Sunday, June 28, 2009

Jane: More scale

Robbie discovered more magnolia scale on the big saucer magnolia in our front yard.


Of course you know, this means war!

I looked at more information on imidicloprid, and it's fairly non-toxic to people and other warm-blooded creatures . . . still, I don't think I want it in our back yard, near our vegetable and herb gardens.

So here's my plan. I'll get some granular imidicloprid for the front-yard magnolia. You just dig it into the soil around the tree and water it in. Then I'll wait on the back yard magnolia and spray it with insecticidal soap once the baby scale bugs emerge. They're called crawlers--just thinking about it makes me say "ew."

More later.

And for those of you east of us: relief from the horrible humidity and heat is coming! Today we have clear skies, low humidity, and temps of about 80!

Friday, June 26, 2009

Jane: Horticultural Advice

I was on a radio call-in show today.

No, not Rush Limbaugh! It was "Talk at Twelve," the local NPR show. Friday is Horticulture day, and I called in with a question about my star magnolia. Eli and I noticed these odd white dusty blobs on the underside of some of its branches the other day.
And below them, sticky black goo coated some of the leaves.
The entomologist knew what it was immediately.

"You have something any entomologist would love!" he said. "Do you want it?" I asked.

These blobs are Magnolia Scale, an odd insect that is Iowa's only native scale. It looks like a fungus, but it's some kind of insect. These blobs are sucking the sap from my magnolia. The sticky goo is the remnants of the sap that they excrete, which turns black with a fungus.


Anyway, they suggested I begin by pruning the branches that have the most scale on them. Scale won't kill the tree immediately, but if they get it year after year, it will kill them.

I can also apply a systemic herbicide called imidacloprid that gets into the tree's sap and kills the scale. I may try that as the tree does seem to have a lot of scale on it, even after I trimmed the worst parts.

I blame it all on the hot and humid and rainy weather we've been having! One of my (non-fancy) hostas seems to have an aphid infestation as well. Ugh!

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Eli: Front Yard ravine

These huge ruts in our yard were caused by very large equipment.
They're digging up an old fire hydrant next door, and had to drive onto our yard.
We hope the city will fix them.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Jane: Interesting article

I just read an interesting and well-written article in the New Yorker (which I get from the library--I think I'm the only one who reads it!) called "The Cost Conundrum," and it's about the cost of health care. The author, regular New Yorker reporter and physician Atul Gawande, goes to a town in Texas that has the nation's highest health care costs. This is what he says:

In 2006, Medicare spent fifteen thousand dollars per enrollee here, almost twice as much as the national average. The income per captia is twelve thousand dollars. In other words, Medicare spends three thousand dollars more per person than the average person earns.
Why is it so high? Gawande finds out, from much research in town and from studies, it's because the doctors in the town operate like individual entrepreneurs, who are looking to "increase their high-margin work and decrease their low-margin work." The "high-margin" work--stuff that makes them the most money--is things like expensive tests and surgery. It doesn't necessarily lead to healthier people. So the town is less healthy than other towns, and it's paying more.

Gawande points out much better models, like the way things are run in Rochester MN, where Mayo's located. There, doctors work together to provide the best care, rather than working as individuals to make the best money. Those two models are two ways our country might go in the future--which would you like??

I hope you'll look at the article. It's very readable, and gives you some idea of what would make a successful health care approach.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Jane: Robbie's Black Belt

Here are some pictures from last night. I will have some video footage soon, too.

This one's actually from test day--Master Hughes giving everyone a pep talk before the test.

I am so proud of Robbie for his progress in Tae Kwon Do! Passing the black belt test is a sign that he's worked hard to achieve the best qualities of a martial artist. I think he'll continue to become better and better.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Robbie: Black Belt!

The belt ceremony was today and I passed! Now I'm a black belt! 

Some people think that getting a black belt is like getting a diploma in the way that once you get to this point you're done. It is completely different. When you get your black belt, it is like a new beginning instead of an end. You get to learn more abstract forms and improve on previous ones. There are also some responsibilities involved such as teaching and maintenence (eg. turning on the air conditioning) 

Despite the responsibilities, this is a very important milestone in my life and in Tae Kwon Do.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Jane: rescued yarn; beautiful sweater

About a year ago, I rescued this lovely chenille yarn from a thrift shop.

There were 4 large balls of it in a bag with some other blue and green yarns, beautiful. I used some of the others for amigurumi, sent some to my niece Gabi (she may have used some to make this very attractive hat)

But I didn't know what to do with the chenille. I wanted to make a chenille cardigan, but didn't know if I'd have enough yarn to do it in crochet.

When I visited my friend Judi a couple weeks ago, she encouraged me to just try. If I didn't have enough yarn to finish, I could have a vest!

Well, I did have enough! I think it came out very nice.

The pattern's very easy--it's a top-down sweater, crocheted in a chevron lace stitch, all double crochet and chains. You can find it at milobo's website, along with many other pretty free patterns. She made it with one button at the top, but I liked the way the top "lapels" curled under, so will put a button midway and have a v-neck look. You can see it a bit better in this (slightly blurry) photo.

Milobo always takes photos of her stuff this way, in a mirror with the head cut off! (oops, better weave in that yarn end)

I also made the sleeves longer (I don't like 3/4 sleeves) and shaped them so they come in, then bell out the slightest bit at the bottom.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Robbie: Black Belt Test Pictures

Sorry about the lack of pictures, my mom was taking them and judging the test.

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Robbie: Black Belt Test!

Earlier this morning I tested for my black belt in Tae Kwon Do. It was very exausting. I had to do all 13 forms, sparring, and break two boards with a hand technique and two (instead of three) with a foot technique.
For the hand technique, I did a palm strike, but I did not break it so I broke it with a front elbow strike. The foot technique I did was a jump reverse kick and I eventually broke it.
Next Wednesday is the belt ceremony which is when I find out if I passed. Until then I can only hope...

Friday, June 12, 2009

Robbie: DSi post

In the theme of my last post I am now writing this one on my DSi.

Robbie: DSi post 2

sorry about the double post, the browser said it didn`t work the first time.

Robbie: DSi

Earlier today, I went to Westdale and got a new system to replace my old fat DS. Yes, That's right, I got a DSi!

Here's mine/\

Here's a screen brightness comparison

                              Orig. DS

         \/ DS Lite                      DSi\/

All you non-gamers out there are thinking, "What's so great about that?" I can tell. Anyway, The DSi is slimmer, has brighter screens, has a built-in internet browser, an SD Card slotPictochat in color, and two 640x480 cameras, one on the outside and one on the inside. Once I get an SD card I will post some pictures I take with it.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Jane: From student to teacher

I was looking through my old blog, Taekwondomom, yesterday, looking for a post to share with Robbie. I found the post, one about the way martial artists' feet get all blistered and torn up in summer.
After I found the post, I spent some time reading the blog and I noticed that it's practically electrified with the excitement of learning something new. Reading it made me remember how I felt being a colored belt in TKD and having lots of good teachers--both Ms. Prior and Master Hughes, plus all the adult colored and black belts who were around me.

I loved it!

I think that between teaching and learning, I love learning best. I love that feeling of trying something new and working to make it mine. I don't mind being corrected, especially when someone's correction can help me get better at doing what I want to do. I like being able to see my own progress.

Today in TKD, I'm not a student so much anymore. My friends who were the adult black belts with and above me are all gone. Ms. Prior, who pays special attention to the upper-level belts, hasn't been to class in more than 6 months . Master Hughes is often busy with the younger kids (he is awesome with those kids). Justin hasn't worked out with us in ages.

I've been teaching a lot, too.

And so TKD has become much less exciting for me. Compared to the way I thought of it back when I was writing that blog, now I think of it primarily as exercise.


And as training for Robbie.

I guess that's probably when my attitude towared TKD started to morph: when Robbie joined again back in the spring of 2007. With him there, my focus shifted away from my own progress--which was fine, as that was about the time my friends stopped coming and I had to teach more often anyway.

I don't want to be a pushy mom who "makes" her son get a black belt (it's his belt, not mine), but I do want to help create an environment at the dojang in which he can train for that level. OK, and I have MOSTLY been the one to grab him and make him practice his forms.

This weekend, Robbie gets to show whether he's trained hard enough to be a black belt. He tests on Saturday at 11 a.m. It's a pretty huge deal, so if you know Robbie, send him an encouraging note or e-note!

Saturday, June 6, 2009

Jane: Kung Fu?

So has anyone been thinking about Kung Fu these past few days since David Carradine's death?

I have.

The TV show Kung Fu came on when I was 10. I remember watching it and liking it very much--it was my first introduction to martial arts and to eastern philosophy (or at least the Hollywood version of those). I always loved Western kinds of shows (Daniel Boone with Fess Parker was my fave when I was about 8), too, so that was a plus.

I was thinking about why I liked that show so much--it's odd how it presaged my becoming involved with Tae Kwon Do and becoming a black belt.

Caine, the main character, was an appealing hero to me because he was a quiet outsider, someone who was either ignored or thought to be inferior. But he had hidden powers that he would use only when necessary. It provided a wonderful fantasy for the typical nerdy pre-teen.

I think I saw the movie sometime after the show was on, and I enjoyed that, too. I watched it much later, the evening before one of my Tae Kwon Do tests.

Kung Fu appeals to me more than the other martial arts movies I've seen. Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon is cool, but I prefer the quiet introversion of Kung Fu to acrobatic martial arts.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Jane: Ballet to die for

I just finished watching a tape we made of the NYC Ballet doing Prokofiev's Romeo and Juliet from the PBS Live at Lincoln Center. Not a dry eye in the house at the end! OK, I was the only one watching it, but you'd have been in tears, too.

I was a bit wary about watching it. I saw a wonderful production in Munich, oh, 29 years ago. And I am very partial to the R & J pas de deux between Margot Fontaine and Nuryev. OK, neither of them is close to R & J's age in the recording I watched, but I LOVE her dancing.

But this one is . . . absolutely amazing. Peter Martens did the choreography and added some edginess to the fight and marketplace scenes. Mercutio was amazing and Tybalt really danced like Verona's best fighter. Darcy Kistner (sp?), the last of Balanchine's ballerinas to still be dancing, played Mama Capulet.

The best were the lead couple. Robert Fairchild--handsome and tall--played Romeo, and Stirling Hyltin--an amazing actress as well as dancer--played Juliet. Wow, were they good. So expressive in their movements and faces.

The most poignent part of this version was the way the lead dancers embodied the lives and love of very young teens. Maybe this struck me especially hard during this viewing since I have a son who's 14, and he has an almost-13-year-old "girlfriend." But these dancers WERE young teens on stage. The goofiness, the excessive emotions, the amazement at what it's like to fall in love (gorgeous pas de deux dancing), Romeo stabbing and stabbing Tybalt in his rage, Juliet weeping and hesitating about the sleeping potion. I could almost see those young people I know acting just the same way. Oooh--just thinking about it gives me shivers!

If you didn't see it, see if you can find a copy somewhere to watch. Maybe I'll loan you my tape . . . maybe.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Jane: More Amigurumi

As promised, here are some more almost totally useless yarn creations.

("ALMOST totally useless?" asked Robbie.
"They amuse me, so they're not totally useless," I replied.)

I made these acorns a couple weeks ago. The larger one is hollow--the cap unbuttons so you can store something inside. The pattern called it an acorn sock-project bag, so I made it for my friend Judi, who knits beautiful socks.

I made the smaller one based on the larger one's pattern. I think I'll keep it. Eli insisted on the eyes and smile :-)

And what's that underneath my hostas?!