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.


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.



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.


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.


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.


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!



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!


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!


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.


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.


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.


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.



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.


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.


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.


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.


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!


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.