Saturday, December 20, 2008

Winter Wonderwhat?

Recently, it dawned on me that, despite promises to do so, Justin and I never actually got around to posting pictures of our house. I could make excuses about corn pollen and hating the outdoors between June and October, but the truth is, we just dropped the ball. We didn't even take a picture of our home's exterior until late October, when we were lucky enough to develop a swamp thanks to a rusty water service line (cause, who knew that steel would rust...)

For your enjoyment, the evolution of Justin and Jenny's house...

This is the house the day before having the service line repaired. Though you can't see the moat in this picture, I promise you, it's directly in front of the holly bush. If this picture were extended to show about 15 feet to the right, you'd also see a (pear?) tree that never lost its leaves this year. The next door neighbors say this was the first time that's happened. I blame the evil birds that live in it.

This is the front yard after having the service line replaced. The repairman swore the dirt would settle over time, and even said he'd return to rake it out a bit after it had a chance to dry out. About 15 minutes after this picture was taken, it started raining, and kept raining for 5 days. Then it got really cold, and stayed really cold. Realizing the repair guy was never coming back to "fix" the dirt mound, Justin and I made peace with the fact our front yard would look like Bugs Bunny tunnelled in to visit. We have great plans of fixing it in the spring.

Then came the ice storm.
Thursday night we had freezing rain. (And a thunderstorm around 3 AM!!!) By Friday morning, there was half an inch of ice coating the street, our mailbox, everything. In case you were wondering, when that much ice builds up on a deciduous tree that inexplicably hasn't lost its leaves by mid-December, the tree breaks. Now, our front yard looks like this:

Actually, that's not quite accurate. That's what our yard looked like on Friday morning. Although they were down on the ground, the branches were only mostly snapped from the trunk. Lucky for me, they were still attached enough that the branches couldn't be moved. And even luckier for me, Justin was 700+ miles away. I was content to let it sit until a tree service could come out to deal with it today. Wanting to help (and without even being asked), our next door neighbor cut the branches off the trunk, and moved them to clear the sidewalk. When I went over to ask him if he was the guy who helped me out, he even asked me when Justin would be home to "help cut them up." Nicest. Man. Ever.

At some point, our front yard will look nice again. And I promise, as soon as that happens, we'll let you know. In the meantime, our neighbors are great and we don't live near a methlab, sewage treatment facility or trailer park - so homeownership is still a good thing.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Blagojevich = Hilarious

I hated, HATED Illinois' governor until very recently. Blagojevich is a hack who cannot get along with anyone, even the other Democrat hacks who run this sorry excuse for a state. He enjoys the lowest approval rating of any governor in the nation, and typifies the arrogant heavy-handed sleaziness of Chicago politics. He also has worse hair than most local TV weathermen.

At this point, however, Blago seems like a hilariously delusional, scheming, and most importantly foul-mouthed entertainer. Most governors are screw-ups, but at least this screw-up spends most of his time practicing his Elvis impersonations and shaking down donors, instead of raising taxes. I must concede that I share his opinion of our President-elect. The transcripts of his profane tirades are chock full of gems, but pale in comparison to the rants of one of my favorite foul-mouthed historical figures: Richard Nixon.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

St. Louis: Two Thumbs Up

Sorry for the lack of timeliness in this posting...

We visited St. Louis Nov. 1 & 2 in order to see the Penguins play at the Blues, and to visit the International Bowling Hall of Fame . The Bowling Hall of Fame closed on November 8 and moved to San Antonio. We were fortune to see the overblown (and likely inaccurate) history of bowling in 10-pin Alley. Did you know that "Since the dawn of time, man has bowled?"

The game was great. The Penguins won. We wore Pens shirts and received barely a look of disapproval from the classy St. Louis fans, unlike the treatment we surely would have received by rooting for the visiting team back east. The Scottrade Center was a beautiful arena, and the game kicked off with a great rendition of the Blues' theme song. The organist responded to Penguins goals with a rendition of "That's Why They Call it the Blues." Great experience.

We also saw the St. Louis Zoo, Washington University in St. Louis, and the Gateway Arch. Although beautiful Autumn weather attracted long lines to the Arch and prevented us from going to the top, I (Justin) have had the opportunity in a previous visit. I highly recommended this excursion on a ridiculous conveyor system, which essentially transports you up the arch in a cable-drawn galvanized trash can. Claustrophobes need not apply.

In brief, the rivers, rusty bridges, and (modest) hills enabled us to project our homesickness onto this surprisingly lovely midwestern city.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Leona Leiby 1919-2008

Many knew her as "grandma," including her twenty or so grandchildren and their spouses, and some of her children-in-law. Her ten children obviously called her "mom."

I used to catch my bus to school at grandma and grandpa's house. Grandma made fried eggs and buttered toast for us every morning. I hear tale of my stubborn refusal to wipe the egg yolk from around my mouth. I remember fondly the smell of those eggs, and the memory of the off days when grandma forced grandpa to eat oatmeal, instead of eggs. Some choice words were exchanged between them. In PA Dutch, of course.

Grandma hummed without rhyme or meter as she went about her daily tasks. A blissful tic. If I forget everything else (and I WON'T), I will still fight tears as her humming comes to mind.

I love you, Grandma.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

The Joys of Home Ownership

October is over. Good riddance. While I love October's refreshingly cooler temperatures and changing leaves, this particular October has been a reminder that bad things come in whatever number they happen to come in.

Included among the wonders of this October at the home that--take note--we have owned for four months:

  • Our porch roof needed to be replaced. Its rotting decking and shoddy installation were apparently beyond the building inspector's capability to spot in June.

  • The water service line to our house is leaking. The water pipes were fine for fifty years--until we moved in. We currently have a small moat (or malarial swamp) in our front yard, as seen in this aerial photo. Plumbers are scheduled to dig up our front lawn and replace the pipes on Wednesday of this week.

  • Our 2005 Toyota Corrola's "check engine" came on. It might just be a loosening gas cap, but without diagnostic equipment we can't be sure.

  • We needed to buy a new washing machine. The police warned us to stop washing our clothes with rocks in the Boneyard Creek.

  • We needed to replace an accidently-washed cell phone, in an issue peripheral to the replaced washing machine.

Sorry for complaining. On the bright side, we had a great time in St. Louis this weekend (details to come). It's a really nice city, who knew.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Typical Sunday

First things first - I know it's been a LONG time since we updated. But good things come to those who wait, right? (At least that's what I think about the soon-to-be-released Guns N Roses album, and what Justin thinks about the possible Phillies World Series victory)

So anyway, here we are. Justin and I have lived in our house for almost 4 months now. So far, we've only had to buy a new washing machine, back porch roof, and 2 garage door opener batteries. Though we're not totally unpacked, I think we're completely at home. We're not completely fond of the neighborhood dogs, but we don't share walls with anyone, and I can yell at the TV as loudly as I want without annoying anyone. So we'll take that as a win.

We're planning a trip back to Pennsylvania at Thanksgiving. (Both Kutztown and Pittsburgh) Hopefully we'll be able to see everyone. I just hope we survive the drive.

We'll post again soon - I promise.

<3 Jenny

Monday, June 30, 2008

Today was the day

After signing our names about 54,206 times this morning, it's official - WE'RE HOMEOWNERS!

Pictures to follow in a later post.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

An Appropriate "Taste of Champaign"

We visited Taste of Champaign yesterday, an outdoor "festival" where local restaurants, artisans, etc. hawk their wares as mediocre local musicians bellow to a captive audience. The festival fell just short of my low expectations, like most things in Central Illinois.

The centerpiece of this event is supposed to be a representative sample of food from local restaurants. Not surprisingly, there is little variety. More prevalent than food vendors were "arts and crafts" tents with aging hippies and pretentious college town types selling pottery, bronze sculptures, and other useless trinkets.

Jenny wisely suggested that we spend no more than $10. The best $2.22 of that amount was spent on a colada smoothie from a high school band booster club. Tasty and refreshing. On the bright side, we walked the 2.7 miles in each direction. Notable sights along the way included some amateur tree pruning by a south of the border crew (including tree limb disposal in a 1990 Dodge Caravan) and the goose shit laden sidewalks surrounding the absurdly-named Crystal Lake Park.

Not to mention that we got an approving smile from a someone on a Vespa, who was apparently pleased that we were walking and saving mother earth. At least we got some exercise.

We had low expectations for Taste of Champaign, and it managed to fall just short. It is not surprising for a decidedly mediocre part of the country to fail to meet even mediocre standards. The people must be content to meander along at a snail's pace, with the assumption that everyone else is like them, and has little to do except rear children and slowly pursue polite incompetence in everything that they do.

Another not so hard earned D- for the American Midwest.

Monday, June 16, 2008

16 Bags of Pretzels

Yesterday was my 26th birthday, which started with fried "dippy" eggs made by my loving and beautiful wife. We then celebrated with a visit to Seven Saints and some minature golf. Jenny handily won the mini golf match.

It's a sad state of affairs when the two best restaurants in town have both both been burger joints, but Seven Saints is possibly our favorite restaurant in Champaign now, and specializes in small hamburgers called "sliders."

These little burgers (possibly made famous by the White Castle chain) each are a little system of flavors (including a "tropical" with grilled pineapple and thai peanut sauce; and a "blackjack" with pepperjack cheese, spicy aoli, an onion ring and fried jalapenos).

I believe that my favorite is the smokey BBQ slider, with smoked cheddar, BBQ sauce, and smokey bacon, that is kind of like getting slapped in the face with a 4 oz. beef patty and a tube of liquid smoke. Washed down with a Rogue Dead Guy for me and a Blue Moon for Jenny, and it was a delicious lunch.

I also sampled from my birthday present: 16 bags of Tom Sturgis Pretzels. Jenny was nice enough to order 12 bags of these pretzels specially, because one can't find anything beyond Rold Golds in this midwestern shit hole. I suppose that the savages out here are content with their deep dish pizza and hot dogs with tomato and pickles. Nasty stuff.

In addition to Jenny's present, my mom also sent 4 bags of Tom Sturgis pretzels, so I will be sitting pretty for quite some time. Unfortunately, there is no Yuengling to wash them down. C'est la vie.

To end the day, Jenny made her delicious chili. Eggs + Sliders and Beer + Milkshakes + Pretzels + Chili and Beer = one gluttonous B-day that would make Bacchus proud.

Friday, May 2, 2008

Who wants to see our house?

I'm not sure how we haven't posted about this yet. We're buying a house! Not just any house. THIS house.

It's a three bedroom all brick ranch with a HUGE screened in back porch. It's in a safe, family neighborhood. Most importantly, it's not within spitting distance of a trailer park, sewage treatment plant, or recycling facility (which canNOT be said for the place where we currently live).

Justin and I can't wait to buy a grill. It's official, we're old.

Thursday, May 1, 2008

R.I.P. Jillian's

The burger-centric posts will cease. I promise. We found out a few days ago that Jillian's in Champaign closed suddenly. Jillian's is a small sports bar chain with 15-20 locations nationwide, and has pool tables, sports on TV, beer, and yummy food.

We will miss the burgers. Jenny got the burger with pepperjack and bacon; I ordered pepperjack and a rotation of sauteed onions, mushrooms, and spicy cajun peppers. Those 1/2 lb. juicy grilled burgers (with two toppings of your choice!) were the only thing that was better about Chambana than anywhere else we have been. The best thing about Champaign Urbana is gone, rendering it just another midwestern town with tornadoes, earthquakes, and no Yuengling.

The bar area also had multiple big screen TVs, so on autumn Sundays one could watch every NFL football game at once. It was one of the hundreds of places nationwide where football fans clad in black and gold gathered on Sundays. We will have to find somewhere else to gather with the Steeler Nation.

It should not be a surprise that Jillian's closed, as the place was nearly empty when we went. I suppose that a good burger and Steelers football is lost on this particular town. R.I.P. Jillian's.

Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Seriously, Wendy's Isn't Even That Good

The title is tantamount to a declaration of war in our household, so I must clarify that this is Justin's opinion only. It does not necessarily reflect the opinions of the Leiby Household, Jenny, The President, Liza, or Condi.

Jenny called me and told me on her commute home, in the blissful tone of an addict after a heroine fix, that Wendy's re-opened in Champaign. After we arrived at Wendy's, we got in line behind 41 people and commenced our 25 minute wait in line. Christ almighty.

Demand for square hamburgers is strong. Wendy's has been closed in the Champaign Urbana area for a long time, due to mismanagement by the local franchisee. The prices are noticeably higher, perhaps only for a little while to attract only those fast food lovers who are willing to pay a little bit more when they forget what Wendy's actually tastes like.

The price discrimination is delicious, unlike the fries. Wendy's fries typically suck in comparison to McDonald's. This evening they were on par with oven-baked Ore-Ida. I ordered the Baconator (a double cheeseburger with 6 bacon strips), which was a tasty burger. Remember to order it without mayo, though, because Wendy's insists on slathering its burgers in that stuff. I once had a Wendy's burger that came with mayo and mustard, and no ketchup. I do not know what demographic this combination serves, but any savage who likes mayo and mustard on a burger should go straight to hell.

Wendy's is 4th best among fast food restaurants (if Steak and Shake does not count as fast food). As I type this diatribe, my clothes and hair emit the stench of grease and cheap paint and carpet glue.

However, as I type this I see that my wife is smiling and satisfied. Anything that makes Jenny exclaim, "I have great news!" is worth undercooked fries, 25 minute waits in line, and stinky clothes. Jenny is happy, and so am I. Wendy's is not so bad. Stop whining, Justin.

Sunday, April 27, 2008

Ow - our heads

We went out with a few friends last night. Had tasty tasty burgers at Seven Saints and then experienced "local flavor" at a place called "Rose Bowl"... The evening warrants another post at a later time. For now, it must be said that Justin and Jenny are not as young as we used to be.

Right now, we're off to brunch with a six year old. Wish us luck. Ow ow ow ow ow.

Saturday, April 19, 2008

We went to Belgium!

See Maria! We told you the Leibys would be in Belgium before too long. We just failed to clarify that we were going to Belgium, Illinois.

We actually stopped there on the way home from my birthday celebration. I absolutely loved what Justin had planned for me, so don't judge:

We drove 30 miles east to the closest Wendy's so I could get a Spicy Chicken Combo. (This has actually become a birthday ritual for us...sort of like one of Justin's "favorite" people.)

Then we drove about 70 miles further east so I could go shoe shopping at DSW. Yes, we have shoe stores here, but I had $65 in DSW reward coupons and they don't do online shopping. Three pairs of women's shoes, and two pairs of men's shoes later, our feet will be the fanciest things about us for quite some time.

On the way home we detoured briefly in the Village of Belgium, Illinois. We weren't able to take a picture of the sign reading "Belgium - Population 500" Were were also unable to get a picture of the many many trailers with built on porches or the vacant house with "NO TRESPASSING" spray painted on it. That's right, spray painted!

Apparently, spray painting messages on buildings is a common practice in Belgium...

Yes, that sign on the left reads "South Side Night Club Now Open". And the door on the far right has "OPEN" spray painted in large letters beside it.

Sadly, we missed the opportunity to take a picture of "Gross' Burgers" And if you were wondering, the only beer sold in this Belgium is Budweiser. Sorry Duvell, you lose.

Time for birthday dinner! (Early celebration rocks!)

Sunday, April 13, 2008

We've mostly contained the cat crazy until now...

Seriously, it has taken a lot of effort for us to not turn this blog into a day by day documentation of the craziness that we call love of our kitties. When we started the blog, we made a conscious decision to contain the cat love (or specifically, to not bore our friends and family with details about just how cute Condi is when she chases her tail). We think we've done a pretty good job of not forcing our cats down others' throats on the blog.

Then, something like this happens:

You need to know that he sat that way on his own. No posing. No human interaction. The extent of our interaction: "Honey, look at that" & "I'm getting the camera." How are we NOT supposed to post this picture for the world to see? Look at The President...he has man boobs...

And to put his size into perspective...

Hope everyone is having a great weekend.

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Justin's a sensitive guy

This post serves two purposes...
  1. To document that Justin got misty eyed twice today - after watching "Horton Hears a Who" and while watching "Monsters Inc."
  2. To share that knowledge with the world at large.

The world is a better place now that those purposes have been served.

The animals are out to get us

Over the course of the last two weeks, our apartment has been emptier than usual. Two weeks ago, I had to travel a bunch for work-related conferences. Basically, I left on Monday morning, got back late Tuesday night, Wednesday was normal, then left Thursday and got back LATE Friday night. Justin was super busy during that time, so the cats were largely left to their own devices. By the time Saturday rolled around, Condi was starting to look dishevelled and Liza was overly cuddly (to the point she followed Justin from room to room no matter what he was doing). Mr. President, of course, was unfazed, so long as he got his food on time.

Then, after one glorious day where the whole "family" was together, Justin flew to Kutztown for spring break, and I set about prepping for jury week. Again, the cats were on their own. Let me tell you, if these cats are any indication, I would make a terrible single mom. "Playtime" meant throwing a toy mouse and saying "well go get it, stupid". I started sharing Sun Chips with Liza, and let Condi lick directly from a spoon I continued to use. But even worse than those two order to avoid a 5:00 a.m. wake up pounce from a 17 pound beast, I abandoned Mr. President's diet - opting instead to leave a bowl of food on the floor at all times. By the time Justin returned home 5 days later, Mr. President had regained some weight and Liza was even more cuddly than before. Condi and Mr. President appeared to have entered into a blood feud (complete with tail poofing and bites on the butt). And somehow during the last two days, Liza developed a limp of some sort.

Although we've been back together for a weekend now, Condi, Liza and Mr. President are noticeably mistrustful of us. It's like they've forgotten what normal is. Condi's gained some weight and meowed a real "big girl" meow, Liza left some serious teeth marks in my arm while we were playing, and Mr. President managed to break a wooden banana hanger when he tried to jump to the top of the fridge yesterday.

In parting, Justin and I want to point out that after nearly two months of maintaining this blog, this is the first cat-centric post. Even better - we still haven't posted any cat pictures...maybe there's some hope for us after all...

Friday, March 21, 2008

Back to Illinois

I got back to Illinois this morning, and I was very happy to see Jenny this morning.

The Place Where I Grew Up

A brief description of my hometown:

Kutztown lies in a valley running east to west between low parallel ridges, among fertile knolls and Mennonite farms. My parents live on the nameless northern ridge. Their home faces south, and looks out across the fields and scattered houses towards Topton, situated six miles in the distance along the base of South Mountain, midway along this southern ridge’s course from Allentown to Reading.

Not much justifies this poor attempt at poetics. Words often escape me to describe the peace I feel among the woods and fields of this small valley, the eastern limit of the Appalachians before the earth slopes downward through the Piedmont and to the coastal plain. People are often bound to their most familiar place, so my comfort is neither unique nor noteworthy. The words are with me, so I might as well write them.

Each time I return in order to visit family and friends, the lens of experience shrinks my hometown and its surroundings. Not much changes except for the steady encroachment of suburban sprawl and its attendant hassles and conveniences, but development merely creeps forward. There are no explosions or booms. The setting that I remember occupies a smaller physical space with the construction of each new house. It occupies a smaller space relative to my own experiences, as well.

My mother and I take brisk walks across the hills, and my recent adjustment to Midwestern flatness leaves me winded after a few miles. As I traverse this shrinking countryside of immoderate familiarity, I feel the landcape’s contours as if running my fingertips over a most detailed relief map. Although the locale shrinks, visits become increasingly vivid and produce greater appreciation. Light freezing rain falls in the woods, dried leaves crunch under my heels, and the odd whitetail bounds out of sight. Cars more frequently zip past on the narrow, winding roads. Shadows cast by a bright moon wave goodbye, and I feel refreshed and a bigger man.

I promise this will be my only baffling and impenetrable posting.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Scary Thought

Until Justin gets home on Friday, it's just me and three cats in a one bedroom apartment. I fear this is how my transition to "Crazy Cat Lady" begins...

What Exactly is Justin Doing in Grad School (Part I)?

As the reader already knows from Jenny's description, we are in Central Illinois for the next five years while I complete my PhD in Accounting at the University of Illinois. As I have neglected my blogging duties thus far, I decided to write a brief primer about what I am doing in school.

Few people pursue a PhD in Accounting, and fewer finish. It's not surprising that most people do not realize that one can even earn a PhD in Accounting, because U.S Universities award fewer than 100 Accounting PhDs each year. Conversely, tens of thousands of doctorates are awarded annually in disciplines such as English, Engineering, and Computer Science.

In brief, accounting is the measurement, disclosure, and audit of business information used by managers to make decisions. My interest lies in how accounting information influences people's behavior, and running laboratory experiments on human participants to determine how personal, task, environmental, and information characteristics affect behavior in an accounting context. I will elaborate on my interests at a later time, but I hope that this sentence suffices as a 10-second description of what I'd like to research for the rest of my career.

The vast majority of Accounting PhDs work in universities, and teach, research, or both. I know that I want to research, and time will tell how much I enjoy teaching. It takes an average of 5 years to complete an Accounting PhD, regardless of whether you have a Master's Degree (I do not have a Master's).

Those five years comprise two phases: the coursework phase and the dissertation phase. The coursework phase enables students to conduct original research, by building quantitative skills and accounting knowledge. In my case, the department has decided that my accounting knowledge is sufficient, but I need to develop quantitative skills. Accordingly, my coursework involves heavy Calculus, Statistics, and Econometrics.

During the coursework phase, Illinois requires students to act as Teaching Assistants for two semesters, and then to teach a course during the student's first two summers. I am completing my 2nd semester of TAing, and will teach Accounting Control Systems this summer and next.

After 2 to 3 years of coursework, the department awards a Master's Degree and requires students to take a preliminary exam. The preliminary exam is a comprehensive test of how to study problems in accounting. It is an essay test, it takes a full day, and I have heard that it is not fun. If you pass the preliminary exam, then the department admits you to the "dissertation phase," in which students focus on identifying, studying, and writing a thesis about an original research idea.

There is a substantial shortage of accounting PhDs, and some estimate that there are two job openings for every PhD-holder available to fill positions. As a result, salaries for entry-level accounting faculty currently average $160-170,000 at top universities (Big Ten, Ivy League, and a few others), and $130-145,000 at second tier schools. Many schools pay an additional 2/9 of salary as "summer support" for the first three years of employment. Of course, one can earn much more than that in the private sector, but academia has intrinsic benefits that will likely be expressed in this blog over time.

The University of Illinois is one of the oldest, largest, and most well-regarded Accounting programs in the country. Additionally, it is one of the two or three best schools for the kind of research that I want to do (usually referred to as "behavioral accounting research").

Unfortunately, it's also located in Champaign-Urbana, Illinois, which was never at the top my list of places to live (let alone Jenny's list). In addition to behavioral accounting, we can look forward to tornado warnings, corn pollen, and poor drainage for five years. Despite the negatives, though, I am quite happy with what I do.

(note: I am writing this from Kutztown, PA, and I miss Jenny)

Sunday, March 2, 2008

Things we learned this weekend

  • Doing taxes is never fun, even if the person doing them is studying accounting.
  • All it takes is a little bit of Jager to turn Justin into a Trivial Pursuit master. I was winning until the devil juice entered the equation.
  • Tumbling Monkeys is the "best game ever" when played by four adults.
  • Finally having "couple friends" to spend time with is awesome - even if requiring "couple friends" means we're old and lame.
  • "Pick It Up" and Taco Bell are still integral parts of an evening out. A post-fun trip to taco bell was the only thing missing at the end of last night...
  • No matter how bad a day seems (especially after doing taxes), it can all be made better by watching the following:

Saturday, February 23, 2008

Saturday in Springfield

Wide awake at 8:30 a.m. today, we somehow reached the decision to spend the day at the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum in Springfield. Though the weather was cold, there was no snow in the forecast and the library is only a 90 minute drive away... what better way to spend the first half of our saturday?

Turns out, the museum was way better than we anticipated. In addition to the standard relics, letters and doo-dads behind glass that you would expect to see in a museum, there were holograms, sound effects and theatrical smoke. Seriously, the museum made children cry. That's one heck of a show.

There were also two non-Lincoln exhibits that alone were worth the price of admission ($7.50 if you're wondering). First - a multi-media exhibit featuring campaign propoganda from every presidential election. My favorite was the Reagan anti-communism "Bear in the Woods" ad. A close second, realizing that young Richard Nixon looked a lot like Regis Philbin.
The second non-Lincoln exhibit was a collection of 195 WWI and WWII posters. Most of the posters were from the US. There were also posters from Great Britain, France, Russia and Germany. Luckily, I had Justin to translate the German. I've got to say, the cartoonish use of Hitler made my day. Don't believe me? Just look at this...

Enough said?
Anyway, here's to one more weekend in the middle of nowhere!

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Typical night in the midwest...

Tonight's excitement:

1. Taco night
2. Lunar eclipse
3. Putting gas in the car.

We are exciting people.

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Bison Hats and Bad Hockey

We attended a Bloomington Prairie Thunder hockey game on Friday night, when the Prairie Thunder hosted the Muskeegon Fury in an International Hockey League (IHL) matchup. The IHL is comprised of only 6 teams representing a who's who of Midwestern holes in the wall, including Flint, MI; Fort Wayne, IN; and of course Bloomington, IL. The league and its players put the "minor" back in minor league. Bloomington's leading scorer paints houses in the offseason, and probably earns twice as much painting as he does playing hockey. The best skaters on the ice were the referees.

We highly recommend this experience, which was far greater than the sum of its parts: the venue, players, and 3,700 fans in attendance. The Prairie Thunder mascot is a bison, and many fans wore team gear, including some fans who donned bison hats. That's right, furry hats with little bison horns, which are friggin' awesome!

Whenever the home team scores a goal, the arena erupts in cheers, train whistles, and blasts from novelty plastic horns carried by some fans. The crowd expressed more enthusiasm and had more fun than some NHL crowds 4 to 5 times as large (think Penguins games when the team was awful). Unfortunately, we had a 1 hour drive home after the game, otherwise we would have taken up an offer to hang out at the bar in the arena and "hobknob" with the players.

All this would have been enough to add up to a great evening, but two tickets to the game cost us only $12. The tickets were buy one get one free if you redeemed a special Pepsi can. We strode to the ticket window, asked for two of the best available tickets, crushed a pepsi can, slid it under the glass along with a credit card. You can't do that in Philly or Pittsburgh. Score one for the Midwest (finally). It was a great night.

And So It Begins

Keeping up this blog was Justin's new year's resolution. Clearly he's failing at that. (Edit - looks like Justin and I started blogging at the same time. We really should spend more time in the same room. Anyway - read on. - Jenny) Can't say I blame him - he's got enough on his plate with school and TA responsibilities. Conversely, I work for the government. That means that not only does my work day end at 4:30 p.m., but more importantly, I don't have to work on "holidays" like President's day. Pretty sweet, right? So it looks like the blogging duty is going to return to me, if it hasn't returned already.

This morning was fairly eventful. Justin and I went to brunch with Ozlem (a fellow student of Justin's) and her daughter Caline. We went to Radio Maria - a spanish place best known for its brunch menu. It was delicious. Beyond delicious (for this town). Poor Caline may disagree. She's only seven, and probably would have been happier having cereal at home while watching cartoons instead of eating unnecessarily fancy food with her mom and two grown weirdos.

After brunch we stopped home long enough to watch the final round of this week's PBA event. Justin's favorite, the extremely handsome Mike Scroggins, defeated my favorite, Walter Ray Williams, Jr. Yes, we have favorite pro-bowlers. We are that cool. (And yes, Maria, that link was for you.)

Once bowling ended, we went to our very first open house. Now that (1) Justin's sure he's going to stick out the entire 5-6 years of this PhD program, and (2) I have a job, it's pretty clear this our tenure in Illinois is that permanent kind of temporary. So, we're on the market for a house. Expect to hear lots more about the house hunt as it progresses. For today, I'll leave it at these two things:
  • We looked at a house within walking distance of a Wal-Mart in Champaign - Thumbs down for a multitude of reasons; and
  • If you're the betting type, the safe money is on us ending up in Farmer City, Illinois (That's right Farmer City - treasure the name).