Monday, March 29, 2010

Are You Up for the Challenge?

On All Things Considered on NPR on Sunday, they talked about a contest that is currently running. It's called "Three Minute Fiction" and it's now in the fourth round. The rules are to use the four words they list (in any of the possible forms - verb, noun, adjective) and the story needs to be read in three minutes. Since it has to be read in three minutes, they say to limit it to 600 words or less. The four words this week are:

Here's a link for more information:

Are you up for it?

Sunday, March 28, 2010

The Flip Side

I had some issues with my iPod today and had to contact Apple customer service about it. I figured I would leave a message, they would call me back at their convenience, not mine, and I would be playing phone tag until I gave up.

Instead, I went to the website, answered some quick questions about my problem, clicked on the button that said I wanted to be contacted immediately, and waited. For a second. I'm not kidding, about a second after I clicked the button, our home phone rang. When I answered it, the computerized voice said, "An Apple representative will be with you shortly." The cynic in me immediately thought, here we go with the waiting. Now I'll probably have to keep pressing buttons until I give up. The cynic in me only had a second to think about it, though. The next second I heard a live person asking if he had Kelly on the phone and confirmed what my problem was.

When the easiest solution became downloading 1/2 of my library of 600+ songs again, he said he would wait to see if we could catch the culprit that caused my problem in the first place. He would wait? And I wasn't being charged for him to wait? In the time that I was called, to the time he was done, Stein went and took a shower, and was back downstairs. And the whole time we waited for the computer to do its thing we talked about music and computers. It wasn't creepy; he wasn't asking me where I lived or what I did for a living. We just talked about the various artists that were in my library (John Denver started the whole conversation on a funny note - no pun intended), and some of the bands that he worked for as a sound technician.

I found the whole experience to be helpful and refreshing. So different than the crazy customer service experience with the hotel. My belief in good customer service has been restored. Now if only I remembered his name, I could write a positive letter this time.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Mrs. Owl

Check out this website:

It's a female owl in a box that people have in their backyard in California. There is a camera that sends a live video of the activity in the box. They named the female owl Molly, and the male's name is McGee. One of the eggs hatched, but there are more that are ready to hatch any day. Right now when I checked the site, she was feeding her baby.

We're kind of hooked on watching her. I walked into the office the other day, and I heard the sound of McGee. I said to the secretary, "Are you watching the owls?" She had such a surprised look on her face, and then laughed. Busted!

Sunday, March 21, 2010

My Daily City: Population 26

My classroom is like a mini-city. With all of the personalities, I find that there's a job for everyone. For some reason I am very cognizant of the personalities in this class. I think it may have to do with not having to worry every minute about classroom management, and having more time for observation.

In my class, the personalities run the gambit, but for the most part everyone gets along. Most of the personalities are complementary. We all have our moments, though. Just like a big family, there are bound to be quibbles or spats or disagreements.

In our city of 26, oftentimes the mayor is not me. I have a couple mayors who try to tell me what needs to be done in the city. Just the other day, one of the mayors said to me, "Mrs. Steinhauer, will you please get someone in here to vacuum the rug? There are lots of scraps of paper around." The timekeepers also keep me on my toes. If we are more than 2 minutes behind on the schedule, they let me know. One of the timekeepers says to me, "Running a little behind?" Another one just reminds me of the time.

I have many lawyers in the city who seem to come out of the woodwork when they find it selfishly appropriate. Fairness, equality, and justice are their specialties. They're not afraid to voice their opinions or use tears to try to get their point across. Their defense sometimes has some backing, but oftentimes it is unfounded.

There are many entertainers in the city. The comedians help us all laugh at some of the silly things that happen to us. They also help me to remember to laugh at myself, and keep things light. After all, it is a young population, and life doesn't need to be taken too seriously. The other entertainers are musicians, singers, and dancers. Some of the acts they perform take place in the hallways, in the class, or on the playground. Sometimes they want an audience, but most of the time they seem to be entertaining themselves. There are also a handful of social organizers who live for parties and socializing with friends.

Some of my favorite people in the city are the philosophers and dreamers. I see the far-off looks on faces and think that they're not paying attention. But when they raise their hands to make a connection or tell me a related story, I realize that they're just deep thinkers.

The artists, custodians, and organizers help to keep our city beautiful and clean. The nurses take care of everyone and are sure to ask the right questions when someone is hurt. They also like to accompany any patient who needs to journey outside of the city to the office for ice or to call a parent.

You are more than welcome to visit our city. I'm sure you would fit right in.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010


If you follow me on facebook, or if you read my post about my trip out west recently, you know that it wasn't such a travel dream getting there. I have been trying to recoup spent money and it's like a part-time job. One day I was faxing and emailing and sorting through receipts for a good two hours or so. Not what I want to do with my free time, but you really have to keep up with it.

As part of this "project" I also wrote to the customer service people for the hotel that made me wait in the cold for two hours for the shuttle that never came. First I got a response from the corporate website saying that the General Manager of the hotel had a week and a half to respond to me. Then, when the GM wrote to me (5 days later - he was early!). Here's the letter he sent (keep in mind I did not change any of this letter):

Dear Kelly Steinhauer:

I would like to apologize for the shuttle service you encountered on February 20th . I would like to asure you that I have shared your comments with our Desk and Shuttle departments along with the General Manager of the Hampton Inn in order to examine the problem that occured that evening and to make make changes if needed in order that no future guest will wait a extended amount of time to catch one of our shuttles.

On that evening we were running one shuttle for the two hotels and usually that staffing is able to handle the demand of the airport we were not prepared for the amount of distress passenagers we encountered that evening. The shuttle was dispatched to pick up distress guests at the airport and the problem was two airlines had cancel fights at the same time and we brought back approx 40 people in a two hour time frame and for that level of activity we needed to have more shuttles running.

Please know that problems like this are rare as we communicate with the airport on a nightly basis and when the airport informs us of the amount of distress they will be sending us we make schedule changes to have the proper amount of shuttle service.

I will be sending you a certificate for a complmentary night next time your plans bring you into Denver .


I do apologize for the inconveince that we caused you that evening.

I have removed his name to protect him from embarrassment should he ever google his name and find this post. But seriously, how could you write a letter riddled with grammatical and spelling mistakes? Surely, all he needed to do was click on the spell-check button. I'll let the grammatical errors slide. I guess.

I didn't stop there. I called the customer service number and complained again. They were very rude to me and couldn't understand why a certificate for a free night at a hotel in Denver was unacceptable. I tried to explain that I was diverted there, that I don't intend on going back to stay in Denver.

Yesterday I got this letter from the GM (again, nothing has been changed):
Dear Kelly Steinhauer:

I sent out a free night gift certificate today that you may use on your next trip to Denver , This should arrive in the mail this in the next few days.

Again I do apolgize for the inconvience you encountered with our shuttle service on your last trip. You were not charged during your last trip by the Baymont Inn & Suites and I am able to offer you this free night for your next stay in Denver.

After all of this hullabaloo I have realized that the customer service policy we had at Einstein's was a really good one. Customers had to receive a response within 24 hours of their complaint. And I know it sounds like a really modern space odyssey kind of a thing, but we actually used the spell check function on our computers.

Imagine that.

Monday, March 8, 2010

The Light

As much as I start hoping and waiting for it to start sometime in November, it always takes me by surprise. Somewhere at the end of January or maybe sometime in February, I notice that it's staying lighter later. Then I notice a shift of the time the sun is up when I get ready for school in the morning. My class has been tracking the hours of sunlight and have been making graphs too. But even though I know all of this and the science behind it, it just feels good. Having more light around is a pleasant, welcome surprise.

This weekend was beautiful, with sunshine everyday and temperatures above 40 degrees. I can't get enough of the sunshine. I found myself more than a few times, staring out the window at it. It's like I've never seen it before. And yes, I know that we could get snow at any moment, but I feel like we're past the point of caring too much about it.

My classroom faces east, just like my classroom did 2 years ago. But this year it's different. As I get ready in the morning, moving around my room and doing my morning routine, the sun is there with me. Two years ago, I held on to that morning sun just to get me through. Minute by minute, it seemed, with a hope for longer days and warmer weather, and eventually summer. Now the sun is a part of my routine, but I don't need it in that desperate sense like I needed it before.

Saturday, March 6, 2010

In the neverending quest to find recipes that are easy, yummy, and can last for a couple days as leftovers, I stumbled on this one that was in our paper. It fit all of the requirements and then some. If you like pulled pork, give this recipe a try. You don't even need the additional barbecue sauce. The sauce that you make is just fine. We had ours on kaiser rolls with cole slaw (of course on the sandwich). If you need a quick cole slaw to make, just grab a bag of cole slaw and mix it with Marie's cole slaw dressing (thanks Kris!).
Pulled Pork
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1/4 cup red wine vinegar
1/2 cup firmly packed dark brown sugar
1/2 cup soy sauce
2 cups ketchup
1 teaspoon garlic powder or garlic salt
1 large onion, coarsely chopped
2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
5-pound boneless pork shoulder roast, fat trimmed
Barbecue sauce for serving
In a mixing bowl, whisk the oil, vinegar, brown sugar, soy sauce, ketchup, garlic powder, onion and Worcestershire sauce together. Pour into a large zipper-top plastic bag. Place the pork in the bag with the marinade, seal the bag and turn the pork to coat. Refrigerate overnight, turning the bag once or twice.
Pour the entire contents of the bag into the insert of a 5- to 7-quart slow cooker. Cover and cook on low for 10 hours, until the pork is fork tender. Remove from the slow cooker, cover with foil and let rest for 15 minutes. Meanwhile, skim off any fat from the sauce.
Using two forks, shred the meat, then return it to the sauce. At this point, the pork may be refrigerated for up to 5 days or frozen for up to 2 months. Serve warm, with additional barbecue sauce.