! That means that I ended up not arriving at the hotel until about 10:00. I had planned on arriving around 7:30, giving me time for dinner. As it was, I ended up having to grab something at O'Hare to eat on the plane. I suppose what I ended up grabbing, a chicken sandwich and a banana, was healthier than whatever I would have gotten when I got to the hotel, but I was kind of looking forward to ordering room service, which I have never done before. I guess I'll have to do that some other time.

I would much rather hop in the car and drive somewhere. Perhaps I just feel better when I am in control of the vehicle in which I am travelling. Riding on an airplane, I have absolutely no control. Of course, it's not practical to drive everywhere, and I don't dislike flying enough to keep me from doing it when it's the best way to get somewhere. I suppose I better get used to flying more as travel for the project I am working on now at work will necessitate flying. With the project I had been working on, all travel for me was by car. I liked that much more. However, now I'll have a chance to earn some frequent flyer miles on the company dime.

Weight Watchers Week 15

This weekly weight-loss posting is a couple days earlier than my normal schedule. However, I am going to be out of town on a business trip this Wednesday, so I weighed in this morning. I figured that my weight would be down a little, but I wasn't expecting the loss of 1.6 pounds since Wednesday! I can actually feel the difference in my weight this week. Oh, I definitely noticed a difference before, but yesterday for the first time, my size 36 shorts actually felt a bit loose. Hopefully they get me through the summer. Then next summer I can get some new shorts.

We'll see how I do with next week's weigh-in. I am currently sitting at the Eastern Iowa Airport in Cedar Rapids awaiting the first of my two flights which will get me to Philadelphia for work. This is the first time I have flown for work, and it will also be the first time I will be in Pennsylvania. I don't think I'll be seeing much of Philadelphia while I am there though. Our meetings will be taking place in the hotel in which we are staying, but a group of four of us from work are planning on going to a baseball game while in Philadelphia to see the Phillies play the Marlins.



When I got home from RAGBRAI last weekend, I spent quite a bit of time skimming through the week's newspapers that had accumulated in the house. Upon reading the paper, I learned that the first Hardee's restaurant that I ever worked at, at 324 Edgewood Road NW in Cedar Rapids, had closed. I first worked at that Hardee's in the summer of 1990. Had my family not moved to Waterloo at the end of the summer, I likely would have kept working there during the school year. Instead, I continued to work there each summer through 1995 as I lived with friends in Cedar Rapids. I had eaten lunch at this Hardee's a few times in the past couple of years since returning to Cedar Rapids, and it never seemed to be too busy. I guess that's why it is no longer open.

The second Hardee's I worked at was the one by Crossroads Mall in Waterloo. I only worked there for about a month in 1991. I started working there toward the end of my senior year of high school. Once I graduated, I moved into a friend's house in Cedar Rapids for the summer, as I indicated above, so that ended my employment at this particular Hardee's location. Several years ago, this Waterloo Hardee's closed. The building was vacant for a while before it became a Chinese buffet. That restaurant closed a few years back. The building has since been torn down.

The third Hardee's restaurant I worked at was located in the Plaza Centre One building in the Pedestrian Mall in downtown Iowa City. I worked there while I was a student at the University of Iowa during the 1991-1992 school year. This location has also closed. I do not have a photo of this location to share.

The last Hardee's location that I worked at was in Maucker Union on the University of Northern Iowa campus in Cedar Falls. I worked there much of the time I was a student at UNI, working there off and on from 1992 through 1997. I also worked there a couple of summers between different teaching jobs after I graduated from UNI. A lot of people really hated working at that Hardee's, and I admit that from time to time, I didn't care for it. In fact, I did quit my job there a time or two, but I kept going back.

Besides carrying the regular Hardee's menu, the UNI Hardee's also had a side restaurant, named the Hardee's Panther Deli, which sold mostly cold sandwiches, as well as a few other things such as soup, chips, and nachos. The deli was a fun place to work, especially in the evenings on weekends. It often wasn't too busy there, so I was able to get some reading done for classes I was taking. On the weekends, the deli had more of a laid back atmosphere. Also, for a while, movies were shown on Friday nights (it may have been Saturday, I don't remember for sure). Depending on where the movie screen was set up, it was sometimes possible to view the movies while working.

The Hardee's location on the UNI campus also closed several years ago, just prior to a remodeling of Maucker Union. I haven't really had a chance to check out Maucker Union since its remodeling as it's usually been closed in the cases that I have been on campus.

Now, with the closing of the Edgewood Road Hardee's, every Hardee's restaurant that I have worked at is now closed. I guess they just couldn't survive without me.


Tax-Free Shoe Shopping

With Iowa's eighth annual tax-free holiday on clothing happening today and tomorrow, Mel and I decided to go out and buy some new shoes. We went to Famous Footwear, where they were having a buy-one-get-one-half-off sale. Were it not for the sale, and the fact that we both were really in need of new shoes, the idea of saving the six percent state and local sales taxes would not have been enough to get us to make our purchase. With the sale, we spent $85 on shoes, saving $5.10 in sales taxes.

In the past, I have noticed that clothing stores often have better sales in the weekends following the two tax-free days that occur the first Friday and Saturday of August. Another thing I have notices about the event is that the media often refer to it as a "tax-free weekend." It's not the weekend, Saturday and Sunday, during which the tax is not collected. Rather, it is a Friday and Saturday. Sure, that encompasses part of the weekend, but calling this a tax-free weekend is not really correct. Besides, it's just most clothing items that cost less than $100 that are tax-free, not anything else, except of course those things that are always tax free.


Freaking Out

Around 6:45 this evening, I got a phone call from my mother. She sounded quite upset on the other end of the phone saying that she couldn't get a hold of my sister. At first I didn't understand what she was talking about, but she then informed me about the collapse of the Interstate 35W bridge in Minneapolis, over the Mississippi River. My sister works in Saint Paul and lives to the south and east of there, so she shouldn't have been in the area of the bridge collapse, but not being able to get a hold of her made my mother nervous. I tried to reassure my mother that she probably couldn't get through to my sister because the phone lines were probably quite busy up there, nevertheless, I started to become a bit worried myself.

After changing the TV to CNN so we could see what was going on, and watching that for fifteen or twenty minutes, my mother called back to let us know that she had heard from a relative who had head from another relative who had heard from my sister since the bridge collapse, so we knew she was OK. That was quite reassuring, although I still wanted to talk to her for myself.

A little while later, my cell phone rang with the ring tone which I have assigned to my sister, so I knew it was her. As I knew she would be, she was just fine. She had been at home when the bridge collapsed. In fact, she hadn't even known what had happened. Apparently, she was on the phone with a friend when the call was dropped. A moment later she looked at her phone to find that she had three new voice mails. After listening to them, she did call people to let them know she was alright. Fortunately all of her friends and our relatives in the Twin Cities are alright. I do have a coworker who is in the Cities for work this week, but I don't think she'd probably be in that part of the city. I'm sure we'll here from her tomorrow.


I was just checking to see how people have stumbled upon my blog recently and I was not surprised to find people searching for RAGBRAI XXXV pictures. What did surprise me was that, as of this time I am writing this entry, my blog comes up first and second on the list on Google when searching for RAGBRAI XXXV pictures or RAGBRAI 2007 photos. A moment ago is was first for RAGBRAI 2007 pictures, but not anymore. So I guess I may be losing my top listing at any moment. What surprised me is that I even beat out the Des Moines Register's website in these two searches.

Weight Watchers Weeks 13 and 14

I did not have a weigh-in last week since I was on RAGBRAI, away from any scales. Since my last weigh-in two weeks ago, I managed to lose 2.4 pounds, bringing my total weight loss since beginning Weight Watchers to 26.4 pounds. Because of this weight loss, I got my 25-pound milestone star! Yippee! Now I just have 5.1 more pounds to lose before my weight is below 200 pounds!