James Jones - General Information

Contact Information

Title James Jones

Professor of Mathematics

Office

C223 - located with the Business and Technology Division. In case you've been here for a while and don't recognize the name, the division was previously known as the Occupational and Technical Division, before that known as the Occupational & Technical Career Programs West (OTCPW), and prior to that as the Industrial Technology & Mathematics Division. It is at the north end of the upstairs center hallway.

Phone

Web Address

http://people.richland.edu/james/

Email Address

james@richland.edu

Teaching Schedule and Office Hours

I am in class or my office during these times. You might try to catch me before, after, or between classes if you can't find me in my office. All of my classes are in room S137. My office hour is often spent in the classroom helping students with their projects, so if I'm not in my office, try S137.

Mon Tue Wed Thu Fri
Math 113 - 01
10:30 - 11:40
  Math 113 - 01
10:30 - 11:40
  Math 113 - 01
10:30 - 11:40
Office Hour
12:00 - 12:50
  Office Hour
12:00 - 12:50
  Office Hour
12:00 - 12:50
Math 113 - 02
1:00 - 2:10
  Math 113 - 02
1:00 - 2:10
  Math 113 - 02
1:00 - 2:10
Math 230 - 01
2:30 - 3:40
  Math 230 - 01
2:30 - 3:40
  Math 230 - 01
2:30 - 3:40
Office Hour
4:30 - 5:20
  Office Hour
4:30 - 5:20
   
Math 160 - 01
5:30 - 7:20
  Math 160 - 01
5:30 - 7:20
   

Education / Experience

Associates Degree

I graduated Richland Community College with an A.S. degree with a Mathematics concentration. Yes, that's a right, I'm a product of the institution I went to school at. None of my math professors are here anymore, but we've got a new group of dedicated faculty.

I went to Richland on a JETS-TEAMS scholarship after winning the mathematics competition. It's now called WYSE and if you're a high school student who gets a chance to participate in their academic challenge, please do. The 2008 challenge was held at Richland on February 6. Tests can be taken in mathematics, English, chemistry, physics, engineering graphics, and computer science. You get a chance at winning a year's worth of tuition.

Bachelors Degree

I then went to Eastern Illinois University where I received a B.A. in Mathematics with the Teacher Certification option. I had planned on teaching high school mathematics. That was until I student taught at Stephen Decatur High School. It was a big shock for me since I had grown up in a small school district.

Immediately after receiving my B.A., I joined the Richland staff as the Study Assistance Center Coordinator and an Adjunct Mathematics Faculty.

Masters Degree

I held the positon of part-time mathematics faculty and Study Assistance Center Coordinator for three years and continued my education at Sangamon State University. I became a conditional full-time Mathematics Instructor in August 1992 pending the completion of my Master's degree. I received my M.A. in Mathematical Sciences from Sangamon State University in May 1993. Soon after my graduation, they shut down the upper level mathematics program at Sangamon State University. Sangamon State University has been absorbed into the University of Illinois system and is now known as the University of Illinois at Springfield.

Rank

I received tenure at Richland in 1995. I received a promotion to Assistant Professor of Mathematics in the Spring 1996 semester. I was promoted to Associate Professor of Mathematics in the Spring 2000 semester. I became a full Professor of Mathematics in the Spring 2003 semester.

Additional Courses

I took a class in statistical computing at the University of Illinois, Springfield, in the summer of 1999. This course taught SPSS and SAS.

In May 2001, I attended an ICTCM short course on using the web in mathematics on the campus of Texas A&M University in College Station, TX. I attended another ICTCM short course on using multimedia in mathematics in May 2002 in Phoenix, AZ. I attended a third ICTCM short course on Assessment and Real World Applications of Mathematics in August 2004 in Providence, RI. In May, 2006, I attended a fourth short course on Teaching with Technology in Salt Lake City, UT. Each of these courses required a project that I have incorporated into my classroom teaching.

Professional

I wear two hats at Richland. I am a full-time professor of mathematics and have an extra duty assignment of the Internet. I have divided my professional accomplishments by the hat I'm wearing.

Professor of Mathematics

I am a member of the Illinois Mathematics Association of Community Colleges (IMACC) where I maintain the web pages for the organization.

I am a member of the International Conference on Technology in Collegiate Mathematics (ICTCM) and attend their short course conferences when opportunity allows. I attended the annual meeting in 2003 and 2006.

For several years I served on the technology advisory committee for the Maroa-Forsyth school district. They either haven't met in a couple of years or they stopped inviting me to the meetings, so I'm assuming that my tour of duty on that committee is over.

I have served the college as both a leader and member on several committees, task forces, search committees, and continuous improvement process (CIP) teams. I have been trained as a trainer for the CIP teams. Currently, I have managed to whittle the committee work down to just being a member of the Placement Standards Taskforce.

I was selected by the students as the Faculty Speaker for the 2004 Richland Commencement ceremony. I talked on how mathematics is like life as both require you to look at the big picture and maintain balance. If you were there, I'm sure you remember the stress-relieving yell at the beginning of the speech.

I was selected as the Outstanding Faculty Member of the Year in 2005. Luckily, there was no speech required with this honor, but I did get to read the names of students at graduation.

Internet Systems Specialist

I have the extra duty assignment as the Internet Systems Specialist for the College. Among other things, this means I am responsible for keeping the Internet up and going at Richland. I'm not responsible for the web pages anymore, but I am working behind the scenes to provide technical support.

Since January 2005, I have been working on a single sign-on (SSO) solution for the students at Richland. When I started, you had a login and password for your email, a different one for WebCT, a third for WISE1, one to access the network resources, and possibly another if you accessed protected web pages for your instructor. The goal of this project is to combine all those of those accounts into a single account with a single password.

We went live with the single sign-on in January 2006. It wasn't quite ready but a bug in a new version of the software forced us into using it. We're still not done with it, but not much more has been done during the spring semester as teaching has taken precedent.

Personal

Physical

Height is 186.69 cm if I stand up straight, but call myself 185.42 cm since I never stand up straight. In August 1999, I went to the doctor's office for a physical. Rather than measuring my height, the nurse simply asked how tall I was (as a statistics instructor, this method of data collection really bothered me). Soon after that, I had a body composition test performed where our fitness instructor was kind enough to guesstimate my height. He said it was the height I've been claiming (even down to the 1/2" I throw in), so I feel better knowing that I haven't been misrepresenting my height for all these years.

Weight on 1/28/2001 I used to say that my mass was about 83.01 kg, but I didn't have any scales to verify that. But, I finally broke down and bought scales so that I could weigh my garage door. Feeling that buying scales just to weigh the garage door was a waste of money (how often does the weight of the garage door fluctuate?), I decided to weigh myself. When I first stepped on them, it came in at 240 lbs. I yelled "No Way!" (literally) as I had never been above 200 lbs in my life1. Then I took the scales off the plush carpet and into the bathroom where the floor is tiled and was much more comfortable with the reading. Still not entirely happy, as it now read 86.36 kg, but much happier than when it read 240 lbs. My weight had gone up considerably since the picture, but it was actually back around that value for fall 2005 and again in December 2007. I leave this photo out there as a reminder of my glory days and I don't have those scales anymore to take another photo. In the spring 2009, the weight shot back up to around 100 kg. By May 2009, in the middle of my travels out West, my ankles had swollen to the point where you really couldn't tell I had any.

My weight actually got as high as 107 kg and my ankles remained unseen, but then I went to the doctor in August 2009 when I got back from the Dominican Republic. He told me to drink more water, give up the soda (ouch), cut out the salt, and take half my meal home with me whenever I ate out. After some lab work, I found out I did not have prostate problems, but I had a high "fasting glucose" level. Anyway, within the first week of following the doctor's advice, I had dropped 2.5 kgs and I had my ankles back. At the start of school in August 2009, I was down to about 102 kg. This is just barely below the obese range as defined by your Body Mass Index (BMI). I need to lose another 15 kg to get back down to the "normal" range. When the doctor said, "you should be about 175 lbs", we just laughed. I would have to do some serious exercise to get that low.

Eye color is blue, when not red from lack of sleep. I used to wear glasses, but I had the lasik eye surgery performed in August 2001. My eyesight is now 20/20 with some astigmatism in the left eye. With the glasses, my eyesight was 20/15, so things are actually a little bit blurrier than they used to be, but at least I can see when I get up in the morning.

As for general health, I had a complete physical including lab work and a body composition test performed during the fall of 1999. I came in at 18% body fat. For males my age and height, 13-19% is normal, so I guess that's a good thing. Actually, all of the results from all of the tests came back without any problems, so I'm in better shape than I thought I was.

10 years later, in 2009, the health is not as good. I had a cough all winter long that we couldn't get rid of and did extensive testing and it finally cleared up on its own in the spring. I did learn that I don't have asthma, though. I experienced weight gain in the spring and added 25 pounds. From May through July, my ankles were swollen to the point that they had disappeared. I finally had enough of that and went to the doctor in August. He told me to cut out the salt, give up soda, and eat half as much as I normally do when I go out to a restaurant. Amazingly, the next day, the ankles were back. The blood tests they did came back as my fasting blood sugar level being high. The last part of the prescription was exercise; for some reason, I still find that the hardest to do.

Personality

Relaxing on the sand dunes My temperament used to be melancholy with about equal parts of phlegmatic and choleric, but very little sanguine. Over the last several years, the choleric has diminished and the phlegmatic become more dominant. So, at this time, I would have to say I'm a mel-phleg borderline phleg-mel. Generally, that means that I am analytical, self-sacrificing, gifted, calm, easy going, and rarely angered (that last one is not a challenge). The photo is of me relaxing on Mt. Baldy, a sand dune at the Indiana Dunes.

I like to think that I have a sense of humor. I do know that you need to be able to laugh at yourself so that when other people laugh with you, it really is with instead of at. I try to convey this attitude in class and keep things light. Hey, people have enough anxiety about mathematics anyway without making it boring and stressful to boot.

My Myers-Briggs Type Indicator is ISTP - Introversion, Sensing, Thinking, Perception. Internally, I tend to be ISTJ (Judgment). I scored a 0 on the feeling aspect of the indicator. I used to be kind of proud of that, but not anymore. A score of 0 means that I prefer to think rather than feel, it doesn't mean that I don't feel. However, from June 2001 (or maybe before) until December 2003, I didn't allow myself to feel. I kept myself busy with work so that I wouldn't have to deal with things. That has changed and now I'm ready to feel and love again. If I can give any advice to people in similar circumstances, it would be to allow yourself to be complete and not try to shut out parts of who you are.

In April 2004, I took the Keirsey Temperament Sorter II, which is a lot like the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator. On this shorter version (only 70 questions), my preferences were ISTX (X meaning a tie between the two). The nice thing about this is that now, after five months of allowing myself to feel again, I did mark 20% of the questions indicating a feeling preference instead of 0% as before. That just makes me feel good.

Since many people ask what these letters stand for, here is a little more information. First of all, realize that these are continuums and very few people completely exhibit one preference over the other.

I've taken a couple of spiritual gifts inventories. In 1997, I scored highest in exhortation, helps, and leadership, followed closely by administration, hospitality, prophecy, and service. In 2000, I scored highest in leadership, helps, teaching, wisdom, exhortation, giving, and knowledge. We won't go into what I scored lowest on ... suffice it to say that one can't be gifted at all things.

Interests

Piano

Give the World a Smile I like to play the piano. Actually, I would like to be able to play the piano correctly - as opposed to as hard and as fast as I can. The picture to the right is of me playing "Give the World a Smile", my mom's favorite song. There's no audio, but it sounds better that way as the piano is out of tune.

I taught myself to play the piano when I was growing up on church hymns and children's songs. Every now and then mom would provide advice like "I think you should hit a black note there." I tried taking the second semester of introduction to piano (without having the first) in the summer 1995, but I fear it messed me up more than it helped.

Sports and Recreation

I like to play softball and other sports, but am not much for watching. Several years ago a student challenged me to a game of tennis. She had practiced and knew what she was doing, I had not. I'm not allowed to tell who won the game. While Decatur held the Community Challenge, I would play with Richland's softball team. I always sign up for other sports but end up hurting myself sliding or tripping during softball and can't play. We never win, but it's not about winning, it's about having fun. I played coed volleyball in the fall of 2006, but a treatment for a previous shoulder injury caused me to stop before the season was over. Some physical therapy relieved most of the pain.

I played a lot of water volleyball on vacation in May 2008 and the shoulder pain came back, but it was still a lot of fun.

I enjoy playing board games with friends, but don't do enough of it. I have a large collection of board and party games that fills a cabinet and a good chunk of a closet. There are probably 60+ games in my collection.

Reading

I am trying to read more, but it takes me a while to get through a book. Maybe if I read fiction instead of people's doctoral dissertations it would go faster. I have read several books by John Shelby Spong and Marcus Borg. As a comparison of fiction to doctoral disserations, I read The Da Vinci Code in two days, so maybe fiction is a faster read than fact. A very interesting book I finished in 2005 was History: Fiction or Science by a Russian mathematician who sets out to prove that the whole chronology of events that we know is wrong and nothing before about 1000 years ago can be trusted. I finished volume 2 (it is a 7 volume chronology) although it took much of January and February 2006 to make it through the book. Volume 3 took from January through June 2008 to stumble through (astrology and astronomy aren't really my thing). Volume 4 only took parts of three months to finish and covered some things I'd heard of before although much of it was about Russian history.

As a senior in high school, reading and analyzing John Milton's Paradise Lost left me with a very sour taste for reading. Since then, most of what I had read was reference materials and non-fiction religious books. I read Dan Brown's books in the fall of 2004, but then became busy working on the single sign-on during the spring of 2005. During the summer of 2005, desperately needing a break and something to do to relax, I discovered that there was a name for the kind of book I enjoy, techno-thrillers, and went on a reading binge.

Here are some of the books I've read since then. This is not an endorsement, just an acknowledgement.

I am currently reading Dale Brown's Rogue Forces.

Travel

James Jones at Niagara FallsI like to travel and have been to all 50 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, Canada (Ontario and British Columbia), St. Martin, and the Dominican Republic since March 2001.

The caricature at the top of the page was done in May 2001 at Six Flags in Arlington, TX. It was done two days before another caricature at the St. Louis Six Flags that, at the time, actually looked more like me. They both hang on my wall at home and people say, "the person on the left (the photo above) is you, but who is the one on the right?" That was the year I began my travels and ended up visiting Six Flags in Louisville, Houston, San Antonio, Arlington, St. Louis (twice), and Chicago, as well as Cedar Point in Sandusky, OH, and Worlds of Fun, in Kansas City, KC. I only visited Universal Studio's Islands of Adventure in 2002 and then had several years without visiting any amusement parks. In September 2007, I took advantage of a long weekend and visited King's Island, Geauga Lake, and Cedar Point, all in Ohio. Geauga Lake closed at the end of the 2007 season, so I managed to get there just in time, although I didn't know that at the time.

Spring 2002 took me out west to Phoenix for a conference but I took a little time and visited as many hot springs and pools as I could along the way. I also went to St. Martin for the first time that fall and thoroughly enjoyed it. The spring of 2003 involved another trip back to St. Martin.

I took a 4000 mile trip in July and August 2004 through the Eastern United States, adding 15 states and the District of Columbia to the list of states visited and about ten pounds to my weight from all the fast food I ate on the trip. I went bungee jumping over Valentine's Day weekend in 2005 and added WA and OR to the list of states. The jump was awesome! In May 2006, I went to UT for an ICTCM short course and visited WY, MT, ID, and ND to complete my visits to all forty-eight of the contiguous states. I visited HI in 2007 and finished with AK in 2008. The photo of me to the right was taken from the observation tower at Niagara Falls, NY, in August 2004.

I went back to St. Martin in August 2005 for a week on the beach with no Internet (or TV, radio, or phones) so I didn't have to think about the single sign-on. Here's a little advice to all of you who like to read at the beach. Don't lay your paperback book on your wet towel. A large number of the US citizens that I met had taken Calculus and were involved in technical or engineering fields. Upon hearing that I was a mathematics professor, one geophysicist began quoting the calculus differentiation rules that had been drilled into his head years ago.

I returned to Vancouver to go bungee jumping over Valentine's Day weekend in 2006. The weekend was very eventful, beginning with the nose gear on the plane locking in place, the Canadians shutting down the border because they can just leave if they feel threatened, missing the ferry by 3 minutes and by the time I got to the bungee jump being told that there were too many people and they weren't accepting anymore that day (I did get to jump the next day), having a crown break off, having a sore throat that turned into a cold, and then changing dentists because mine couldn't see me to fix the tooth for almost a week. But all in all, it was a decent trip and the new dentist fixed me right up.

Spring Break 2006 involved a trip to Orlando, FL, where I attended the annual meeting of the ICTCM group. Yes, it's vacation and I spent it at a conference. Did I mention that I really love teaching? I did manage to squeeze in some beach time and a trip to visit my brother while I was at it. As mentioned earlier, I got back from a trip to Utah in May 2006 for a conference. I went by Yellowstone National Park on the way out and Wind Cave National Park and Mt. Rushmore on the way back.

Christmas 2006 found me in Savannah, GA, and Hilton Head, SC, for a week. No new states were visited (obviously), but I did take the longer way home and saw more of SC, NC, TN, and KY than I had before.

I went to Maui, HI, in May 2007. Hawaii was partially enjoyable. I did finally (on my fifth try over the last several years) manage to snorkel thanks to someone actually taking the time to explain how to do it rather than handing me a mask and fins and saying "have fun". I tried surfing as well but I definitely would not say I'm able to surf. The Road to Hana has about 600 tight curves and 54 one lane bridges and was actually enjoyable driving until the tire blew while I was moving over to the side to allow someone to pass and I had to change it on a 1.5 lane road. That kind of killed the mood but luckily it was almost time to turn around anyway. About the only totally successful part of the trip was the ride down Haleakala on a bicycle although most of the time was spent riding the brakes that weren't functioning very well. I was in the rear of the procession wearing the bright yellow "Hit Me!" jacket. Most of the trip was spent with a cold I picked up after the first snorkeling trip and lasted over a week. The cold and constant nose blowing might have negatively affected my impressions of Hawaii. There were two beaches I wanted to visit in Hawaii and I did get to both. I spent about 20 minutes at one after driving to Hana and I finally made it to the beach that was my main reason for picking the hotel where I did on the last day of the trip, but it was overcast, so I only spent about 3 hours there.

Ocean kayaking in the Dominican RepublicI went to the Domincan Republic in July 2007. This trip was so much better than the Hawaii trip. I stayed at a very nice resort that was all-inclusive with some really nice meals. The beach was rocky and the water wasn't clear so the snorkeling wasn't that great but I still had a great time doing it anyway. The image to the right is of me kayaking in the ocean. They also had planned activities although, with only 6-18 guests at the resort, it was difficult to find people who wanted to participate. This was definitely different than my trips to St. Martin where there was little to do besides read.

I went to the Miami Beach, FL, area in December 2007. The weather was great (upper 70's to lower 80's with sunshine) every day and much better than the last time I was there when the temperatures were in the upper 60's. I had taken my waterproof camera case, but ended up not using it. In fact, the weather was so nice, I didn't take any day trips at all and just spent 3+ hours a day at the beach reading a book and doing a little swimming in the ocean. My hotel room was robbed of some cash while I was there, but that wasn't enough to ruin the vacation for me. The hotel ended up absorbing the cost of my incidentals, so I only ended up losing $100. Luckily, it was only money that was stolen.

Spring break 2008 took me back to Orlando, FL, for a week. I went indoor skydiving, which was a blast, but also a lot of work. I kept dropping to the floor and pushing myself off the wall back towards the middle. Most people won't mention this because they find it embarrasing, but it's funny, so I don't mind sharing: I slobbered a lot. I also went to Universal Studios, Islands of Adventure, the Pirate Dinner Theatre, and miniature golfing. All of that was done in the first 48 hours there. After that, I just kicked back and did a lot of nothing including three trips to the beach an hour away. The Internet connection at the hotel was intermittent to absent and so I wasn't even able to do work, which I think may just be the purpose of vacation. Richland is not having another full-week off for spring break for at least the next couple of years, so it was important to get away while there was still a chance to do so.

In May 2008, I went back to the Dominican Republic for two weeks. There still weren't a lot of guests there, only between 14 and 30, but it was better than July 2007. I took on the role of unofficial greeter for the newcomers since I had been at the resort before and helped organize people so we all sat together at the after dinner show. Water volleyball was the primary daily activity this time and my shoulders paid the price. I played tennis one day and threw my back out again. I did get out and see some of the countryside this time, rather than staying at the resort for the entire two weeks. Despite the exercise, I still managed to put on about 12 pounds.

James at Turkey Run in July 2008In July 2008, I made a day trip to Turkey Run State Park in Indiana. It was the first time, which I also guess makes it the only time, I had been to Turkey Run, although I had heard about it for years. I did a little trail exploration where the photo to the right was taken. Then I went canoeing down Sugar Creek. The original plan was to go tubing, but they don't put tubes in the water after 1 pm and I think canoeing was more fun anyway. It was a good way to spend the day and the weather was great.

I also took a 3026 mile driving tour to see the United States in July 2008. Alphabetically, in the list of places from the 2000 Census2, Aaronsburg, PA, comes first and Zwolle, LA, comes last. As you cross over from Pennsylvania to West Virginia, you have a small stretch of Maryland and there is a town there called Halfway, MD. So, I took a week to see America from A to Z and Halfway in between. Now that the trip is done, I must admit that I was a bit disappointed with Halfway, MD. Other than a sign that says "Halfway Rd", Halfway seems to be part of Hagarstown, even though the Census Bureau has it listed as a Census Designated Place with 10,065 people in it. I have a visitor's day pass to New Orleans that I got to ride the streetcar and then ended up walking everywhere. I ended up visiting IL, IN, OH, PA, MD, WV, VA, TN, GA, AL, MS, LA, AR, TX (even though it did only involve taking the western bypass around Texarkana), and MO on this trip.The only states in the southeastern US I missed on this trip were North and South Carolina, Florida, and Kentucky.

I went to Ketchikan, Alaska, in August 2008 and finished my quest to visit all 50 states. I had thought about taking a cruise, but I dislike how they bill based on double occupancy and so single travelers get penalized. I did a lot of walking around Ketchikan, visited the Misty Fjords, and watched a lumberjack show. Ketchikan bills itself as the salmon capital of the world and I did have some while I was there. I generally don't care for seafood, but with enough seasoning and sauce on it, it didn't taste fishy. Ketchikan is in a rain forest environment and gets about 12.5 ft of rain a year. I happened to pick the one week with sunny days and warm temperatures to visit. Residents told me they couldn't remember the last time they had four days in a row of weather like they were having. I'm kind of glad I packed shorts instead of long pants.

I went back to King's Island and Cedar Point over Labor Day weekend in 2008. This time, I spent two days at Cedar Point, which made things feel not so rushed. I was able to wait in line for the front car on some of the roller coasters. Normally, I don't care where I ride, I just don't like to wait in line. I also stopped by Dana, IN, and took a photo of the LORAN tower, which is mentioned as a problem in College Algebra, and visted Bedford, IN, where I took a picture of the grain company mentioned in the Finite Mathematics textbook. I have suspicions that this is actually what the author intended, though, because the place is incapable of supplying the amount of grain mentioned in the problem. While I was there, I visited Bluespring Caverns which is a cavern that you take a tour of on a boat. I was surprised to see this as the Penn's Cave I visited in July had some claim about being the only boat cavern tour in the US. I went back and re-read their claim and they're the only boat cavern tour with a wildlife park in the US.

I went to Six Flags in St Louis in late September and picked up a season pass for 2009 for only $30, so I was hoping to do a lot more trips that year than have been realized. The parking still kills you at $15 a visit, though. I visted the St Louis zoo for the first time since a child and still don't like the herpetology building. I visited the Gateway Arch while I was there. In early October, I also went to Mammoth Cave National Park in Kentucky and did the 4 mile Grand Avenue tour. I also went down a toboggan run and canoed 7.5 miles down the Green River. I was used to canoeing on a river that has a current, so this was a new experience.

I went to Jamaica in October 2008 for a long weekend. I spent most of the mornings on the beach reading a book and the afternoons getting a deep tissue massage or sitting in my room during the rain. Three days wasn't enough to fully appreciate all that the resort had to offer, so at this point, I will say that I still prefer the resort in the Dominican Republic or the beach in St Martin.

Now that I've been to all 50 states, I'm not sure what to do next. The trip to Jamaica was to experience something new, but now I'm back to tried and true things. I had thought about doing a cruise of the Panama Canal, but didn't feel I could dress up in a suit three nights for the formal dinners; there's also that issue of the single's supplement. In December 2008 and January 2009, I spent a week in Miami where I went to the beach every day, a week in Orlando where I went to a water park three days, and a week in the Dominican Republic where I did a lot of reading and water volleyball.

photo after jet ski adventures, June 2009The Spring 2009 semester has seen severely limited trips. I did visit Matthiessen State Park near Utica in April. Due to the amount of rain received, the paths were very muddy and it was easier to take off the shoes and walk through the mud and the cold river than try and keep them on and dry. I also ended up taking a bath in the river when I lost my footing underneath the waterfall.

In May 2009, I went to Southeast Utah, visiting Arches National Park, Canyonlands National Park, Dead Horse State Park, Natural Bridges National Monument, Valley of the Gods, Goosenecks State Park, Monument Valley, and revisiting Four Corners. I think I should hire myself out as a rainman, because everywhere I went, it seemed to rain. Since a lot of this area is very arid, they could use my talents. On the way out to Utah, I stopped at Elitch Gardens in Denver, but they are no longer a Six Flags property, so I wasn't able to use my season pass.

In June 2009, I went to Six Flags, St. Louis, for a couple of days where I put that season pass to good use. I even added the parking option to it, so I don't feel so bad about the second day where it rained after about 2 hours of being there and basically all the really good rides shutting down. The next weekend, I went to Marco Island, FL, and went jet-skiing for the first time. I also spent time walking on the beach, parasailing, and just relaxing at the pool. A couple of weeks later, I went to a conference in Ohio and then spent Sunday at King's Island. Since I was there in June, I guess my annual Labor Day weekend trip to Ohio amusement parks may not be realized this year.

I went to Six Flags Great America on the 4th of July. I heard one staff member saying they had 70,000 people there on the third when a normal day is between 15 and 27 thousand. I heard another person say that they spent eight hours there and was able to ride only two coasters. I'm glad I chose the 4th instead of the 3rd, because I was able to ride all of the coasters except for the ones in the kid's part of the park. I also discovered that I don't fit into the viper coaster very well (I didn't know my hips were getting that wide). I also finally experienced the "Superman" coaster that everyone talked about when I mentioned Firehawk at Kings Island. While you do fly suspended on both, part of the time on Firehawk is spent on your back rather than face down. Either way, the front of the train is a lot better than other cars. Sunday brought a trip to the Jelly Belly factory in Pleasant Prairie, WI. I bought a couple of bags and brought them back for my classes, who were suprised to find out we didn't have to weigh them before eating them.

I went back to the Domincan Republic for a week at the end of July, beginning of August 2009. While there I took a safari jeep tour, which was the full-day version of the half-day trip I had taken in May 2008. Luckily, there were different sites on this trip and so it wasn't boring for me. This time, I knew to bring candy for the children (try that in the States and see who comes after you) who chased after the truck yelling "Give me!". I went to Cheyenne, WY, at the end of August 2009 for a long weekend. While there, I went to downtown Cheyenne, the State Capitol, and Veedauwoo Recreation area where I took the hike around Turtle Rock. I also took 1175 pictures on the trip (actually, there were more, but I deleted some obviously bad ones like when I forgot to turn on the flash and the picture was blurry). In September 2009, I went to appreciation night for the season pass holders at Six Flags, St. Louis, went canoeing down the Meramac River, and went to Fisher Cave in Meramac State Park. Over Columbus Day weekend, 2009, I went to Rockford, Six Flags Great America, and then back to Matthiessen State Park to see it in the fall.

In 2009, the entire Christmas season was spent in Illinois for the first time in several years. However, between December and January, I did manage to get to Bloomington (twice), Kewanee, Bethany (three times), and Bluford and had a good time with family. Several of those included back roads and I stopped by and re-visited the Thompson Mill Covered Bridge near Cowden.

If you want to know anything else about me, feel free to ask. I may not answer, but that shouldn't stop you from asking.


1. I finally weighed more than 200 lbs during the 2001-2002 winter and continued to gain until reaching about 215 lbs during the summer 2003. The one exception was in May 2003 in a Pilot Travel Center in Oak Grove, KY, where you put a quarter in and you get your weight and horoscope. After getting a weight reading of 183 lbs, I laughed so hard that I left before getting my horoscope. I used another of those machines at the outlet mall in West Frankfort, IL, in April 2005, and it said my exact weight was 180.3 lbs. I once again laughed but stuck around for my fortune which was that money was going to be coming to my hands. I figured that's a big scam where they tell women that they weigh a lot less than they do and then the money coming to their hands is the money used to pay for all the new clothes bought to celebrate weighing so little. I finally switched to a digital scale in late 2003 after getting tired of getting about three different readings each morning on the old scale. The new scale read under 200 lbs (even if it was 199.5) for the first time on Nov 20, 2003. I was down to 184.5 on Dec 29, 2003. That's more than 30 lbs lost in two months and about 5 more pounds than I wanted to lose. Unfortunately, the weight crept back up in 2006 and I needed to lose about 30 lbs again. As of July 2007, I was back about 10 pounds of where I would like to be and before taking off in December 2007, I was actually a little bit less than what the photo of the scale shows. I bought a new scale in September 2008. The old one got wet and I would step on it and it would read 213 pounds and then a few seconds later it would change to 196 pounds. To me, that is unreliable, so I replaced it. But alas, I will never be able to weigh 184.5 pounds with the new scale.

2. There are other lists of places that have Aaron, GA, as the first and Zzyzx, CA, as the last. In particular, the Geographic Names Information System (GNIS) by the United States Geological Survey (USGS) has several "populated places" before Aaronsburg and after Zwolle. But for the purposes of my A to Z tour, I'm going by the list of Census places. Their requirements are that a place have retail, commerical, and residential activity, so many named locations are actually left off that list. For example, Newburg, IL, shows up on the GNIS list but not on the Census list. If you know where Newburg is (close to Argenta), you might understand why visiting Newburg wouldn't be memorable (no offense to those who live there). I was actually one town over from Zzyzx in 2002 without realizing it and an aerial view available on the Internet makes it look like nothing more than an interstate interchange. I am content with my choice for the list of names.