February self-portraits

Filed under: — Aprille @ 9:22 am

Month 2 of the “365 days of self portraits” project has come and gone.  Here’s what I came up with.  Click the image to be taken to the individual photos.


Happy birthday, Tyler

Filed under: — Aprille @ 5:53 pm

Happy birthday, Tyler!

It is my brother’s 24th birthday today. I remember when he was just zero. In fact, he was born prematurely, so I remember when he was negative one month, sort of.

My parents had originally planned for me to be in the delivery room, but since things were a little haywire with the prematurity and all, it didn’t work out that way. I just remember waking up and our family friends Steve and Kim were at our house and my parents weren’t. It was quite tense for a while there, since he wasn’t doing so hot at first, but luckily he was a tough little T-Rex.

He was in the hospital for a while, and I have very strong memories of being in the waiting room in the days after his birth while my dad was with my mom in her hospital room. My entire childhood was a series of frustrations that I was not an adult and people didn’t treat me as such, and I remember being annoyed that I had to stay in the waiting room. At one point, a hospital staffmember took me to the viewing window and let me look at Tyler. I had my little camera and took very blurry pictures of him through the glass. I then asked the staffmember to please take me back to where my father was expecting me. It irritated me when she laughed rather than taking me seriously, as I felt I deserved.

My brother and I similar in some ways but different in others. To generalize, I am more interested in process, and he is more interested in results. We both did well in school, though I did it because I was a natural-born nerd, and my brother did it more to achieve specific goals (e.g., the masters degree he’s working on now to help him advance in his career. My degrees are more or less mentally-masturbatory). I love food for the pleasure of cooking and eating, and I think if he could inject lean turkey directly into his biceps, he would. I exercise because it improves my general well-being; he is a fitness expert and the strongest person I have ever met (hence the T-Rex nickname). I really admire his abilities to set goals and achieve them. If I’m not good at something, I don’t even bother to try. He started out as a scrawny kid, but he worked hard and is now successful in his chosen field, the strength and conditioning training for football players. As a role model to those athletes, you can imagine that he’s much, much bigger now than he was in February of 1983.

It’s a good thing he used to be so much smaller, because it facilitated our favorite game, which involved him climbing into an empty Pampers box and me pushing him at great speeds across the living room carpet. He loved it, though in retrospect, all that whiplash probably wasn’t good for him. I guess it could have been worse; we could have tried to go down the stairs toboggan-style.

So anyway, happy birthday, Tyler. It looks like your life is unfolding well. I wish you good fortune in all your endeavors, though knowing you, you’ll make it happen without needing any luck.



Filed under: — Aprille @ 9:47 am

As I was brushing my teeth this morning, an amazing thing came to me. First, some background.

As you probably know, last Thursday was ICON Day, which is this conference kind of thing I organize on the topic of technology in teaching and learning. People from all over campus come, and we even have a couple of people from far away, such as a hotshot from the University of Minnesota’s Digital Media Center and a rep from some software we use who came all the way from Canada.

So anyway, one of the activities was an interactive keynote, in which the person from Minnesota and our own Associate Provost of Undergraduate Education led a discussion. People were sitting at tables, and they were to talk about some pertinent topics, and an assigned staffperson was blogging notes for later sharing.

At that time, I was hovering around, making sure things were going okay, and a faculty member walked up to me. We’ll call him Eduardo. I’ve worked with Eduardo a lot, and though he’s a very smart and basically reasonable guy, he has never grasped the concept of “if you don’t have something nice to say, don’t say anything at all.” He’s always got to get a jab in somewhere.

So Eduardo comes up to me and tells me he has to leave because of a family emergency. Fine. I say something sympathetic and tell him no problem. He then goes on to tell me some more details about the emergency. I express a little more sympathy, and the he says, “And I don’t go in for this touchy-feely stuff,” and gestured derisively toward the groups that were discussing the role of technology in the accreditation process the University is currently undergoing.

Thanks, Eduardo. It was nice of you to explain why you were ducking out, but did you really need to point out to me that the activity I worked really hard to coordinate sucks? I just bit my tongue, wished him well on the family situation, and vented to my colleagues when I got a chance.

Now here comes the revelation part.

Eduardo really does like the touchy-feely stuff, he just can’t admit it. There was no need for him to go into greater detail about his personal situation with me; he could have just said something had come up and left. There were lots of people there, so it’s not like he was leaving a gaping hole. But instead of just leaving quietly, he felt a need to come over and elicit sympathy from me twice (and then, yes, give me a little sucker punch).

But sometimes surly people communicate more than just rudeness through sucker punches. I think old Eduardo craves human interaction more than he would care to admit.

And, even though he drives me crazy, I really do like the guy.

In metered doses.


Oscars food

Filed under: — Aprille @ 7:17 pm

Yes, it’s the Oscars again, and here’s what I’m entering in the themed-food contest at the Okiishi/Crooks Oscars Extravaganza.

And my personal favorite…


Ice storm

Filed under: — Aprille @ 6:42 pm

It’s pretty awful out. Luckily, the only weekend plans I had got cancelled due to weather, so DC and I are just hunkered down at home. The electricity went out, and we were going to play Clue by candlelight, but the lights came back before we had all the game pieces arranged.

Here’s a branch that fell out of our tree.

It’s in the 60’s in Rome. Soon.


Ides of March

Filed under: — Aprille @ 12:27 pm

ICON Day is over.  It went well.  I am tired and not planning to work very hard today.  I may just take a looong lunch.

Here is something exciting.  As it turns out, we are going to be in Rome on the Ides of March (March 15).  Though I don’t know that it’s exceptionally interesting (and I think you might need a government permit to get into the guts of it), I plan to stand as near as I can to Pompey’s Curia on that day, the site of Caesar’s assassination.

I will say “Et tu, Brute?” and feel all excited.  This will be especially appropriate if a pigeon craps on me at that moment or something.  Does anybody know if “Et tu, Brute?” is purported to be an actual quote out of Caesar’s mouth, or is a line from Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar that has gotten so well-known it’s perceived as a real quote?

Here it is, complete with romantic scaffolding.


ICON Day and shoes

Filed under: — Aprille @ 3:50 pm

ICON Day is tomorrow, which is this annual event I’m in charge of on the topic of technology in the teaching and learning spheres.  It is almost as much work as planning a wedding, but no presents, and I will be wearing something understated.

Last year, we had an ice storm that day.  This year, the weather forecast looks good:  40F and sunny.  I will get some free food out of the deal, and hopefully the Powerful Ones will be understanding if I slack a bit on Friday.

I got some new shoes.  They are Danskos, which are renowned for being extremely comfortable (my main motivation was having something suitable to walking all over Rome), but reviled for being hideous.  However, it looks like the company is making an effort to be cuter, because these are downright fashionable.

I mean, as fashionable as sensible walking shoes are going to get.  Expect them to make frequent appearances in my forthcoming vacation photos.


TV plays with my brain

Filed under: — Aprille @ 4:53 pm

I don’t know how many of you watch both Lost and Heroes, but if you do fall into the intersection of that particular Venn diagram, wasn’t it cool how the last episode of each one made a reference to the other?  Denny was telling me that the creators of the two shows are friends, and there’s speculation that there might be some kind of tie between the shows, like the characters inhabit the same universe or something.

I’ll try to keep this spoiler-free for those of you who haven’t gotten around to watching the shows yet:

Lost:  Desmond notices an unusual change in himself and talks about wanting to be a hero.

Heroes:  Somebody (Syler?  I can’t remember) talked about how the scientists would want to take all the abnormal people and put them on an island in the middle of the ocean.

Fascinating, yes?


New digs

Filed under: — Aprille @ 2:05 pm

Here are some pics of my new office cubicle.  Click for larger version.

(I tied a ribbon around my CPU so it wouldn’t get mixed up with other people’s)


Enoteca excitement

Filed under: — Aprille @ 7:27 pm

I got a free trial subscription to Sherman’s Travel magazine because I like their website and their weekly email of travel bargains.  I like the magazine so far; I think I will subscribe to it.

The best part was an article about a new trend in Rome that has recently migrated down from Milan:  the gastronomic “happy hour” at enoteche, or wine bars.  Apparently at a some of the coolest places in town, if you go at a certain time, you can partake of a buffet of gourmet snacks for the price of a glass of wine (which is a bit pricier than you might find at a typical bar, but this is good wine, and probably the price of food is factored in to some degree).

As you may know, one of my greatest delights in life is to partake in fancy-schmancy experiences without spending a lot of money.  This is great news, because it will probably satisfy my gourmet food cravings without having to drop a couple hundred Euros at a Michelin-starred restaurant.  Then the rest of the time we can eat take-away pizza and fruit from markets.  Best of all, the enoteche mentioned in the article are within walking distance of each other, so we can hit several of them in one night.  This is obviously reminiscent of tapas-style dining, which is lots of fun, so I’m very excited.

Not all the places in the article have websites, but here are the ones that do.  Warning:  splashy, Flash-y sites are obviously in style in Italy, so you may want to turn down your volume and steel yourself a bit.


New office

Filed under: — Aprille @ 4:51 pm

I’ve spent all day moving into my new office.  My new keyboard tray is weird; for some reason it’s making one of my monitors wiggle with every letter I type.  Barf city.

The space is all right; it’s not as good as my old office in some ways, but better in other ways.  For one thing, I got thirsty, and I could just saunter down to CVS and buy a Diet Coke without even putting on my coat (for those of you who didn’t know, the university has purchased the second floor of a mall, which is where I am; the bottom floor is still retail).

I also got a new chair that’s all lumbar support-o-rama.  WOO!


This is weird.

Filed under: — Aprille @ 9:37 am

My friend Ken was just in Argentina, and he picked up a pamphet for a tango exhibition and noticed that the woman in the picture looks eerily like me.  It’s not me.  I have done a little bit of tango in a ballroom dance class a million years ago, but I don’t recall ever dancing with that dude.  I really like her dress and shoes, though. Click on the image to see a zoom-in on the face.

The biggest difference I can tell is in the hands.  Her fingers are all close to the same length, and mine are all really different lengths.  My pinky is like an inch shorter than my ring finger.


V-day U.S.A.

Filed under: — Aprille @ 1:57 pm

Thanks for the help yesterday. I think Zach wins. Hooray for Zach! Also hooray for my Trivia friends who helped pin it down. Here’s the commercial.

I’m having a good day so far. I woke up kind of grumpy for some reason, but then Denny (the excitable little wiggle-puppy that he is) insisted suggested that we open our Valentine’s Day gifts before we left for work. I gave him some of his favorite chocolate and a sweater Clinton Kelly might wear (not in the picture I linked to there; that’s just in case you don’t know who he is). Clinton is Denny’s fashion role model. He’s very stylish. Denny gave me some sparkly earrings, and when I got back from a meeting this morning, there was a beautiful bouquet of tulips and eucalyptus on my desk. It’s very nice indeed.

Work is annoying, but that’s the way it goes. It’s not actually my workplace’s fault, though. The vendor I deal with the most is giving me fits.

Speaking of fits, my pants aren’t going to fits if I keep eating all these treats we’re having at the office. Ay yi yi!


Please help my mom

Filed under: — Aprille @ 1:06 pm

For reasons that are a bit convoluted, my mother needs to figure out what song is played in a particular car commercial.  I don’t know what car or what commercial; all I know is that the song contains the lyrics “The devil in me.”

Any thoughts?


Moving offices.

Filed under: — Aprille @ 4:27 pm

I have not been very posty lately.  Sorry.  Things are kind of crazy at work; we’re moving to new offices next week, and I’ve got a big event to run shortly after that, plus all the usual B.S. and preparing for vacation.

The weekend was good, and delightfully mellow.  We ate good food, watched a good episode of Coupling from Netflix, and generally chilled out.  We tried not to think about Anna Nicole Smith.

In other exciting news, I won a couple of picture frames in an office drawing.  We’re having a festive week, in order to make us less grumpy about moving on Friday/Sunday.  I don’t know if it will work, but they are pretty nice picture frames, and we’re having treats every day this week.  Today was bagels.  Who knows what the remaining days will bring.

I could find out if I looked up the email that listed them, but that wouldn’t be as much fun, now would it?

Here’s a picture of me expressing how I feel about having to move into a cubicle and give up my door.


Tilapia with fruit salsa

Filed under: — Aprille @ 5:59 pm

A recipe. Because it’s what we’re having for dinner tonight.

Tilapia with Fruit Salsa

Fruit salsa:

About 1 cup fresh pineapple, finely chopped
1/2 medium red onion, peeled and finely chopped
1 nectarine (or other fruit of your choice), finely chopped
1/4 cup cilantro or parsley, finely minced
salt, pepper, and red pepper flakes to taste


2 tilapia fillets
1/2 tsp onion powder
1/2 tsp garlic powder
dash of salt
freshly ground pepper
1/2 tsp cajun seasoning
dash of cayenne, to taste
1 tsp butter

Mix fruit salsa ingredients and set aside.

In a nonstick skillet over medium heat, melt butter. Put onion powder, garlic powder, cajun seasoning, salt, pepper, and cayenne on a plate and mix. Dredge fish in spice mixture. Cook in pan until done, about 3 minutes per side. Top with fruit salsa.  Serves 2.
This is super-fast, healthy, and tasty. I usually serve it with couscous and a vegetable like asparagus or broccoli.



Filed under: — Aprille @ 5:16 pm

I’m going to see Pan’s Labyrinth tonight.  I’m psyched.  It’s the only Oscar contender I’m really in a tizzy to see.  The others?  Well, I’m sure they’re good movies with good performances, but the Oscars always favor such downer movies.  I can’t deal with that sometimes.

Denny and I saw Children of Men last weekend, and I liked that.  It too was a bit heavy; the style was very similar to my favorite of Cuarón’s films, Y tu mamá también, but it wasn’t nearly as funny.  I’ve got to say, I prefer comedies in general.

In other news, I’m hungry.  I’ve got a crockpot full of chili at home, which I’m looking forward to eating.


People are weird

Filed under: — Aprille @ 4:46 pm

I’m back at work today. I was eating lunch in the breakroom, and one of my coworkers walked by. He saw the poinsettias on the table and said, “Flowers? What are those for?”

I said, “They’ve been there since Christmas. Didn’t you notice?”

And he said, “No, I guess I didn’t.”

At least he noticed them eventually. He’s known as our grumpiest employee, but I still like him. He’s funny and weird. He’s a bad influence on me, though. He laughs when I’m snide, which is conditioning me toward snideness in his presence. Not always smart at work.

He’s one of those antisocial types (yes, worse than me) who never goes to any of the office parties or talks to anyone if he can help it.  He signed the sympathy card my coworkers gave me, though, which was kind of a surprise.  Maybe that’s the key:  be an a-hole 98% of the time, then when you’re nice, people take notice.


Old pictures

Filed under: — Aprille @ 8:33 pm

I was going through my grandmother’s photos, and I found this one.  It really sums up how she was always so fashionable.  Get a load of that hat!

Another really fascinating thing was getting a glimpse of her younger sister, Donna Belle, aka Donnie.  I had always known the name and I’m sure I met her a handful of times, but I didn’t know her at all.  Judging by the pictures, she was a real spitfire.  Not only that, she was drop-dead gorgeous.  She looked so much like my mom.  My mom told me today about summers she spent with Donnie when she was a teenager, how she always had a great time because Donnie let her do scandalous things like kiss boys.

Donnie’s on the left; I believe the one on her right is their sister Elnora.

So pretty.

Ooh lah lah!

This was a book commemorating her senior year of high school.  Check out what she listed as her favorite hobby.  No wonder she was popular.

Viola “Maw” Stangl

Filed under: — Aprille @ 2:59 pm

Hi all. I’ve been away from posting because I’ve been dealing with some family issues. My grandmother died yesterday morning; her funeral is Monday, so I’ve been here at my parents’ house spending time with them.

The last couple of days have been sad. She took a swift downturn early in the week, and then make a turnaround, so it looked like things were going to be fine. However, shortly after that, she started getting worse again, and it was pretty much a steady decline after that. Denny and I were planning to come to Des Moines to see her in the hospital on Friday after work, but on Thursday morning it looked clear that things weren’t going well, so we came Thursday instead. I’m really glad we did, because when we got to the hospital Thursday night, she was still alive. She was asleep/sedated, but she did make some noises that seemed like recognition when we
talked into her ears.

We went back to Ames to spend the night at my parents’ house, and my mom stayed with her at the hospital. The phone rang at 5 a.m. on Friday; it was my mom telling us that she had quietly passed away. I’m glad my mom was there with her. The nurse woke my mom up to tell her that Maw’s heartbeat was very slow and she probably only had a few minutes left, so my mom was there talking to her and touching her when she died. Maw wasn’t conscious, but if she felt anything at all, it was her daughter there telling her she loved her.

When I first heard that she was on the downhill and probably didn’t have much time left, I was sad but a little relieved, because she had been in constant pain for months. She had severe osteoporosis, and her bones were crumbling from the inside. She had crushed vertebrae that made it impossible for her to move or walk. Still, once we got there and it all happened, it hit me harder than I expected it to. I guess no matter how much you know it’s time and that it’s what has to happen, it always hurts. I’m glad her pain has ended,

My mom asked me to speak at the funeral. I’m trying to decide what to say. How do you comment on an almost 85-year life in just a few minutes? She was a very big part of my life, especially when I was little. My parents were young then (younger than Denny and I are now), and they turned to the grandparents a lot for support during those early years. I was their first child, and I know Maw and Granddad helped them a lot as they figured out parenthood.

I always remember Maw as being very glamorous. She was always impeccably dressed, in matching suits with fancy blouses and plenty of sparkly jewelry. Her blonde hair was always done up in a French twist (and in fact, she kept it that way until less than a year ago). We sometimes teased and joked about her fussy hair, but she took great pride in her appearance, and I think that was something that got her through tough times. I loved playing with her jewelry and pretending to be a fancy lady like her.

She was well-traveled, too. She had hand-made Chinese silk dresses from trips to Hong Kong, and the image of her wearing one epitomizes 1950’s cocktail party glamour to me. There wasn’t a lot of room for glamour in small-town Iowa, and my grandfather’s business didn’t always bring in loads of income, but she made it happen. She was never one to wallow; she kept her spirits up. She was an avid learner, too. In her 70’s, she got a computer and became an Internet junkie. She researched genealogy and started collecting pottery from Ebay. Every now and then she’s stumble upon naked lady pictures, and my Granddad would get mad if she forgot to show them to him.

So…yeah. I haven’t decided for sure what I’m going to say at the funeral, but the gist of it is probably going to be what I will remember most from her: that there is always something to laugh about, even when times are tough, and even if you can’t find something to laugh about, you should at least have on some sparkly earrings.

I’ll miss you, Maw.

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