Tuesday, June 29, 2010


We have a court date set for July 21. I am collecting statements from witnesses and researching cases to see what sort of a defense I can mount for my client. Her name is Brunhilda, Hilda for short. She has been a member of our family for 13 years which makes her 91 years old in her kind of years - that would be dog years.

She has now been complained against 3 times for barking by the neighbor who lives in the house behind us. He has never come over to speak with us or left a note. We don't know his name or what he looks like. The first complaint came when we were out of town and we just thought it was a mistake, wrong house. Hilda was inside, asleep.

There is a house two doors down with 3 chihuahuas and those dogs bark a lot. I had just gone over to talk to the owners and other neighbors have called the police to complain about them. Then, in rapid fire, we got two more complaints about our dog barking. That even though she was inside our house with windows closed, she was disturbing this neighbor. The officer who came to the house was very apologetic, he said that the neighbor insisted that he write a citation for a misdemeanor (with a fine of $100.00) which is his right after 3 incidents.

The officer said we should dispute the citation and we would probably have the fine waived. He did not hear the dog barking and will be at the "hearing" and testify to that effect. In the meantime, we have made some changes with Hilda. I read that some older dogs do start going through separation anxiety and that she very well may have been barking when we have been out of the house. She doesn't see and hear as well as she used to and can contribute to her anxiety when she is alone.

We have started putting her back into her crate in the front room of the house when we leave. After a few times she calmed down and settled in without barking. I have also been taking her on more walks and out and about with me when I can so she has more stimulation.

If the neighbor had just talked to us or left a note I would have take this all more seriously from the very beginning. It is hard to know what to think when you have not witnessed the behaviour someone is complaining about, so we just thought it was a mistake or retribution for the complaint against his neighbor.

We have always been very careful of Hilda's behaviour when she is outside, who knew that if someones hearing was good enough and their tolerance low enough, that you had to be careful of the dog's behaviour inside, too? The ordinance doesn't indicate how loud the barking has to be, just that it is disturbing "any reasonable person's peace and quiet." Nice and vague. Let's hope the Judge is an animal lover!

Saturday, June 26, 2010


This is not going to be a book review. I am not even finished with the book. In fact, In a way, I am trying to avoid finishing the book.

Have you ever waited 14 years for an author to write another book and then it comes out and while you are reading it you realize that when you are done reading, it may be a very long time until there is another one to read - so you want to slow down and savor the experience even more, except that it is so good that you keep staying up late at night to read just a little more before bed?

That is my experience with South of Broad by Pat Conroy. Loving it, don't want it to end.

Friday, June 25, 2010


I have only been inside a Walmart store a few times. I have been aware of their anti-union practices for a very long time and chose not to shop there for that reason. Over the years, more and more news has supported my decision.

The actions of our country's largest private employer indicate that they have no regard for their employees, and in fact count on their 70% annual turnover rate to continue to make their profits go up. The majority of their employees with children live below the poverty line, the buy in for benefits at 35% of the total cost is double the national average so less than half opt to buy in. A 2004 UC Berkeley study showed that California taxpayers pay 86 million dollars to Walmart employees - imagine what it is now!

Walmart has been sued and found guilty of numerous wage and hour violations (otherwise known as theft.) They manage by intimidation and employees are frequently threatened with firing if they report overtime, injuries or other inequities on the job such as being denied lunch breaks. Gender discrimination has been proven, as has the knowing hiring of undocumented workers and breaking of child labor laws.

And now we can add discrimination due to sexual orientation. Fernando Gallardo, an 18 year-old resident of Las Vegas, got a seasonal job Walmart. A few weeks into the job, Gallardo says, his immediate supervisor asked him "point-blank" in front of four of his coworkers if he was gay. "I told her yes, and after that she was very rude and short with me," he told The Advocate.

Following that incident, his duties were changed, he was told to wear a yellow vest and "wander around the store." His supervisor and manager stopped speaking to him. His complaints to the store management didn't change anything. He left the job after he overheard two managers talking loudly. One, he says, told the other that Gallardo was "a little girl. All he is good for is walking around the store."

When contacted, Walmart corporate spokesman Phil Keene said the company fosters "respect for individuals" as one of its core beliefs and a foundation of Walmart culture.

Gallardo has filed a complain with the Nevada EEOC. He could win monetary damages and another job with Walmart, but he is requesting that the company hold mandatory annual cultural diversity training for all Walmart and Sam's Club supervisors and managers in Clark County, Nev., with a certified cultural diversity trainer.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010


My mom is a very creative person, she sews beautifully. She used to make a lot of our clothes when I was a girl and we had many of the matching mother daughter outfits that were very popular back in the day!

I asked her to teach me how to sew when I was in 6th grade. I wanted to be able to make clothes. (In those days you could make them a LOT cheaper than they cost to buy, unlike now.) By the time I was in high school, I was able to make money by sewing for other people. I made all but 2 of my prom and other dance dresses.

Now that I have been losing weight, I have the machine out because, as Karen puts it , my pants are hanging low. At first I was just nipping in the waistbands. Then I took a little more in at the waist and through the booty area to remove the sag. Last weekend I noticed that the crotch of some of my capris are hanging halfway down to my knees. So I am taking out zippers and cutting off waistbands and putting in new elastic waistbands, which brings them up several inches.

I am just being cheap. I don't want to buy new clothes for the summer when I fully intend to be much slimmer by next year... and I can't tuck in, so no one can see the waistbands anyway! I am sure my mom would tailor the pants the proper way, make them smooth and elegant - don't tell her...Okay?

Monday, June 21, 2010


"There was mistakes in the test." What is wrong with this sentence?

This was how I was blown off from a job interview today after I turned in what I am sure was a clean edit of a 4 sentence grammar and spelling "test" prior to what were supposed to be open interviews. It was the third time I had applied to this particular company and the first time that they had offered interviews. I sat in my car for a while and watched as the overweight hispanic woman exited after I did but the young blond was apparently interviewed.

I know I harp on this and there is nothing anyone can say to change it. I just think we all need to be aware that this goes far beyond attitudes about fat women in their fifties.

Deborah Rhode, a Stanford law professor wrote a book called "The Beauty Bias" in which she argues that in America, discrimination against unattractive women and short men is as pernicious and widespread as bias based on race, sex, age, ethnicity, religion, and disability.

Rhode cites research to prove her point: 11 percent of surveyed couples say they would abort a fetus predisposed toward obesity. College students tell surveyors they’d rather have a spouse who is an embezzler, drug user, or a shoplifter than one who is obese.

In an article published in Newsweek, Dahlia Lithwick reports that the less attractive you are in America, the more likely you are to receive a longer prison sentence, a lower damage award, a lower salary, and poorer performance reviews. You are less likely to be married and more likely to be poor.

So, playing Devil's Advocate here: just how attractive are your kids? We are all very concerned with their education and health...should we start looking into plastic surgery, personal trainers and wardrobe consultants? Wouldn't that be doing the right thing to help our kids get ahead?

Thursday, June 17, 2010


1.) News from the job search - more and more employers are looking for bilingual employees, some days it seems like ALL the jobs are asking for it! Mostly for Spanish speakers (not surprising being in CA) but also Chinese. So get your kids serious about those language classes!

2.) Ally received her first paycheck. Tom helped her open a bank account with ATM card access and a savings account. We advised her to automatically deposit some of each paycheck into savings, and she did.

But she was just so excited to have that money! She went out to eat, she went to many movies, she shopped and shopped and finally bought the cowboy boots she has been dreaming of. She is now so broke that she is scrounging change and asking for paid chores (which she'll gladly do tomorrow for the money today.) So far she has left the money in the savings account alone, but it is another week until she gets paid...

3.) Update on my complaint to Ikea - I have had two responses. One from the corporate office and one from the store manager offering to send me a gift card. I was thinking about suggesting she could offer me a job, but I am not sure I want a 3 hour commute for a retail job...wonder if they offer benefits?

4.) We are having a BBQ at my sister's house on Sunday to celebrate Father's Day and my mom's birthday and my brother-in-law's birthday. So we have 3 dads and 2 birthdays all together - now that is efficient!

5.) Last but not at all least. A few years ago when I first started checking out the internet to see what the hell a blog was, I found Mrs. G at Derfwad Manor. I don't know why I was so lucky to have found this wonderful, funny woman out of all the zillions of blogs out there, but I was just that lucky. I immediately had a girl crush and checked frequently for new posts and was excited when the Women's Colony was started and aspired to someday be a good enough writer to be published there.

And now it is over. She has closed it down. I am crushed. I will miss the Colony and especially Mrs. G because most of the other contributors I can read on their own blogs - but Mrs. G ...well, she is one of a kind and I can only hope she will grace the internet again because I will miss her so much.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010


Having worked in customer service, I have a pretty good idea of how to make an effective customer complant. Lately I have been in a couple of situations where it is obvious that the main issue is the lack of available employees at large companies. That is an issue that isn't easily resolved by a well stated and directed complaint.
I have been looking for a new patio umbrella. My issue is that I need a smaller one than the 9 foot ones usually sold. I have been online and on the phone for days and finally thought I had found a solution in my price range at Ikea. It is a 40 minute drive, so i double checked that they had them in stock before I left. Ikea is a huge store. I wandered through the entire store looking for an employee who might tell me where the umbrellas might be (they don't have a designated outdoor/patio department). I never saw a single employee. HUGE STORE. I was there for an hour.
Fianlly in the warehouse section I found 3 employees all huddled around a computer station doing precisely nothing but standing there. I inquired about the umbrellas, they said they were sold out. I told them I checked that morning and was told they were in stock. They said the computer says they have them but they, in fact, don't have any.
So I asked about the fact that there were not any employees in the other departments of the store - had I just missed them? Nope. They were pretty much it except for the ones at the cash registers and the restaurants.
So what can we, as consumers, do when we feel that the companies we frequent are shortchanging us by not having enough employees available to serve us? Not to mention that the tools that are meant to save us from useless treks for unavailable merchandise are mismanaged?
Go to the Corporate website and write a complaint. Give specifics and be as businesslike as possible. Businesses tend to ignore the ranters. I know we did. Explain how the incident or business practice impacts you and why you plan to take your business elsewhere, assuming you do!
Go online and use Yelp and other social networking sites. I got a refund from a company that had refused to issue me a refund when I made a complaint on a site called Complaints.com.
So that is what I did and now I will just let it go - deep breath - and I have paid twice as much for an umbrella from another source and I will pick it up on Monday.

Saturday, June 12, 2010


I finally got busy making some mosaics this week. I started on a little birdbath last Sunday but quickly ran out of the tile I decided to use and had to wait until a new order arrived. I was indecisive until I actually started working on it how I was going to go about the design and then decided to go dark to light with the dichroic glass in the center. This is the first time I have used the opalescent tiles, but I think they will look pretty under water.

I am making a very large pot for our bougainvillea plant which I am happy made it through the winter. I am going to do the entire bottom of the pot in the same tile because it has so much variation in it just as it is, then do a contrasting tile around the rim. I just could not decide what I wanted to do - so I started it and then I'll decide when it is all done.

I guess that I was just not in the frame of mind to make decisions when I got these projects started!

I am having fun with the pot, though. It is the first project in a while that I am making with broken tile. Which means I get to smash the tile with a hammer to break it into pieces. It is one of the reasons I got into making mosaics in the first place. It just sounded like something I could do. I mean, break something and glue it together = art. Works for me!

Oh, And the pot that was blown off my bench and smashed? I am using it as "mulch."

Wednesday, June 9, 2010


When I was in college I worked in a dorm as an assistant manager. The first thing you learn when working with hundreds of teens living under one roof is how to repair toilets. So when our toilet broke the other day, I diagnosed the problem, turned off the water and went to the hardware store.

Other than an extremely overtightened bolt that I needed help with, the toilet repair would have been completed and back in operation within hours.
Now, I wish I was one of those bloggers who could make a funny story out of this and make everyone laugh at my plumbing follies. But I have a husband with two huge tool chests full of tools and very strong muscles who made one attempt to loosen the bolt after making me wait overnight until he was in the proper frame of mind to attend to "my mess."
He said he didn't have a tool that fit.
He doesn't do plumbing. He is hostile about plumbing. He wants me to call the landlord.
So the landlords, very nice Chinese engineers (both of them) came over. He got the bolt off right away and then we negotiated the new parts into place.
So my mad plumbing skills were admired by the landlord and maybe a little bit by my husband who doesn't do plumbing but is great with electrical work.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010


My son was home this weekend. Done with finals, a break before his summer job starts. He needs a haircut and apparently he plans to keep the beard...sigh. I grilled his favorite lamb chops and forgot to leave the nuts out of the broccoli salad (he doesn't like nuts.) While I did the dishes he was checking out the website he likes called Digg.

He found an article with lots of "Diggs" - approvals- about boycotting BP and it's companies. I was surprised to hear that the gas station I use is one of them: ARCO. My immediate reaction was, well, I'll have to get gas somewhere else. BP also supplies gas to Safeway.

I already don't buy gas from Shell due to their ongoing human rights issues beginning with their local ( I lived near Martinez CA) workers on the 1970's and moving on into Nigeria where they continued by supporting the military rulers who tortured and executed citizens who protested against the taking of tribal lands for oil production; and then added environmental crimes to their record by killing 100 people and despoiling the Niger Delta, wells and farm lands with a ruptured pipeline.

Or how about buying gas from Exxon? We all know they never fully cleaned up the mess they made in Alaska, much less compensated all those who lost their livelihoods form that disaster. They are one of the biggest financial supporters of the "there is no scientific evidence of global warming" camp. (Funny how these corporations have all kinds of money for political lobbying, but can't afford to clean -up the environmental problems they cause.)

Texaco owns Chevron - and is being sued by Ecuador for 20 years of dumping of oil production waste into open, unlined pits which caused ground water contamination and the subsequent fatal cancers and environmental issues.

Bottom line? We are all complicit in the abuses of these companies. We are all dependent on the products they are drilling for and we want them for as little money as we can spend. We are not changing our lifestyles and reducing our use sufficiently to reduce the demand. Until that happens, these companies feel they have a green light to do what it takes to go get the oil where ever it is how ever they have to get it at what ever cost there is to those they have to step on to get it and keep the profits high and the stock holders happy.

We can be mad at BP. We can be feel sorry for the oil soaked pelicans and the ruined beaches. We can blame "the government" for not doing enough. Our President said he takes responsibility, some people think it may be a defining issue for his presidency. What a crock.

This is a defining issue for this country. When are we going to wake up and see that we can no longer consume as we do and expect no consequences? It is time for us to grow up. Reduce our consumption or pay the price. The rest of the world has already been paying it for years.

Thursday, June 3, 2010


Did you ever wonder why outlet malls always seem to be so out of the way? I always figured it had to do with the cost of real estate - building those big buildings in costly places would make the rents too high for all those low cost retailers...right? Plus, they can't be selling the discounted clothes and stuff right near the regular malls where they are selling the same stuff for full price...right?

Wrong. It is a psychological set up. Turns out we consumers believe those things, that the drive and inconvenience mean bargains - so we don't really question the prices.
In her book "Cheap: The High Cost of Discount Culture" Ellen Ruppel Shell's research shows that people perceive merchandise found at out-of-the-way outlet malls as being more of a bargain than they do if they see similarly-priced items closer to home. We overestimate what the original value of the item must have been and focus on the difference between that hypothetical price and the outlet price, rather than on the objective price itself.

The reason I came across this information was my interest in understanding something I saw when I was shopping at a DSW store. The tags all showed their "discounted price" and then underneath it, there was another, higher price which said "compare to." And I wondered what that was supposed to mean.

It turns out that this is addressed in Shell's book. She calls it the "Meaningless Discount" because the numbers are largely fictional. The "compare" numbers are like the MSRP, (manufacturer suggested retail price) and manufacturers rarely set the retail price of goods sold. But the consumer thinks there is an original price and a discounted price and is thrilled with the mark-down. Marketing research shows that people are fairly easily swayed by perceived savings, I am sure I have been - or at least used it as an excuse to buy something!
Like the shoes I got for $29.00 compared to $65.00.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010


I wasn't all that surprised when I heard about the Gore separation after 40 years of marriage. After all, he has launched a new career, one outside of politics that takes him all over the world. She no longer needs to be at his side and has likely been pursuing her own interests for the past 10 years. Growing apart would be natural. That they chose not to remain married in light of the new reality of their lives is probably unusual, but so are their lives.

Most people in their 60's are slowing down, cycling out of work and into retirement, not ratcheting up into new careers. I know statistically that divorces later in life are initiated by men when they find a new partner (said not to be the reason here) and by women when they are "tired of putting up with stuff." I suspect that having the financial means to live separate lives and the ability to see another 20 years of life ahead of them makes it look like a good enough reason to go their own way.
Much has been said about the fact that "until death" marriages were one thing when life expectancy was shorter and asking a lot of two people with the current longevity. Perhaps we need to look at later in life divorces not as a failure of a marriage, but as a good run and a new opportunity to live the later years either on our own or with other partners. Forty years seems like a good long run to me.