Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Going to the Movies This Summer?

If you plan to go to the movies this summer, my friend Michael O'Connell has a blog post just for you. He lays out the summer schedule with previews right here. Save it as a favorite. I already have!

Monday, April 27, 2009

Zero Sum Game

Well, I weighed in this morning at the nurse's office and I have lost the 4.5 pounds that I gained over spring break. It took me two weeks, but I'm back down to 290 and still following my eating habits and exercise routine. It's funny, because I'm not suffering at all. I even had ice cream two or three times last week after dinner. Hudsonville Creamery's Grand Traverse Bay Cherry Fudge is teh awesome! It's amaretto-flavored ice cream with pieces of cherry and fudge swirls in it. But I digress.

Another pleasant side effect of the exercise and subsequent weight loss is a drop in blood pressure. While I was in the nurse's office already, weighing in, I decided to have her check it. Lower than normal. I had her check it again. Lower still. I called my doctor, but as usual he didn't want to see me. Instead he gave me a new prescription for half the dose of my blood pressure medication. After three days on half the usual dosage, I had the nurse check it again this morning. Still low! The great thing about that is that the lower dosage has a generic version, so my insurance co-pay went from $35 per month to $10 per month. Between that difference and my not needing my asthma medication anymore (cardiovascular workouts make you breathe more efficiently--who knew?) I'm saving $60 per month on medications that I used to take. A year of that will pay off my bicycle, which is how I got here in the first place.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Monkey Fighters

"I have had it with these monkey fighting snakes on this monkey fighting plane."--Samuel L. Jackson, in the TV edit of "Snakes on a Plane."

I am a big fan of swearing euphemisms, but this one must be the champion. Isn't it amazing, though, that you can see someone die violently on television but you can't hear the word that is replaced by "fight?"

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Heard in Class

We were doing circle graphs in class, and the subject was favorite movie genre. One of my students said, "Comedy makes me laugh for some reason."

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Slow Learner

You know, I should have learned the last time I tried blogging every day, that eventually it's just like pulling teeth. Eventually I run out of good things to say and just write something because I have to write something.

I planned to write every day over vacation, but you know what? I was having too much fun doing things to actually write about all of the things we did. And let's face it, you don't need or want to know the minutiae of my days. I use Google Reader to keep up with several blogs and some of them just seem like vanity pieces where the writer is so in love with their own writing that you'd think they were being paid by the word. On the other hand, I have friends whose every word I would follow if they were describing their having the proverbial teeth pulled, and I wish they'd write more often.

Anyway, from this point on I'll write when I have something that I think someone will have some interest in. Sometimes I get five ideas in a day and spread them out, and sometimes I go days at a time and just post about what someone else wrote about. I'd like to be a more honest writer than that. We'll see how it goes.

Thursday, April 16, 2009


Back to vacation blogging a little later. I was listening to NPR this morning, and the reporter was making a point about the dangerous US/Mexican border as illustrated by the confiscation of "semi-automatic rifles." Semi-automatic rifles? Oh, my! Although this sounds ominous to the uninformed, I can go buy a semi-automatic rifle at Wal-Mart right now. I mean, right this second. I don't have to have a permit or a waiting period. It's really not that big a deal.

When I was 12, growing up in northern Michigan, we took hunter saftey courses in school. We learned about guns, how to handle guns, how to respect guns, and how to fire guns. It was part of the curriculum, as was boat safety and snowmobile safety. One of the first things we learned was about actions. The action of a gun defines how it is prepared to fire again after the gun has been fired the first time. There are single-action guns, bolt-action, lever-action, pump-action, semi-automatic action, and automatic action guns.

What gets a lot of people confused is the difference between semi-automatic and automatic actions. I've seen a lot of writers of adventure stories, both in prose and graphic form, get this completely wrong. So, here it is in a nutshell: Fully automatic weapons fire automatically. If you depress the trigger and hold it down, the weapon will fire as fast as the action allows until the ammunition is fully expended. This is what is commonly known as a machine gun. There are selective fire weapons that will fire a pre-determined number of times and then stop, but these have to be fully automatic in the first place to have this setting.

A semi-automatic weapon (also known as self-loading) fires one round when the trigger is depressed and will not fire again until the trigger is released and depressed again, when it will fire exactly one round.

I'm no expert on guns but I have fired my share; though the last time I fired one I was 19 years old. It just seems kind of silly that my hunter safety courses from sixth grade made me more knowledgeable about guns than a professional reporter doing a story on the dangers of the US/Mexican border. I guess growing up in the north, I got a more classical education?

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Vacation, Part 1

I love our spring breaks. I really do. Magi's dad and stepmother run a resort condo complex in Gulf Shores, Alabama. They also own a couple of condos there, right on the beach. Each year we are allowed to stay for free in one of their condos and I can't thank them enough. As teachers we make decent money, decent enough that you'll never hear me complain about it. But we don't make the kind of money that would allow us to stay in the quality places if we had to pay for it. The new one that they just purchased and refurbished is just fantastic. Everything in it is new, from the stainless steel appliances to the king-sized bed to the HDTVs in each room, including one that is mounted on the wall by the sliding glass door that leads out to the balcony. It is very tastefully decorated with quality furniture. Thank you again, Pedro and Nora, for your generosity.

We left our house at 5:30 last Friday night and headed south. We made a quick stop at Trader Joe's in Indianapolis at 8:30 to buy groceries and snacks for the week. We love Trader Joe's foods and we don't get there very often. Armed with everything we were going to eat, we headed south again and didn't stop until we arrived in Elizabethtown, Kentucky. We learned a couple of years ago to make reservations on the way down when we are going to leave in the evening. There's no guarantee that there will be a room available. The Comfort Suites in Elizabethtown makes a nice place to stay for the night. Tired but happy to be on vacation, we got to sleep around midnight.

The next morning we availed ourselves of the free contintental breakfast (I just stuck with my usual yogurt and fruit) and we hit the road. Another fun stop we always try to make after we discovered it last year is Wolfgang Puck Express in Franklin, Tennessee. Franklin is a rich suburb just south of Nashville, and the mall they have there is surrounded by nice places to shop and eat, including Buca di Beppo! Wolfgang Puck Express is like the famous chef's idea of fast food. You order at a counter and get your own drinks, but a waiter brings the food to the table for you and checks in on you once you have it. Sera really likes the Butternut Squash Soup, and Magi had the Spicy Shrimp Pizza, while I had half a Rosemary Chicken with their horseradish slaw, which I loved so much last year, I got an order to go.

Back on the road, we cruised down to Gulf Shores, arriving much earlier than we anticipated. We stopped for our first fantastic dinner at Mikee's. Mikee's is Magi's favorite seafood restaurant in Gulf Shores and it's one of mine as well. We started with a dozen steamed oysters. We usually eat them raw but we wanted Sera to try them so we started her off easy. She didn't like them anyway, but she did try them so I give her credit. She's always willing to try something she's never had before. For dinner I had the all-you-can-eat fried shrimp, the first serious deviation from my diet in over three months, and boy did I enjoy it. I didn't overdo it, but I did get my fill.

We made the 15-mile drive down Fort Morgan Road to the Plantation, checked in, and took the elevator up to the unit on the seventh floor. Last year Sera had to be lifted to press the elevator button. Now she can reach it without even standing on her toes. We taught her which button to push inside the elevator, too. She got to press it every time and was proud of the job.

Inside the condo, we were amazed by how nice it was! As I mentioned above, it was fantastic! But perhaps even more important to two Hoosier imports was opening the sliding glass door to let the gulf breeze in. There's something very calming about listening to the waves crash up on the beach. I really should record it and play it before I go to sleep when I'm back home. It was time to unpack and relax.

Magi's sister Marcia and her family were in the unit next door, and the first thing we did on Sunday morning was to join them for breakfast. I still stuck to my yogurt, fruit, and granola, but the kids had fun with chocolate doughnuts. After catching up for a while, we made the trip around Mobile Bay to the bay houses. Magi's sister Kati and her husband Vincent have one, and Magi's dad and stepmother built one right next door. Magi's sister Jessica and her husband Jeremy were staying with Kati and Vincent, so all four sisters were together for the first time in a year. In fact, it was the first time the whole family had been together since Jessica's and Jeremy's wedding. All eight grandchildren were together and playing, and they had a great time. They were throwing frisbees and chasing each other, and it was truly wonderful watching Sera's face as she played.

We had brought New York Strip steaks that we purchased from our local butcher shop and stuck in a cooler. I grilled the steaks, while the ladies made twice-baked potatoes and a great salad. Everyone seemed to have a good time at dinner, and I didn't overcook the steaks, despite the fact that it was the first time that I had ever grilled 15 steaks at once. I was using two different grills at the same time, too. We made it back to the condo, very tired but satisfied. The next day, Monday, would be the first day of spring break!

The Bird

Mark "The Bird" Fidrych passed away yesterday of an apparent accident at age 54. For every kid I knew back in the summer of 1976, The Bird was a hero. As a rookie pitcher for the Detroit Tigers he went 19-9, won rookie of the year honors and was an all-star. But it wasn't just the pitching that made him attractive to fans. It was his manner. Mark talked to the ball, fussed over the condition of the mound, and just made baseball fun. There were songs on the radio about him, and even an iron-on transfer in the newspaper so that you could make your own Mark Fidrych t-shirt. Even though he suffered injuries that he was never able to recover enough from to return to baseball, I will never forget that magical season that he gave us all those years ago.

Monday, April 06, 2009

The Golden Egg

We are having a lot of fun here in Gulf Shores. We spent yesterday at Magi's sister's bay house up on Mobile Bay. All of Sera's cousins on Magi's side were there and they had a huge Easter Egg hunt. Sera found the coveted golden egg with the help of her cousin Bret.

It's a bit chilly here, in the upper 50s, but I can't complain. It's snowing back home!

Sunday, April 05, 2009

White Sandy Beaches

We arrived in Gulf Shores last night at 7:00 local time, had a great shrimp dinner, and settled in at the condo.

Good times!

Friday, April 03, 2009


It's almost here. In two hours, I will be headed out to run my final errands, and then off to pick up my family to go on our annual trip. Tonight we'll stop at Trader Joe's in Indianapolis for some last-minute groceries, and then we'll go on to Elizabethtown, Kentucky, where we'll spend the night.

Thursday, April 02, 2009


Nothing much to say today except that we're packing up so that we can head out directly from work tomorrow for spring break. We need it!

Wednesday, April 01, 2009

"Camping Out"

Sera called what we did tonight "camping out." Last week, on my trip to Cabela's, I bought a $29 (marked down from $50) fire ring just like the ones we used while we were camping last summer. I have decided that while we can't go camping as often as Sera would like, we can certainly do some of the activities in our very own back yard. Tonight, we toasted marshmallows and made S'mores after I got the fire going. Sera loved them, much to no one's surprise. Her trip to the dentist today was great, and her trip to the doctor was great, and her trip to the hair salon was very rewarding. We had lunch at the new Dagwood's at Heritage Square and had time for a short nap. I still had to run over to my afterschool job, but it was a nice day spending it with my family, nonetheless.