07 December 2010


Saw this quote on a blog yesterday:

The purpose of our lives is to be happy. -- Dalai Lama

06 December 2010

Dickens Fair

Saturday afternoon we went to the Dickens Christmas Fair. We would have been there earlier, if tying my bow tie didn't take about a half hour. I couldn't get it to work out...

Anyway, we were there in time for the meet up with the costumers group.

We have been going to the Fair for, I think, four years now. After the first one, my wife connected with the costumers and since then we have been attending in costume, not as participants but as regular attendees.

Small portion of the Dicken Fair "London" map.

The Dickens Fair is an annual arts and crafts festival that runs from Thanksgiving to Christmas Eve in the theme of Victorian London. Many of the booths have some store-front facade to them, so not just canopies like a street fair. It's all indoors, which works well because winter is our rainy season. The building does get a bit warm for people dressed in costume layers: men in frock coats and women in hoop skirts and dresses.

The participants have to abide by costume guidelines to be consistent with the period. The participants are the shopkeepers, the Queen's escort, and the hosts at Fezziwig's Warehouse.

Some of the Queen's escort.

Because it's a holiday fair, much of the theme is from "A Christmas Carol", but there are some boys running around like in "Oliver Twist". Some elements from "A Christmas Carol" are Fezziwig's Warehouse dance party and Scrooge walking around with the various ghosts from the story. The members of the Period Events and Entertainments Re-Creation Society (PEERS) are the hosts for Victorian, ballroom dancing for them and the Fair attendees at the dance party, but it also includes entertainment in the form of Scottish and Irish dance. There was no one playing pipes that day, but usually there is.

After we met the group, we wandered around for a while, asked someone to take our picture, then settled at the dancing.

My wife and I can't / don't know how to dance, so we didn't, but our daughter is picking up the dances and spent some time on the dance floor. I felt bad because I couldn't dance with her. When we arrived home, she was still humming the tunes and dancing around, so I put in the ballroom dance CD that we bought when my wife and I took a dance class about ten years ago. I didn't learn too much from the class and need a LOT more lessons.

Next to the dance area is a vendor of roasted almonds covered with a cinnamon and sugar mixture. This is near the entrance, so you can smell them while in line outside and when around the entrance inside.

Sunday morning I was going to write this up, but our daughter was up early because she wanted to set up holiday decorations, but was then distracted by the computer and we didn't get to the decorating until the afternoon.

Off and on through the morning I was crocheting some on the shawl I've been working on for a present for one of my wife's relatives. When I decided the pattern as written, using the hook I'm using, was going to be more of a shrug than a shawl, I added more rows, the need for more yarn, and a lot more time. It's getting there, should be finished next weekend.

28 November 2010

sharing email addresses

This is a short rant.

People don't generally give out contact information, like phone numbers and mailing addresses of other people, acquaintances, to third parties without the permission of those acquaintances. Why do people give out acquaintances' email addresses to third parties, including Facebook, evite, without permission? Arghhh.

23 November 2010


The shawl I'm crocheting for my wife's relative is a doily pattern with a pineapple motif intended for use with thread, dating from 1944. Recently (actually, years), people have been doing or modifying these with yarn to make shawls and this pattern is one of them.

Before I started I looked at what yarn people used and what size hook. I also looked at what hook people used with the yarn I bought for it and settled on the average. However, after I worked on it a while, I estimated that it was going to be shrug sized (cover shoulders) and not really shawl sized (cover back as well). I thought about how to extend the pattern and ripped out some rows to incorporate more pineapples and an additional rows of them. A woman who has made many of them suggested making this a practice one and to make another with the hook she uses. No time for that. Ugh. I think it will work out. Next time I'll try a bigger hook, but then, by the time I'm done with this, I'll have a modified pattern for a full shawl and could do it again, assuming it works out.

pieces framed

Back in Oct I took a few small things to a frame shop to get them framed as a group. It's a remembrance collection of my mother. There was a writing, a picture, a crocheted pansy, and a small drawn design. I haven't tried to look up the writing on the web to see if she authored it, but it's in her handwriting. She had it framed. The picture shows her in front of her labyrinth garden before her illness started, so as I remember her. The other items also represent elements of her interests and life. When the sun comes out again I'll try to take a picture of it. Camera flash will reflect off the glass front.

It was ready to be picked up about two weeks ago, but they didn't do such a good job with the mounting, so I had them fix it and it was ready again last week.

Over the weekend my wife injured her leg, so yesterday I stayed home to be available for her and went to the frame shop and picked it up. I wasn't in a big hurry to pick it up because it's more reminders of her death.

I've been thinking about that and the follow ons lately after my father's indication that he didn't want the stepping stone he suggested I make as a "permanent" marking in her garden. Yes, his communication is indirect like that.

I didn't communicate with her very much because he read her mail and email and filtered it. I wasn't comfortable (?) with that. I haven't had any direct communication with him for many years, so now I have none at all. On his side of the "family" there is one cousin that I have had some contact with, but not much. I haven't wanted to deal with that since the summer either, though she has sent a couple emails. In addition, in the aftermath emails, it is clear that I'll not have any more contact with my sisters, so her death has been very isolating. She was the tie that kept some measure of connection between us. (I have a brother who lives in the southeast somewhere.)

On my mother's side, there was some talk with my aunts when I was there that it would be good if we three visited with them more. That's something we didn't do because of the physical distance as well as the emotional distance created by my father. The problem with visiting them is that they have their own, very busy, lives. I haven't had any contact with them since the aftermath emails, so I don't think anything is going to come of that. When there, I suggested getting together for Thanksgiving, but since the aftermath emails, I haven't heard anything from them. I'm planning to send an email to them this week, just to say Thanksgiving.

The "aftermath emails" are the ones where my father told us about his attitude toward my mother in light of her fear for her safety while they were married. He calls it infidelity. Others, like me, think of it as self preservation and that they should have divorced years ago.

13 November 2010

chicken sweater

Our older chicken in her sweater. There are large openings on the sides for her wings and what is left of her neck feathers have moved on top of the neck hole. Her neck and body are usually mostly rust (chicken red), but now the white, inner part of the feathers show. Her body is pretty bare. She hopped up on the wall of the coop and after I took the picture, she jumped down and landed with a thud because she has few flight feathers to provide lift.

Meanwhile, the other chicken was wandering around in the yard. There are feathers everywhere around the yard. She is a pullet now, with her wattles, so isn't going to change much anymore. She is a golden-laced wyandotte, which have this coloring. She has a rose comb, which is flat and bumpy. The other chicken is a golden star and has a single comb. They both have tan ear feathers, so lay "brown" eggs, or will when the younger one is older. The younger one will probably not molt this year because she hasn't had her feathers very long and hasn't laid.

molting and snatching

Our older chicken is molting now. A lot. She has about one quarter of her feathers left. It's been cool at night, so now is a bad time to do it. It's triggered by the short days, but with them come colder weather.

This morning I looked up chicken sweaters because my wife was concerned about the chicken getting cold, so she made one. It's an hourglass with a neck hole at the narrow part and velcro on the sides at the wide ends. She doesn't much like wearing it, but my wife thinks it will keep her warm at night.

This morning at weightlifting class we did snatches. It's a movement that requires timing, so athletic ability and coordination. I suck at it. It was not a fun class, but something I need to practice if I'm going to snatch.

12 November 2010


We recently finished watching the series (the pilot and six episodes) of "The #1 Ladies Detective Agency". They are quite good. In them, the main character is Mma Precious Ramotswe, the first female private investigator in Botswana, and her assistant is Mma Grace Makutsi. Makutsi graduated from secretarial school with a 97% standing, the highest in the school’s history. She often reminds people of this.

Last week Friday I strained my back somehow doing deadlifts. The warm ups went fine, but did something wrong on that first working set. I continued through the rest of the work out, but my lower back was painful over the weekend. Today was back day again, 97%.

I've been thinking lately about being realistic and goals. I've been trying to push for two years, apparently not hard enough, for good progress. I'm not going at it to compete or improve in sports, so perhaps I should just focus on the long-term fight against sarcopenia and be happy if I have any gains against that. You could say that pushing 97% instead of 100% is enough in that case, except what I'm doing is probably more like 90%, I just don’t know it.

11 November 2010

walk on the "beach"

This afternoon we three went for a walk along the bay shore. Since our daughter came back from camp, she has been interested in looking at birds out the back window of the house. We took our (small) binoculars, this birds-of-the-Bay-Area card we've had for years, and the camera.

There wasn't really a beach. There was this section of mud with a sea gull at the water's edge.

Most of the trail was a muddy path with shells through the shore plants. These plants went usually went to the water's edge.

Looking back from that point, two radio transmission towers can be seen in the distance. To the right is drier and has a shrub that smells like anise, something related to dill.

There were some driftwood logs that looked like old supports for a pier or something that provided places to sit and watch the birds and figure out which ones we were seeing. We identified western grebes, sea gulls (easy), brown pelicans, plovers, and there were a few ducks that were too far away to get a good look.

The above picture has two adult plovers. They are gray with white undersides and black beaks.

In one area we stopped, there was sand with a bunch of different foot prints. Our daughter is pointing to some small prints that we think are from a mouse. The print to the right of her finger is probably from a raccoon. The other ones are of course from birds.

The area is the landing approach path for SFO, so planes were flying overhead headed that way. High enough not to be a nuisance, but loud enough that we knew when they went over.

09 November 2010

scrub jay sketch

This is a scan of the scrub jay I sketched during the drawing session with our daughter. It was drawn in pencil from a picture for reference, then traced over that with pen. We each did different birds. I did two (pencil and pen) and she did three (pencil).

08 November 2010


My wife was out of town for a scrapbooking retreat/workshop over the weekend. I took Friday off work and we met our daughter at school when they returned from camp. The sixth graders had a week-long sleep-away camp for outdoor education. It was like a summer camp, but more focused on learning about nature with the teachers and camp naturalists there.

After her experience with a girl-scout camp over the summer, she was NOT looking forward to this. When she returned, she was feeling much better about it because they had a great time, which is good because she would never want to go on another one if this had went badly.

The wife left a few hours later, Fri afternoon, and didn't return until Sun evening. It wasn't a big deal, but I somehow strained my back doing deadlifts on Fri morning. I thought I would workout in the morning because I was home and that would free up the afternoon to be with our daughter. That part was fine, but my lower back ached all weekend. I don't know what I did to tweak it, because the weight wasn't the most I've done or anything. It's improved somewhat by today. Deadlifts are on Fridays, so there's time for it to heal before it's "a problem", but it probably interfere with other workouts this week.

We managed to do a few errands and I did the usual weekend housework (cleaning, laundry, dishes, etc.), but the latter set was uncomfortable. The worst part was scrubbing up dried cat poop around the kitchen floor Sun morning. Did I mention the pain was the worst in the morning?

Our daughter was interested in looking at the birds in the backyard and checking them against this foldable, laminated sheet of bird pictures we have had for years, well, and the planes flying past in the middle distance, with this small pair of binoculars we've also had. That led to drawing those birds from pictures that I printed from the web. It's been a while since I've done any sketching. I'm' kind of out of practice, not that I'm any good. Takes time to practice.

My wife made a nice scrapbook. She didn't finish everything she wanted to add to it over the weekend and it has room for expansion too.

01 November 2010

the stone 2

I made the stepping stone because my father "suggested" that I make a stepping stone as a marker for my mother, because her ashes were spread in the garden surrounding her labyrinth.

Last night I sent an email to my father with a picture of the stone. In that version of the picture, the plaque was legible. In his response he indicated that he didn't want it anymore, though he didn't say that directly, but wrote that he can't grieve for or forgive her. I wrote a bit about this back in August in the post interpretations.

31 October 2010

stepping stone

Finished the stepping stone today. Last step was sealing. It's ready to pack up now. My mother did some labyrinth designs and had a walking-path garden. Her name and birth and death dates are on the plaque at the bottom. The stepping stone path is the same pattern as her path, but with the colors of the chakras (rainbow plus white). To follow it, start with red and go through the rainbow to purple, alternating clockwise and counter-clockwise, ending at the one white glass gem in the center.

the party

This year was our first doing a Halloween party. We attempted to have one 7-8years ago, but our daughter came down with something and we canceled it.

The guests were mostly kids from her school and their parents, a few other kids, and a few other adults, like neighbors. It was a lot of preparation work with the decorating and the cooking, but everyone seemed to enjoy themselves, so it worked.

My costume was a lame coverall Star Wars thing, but she was Lady Gaga, which won third place in the costume contest at her school.

My wife was a vampire. She's wearing red contacts in this picture. It's not red eye from the flash. Part of the decorations was a (plastic) cauldron, but inside was a water-filled crock pot for dry ice. My main job for the evening was to keep the dry ice in it to keep the fog going.

Later at the dining-room table, she was serving up cheesecake, but had dispensed with the fangs by then. The bowls in front of her are bones and congealed blood for dipping them (meringue and pudding). To her left is bowl of eye of newt (punch-like with tapioca). In the foreground is half of the chilled brain.

Though my wife did all the cooking, one of my contributions to the food was the chilled brain, which was a watermelon with the rind shaved off and carved into convoluted shapes, more or less. To the right are spidered, boiled eggs.

I'm on door duty for the trick or treaters now while they are out in the neighborhood collecting treats/candy.

29 October 2010

rain and pain

I took yesterday off to help burn off some vacation hours and to be available to sell the exercise equipment I have had listed on craigslist for three weeks now.

This guy was the fourth one during those weeks who made an appointment to come pick it up. He was also the fourth to not show up. If I had limited vacation time and had to wrestle with schedules to take the day off, I would have reason to be upset, but as it was, it was just another no show.

I did download some more Halloween music and scary sounds to use as background music for the party tomorrow. I'm not sure how the music fits into the party because people will be mingling and there are some games planned, so the music will get in the way of that communication.

My wife made a bat pinata recently and had plans to do that outside. Today it's raining and it's supposed to off and on tomorrow too. We will see how that goes.

I poured grout for the stepping stone yesterday too. It looks like it was planned. I hope the glass gems are in there solidly and won't come out. The thing is heavy being a chunk of concrete 5cm thick and 30cm in diameter. One day, soon, now that it's nearly finished, I'll have to mail it to my father, then I will be done with this little project.

My wife wanted me to go with on a little shopping trip, so I didn't get much done on the crocheted slippers I'm doing for her as a present. In the evening I made a start on the next project, that shawl for her relative. The annoying part is that I could get more done if my elbow didn't flare up whenever I get any crochet done. I must have acquired a bad holding habit and I have to change, because I didn't have this problem in the first six months of crocheting. If I do it every other day for a little while, the pain seems to go away in between sessions.

Another factor is that I've been doing more forearm work in the "gym", so that may be another issue, but I have been making zero progress on that front too. No progress on any of my lifts. I might not be pushing hard enough, but at the same time, some guidelines I've read say to not push harder than I am to allow the central nervous system time to recover between sessions. The CNS takes longer than the muscles if pushed too much. No progress is frustrating, by the way.

25 October 2010

vegetarian eating

In an attempt to increase my protein to carb ratio, I've noticed that I'm relying more on protein powder and bars with fake sugars (sugar alcohols). Many foods in the American diet are based on starches with cereal for breakfast, sandwich/bread for lunch, and pasta, potatoes, or rice for supper/dinner. Those add up to a lot of carbs and is, of course, why we as a whole are so fat. Lots of fuel for energy with sedentary jobs. Do the caloric math. Vegetarian dishes tend to be worse in protein:carb, because one "substitution" is using a bean as a protein source. Beans are high in carbs, so while there is some protein, the additional carbs push the ratio far to the carb side. For example, I thought about eating vegetarian, bean-based chili for lunch on Sat. If I remember right, the protein to carb ratio was 1:5. Nuts push the protein to fat ratio to the high fat side. Tofu is an exemption, because it's processed to be higher in protein than the raw product, soybeans.

On Sun, I did some web searching for high-protein vegetarian foods. If black beans are used in recipes, then the ratio is the lesser of the bean evils, but to really get a decent protein source, the fake meats, e.g., fake burgers, chicken, need to be used. Meals become similar to meat-based ones, but processed, fake meat (vegetable protein in different forms) is used instead. Those sources still have carbs, but not nearly as much. However, not all veggie burgers are equal. Some are grain based and are short on protein, which makes them pointless. I'm curious how vegetarian bodybuilders, like Bill Pearl, did it.

... so such for getting away from processed foods, but the processing is different. Instead of breaking the raw food product into a less-nutritious version and adding sugar (HFCS), salt, and unnamed additivies, the protein concentration is increased. A questionable trade.

Dairy and eggs fit into my diet too, but are different categories from meat, one reason is that people "can't" eat eggs and dairy (primarily cheese) in everything.

23 October 2010

weightlifting class

This morning was another weightlifting class day. (It's only taught every other week or so.)

After the warm up, we practiced deadlifts in preparation for high pulls, then front squats. I had never done high pulls before, so that was new for me. The info on front-squat technique was useful too. Of course, the front squats were done in power-lifter style (hands in the receiving position), not bodybuilder style (arms crossed). I have only tried front squats a little, but have never used them in a program.

After class, the subject of power cleans came up, so I talked with the instructor about how I had read that some guys turn them into a partial clean then a reverse curl. She explained the problem: guys want the extra leverage instead of using momentum, so they move the bar away from their bodies and use a reverse curl instead of keeping it clean/close.

I don't move a lot of weight in these practice sessions, but was a good class :-)

Halloween mantle

They have been busy adding decorations around the house for the Halloween party, which is next weekend. Last Sun, they set up bats around the mantle and other items on it. I think we should have a few large spiders scattered around the house too.

Last weekend I worked on the memorial stepping stone for my mother. The concrete stone came out of the cake mold with some difficulty. I had to saw through the side to open it up. After that I could place and glue the glass gems on it. They fill the space, but there is still room for the name plaque. I was planning to add the mortar this weekend, but it's wet and rainy.

I worked on a crochet project for my wife yesterday evening. It's to be a surprise present, but I need to get it done soon, so I can start on that shawl. Apparently crocheting gives me golfer's elbow, so crochet has to be done in smaller doses than yesterday's session, which had breaks, but still.

17 October 2010

pumpkin festival

Yesterday morning we went to the nearby pumpkin festival. It's primarily an autumn street/craft fair with some booths selling Halloween things, but they also have Christmas stuff along with other arts and crafts. There is a largest pumpkin contest. The winner this year was over 1500lb (680kg), but they are not really pumpkins, those big ones are a type of gourd. There were also other Halloween things, like a haunted house and kids in costumes.

A small parking area had a mechanical bull ride set up under a canopy. They didn't really turn it up very aggressively, so our daughter was kind of bored with it.

There is a local yarn shop there, so I took the opportunity to get some yarn for another shawl. This time for an in law. The Nov/Dec project for the knitting group at work is a shawl. I hope it doesn't take as long as the previous one, but it will be an open type and nicer yarn. The yarn for my wife's was the yarn she wanted, but the new yarn is merino, the good stuff.

shawl pictures

My wife wore her new shawl out when she and another school mom went out for a PTA dinner fund raiser thing.

This is the shawl spread out, but not the same day as the dinner.

Wrapped around.

14 October 2010

jury duty finished

Well, it never really started. Last week's session was a pre-screening for those who would have a hardship sitting on a jury for three weeks or so.

This week was the judge and attorneys determining if we were valid and suitable jurors for the case. We started on Tues with about 150 people and by the end of the day Wed they had selected twelve jurors and three alternates. None of them me, but based on the pattern of eliminations, I think I would have been eliminated based on my logical approach to things, though I don't know why those people were excused. I would have to know more about the case and the evidence, which I'll never know now.

Anyway, I've been working out in the mornings instead of the afternoons because the court follows something like a 9 to 5 (09-17) schedule, which puts me too late. I seemed weaker than usual at this other time slot. Not used to working in the morning, because mine is a desk job.

I suppose I should have gone to work today, but, like others there, I have a lot of vacation time that my supervisor is always looking for us to take. A lot of the other prospective jurors were on their blackberries and smart phones during the breaks, scrolling through email, I assume. I haven't checked work email since I was at work Mon. Don't think I've missed anything.

In crochet news, I finally finished (the final 20cm of the edging on) my wife's shawl. I started it in May, but progress has been very slow because I kept having forearm pain when I worked on it, but not with other crochet projects. I didn't know if it was biceps curls or cleans or crochet that was causing the pain, but decided it was that project. The body of it is Homespun, which splits, so the stitches (DCs) were often a struggle against some stray fibers. The trim was Fun Fur (DC) post stitches which were tight stitches. Maybe the other projects and yarn didn't cause problems because the stitches flowed easier. Want to take a few pictures of it today.

10 October 2010

Ren faire and weight rack

We went to the Renaissance Faire in Gilroy yesterday afternoon. Our daughter made a Viking wire knit necklace and I made a leather pouch with a tooled oak-leaf-and-acorn pattern. I didn't get around much of the booths because I was working on the leather most of the time, which is fine. The booths are mostly costume shops for the people who dress for the event.

The women who dress for the event, dress like no renaissance woman would with their corsets (though decorative) on the outside of their clothes and their boobs pushed up on a shelf.

There is some crossover with pirate costumes. I saw one woman in steampunk. Steampunk is Victorian, so that was out of place.

This is the leather pouch. It's about 12cm square and 4cm deep. The acorn is small and near the top of the design. It started the day as a kit with a few flat pieces of undyed leather and the other parts. There is a front flap with snap closure and a snapped belt loop in the back.

In the morning I attended weightlifting class. This week was jerk (push press from shoulder).

Friday I stayed home from work to visit the police fortress (the new station) to get my correctable violation signed off. Now I can mail it in with the fine. At work the IT people were upgrading our building, so the network was supposed to be out until about noon. That means no email and, since the main piece of software I use comes from a license server, no work progress either. In the afternoon I took apart the old "home gym", put it aside, and assembled the new weight/power rack. I've had an ad on craigslist with no response, so decided to lower the price to $50, which is practically free, and just move on. If no one wants to pay anything for the old one, I'm not going to keep it assembled for them to inspect before taking it down, especially when the new one had been delivered and I had yet to see if all the parts are there and it's in working order.

I used it Fri afternoon. The old one had posts to hold weight plates, so I'll have to do something about that and there are other things to get used to, but it does what it's supposed to.

07 October 2010


On the way home from jury duty pre-selections, my wife called my mobile while I was on the way home to check how it went, though I had sent her a few txts on the way to the car from the court building.

We had only been on the phone a few seconds and I was debating putting her on speaker phone, when there was a police car on the right at the stop sign I was approaching. I immediately said that I had to go and dropped the phone in my lap. He came after me. I pulled over a block later. It was because of the phone. I explained that the phone has a nice speaker phone function, but I didn't put my wife on speaker soon enough after picking it up so he caught me. He was nice about it and didn't ticket me for that, but I have been driving the car for eleven years without a front license plate. There's no bracket on the car for it, but it can take a plate because the holes are there under some bumper inserts, unlike some newer cars that have no bumper that allows for a license plate. Anyway, he gave me a ticket for that.

I went home and popped out the bumper inserts and slapped the thing on with the bolts that have been in the trunk forever. Ugly car front now. It's going to get bug encrusted and bent up, but it's hanging there, as required.

The ticket is a correctable citation/violation. The citation form says to take it to the court, but it has to be signed off by a police officer after the correction (in this case, mounting the plate) is complete. I called the DMV to see if I can get that signature there. They said no, if the citation has the court address on it, then it needs to be taken there. This morning I took off work to go to the (traffic) court building. They told me to go to the police station, then mail it to the court with the fee after they sign it.

I left there and drove to the police station I knew of. It's closed and fenced off, not there anymore.

I drove to and parked in a nearby parking lot and called the police from the contact list on my phone. The officer told me the new location, but added that they only sign those things on Wed and Fri mornings, so I couldn't have done it today anyway. Oh joy.

Try again tomorrow.

... and no, jury duty is not a welcomed experience, total pain in the ass, but I've heard that after you do it, you appreciate the experience and understand the system better.

05 October 2010

highland games and weekend

There was a Highland Games and Celtic festival nearby over the weekend, Sat. Our daughter was sick on Fri and was questionable on Sat morning, so we didn't go. By the time we figured out she was okay, it was too late to bother going.

The girls have this idea of hosting a Halloween party, so they went off shopping for decorations and stuff for it. I'm not into Halloween, but doubt I'll be off the hook for this.

Over the weekend, I packed up the art work I brought home from my mother's and other cards and art from her and put all this in a storage container. It would be nice to hang them up, but we don't have the space for that. In the coming years, I can take the things out periodically and look through them I suppose.

When I was there, I had made a plan to take a picture of her and a few small things and frame them, so I pulled together those things, but still have to get to a frame shop.

The other outstanding item is the stepping-stone/"grave" marker that my father suggested I make. I had to order some glass "gems" for it and have a plaque made. I have all that in order, but still have to find a round stepping stone to mount those. When it's done, it has to be shipped to him. It's going to be heavy, because stepping stones are concrete and this needs to be big, 30cm diameter, to fit the labyrinth design.


Last week I mentioned our daughter's volleyball games. They actually play matches, two out of three games. On Thurs they won the first and the third. According to my wife, the B team didn't win any matches last year. There is an A and a B team. The A team has the better players that demonstrated their skills at the tryouts. The others went to the B team. However, after tryouts, girls continued to show up to play volleyball. Those were placed on the B team. The B team now has over twenty players, so there is a lot of rotation during the games to allow everyone a chance to play.

jury duty

I was at work yesterday morning, but on call for jury duty, then spent the afternoon at court for jury pre-screening. I'm due to go back next week Tues (12 Oct) morning for the second jury elimination and potentially the beginning of the trial. If I'm selected for the jury, the case is expected to take a few weeks, to nearly the end of the month. There must have been a hundred people in the beginning. About half were eliminated by the financial hardship factor. The rest of us come back.

01 October 2010

"Leap Year" movie

We watched the movie "Leap Year" last night. Remarkable that we watched the entire thing in one sitting. I liked it, though I tend to like happy-ending, "romantic" movies.

The two main characters spent some time walking around the grounds at Ballycarbery Castle. I looked it up this morning. The real castle is nothing like the one shown in the movie. The real one is in County Kerry and not on the path they followed in the movie. There was a lot of computer animation and green screens used for those scenes to create a big, perfect, picturesque castle. Computer animation was used for other scenes in the movie too.

The main character was Anna, who works as a stager, one who makes homes look perfect for sales. Declan, the taxi driver, pub owner, chef, etc. points out that she's a con artist, which was funny, and true, but once I looked up some of the details of the movie, I see the movie staff was a group of con artists too.

30 September 2010


I'm back from travel and decided to stay home today.

We were there Mon through Wed. The temperatures at the site were in the lower 40s (deg C) and dry. We were at the site at about sun rise. It was nice then, but once the sun came up, it heated up quickly. Then there was the dust and the flies.

The objective was to test this company's equipment with ours. The short story is that theirs was not ready for our application. The environment combined with the troubleshooting, made a un-fun trip and all the prep work we did last week was mostly pointless.

I spent the evenings in my room. The second evening I did some circuit training with the jump rope and stretch cord I brought along. Better than nothing. Worked out here at home this morning :-) Today's 10x10 was dips. I couldn't do 10 reps all the way through, but it was still good.

Our daughter has her third volleyball game of the school's season this afternoon. I missed the first two (earlier this week), but plan to attend today.

25 September 2010

weightlifting class

A week ago I went to a gym that does weight training for Olympic weightlifting (snatch, clean, jerk, etc.) for a session with a personal trainer. The web page said you needed to attend such session(s) before taking the weightlifting class, but it turns out that they different classes, so this morning I went to the beginner's class. It's a drop-in class and only meets twice a month and I was told on the phone that the attendees generally schedule a private in between the class meetings.

Both of these sessions were on the snatch. It is work on the shoulders and legs because it's a press and a squat. After the private lesson, I felt uncoordinated because it's a lift that takes skill and timing. After this morning's class, my lifts were doing better. I could do that again :-)

The week that has been was busy at work preparing for travel next week. The requirements for the project have been shifting for weeks, so the guy who was trying to do the planning was as unhappy as we were as we all adapted to the changes.

While on travel I probably won't be able to visit a gym there. I would like to get out of the long, group dinners watching them drink beer. I'd rather read or work on a crochet project in the hotel room: quiet time to unwind before the project starts up the next day.

19 September 2010

mad hatter's tea party picnic

We attended a costume event today. It was a Mad Hatter's Tea Party Picnic, so Alice in Wonderland or Victorian costumes were the theme.

I'm the white rabbit in the middle. It's actually a hoodless rabbit suit that we rented. My wife made the dresses though.

The event included tea (including snacks), poetry reading, and games, such as croquet (with flamingos, mallets decorated with flamingos, but no hedgehogs) and caucus races.

A rabbit (me) playing croquet.

The first caucus race group on their way back. There was only one Alice out of the entire group, who can be seen here, but there were several white rabbits and a lot of hatters. One other rabbit is in this race and another was a woman in a white dress and ears like his. That's one of the tweetle sisters on the left. The caucus race was a relay with a potato carried on a spoon.

A number of the women were very colorful Mad Hatters. My wife and daughter are on the right here.

The event was in a park in a nearby city. A neighbor of the park dropped by and left, but came back with their rabbbits. The one with the argyle sweater stood up like this often and the other wandered around the pen, being pet.

18 September 2010

balloon rocket on a string

We bought a science kit for our daughter about a year ago, I think. After doing a few activities in it initially, we have not done anything with it. Last weekend we dragged it out and did a couple things. Today we did it again.

One of the experiments was a balloon rocket, where we blew up a balloon and taped it to a straw. The straw was strung on a string, so when the mouth of the balloon was released, the balloon took off down the string. We had it set up from the kitchen, through the dining room, and into the living room, total about 10m. There was also a two-stage version, but that didn't work very well.

Empty balloon in the living room.

chicken update

The chickens are finally getting along better after weeks of establishing the pecking order. We had to keep them separate most of the time, either in a temporary coop for daytime use or a wire screen barrier in the "hen house" at night. The younger one also needed separate food, which the older hen liked better than her layer food. When they were out in the yard, they also needed supervision and the adult hen needed some reminders from a squirt gun to not chase the little girl around the yard. All those measures went on for weeks. Chicken care is much simpler when they are separate with different feeding requirements.

This is the young chicken, pullet, resting in the hole that they keep enlarging on the edge of the grass.

I heard from a woman at work, who also has chickens and replaced one of theirs with two chicks, that her chicken's adjustment to each other lasted a few days and they were settled into life in the coop. If only ours had been that simple.

26 August 2010

chest work

Wednesday seems to be the lightest workout day of the week. Squats and deadlifts are "heavy" lifts, so those take a lot of systemic work. My main exercises on Wed are currently bench press and bent-over rows. I can't move big weights on anything, but while I work those exercises to what I think is hard, they don't wear me out beyond simple muscle fatigue.

Not much else is going on. Been doing a few things around the house in the weekend, like a fresh coat of paint on the chicken coop and things like that. Too many crochet projects in the works, when combined with teaching a crochet project next month. I'm practically a beginner, but I apparently have more experience of the regulars in the lunchtime knitting group at work.

Our daughter starts school next week, so there's a school orientation tomorrow that I'm attending wit her.

22 August 2010


Yesterday morning I looked at my latest lifting stats and backward to see what progress has occurred. Lately I've been thinking that I've been working hard and making progress, but the numbers show that my long-term amounts have continued as they were: small increases. Argh.

I've been working on a crocheted shawl for my wife since May. I didn't like working with the yarn in the body of it. Now that I've been working on the "Fun Fur" trim for a few weeks, I dislike this yarn more. I changed hooked this morning from an aluminum K to a Clover soft touch J and it's flowing better. Maybe there's hope to get this thing done.


I'm been thinking about getting a new squat rack. The main reason I haven't is the cost. The minor reason I haven't is that I have to get rid of the old one, which means selling it or cutting it up into pieces that can go out in the trash. The second option is not so much an option as a last resort.

After reading these stories about people getting robbed or murdered when someone shows up at their houses to supposedly look at items they've listed for sale online, I wonder about our safety related to using an online listing. A used squat rack is not an expensive item and we don't have anything that I would consider theft worthy, so it's unlikely that someone would see that as an entry toward robbing us. It's sad that the world has come to the point where it happens frequently enough that it's a concern.

20 August 2010


My father sent an email to my two sisters and me with a question. I replied to all directly to the point of the question, knowing that it could potentially hurt him. I then received an email from my brother in law filled with insults and hate, but in his pompous manner. He has spewed this way to me before, with no consideration of my point of view. I think the bottom line of his response was that I am emotionally simple minded, but would have to spend more time with a dictionary to be sure. I tend to think logically about things, but usually understand the emotional side as well.

After that, I sent another email to just my father explaining that I knew my answer had the potential to hurt, but didn't get into the BIL's "comments". He replied that it didn't and he clarified his question a bit. I understand his question better, but don't understand the BIL's response, when my answer did not hurt my father.

Summarizing the background and subject of the emails, my father believes that my mother effectively committed suicide when she did something that hurt him emotionally about ten years ago. The symptoms of her degenerative illness didn't show up until about seven years later and the consequences of the illness killed her three years after that. He sees that her action back then was unforgivable and she was punished for it.

I think that's delusional.

13 August 2010

wood carving

After posting that picture of a wooden Cloud Gate, a blob, I thought I should post a couple pictures of other carvings.

A dolphin on a stand.

A turtle over a rock. The rock is painted wood.

Santa ornament. I have a made few of these and liked this project.

10 August 2010


Over the weekend I read a little in Brooks Kubik's "Dinosaur Training". It's a book I've read before, but wanted to remind myself of some of his training principles. He likes to use all caps and one element he points out is the need to do "HARD WORK" and to do this rep, then work on the next one.

I've been working on strength training for 1.5years and have little to show for it in terms of strength gains. Based on this book, he would attribute this to lack of "HARD WORK" on my part. Yesterday evening was a workout with squats. I need to remember things like those points when I go into these workouts.

I have a few other of his books too. "Gray Hair and Black Iron" is for older lifters, over 40. While I'm over 40, I'm not much of a "serious lifter" or "garage gorilla", who are the audience of the book, so I debated getting that book, but bought and read it anyway. I'm a beginner, so should be working on training for strength, like in "Dinosaur Training". I have yet to see gains from his training methods and now he has a new one, "Strength, Muscle, and Power", which is more of the dinosaur-type training. Hmmm.

The other books are his fiction, "Legacy of Iron" series. It's a story of the "old time" lifters from 1940 into the war. The first volume had a lot of lifting competition stats from that period. Yawn. I don't care about the current lifter's stats. The story of the lifters is interesting and the second volume was better. He has published the third volume recently. Another, hmmm.

09 August 2010


I had an email from my father over the weekend. He was letting us kids know that one of his brothers died over night. That was a surprise. One because he never sends email and two because that was very sudden. About two weeks ago I was talking with him there after not having any communication with him or his wife in many years. He talked to me before the service and we talked some at the house afterward.

The family memorial service at the house was in the back yard at my mother's labyrinth garden, where my father spread her ashes. Nearby was their vegetable garden. This uncle was working with one of my aunts to get some dill from the garden for her to take, but they were having issues coordinating the logistics of his cutting it and getting the box of it to her. It was kind of amusing. I hardly knew him, but I guess that's the episode I'll remember about him.

My father is the oldest of that generation and another of their brothers died last year. Makes me think about the limited time of our lives.

08 August 2010

she's home

She's back from camp. She's dirty, well, was before a shower. Everything was dirty. The laundry is in progress. She was planning to go with another girl as her buddy, but the girl decided at the last minute not to go, so our daughter was an odd one out. Not sure why the counselors didn't pair her up with some other chick, but it's done.

Happy to be home and vice versa.


I worked on a few crochet projects yesterday. Finished one.

When I started to crochet in Dec and joined Ravelry soon after that (a local yarn shop suggested it), I wondered what items I would make. For a few years I did wood carving, but the craft takes concentration and focused effort because the work is done with very sharp tools. Not something to do while doing some other task, like watching a movie. The other side is that the finished objects are just that: objects that sit around on a shelf. Toys are the exception to that, but our daughter didn't have much interest in wooden toys. Another aspect is detail. I preferred the stylistic approach, focused on the form over realism, like duck carving.

In 2006, did a version of the Cloud Gate, which is a monumental-scale stainless sculpture in Chicago.

There are a lot of crochet patterns for women and women have a much broader palette of fashion accessories and decorative items ("a woman's touch" in a house) to draw from. There are lots of things I could make for my wife and our daughter, but not much for me. On Ravelry, I have listed a bunch of different projects I have completed that were mostly for a couple rounds of swaps (a scarf and another of kitchen and bath items). Interesting variety in that set of projects, I suppose. I seem to keep finding something to do, but aside for a hat or two and scarf, the things have been for other people and simple. I have done one afghan. It was simple too, just big, so it took a long time.

A swap came up recently that I debated joining, but finally did. The project I finished was a practice item for that. It's a jock. I don't wear them and I'm not interested in seeing other guys wearing them, but it was a guy's project, so I joined in anyway. I've never made a fitted garment before, so I figured that would be good practice for me too. Hats are pretty simple to make and, aside from being too small or too big, the sizing is not complicated. Getting the pouch to conform to the body, getting the pieces sized, and putting the elastic into the waistband was new. Now that I have some idea of how to do this, I have to make one for some other guy, my swap partner. I don't need to see him in it when he gets it, but would like to know if it fits, but I suppose potential changes don't matter because I doubt I would ever do this project again.


The wife and went for a bicycle ride yesterday. I think it's been about a year, but it was a good afternoon for it. The day was sunny, though otherwise cool. There was a nice breeze and not much traffic on the side streets we followed, so we had a good ride. We stopped at the fabric store for a skein of green yarn to complete the collection for the multi-colored afghan, though I don't know how much yarn of each color that will take, I now have some of each color at least.

Anyway, for the weight lifting I do, my level of muscle strength doesn't carry over into biking. I thighs started burning after only a few miles. Sad. Out of shape. My breathing was fine, so maybe my cardiovascular work is okay, but just had muscle burning.

The kid comes home this afternoon. The kids were bussed to the camp from another city, so we have to go there to pick her up again. I wrote about the note she sent. She sent another one since then. The second was mostly focused on how much she missed us and wanted to come home, NOW, and never wants to do a sleep-away camp again.

06 August 2010


I receive weekly notices of job postings from Careerbuilder. I followed one link this morning and started filling out the online application. When I made it to the provide three references box, I realized I just wasted my time. Until a company has expressed some interest in hiring a person, they have no reason to ask for that level of information. I'm not going to put people on notice that someone from a company might be contacting them unless the company is serious.

Not much else going on. The kid is still at camp. We received a note in the mail from her. I was looking forward to it, but it was short. She didn't write too much about her experience, just a couple things they did, that it's fun, and she misses us. The "it's fun" part was good to know. Given how she hates to read and write, the lack of other content shouldn't have surprised me.

The shawl project in progress is stalled because I'm waiting for additional trim yarn in the mail. I may not finish it in time for the wife's birthday and haven't bought her anything else for the event. Bad husband. We have different ways of thinking about spending. I look at the amount of money I spent to visit with relatives and attend my mother's memorial and think that now I need to hold off on getting the squat rack I have been wanting to get. My wife thinks the trip was a necessary expense and I should still get the rack, so she probably thinks I should get her something nice for her bday TOO.

03 August 2010

the chickens

We've had chickens in a backyard coop for about three years now. They each generally lay an (unfertilized) egg every other day.

One of our first two chickens is this golden-sex link, which is a red with buff accents and on her hackles (neck) and the tips of her tail and primary wing feathers.

Our other chicken was this red-sex link, which is a red with black tips on her tail and primary wing feathers. Here she is in the oat patch that I planted for them. They reach up and strip the oats off the stems. She died in May of congestive heart failure.

The term "sex link" comes from the attribute of these hybrids to have sex-linked coloring. The hens have the colors shown here and the roosters have different colors.

This is our new pullet, who is currently about ten-weeks old. Up to eight weeks, she was a chick. She won't lay until she's about twenty-weeks old and won't be considered a hen until she's one-year old. She is a gold-laced Wyandotte. She doesn't have her wattles yet (under her chin) but is starting to grow her comb. Wyandottes have a rose comb, which is compact with a point toward the back of their heads. The sex-links have a simple comb.

The gold-sex link is still mad about having to share space in the yard with her, and doesn't want her in the coop at all. She is getting better. They each like each other's food. The pullet is still eating "chick starter", which are crumbles, and the hen gets layer food, which are pellets fortified with calcium.

no kid

With our daughter off at a sleep-away camp for the week, my wife and I have the house to ourselves. After the first day, we have found that things are not that different. We had a few errands to do yesterday evening and have to mess with the chickens, so by the time we were settled at home, there wasn't that much free time. We sat in the living room and talked while she read and sorted her mail and I did some crochet work on her shawl and soon it was bedtime.

The young chicken and the adult chicken don't get along yet, so have to be kept separate and supervised when out in the yard. The separate care has been annoying for some time and we are quite ready to move them into the coop together, but the big chicken insists on pecking (establishing pecking order).

I tried to read some of "Antony and Cleopatra", but couldn't concentrate when I wanted to go to sleep instead.

My workout in the afternoon was a squat day. I increased the weight to 200lb and tried to get to parallel on the reps, but didn't. I'm doing twelve-rep sets to keep the weight lighter, because I know I haven't difficulty sinking with heavier weights, so opted for more reps and lighter weight to encourage more depth. Going below parallel is not in the cards with my bad knee.

02 August 2010


The weekend flew by. I spent too much of it going through the pictures from the vacation, which (now) started almost a month ago. Too much time at the computer on the weekend, when I spend all workweek in front of one. I think the highlights are posted here. I didn't post any of the stuff from after I went back home, when the girls went off east to Montana.

Other than that, it was housecleaning, pet maintenance, and errands.

One of the errands was to get pet supplies for the chickens. At the store there was a guy buying a 50-lb bag of chicken layer food and another of chicken scratch. That store is the only one around that sells the stuff. We started talking with him about chickens, because he obviously had them. He showed us a picture of his and I described ours. He wasn't sure what breeds he had. Afterward I thought that I should have asked him for his email address to talk more chicken.

Back home, I asked the kid, again, what she wanted to do together before she left for the week. The night before she was crying because she was leaving and we didn't do anything together during the day (on Sat), so we said we would do whatever she wanted the next day (Sun). She just sat around and later played on the computer. My wife had to push her to get her packing finished, but she wasn't interested in doing something until late in the day. That thing became a game of Risk, capital style. In those rules, each player picks one of their territories to be their capital, headquarters, and the other players try to capture the other headquarters. It's quicker than the regular Risk, which can take hours.

At bedtime she was teary and didn't want to sleep alone, so I took her bed. This morning she was crying about her imminent departure. We tried to console her that she's going to be busy doing things with the other girls at camp and she should write to us in the evening if she misses us. It didn't work very well. She can receive and post letters, but no mobiles, MP3 players, etc. We will see how it goes. We have already sent a card to her, plan to send a couple more in the coming days, and my wife wrote a few cards that apparently will go to the "counselors" and they can dole them out on specified days.

I spent some time doing some crochet work too. I've been working on this shawl for the wife for months, kind of off and on. The body is done and I've started on the trim. She wanted Fun Fur around it. The pattern is a hybrid of a poncho and a shawl, mostly a shawl, done with bulky yarn and the trim idea from the poncho. The poncho pattern says 69yards for the Fun Fur, so I bought two skeins of it, which were 60yards each. Plenty, right? The perimeter of the shawl is a little more than the poncho, but I'm on the second skein and haven't even gone around once. The poncho pattern shows that in the first round the trim has five stitches in each space of the shawl stitches. In the second round, there should be five stitches for the bottom (outer square) and three stitches around the neck hole. A triangular shawl has an edge around the top/neck and a two-sided edge around the back. By my estimate, it's going to take over two for the first round. Because of the three or five stitches in EACH of the (posts of the) first-round stitches, that's 3-5 times MORE yarn than the first round. How did the designer of the poncho come up with 69yards total? Ugh. I ordered some more. Many more, well, six, for a total of eight or 480 yards, which still may not be enough. I'm planning on four stitches per stitch/post in the second round.

vacation: Craigdarroch Castle

I forgot to post the part about the Craigdarroch Castle. After we went to Bouchart Gardens, the bus bought us back to Victoria and we started walking toward the castle. It turned out that the blocks were bigger than we thought, and gave up on that idea in favor of riding a bus. At a bus stop we found out how much the bus costs and that the buses only take Canadian money. We walked a little farther, looking for a money exchange business or bank, but soon sat down on some steps to look over the map and think about how to proceed. At that point, a man on a bike came by and asked us if we needed any help. After we explained the situation, he said that he had a shop just down the street and he would give us Canadian change. The Canadians we encountered were all very nice, unlike the Americans.

Once we had Canadian money in hand, it was a simple thing to catch the bus and ride to ... next stop after the castle, backtrack a block, and walk the last block on the side street up to the castle. The castle used to be a grand house on a hill at the center of its estate, but now entrance gate (reconstructed) is the entry to a neighborhood, the estate has been carved up into lots, and the castle is the big house on the hill, surrounded by a number of other, smaller, houses.

Craigdarroch Castle took three years to build, has four stories, and was finished 1890. The man who had it built was Robert Dunsmuir, a Scottish immigrant who made his fortune from Vancouver Island coal. He died before it was finished and his two sons had it finished. Dunsmuir's wife lived there with their family after his death.

Many of the rooms have stained glass windows.

01 August 2010

colorful afghan

Yesterday my wife and I went shopping for yarn for the afghan my mother started. At bedtime I looked over the pattern and figured out how it was supposed to look and saw that there are supposed to be four colors involved, so I have to go back to the yarn store for another. I'm terrible at choosing colors, but our daughter suggested a green.

This morning I took a picture of the different yarns we bought already, made a copy of the blue one and changed it to green and made a draft layout, of course the stitch pattern won't look like these skein pictures, but the color layout would be like this, going by the pattern. Not colors I would choose for a blanket for me. I like dark blue and green, not purple and lavender.

vacation: Whistler, British Columbia

We had determined that Whistler was the farthest we wanted to go into British Columbia. There's not much beyond it. Whistler is a ski resort "community" in the winter and a lift-assisted mountain-biking resort in the summer. There is also hiking and other activities too. The zipline company operates year around. We did the ziplines. The zipline suspension walkways were similar to the Capilano ones, so turns out we could have skipped that stop.

At one overlook, we could see clearly out to the mountains surrounding the Whistler valley.

Our daughter coming down, backwards at the end. We had little ability to control the direction we pointed, so had a slow spin. The top cable is the suspension cable (tight) and the lower one is the brake cable. On the longest run, she was too light to go by herself and had to go tandem with one of the guides.

Wife in the distance.

Me looking over my shoulder. When we hit the brake area, there was a jerk every time because we were going so fast. Everyone wondered how we would stop in time, but they stop quickly.

vacation: Capilano Suspension Bridge

After Victoria, we drove up to North Vancouver to visit the Capilano Suspension Bridge and the suspended walkways and boardwalks there. The bridge is quite wobbly. This view is actually from the far side looking back at the entrance plaza.

The bridge passes over a stream.

Once on the far side, there is a network of suspended walkways, boardwalks, and ground paths that take one on a tour of the forest.