Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Back with the Sweathogs

Sorry for the several days of silence.  I've officially returned to school.  The budget cutbacks caused a lot of reshuffling at our site and there was a lot to do in very little time.

Here are the big changes from last year...

1)  I'm only teaching two classes now:  World History and US History.  No more math or science this year.  
2)  Fewer returning students than in previous years.  I have about 65% new students which is a little unusual.

These two changes have made for a challenging start to the year.  I was told on Friday that I'd be teaching World History and was given a book at the end of the day.  Students came yesterday and I had to be ready to start.  It's hard to begin a year with no prep time, different books, and a new subject.

But on the plus side, I've got new technology for the first time ever.  Although I've been teaching at the same school for the past 12 years, this year I now for the first time have:

1)  Teacher Editions for my textbooks!
2)  An overhead projector!

In the past I always had to solve problems on my own.  This year, they gave us surplus replacement texts and they came with the Teacher Edition.  Wahoo!  And for the past 12 years I've been doing most of my illustrations freehand on a chalk or whiteboard.  No more, I just received an overhead projector!  No more drawing maps from memory with my back to the students - my poor geography students in past years had to suffer through my less than perfect renderings of our globe.  Not today!  Now I'm not teaching math right now, but I cannot express to you how nice an overhead projector would have been at that time.  It's really hard to keep quickly drawing coordinate planes on the board and then trying not to mess them up too much when illustrating graphs.

Certainly busy, but I'd put this year in my top three "best starts to the school year!"

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Grilled Vegetable Salad

Okay, I'm not a big salad guy, but Mrs. Nate Maas made this one the other night and it tasted more like something from the grill than any salad I had ever tasted.  The kids even ate it!

Grilled Vegetable Salad

1/2 cup Balsamic Vinegar
2 teaspoons Dijon Mustard
2 Cloves Garlic, coarsely chopped
1 cup Olive Oil
Salt & Fresh Ground Pepper
2 Zucchini, quartered lengthwise
1 Japanese Eggplant (about 1 lb.) cut across, 1/4" rounds
6 Asparagus Spears, trimmed
12 Cherry Tomatoes
1 Small Red Onion, sliced 1/4" thick (or 1/2 a large red onion)
1 Red Bell Pepper, quartered and seeded
1 Yellow Bell Pepper, quartered and seeded
1/2 cup Feta Cheese, crumbled
1/4 cup Fresh Basil Chiffonade (stack leaves, roll in cigar shape and cut crosswise into thin strips)
8 cups Red Leaf Lettuce, washed and torn into bite size pieces
Roasted Pine Nuts

Marinade/Dressing:  In a small bowl, whisk together the vinegar, mustard and garlic, slowly add the olive oil and whisk until combined.  Season with salt and pepper.  Pour marinade over the vegetables and let sit at room temperature for 15 minutes.  Preheat the grill.

Remove the vegetables from the marinade (reserve the marinade, it is also the dressing) and grill the vegetables until just cooked through.  Grill the vegetables in batches until both sides are nicely charred and the vegetables are just tender, about 10 minutes for the peppers, about 8 minutes for the eggplant and asparagus and about 6 minutes for the zucchini.  When the vegetables are cool enough to handle, cut into 1/2" pieces or bite size pieces.  Cut the eggplant, asparagus, zucchini and peppers into bite size pieces, cut the tomatoes in half.  Place all the vegetables in a large bowl and toss to combine.

Plate the salad individually or in a wide, flat serving bowl:

Lettuce on the bottom
Grilled Vegetables
Drizzle dressing over (reserved marinade)
Crumbled Feta Cheese
Sprinkle with Pine Nuts

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Summer Retrospective

(Our Family at the Campsite)

So I'm just now sitting down and looking over some of the photos from our family vacation from a few weeks ago.  Our family is a bit of an outdoorsy lot, partly because it's awesome outdoors, but also because it's a good way to have great fun with little cost.  We hadn't realized it in our busyness, but we hadn't taken a "just our family" vacation this summer and it was almost over.  So we packed up our little car and took off on a quick trip up north.

(Some Really Tall Trees)

Our first stop was Big Basin State Park, in the hills above Santa Cruz, California.  We had never been here as a family before.  What a delightful surprise.  A quaint little park nestled in the redwoods.  Nice facilities and a friendly staff.  We camped here for two nights.  The highlight of the camp was a short 10.5 mile loop we hiked where we got to see three nifty waterfalls.

(Berry Creek Falls)

Jonathan's goal was to spot a banana slug, a rather unusual creature, I would say - about the size of an adult male foot.  I thought we wouldn't see too many as it was dry out, but Johnny found 47 by his count.

(Banana Slug - Can you believe this is the official mascot of University California, Santa Cruz?)

He wasn't quite counting on the copious amounts of slime left on his hands after picking them up, but he didn't seem to mind.

What a beautiful park, being a history teacher, I'm ashamed to admit, I was wholly unaware that it was California's first state park, started back in 1902!

(Scene Along the Trail)

Anyone else have summer trip highlights they'd like to share?

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Sunday Meeting

It's Saturday night, and I'm thinking about tomorrow.  Our regular pastor is on vacation and my friend Ted is preaching tomorrow.  I'm looking forward to church.  I feel very fortunate to have a really nice church with many dear friends.  These are the 'always looking out for you' kind of friends that I'd wish for everyone.  I also like singing.  Church is one of those places that you can sing publicly with others on a regular basis and I like that.  I also like Sunday because I get a chance to slow down and reflect on important things.

What are your experiences with church?  Love it, hate it, never been?  I'd love to hear.

Peace In Our Time

For those who may have missed it, an agreement has been reached between PJM and myself, successfully ending our short but tragic feud.

Actually, there was never a feud.  PJM is a swell fellow and I hope everyone can understand that everything between PJM and myself is written tounge-in-cheek in good-natured fun.

I never intended to write a blog, it happened by chance.  Several years ago, for a college class, we were required to keep a blog for a month or so.  After the class ended, I retained an inactive blog and never put another thought into writing one again until this last week.

Although imitation is the highest form of flattery and I greatly admire OPOD, the content will be varied.  How PJM finds the time to keep such a regularly great blog is beyond me.  I have great admiration for his unselfish efforts, not just with OPOD, but with his other websites, his work with students, and his generous interactions others (including those he has never personally met).

Well, I've had a lot of fun this week.  I hope you did too.  I'm glad to report that blog polling has not erased either of us from existence, so if you are so inclined, check back from time-to-time as I hope to continue things, but on a less than daily basis.

Au revoir mes amis!


Many people assume that one person cannot change much.  Today's Person-of-Mystery proved otherwise, ninety years ago this week.  Will anyone volunteer a correct answer?

Coming Soon...

To my dedicated readers:  Today's Person-of-Mystery™ game will begin at 7 am Pacific time to allow those in Canada's Yukon Territory time to play along.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Truce Offer

In a gesture of unparalleled magnanimity, Nate Maas, has today extended a public truce offer to his longtime nemesis, Paul J. McWhorter.

Earlier today, Nate released the following statement:  "I recognize that there will be some who will not understand the timing of this offer.  The other day, I received a desperate communique from a hostage inside the PJM Compound.  Mrs. PJM, had sent an urgent plea to refrain from anything that might make the already tense situation further unstable.  While negotiating with Super Villains is never my first choice, the safety and wellbeing of innocent bystanders must supersede the eternal quest for justice.  At the sake of great personal peril, I must make every attempt to extend the olive branch - even to nemeses."

Therefore I am forthwith proposing the following set of generous terms, uti possidetis.  The agreement to the same shall signal an immediate cessation of a state of hostility between belligerent parties and their allied members.


I.  Immediately forgo any expeditions to the polar regions using any of the following untested means of transport:
       a.  wind-powered sledges
       b.  z-booms
       c.  sleds pulled by peafowl
II.  Agree that both Antartica and the North Polar Region remain terra nullius.
III.  Consider beginning any future Mystery Person Contests at an hour of the morning considerate to those in the Pacific Time Zone.
IV.  Explain just what an astrocrabpuff is and promise not to use it for nefarious purposes.
V.  Blog followers acquired during the recent unpleasantness be allowed to remain followers of respective blogs.
VI.  If both parties happen to find themselves in a future duel with Boston Cream Pies, both parties agree to aim for Roger at the last minute.
VII.  Donate any admission proceeds from above mentioned duel to purchase indoor plumbing or new dentures for Charity Grimes.
VIII.  Never again attempt to erase Nate Maas through blog polling.
IX.  Swear by the Amersfoortse Kei that any future disputes be resolved without resorting to super villainy.

As I assume the most contentious issue, of who gets to wear the hat, may be the deal breaker, we can leave that one unresolved for now.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Lost in Translation

President Nicolas Sarkozy appeared a little embarrassed today after declaring yesterday "Rue de Day" or "Street Day" in France.  In an impromptu interview, Sarkozy explained, "I had heard about this PJM fellow who was calling for what sounded like 'rue de day.'  I mistook PJM as slang for the word 'pajamas' and assumed he must be a talented new comedian calling for what I thought was a street day or festival.  You have to understand, it was an honest mistake.  Any normal person who has heard of his proposal for reaching the poles with wind powered sledges ...and that slapstick routine on his roof.  I mean, seriously, I haven't seen anyone this funny since watching Jerry Lewis as a boy!"  Later he commented, "You know these mistakes wouldn't happen if French were the Lingua Franca."

The crowds in the capital city were noticeably saddened by the sudden cancelation of "Rue de Day."  One frowning street performer was quoted as saying, "..." as he released an imaginary balloon into the sky before waving goodbye and pretending to cry.

While "Rue de Day" may have been cancelled, Villain Fashion is the order of the day on the Paris runways as evidenced by Prada's latest offerings.  Spokeswoman Alessandra Ghezzi remarked, "Before now, styles have only allowed one to feel villainous.  This season a woman can feel super villainous!"

(Super Villain Inspired Prada Offering at Paris)

In related news, Hollywood insiders tell us that production companies are now in a race to be the first to release a film on Super Villain PJM.  "Everyone loves a bad boy and you don't get anyone badder than this," announced an excited studio exec.  Meanwhile Anthony Hopkins has reportedly turned down the PJM role at the same studio stating, "Playing Hannibal Lechter gave me nightmares for months.  I can't imagine what playing a real villain would be like!"  Casting agencies are reportedly working overtime to find anyone handsome enough to play the role of hero Nate Maas.

Back in the United States, Speaker Pelosi, announced plans to unveil the largest bailout to date to prop up America's nascent wind sledge industry.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Castro Approves

Fidel Castro said in a statement read on state television Tuesday that his health is good and he is in fine spirits after watching reports of newly revealed Super Villain PJM of West Texas.  "I have known PJM for a long time now, we have a good working relationship.  I'm glad the world knows about him, keeping his existence a secret was tough for me, I just kept referring to him with friends as 'El Gringo Gran.'  Most people don't know this, but without McWhorter cigar purchases, our economy would have collapsed long ago."  Castro continued, "I have watched with admiration his latest plan to rule the poles.  I've often dreamed about a partnership where I could rule the tropics and he could have the ends of the Earth!  I like to think that his Embargo idea, he got that from me."

Castro continued his uninterrupted talk with reporters for the next five hours on a variety of topics ranging from baseball to peafowl weaponization.  At one point, Castro seemed slightly wary of the now public Super Villain.  "No matter how much I may like the guy, he scares me.  Even Che had an off-switch.  I mean, I may have graves in my front yard, but who is so bold as to mark them with tombstones?  He is like the younger brother I've never had!"

Defense Minister Raúl Castro, who turned 79 in June, has for decades been the constitutional successor.  He did not appear on television and made no statement of his own.

Cuba has declared Wednesday to be "Rue the Day" Day, a national celebration in honor of PJM.  Government work centers summoned employees to participate in outdoor political gatherings to express support for the Super Villain.  Dozens of workers at one gathering waved small Cuban flags and shouted, "Long live Gringo Gran" and chanted "Pe-Jota-Eme!"

"There is no one else like him," said Ernesto Fernandez, 29, drinking rum at a cafe.  "I would join a polar expedition with PJM any day!"

In related news, weighing his words carefully on a fiery political issue, President Obama seemed to contradict his earlier statement in support of PJM by saying that while Super Villains have the right to build fortress lairs in West Texas, he did not say whether he believes it is a good idea to do so.  White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs, further clarified the President's position.  "Look, although some Americans may not like the idea of Super Villains living in America, we cannot prevent them from plotting to destroy the country - otherwise how could we have a Congress?"

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

World Reaction

The breaking news yesterday of North Korea's efforts to build their own super secret greenhouse did not go unnoticed by world leaders as the U.N. hastily convened an emergency session of the Security Council to decide the precise wording of a stern resolution that can then be vetoed by China and Russia.  The unexpected news also set off a chain of supportive rallies in the Gaza Strip, Pakistan, Syria, and Berkeley, California.

(a demonstration of support for North Korea in Quetta, Pakistan)

For his part, President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad of Iran has sent a diplomatic communique to Kim Jong Il asking how he might acquire his own PJM for "peaceful purposes."  Western analysts have long worried that if the latest reports of North Korea's supposed acquisition of greenhouse technology is true, it may become impossible to contain such technology to the Korean Peninsula.

In related news, an unsubstantiated Internet report cites the existence of an identical greenhouse spotted on Google Maps in Tom Green County, Texas.  Texas officials attempted to downplay the concerns that a new polygamist cult had taken root, stating that they had sent State Rangers to investigate the compound.  According to one Trooper on the scene, "When I arrived, neighbors outside the fence were pointing to an individual on his roof who was screaming at onlookers to join him on a polar expedition.  Frankly, I don't know what he expected to accomplish, after listening for a few minutes, only an idiot would journey to the pole with with wind turbine powered sledges, untrained crew members, and lead-lined food tins.  In my professional opinion, I believe he's a deluded Super Villain.  It's unfortunate, but this kind of thing happens from time-to-time out here."  Moments later, the Super Villain's daughter came out and spoke to reporters from inside the security fence: "I just want him better, but I'm scared ...that it may be something genetic!"  Personnel with the Texas Department of State Health Services were also present on scene.

As public pressure was mounting for Federal intervention, President Obama released the following statement, "Let me be clear, as a citizen and as President, I believe that Super Villains have every right to build lairs and compounds even in West Texas!"  Later in the same speech, the president suggested that if it was confirmed that a new Super Villain had arisen in Texas, he would plan on arranging a state visit for the purpose of bowing before the emergent leader.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Education Across the Globe

Today marks the first day of school in many places around the world.  I don't know how much you pay attention to news from other countries, but today began the first day of "glorious indoctrination and drill to the joy of our exalted leader" in North Korea.  The Korean Central News Agency of DPRK, released the following photo of a happy classroom in Pyongyang leaving a recently constructed greenhouse.

Western operatives have informed us that the class is currently studying Wind Turbine Technology, Pneumatics, DC and AC Circuit Design, as well as Semiconductor and Digital Physics.  Where the Hermit Kingdom acquired such knowledge has baffled western observers.  One unnamed source described the technological advances as progressing at a "Z-boom pace."

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Explorer Week

As you are probably aware, it is Explorer Week, over at the Super Villain's website.  Now I am not one to quash the adventurous spirit, but I'd like to raise the alarm here.  Every photo posted this week has belonged to an ill fated expedition, men whose final hours were dark, cold, and lonely.  I suppose that PJM may be trying to lure some of you into attempting spur of the moment jaunts into the frozen tundra equipped with light attire, untrained crews, or lead-lined food tins.  This is not the time of year to begin a polar expedition.  Remain alert and be prepared.  Super Villains should not be trusted.

This has been a public service announcement from he who opposes supper villainy (both real or imaginary).

Ask and Ye Shall Receive

I hope you had as much fun as I did yesterday.  It seems like our first Person-of-Mystery™ contest was a smashing success.  It was nice to see so many familiar faces and even a few new ones!  I'm still trying to figure out how PJM gets anything done while managing a blog.  I'm guessing it must be an army of henchmen housed in underground barracks.

Thanks for your patience while this website is being improved.  If you'll recall, one of the first posts to our website complained that we had no recipes (like some other websites).  Okay, if recipes you want, recipes you'll get.

Here's one my wife tried the other day for Baja Fish Tacos, provided by a friend of hers.  Now before I give it to you, I don't want to hear, "oh, this is a recipe from such-and-such."  It probably is.  As far as I know, it came from her friend Julie.

One final note, I understand there may be some rather discerning food critics among our readership.  I like good tasting food, but things that are easy to prepare.  Here's one that meets my criteria and one that our three rather picky boys all seemed to enjoy:

Baja Fish Tacos

2 T.  taco seasoning
1 T.  fresh lime juice
1 T.  fresh orange juice
1 lb.  mahi mahi, cut into bite-sized pieces
1 T.  canola oil
2 cups  shredded cabbage
1/2 cup  chopped green onion
1/2 cup  guacamole
1/2 cup  chopped cilantro
8  corn tortillas
8  lime weges

1.  Combine first 3 ingredients in a bowl.  Add fish and toss to coat.
2.  Heat oil in a large non-stick skillet over medium-high heat.  Add fish; sauté 5 minutes or until fish is done.
3.  Combine cabbage, green onion, guacamole and cilantro.
4.  Warm tortillas in a pan on high, one at a time.
5.  Spoon about 1/4 cup of the cabbage mixture down the center of a tortilla, top with fish and a squeeze of fresh lime.


Saturday, August 14, 2010


Today is Saturday, and this marks the launch of our Person-of-Mystery™ contest, where I post a picture and you have to try and figure out who it is.  I thought about starting easy, but figured that wouldn't be right and instead give you a relative unknown figure.  Good luck!

OPOD Reveal

Astrocrabpuff suggested that I reveal how I'm able to solve the Mystery Person contest on OPOD.  Being a history teacher, many of the posted photos look familiar, but today's was particularly so.  One of the magazines I like reading is Wired.  A few months ago, they had an article on the race to be the first to the South Pole and I remembered seeing the photo with the article.  I just did a quick Google search for "Wired race south pole."  The article was still there with the photo.

The Home Front

While we await the countdown to the inaugural Person-of-Mystery™ contest, and competitors contests, I was able to compose the following domestic update:

The other day, I told you I was in the process of painting shutters and I didn't want to leave you in the dark, so I figure I'll reveal more now.  As some of you know, I'm a school teacher.  Now I enjoy being a teacher, but there's one small problem with teaching - you earn a very small salary.  Normally, this doesn't bother me all that much, but from time-to-time, it catches up with you.  A few months ago, I noticed the paint on our house peeling.  Actually just the trim and the shutters.  We live in a neighborhood where we have salesmen come around regularly and ask you if you'd like to pay them to do jobs for you and painters are common.  Well, I got a couple quotes (for the shutters and the trim) and both were reasonable, but just a little beyond what we wanted to pay, so we decided to do it ourselves.  We figured we'd start with the shutters as you could actually see wood on some areas of the shutters.

Unfortunately for me, our front door is the same color as the shutters, so if we repaint the shutters, it becomes necessary to also paint the front door.  So to the hardware store we went and picked out a paint color.  After much indecision, we ended up with a color very close to what we already had, but even this was close to being ruined when the salesman unintentionally revealed that the color we had chosen was called "Desert Cactus."  For those single men in our audience who have jobs in paint naming business, I can tell you that few women want to buy something called "Desert Cactus."  They like to buy paints with nice names like "Periwinkle Bud."

The big day came and I removed the door, got it to the garage, and we gave it a first coat.  While it was drying, Mrs. Nate Maas helpfully informed me that while we were waiting for the paint to dry, if I could take down the shutters the boys could start stripping and sanding them.  I got the first one down and my oldest and son began working in the backyard.  My youngest son decided he didn't want to be left out, so I told him, he could work on the other one.

(youngest son where our door used to be)

At this point we returned to the garage to add a second coat.  Just after starting, I hear, "Uh oh, Dad come quick!"  Not a good sign.  Upon coming to the back yard, I discovered that our youngest son had discovered that shutters that have sat in the sun for a number of years come apart pretty easy.

All this commotion caused Mrs. Nate Maas to come to the back yard and give the shutters a closer look.  The shutters looked repairable to a male eye, but after this new inspection, it was determined that new shutters were needed.  But if we got new shutters, it was determined that vinyl shutters were needed.  And if we got new vinyl shutters we should probably add a second set to another window.  Now vinyl shutters come in many colors including something close to "Desert Cactus."  Although as I was ordering these online, I started thinking, hey, the reason we just painted the door was to match the shutters.  Now, we're going to need to paint the shutters that are already close to that color (maybe, keeping fingers crossed).  Bummer!

(the door being painted)

So finished up painting the door and put it back on the hinges, this morning when out to get the newspaper only to discover that the door was stuck closed (not too bad).

After all is said and done, I've got a door that's pretty close to what we had before, no shutters, trim still to paint, more work ahead, and we're about halfway through the money we would have paid the professional.  When all is said and done, I would have done little differently as I greatly enjoyed the time with my family.

There's got to be a lesson here somewhere!

Stay Tuned...

To my dedicated readers:  Today's Person-of-Mystery™ game will begin at 9 am Pacific time to allow those in the Western US time to play along.

Friday, August 13, 2010

On Imaginary Super Villains

I know many of my three readers where wondering if I was going to have a second post.  Of course.  I can't give up after only one day of blogging!  Many of you were probably worried after checking out the OPOD blog and seeing PJM's new post.  This is because he lives in the Midwest and I live in the Western United States.  So please don't expect posts until I can wake up and get these things posted (somehow evil never rests and I'm always playing catch-up).  Also, I'm discovering there's a bit of learning curve to this whole blogging thing.  Thanks for your patience.

Okay, so I find it humorous that so many of you (1), doubt the existence of PJM.  Make sure you vote in my poll.  And if you're looking for my home using Google Earth, I am a school teacher and I do not find it necessary to use an 8-foot high fence topped with razor wire or an electrified gate and I've never been pranked by my students.

But then again, I don't live in a Super Villain Fortress Lair. 

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Inaugural Post

Some of you may not know, but one of the blogs I follow, Old Photo of the Day, has recently become rather interesting. The owner of the blog, a certain Paul McWhorter (who goes by his initials, PJM) posts an interesting photo each day. On Saturdays, he runs a Mystery Person contest where he puts a picture up and people guess who it is. Well, this week, his blog poll is about whether I exist or not, so I've decided to take it up a notch and start my own blog. Can't really tell you if this will be a permanent thing (like my Facebook account) or more like the Twitter account that I've only used a couple times, but feel like I really shouldn't kill it. Is blogging my thing? Can't tell you. Right now, I feel a little bit like Dr. Phil, talking about feelings and getting my start on the coat-tails of another. But I guess this all begs the question if I even exist!