Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Day 4.324: Jolly old piano duet

I've been getting home from work in time to have dinner with the rest of the family more often recently.  It's a meeting-in-the-middle really but it's nice anyway.

We usually talk a little about what we've been doing and today it turned out that Exile #2 and Exile #4 had something to show me.

So, after dinner, they did:


Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Day 4.323: Counting down**

I'm not very tall.

Actually that's something of an understatement. I am 5'6" or perhaps 5'5" - it seems to vary from day to day - or possibly according to who is doing the rounding.

I was also short (similarly so) when I was in my early twenties. At that time, former Chancellor of the Exchequer, Nigel Lawson (who now sports the rather wonderful title Baron von-Lawson of Blaby*), had lost a lot of weight in his early 60's and looked rather saggy as a result.  In conversation with a friend we concluded that if you're going to lose weight you really need to do it before you're 40 (that probably seemed quite old to us then).

That conversation has popped into my mind a few times over the last few years.  At least partly because I turned 40 and was trying to lose a little weight.  Originally I was aiming for 155 lbs - that is the top of the 'normal' range for BMI for a 5'6" tall adult - later I decided that 150 lbs was a more honest target - the same position for me if I am admitting to being only 5'5" tall.  Which I'm not. Obviously.


I recently dipped below that line - which is good.  The first half of the weight loss was all diet, the last part, has been my exercise regime (mostly running in the end).  I didn't lose it before I turned 40, but I didn't miss by much.

I can also report that the exercise is also having a beneficial impact on my LDL/HDL ratio, so my doctor is reasonably happy - as long as I keep going!






* I made up the 'von-' but the rest of it is true. Having lived nearby in my youth I can also reveal that Blaby is pronounced like baby with an added 'l'.

** This post was originally numbered 4.321 due to a clerical error - maybe that influenced the post title - and maybe the content!

Monday, November 28, 2011

Day 4.322: Yell: "Oak, why try tree?"

Come on oak, give it up now - a tree like you is never going to win plant (product) of the year. On the other hand - saffron - I'm just mad about saffron.

Talking of things of a certain hue, we finished our second painting job of the year. It went quite a lot easier than the first one thanks to the absence of drywall-destroying wallpaper.

Exile #3 chose the colour and now her room looks like this.


It's still a little smelly but the window is open and the wind velocity is not nil, so I imagine it will air by tomorrow night.  All of which is really just a prelude to announcing that today sees pop pun 121 for title watchers - bound to be the very next phase.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Day 4.321: Mountain view


We've had a busy day.  We had the family of one of Exile #4's classmates over for lunch.  Their two oldest (almost the same age as our two youngest) and our kids played happily in between food and the adults found time to chat (and coo a little over the baby).

We had a really nice gathering at church and then spent the rest of the evening putting a second coat of paint on Exile #3's bedroom walls (she is sleeping in Exile #4's room - not in the middle of the decorating zone).

I took exactly no pictures today, so here is the view of the Catskills from our drive on Friday - I said it was scenic!

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Day 4.320: It's time to meet the Muppets...

This morning, Exile #2 and I put a coat of yellow paint on Exile #3's bedroom walls while the kids entertained themselves and each other. It's nice when it works out that way.

This afternoon, we all went to the mall.  Not shopping obviously - we went to see The Muppets.  It's really a unique piece of work - old fashioned without being dated, sentimental without being cloying, kid-friendly without being adult-destroying, self-aware without being post-modern. OK I'm done now.

Admittedly, we're probably about as close to the target demographic as you can get but I would say that if you think you might enjoy it you probably will - whether you have kids to use as an excuse or not.

It looks like UK readers will have to wait until February - so consider this your "Didn't someone say they liked it?" for when the time comes!

Friday, November 25, 2011

Day 4.319: Four Mile Point

We visited a tiny but lovely preserve a little way south of here on the west bank of the Hudson today.  Four Mile Point is apparently halfway along the eight mile stretch of the river between the towns of Coxsackie and Hudson.  The small park is a Scenic Hudson preserve and despite having less than half a mile of trails, we spent a very happy hour and a half there - mostly messing about on the beach.

The tide was coming in, so the river was flowing the wrong way.  There was quite a lot of debris in it which helped us to see how fast it was flowing - certainly the fastest I'd seen, maybe due to the relative narrowness of the river here.

(see all the photos here)

On the way down there (listening to R.E.M. of course since we were on our way to Athens), we had been  talking about a strange outing Exile #2 had had recently when she had run into British people working in both PetSmart and Lowes.  So, we were primed when, after we'd been on the beach for some time, a couple arrived speaking with English accents.  They are long-time transplants to North America (first Canada and then the US) and we had a very nice conversation about many things.  Eventually, after a bit of prodding from her husband, she revealed that she is an illustrator and showed us her sketchbook which was stunning.  She also gave us her card which means I can link to her website.  Lovely art, lovely people.

After a while I noticed that the stone that had been standing a way out of the water when we arrived (top-right picture) was now disappearing below the surface (next photo down).  We know the river is tidal, but that doesn't stop us being surprised when we see a demonstration.

So, after a great time skimming stones, collecting interesting ones,


watching the tide coming in, chatting with fellow ex-pats and admiring the scenery we left for the short walk and the quick and scenic drive home - with a very wet boy in the party.  Thankfully it was only his feet and legs but I poured a good cup of water out of each of his boots before we walked back to car.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Day 4.318: We didn't order pizza

Today was our fourth Thanksgiving since we arrived here.  It appears from today's post number that in 49 days we will start clocking up fifths but, where were we?  Oh yes, Thanksgiving.

Previous Thanksgivings have included accepting invitations, football, delivering food and entertaining friends. Today, we returned to deliver some meals for the massive Equinox Thanksgiving Dinner and this time I had some company for the long early-morning wait to collect the food:


and it was not just the girls and a hopeful turkey...also these folks:


It is a massive undertaking - dinner for around 9000, most of it delivered to people's doors in the morning.  It was a great way to start the day.

We had a guest for our own lunch and started a new family tradition - Christmas-cracker-esque jokes with a Thanksgiving theme to share at the table.

E5N1's was delivered with particular glee:
Why did the pilgrims eat turkey at Thanksgiving?
Because they couldn't fit the moose in the oven.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Day 4.317: Elmo returns

Remember the Elmo PJs?

Here is E5N1's rendering of the friendly red monster presumably modelled on the face on his top.

As you can see he drew it using the iPad. We may worry about the amount of computer/iPad/TV time he wants, but it's certainly not all bad.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Day 4.316: Dress-upping

"You missed me dress-upping, Daddy!" said E5N1 as I came through the door this evening.

Fortunately, Exile #2 had captured the event with the camera.


So glad we didn't miss it!

Monday, November 21, 2011

Day 4.315: Leaf drifts

In winter, we pile snow here, cleared from the driveway, cleared from the road, the hydrant is protected from disappearing by my shovel.

But for now, we rake and pile and wait - not for Spring or a temporary melt - but for the leaf collectors to come and remove the piles that we have made.

And they better hurry up or there will be leaves and snow down there at the same time, and we'll never be rid of them!

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Day 4.314: Family fitness

My previous experience of trails leading to exercise equipment was a long way away.  This one was rather closer.

The kids did some cycling at the park and then we attempted the fitness trail.  None of us got very close to the picture on this equipment:


And standing on tip-toe on a post is harder than you might think:

I'mm not sure it did a lot for our fitness, but it was fun way to spend some family time on a cold sunny day.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Day 4.313: UFO!

It all started yesterday with this view of a strange line apparently floating in mid-air over I-787 just north of Albany.


Imagine how I kicked myself when I got closer and realised what it really was - a strange line floating in mid-air over I-787 (you might need to click through and see the high-res version):



As my camera operator and I got closer it was clear that it had caught everyone's eye as the traffic slowed. It seemed to be a plastic tube of some sort floating bizarrely in the sky, but for a minute or so it was a bit of magic.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Day 4.312: Party birds

The birthday party for which Exile #4 was preparing yesterday was this evening.  It turns out that the Angry Birds were not just a natural accompaniment for the Star Wars picture, but also the theme of the party.  When I arrived to pick her up at the end it was clear that it had been great fun - with a real slingshot to launch Angry Bird toys at block buildings and balloon pigs.

It also turns out that none of this is coincidental with E5N1's birthday party in April because it was at his party that this family first encountered the battle between birds and pigs.  As a thank you I was sent home with the bird you can see him with below - the rewards of being a fashion leader!

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Day 4.311: In a birds' nest far far away...

Exile #4 made a birthday card for one of her school friends today.  The front has a a Star Wars theme, the inside and back cover has some rather good Angry Birds drawings.

These were of course the theme elements from E5N1's birthday party last year.

Perhaps they are a more natural combination than we realised!

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Day 4.310: Mother alert prototype!

While we were playing the Lego Hogwarts game the other day, someone took the  pieces that are not required (for the basic game at least) and made a rather impressive tower.

The game is rather good. As you can see below - it caused some serious expressions and intense stares as we worked out how to get our students around the shifting staircases of the castle to collect all our homework items.

The post title is a little puzzle for those who like that sort of thing.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Day 4.309: Xylotechnology

I've got good news and bad news.

Let's get the bad news out of the way. You may have been hearing about nanotechnology at CNSE's NANOvember events and hoping it represents a bright future for mankind, or at least a bright economic future for the Albany area, but I have to tell you nanotechnology is SO last week.

The good news is that week's future is xylotechnology and it too is happening right here in the Capital Region.

Here are a selection of xylotechnology devices - cameras in this case.


They may not be nanotechnology, but they are quite small.  The one at the bottom left is the 'compact'.  I know what you're thinking, "Why is the one on the right slightly larger?" - I know I'm right.

Well, whereas the compact camera takes regular pictures as you can see by looking at the screen on the back, the slightly larger one takes a picture of your heart:


As for how it works, I'm afraid that I cannot explain it, but I'm sure the xylotechnology pioneer, E5N1 will be happy to explain it to you if you can drag him away from his craft projects for long enough.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Day 4.308: Making the invisible visible

I was surprised to find that E5N1 and Exile #2 had constructed a Duplo model of E5N1's chief 'pretend friend' Haggar today.

It appears he has rather grand stripey trousers and an unusual stomach arrangement.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Day 4.307: Take me to the bridge!

Continuing our tour of locations of bridges washed out by Hurricane Irene...

We've had a sick-day today. We called-in to church, spent the day taking painkillers, playing the odd game, lounging in front of a movie and generally keeping our sniffles to ourselves (or at least only each-other). We did, however manage a brief outing this morning to walk a part of the Vlomankill Trail at Five Rivers.

We might have been moving slowly, but this little fellow was working at full speed:


The top left picture shows the general vicinity of the missing bridge.  We've played Pooh-sticks many times from it.  It's hard to tell exactly where it was due to the massive reconstruction effort that has taken place.  You can see some of the evidence of this work it in the bottom left photo.  The others show some more evidence of the high waters' passage through the area.


But not everything was damage and repair.  There were some peaceful views of late-autumnal woodland life too and the stream is as appealing as ever.


Photos are here.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Day 4.306: Taxi-service signing off

I'd like to say I spent the day in my car, but it would be a slight exaggeration.

In fact, I went for a run, had breakfast, did a few jobs around the house and had some down-time before lunch.  But after lunch...!

First I picked up Exile #3's friend and took them both to this rock-climbing birthday party at The Court Club (where I played squash a couple of times a few years ago).  I left them there while I popped off to Fleet Feet to buy some colder-weather running supplies.

Then it was back in the car to take the girls up to their second birthday party - at Tree Paad in Malta.  Incidentally, my attempts to get Siri to give me directions there ended with me trying to spell it out, "T, R, E, E, P, A, A, D," which resulted in her replying that she wasn't able to look up hotels in Turkey.  Some things are easier to type than to say!

I was just arriving there to drop them off when Exile #2 called to say that Exile #4 who had been on a sleepover since yesterday afternoon was ready to come home, so it was off to Troy to collect her.  It was well after dark when we go back - not that that is saying too much now that the clocks have gone back.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Day 4.305: You are the new paperclip!

I got a new phone yesterday. It was something of a surprise. On Tuesday I did not know there was any plan to replace my work mobile phone, by Thursday lunchtime it was in my hands.  It's an iPhone 4S and today I had chance to play with the latest successor to the Microsoft paperclip: Siri.

There are some minor differences between the early 2000's Microsoft Assistant and the early 2010's iOS personal assistant, but the basics are the same.

Whereas the older version would pop up a crude animation with a speech bubble saying "You seem to be writing a letter, would you like help with that?" before going on to completely wreck all your formatting, the newer model will listen intently to any free-form question you utter into the microphone and try, with all the backing that natural language interpretation and the internet can provide, to come up with an answer or at least some reasonable response.

Do you doubt the connection?  I can help put your doubts to rest - here's a conversation Siri and I just had:


She can also help with real things like hotel reservations, driving directions, sending a text or an email, but who needs any of that?

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Day 4.304: Gust: wind-chill

I couldn't believe my ears as I drove home listening to WAMC tonight. It turns out that in North Dakota and north-west Minnesota, the wind-chill warnings are being phased out in favour of extreme-cold warnings.

Shocking right?

No? Well, bear with me!

This shunning of wind-based warnings (which seems very sensible indeed incidentally) was being announced by the gentleman pictured here.

His name is Greg Gust.

Oh yes.

[Picture from noaa.gov]

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Day 4.303: Elmo from head to toe

Well, from shoulders to toes anyway!

E5N1 brought me the kids camera to upload the pictures to the computer this morning.  There were a number of photos that he had taken but this one caught my eye.

Exile #2 took it a few days ago.  E5N1 is quite pleased with his Elmo pajamas and slippers - as you might be able to tell!

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