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.