Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Summer Vacation

The real summer vacation is just beginning. Yes, I can still say that I get a summer vacation, but only because of my profession. The summer course that I had been teaching over the past eight weeks came to an end last Thursday, and I submitted my grades yesterday, and this means that the summer work is done. The best part of my job, by far, is that everything begins anew. In the classroom, I am free to try new things, develop new projects, and take chances with how I bring material into the class because I know that in a few weeks, or months in the fall and spring semesters, that section of the course will be over and a new one will begin. So what will I do with my newfound free time (ha! don't forget we've got an infant over here!)? I took a few days off, but I will begin redesigning my writing courses and revisiting what worked and what didn't in preparation for the fall semester that's just a few short weeks away. I love the new beginnings.

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Monday, July 30, 2007

Ubuntu anyone?

Problem = Older laptop running Windows XP that often won't boot correctly, freezes up regularly, and runs slowly when it's not frozen and boots up.

Possible solution (aside from new laptop) = Ubuntu Operating System

Any advice?

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Tear Out the Yard

With no rain in sight and temperatures reaching the mid-90's this week, the yard is starting to look a little brown. So I decided that I needed to water the front yard a bit this morning. Keeping it from turning entirely brown at this point has been no small feat, mind you, as we had a pretty dry July. But this brings me to the problem: I hate watering the lawn -- not because it's a hassle or anything like that because the sprinkler does all the work, but because it's a waste of water, and the cycle never ends. To keep the grass green (or somewhat green and alive) it needs water, which we have to provide. This causes the grass to grow, which we then have to cut, which will ultimately need watering again. What is the big deal with grass? Why are all of our yards based upon grass? What if we tore out big portions of our lawns and replaced them with landscaping: the kind that fits your geographical region and lives well on its own? Since our backyard is really small, in time, I see the grass going away and being replaced by native plants that love hot, dry summers.

See this explanation from This Old House.

Sunday, July 29, 2007

Know Someone Who's Expecting?

One of the hardest things for me to do is to remember all the particulars about our kids when they were born. I don't mean that I forget that they were born or anything like that, but I am not all that detail-oriented, especially with numbers, so I have a hard time remembering the exact time, the exact weight, and the exact length of the kids when they were born. Because of this, one of the coolest gifts that a friend gave to us to celebrate the birth of our second daughter was this: the babyblock. So, if you know anyone who is about to become a parent, or heck, if you want to keep track of your own kids' info -- consider this neat keepsake.

Friday, July 27, 2007

Conserving Water Usage

After reading Michael Leddy's post about "The Incredible Head" on his blog, I was curious about it, and for under five dollars, I thought trying it out was worth the risk. If you can put aside the odd look of the showerhead, for it really looks like a simple pipe extending out of the wall, it really is a good showerhead -- especially if it can, and it seems realistic, reduce water usage and costs by 70% (heck, I'd be happy with 50%). The pressure doesn't differ that much from our old shower head, and I feel pretty good knowing that I use less water when I take a shower. Oh yeah: installation was a breeze.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Oh how convenient

While I was at school today, grading final essays and calculating final grades for my summer composition students, I went to use the restroom. Upon entering the restroom, I hear someone talking, and without seeing him, he was around a corner, I figured there were a few people there. Not so. This guy was standing at the urinal talking to someone on his cell phone. When he finished going to the bathroom, he flushed the toilet, and he kept talking -- no break in the conversation or anything. I expected him to have to explain to the other person that he was, indeed, in the bathroom, but there was no such talk. Maybe this is common, and I am getting old fashioned, but I don't want to know when someone is using the bathroom -- especially if I am talking to him on the phone. I can't even begin to imagine this one. For those who read this blog and talk to me on the phone, consider yourself warned. If I hear a toilet flushing, I am hanging up immediately.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Tired Days

Originally uploaded by Jasondr
For the most part, we've been fortunate with the new baby and her sleeping habits. First off, she is a great sleeper -- for being two weeks old. In fact, she's asleep right now. During the night, she sleeps for up to three or four hours straight, most often early in the night. From about two a.m. on, she is a bit more restless. So we're sleeping pretty well, and it's only bound to get better. Thankfully, the summer days are long, and no matter how tired we are, it doesn't seem to be that bad.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

The Most Important Meal

What is it about breakfast that always leaves me hungry about two hours after I eat it? Typically, I'll have some cereal, a healthy sort, and it is full of fiber, which is supposed to help satisfy one's hunger as the morning wears on, but most days, today especially, it's not doing the trick.

Sunday, July 22, 2007

What's on Tonight?

I find myself asking my wife this nearly everyday, as if she's the TV Guide, and nearly every day, the answer is "not much." As a result, as you can tell from my previous posts, we've been watching a lot of movies lately. However, there are a few exceptions that are on TV; oh, and when I say TV, I am not referring to the 999 cable channels that are available, but I'm talking about basic cable -- not much more than the networks and the weather channel here, folks. Because of this, we don't watch all that much TV; however, there are some bright spots throughout the year.

The best show out there is about the only comedy that is actually comedic: The Office. Yes, I know this is not the original show (that of the BBC), but it is entirely its own, with story lines that are unique to American culture. The characters seem real, the humor is forthright at times, but more often it's so subtle and off-hand that one is likely to miss it -- which makes it even funnier. The story lines are outrageous, if you haven't really spent much time with the characters, but once you understand their personalities -- especially that of the self-proclaimed "World's Best Boss," Michael Scott (played by Steve Carell), they become quite realistic, and even more humorous. The Emmy nominations were announced last week, and Steve Carell is up for Outstanding Lead in a Comedy Series, and hopefully, he claims the prize: he is so convincing as Michael Scott, and his comedic timing is perfect.Outstanding Lead Actor In A Comedy Series

Friday, July 20, 2007


We got this documentary in the mail today, Starbucking, and watched it tonight. Essentially, it chronicles the journey of a guy named "Winter" as he travels around the country (but he has also traveled internationally) to drink a 4 oz. cup of coffee from every corporate-owned Starbucks, ever. When he made this his goal, he forgot to consider that Starbucks is a growing company; hence, his quest will never end. On his website, Winter lists pictures and dates of every Starbucks he has visited. Here's one of the Starbucks in my hometown, St.Charles, IL, taken on May 12, 2007.

I, too, have eaten all the plums

Okay – so I didn’t just leave a note like the speaker in the William Carlos Williams poem, but I did warn Elena every day as I ate them, one by one, that they would, soon, all be gone. And, as of this morning, they are just that: gone. Sorry. But, they were delicious. And every time I ate one, I thought of the poem “This is Just to Say.” So here it is from Poets.org:

This Is Just To Say
by William Carlos Williams

I have eaten

the plums

that were in

the icebox

and which

you were probably


for breakfast

Forgive me

they were delicious

so sweet

and so cold

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Not for me

Have you ever seen the show on Discovery channel called "Dirty Jobs?" If not, the host goes around and performs the duties of someone who has a dirty job: garbage man, exterminator, and so on. While on the job, the one whose profession this actually is often gives the host a hard time for not doing the job quickly enough or well enough. One job I would never ever want is one that is most often held by teenagers -- kids, really: lifeguard. And when I really think about it, I can't believe that this is normal.

First off, they are guarding people's lives. These are irreplaceable, and most often, they are guarding the lives of children. Sure, when we go to the pool or beach, we believe that nothing bad will happen to us, and 99% of the time, we are right on, but there is a tiny, miniscule chance that a tragedy will occur, and when it does, we are counting on kids to help us, or our children, out. Isn't that an awful lot of pressure to put on a kid? And what happens when those lifeguards can't save the life? Think of the guilt that will follow those lifeguards around for life.

This all comes to mind because there was a drowning, a teenager drowned, in Lake Springfield earlier this week. The lake hasn't reopened, and it may not for the rest of the summer because the lifeguards are too distraught. And they may be distraught for years.

Perhaps people who save lives should be full-time professionals, adults, and paid a serious wage to attract people to this job. No, it's not a dirty job, but it certainly is an important one.

And I won't even begin to talk about kids going swimming who can't swim...

This from the SJ-R today:

Lake Springfield Beach closed due to distraught lifeguards

The Lake Springfield Beach will be closed today and may not reopen at all because the lifeguards are emotionally distraught after Saturday's drowning, the city said today in a news release.

Counseling is being arranged for all of the lifeguards, according to City Water, Light and Power general manager Todd Renfrow. Lake Springfield Beach had been set to close Aug. 5 for the season.

Beach management made the determination following a 10:30 a.m. staff meeting, according to the city.

The beach, which is in Center Park near the Vachel Lindsay Bridge, has been closed since Eric Jones, 16, of Springfield, who did not know how to swim, drowned at the beach late Saturday afternoon.

Monday, July 16, 2007

Summer Footwear

I'm sold. Out of all the years I have worn sandals during the summer months, I haven't ever worn anything quite so comfortable for such a great price. Yep -- you guessed it: I'm talking about Crocs. Sure they may have gained popularity in restaurant kitchens and hospitals across the country due to their comfort and the ability to clean them easily, but they are great for every day wear, too. I got a pair after noticing my sister wearing them (and yes, they are unisex), and I've had them for about six months. Elena picked up a pair shortly after I did. My sister purchased a pair for N. And yes, we all love them. If you like the comfort of sandals in the hot summer months, check out Crocs next time you're looking for something new to wear.

Sunday, July 15, 2007

Less Sleep = More Coffee

Our new daughter has been home now for five days, and Elena and I have been sharing the every-two-hour feedings throughout the night, along with the diaper changing and general checking in on the baby throughout the night. So far, we've both been pretty surprised at how we don't really mind not sleeping as much (or as soundly). I have noticed, though, that I drag during the day (and think of naps, too). I find myself drinking an additional cup of coffee or two throughout the day, and so, it's a good time to talk about some good coffee - when a choice is available.

At the top is Seattle's Best coffee, which is actually not just Seattle's best, but the best of all. I first happened upon this coffee at the newer outlet mall in Aurora, IL, where they had a branch. From that point, whenever we ventured to that mall, I went out of my way to get a cup. The good news is that they also sell their coffee in many grocery and big box-type stores (although I don't know if it is carried by Wal-Mart). Whole bean or ground, the coffee is great.

Next, is Caribou Coffee, which has coffee shops in about twenty states: mainly in the midwest. Great coffee, but what I love is that they offer two varieties of nearly every blend: a dark and a mild. For my taste, the mild is the best choice no matter what the brew. They don't sell their product in stores, so unless you have a store located nearby, which I don't, you're outta luck. And even if you do have a store nearby, buying coffee everyday has gotta be ridiculously expensive.

What do you drink?

Friday, July 13, 2007

Easy Streets

In the mail today, we received, via Netflix, the documentary "Easy Streets." Since you can get pretty much anything you could imagine from Netflix, we tend to pick out documentaries more than anything else. This movie seemed interesting enough, as it followed three or four homeless folks around, explaining their situation and their life stories, so we put it in our list. The problem is that after watching it, I am confused about what the film was trying to accomplish. It seemed to be a contradiction from start to finish. The folks in the movie were real, with very real problems, but seemed to be stereotypically homeless: there were many drunken people, self-proclaimed alcoholics, people with mental disorders, veterans, and a few who really were down on their luck but trying to bounce back. But, the movie didn't really work to make you feel a certain way towards the plight of the homeless; instead it left you feeling both sad and sorry for some while angry and irritated by others. But that may have been the point; homelessness is that kind of problem -- many causes, no real solution, and many misunderstood feelings. But .... "Easy Streets" wasn't a really strong movie. Check out "Word Wars" or "Wordplay." These are both great documentaries.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Welcome Home

Originally uploaded by Jasondr
We made it through the pregnancy and on Tuesday delivered our second daughter, M. We were okayed to leave the hospital today, and we were at home by 2:00. She is beautiful, healthy, and quite a content baby!

Things I learned during our brief hospital stay:

1. My wife is amazing. She delivered the baby with little trouble, was in great spirits immediately afterwards, and was ready to go home the next day. She really makes the whole thing seem easy.

2. Babies are straightforward with ya. They're either happy or not, and if not, they're either poopy, wet, hungry, or have gas. That's prettty much it. Work your way through the list, and you should have a happy baby.

3. Hospitals aren't always warm. For the second time, in as many child deliveries, I was freezing at the hospital. Thankfully, when the baby was born, they cranked up the heat.

4. Hospital food is really not that good. We were in for about two days and had chicken strips for dinner one night and for lunch the following day. They were good, but nothing really seemed worth trying instead of chicken strips.

5. Maternity wards with nursuries are a blessing. There seems to be a movement in hospitals these days to have babies stay with their moms (and dads, usually) for their entire stay. While this is great in theory, sometimes, moms REALLY need some sleep. This time around, the hospital had a nursery, staffed with full-time RNs, and we let M spend a few hours there late Tuesday night and early Wednesday morning. They fed her and watched over her, and most importantly, Mom got some much needed rest. Sleep does amazing things.

Monday, July 9, 2007

Pop Culture Anyone?

The new season of the World Series of Pop Culture has begun. See how your knowledge stacks up! The usually pathetic VH1 (Flavor of Love, Hogan Family, Junk, Crap, Trash) delivers with this fun-filled gameshow competition. For anyone with pop culture knowledge of the 70s, 80s, 90s, and 2000s (is that right?) the show is great. Tune in while you can ....

Sunday, July 8, 2007

She had a baby in the lobby!

No, not us. In reading the morning newspaper, there was a crazy story about a woman who was told to go home from the hospital because they believed her to not be in labor. The problem was that she knew she was in labor. Holy cow. Once the lady was directed to the lobby, and her husband was getting the car .... she had the baby .... in the lobby. Unbelievable.

Oh, and I haven't solved the rubik's cube yet, but I'm getting close.

Saturday, July 7, 2007

Is it 1982?

Relax. No, it's still 2007, but I feel like I jumped back about 25 years. While we were out this morning, at Walmart, which is an entirely different story, I came across a Rubix Cube in the toy section, and thought that it would be a fun way to pass some time. As of now, I am frustrated by this toy and a bit obsessed about solving it. I'll keep ya posted.

Thursday, July 5, 2007

Mailorder is Still Fun

Yep -- I am going to order an actual CD. Back in 2006, I traded every single one of my CDs to this used CD store for an iPod. Of course, before I sent in all of my CDs, all 600 of 'em, I ripped them onto my hard drive (and even backed that music up on a portable hard drive because I am that paranoid of losing the music). And the scheme worked, for I now have a great iPod, all of my music and then some, and don't have to house a massive CD collection.

But, sometimes getting music from iTunes isn't the best way to go. I have heard some sample tracks off of Chuck Ragan's live CD "Los Feliz" and some tunes from his upcoming release, "Feast or Famine," and I want to help him out. I know when I buy music from a small, indie label that the actual artist benefits from the sale. I feel a bit of guilt when I get the music elsewhere. This brings me back to actually buying a CD, the way I used to when I was in high school, via mailorder. I can preorder the CD, out in August, and get a free T-shirt with it AND enjoy the anticipation of getting the disc in the mail. This was the only way I used to get music from great mailorder collectives like Blacklist Mailorder.

But I think I will ultimately go both ways here: get "Los Feliz" off of iTunes and preorder his new disc and wait, patiently, for it to come in the mail.

Wednesday, July 4, 2007

Passing the Time

So we've been playing some Scrabble recently -- mostly at night after N has gone to sleep. I have been on a roll, winning many games, but the strange thing is not that I've been winning so much (there was one summer where I couldn't beat Elena to save my life), but that we've tied twice in about five games! Ties in Scrabble? Are you kidding me? TWICE??

We got on the Scrabble kick after watching the documentary Word Wars, which follows four professional Scrabble players as they move through the season of tournaments for a chance to play in the national tournament. Interesting movie with memorable characters. Ordinary players, even good ones, wouldn't stand a chance.

Tuesday, July 3, 2007

In the beginning

What better way to start a blog than with fireworks and celebrating. No, not because I am starting to blog, but because of the 4th of July. I read an article today about blogging by a former professor of mine, and especially liked what he had to say about why he began blogging (see here for the article by John Guzlowski). Anyways, I, too, enjoy reading others' blogs and thought it's time to add my own to the mix. Where it goes, not even I know ...