15 January 2015

Money Well Spent

"To everything, there is a season"
So sayeth the Byrds, and they are correct.
[sidenote: I did not know that a majority of that song is taken directly from Ecclesiastes.]
This post is a tribute to two long-serving and (one) recently departed small housewares.

First off, the clippers.
I bought an Oster clipper set from the Wal-Mart in Shenandoah when I was either a junior or senior in high school.  (This post is in no way a testimonial to the quality of Wal-Mart's merchandise.)  When you hold clippers in your hand, you are holding power.  The power to change. We had quite a fun time giving each other some pretty horrid bowl cuts and buzz jobs. As I got older my hair swung back and forth from long and untrimmed to clipper buzzes.  After that, keeping a buzzed head through the spring, summer and fall has saved me an pretty penny for sure.  And most recently, Sylvia has shown an interest in and aptitude for giving me a nice fade so I can keep my sides and back short while growing the top out a bit. 
After nearly 20 years though, my clippers gave out.  I can't believe they lasted that long.  Most of the attachments had been lost,  broken or thrown away.  I only use one anyways, so that was ok.  But I'd be lying if I said I wasn't a little sad when that old familiar clattering didn't fire up when I switched them on.  Sylvia is a kind soul, though, and she presented me with a new Wahl clipper set for my last birthday (yes, it's taken me three months to blog about it.)
They are fantastic.  Better than my last set for sure, but I guess that kind of improvement is to be expected when your last purchase was when Bush the Elder was President.

Next, the alarm clock.
This one actually goes back further than the clippers.  I'm not really certain when it showed up.  I'm guessing it was purchased for me by homebase.  I know I got it in high school sometime.  It traveled with me to college, in each different dorm and apartment, to Des Moines, Chicago, and back.  This is the ONLY alarm clock I have had for the past two decades.  The formerly glossy, clean white plastic is now more of a matte finish and heavily yellowed on the top half. One morning, out of the blue (I'm not sure that phrase can fairly be used), the alarm was much less alarming.  The snooze light was lit up like the alarm was going off, but there was no sound.  If you put your ear up to it, you could hear a very faint ticking, but that was it.  I couldn't just put it out to pasture, so, for the past year or so it was been serving as just 'clock' instead of 'alarm clock.'  As long as the clock keeps on  working, I won't pitch it.  'Til the end, then, til the end. 

Bowl Pick Challenge

It came down to the final game, caboose had Ohio State and I had Oregon.  Oregon definitely had its chances (they got four turnovers from Ohio State) but simply couldn't seize them (only three points off those turnovers.)  A nice post-season for the much disparaged Big Ten.  I guess maybe we aren't such a poor conference after all.  (Iowa's embarrassment excluded). 
Congrats to caboose!  This is his first win in the bowl challenge.  Well done buddy!
Final standings:
caboose - 25.5
middleson & homebase - 23
minovia & stoppable - 21.5
NTW - 21
isa - 18

14 January 2015

2014 Book List

The past year's book list has to one of my most genre-spanning. 
I'll let my reviews stand for themselves instead of picking any favorites.
It was a good year of reading.  I was able to get through several on our honeymoon.  Hours in the sun, on the beach or poolside, is a nice way to read.  We had some great times reading aloud as a family.  I read three David Eggers books, as well as a few military memoirs and a couple books with Iowa connections.

Past years: 2013, 2012, 2011, 2010, 2009, 2008, 2007, 2006, 2005, 2004

29 December 2014

Kiva #6

After another successful loan fully repaid, I was able to recycle my Kiva funds again today. 
This time the money is heading to Kenya when James will use the money to purchase farm inputs for his cattle business.  He has 10 years of experience so I'm hoping for another ontime repayment.
Good luck James!



26 December 2014

Backyard Bird List 2014


This was our first full calendar year in our place and it was a great year of birds at our feeders, in our trees and around our home.  
In 2013 I marked down 43 species and my goal was to top that this year. Things really slow down after the mid-point of the year.  In 2013 only two birds were added after July 1 and this year I only found three after that date. But I did make my goal, identifying 45 species. 
Some species that I spotted in 2013 I was unable to check off this year: Bluebird, Golden-crowned kinglet, rose-breasted grosbeak, pine siskin, yellow-rumped warbler, indigo bunting, great blue heron, red-eyed vireo.
So, obviously, I added some new names to the list to make up the difference.  Bald eagle, tufted titmouse, herring gull, mallard duck, tennessee warbler, nashville warbler, swainson's thrush, golden-winged warbler, hairy woodpecker.
Total on the overall house list is now 52. Can't wait to start on 2015!!

02 December 2014

The Trick to Being More Virtuous

In truth, demand is far more important than supply: We get more of what we signal we want through our dollars, clicks and votes. If our politics are too often poisonous, it is because, as a society, we are demanding too much poison. If we want to grow in virtue, and experience a healthier, more productive political environment, each of us must demand more virtue.
We should ask ourselves: What will my next click say about my desires? Will the next article about politics I read elevate me? Or will it be a pathogen that provides momentary satisfaction from an eloquent insult to my enemies, but ultimately fuels personal bitterness and increases the climate of acrimony in America? Can I pass it by instead and seek personal moral improvement?

 I love that passage from the recent NY Times opinion page article from Arthur Brooks entitled, "The Trick to Being More Virtuous."  The idea of 'moral elevation' being "an emotional state that leads us to act virtuously when exposed to the virtue of others."  I have zero doubt in that idea and love what the quoted passage above shares, that we should therefore make sure we are exposing ourselves to the most positive and virtuous things we can.  
Sounds like a perfect idea for a New Year's resolution to me.

06 November 2014

Best BBQ in Town

Funny moment that needs to be shared...
I was getting ready to start a training session, making small talk with some attendees, talking about where they went to lunch.  They had gone to a BBQ place, which I've had and is good, but I had to share my favorite spot so I say, "Man, have you been to Woody's Smoke Shack?  That's the best BBQ in town, in my opinion.  I love that place."  They reply that they had not been there, so I shared where it is and as I'm finishing, another attendee, who had not been part of the conversation so far pipes in with, "If you like BBQ, you know what's great?...Hardee's."  I try but can not stifle my surprised laugh. "Yeah, they have this Texas BBQ Thickburger that is fantastic. Pulled pork on top of a burger." Not sure what to do, I just say that it does sound tasty and will have to try it sometime.  ...But I'm not planning it.

04 November 2014

Photo Challenge #4: Fall

Pile of leaves she raked. Isa.
Halloween scarecrow.  Rosie.
Football lights & the elevator behind the field. Carlisle, IA.  Jake.
Red tree in Washington D.C.  George.
A wet day at the market in China.  Connie.
Beneath a neighbor's tree.  Sylvia.
Pleasant Valley Nursery.  Annette.
Yard Waste Bags.  Bruce.
Charcoal grill on the back patio.  Eron.
Halloween Decoration & Shadow.  Kate.
Fall trees in Essex.  Rose.
Unloading harvest near Sidney.  Rose.

31 October 2014

Learning to Ride


At the end of last summer we got rid of Isa's little bike.  She'd outgrown it for sure, plus the brakes were a mess.  Sylvia, in the spring, found a good bike the next size up for super cheap and so we were all set to make that big jump to really riding, no training wheels. All of us except Isa.  She was not in any hurry to conquer this challenge.  She did agree to give it a try so we went to the neighborhood school parking lot a couple evenings in the summer and got our first taste of it.  There were a couple very brief glimpses that she might be getting it, but they were very very brief.  And she just wasn't feeling it...and I'm not talking about balance.  I'm talking about the desire to ride.  She was perfectly fine with never learning to ride a bike, a fact that she told me more than once.  A couple months go by and finally I get her outside on the bike trail in front of our house and we work on it some more.  Still nothing.  And more frustration than ever.  Frustration at not getting it, mainly.  And some frustration with being pushed to do it, I suppose.  A couple episodes of that and, thinking back to something I'd read on the internet, I decide to take the pedals off the bike.  The thinking is that, by taking the pedals off, the rider can push them self along and work on coasting, finding their balance, and start to feel like they are powering and guiding the bike instead of just going for a ride while I provide the momentum and control.
This proved to be the secret.  It didn't happen immediately, but very quickly I could start to see that she was beginning to feel where the balance point is and was fighting to stay there.  And the coasts started to go from inches to feet to yards and once that happened it all started progressing very quickly.  Suddenly she had it and could coast all the way down the decline at the trail head, maybe 50 yards, without putting her feet down.  And once she got that feeling, she LOVED it. At the end of that day she was already asking to put the pedals back on.  So, we did and she started riding a bike.  For real.  From a stop, on a flat surface.  It was super fun to see.  It actually gave me some goosebumps (and Sylvia a few tears). And the great part is now she LOVES that she can ride a bike.  She posted this little achievement statement on her whiteboard in her room. She's always asking if she can go ride it around and when we'll be able to go on rides together.  I'm eager to see how she does as at partnering me when I go for my runs.
That night, when I went to go to bed, there was this sweet little thank you note on my pillow.  No one prompted her to write it, she did it totally on her own.
Click here to see her in action.

20 October 2014

Photo Challenge #3: Doors

Great submissions from all!  Doors are such a distinctive feature and so full of character.
ROSIE T.

CINDY B.

GRANT B.

ABBA G.

ANNETTE S.

SYLVIA W.

BRIGHID W.

ROSE W.

GEORGE B.

ISA

CONNIE & STEVE

EMILY W.
JAKERS