Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Good Week, So Far

Yesterday was a productive day for me. Despite feeling a bit ill, I managed to do about four hours of housework. Unfortunately, the house is still such a mess you can barely tell... The master bedroom does look much better, though.

I did manage one project yesterday I'm pleased about finishing; the painters had neglected to paint the pegboard wall in the kitchen behind the stove. I don't know how they missed it, but maybe they decided we didn't want it painted because it was pegboard; I don't know. But it was already painted and the paint had large faded areas and it looked terrible. Yesterday, I finally rounded up the tools and the matching kitchen paint and got it painted. It looks much better and now Jeff can hang up some of the kitchen utensils he uses the most.

Here it is all loaded up.

Our hot weather has finally broken, for now. It is blissfully cool today.

Yesterday, Shasta was supposed to start her next dog obedience class. Unfortunately, the Mountain View AKC Club cancelled the class we expected her to take. I guess we'll keep watching and see when they offer the class again.

Today I have spent my morning working on school work. One of my assignments in Legal Research and Writing is to read lots of published materials and find spelling and grammar errors. Since I spend a lot of time reading news and blogs anyway, this assignment is easy. I've already found 4 errors today and I'll probably have quite a few noted by the end of the week. I also wrote up another extra credit paper on the movie "The Rainmaker," another good legal movie. I don't know if I'm learning much, but these classes are pretty enjoyable.

I also spent quite a while coming up with a pleading paper template in Apple's Pages application. (I'm too cheap to go buy a copy of Word when I've already got Pages which seems to work pretty well for everything I've needed to do so far.) It was a bit of a challenge getting the numbers to display down the left side of the page, but I think I finally got it right.

In my time surfing today I found these fun Economic Funnies at Economicrot; here are my favorites:

I finally heard back about the unpaid internship today (after calling and emailing a couple of times). They claimed they've been very busy; too busy to get back to me. So now I'm going in next week to meet them and do testing. I presume they're going to test my spelling and, perhaps, my typing. I guess we'll see.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Next Oregon Visit

Our plan to visit Portland at Thanksgiving fell through. Our friends who we usually stay with were all busy, so we had to reschedule. Now we're going to head up north right after I get out of school in December. We'll probably be leaving here on December 19, but if Jeff can take Friday off, we'll head up on December 18.

We'll probably stay nearly until New Years, if our friends are around to visit.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Questioning our Food Choices

Over the last couple of years, Jeff and I have gradually been changing our food shopping habits. Back in Oregon, I would go to the discount grocery store and buy whatever was cheapest, without regard for brand. I typically purchased the generics and we kept a well-stocked pantry. While we still keep a stocked pantry, we now try and pay attention to more than just the price of the food we buy. We are trying to buy locally and organic.

The other night we watched a rather eye-opening documentary, King Corn on Netflix. It showed how our government farmer subsidy programs have set up a system that contributes to unhealthy, fattening foods being readily available for cheap. And that has contributed to our obese nation. In the documentary, we learned farmers receive $28 for every bushel of corn they grow. And without that price support, they would never be able to grow corn at a profit. Anyway, with the subsidy farmers have been growing more and more corn every year. And that corn goes to make corn syrup that is used so often in foods now.

They also use the corn to fatten up cows on feed lots. Before this documentary, I had been sold on the marketing that grain-fed beef is a good thing; it isn't. They used to fatten up cows on grass, but it took a long time. Now, they put the cows on feed lots and feed them as much as they can eat and the cow doesn't get any exercise so they gain weight--lots of it. So, come to learn, marbled beef isn't good for you.

(On our recent trip down to Southern California we actually drove by a feed lot along Interstate 5 that was absolutely huge. We were driving at least 70 mph and we were next to it for several minutes. I couldn't believe how large it was. I think I have now managed to figure out that this was Harris Ranch and it has 700+ acres. They have something like 100,000 cows and they, of course, don't provide shelter for these animals in the heat and cold. And the smell—ugh, it was disgusting.... Those poor cows. Now I know at least one brand of meat I won't buy! Yuck! This was the best picture I managed to take, unfortunately. )
Since moving to Redwood City, we've starting going regularly to the local farmers market, as well as Whole Foods. We're now buying many more organic food products. Also, this summer we purchased a quarter of a grass fed cow. We have learned from Jeff's cooking efforts that it has practically no fat and it tastes really good too.

So, now we sacrifice some of our discretionary spending money so we can buy food that is at least a bit better for us and for the environment. Unfortunately, it's hard to wean myself of my love of all this corn-syrup laden fattening food; I've been struggling for years to give up Coca Cola.

There are also a couple of other good documentaries I found today that you can watch online.

Here is a really good one that talks about the environmental effects of our consumption: The Story of Stuff.

Umm, this one is a series of pretty depressing videos about factory farming: The Meatrix

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Productive Morning

Jeff and I got a lot done today. We worked on projects this morning we've needed to do for a while...

Jeff took the dog for a run. We've decided that the arm that holds the dog to the scooter is really just too big for Shasta, so we'd like to find a metal worker who can help us rework this arm so it will be four or so inches smaller. That will also make it easier for Jeff to travel on the sidewalk, because this scooter is very wide with the rig for the dog.

Anyway, after his ride, Jeff set up his new compost bins we finally received from the County. (It took over 9 weeks to get them from when I ordered them.) We also had to pull all of these terra cotta pots off of the racks and bolt the racks to the house before putting the pots back. It's not the strongest rack and we thought it would hold up better if it was supported by the house. (These are pots leftover from my grandmother.)

And when we finished those projects, Jeff started putting together the dog house we bought months ago. Unfortunately when we bought this used, we didn't get all the bolts, so he had to interrupt his assembly efforts with a trip to the hardware store to find some replacements.

It's gotten really hot outside, so now Jeff is taking a nap. Hopefully he'll be able to finish up the dog house later this evening.

I did at least six loads of laundry this morning.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Dinner at California Academy of Sciences

Apple arranged a dinner at the California Academy of Sciences in San Francisco to thank their employees for finishing their current project. They had a good show at the planetarium and we enjoyed the aquarium. Unfortunately, it was too dark to enjoy the native roof garden. We had a nice time.

We took a couple of neat videos. Sorry about the bad audio; I haven't figured out how to delete the audio track yet.

Jeff had a good ride with Shasta this morning. She's now pulling and he doesn't have to help much anymore.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

CSI Binge and Homework

I found CSI on the Netflix Instant Download, but it's only available until the 23rd of September. I used to watch it when we lived in Oregon and stopped watching when we moved. When I found it on Netflix, I couldn't resist catching up on the episodes I missed so, unfortunately, I've done little else in the last couple of days.

Last night I got a list of homework assignments in my Legal Research and Writing class. This is my fifth week of school, and this is the first assignment I have gotten. I spent last evening and today, so far, working on assignments. I expect to finish most of the book assignments by the end of the week. The rest of the assignments are going to be passed out throughout the semester and I'll work on them as I get them.

Yesterday, I applied for an unpaid paralegal internship at an Estate Planning & Elder Law office in Palo Alto. They told me they would get back to me some time next week, so I guess we'll see.

Shasta is getting more familiar with her scooter. She doesn't seem to be scared of the wheel so much and she's wagging as they go along. Jeff has been able to slowly ride it along now. She still isn't running alongside.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Shasta's First Trip

Shasta is still pretty scared of the wheel, but she got her first trip on her new scooter this morning. She isn't pulling yet, so Jeff had to go pretty slow and encourage her along.

Got Shasta's Scooter

We received Shasta's scooter this afternoon. Jeff spent all evening putting it together and so he still hasn't been able to take Shasta for a spin on it.

I'll add more photos tomorrow when I have a chance to take them outside in the daylight.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Busy Weekend

Yesterday we went off to a feast in the Shire of Esfenn (Fremont). They had a really great menu and the food was delicious. I wish I had remembered to take more pictures of the food. Though it was one of the more-expensive feasts we've gone to, it was worth it. During the evening, Jeff enjoyed playing games with a table mate.

Today we're tackling cleaning up the living room. This corner of the room was full of boxes when we got up this morning. We spent the last couple of hours sifting boxes and shifting some of them to the garage.

Our plan is to rotate the futon around (in front of the fireplace, unfortunately) so it faces the entertainment center. And we want to hang the curtain hardware back up so I can get started on the drapes for this room. This house has very little insulation in the walls, so we'll probably want the drapes when winter finally arrives. Though, it didn't get cold enough last year to kill the tomato plants until December so it probably won't really get all that cold.

Here's a before and after picture.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Happy Birthday Shasta!

Shasta had her one-year birthday yesterday! Yeah. Other than the grooming, she had a good day. She got to go to the dog park in the morning with me and then Jeff took her to a play date with another Australian Shepherd, Joey, who we met at the dog park. And then last night we let her sleep on our bed. We had expected she would wiggle or move about and then we would have thrown her off, but she slept straight through the night and was still on the bed this morning.
I'm planning on a productive day today. I'm going to plan out the pieces for my brother's quilt and start cutting strips. I'm going to cut strips today so that I can then cut them down into pieces while we're watching movies. Standing around cutting pieces all day is pretty boring, so anything I can do to make it more fun is a feature.

I'm on my third week of school and I cannot believe how slowly these classes are going. The pace certainly wasn't helped by the bookstore not having the books at the beginning of the semester; luckily I bought my copies from Amazon before the term so I've had them all along. But even so, I'm not impressed with how slowly we're moving along; I'm definitely used to quarters. I've already turned in two extra credit assignments in Legal Research & Writing and I'm working on the third; I'm reading A Civil Action and I'll be writing a short report on it. I doubt I'll need the extra credit for a good grade, but I figure the more work I do, the more I learn, and the better prepared I'll be for any position I find.

On Friday, I'm meeting with someone from the department to apply for an internship. I'm hoping to be considered for one of the positions, but there's probably a fair amount of competition.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Finished James' Drapes

I spent most of today finishing my brother James' drapes for his bedroom. I finished up all the machine sewing and then I spent 5 to 6 hours hand tacking the pleats in place. I watched Wives and Daughters on Netflix while I was doing the sewing. Good movie.

Since I've never made these before, I'm not really sure how to finish them for hanging. I'm hoping I just need to iron them.

This project was a good practice for the drapes I need to make for our living room. Now that I've used the pleating tape, I might consider doing it by hand next time. Granted, the pleating tape made it very easy and quick to pleat, but so much harder to sew, due to the extra layers of the pleats. With my experience doing cartridge pleats in Renaissance costuming, I really should be able to handle triple pleats.

Monday, September 7, 2009

Shasta's Play Date

We started celebrating Shasta's birthday a little bit early today. She's one-year-old on Wednesday and we scheduled a play date with my Aunt Sarah's dog, Miss Brooks. We had a lovely visit for dinner and lots of dog playing.

I bought her a new dog toy earlier today for her birthday. I loved it!

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Sewing Pleated Drapes

I spent a good part of today sewing triple pleated drapes for my brother's bedroom. James and his wife bought this fabric something like ten years ago and it was still sitting in the bag. They offered the fabric to me, to get rid of it, but instead I offered to make them the curtains.

The drapes are two panels that slide apart and I'm almost finished with one of the panels. I've finished all of the machine sewing and am now working on hand reinforcing the pleats in place. My hands are pretty tired from the hand sewing because I'm trying to sew through 18 layers of fabric along the top edge. I've made good use of thimbles and pliers today. I've almost finished the machine sewing on the second panel as well. I just need to add the pleating tape.

The hand sewing on the pleats is very compatible with movie watching, which is a good thing. Today we watched the four part series called Empires: The Medici, Godfathers of the Renaissance and it was really enjoyable. (It makes me a little sorry Jeff and I gave up our Italian Renaissance personas in SCA.)

Our movie binge continues. We pretty much watched movies all day yesterday (that's why we tried to get some work done today). =) My favorite movies yesterday were Music and Lyrics and Wall-E. I don't plan to list all the movies, but rest assured, we're spending a lot of time catching up on movies we've missed since 2005. We're liking the Netflix Instant Download, though it's hard to have the computer hooked to the TV for the duration of the movie. I think we're going to have to spring for the digital video player that Netflix recommends for watching off the internet.

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Netflix Binge

At Jeff's request, I signed us up for Netflix on Friday. Well, with their instant download option, we've managed to watch about six movies since yesterday afternoon. Of those that we have watched and would most recommend are: The Secret Garden, A Civil Action, Hitchcock, Greenfingers and, less enthusiastically, The Other Boleyn Girl. We actually liked the Boleyn movie better until we went and investigated how much they had butchered the actual history; it at least had fairly decent costumes. The last movie, Then She Found Me, I didn't particularly like.

Since Shasta is coming up on a year old, we can finally let her "tow" Jeff. He used to take her for runs on his skateboard; he would put on her harness and let her tow him around several blocks. It would wear her out and it was fun for him, too. But then we read a report saying you should not put puppies under those kinds of conditions because they're still growing, it is not good for their skeleton, so he stopped doing it. She still gets excited when she sees his skateboard come out of the corner.

Anyway, we were investigating better harness rigs for her, so she wouldn't get her feet under the skateboard wheels anymore. During the search, we found a neat scooter Jeff wanted. It's a scooter built for the purpose, made by Pawtrek, and it has a side harness rig. It was pretty spendy, but I expect we'll be using it for many years so I went ahead and ordered it for Shasta and Jeff this morning.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

TV Finally

Well, Jeff finally got his TV today. And since my class was cancelled tonight, I got to watch him set it up and play with it. It's much smaller than our TV in Forest Grove, but it will do for now. It fits well in our entertainment center.

Now we just need to get the living room cleaned up. =)

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Economy Rant

I'm really ready to know what the future holds for us.

I think this weekend I finally internalized that we're going to be permanently renting here in California. When we moved back here, we planned to build a house and it didn't work out. Now, it's clear it never will. There is no house likely to present itself here in California that will satisfy any purchase calculation that would justify its purchase. The prices are just too high here in California; they defy common sense. So, as long as we're living here, we're renters.

I frequently surf through the different MLS websites up in Oregon in hopes of finding the perfect house for a great price. But, of course, that won't happen because I'm looking for something that doesn't exist. I want a showcase 1920s bungalow with the original woodwork, but I want it to be a good deal. Since the majority of them originally built have been destroyed by remodels and paint, that there just aren't that many left. There is little chance that they'll go for anything resembling a good deal. There was one last year we made an offer on--in foreclosure--but we didn't get it. (I'm still disappointed about that.) I keep hoping for another to find its way to the MLS.

In order to pay top dollar for a great house in Oregon, we're realistically looking at up to $600K (in Portland--less in other cities). That's too much for us to spend without having at least one job lined up between us (primarily because of health benefits). So, I continue in school, hoping beyond hope that I'll be able to find employment as a paralegal so, someday I can look for a job in Portland. I try to be optimistic, but it's hard some days.

I try to be happy about all the money that we're saving by renting here in California, but I don't have a lot of faith in our government's ability to not screw up our economy beyond repair. We have a fairly large amount of cash and are making practically no interest on it thanks to our government trying to repair our monumental debt-binge with yet more debt. I just hope the money we're saving right now will be worth something by the time we get to buy.

Sorry--I guess I had a tough week--End Rant

Funny Email about Animal Diary Entries

I really have no idea who originally wrote this, but I laughed out loud when I opened it.

Excerpts from a Dog's Diary......

8:00 am - Dog food! My favorite thing!
9:30 am - A car ride! My favorite thing!
9:40 am - A walk in the park! My favorite thing!
10:30 am - Got rubbed and petted! My favorite thing!
12:00 pm - Lunch! My favorite thing!
1:00 pm - Played in the yard! My favorite thing!
3:00 pm - Wagged my tail! My favorite thing!
5:00 pm - Milk Bones! My favorite thing!
7:00 pm - Got to play ball! My favorite thing!
8:00 pm - Wow! Watched TV with the people! My favorite thing!
11:00 pm - Sleeping on the bed! My favorite thing!

Excerpts from a Cat's Daily Diary...

Day 983 of my captivity...

My captors continue to taunt me with bizarre little dangling objects. They dine lavishly on fresh meat, while the other inmates and I are fed hash or some sort of dry nuggets. Although I make my contempt for the rations perfectly clear, I nevertheless must eat something in order to keep up my strength.

The only thing that keeps me going is my dream of escape. In an attempt to disgust them, I once again vomit on the carpet.

Today I decapitated a mouse and dropped its headless body at their feet. I had hoped this would strike fear into their hearts, since it clearly demonstrates what I am capable of. However, they merely made condescending comments about what a 'good little hunter' I am. Bastards.

There was some sort of assembly of their accomplices tonight. I was placed in solitary confinement for the duration of the event. However, I could hear the noises and smell the food. I overheard that my confinement was due to the power of 'allergies.' I must learn what this means and how to use it to my advantage.

Today I was almost successful in an attempt to assassinate one of my tormentors by weaving around his feet as he was walking. I must try this again tomorrow -- but at the top of the stairs.

I am convinced that the other prisoners here are flunkies and snitches. The dog receives special privileges. He is regularly released - and seems to be more than willing to return. He is obviously retarded.

The bird has got to be an informant. I observe him communicating with the guards regularly. I am certain that he reports my every move. My captors have arranged protective custody for him in an elevated cell, so he is safe. For now................