Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Surviving without Cable

I've been hearing quite a few people talk or write about how they do not have cable. We have gone back and forth with cable over the years. About a year ago we dropped cable once again because it is simply too expensive. We also realized that many of the shows we like are typically available on the Internet, so we really have not missed cable all that much.

Even though we do not have a text messaging package on our cell phones, we are somewhat on the cutting edge with our television set up. We have a TV tuner connected to our Mac Mini and we have a large flat panel monitor that allows us to get a good digital picture. The TV antenna connects to the TV tuner, so we can watch all of the local channels. For the shows we used to watch on cable, like Monk, Psych, and Burn Notice, we are able to watch them either on the USA Network web site or on Hulu. Hulu.com is a great resource for current and older television shows (like The Pretender). It is also a legal way to watch the shows. IMDB.com also provides links to legally available episodes of television shows.

For sports, we switched to DSL through AT&T so we can have access to ESPN 360. Many games are available as well as a variety of sports that I've never even heard of.

The final method we have used to replace cable is Netflix. Since we have the computer as our television unit, we can easily watch the movies and shows available online at Netflix.

It will be interesting to see what the future of cable will be with the way more and more shows are made available on the Internet.

Friday, March 27, 2009

The Buttertons

Have you seen the commercial for I Can't Believe It's Not Butter where there is a family, the Buttertons, from the 50s who are shown eating food with sticks of butter on them? The other night as we were watching the commercial, I thought that it was ironic that the purpose of the ad is to show that we know better than to eat butter today, but with all the knowledge that we have about diet, exercise, and what not to eat, the number of people who are overweight today is greater than it would have been in the 50s. With all the knowledge that we have, why aren't we all skinny?

I know that there are a number of reasons behind why more people are overweight today and the solution to the problem is not an easy one, but I think that the major reason is tied to the same reason our country is facing the economic situation that it is: lack of self-control. The weight gain of Americans is just an outward representation of the desire to own and possess whatever one wants when one wants it.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Young Adults and Cell Phones

I had an epiphany in one of my Comp classes today. One of my students was in the back of the room with his head laying on one arm and his cell phone clutched in his free hand. It almost looked like he was asleep except that occasionally he would enter some text message into his phone. As I was watching him (there are some battles that are just getting to hard to fight and keeping students from texting in class is one of them), I came to the realization that the cell phone is a pacifier for many of the students.

For many of them, the cell phone is apparently a source of comfort and security. They have to constantly hold it in their hands and they check it every five or ten minutes to see if some "important" message has come in like what their friends are doing in their other classes. They keep it one their person so that they are never without it and they can never seem to be able to not answer it when it rings (unless it is their parents). They answer it in class, in the bathroom, in the locker room at the Y. They also text in some of the most unusal places: as they eat with their friends, watch movies, and walk up or down stairs.

I believe that many of them might actually begin to cry and pout if their phone was ever taken away. I wonder how they would respond if I were to share my epiphany.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Conflicting Messages

Have you ever noticed that the media sends conflicting signals about being "green" and being sanitary. We are told to use reusable plastic bottles and to try to produce less waste, but then we are told not to eat in a kitchen where the homeowner uses a dishrag to wash the dishes because there are too many germs; we are told that instead we should use a paper towel so it can be thrown away. Likewise, most people today use disposable Kleenexes instead of handkerchiefs (although I will admit that I don't know if I can bring myself to use a handkerchief), and almost all the advertisements for toilet bowl cleaners involve a disposable head.

Who are we supposed to listen to? Which direction are we supposed to follow? Do we listen to the voice of being sanitary and controlling all the germs (can this really be accomplished?)? Or do we try to be more environmentally responsible?

Thursday, March 19, 2009

World's Greatest Non-Invented Invention?

People will think of anything to try and make a buck. Here is a story that details the 10 worst inventions in history. The wig for cats is especially strange as is the prankster fire alarm trap.

Have you ever thought of an invention that you think other people would appreciate? I know that I have, but none come to mind right now. Of course, since I am currently grading research papers, I would like a device that could numb my brain to the frustration of realizing how little my students listen and follow directions.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Space Junk

What's the deal with all the space junk? It would appear that space travel is not all that safe since debris the size of a tennis ball is enough to require the people in the space station to go into the escape capsule just in case it penetrates the space station itself. If I were an astronaut, I don't think that I would feel all that safe in the space station.

I wonder what the engineers are working on to combat this problem. It sounds like this space debris can also cause problems for the space shuttles. Are they designing a huge cosmic vacuum that can suck up this debris? How would they find all the debris out in the wide expanse of space? I guess they will just have to come up with tougher coverings for the space station and the vehicles used to send people into space.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Research Update

I realized that I never gave an update on my student's research paper topic. The final idea came from an essay that my students read called "I'm Like a Bird." In the short essay, the author writes a defense of the pop song "I'm Like a Bird." He argues that while the song may not last as a long as classical pieces written by Bach or Mozart, pop music has its place in the musical world. He finds enjoyment in the way pop music can make a person feel good, at least for a little while, and in the way the music is disposable.

One of the writing prompts at the end of the essay asked the students to write a defense of an activity they participate in that they feel other people unfairly criticize. This prompt gave me the idea to have the students write a defense paper. I expanded the scope a little bit to include values and beliefs. I thought that this would be a great opportunity for students to research and discover why they think a certain way or have certain beliefs. I did limit their topics in that I told them I wanted them to avoid topics like abortion, the death penalty, steroids, marijuana, and the environment. I usually limit these topics because students rarely write a strong papers when they chose these topics. They usually pick these topics because they think it will be easy to write the paper because there is a plethora of information available. Of course, they forget that the information is often unreliable and biased (at best).

They are going to turn their papers in next week. Based on their proposals, I have some interesting topics coming in and I am looking forward to reading what they found. I think I gave some of the students extra stress because I did not place strict parameters on the type of research materials that they needed to find. I told them that they have to have three outside sources and they have to be good, reliable sources. It is up to them to determine what is a good, reliable source (they have to learn how to fly sometime).

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

M is for Medium

Yesterday I bought something that I have never bought for myself: a size medium shirt. I have been wearing larges for quite some time and never really thought that I would one day buy a medium. I also bought a pair of size 10 jeans the other day. That, too, is a size that I have never bought for myself. The funny element is that I have only lost about 13 pounds since I started meeting with my personal trainer, but I've definitely tightened up the muscles in my abdominal area.

If you want to get a jump start on your exercise routine, then I definitely would recommend meeting with a personal trainer. I appreciate the way he challenges my abilities when we meet and I also like learning new ways to do strength training. Not only have I seen physical improvements, but my bowling has also improved. My balance is better and I do not get as tired after the third game.

Now, if I could just gain a little more self-control when I eat . . . .

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Have You Heard?

Did you hear that Michael Tait will now be singing for the Newsboys in place of Peter Fuler? DC Talk and Newsboys were two of the first Christian music groups I listened to when I first started listening to Christian music. Over the years, I have been impressed with how these two groups have stood the test of time. Of course, the Newsboys have held on a little longer than DC Talk, at least as a group. Since DC Talk has not done any projects together for about 8 years, it is time for them to make the final decision to split. I've enjoyed some of Tait's solo projects (I'm not the biggest Toby Mac fan) and think that he will do a good job as the front man for the Newsboys.

That also reminds me that I was thinking just the other day about how Christian music has evolved over the last 20 years. More songs by Christian groups are being played on mainstream radio, and I find myself missing the music if I don't get a chance to listen to it. Occasionally I might tune into one of the local stations, but the message in most of the music is anything but uplifting. I also get tired of listening to all the commercials (I listen to Air1 which is listener supported). Even though I do not have kids, I still appreciate that I can listen at any time of the day and not have to worry about listening to offensive material. I often find myself pondering the message in many of the songs and there are quite a few out there today that I find particularly insightful. My newest favorite song is by Matthew West "Motions."

Monday, March 9, 2009

Polarizing Foods

Here is an interesting article about foods that that people either love or hate. I found it interesting because I have strong opinions about many of the foods on the list. Coconut is one food item that I am not particularly fond of, yet I love the smell of coconut in sunscreen and lotions. I'm also not a fan of black licorice, but I know people (Matt is one) who cannot get enough of it. I only like mayo on a spicy chicken sandwich from Wendy's, otherwise I cannot stand the stuff, especially in the form of potato and pasta salads. Tomatoes are only edible, in my opinion, as tomato sauce or in salsa. I've never tried eggplant or stinky cheeses, so I cannot really give an opinion on those items.

Over the years I have tried to be more open to trying foods at least once before making a judgment call. Grilled red and yellow peppers are some foods that I have found that I enjoy even though I am not a big fan of green peppers. After all this talk about food, I think I need to go find a snack . . . .

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Favorite Kitchen Appliance

What's your favorite kitchen appliance? My favorite, favorite kitchen appliance is my 6 quart Kitchen Aid mixer. How did women bake before stand mixers were invented? I can't imagine having to mix cookie dough, bread dough, and other baked goods by hand. I usually have a difficult time even holding an electric hand mixer long enough to mix ingredients together if the dough becomes thick at all. I love being able to throw the ingredients into the bowl and let the mixer do the work. My favorite baked good to make with my mixer is Angel Food cake. After making homemade Angel Food cake, I do not like to make the boxed mix.

I have a tie for my second favorite appliance. I really like my bread machine for many of the same reasons why I like my mixer. What's even better about the bread machine is that it bakes the bread as well as mixes it. The other appliance is my Kitchen Aid mini chopper. We really like On the Border chips and salsa, but the salsa at the store is chunkier than what they serve in the restaurant, so I use my mini chopper to make the salsa less chunky and it tastes just like the salsa at the restaurant. I don't know that I have used my mini chopper for anything else besides the salsa ;o)

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Eat Your Veggies

In my quest to try and eat healthier, I find that I am still struggling with eating more vegetables. I have gotten better about eating fruit, but working veggies into the daily food intake is still a challenge. I actually like quite a few vegetables, but the problem is that I only like them when they are cooked. I have tried eating raw carrots and celery and broccoli, but I still don't care for the taste. I also do not like ranch dressing, so dipping the said veggies is not really an option.

I am a big fan of salsa, but to eat salsa properly, one needs chips. I could easily sit and eat three or four bowls of On the Border salsa along with a bowl of their chips, but I think eating so many chips kind of defeat the purpose of eating the salsa ;o)

I know that there are quite a few individual portion size microwavable frozen vegetable sides available in the store. I have tried some of them and they are quite good, but then I run into another issue that I have and that is with the impracticality of these options. I hate the thought of paying more for the convenience of these individual serving options as well as the added waste that they create.

I guess that I need to spend more time working on a solution. I think what I need to do is invest in some more microwavable Rubbermaid storage containers and be more proactive and diligent about buying larger bags for frozen veggies and separating them into the containers. Spring break is next week, so maybe I can work out a solution then.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

TP Debate

Did you know that an item as necessary and required as toilet paper has quite a few debates surrounding it? The other day, one of my coworkers asked if I was a folder or a crumpler when it comes to using toilet paper. Here is an interesting survey that deals with this whole debate. Take it and see where you toilet paper use preference lies. Apparently I am part of the minority when it comes to toilet paper usage.

Another life long debate is which way to put the roll on the dispenser. I was always taught to place the roll with the loose end coming over the top, but I know that some people prefer to have the loose end come from the bottom.

Of course, another interesting topic is who changes the toilet paper roll. In our house, I am the one who changes the toilet paper. I usually do not even let the roll run out before I change it. That way I do not have to worry about running out of toilet paper.

Who knew that a simple piece of paper could create so much discussion?

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Now Showing

This last week I watched a couple of great movies. The two movies are drastically different from one another, but I was able to come away from each of them with a new outlook on life and a reminder to of what is really important.

The first movie I watched was Penelope. It is a movie about a young woman who was born with a pig's nose and ears. The movie is rated PG and is one of the most enjoyable movies I have watched in a while. It is a great modern fairy tale. I strongly recommend for any woman to watch (young or old) because the movie contains a strong message of being satisfied with who we are and that true beauty lies beneath the surface. It is also just a feel good romantic story that is fun to watch every once in a while. All of the actors in the movie are a joy to watch.

The other movie we watch was Blood Diamond (I told you they were on the opposite ends of the spectrum). While the story line is intriguing, it was the reminder about how good life is in the United States that really stood out to me. In the movie, men and women are killed and maimed at the whim of the rebels. Children are kidnapped and forced to become young killers through lies and narcotics. It made me realize how silly and selfish I can be to be frustrated to not be able to buy the clothes, furniture, (fill in the blank) that I want when there are millions of people who just want to live in peace not matter what the condition of their house may be. I need to spend more time being grateful and less time worrying about what I don't have.

Monday, March 2, 2009

Who Would You Be?

I have been told that I haven't made a post in a while. With all the grading I have been doing lately, my brain has not been very active or random in the evening.

The students group I am an adviser for is currently looking for new officers. As we have been conducting interviews, one of the fun questions that has been asked is "What superhero (or fictional character) would you be and why?" So, that is my question to you.

For my answer, I think that I would like to be Elizabeth Bennet (from Pride and Prejudice). She is one of the original independent heroines in fiction who is not afraid to buck tradition and go against the expectations of society. Unlike some of the heroines today, though, she does not completely disregard convention. She is still interested in marriage, but she wants to marry for love and she wants to be able to respect her husband.

As far as a superhero goes, the mom in the movie Incredibles would be near the top of my list. Her flexibility would come in very handy.