Thursday, July 20, 2017


LIT UP:  Tonight marks one week in our new place. The kids were probably too young to remember a lot of the remodeling we did to our last home. This go-round, they'll not only have a front-row seat, but they'll be helping.

Wanting them to feel at home, we've decided a first-order-of-business is getting the kids' rooms put together. 

Both of their bedrooms need light fixtures that were a little more contemporary and 'them.'

We took down this fixture in Annabelle's room, and I promptly set about trying to rehome it. In fact, it's blowing up on our local Buy Nothing group right now. I think 20-plus people want it! (We'll do a drawing for the winner in the morning.)
Up in its place is a fabulous chandelier we scored from our previous Buy Nothing neighborhood group.  It's a bedazzled fixture that was removed from a multi million dollar mansion. 

A couple of nights ago, the kids helped Christian install it. 

Tonight, we finally got the lightbulbs for it.  And now, it's  a show stopper dangling from Annabelle's ceiling! And it was free!!!!
Have I mentioned lately how much I love Buy Nothing?

MEANWHILE, ON MARS: This morning's email included an update from Jet Propulsion Laboratories regarding the amazing Mars Rover Opportunity's latest accomplishments.

Landed on Mars in 2004, and working many years beyond its expected/planned mission duration, Opportunity recently recorded a panoramic view on the Red Planet, before entering the upper end of a fluid-carved valley on Mars that descends the inner slope of a large crater's rim.
You really should go to the NASA website to see the larger image:

In its press release, NASA notes, "The scene (in the photo) includes a broad notch in the crest of the crater's rim, which may have been a spillway where water or ice or wind flowed over the rim and into the crater. Wheel tracks visible in the area of the notch were left by Opportunity as the rover studied the ground there and took images into the valley below for use in planning its route."

The photo was taken by Opportunity's panoramic camera (Pancam) during a two-week driving moratorium in June 2017, while rover engineers were diagnosing a temporary stall in the left-front wheel's steering actuator. According to NASA, "The wheel was pointed outward more than 30 degrees, prompting the team to call the resulting vista Pancam's "Sprained Ankle" panorama. Both ends of the scene show portions of Endeavour Crater's western rim, extending north and south, and the center of the scene shows terrain just outside the crater."

Fortunately, NASA's team was able to straighten the wheel to point straight ahead, and now they're using the steering capability of only the two rear wheels. The right-front wheel's steering actuator has been disabled since 2006. 

Overall, Opportunity has driven 27.95 miles (44.97 kilometers) since landing on Mars in 2004.

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Creature Feature

BUGGY:  Yesterday morning, we had a visitor. Check out this beauty of a beetle!

Christian discovered him on the screen door, right by the head of our bed.

I posted the photo to Facebook, and before too long, the visitor was IDed as a June beetle, one of several types of Scarab beetles.

It's scientific name is Cotinis mutabilis. The critter is also known as the figeater beetle, the green fruit beetle or fig beetle. Per Wikipedia, it belongs to the subfamily Cetoniinae, comprising a group of beetles commonly called flower chafers since many of them feed on pollen, nectar, or petals, and its habitat is primarily the southwestern United States.

We're definitely western U.S., but not south, that's for sure. We do have a fig tree in our 'new' yard, so I wonder if that's why the beetle paid a visit.
It's interesting to me that even though we really didn't move that far (15 miles), there is a big difference in the bird and insect population from old to new. Gone are the seagulls we saw so often, living near the sound and Locks at our last place. And here there are hardly any crows, while we had many a murder of them in Magnolia. Also, no robins yet, whereas our last place was teeming with them. 

Our new "campus" has some small birds of prey I need a closer look at to try to ID. And we have a few hummingbirds and I'm working to attract more! We have an abundance of bumblebees and so many dragon flies. 

It's fun getting to know these unfamiliar environs. 

SCHOOLED: CJ is in the midst of his first summer school experience. He is about halfway through a three-week programming class through Seattle Public Schools at Seattle Center. I'll let him tell you more about it. ... 
Recently, I have been taking a programming class at the Seattle branch of the Academy of Interactive Entertainment (AIE). According to their website, the AIE is a specialist games and film educator established by industry with alumni in studios around the world. The Seattle branch is one of two branches in the United States (not counting the online course), and is located in Seattle Center's Armory.
I have been going to class since the 5th, and I will continue to go until the 28th.
In class, I have worked on various different projects. Here are some of them:
One of the first projects we got to was making a version of the classic video game Pong using Javascript (technically HTML, but HTML was only used to contain the Javascript). We were first guided step-by-step by a Udemy course, and I have put a version of it on my website (linked below). At class, I was able to make a space-themed version of the Pong game (with Earth as the ball). Unfortunately, this version is not yet on my website.
Another project we worked on was animation using Toon Boom Studio. Toon Boom Studio is a popular program for animators (usually amateur ones), and it is a stripped down version of Toon Boom Harmony. With Toon Boom Studio, I have made animations of a ball bouncing, as well as a concept animation of my Pong program.
My favorite project would probably be the Neocities project. Neocities is a free web host, based of the classic defunct Yahoo! free hosting service GeoCities. On Neocities, I run a website about the Shar-Pei Hive Mind (an elaborate conspiracy theory that I came up with), along with some of my other things. My Neocities website is at
Though CJ isn't thrilled with spending 5+ hours of his summer days indoors for three weeks, he is learning some good skills, and it's also a good opportunity for him to be more independent, so win-win.

VETTED: One thing we've discovered is that life doesn't stand still even though you're all-consumed with moving. There are still other things you must tend to, including a dog with a bald bottom.

Poor Laika. I'm glad she can't see her rear. It's pretty much devoid of any coat whatsoever. It's just her pale, kind of blue-tinged skin. I suppose I could have posted a photo to illustrate, but I'll spare her that indignity.

I did some Googling regarding the symptoms, and the most likely explanation was an allergy to flea bites. Even though we brush and bathe her lot and haven't seen fleas, that doesn't mean they're not there. 

We decided we needed to take Laika to the vet to get checked. But we're in a new neighborhood now, and weren't sure where to go, so we turned to the helpful Internet.

Annabelle quickly found a well-reviewed and seemingly super affordable place, the aptly-named Afford-A-Vet Animal Clinic. It is in Kent, not far from where we love to grocery shop at Winco.

We didn't even need an appointment. We just walked in with Laika a little after 1. 

She was a nervous wreck. That's kind of her perpetual state, really. Let's just say she was on high alert. It didn't help much that an enormous Pit Bull named Santana was all up in her business in the waiting room. Santana was super cute and his owner was really nice, but Laika just wasn't in the friend-making mode. 

We got into an exam room after about 20 minutes of Laika cowering. She didn't really relax in the exam room, because she knew something was up. 

Apologies for the blurry photo. She was trembling. ;)
While waiting for the vet, Annabelle and I learned lots about plants that are toxic to pets thanks to this engaging poster.
Some of the plants I'd heard were trouble, but I didn't know that the very common-round-here azaleas and rhododendrons could be trouble.

The vet did find one flea on Laika, and deemed that enough probably cause to confirm my allergic-to-flea-bites suspicion. So, she got some hardcore meds and we'll double down on our efforts to keep fleas out of the house. 

Monday, July 17, 2017

Turn the Page

DOORS OPEN AND CLOSE: Apologies for the dearth of posts as of late. We've been a little busy. 

Last Thursday, we shut the front door (and every other door!) for the last time on the original home of Magnolia Preparatory Academy.

We sold the place, and it was the deadline for vacating. We walked out about 6:20 p.m. on July 13. Moving on was a bit bittersweet, of course. We said good-bye to each room, and spent a little extra time lingering in the kids' rooms, admiring their 360-degree murals for the last time.
(Christian videoed the process. I'll have to see how those turned out and post, if possible).

The final few days in our former place, we marked many lasts. For instance, there was the last bike ride down our alley.

And I had to chronicle the last breakfast on the last morning in our home, prepared on the beloved vintage stove we had to leave behind. We had to go borrow a pan from a neighbor, because we'd already packed all of ours!
I loved that amazing appliance so much!
Of course, the sweet part of bittersweet is the excitement of moving on to a new adventure, in a new location. From Magnolia, we moved straight into a new place in Skyway, a neighborhood atop a hill at the south end of Seattle. 

From night one, the new place felt like home, so yay for that!

Kirby was happy to find a place to perch to survey her new kingdom (or queendom).
If you know us, you know we're makers and doers, and there is a lot to do at this new place. It was built in 1962, and hasn't changed a whole lot since then. In the midst of moving in, we've already started on some projects.

For instance, we've already been haunting our favorite remodelers' resale store, Second Use, in hopes of scoring some needed items for this home's update. I was tickled pink to find a pitch black toilet for the bathroom off our work-in-progress new game room downstairs. I'm definitely a fan of toilets that dare to be anything but white, so this black one looked like a beauty to me. 
Isn't it lovely?! :)  (Rest assured, I will try to keep my posts about toilets to a minimum going forward.)

We also scored some new seating ... Safeco Field seating!!! Imagine how happy we were when we saw these surplus seats from our beloved ballpark on sale at Second Use!

Amidst all the moving activity, CJ has been attending a Monday-Friday computer programming class at The Academy of Interactive Entertainment from 11 to 4 at Seattle Center. He's learning Java Script, among other things.

I found a photo on my phone of the "class." It looks suspiciously like the food court at the Center. Hmm, I'll have to ask him about that. ...

MEANWHILE, NEAR JUPITER: We haven't been as plugged in to NASA or any news the last few days due to our transition, but I have seen spectacular shots of Jupiter popping up
in my social media feeds here and there.

Spacecraft Juno has been returning stunning images of our solar system's largest planet. Specifically, on July 10, Juno passed right over the giant's Great Red Spot.

Per a NASA press release, "Images of Jupiter’s Great Red Spot reveal a tangle of dark, veinous clouds weaving their way through a massive crimson oval."

Below, the enhanced-color image of Jupiter’s Great Red Spot was created by citizen scientist Jason Major using data from the JunoCam imager on NASA’s Juno spacecraft.

And this enhanced-color image of Jupiter’s Great Red Spot was created by citizen scientist Gerald Eichstädt using data from the JunoCam imager on NASA’s Juno spacecraft.
Credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech/SwRI/MSSS/Gerald Eichstädt.

As of April 3, 2017, Jupiter's Great Red Spot measured 10,159 miles (16,350 kilometers) in width, making it 1.3 times as wide as Earth. 

The spot is actually a storm, and it has been monitored since 1830. It is believed to have existed for more than 350 years. Presently, scientists say the Great Red Spot has appeared to be shrinking. 


Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Work and Play

OH, THANK HEAVEN: First thing this morning, our day got a little brighter when I spied a Facebook memory alerting me to the fact it was July 11, also known as 7-11, also known as the day 7-11 stores offer free Slurpees.

We never buy Slurpees. (Well, except for when it's bring your own enormous cup day.) But we will get Slurpees when they're free. In fact, we might even go to more than one 7-11 and get more than one free one ...

Flavors sampled today included Sour Grape, Watermelon Lime, Cotton Candy, Blue Raspberry, Cherry, Coke, and Pepsi Fire. 

Christian and Annabelle didn't finish their Slurpees. CJ sucked two down (that he's reporting).

SPLASHY: CJ is in his second week of a programming class at Seattle Center from 11 to 4:15 each weekday. He texted this a.m. asking to go to the fountain after class today. We'd been working in the dark, dirty, dusty basement most all day, and so we thought the fountain would be a nice break. It was!
While we were there, a wedding party showed up for photos. That was interesting. The crowd on hand cheered them. One woman in the wedding party wasn't paying close enough attention and got her face doused. She was so angry. Not gonna lie, it was pretty funny to see.
Regarding CJ's class, he's learning Java Script and HTML. Naturally, he is putting these new skills to use by designing a Shar-Pei-based website.

Here's a link: 

While CJ was at school, we packed and packed and packed some more in prep for our upcoming move. We also did yard work for the last time on this particular plot.
 We're leaving the home's new owner a garden that's starting to produce some produce.
The pepper plants seem especially happy this year - we've had over 30 days of warm, dry weather.

Friday, July 7, 2017

Favorite Places

HOME AWAY FROM HOME: Thought we're eyeballs deep in a big move, we took time out this evening to go to the old ball game. We've only been to two or three other games so far this season, a big deficit for us. 

We picked CJ up from his programming class about 4:20 at Seattle Center and then took darn near an hour to get to the stadium. Traffic was terrible. We went backward to go forward at one point. 

We finally made it, happily in time to get Mariners' snow globes. The first 20,000 fans got a globe. Half of them were Kingdomes, half were Safeco Field. Though we went to different people/boxes to procure ours, we all wound up with Kingdomes. 
While we love us some Kingdome, we would rather have half and half, so CJ and Christian went to swap a couple of Kingdomes at a designated swap spot in the stadium. In the end, we got the globes we wanted. They're super pretty.  :)
The Mariners have been on quite a streak. A LOSING streak that is. Before tonight, they'd dropped the last 8 games at home. Ouch.

Fortunately, tonight they turned that around and posted a strong win. We especially loved Nelson Cruz's 3-run homer in the bottom of the eighth inning.

We started the evening down in the bull pen, and watched most of the game from 'on high' - the top row on the west side of the stadium.
About the seventh inning, we made our way down to the 100 level, behind home plate (photo leading this post).

All in all, it was a lovely night at the ballpark!

REWIND: Though this week has been all about packing and moving, moving and packing, we have tried to make some time for fun.

On Wednesday, when picking CJ up from class at Seattle Center, we went straight to the International Fountain. It is, for sure, one of our favorite spots in the city on a hot day.
The kids splashed around for nearly an hour. In the photo above, the fountain's jets were dramatically choreographed to Beethoven's Fifth Symphony. It was marvelous!

Tuesday, July 4, 2017

Go Fourth

INDEPENDENCE DAY: We've had a busy-busy-busy weekend, but are taking a moment to appreciate America's 'birthday.' 

Dr. Brian Greene posted the graphic above on social media today. Interesting to learn how fireworks' colors are made.

Below, NASA wishes everyone a happy Fourth of July.

We've got lots of other news to share. Stay tuned!

Thursday, June 29, 2017

Us + Them

MIND BLOWING MUSIC: Last Saturday night, we had the rare pleasure of seeing Roger Waters (and a terrific back up band and singers) perform live.

Last time we saw Waters was about three years ago, in Wembley Stadium! He performed "The Wall" in its entirety during that show.

This go 'round, he pulled from his 50+ year catalog of music. It was a night to remember. I'll let CJ tell you more, below.  Just scroll past the flying pig photos. :)

Since 1967, George Roger Waters has been a prominent figure in the psychedelic rock music genre. For 20 years, (from 1965 to 1985) Waters was the bassist and singer of Pink Floyd, an iconic English psychedelic band.
On 25 June, I got to see Waters at the Tacoma Dome, a popular wooden stadium in Tacoma, WA. This was not my first time seeing Waters, as I got to see him during The Wall Live tour's stop in Wembley Stadium, in 2013. In contrast to last time, about 25% of this concert's content was from Waters' newest album, Is This the Life We Really Want? The other 75% was mostly music from Waters' previous work, particularly what he did with Pink Floyd.
For decades, Waters has held a hatred for war (due to his father disappearing in World War II). Waters also dislikes despots, and during the concert, this manifested in the form of scathing imagery targeted at President Donald Trump. This included a picture of Russian President (read: Dictator) Vladimir Putin holding Trump as a baby (referencing the Russian interference in the Presidential election last year), as well as a black-and-white slideshow of various appalling Trump quotes.
MORNING STROLL: The weather this a.m. propelled us outdoors. It had been waaaay too long since we walked along the Puget Sound waterfront not far from our house. 
We parked near the Louis Dreyfus grain terminal, Pier 86. From there, you could see the Princess Cruise ship parked at Pier 91, or Smith Cove.
We were surprised there wasn't a big ol' cargo ship at the grain terminal. As we got closer, we could see why.
Workers were crawling all over the structure, performing repairs and upgrades. If you look closely in the photo above, you can see a guy in an orange vest atop the tower. What a view he had!

There were also guys descending along with some sheet metal, just to the left of the tower in the photo. 

We made our way to our turnaround point, the Olympic Sculpture Park. 

We always stop to nod at the huge head. She never nods back.
 And we stand next to the naked guy statute. The fountains jets were on high during our visit, so you can't see the little boy statue opposite him. You can see the Space Needle peeking in, however.
It was a wonderful morning along the waterfront.

LIFE HACK: Yesterday, I said bad words when I realized I'd accidentally recycled the cap to a hot sauce bottle.

Annabelle, who is forever reading or watching 'life hacks' on her phone quickly sprung into action, telling me she'd seen a video where a person used a balloon to seal a bottle.
 It took about three tries, but she got it to work!
Following is a tutorial that shows the technique.