Saturday, January 31, 2009

Day 2.021: Icicle lights

Our icicle lights are still up along the front of our house and garage as you can see. Today they were supplemented with the real things - catching the sun quite nicely this morning. Actually, I have no idea when the lights are likely to come down - as it was hard enough to get them up - and we didn't have a foot of snow on the ground at the time.

The day was spent re-engineering the sledding track in down the side of the house, going out for lunch and watching WALL-E on HD pay-per-view. In between, all three of the kids were seen at various times wearing Exile #3's roller skates. The girls are starting ice-skating lessons this week. E5N1 will have to settle for his practising away from the ice with the rather loose-fitting (for him) roller skates.

Friday, January 30, 2009

Day 2.020: Seeing clearly

Rock Band Night - it's all about the music (or is it?). Mouse-over for a different 20:20 view from Day 2.020!

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Day 2.019: Take a piece of meat with you

It's been a long and crazy day. It started with an early visit from my daughters in tag-team mode (just as I'm getting back to sleep the other one shows up). I spent breakfast time scraping a thin layer of snow from the drive hoping that the sun today would warm the resulting black-ish surface and get rid of the layer of ice. Then it was bus-waiting time (pictured!).

After I got to work I developed a nasty headache but fortunately, a dose of paracetamol (or as the joke doesn't go here: "Why are there no aspirin in the jungle? because the acetaminophen!" - thanks locals) started to work just when I was giving up on it.

After work I headed north for a church meeting. After that there was just time to stop at the supermarket to do our weekly grocery shopping - it was kind of late and not the place I've been going since taking this job on from Exile #2 a couple of weeks ago - still I did quite well except that I presume I left a bag somewhere because two loaves of bread are missing - hopefully not too much else with them. By the time I got home even Exile #2 was in bed asleep - but the drive is largely ice free.

It's pop pun 94 for title watchers (actually a mis-heard lyric of a song that was playing at the supermarket today - one of their many British pop tunes). Every time you go away...

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Day 2.018: Mixed fortunes

As expected, when we woke up this morning, we discovered that the schools were closed, the roads were a mess and we had an inch or two of fresh snow. Since my physical presence was not really required and there was no realistic prospect of the roads getting better, I decided to work from home.

Yesterday I measured the remaining undisturbed snow in the front at four inches deep. Tonight it is about nine inches, but not all those inches are equivalent. Until midday, we had fluffy snow falling but this afternoon we had sleet and freezing rain. When I went to shovel half an inch or so of this messy mixture, I found that it was probably as heavy as the previous four-or-so inches of snow combined. It is still a shock to be out in the rain and then to find out that (for example) the peak of your cap is coated with ice. As you can see above - the effect of this is to reduce the depth of the snow by compressing it - of course if it had fallen as snow, we'd have had double the accumulation I suppose.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Day 2.017: In the 'hood?

Here is the lovely Exile #2 staying warm in her self-knitted hoody on Saturday. It is, in my experience, approximately the same weight as a sheep and, I am informed, very nice and warm. As are her new winter boots.

Today has been another day much like Saturday - cold, but dry and sunny. At some point overnight we are expecting the front edge of a large winter storm to arrive and bring us a significant amount of snow up to tomorrow lunchtime followed by some of our favourite -'mixed precipitation' - i.e. sleet and freezing rain. I'm just about getting used to what sort of chaos these different types of water cause (and the fact that, as discussed before, 'sleet' is not what it is on the other side of the Atlantic).

So, it would seem like there is a good chance of the snow covering hanging around for several more days (at least) and beating the previous longest spell (28 days from mid February 2007) of not seeing the ground except where the snow had been cleared. Last time we saw our lawn was New Years Eve - I measured the snow this evening in an undisturbed part of our front yard and it is still four inches deep.

Time to get to bed and rest the shovelling muscles!
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Monday, January 26, 2009

Day 2.016: People - on the rocks

The first event on Saturday was down on the ice on the lake. Here are Exile #3 and Albaniana's Girl sitting on a large chunk of ice somewhere near where beach-goers can swim in the summer time. The hole that had been cut in the ice is visible in the background - it had already started to regain a crust of ice in places. It was bitterly cold as I mentioned before - we weren't outside for long before any exposed skin started to hurt in the wind. Sensibly we did not expose much skin.
Others had a different plan.

Before long, this chap was standing half-naked on the ice giving an interview.

And then the guys in dry-suits arrived and then, well - I'll let the pictures speak for themselves!


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Sunday, January 25, 2009

Day 2.015: Anachronisms

After the excitements (and extreme weather experiences) of yesterday, today we planned a simpler day. A walk to the library in the morning, preparations for a birthday party and then a parting of ways to take half the family (rounded up) to said birthday party and the other half (rounded down) to church.

Unfortunately, the library is closed in the morning - so we walked there (You'll notice that there is quite a lot of snow still about - it is easy to forget. It's not melting much except where the sun can get to a dark surface near to it like the road, driveway or roof. We may even get some more on Wednesday!) and then turned around and walked straight back. Exile #3 and I (walking back with E5N1 in the pushchair by one route while Exile #2 and Exile #4 went a different way - don't ask!) invented a new game - it's called Shoveled, Thrown or Plowed (I didn't think it would translate for the UK audience so I didn't try) - it turns out that you can have a pretty good guess as to how the driveways have been cleared of snow even weeks after the event.

When we got home it was time to get ready for the party. During the process we found out that the party was yesterday. So we had lunch, went to the library (in the car this time) and then all went to church - which was a pretty good afternoon and evening to round off the weekend - if not exactly what we'd planned.
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Saturday, January 24, 2009

Day 2.014: Sleigh ride

It was a cold but beautiful day for the Grafton Lakes State Park Winterfest today. This is the first annual event that we (some of us at least) have been to three times. The first year, the weather had just turned cold and we had not acclimatised yet. Last year was warmer. Today we were at least well prepared (and all healthy). Once again we met up with Albaniana and family and enjoyed a variety of winter fun.

Thanks to the ample snow we have had this year, the horses were actually pulling sleighs rather than wheeled carts and we had the last ride along with ten or so other people. It was quite special.

Once we returned from the peaceful woods to the biting wind where the temperature was -10°C, probably -20°C with the wind-chill we were ready to get back in the potential warmth of the car and come home and light a fire.

Here are the very hard-working horses from a more flattering angle.
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Friday, January 23, 2009

Day 2.013: Watching me watching...

...well, me!

It's been a year or so since I removed the slide show from the blog side-bar. It was slowing down the page loading for some people, so it wasn't worth it. You may have noticed that a little slide show has re-appeared in the last week or so. It's a 'badge' displaying my Flickr pictures. Flickr is Yahoo's photo-sharing site and I've been enjoying using it.

So in honour of the Flickr community here is a Flickr cliché: a 'me and my DSLR' picture - what's more it was shot RAW, using ambient light, with a prime (my original film SLR's kit 50 mm) and using 'green-button' aperture priority.

It reminds me of another couple of reversal phenomena:

1) This movie, in which E5N1 spent a lot of time walking backwards - suggesting the idea of time-reversing it.

2) And this picture, in which the icicles are pointing up - because they had slid off the roof attached to large heavy pieces of sheet ice and presumably managed to do a half somersault on their brief fall.
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Thursday, January 22, 2009

Day 2.012: Watch the birdies!

Just some of the common visitors to our feeder. I hope you enjoy!

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Day 2.011: A bit of fresh snow

We're getting quite used to having snow on the ground at the moment as you may have gathered. However, only freshly fallen snow does this.

The picture above was on Sunday, but it was snowing as I went out with Exile #3 into the bitterly cold morning to wait for the school bus. It produced nothing like that amount of snow - but any amount was more than a bit surprising given that the whole sky looked like this:

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Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Day 2.010: Priority #1

I want the best for my kids of course.

Sometimes that means the simple things like fun in the snow as a family. Sometimes big things like to experience living in another culture. Sometimes it's a big house or toys, or books or nice clothes. Sometimes it's a strong faith. Sometimes it's for them to be confident or kind, or caring. Sometimes it's a good education. Sometimes it's a stable life. Sometimes it's unfettered creativity. Sometimes it's lasting friendships. Sometimes it's adventure. Sometimes it's a desire to question everything.

Sometimes life doesn't make a lot of sense - but how can I be unhappy?

P.S. We all watched the inauguration of President Obama in various places - Exile #2 and E5N1 (the only U.S. citizen amongst us of course) were at home, the girls were at school and I was in a public area at work with a four-screen TV array - the borders between the screens left the newly sworn-in President looking a bit stretched - a sign of things to come perhaps.

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Monday, January 19, 2009

Day 2.009: Warmer water

Since there was no school today, I took the opportunity to get to work early. For once, this actually meant that I left reasonably early too so I was able to help out with bath-time. Exile #3 had retired to bed with a headache and her audio books, but the other two were in extremely cheeky mood as you can see.

We'll probably be back to the snowy scenes tomorrow - enjoy the warmer water while it lasts.
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Sunday, January 18, 2009

Day 2.008: Anas clypeata

We'd had a couple more inches of snow overnight. Here is Exile #2, posing triumphantly having cleared the drive. We could now give a ski report for our yard: 8 inches of base, 2 inches of powder, all trails open. I can now fill the bird feeder without difficulty and without lifting the feeder down because even the compacted snow where I stand is giving me a much needed extra few inches of elevation.

The kids all had a good time in the snow before retreating to watch The Wizard of Oz (recorded on the DVR before Christmas and watched at least twice so far). Later Exile #2 and I played Quiddler, a word-play card game sent by my sister for my birthday. It was rather good, so we immediately started a second game, but then left it mid-way through to go to the church gathering. We just finished and stand at one-all so far.

Talking of word-play, title watchers: who's this bird?
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Saturday, January 17, 2009

Day 2.007: Secret agent

This evening I went to a gig in what would be a college bar (in the basement of a dorm building) except that thanks to the legal drinking age leaving a lot of college students out they were only serving tea, coffee and cans of soda.

Pictured is _11:34. He introduced himself by saying "Hi, I'm Abe, I perform under this underscored moniker - underscore eleven thirty-four to be exact." So now you know. He is the reason I was there being an acquaintance and friend-of-a-friend.

He did an excellent set with his guitar and iPod of backing tracks. His first song was introduced with the words, "Who loves particle accelerators?" and contained the refrain "Searching for Higgs" - a reference to the LHC at CERN on the Swiss/French border. Later he rhymed anisotropy with asymptotically - not your average student band fayre, but it all went down well with the assembled engineering students and with me!

The top-of-the-bill act were Action Painters. Very cool and accomplished if not quite so geek-friendly. I'd recommend seeing them live to anyone who likes alternative-rock music.

The whole occasion reminded me that there is no law of conservation of happiness. The crowd there tonight they had an excellent evening of entertainment for $3 and had a great time. The bands got to play for a full room of enthusiastic people and probably loved every minute. I, on the other hand, felt like a bit of an outsider at this predominantly student event. Oh well, at least I got to write a review, even if I can't use that as an excuse for why I was there in the first place.
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Friday, January 16, 2009

Day 2.006: Wheeze? a lute? yew?

One of the Rock Banders tonight had a bit of a cough.

At one point someone picked up E5N1's small toy guitar.

What are drum sticks made of?

And, from those about to go to bed, it's pop pun 93 for title watchers - hail, hail to the good times!
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Thursday, January 15, 2009

Day 2.005: Snow: cold again

I took this picture while it was snowing on Sunday. I still haven't really got used to the cold snow we get here. It is almost always approximately freezing point on the odd occasions when it snows in the south of England and the snow immediately takes on that packing consistency that makes excellent snowmen. Not so here.

Today may not have been too cold for snow, but it was definitely too cold. Tonight's low is expected to be five degrees below zero. Doesn't sound too bad UK readers? Think again! That's below -20 °C.

The post title relates to a health and safety bulletin sent around at work a few weeks ago after someone slipped on some ice after the first snow of the year. Someone offered this précis: "Ice: slippery again this year."

It might have been me.

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Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Day 2.004: Last rays

Exile #2 pointed out the light on the trees. I grabbed the camera and trudged through the snow to the side of the house. I only got a couple of shots before the sun dipped down and the light was gone.

Thank you for all the comments about my photographs in the last few days - I'm certainly having fun!
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Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Day 2.003: Telly, photo, ...

Although I have sometimes claimed otherwise, my language use is shifting as a result of two years living in the US. Some of it is conscious, either to make myself understood, or to make it easier for the people I spend time with (especially at work) to understand without tripping over my language use. Some of my pronunciation is rubbing off on them - and they occasionally say 'pr-oh-cess' (process) or 'st-ay-tus' (status) or 'zed' instead of 'zee' for the third cartesian dimension. Some of it is not really intentional, it sounds strange to think of calling the TV the 'telly' now, and I often say 'picture' rather than 'photo'.

Oh, yeah - the telephoto lens works nicely on the new camera:

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Monday, January 12, 2009

Day 2.002: Snow castles

I rushed home from work this evening to help with bedtime because Exile #2 has hurt her back. She is sure it is not serious and is expecting to spring out of bed tomorrow. I hope she is right.

Exile #4 (definitely the snow-girl at the moment) seems to have perfected her snow-castle technique after school today. She first made some (using a beach bucket) with some of the leftover snow when most of the ground was clear just after Christmas - she is getting more ambitious now it would seem.

These ones are impressively located on top of a large potential-quinzhee (i.e. a pile of snow!) which is significantly taller than she is. Whether we will ever get round to excavating it is unknown. The temperature may actually peak above freezing tomorrow, but by the weekend when I may have time to do some digging (did anyone recognise the music?) it may be too cold for any of us to want to be outside for long enough.
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Sunday, January 11, 2009

Day 2.001: New year - new snow

The Exile is two years old. Two years ago, the winter had brought virtually no snow by this point and temperatures were generally well above freezing. Today I shovelled six inches of fresh snow off the remaining layer of ice, throwing it onto and over the piles of snow still remaining from the previous two storms.

Exile #4 came out with me, and before I started shovelling provided a few excellent photo opportunities. This is my first RAW shot (it's a bit like developing your own film for the digital age).
Apart from shovelling and continuing to play with my new toy, I've put up the last blind in the 'playroom' and had a video-call with my parents. This evening, we had a pot-luck dinner at church. A good day all round.

Thank you for reading during the last two years and for your comments (whether posted, emailed or made in person). I'm still enjoying writing. I never dreamed I would write every day for two years when I started! Onward into the third year...
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Saturday, January 10, 2009

Day 1.365: Second's away


We started the last day of the second year of The Exile with a walk by the frozen Hudson. It was all a big photo-opportunity for me and my new camera. You can see the results above (or click on the link). The river is mostly frozen - and in places you can see that the ice is quite thick. There is still some open water near the bridges - not as hard-frozen as we saw it in our first winter.

There is also a thick layer of ice on top of the remaining few inches of snow. Exile #3 and Exile #4 can just about walk on the icy surface if they are careful, or crash through into the soft snow if they choose. This afternoon I attempted to remove the ice from the driveway which was nearly continuous but varying from a thin layer up to about two inches thick in places. Some of it came up in satisfying chunks and could be swept to the side or send skidding over the surface of the remaining ice sheet. In other places it was completely impossible to shift.

This evening the latest storm rolled in, this one is expected to bring us a few inches of snow overnight and, with a really cold spell due next week, we will be seeing it for some time I think.

Friday, January 9, 2009

Day 1.364: SLRing again

Pentax K200DEver since Exile #3 was born (she had another name back then) I have been taking digital photographs and my 35 mm SLR has been collecting dust (well the bag has been literally collecting dust - the camera only figuratively). From time to time over the years I have come across photos I took with it and thought wistfully that some of them are quite good. During the last year (since I got my wonderful Canon SD870 IS) I have been getting much more serious about taking good photos again for their own sake (and not just to illustrate what I'm talking about in the blog). So for my birthday I decided to put some present money together with some tax refund money and buy a Digital SLR. I struggled to decide between the Pentax K200D and the Olympus E510/520. In the end the compatibility of the Pentax with my old K-mount lenses (especially the one you can see if you mouse-over or click above) was the deciding factor.

It's taking a bit of getting used to - it's not really like my fully-manual SLR of old, nor like my compact digital, but I am loving it. Here are a few early pictures (I haven't had chance to get outside or in daylight with it yet!).

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Thursday, January 8, 2009

Day 1.363: How old?

Exile #3 and Exile #4 have been on my mind a lot today as I have been trying to convince the IRS (tax service) that they not only exist but are indeed my dependants. One of the advantages of the situation was that after I spent my lunch break trying to deal with them on the phone, I eventually gave up and took the afternoon off to go to the local office (in the middle of a short but exciting snow shower) - which meant that I was home early enough to have a slice of my birthday cake with them (and Exile #2 and E5N1 who are just out of shot).

I tried (half-heartedly) to convince my colleagues that it was my 23rd birthday today. It wasn't true. 26 would have been much closer to the truth. Exile #2 knows as you can see.
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Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Day 1.362: Many mysteries

Here's a recent sight (from Christmas Eve in fact) - can you work out what is going on here?

For the pop pun solvers (or at least puzzlers) out there I noticed that today was the day I received a solution to last year's pop pun pop quiz. You can find the PPPQ answers and this year's pop puns here (and in the pages following). No quiz this year, but there are quite a few unsolved ones amongst them for you to achieve comment-glory on.

My efforts to separate the pop puns out from the rest of my bad word-play mean that non-pop-punners can cringe without interruption (and maybe solve a riddle or two) by looking through the pun category!

One more, while we are here - there are a couple of anniversaries coming up. They occurred on Day 363 and Day 365. Is anyone surprised that they will be coming round again tomorrow and two days after that on Day 1.363 and Day 1.365? Maybe you should be!
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Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Day 1.361: On the 12th day of Christmas...

...Amazon sent to me the cymbals for the Rock Band 2 kit.

It was my Christmas present from my parents, but in short supply in the run up to the holidays I suppose. I had a quick go, it certainly makes the experience more like playing a real drum kit (i.e. I can't do it). Although to be fair to myself I chose a set list of four songs called the Zildjian Showcase - extremely appropriate, but I might have guessed that there would be some challenging drum songs in the set.

Tonight our next winter storm will arrive with what they ominously are calling 'mixed precipitation' - it's amazing how quickly you get into the local way of thinking that six inches or more of snow is no problem at all, but if we end up getting a significant amount of freezing rain again... Well, I'll probably get some nice photos but might not be able to upload them. Again.
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