Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Good-bye, Blogger

I'm wrapping up my four-year run of my blog on Blogger. I'm making the switch to Wordpress. It seems much more intuitive and has features I feel are more suited for what I would like to do with my blog.

Please change your links to my new blog home:

See you at Wordpress!

Portland (part two)

The view of downtown Portland from atop Mount Tabor.

  • On Wednesday morning, we decided to hit Mount Tabor, an extinct volcano located just north of our accommodations. We walked from the house just a short distance to Mount Tabor Park. It was a steep climb up, but it was very beautiful. The historical trees and beauty of Portland is apparent all over the city, but especially at Mount Tabor.
  • We didn't make it too far up Mount Tabor because we decided that we were going to save our legs from too much walking because we decided we were going to scout around the city by foot and public transportation. We did make it far enough up the volcano to see two big reservoirs and a pretty view of downtown Portland.
Video from Mount Tabor:

  • After Mount Tabor, we decided to fuel up before our journeys throughout the town. Along our route to get on the Max, we had to try one of Portland's own: Pizzacato. This pizza-by-the-slice contemporary café offered many varieties of pie and other Italian faves.
  • We walked a couple miles down Division, a street we got to know very well, to get to the Division Max depot. We would've ridden a bus line down, but we didn't have a ticket and we weren't quite sure if we could buy a day pass that was good for both the bus and the train once we boarded a bus. It was good to walk, though, and see the different businesses and neighborhoods along the way.

Riding the Max into downtown Portland on Wednesday.
  • Once aboard the Max, we were on the green line headed to the union station stop in downtown Portland. At our stop, we journeyed through downtown into the various districts. I was a little weak from being sick, and we both needed a pick-me-up, so we found a Starbucks; Rachel got a mocha frap, and I got a tall Pike Place.
  • We, next, made our way through downtown some more. In Portland, it's easy to see that many businesses are local — not apart of a large national corporation. It's not just a few locally-owned shops here and there — it's just about every place you see in Portland; it would take you years to visit every business that looked interesting.
  • One local business we happened upon was Cupcake Jones. They had a huge variety of cupakes on display, and they all looked quite scrumptious. Of course, I indulged my sweet tooth with a chocolate cupcake. It was excellent — and very messy.
Relishing a little Cupcake Jones.
  • We decided it was time to find Powell's Books, one of largest used bookstore in the nation. This was a book lover's heaven. We stayed only a few hours, but I think even I, the non-reader that I am, could've stayed an hour or two more browsing. If we lived in Portland, there's no way I would want to go to a Barnes and Noble with Powell's so close.

  • After much of the afternoon downtown, we caught the green line back to our Division stop. We then caught a bus back toward the house. We departed the bus prematurely because Rachel was attempting to locate where she would be attending her religious meeting on Wednesday night. We took a nice walk through the Mount Tabor neighborhood and saw plenty of cool homes. The houses throughout the entire region were very quaint and full of charm. Too everyone's yards were so well kept and were so full of vibrant flowers and bushes.
  • We returned to the house shortly and Rachel began cooking one of her Indian specialities, a chicken rice pilaf. Emily said she enjoyed spicy food, so Rachel decided to make sure it was extra spicy. I think she made the best pot of Indian chicken rice pilaf ever. The Indian bread was delish, too.
  • I retired to the couch with my good friends, Claire and Atal, who didn't realize they weren't lapdog-sized. Occassionally, Nelle and Thomas, were brave enough to get by their canine sibilings to get a little attention from their Missouri guests.

Thomas and Nelle together

Claire. Poor Atal didn't make one photo on our trip. Poor boy.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Portland (part one)

Having never been to the Northwest, we decided it was time to visit that part of the country. We were very fortune to have Emily Jenkins, a friend who was on the percussion line with me in school, to allow us to stay with her at her home in Portland. She and her husband, Tony, relocated to Portland in 2005, and they both really love it. Tony is currently deployed to Iraq but should be back to Portland in a few weeks and should be done with his service completely.

We are so grateful to Emily for allowing us to invade her house.

Here goes the chronicles of our journey. ( I didn't take as detailed notes on this trip, so it shouldn't be as big of a blog as our New York trip.)

  • Our journey began on Monday, March 24. We dropped Hebrew National, my dog, off at my parents in the afternoon and were off to the Ramada near the St. Louis airport. We had done some investigation and found that it was cheaper for us to stay a night at the Ramada use the hotels park and fly option than it was to leave our car parked at an airport parking lot. That being said, the Ramada wasn't the greatest. It served a purpose — it was a place to get some rest before our early morning flight and it had a shuttle service that took us to the front doors of the airport. After moving two different times, our third hotel room was fine. The first two smelled of cigarette smoke badly even though they were non-smoking rooms, so we were moved to a different floor and didn't have any smoke issues.
  • I had not been feeling well, and I felt like I was starting to get a little congestion and possibly a minor fever. Rachel got me some DayQuil and NyQuil tablets so we could take the trip and I wouldn't be so uncomfortable.
  • Our Tuesday morning flight was at 6 a.m. on Frontier Airlines, so we decided to catch the 4 a.m. shuttle service on Tuesday since the airlines always recommend getting to the airport extra early. The shuttle left a few minutes early since we and the other party who signed up for the 4 a.m. shuttle were already there. We arrived to the airport and got down to security to find that it didn't open until 4:30, so Rachel opted to get a greasy cheese danish while we sat waiting.
  • After getting through security, we sat another hour or so until we actually boarded our Frontier Airlines jet. I had never flown with Frontier, but I liked how their flights offer TV service. We didn't want to pay $6 to watch TV, but we could've watch the small screen on the seatback in front of us if we had wanted. I did use the free preview while it lasted.
  • Our plane layover was in Denver, but the same plane that had brought us from St. Louis to Denver was the same plane that was flying from Denver on to Portland. Another couple of hours in the air, and we landed on the west coast at 10 a.m.
A view of our Frontier jet. Our Frontier jet, which is a "different kind of animal," sported a parrot on our flight from St. Louis to Portland.

  • Our next venture was getting from the airport to Emily's house in Portland via the Max, the public transportation rail system in Portland. After getting our day pass, we boarded the red line, which took us to a stop where we switched to the green line. The green line then took us to the Division stop, where we then go off to catch a bus near Emily's house.
  • After a short walk from the bus, we found Emily's house. Needless to say, we crashed after we got to her house.

Our first ride on the Max in Portland.

  • After a restful afternoon, Emily arrived home from work and took us on a tour of the various neighborhoods that comprise Portland. We stopped at a small Mexican restaurant for some quick, inexpensive (but very tasty) tacos.
  • That evening we hit the hay early, but not before watching Emily make her oatmeal medley that she was preparing for the next day.
Emily's oatmeal medley.

Rachel getting ready to sleep on our Ikea pullout sofa that was very comfortable after a long day of travel. I wish I looked that good at the end of the day! (I know, right?)

Window Seat

I haven't been consistently blogging all winter — and I'm not quite sure why.

Partially, I believe that Facebook has been my main place to leave comments and thoughts. But the 420 character limitation on the social networking go-to has squashed my ability to completely put my brain on paper (or on computer screen, I guess).

Thanks to my recent visit to Portland, I have found that turning the TV off isn't that bad of a thing. Emily Jenkins, a friend from high school, graciously allowed my wife and me to stay at her home in Portland for spring break. It was a great spring break. (I'll probably blog about it later.)

But, while in her home, there was a noticeable difference; she had no TV. Well, she had a TV and a ton of DVDs to watch, but it didn't have an antenna or cable or anything. It didn't bother me one ounce since we were so active while we were there, and it has made me appreciate the lack of bombardment of news and brain-dead sitcoms that consume our lives too much.

So, tonight, thanks to Emily, my TV is off. And I have been reading. I did my daily Bible reading, which was more meaningful earlier in the day as opposed to reading it closer to bedtime.

I've also been reading online articles. Two have caught my attention tonight:

First, a column by David Brooks called "The Sandra Bullock Trade."

In the column, Brooks starts writing about Sandra Bullock's major events that happened this month: her Academy Award win for best actress and the alleged affair her "adulterous jerk" husband had.

He, then, in the column addresses whether fame and fortune or personal relationships make someone happier. Of course, all the interesting studies he points out indicate that "economic and professional success exists on the surface of life, and that they emerge out of interpersonal relationships, which are much deeper and more important."

But the second thing Brooks addresses in his column was a good message for educators:
The second impression is that most of us pay attention to the wrong things. Most people vastly overestimate the extent to which more money would improve our lives. Most schools and colleges spend too much time preparing students for careers and not enough preparing them to make social decisions. Most governments release a ton of data on economic trends but not enough on trust and other social conditions. In short, modern societies have developed vast institutions oriented around the things that are easy to count, not around the things that matter most. They have an affinity for material concerns and a primordial fear of moral and social ones.
Yes, our kids need to be prepared to go to college and planning for a career. But even more so, students need to make good social decisions. I think that's why I always promote to my students the idea of getting out of the minute worlds in which they've grown and live somewhere different. What better way to develop better social skills than to be around people who are from different backgrounds or who have a different culture. If you're not exposed to another culture, it's likely that you don't do well socially with people of other cultures. So, that means anytime you're in a social situation with someone not from your cultural background, that can be problematic.

This totally transitions into the second thing I read online tonight. (I apologize for going on and on, but I'm on a roll here.)

Erykah Badu is stirring up a little controversy, according to a music blog I read on Yahoo!, in a new music video for her song "Window Seat."

In the video, which you can watch at her Web site or on the YouTube embedded video above, Badu strips down naked (Yes, it's censored.) at the site where JFK was shot. While I don't completely understand why she chose JFK as a comparison to herself, she's basically making the point that people shouldn't judge what they don't personally understand.

From the Yahoo! blog post:

By the time Badu reaches the infamous grassy knoll where Kennedy was killed, she is completely nude. A gunshot is heard, her head cocks back, and her limp body falls to the ground. The words "group think" bleed from her head in blue ink.

"Group think that's like a form of thinking that causes you to bury what you really feel inside to please the group so you won't be ostracized by the group," Badu told the Wall Street Journal. "It's a comfort zone that we create for ourselves, and I go outside of that comfort zone."

As Badu's body lies on the ground, she speaks in a narrative voice to explain the message. "They play it safe. Are quick to assassinate what they do not understand," Badu says in the voiceover. "This is what we have become. Afraid to respect the individual."

Very interesting. Does my initial uneasy reaction of her decision to strip down naked publicly make me a societal conformist?

What do you think about this video? I'd be interested to read your thoughts and comments.

Enough blogging for now; I have to go watch the TV. Oops, I guess I haven't completely quit watching TV. But I do plan to shut off the boob tube unless I have something that I absolutely want to watch. (I going to watch Parenthood — just in case you wanted to know.)

Saturday, February 27, 2010

Yum Yum!

I had seen it forever, but it never quite caught my eye due to its lack of physical appeal — and maybe because I'm tired of seeing yet another new Asian food place overtaking a failed fast food joint in Springfield to cash in on the cashew chicken-crazed folks in town.

But after reading various local restaurant review Web sites, I knew it was time to try Yum Yum Bowl. Several restaurant-goers touted it as a good, cheap Asian restaurant — not that attention-getting in my book; however, they also said it and Ocean Zen have the same owners. That caught my attention.

Stepping inside, customer's begin by choosing their dish from a contemporary menu along the wall before sitting in the dining area. They didn't completely redo the interior of the restaurant, but they cared enough to install stylish light fixtures and did some more with-it decorating than some of the new Asian places in town have done in the past.

The food is pretty inexpensive. I ordered a lunch portion kung pao chicken, which was served with fried rice and two cream puffs (a.k.a. crab rangoons). It was $5.95. Rachel ordered a combination dish; she always asks for the dish with the most vegetables. We could have ordered a bowl — hence the name — but we went with the specialty side of the menu.

My kung pao chicken was absolutely wonderful, and the fried rice and the cream puffs were all tasty, too. The sauce was perfectly spicy, and there was no concern of MSG, since they don't use it in anything. (You know Rachel asked.) We both ordered lunch portions, and were both completely satisfied. If we had ordered the dinner portions, they would've only cost us a dollar or two more — and then we would've had leftovers for dinner.

Rachel wasn't as head over heels for her dish as mine, but she wants to go back because we had only a positive experience with the food and service. They have a drive-thru, too, we will definitely be trying.

If you're an Asian food lover, and you're in Springfield, give Yum Yum Bowl a try. You won't be disappointed.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Little snow, big problems

A little bit of snow has caused some big problems in southwest Missouri.

According to MoDOT, a crash at mile marker 102 on I-44 has completely shut down westbound traffic with an estimated reopen time of two hours as of 7 p.m.

Springfield has been slammed with crash reports, including an accident at Lone Pine and Battlefield (picture from

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Update to my snowfall forecast

After seeing tonight's model run (including the GFS shown above), the change I would make to my snowfall forecast on the last post would be moving the heavier band a little farther north and probably make it a little more narrow.

Tomorrow's 12z model run will be much better than tonight's because the low has just made landfall tonight, meaning we haven't received the complete amount of data to pinpoint things for sure.

I'll try to have an updated snowfall forecast map tomorrow afternoon.

My snowfall forecast

I've gone out on a limb and made my own snowfall forecast map based on models and data I've read online — because, what else is there to do at home while you're trying to beat the stomach flu?

This is definitely an early estimation, but it looks at this point that the low will now track so that we'll be getting more snow and not so much ice in Missouri. Arkansas still has a chance of some ice, but it doesn't look like it'll be a major ice storm like they experienced last year.

I'll modify this after the next model run tonight or tomorrow.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

School-cancelling weather possible once again

After five surprise days added to my Christmas break due to the Ozarks' last winter storm, another one could impact us again later this week.

"Low pressure moving from the southern Plains and lower Mississippi Valley Wednesday night through Friday will bring the potential of a mix rain, freezing rain, and accumulating winter precipitation to southeast Kansas and southwest and central Missouri," the National Weather Service said in a Hazardous Weather Outlook issued today.

Aside from accumulating snow, ice is a concern due to the anticipated setup of this storm system.

"The upper level low is anticipated to kick into the plains mid week with warm Gulf moisture advecting into the Plains and Ozarks ahead of the low," says the NWS forecast discussion.

Check back for more updates as this system begins to rare up this week.

Sunday, January 03, 2010

3.5 inches of snow, more potentially on its way

The view outside my front door.

We finally had some measurable snow in Springfield, and it looks like midweek could easily double what we received today.

"Another storm system will impact the area from Wednesday through Thursday," says the National Weather Service in its most recent Hazardous Weather Outlook statement. "This feature will bring additional snow accumulations to the Ozarks."

In this morning's forecast discussion, forecasters are already anticipating a winter storm warning this week and a high snowfall ratio.

"... Given the structure of this system, warning criteria snow accumultions will likely be observed somewhere either within or near the Ozarks region," the discussion says. "One factor that could enhance snow accumulations by the end of the week is the unusually cold airmass. Ratios, much like tonight, could end up being around 15:1, which is unusual for this part of the country."

That airmass that will increase the liquid-to-snowfall measure ratio is expected to be frigid — day and night.

"A very cold week is on tap for the region. Much of the area will not observe above freezing temperatures for the entire week," says the NWS. "The coldest portion of the week will be Thursday into Friday, where highs in most locations will not warm out of the teens and lows will be firmly in the single digits."