Friday, February 29, 2008

Day 1.050: Fake plastic peas

I love the plastic food displays outside restaurants. A few opt for pictures instead, but many have the full 3D replicas. This is not just for Japanese food either.

Also Italian:


And what I can only assume is a restaurant for down-on-their-luck cats:

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Thursday, February 28, 2008

Day 1.049: Fuji moment

This was the view from the top floor of my hotel this morning. The big white mountain is Fuji-san of course.

Other excitements of the day included trying melon-flavoured soda. It's mean green.


If that doesn't appeal, other beverages are available.

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Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Day 1.048: Wear the eastern...

See? so blue!

This shower head may not be high enough to be over my head, but it is capable of generating a torrent of scalding water. The thermostat dial goes from 26 °C to 54 °C I'm sure it would never be allowed in the US. As for flow-rate, half-way it's starting to be uncomfortably strong (at such close proximity anyway).

One other item in the bathroom has gone overboard on heating and water-jets (though separated in this case). Once again, you'd need to be made of stern stuff to turn the jet power up anywhere near the maximum setting.
By the way it's irresistible pop pun #45 (not that you solved the last one) or shall I go and change my point of view for other ugly scenes?
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Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Day 1.047: The night that wasn't

Well, it's bedtime on Tuesday, so it's time to post again. It hasn't been night since sunrise found me at the airport early on Monday morning. At some point it was 3.30pm on Monday and them 2.30 pm on Tuesday. At that point we still had 4 hours to go to make our 3 pm landing, and we'd been flying for 9 hours since our 11 am take off - flying long-haul really messes with your head as well as your body.

So I give you a couple of additional clues to my whereabouts. Don't hold back in guessing, I think it will be hard to keep it a secret tomorrow.

A still from the flight progress map:
and a time-lapse film of my ground transportation between airport and hotel. The top picture is of course a time-lapse of most of my day. Well, it might as well be.
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Sunday, February 24, 2008

Day 1.045: Snow fun

Since my main task for today was to pack for my trip, Exile #3 of course suddenly wanted to play in the snow - one of my favourite things - so I find myself at 8 pm with an empty bag and a lot of pictures and videos of snow-fun to share.

So, if you are so inclined, you can see us doing some more sledding on our even-better-than-yesterday run. You can see me sending Exile #4 ("not too fast") and Exile #3 ("I said I'm ready!") being sent to their doom in the trees and one other run ("That video will be funny"). And if you're still with me another time-lapse film of us making this snow family (unfortunately curtailed by more battery problems - albeit rather easier and cheaper to deal with than the car battery failure) - can you tell which one of them is supposed to be each of us?

Now if you will excuse me, I have a bag to pack.
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Saturday, February 23, 2008

Day 1.044: Mountain slide

Here is our answer to last winter's 'mountain'. It's unlike it in almost every respect except for being a pile of snow outside our house. This one was constructed to act as a booster for a surprisingly successful toboggan/sled run down the side of our backyard. As you can see, Exile #4 helped with the construction and tried it out.

Most of the day was spent with Albaniana and family and with another of Exile #3's classmates and her mom. The adults had surprising (for our guests anyway) amounts of fun playing Rock Band while the children either watched, played elsewhere or from time to time joined in. While we enjoyed lunch and a glass of wine the children all watched Thomas and the Magic Railroad on DVD - at Albaniana's recommendation we steered clear of trying to understand what was going on and instead talked about politics and health-care - only occasionally becoming raucous enough to disturb the movie-watchers' fun.
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Friday, February 22, 2008

Day 1.043: Eggs are gone all


At lunchtime today we witnessed this strange sight - it appears that this security guard had pulled up just to sweep the snow off this car - or maybe he was going round them all?

We've had about 4 inches of snow in all today. Some of it was falling in traditional snowflake shapes I don't think I've ever been able to see the six-sided shapes so clearly before.

We had friends from church around this evening - we played Rock Band again. It's so much fun with a full band of real people.


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Thursday, February 21, 2008

Day 1.042: When's day the evening?

You look me in the eye directly.

E5N1's eyes tend to follow you around the room now that these pictures are up. Exile #2 knew exactly what she wanted to do with this wall and - like the curtains she's been making - it was worth the wait to get it right.

Of course, I could have shown them off without the toys all over the floor but then it wouldn't have been so easy to present a really wonderful song as pop pun #44: I'm in New York - no need for words now.
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Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Day 1.041: Dark side of the moon


Just like last year, we have enjoyed a lunar eclipse this evening. Unlike last year, we have had a clear night and watched the beginning rather than the end of the eclipse and I got some half-decent pictures.

Of course the side we see from here is never the dark side, however dark it may be, and the dark side is no darker, just turned away from our view. Right now both sides are dark thanks to the eclipse. Ah well, logic is over-rated if you ask me.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Day 1.040: Time travel

Firstly, back to Saturday for this picture of E5N1 looking down through a skylight on a boat. Exile #4 was inside as was the camera which I was holding in through a hole in the wall whilst standing behind E5N1 to make sure he didn't slide off. Quite safe. Honestly.

Secondly back to Day 0.040 - we were still snowed out of our garden, I had my first haircut. We had an unexpected half an inch or so of snow today - just after the last of the previous covering had disappeared yesterday. And, yes - I need a haircut again now. The next day I predicted the future. It came true ten days early.

I spent most of the day today (that's a lot of time), planning a work trip. I won't spoil the 'where am I?' post by saying now, but it's far enough for some posting disruption to be expected. Apologies in advance.
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Monday, February 18, 2008

Day 1.039: Tuppence a bag?


Our quiet stay-at-home Presidents Day was interrupted only by some blocked drains and a resulting trip out for lunch. Other jobs attended to were some tidying up, maintenance on the vacuum cleaner and some use of it and refilling the wild-bird feeders - this last chore recorded for 15 seconds of excitement for you.

Apart from that it's been a relaxing day at home - with some Rock Band time (me singing, Exile #3 helping by shouting something in the break sections, Exile #4 sometimes drumming or strumming a guitar along, E5N1 watching in amazement, Exile #2 doing something useful elsewhere). I did persuade Exile #2 to put in some Electric of Nouns time later this evening.

Our meal out was nice - we arrived at 12.30pm wondering if the place was open, it was, but we were the only customers. By the time we left it was almost full - it seems people eat late on holidays.

I also called my parents, some of the time we succeeded in having a video call with two-way audio - recent attempts at Skype video calling have resulted in a maximum of three of the four necessary components (in/out audio in/out video) working. It's nice when it all comes together.

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Day 1.038: Underwater smiles

Here is another picture from yesterday. Yes they are under water and breathing easy - even if Sara Bareilles is reminding us daily that the breathing gets harder (even she knows that!)

They were looking at a tank containing turtles from underneath and they are quite dry - not entirely though thanks not to this, but to boat- and bubble-related activities.

We spent the afternoon at Albaniana's Boy's birthday party where we were berated by our fellow ex-pats for our mad jaunt yesterday - they think we must be catching the national madness here to consider six-hours driving to be a nice day out.

We went straight from the party to our church gathering, but E5N1 was very grouchy, so we missed the second half of the meeting - I took him and Exile #2 home and then went back for the girls and a bit more catching up with friends.

Anyway, the driving may have been a big part of yesterday (and this evening) but I like to think of it as part of the experience. If nothing else we discovered some disarming honesty from the service-station namers. Probably.

And, besides - when someone in the family keeps insisting on timed group photos in cold windy harbours in February - a few hours peace in a car seems like luxury.

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Saturday, February 16, 2008

Day 1.037: Boston, no socks

We undertook a 350 mile round-trip today to visit the Boston Children's Museum. Not surprisingly with it being a holiday weekend, it was busy but for the most part it coped well with the numbers - I imagine it would feel cavernous if too empty, but I daresay there is a happy medium somewhere.

E5N1 was quite taken with these bubble tubes - not only with watching the bubbles, but also feeling the vibrations. By this time he had removed both pairs of socks he was wearing (neither of them were really red) amazingly we had retrieved them all - but we didn't bother to put them back on him even when we walked across the service station car park at 19 °F to have some dinner on the way home - much to the dismay of one of the people clearing tables inside.

The museum has a lot of everything. A popular Arthur exhibit contained recreations of his kitchen, back yard, school room, an aeroplane and a nurse's office. And that was just one of ten or twelve areas to explore. The girls also were able to star in an episode thanks to the magic of a green-screen room.


The second time Exile #4 went in, we took off her sweater and allowed her green shirt to add to the magic.

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Friday, February 15, 2008

Day 1.036: The first 400 redux



Yesterday was Day 400. I celebrated by creating a free 30-second ANIMOTO video between posting and going to bed. It made me laugh. Today is Day 401. I celebrated by remixing it between getting up and posting. I hope you like it.

I spent the day doing performance reviews. I'm tired. Can you tell?

We're hoping (without too much expectation) that we can all stay well enough to enjoy a fun-packed long-weekend.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Day 1.035: My ____ Valentine

Funny? The whole Valentine's Day experience - undiluted by a huge snow storm as it was last year - was quite something. How this became the second biggest card-sending day of the year is clear once you realise that five and six year-olds start by send cards to all their classmates.

Two out of three of my US colleagues who were at work today sneaked out for lunch with their 'honeys' (as someone on the TV keeps saying). OK they didn't sneak. The third is single and unattached. The UK contingent were largely unmoved - one admitted to a dinner-date with his wife and another celebrated buying a hideous reddy-pink coloured sticky-bun in the cafe. As for me, I managed to leave a small gift unnoticed when I left the house this morning. Good enough - and more than was expected of me it would seem.

Icy? It certainly was while we were waiting for the school bus. After a while we gave up and Exile #3 tagged-along with Exile #4 and me for the car-ride to school. The bus arrived 30 minutes late - by then we would have felt like these trees I think.

Bloody? Well maybe not, but how about this for a way of giving your loved-one a pound of chocolate. Something for next year perhaps.
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Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Day 1.034: Strongly discouraged

Today, the winter storm warning had the following words added to the quote from yesterday:

TRAVEL IS STRONGLY DISCOURAGED TODAY.


It was raining when I went to clear the drive, so the snow (only about two inches) would soon be gone right? Wrong! The rain was freezing on contact with most things (including my car, but excluding me I'm happy to say) - except for an hour or so in the afternoon when temperatures climbed above freezing just before it turned back to snow - and so roads, trees and snow all got coated in ice. The girls were home from school, but I made the strongly discouraged trip into work - Thankfully, salt did its work and kept most of the roads mostly clear and my travelling was fine.

All this talk of travel reminds me that I finally transferred our pictures from our UK trip to this computer. Let's see what curiosities I can find...


Ah yes, the right-angle two-door lift (elevator) in WHSmith in Oxford:



The small (child-sized) urinal mounted at exactly the same height as the full-sized ones...


And the curious usage instructions on a packet of baby-wipes...


Never let it be said that the UK isn't strange too.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Day 1.033: Very hazardous

We are currently under a Winter Storm Warning issued by the National Weather Service. It ends with the words:

A WINTER STORM WARNING MEANS SIGNIFICANT AMOUNTS OF SNOW...
SLEET...AND ICE ARE EXPECTED OR OCCURRING. STRONG WINDS ARE ALSO
POSSIBLE. THIS WILL MAKE TRAVEL VERY HAZARDOUS OR IMPOSSIBLE.


Of course, right now from the front door of the house, it all looks rather peaceful and anything but hazardous. Tomorrow at school-run/commuting time it may seem slightly different. Normally the weather forecasters are willing to make a good stab at the accumulation of snow expected, but today they're hedging their bets talking about when the snow will 'transition over' to sleet, freezing rain and 'even some light rain'. Whatever we may wake up to, it looks very pretty this evening.

I've been coughing my way through the work day today (including starting the car on six separate occasions thanks to the recharged battery) and I'm feeling a bit tired this evening - hence the earlier post - hopefully to be followed by a long and uninterrupted night's sleep.
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Monday, February 11, 2008

Day 1.032: Charge!

While you may remember this battle cry from the baseball season, or imagine the girls shouting it as they ran down this snowy path on Saturday, actually I had a more negative connotation in mind.

This morning, after we somehow contrived to miss the school bus and spend a fruitless and very cold ten minutes or more waiting at the end of the drive I packed the girls into the car to take them to school.

Fifteen minutes later they were still sitting in the back of the car in the garage because the car wouldn't start thanks to a flat battery. No matter, because of earlier problems I have a charger and managed to get going. We were only a few minutes late getting to school and the car started fine to get me to work.

This evening, I returned to it with some trepidation. Sure enough, it would not start, fortunately with the help of a colleague and two strangers, two other vehicles with working batteries and a set of jump-leads/booster-cables I eventually got it going and it got me home. The charger tells me the battery is now "FUL", so if it doesn't do its job tomorrow, maybe it's time to take more drastic action.
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Sunday, February 10, 2008

Day 1.031: The sky is falling

We had a stay-at-home morning in which Exile #2 looked after three children and cooked a roast dinner single-handed while I slept - yes, another infection has caught up with me - the same one that has been ever-so-slightly slowing Exile #2 down for the last few days completely flattened me. Manfluenza strikes.

This afternoon, I was feeling well-rested and drugged if not exactly well, it was sunny and not too cold (just around freezing) so when Exile #2 suggested a trip to the library we decided we would walk over there (approx 15-20 minutes). Albaniana's Man and Boy joined us since they happened to tell us they were at a loose end while we were assembling coats and boots. We set off in good spirits.

Ten minutes later we were in the midst of a blizzard. We had been expecting some snow and high winds later in the day, but it came-up surprisingly fast. Exile #2 suggested I return home for the van which I did with E5N1 in the backpack complaining loudly because we were walking into the wind. The sky may not actually have been falling but the wind had brought this branch down since we'd passed this point. When I got home I packed E5N1 into his car seat, picked up a spare one for the Boy and then did some heroic (if I say so myself - which I just did) manoeuvring to get the van out of the garage and past the car in the drive without making contact with either.

At the library the kids had decided that with the wind still increasing, discretion was the better part of valour.


By the time we were leaving church this evening it was feeling very cold (17 °F with a strong wind). It's now 10 °F.
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