Sunday, November 30, 2008

Day 1.324: Night and day

I thought I'd do roll-over magic that even the RSS and email readers can enjoy today - although if you are an RSS or email reader and you actually want roll-over behaviour you'll have to code your own but that's OK because you're that sort of person anyway (or you could just click through to the site!)

These pictures were taken three weeks apart less about six hours. I love to record how the same places look at different times of day and times of the year (as you may have noticed). In this case, the trees were already bare, but now the pond has partially frozen over and some more of the fall debris has washed down the weir. The black smudge in the water at the left of the dark picture is a swimming mammal, from its behaviour it could have been a beaver, but from its size it was more likely a muskrat or something smaller.

I spent part of the afternoon putting together a video-thing on 'Peace' for our family's contribution to Advent. I think that Exile #2's input (other than coming up with all the words which she did last night) would have made it a lot better, but there was no time to tweak it, so everyone had to cope with the product of my raw talents instead. These things always take longer than I expect to pull together. We also watched The Story of Stuff a very non-preachy video about consumerism and ecology that is not only very entertaining and informative, but also a good thing to have in mind at this time of year.
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Saturday, November 29, 2008

Day 1.323: Lighten up

Last night I finally came to the conclusion that my current illness was not the tail-end of infection number two, but the onset of number three. In any case, I've been feeling a bit better today and so we managed to get a few things done. We had a nice walk at Five Rivers this morning - the Beaver Pond is about two-thirds frozen-over today. This afternoon Exile #2 went out to do the grocery shopping and I ended up in the attic with the girls (E5N1 was asleep) - I was looking for a way to power the Christmas lights without long exterior power cables, they were all, 'Wow, I've never been up there!'

When Exile #2 got back we wrestled with the ladder and the shrubbery and the failing daylight to get the lights up. By the time we put the tools away it was pretty much dark and so we beckoned the kids out for the grand switch-on.

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Friday, November 28, 2008

Day 1.322: It's a tulip!


I'm sure you all knew that this is a picture of a tulip.

Not the flower for which the Netherlands is famous of course, but the tree.

We saw the large hollow tree on our descent from Mount Greylock on Day 1.303, when I stepped inside, I could see a small hole way above allowing in a tiny bit of daylight. Albaniana's Man took a picture of me taking the pictures (thank you!) and then I watched everyone else take a turn at inspecting it for themselves.

Thanks to you all for playing - and well done Mum for your solution - no need at all to apologise for being generically challenged.


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Thursday, November 27, 2008

Day 1.321: The pre-Black Friday Parade

We have taken a step closer today to 'doing Thanksgiving properly' I think. We watched the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade on TV this morning and had turkey, trimmings and pie with some of our church family this afternoon. We even found time for the football (as the video proves):


(well we can't be expected to get it all right...)

The parade was actually very good entertainment, but after it finished, it took some persuading to get the girls to have a bit of a run around outside. The football was an attempt to prevent them driving each other and us mad before we left the house at lunchtime. In the car, they managed to turn from arguing to something stranger. We caught this bit of conversation during our short drive:

Exile #4: I am Makka Pakka, I have horns.
Exile #3: Don't...kill...the chameleon!

Both food and company were great this afternoon and it was hard to tear the kids away at (their) bedtime. This evening the TV was full of adverts for the 'Post-Thanksgiving Sales.' Most of them are focussed on some 'door-busting deals' tomorrow which is known popularly as Black Friday. Some shops will be open at 4 am to greet crowds of insomniac bargain-seekers.

And so it's a holiday-season pop pun (number 87) for title watchers (do you love potassium nitrate as much as I do?): When I was a young boy, my father took me into the city.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Day 1.320: Tooth will out

"Daddy, do you want to see how much my wobbliest tooth moves now?"
"Not really no."
"Why not?"
"I don't really feel like it just now."
"Oh...OH!...My tooth came out - like that!"

And so another rite of passage (I already made that joke) comes for Exile #3 and, as Exile #2 pointed out, for us as well.

There was a first for Exile #4 today as well, when she suddenly discovered she could skip (not the with-a-rope-kind, the step-hop-step-hop-kind) - "You're skipping!" Exile #2 proclaimed. "I am?!" She did a very competent demonstration for me when I got home.

I wonder if the tooth-fairy is still in business in such trying financial times. I suppose we'll find out tomorrow. If so, that will be something else to be thankful for on Thanksgiving.
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Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Day 1.319: A little magic



I know many of you have wondered how we make all our amazing Magnatile creations. Here's your answer - it's easier than you might think as you can see. If we'd had more time Exile #3 and I would have filmed this tower for longer!

Talking of answers (as I was a sentence or two ago) - I nearly revealed the answer to the mystery photo quiz today - anyone want to make a witty comment or a serious suggestion before I do so?

Monday, November 24, 2008

Day 1.318: Headlong

Life feels like a constant rush at the moment. We need a break - even a long weekend might do it. If only there was a holiday at this time of year to give us a moment to catch our breath. Christmas is just too far away.

What's that?

Wow - thanks.
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Sunday, November 23, 2008

Day 1.317: Power walk

E5N1 had his 18-month check-up the other day (I may have jumped the gun a few months ago). Anyway, the doctor says he's a bit overweight and suggested a regime of exercise to prevent adding his bulk to the swelling statistics of obese toddlers. So we sent him off for a three mile power-walk today - you have to start somewhere.

Actually some of that isn't true.

But the doctor did suggest a weight control programme for him, "With Thanksgiving and Christmas coming up, he'll probably manage to put on a bit of weight!" Unfortunately, so will the rest of us - and unlike him we're not in need of the extra pounds.

Talking of power-walking here's a wonderful Dunkin Donuts commercial featuring a song by the ever-drole They Might Be Giants (I could have done without the remix section, but there you go).

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Saturday, November 22, 2008

Day 1.316: Count down and out

3: The morning started with Exile #2 leaving for a regional meeting of MOPS steering teams. Just me and the three kids. All I had to do was supervise breakfast, dressing, a birthday present wrapping and generally keep the kids alive. Under-promise I may have done, but I can make no claim for over-delivering. (All three did survive the day though!)

2: Just before lunch Albaniana and family came to take Exile #3 to a birthday party and related movie-viewing. Down to two.

1: Hang on, where is Exile #4? I came downstairs with Exile #3 and E5N1, then after the pick-up I only seem to have E5N1 - ah there she is - asleep on the wooden floor in our room with a cold hot-water bottle for a pillow and a dressing gown as a cover.

0: She did wake up and come and join E5N1 and me for some lunch. Then they both went to bed for a nap (as did I briefly) - I think the next virus has caught up with us all.

out: After Exile #2 got home, I took the newly awake Exile #4 to the (sometimes dangerous) park nearby. It was sunny, but bitterly cold and completely deserted - we had a great time.

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Friday, November 21, 2008

Day 1.315: Mystery play

We rocked hard tonight. A small but skilled and dedicated group showed up to play Rock Band 2, drink shandy (over 21's only of course) and eat chips and salsa - and it was good.

Here's another little quiz for you - can you tell what the picture is? Clicking or mouse-over (if you're reading this on the site) will give the with-flash view.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Day 1.314: Frozen, birds

A couple of weeks ago I bought a new bird feeder - it's much bigger and means that there's a good chance of the birds having something to visit for even if I am not home during daylight hours for a number of days in the week. This morning I found time to fill it up. I'd forgotten what it feels like to walk on the lawn when the ground is rock hard from an overnight frost. I've already taken to wearing hat and gloves for the walk from car to work and back - maybe not a good sign considering it will almost certainly get 20°F colder before it starts to warm up again.

Exile #4 celebrated the cold weather by letting her sister ride her tricycle while she went back inside after about ten seconds. Exile #3 rose to the occasion as you can see - but she is really getting too big for that trike.

By the way - if you get this by email you probably missed an exciting multimedia presentation and if today was your birthday you should really check it out.
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Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Day 1.313: Un.lucky unlucky?

As always - striving to bring you less but make it seem like more...

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Day 1.312: Didoe but Dodi?

Yesterday morning these two deer were in our back yard apparently sleeping or at least very stationary. I suspect they must have spent at least part of the night there - maybe celebrating the start of the hunting season by staying close to residential property.

I think it's time to call an end to the name game after a set of fine punning answers including some extremely Exilic pop punning and a couple of valiant attempts at the trivial answers.

Here is the list I was looking for (although you all gave me what I was hoping for - a smile and some evidence that someone still reads this nonsense!):

Georgia - George II
Louisiana - Louis XIV
Maryland - Henrietta Maria, Queen consort to Charles I
North Carolina & South Carolina - Charles I
Pennsylvania - William Penn
Virginia & West Virginia - Queen Elizabeth I (the virgin queen)
Washington - George Washington
Delaware - Thomas West (3rd Baron De La Warr)
California - Queen Califia

Not an Indiana or Montana in sight I'm afraid.

Thanks to y'all for playing.
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Monday, November 17, 2008

Day 1.311: Side-effects

His intentions (on this occasion) were good I think - he was just trying to help by adding a tile here or there. If you're not sure what was about to happen, tickle that hexagonal bit on top of the tower with your mouse pointer and share E5N1's experience.

Last night I took a dose of Nyquil (a night-time cold remedy). If its aim was to give me a good night's sleep it certainly worked - although both E5N1 and Exile #4 disturbed Exile #2's sleep I was out-for-the-count. Unfortunately it took until the middle of the afternoon for me to shake the feeling of being only partially with-it.

Some time around then, a group of us walked from one building to the next in a significant fall of snow and when I left work, the car was icy. Change comes fast around here. I haven't put the ice-scraper/snow shovel gadget back in the boot yet. Maybe it's time I did.

I'm glad to see the competition (if you can call it that) heating up over at the name game post - don't forget that there are eleven to find out of the forty-nine non-NY states. Answers coming soon.
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Sunday, November 16, 2008

Day 1.310: Let/buy the lightswitch

I guess this decision would depend on your credit rating in the current climate.

There has been a resurgence in Magna-tile activity recently. This was one of today's creations. E5N1 even helped a little with some of our towers - he helped to destroy many of them too, but it wasn't his only thought.

The girls had a good play-date this afternoon with two similarly aged sisters from school - the younger ones set up house in the playhouse (in the background of the photo) and the older ones did raids from their stronghold in Exile #3's bedroom - at one point they made off with the front 'door' (a curtain attached with Velcro) much to the entirely reasonable frustration of the residents.

It's pop pun 86 for title watchers after killing Jason off and countless screaming Argonauts.
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Saturday, November 15, 2008

Day 1.309: Family get-together

We gathered with our church family for the 'Annual Celebration Banquet' we had a great time - we had a large basement room at a city-centre Indian restaurant where we had a buffet meal, the kids ran around, we talked about our community, plans for the future etc.

E5N1 made a new friend and while we were having a little prize-giving ceremony they got into the spirit of the occasion. Click the picture for a very short video!

Since we were going out for a curry we listened to a Kaiser Chiefs hit on the way. It was a Cockney rhyming slang pop pun moment for the family to enjoy. Ruby Ruby Ruby Ru-by!
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Friday, November 14, 2008

Day 1.308: No storm was threatening

...last Sunday - but if it had been this would have been the place to be.


It's got all the amenities a discerning hiker could want:


Even a library:


And a front door option:


Some people actually sleep in these as they walk the trails. Not exactly luxury, but I suppose it compares well with carrying a tent.

This one was in a beautiful spot with a small waterfall in view:


And a larger one out of sight below:



After our brief visit we got back on the ascent.


So it's pop pun 85 for title watchers: It's just a shot away.

And while I'm trying to get you in the quiz mood: anyone going to challenge my Dad in the name game?
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Thursday, November 13, 2008

Day 1.307: Take it indoors

One of E5N1's pleasures of the last couple of months (since he's been walking) has been to carry the tub of sidewalk chalks out onto the drive and spend some time drawing. He loves to draw with whatever he can get hold of - on whatever comes to hand. So it was a moment of parental genius when Exile #2 debasemented the easel. Now the sidewalk can be wherever he is.

There was a moment of confusion when in the middle of drawing he sat down on the floor and reached up for the board with the chalk. He couldn't reach of course, so he stood back up. Then sat down again. Of course, up to then he'd done all his chalk drawing sitting down on the floor. Changes in posture can play havoc with your muse.
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Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Day 1.306: The name game

For the first time this week, I got home while the kids were still up and about this evening. I thought that E5N1 was pleased to see me as he ran into the hall. It turned out he just wanted my lunch-box - he's taken quite a shine to them. This is one of the girls' ones however.

Today at lunch we ended up talking about which of the US states are named after individual people. According to Wikipedia, New York is on the list having been named after the Duke of York. I suppose it was called New to make sure everyone knew it wasn't named after the Grand Old Duke of York. Seems a bit tenuous to me and I think that although it may have been named in his honour, it was named after the city the Vikings called Jorvik. Anyway, can you puzzle out the others? There are eleven to find out of the remaining 49 states. Bonus points for knowing (or accurately guessing) who they were named after. Shame on you if you look them up.

For the benefit of us non-nationals (and a few citizens perhaps), here are the candidates:

Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Vermont, Virginia, Washington, West Virginia, Wisconsin, Wyoming

Post your answer in the comments...!
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Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Day 1.305: Back in two shacks

I've just finished reading The Shack by William P Young. B left it here after her visit earlier in the Fall and Exile #2 read it first and passed it on to me. I'm not really into Christian fiction for the same reason I'm not really into Christian music - all too often it is a low-quality imitation of its real-world counterpart with a moral or spiritual message uncomfortably tacked on or, even worse, vice-versa. There are always exceptions.

The Shack is, at times, an uncomfortable read. It is at times a bit crass, at times a bit cloying. In places it jarred with my theology and elsewhere stretched my suspension of disbelief to breaking point - but these are just specific moments. It is also beautiful and moving, it is an exciting page-turner, it is a challenge and a wake-up call. It takes an honest look at what faith means to normal Christians in the midst of the pain of real life and dares to paint a picture of something more. It is a modern-day parable and I think over-all a really great piece of work.

I couldn't help thinking about it as we saw sights like this on our walk on Sunday. I did promise two shacks after all.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Day 1.304: The Bridges of Berkshire County

We crossed some bridges on our walk yesterday.


Some were fairly sturdy looking.


Some were half-a-tree.


And some were frankly rotten.

It rhymes with 'work' rather than 'dark' you know.

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Sunday, November 9, 2008

Day 1.303: Mass-adventure

This morning I drove over to Massachusetts to do a hike with some colleagues. In the end there were only four of us, but we had a very nice day-hike up Mount Greylock, the highest point in Massachusetts at 3491 ft. You can see our route by rolling your mouse over the picture (or clicking). I've marked it on the relief model installed at the summit. The stretch nearest the summit was along a part of the Appalachian Trail - the highest part between Virginia and Vermont apparently.

The hike was only a little over six miles in total, but was advertised as taking approximately five hours. The climb is over 2000 ft. Including our detour and our lunch stop we were almost exactly that long, so they either allow for stops or for slightly slower hikers than us.

At the top is a war memorial - a rather nice tower built in 1931 and some impressive views.

On the way down we took a relatively poorly travelled and marked trail to cut across from one well-used trail to another. This was a little more exciting than we expected - being a steep descent into a stream valley, a fording of the stream and then a significant climb up the other side. In the end we rejoined the trail we had ascended and, as they say, it was all downhill from there.

I managed to get back in time for us to be only slightly late for our church gathering feeling a little heavy-legged and tired, but with the warm glow of physical achievement.

Here are some pictures from the summit.




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