Monthly Archives: August 2007

Joining Club 29

Cortland the Cake!On Wednesday, I turned 29 years old and had the best birthday of my entire life. Throughout the day, I got little birthday greetings from people like Sarah, a bunch of my fellow Cornstalkers, and Vivian, of course. For lunch, I had pizza with my brother and opened a couple presents (Sliders Season 3 and Brazil on DVD! Woot!) He actually bought two pizzas, but we could barely finish one, so I took the second back to work and let the girls at the office enjoy it. They deserved some pizza this week.

After work, I drove to Omaha to have a party at Vivian’s place. She went all out, serving up salad with all my favorite ingredients, cornbread muffins, and barbecued meatballs for dinner. I also got a special Cortland cake from Viv’s mom, which was absolutely amazing! She did such an amazing job turning Cortland into a cake, I couldn’t believe it!

Caricature by Dan Wondra!After the cake, it was time to open presents. I have some darn generous friends, and I made out like a bandit: I got an iPod car adapter, a case for a cell-phone, a t-shirt and a cute little wooden sculpture from Viv. I got a $20 gift card to the Apple store from Ben (How did he know?) and an amazing caricature of myself from the ever-talented Dan Wondra. Viv’s mom also brought by a bag full of all kinds of food items, from asparagus to plums to some licorice candies. In addition to the cards I got, I could barely haul it all out to my car when I was done.

After presents, we all went off to Dave and Busters to finish the day off right my playing games and collecting a couple hundred tickets. I left them on my card to redeem some other time when we drop by. They didn’t have karaoke tonight, so I know I’ll be back.

Today, I got the rest of my presents in the mail from Mom and Dad. I got audio book versions of Getting Things Done by David Allen and It’s All Too Much by Peter Walsh. I’ve been getting on a serious organization kick recently, and these things will make for wonderful listening for my iPod. I also got a hardback copy of the 4-Hour Workweek by Timothy Ferriss, a book that was highly-recommended to me as a partially self-employed graphic designer. I can’t wait to read it and see how far down I can whittle this work week of mine.

This was the best birthday ever! Thank you guys SO much for making me feel so special, especially you, Vivian. You make me feel special 365 days a year. All I need now is a sticker.

Cowtown Jamborama

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Last weekend, the Omaha Jitterbugs held their fifth annual swing dance weekend of social dancing, contests, and workshops called Cowtown Jamborama. It was my first time attending this event, and I was sure to get my full weekend pass early and took Friday off so I could take advantage of the three days of classes and dancing the event offered. The cow was looking just a little taller than usual on Friday afternoon as he did some tandem charleston with Merinda, and Eric participated in the Jack and Jill competition along with a number of other local favorites.

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The weekend of classes were pretty intense as well, and I was able to attend nearly every class I wanted throughout the weekend. I was able to take classes in Charleston, a sweet over-the-shoulder arial, Tandem Charleston, a few dips, Balboa, 50s Style Swing, Bop, some of Frankie Manning’s Lindy Hop moves, and a number of others. My feet were killing me at the end, of course, but it was all worth it. I and a number of other Jitterbugs were taking notes in-between classes to try and remember some of what we’d learned over the weekend, and I was also able to capture some video of the lessons for future reference. They apparently won’t be offering an instructional DVD this year, but I will be putting all my video up on YouTube if any of you would like to see what we went over.

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Every night we had a social dance that often went late into the “after hours” portion back at the hotel. We danced to some crazy tunes around 4 AM, and it was a thrill to do Tandem Charleston with Merinda during the chorus of Superfreak. They even played Love Shack, a favorite song of mine that I had to dance with Vivian, of course.

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On Sunday night came the annual Corn-Eating contest, where contestants can try to win the honor and respect of their swing-dancing peers by devouring as many golden ears as they can in eight minutes without throwing up. The ears had to be 90% clean to count, and you can have ears taken off if you let the kernels fall to the floor rather than eating them. This was Vivian’s third year participating and it was my first, so I was a little nervous about the prospect of entering such a contest.

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And guess who won? I was somehow able to take first place by devouring 22 ears of corn, and Viv took third! I owe my success it all to my capacious stomach and Vivian’s coaching before the contest. We both walked away with adorable plush cows as our trophies. It was quite flattering (and somewhat embarrassing) to receive congratulations on all sides for winning this thing. Our friend Micah knew I could do it all along, and even bet a guy from Minnesota a quarter that I could take first place.

IMG_3580.JPG Matt and Micah dance! IMG_3579.JPG IMG_3592.JPG IMG_3588.JPG

Afterwards, it was time for the birthday jam! Several of us had birthdays this week, including Ben, so we all jumped onto the floor and got to dance with a number of lovely ladies.

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Afterwards, we had some quick lessons in fun, goofy dances from the 1960s, and then we had a twist contest for anybody who wanted to cut a rug on the floor. Afterwards, Eric got to do a little Balboa with my big plush cow. I think I’m going to need to wash that thing when I get home.

Niobrara Trip

August has been one huge, fun-filled month for me, with some big event happening nearly every weekend. On August 17, I had a three-day weekend and went camping for the very first time with Vivian and a bunch of our friends from Terra Nova.

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Our first task was to figure out how to get up to the campsite. We drove up to the Rocky Ford campgrounds near Valentine, Nebraska, and some of thought taking I-80 would be a bit of a long way to get there. It was a five or six hour trip total, and we got to pass the time by doing some karaoke with the small CB radios we carried to talk to each other on the drive.

We arrived at the campsite, we had to keep moving to get our tents all set up before the sun went down. The girls had to argue first, of course, about whether their door should face the campfire or the river.

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After setting up our tents, Corey and Ted waded across the river to bring back some logs for firewood. We started cooking our dinner, using both dry wood and charcoal to cook some hamburgers and roast a few marshmallows afterwards.

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When the sun went down, Corey and Jon decided to have a prolonged wrestling match in the dark, with shirts slipping off midway making for all kinds of wrong.

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The next morning we got up early and walked down to the canoes to get a bus ride up the river for a trip down the Niobrara. I hadn’t paddled a canoe since I was around eight or nine and took a trip with my dad and cousins years ago.

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The weather was just perfect that morning, cool and not too cloudy either. The previous day had been overcast the entire time, so it was wonderful to see blue skies and sunshine all day long.

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We stopped at a small park along the river to have lunch near Smith Falls, and then we took a quick walk up the path to see the tallest waterfall in Nebraska. The water was still pretty cold, but that didn’t keep most of us from getting a quick shower underneath the icy torrents for as many seconds as we could stand. I should have brought my shampoo and body wash, since the water wasn’t much colder than the showers we had back at the campsite.

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Further down the river, we stopped at “Jumping Off Point,” a small part of the river where the floor goes from an inch or two deep to around seven or eight feet, making it the perfect spot to wade out and them jump off into the strong current and pulled down the river. We also had an impromptu mud fight and a rinse off in the small waterfall around the bend. Sitting in the rushing waters was like having your own personal hot tub, only much cooler.


The next day, we packed up our campsite and headed out for home. First, though, we stopped by Snake Falls, the widest waterfall in Nebraska. We had to climb carefully down a steep and winding pathway to get to the river, and we also had to watch for rattlesnakes as a nearby signed warned us. There was a narrow path behind the waterfall where we could walk, and plenty of conveniently-placed stepping stones to get from one side to the other.

All-in-all, it was a great weekend. I’d never been camping before, and I think this was the best introduction to “roughing it” that I could find. I drove Vivian a little nuts by bringing my iPod Nano and other little bits of civilization along with me, but how else could we enjoy karaoke together in the car on the drive up?

Wedding in Cedar Rapids


Vivian and I spent the weekend in Cedar Rapids to attend my cousin Elizabeth’s wedding. I got to introduce Vivian to a huge chunk of my extended family, many of whom I haven’t seen in years. The ceremony was very small and informal, and afterwards we had some refreshments that included loads of great Brazilian food. I wish I could have sent my mom a bottle of Guarana.

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IMG_2722.JPGArlan and BenjaminIMG_2770.JPGTom & Barb

I also took plenty of pictures, of course, as the family had fun together singing karaoke and visiting at Mary Ellen’s after the wedding. We also gathered at the Beckman house to celebrate Shannon’s birthday and play with their new cocker spaniel, Freckles “Gucci Gucci Goo” Beckman (the middle name picked by Shannon, spelled by me).


On the way home Vivian and I stopped by the Machine Shed restaurant in Des Moines for a dinner that included a whole lot of Iowa pork and corn on the cob that Viv told me I ate much too slowly. Viv also had an insatiable craving for root beer floats afterwards when she spotted a sign for an A&W farther down the road on I-80.

We drove through a storm just west of Des Moines and were treated to the most gorgeous golden sunset I’ve ever seen before. It was like a little treat God had waiting for us at the end of our journey.

Video from the weekend

Big Campers and Black Bean Chili

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I’ve been having some fun in Lincoln this week for a change. On Thursday, I got to check out some enormous RVs for a project we’ve been doing on at work. I got to shoot Allison trying out an air mattress to show postural support, but mostly we simply gawked at these luxurious monstrosities on wheels. These things were absolutely huge, with all the amenities you’d expect to find in a nice home: living rooms with foldaway couches, plasma TVs, giant bedroom areas with ceiling fans and beside radios, and all sorts of extras that Allison and me drooling. Most of these “vehicles” cost more than most homes here in Lincoln, and I could certain see myself traveling across the country and living it up in one of these things.

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That evening, Viv drove down to Lincoln and made me some delicious black bean chili and cornbread for a romantic dinner together. Afterwards (at least one hour, of course) we went swimming down at the clubhouse pool until they kicked us out. Then returned home to watch some of my goofy home movies.


The next day, I got together with a bunch of my bible study friends from Northpointe to say goodbye to Amy, who’s moving to Michigan to pursue her Master’s Degree at Michigan State. (Yes, you guys, I actually do have friends in Lincoln, too!) Thursday was Dairy Queen’s “Miracle Treat Day,” and they donated all proceeds from every Blizzard sold to the Children’s Miracle Network. It was a good excuse to get together and pig out on ice cream, “for the children” of course.

Summer in Vegas: Part 3


I’ve kept myself quite busy during the last couple of days in Las Vegas. I’ve gotten more than my share done in walking up and down the strip, taking time to check out the fountains at the Bellagio and snap pictures of some of the interesting characters I saw on the strip along the way. On Friday I took the Deuce downtown to check out the Fremont Street light show, which was quite enjoyable. I was actually able to see two shows while I was there, both before and after a steak, shrimp, and sushi buffet at the Fremont.

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I’ve managed to find time to do actual work, too, however. My responsibility on Friday and Saturday was to pack up our things from the trade show and get it all on a palette to have hauled out of here.

IMG_2523.JPG Chowing down at Inn-n-Out

Saturday afternoon, I treated myself to lunch at Inn-n-Out burger, which was a convenient fifteen minute walk from the Monté Carlo. The place was packed, and I was amazed at how a simple burger and fried restaurant could be “standing room only” when i arrived. Anyone who eats here knows why, though. Everything is made fresh, and you could see them cutting down actual potatoes for the french fries. I ate them with ketchup, of course, the way all normal people do. I was able to chill a while and catch up on my reading before the flight back home.

And here the sun sets over Vegas for the last time for me this year.
Goodbye, Sin City! I’ll see you again in January.

Summer in Vegas: Part 2

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The fun never stops here in Las Vegas. For the last couple of days, I’ve been exploring the World Market Center, learning a lot about furniture and gorging on free food and beverages. They had a kickoff Monday night with shrimp, chips and salsa, jalapeño poppers, and other junk food that made me glad I spent the entire day walking it off. They were also making up free margaritas and strawberry daquiris, which the rest of the sales team appreciated when I brought them by the pavilion.

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The boss came by on Wednesday, and we took a limo over to the Renaissance Hotel to have dinner at Envy, a swank little steakhouse. It’s been quite a posh week to say the least, and it isn’t quite over yet.

IMG_2372.JPGThis picture is for you, Viv.