Thursday, May 31, 2007

Day 141: Altitude training

For the last two mornings I have managed to ride the two-hour time difference and had a swim in this pool before breakfast. It is the first swimming I have managed since E5N1's birth on Day 88. A bit shocking since I had managed to go once (or even twice) a week during the preceding weeks. The pool is in an extraordinary position, on the 5th floor and surrounded by high-rise buildings. It is quite cold on the roof at 6 am, but the pool is kept to a good swimming temperature (I don't think Exile #4 would be impressed though).

Yesterday, I could barely manage to string two lengths together. I put it down to a shocking fall in my fitness levels (having managed a non-stop 1/2 mile a while ago), but I suspect that travelling had an impact as (maybe) did the altitude - not the 5 floors, but Denver is known as Mile-high City for a reason.

Denver finds itself in the midst of an international news story today as the rogue-travelling super-TB-carrying man comes here for treatment. No-one (including myself) seems to have much of interest to say about it, but I did find this story about a flu pandemic amusing (not that it is really a laughing matter of course) but it seemed to me a bit like if you went to the doctor with chest pain only to be told "You're going to die, but whether you'll die any time soon is less clear." There's going to be another flu pandemic. Sometime. Almost certainly. Maybe many years from now. News-worthy indeed.
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Day 140: Did someone say "storm"?

All traces of the storm have gone, but if you want to see what it was like you can see here (you may need to click play on the right under 'playlist').

Today, the conference was in full swing, I did some more business for house and car purchases from a distance and ate an enormous steak - welcome to Colorado.

At home, Exile #2 reported seeing a grouse having a dust-bath in the garden. I didn't confirm this, but I assume it was in one of the patches of bare earth where the girls have been digging with their sandpit buckets and spades. We really must get some play-sand for their sandbox. It is one of many things that I am half-heartedly trying to put off until we move to the new house, we got very good at putting things off last year - I hope it hasn't become a habit.
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Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Day 139: Beautiful Denver

"Welcome to beautiful Denver Colorado" said the man who gave the connecting flight information when our plane arrived at the gate. He was met with a murmur of polite sarcastic laughter.

Our final approach included the flight attendants telling us that we were "on the honor system" to put our seats and tray-tables in the upright and locked position and re-stow our carry-on items. The reason? They were two scared to get out of their seats to check - OK, I don't know whether they were scared, but they weren't getting up.

We skirted the edge of a big thunderstorm (coming down steadily then suddenly dropping, then the engines back at full blast, you can picture it I'm sure). After we landed we were informed that we were the last plane allowed to land and the airport was now closed - just as well we were 30 minutes early landing. Later we found out that hail the size of golf-balls had to be swept off the runway before take-offs could start again. As for us, we spent at least 30 minutes just back from the gate because they weren't allowed to use the jet-way while there was lightning striking nearby.

The picture shows what looks like snow - it's actually the remains of the hail storm. Also gridlock and lowering skies are pictured - all adding to the attraction.
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Monday, May 28, 2007

Day 138: Memorial Day

This morning we all went to see a local Memorial Day Parade. We were amazed how many people were there when we arrived about 20 minutes before it was due to start. We were near the mid-way point and we waited about 40 minutes before the parade started passing us and about another 40 before it finished passing.

There were several bands (this was the first), war veterans, police officers, fire fighters, school groups, scouts, guides, sports clubs, classic cars, inexplicable elderly men in go-carts...

Many were giving out 'candy' as they passed, which was quite satisfactory for Exile #3 and Exile #4 as you can imagine.

The rest of the day has been spent getting ready for my trip tomorrow. I had been thinking I was leaving later in the day, so my 10 am flight caught me by surprise when I checked my itinerary. I apologise in advance if there is a break in normal service - I plan to keep posting whilst away but time and IT will have to be on my side.
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Sunday, May 27, 2007

Day 137: Go turtley crazy

We saw this little chap on the footpath on our post-lunch walk today. Having been fairly closely inspected by everyone he turned (surprisingly-long) tail and headed back to the water. We suspect he's a young snapper but we're certainly not experts. We also heard several American Bullfrogs (and saw one) . Follow the link and check out the tadpole picture - they certainly weren't like that in ponds when I was growing up.

Bird sightings were less exciting in general, but Exile #2 spotted the first hummingbird at a nectar-feeder - others had reported the presence only a couple of weeks ago. I also saw my first Northern Flicker near to church. I was getting there early this morning to join the band - a wonderfully traffic-free journey, leaving Exile #2 and her mum to bring the rest of the Exiles later on.

Well, it's a holiday weekend, so here's pop pun #18 (nobody said I had to like them all, or identify with them) - forget I'm a lady!
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Saturday, May 26, 2007

Day 136: Back to the beach

We spent the day at the beach today. The sun shone all day and temperatures were comfortable (75-80°F). It was Exile #2's parents' first full day with us, so it was nice to have a good outing.

The girls played on the beach with buckets and spades - of course a lake-beach can't give the full seaside experience - no tasting salt for the rest of the day, no getting knocked over by waves, no arriving to discover it's high-tide and there is no beach - but we made do. We had a picnic in the shade - retreated there again for drinks and ice-lollies, and the adults had short walks (in shifts).

But why 'back to the beach'? is it a pop-pun? No. We've been here before - remember? Day 17: A day at the beach. Of course it didn't look quite the same on that occasion, and neither did the girls!

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Friday, May 25, 2007

Day 135: Bang collared - eh?

At one point on my way home from work I glanced down at the outside temperature reading and it was 93°F. I think the real maximum may be about 90°F. It's a holiday weekend, Monday being Memorial Day and I was surprised to discover that the 'rush hour' had started by about 1pm, I shouldn't have been surprised I should imagine it started in the UK on Thursday. In fact I know it did, because Exile #2's parents, who have safely arrived (albeit a bit tired) were caught in the rush to get out of the country before the End-of-May-why-not-lets-have-a Holiday weekend.

In the midst of all this I managed to sort out some car insurance, so we're still moving in the right direction. Not much else though. Next week I'll be out of town at a conference, so it will be much harder to keep the pace of organisational activity up. Then it will probably be a major stress the week after. Never mind.

It's pop pun #17 - A six pack of beer, then it's back to work A.G.A.I.N.
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Thursday, May 24, 2007

Day 134: Polluting the environment

One of my new colleagues pointed out to me that this improvised ash tray had caught on fire the other day. I would imagine that hanging around downwind of it might give you a fair nicotine kick. You'll be happy to know that he put it out with a cup of water after I took this.

However, the real pollution news of the day is that I have bought a car (or started the process at least). I'll save the unveiling for when we collect it, but it was a straightforward if not entirely stress-free process. I have also now managed to set up a currency transfer account so that I can transfer some funds from the UK, hopefully at a good exchange rate, so things are slowly coming together.

Tomorrow's jobs include car insurance, another car, more documentation for the house purchase...

Exile #2's parents are in the country and will be arriving here tomorrow. It will be the first meeting for E5N1 of course and it has been a long time for the girls too. Will they resist "Haven't you grown!"? I'll let you know tomorrow.
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Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Day 133: Stream of consciousness

As I was sitting down to write this, Exile #4 managed to get to standing right behind me before saying anything and I nearly jumped out of my skin when she did. She was quite upset - she had taken a dislike to her pillow but I managed to persuade her (I think) that whatever she thought about it had just been a dream.

Exile #3 is on a short (48 hour) course of antibiotics to ward off the possibility of Lyme disease following her tick bite. She is fine at the moment and continues to want to know how everything works. After she found an old compact camera the other day, we found ourselves explaining life before digital photography - it sounded strange to me as I told her that you couldn't see the photos until you had finished a whole film and had it processed - it must sound truly extraordinary to her.

Both the girls are prone to suddenly singing renditions of songs they have heard on the radio or wherever at the moment. The other day after I heard a snippet of "Noel, Noel, Noel, Noel..." I was amused to hear Exile #3 telling Exile #4 that it doesn't mean 'No' after Exile #4 had been shaking her head to, as she supposed, emphasise the words. Maybe she was confusing it with KT Tunstall's "No no no, no no no no - you're not the one for me" which they also broke into several hours after hearing it on the radio the other day.

Talking of singing, American Idol came to an end this evening, we were saved from any temptation to watch the interminable results show by having a guest for dinner. The tour is coming to town at some point in the summer - sponsored by (you couldn't make it up) Pop Tarts.

It's actually a pond and don't go kissing, they're not all princes in disguise you know.
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Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Day 132: Pest inspection

This morning we had the inspection on 'our' house - there were no big surprises (pests or otherwise), so it is very likely that we will be the owners of it a month or so from now. The experience of accompanying the inspector on his tour of the house (as is normal here) was a really positive one - much better than just reading the report as we had in the autumn of last year. It also means I know what the various valves and boxes in the basement do - it could have taken years to discover by deduction or trial and error!

We had a nasty shock this evening when we discovered a tick on Exile #3. They are a hazard here and some carry Lyme disease which can be quite nasty if not diagnosed quickly. Early removal of the tick almost eliminates the risk of contracting the disease and not all ticks are infected in the first place. The only reason to doubt that we caught this early was that the tick had managed to attach itself in her arm-pit, so could have gone unnoticed for some time. We will consult the doctor in the morning. The process of removing the tick was not easy for any of us and now we probably have a night of fruitless worry ahead. Parenthood can be hard sometimes.
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Monday, May 21, 2007

Day 131: All who are thirsty

On our way home from church yesterday we passed another church which had a large sign outside: What part of "Thou shalt not" don't you understand? We were astonished. I can't begin to list what I think wrong with this sign. OK, actually I can.
1) It leaves them wide open to the reasonable answer, "I'm not really sure about 'shalt' for a start".
2) It is profoundly unwelcoming.
3) It implies that the main thing the church cares about is telling you not to do things.
4) It is entirely at odds with the way that Jesus related to people. He welcomed all: weary, broken, thirsty. He battled the religious authorities when they tried to condemn a woman caught in the act of adultery. And even when he quoted the law he said (paraphrasing) "Love God and love your neighbour" (he used UK spelling of course!) - not a "thou shalt not" in sight.

I wonder what that church is trying to achieve. Perhaps they thought it would catch people's attention - if so it worked for me. Perhaps they hope that a murderer or an adulterer or someone who covets his neighbours belongings will drive by and realise their wrongdoing and change. Perhaps they think it will draw people into their church. Perhaps if people do go they will receive a warm and loving welcome from people who care for them rather than about their behaviour.

The picture is from our walk on Sunday afternoon - Exile #3 managed to get some water from this pump. We didn't sample it though. If we had been thirsty we'd have looked for a more inviting place to drink.
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Sunday, May 20, 2007

Day 130: S'mores Law

In 1965 one of the co-founders of Intel made an observation that the density of semiconductor components resulting in minimum component cost doubles every 24 months and he predicted that it would continue doing so. It has continued and his observation is now known as Moore's Law.

Today we used our take-home kit to make s'mores at lunchtime. As you can see we were eating on the deck - quite a turn-around from yesterday's cold wet weather. We came up with a modified technique involving a microwave rather than a campfire. Basically: take two sweet crackers (think digestive), place a piece of chocolate on top of one and a marshmallow on top, microwave the marshmallow/cracker combination for 10 seconds until marshmallow is soft and puffy, then take it out, turn it over and squish it on top of the chocolate to make a cracker - chocolate (melted by marshmallow) - gooey marshmallow - cracker sandwich.

As a result of our experiences, I now offer S'mores Law. An adult with a sweet tooth given unlimited access to the raw ingredients will double in weight every two years on account of eating s'mores. Probably.

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Saturday, May 19, 2007

Day 129: Too chilled wren

This is a picture from today - rain-coats, gloves, scarves, snow-pants, hats and all. Amazing considering what it was like a week ago. Oh well, we are learning to expect surprises (if that is possible). By the end of next week it is predicted to be back up around 80°F.

We had a busy day - Exile #3's swim lesson, buying a car-seat for the school-run (since Exile #2 objected to carrying E5N1 and a car seat out of school whilst supervising Exile #3 and Exile #4 at school pick-up time -I can't imagine why). This afternoon we had a barbecue with some people from church - lots of food and people willing to supervise children and cuddle the baby - what's not to like? Apart from the miserable rainy weather that is.

Unfortunately we left too early to be introduced to the joy of s'mores. We were however sent away with the ingredients and instructions. Hopefully I will be able to report on our initiation into this part of US-culture tomorrow. Then it's back to the diet.
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Friday, May 18, 2007

Day 128: Stressed!

No, not E5N1, he's quite relaxed - despite appearances to the contrary! It's his Dad who's stressed. I'm struggling to stay on top of house/car buying, arrangements for schooling for next year as well as the normal activities of job and family.

As usual Exile #2 has managed to calm me down by going into organisational overdrive for a few hours this evening. We now have clearly defined tasks and most of the paperwork we need to achieve them organised. Hopefully we can get most of it sorted out in the coming week. After that Exile #2's parents will be here and I will be deserting the rest of the family for a few days at a conference.

Anyway, most of our tasks are (by necessity) on hold until Monday now, so hopefully we can have a relaxing family time over the weekend.
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Thursday, May 17, 2007

Day 127: Blue Ming View

I thought maybe the time had come for another look out of the window (first one). I took this picture on Day 107 when I was relieved to be seeing signs of spring again after our cold snap had passed.

Today, we are expecting the cold to return for a few days, but Spring will not be stalled this time. Here was the same view less than two weeks later on Day 120.

Quite a transformation. Right now after another week or so, the same view looks like this.

And since we over-slept this morning (well, the girls were up, but not the adults or the baby), I think it's time to sign-off.

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Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Day 126: Time to sleep

Here is Exile #4 who having said that she didn't need to have a nap on Sunday ended up falling asleep on our bedroom floor - exactly how it happened we don't know.

We're all in need of a few extra hours I think. E5N1 is doing fine, but does still need to be fed at our bedtime and in the night and has a tendency to need an extended session of burping before he can get any decent sleep. The girls are great at night, but still sometimes come in for a visit and need to be accompanied back to bed. It's all wearing us down a little.

We are back under contract to buy a house. The same house we nearly bought in September of last year. Exciting but daunting. Mortgage application, inspections, valuations...

I also led worship this evening for our homegroup, it was the first time since the start of the Exile. It's great to use my gifts/talents/skills for the benefit of the whole community - that is a big part of what church is all about for me - a picture (parable if you like) of healthy society with many (most/all?) contributing for the good of everyone.

Anyway, as I said, time to sleep. Goodnight.
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Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Day 125: Trooping the comforter

One thing that has not kept pace across the Atlantic in the development of language is the addition or not of the letter 's' to various words. For instance, you hear the following here (sounds strange to British ears): "That's a total savings of ....". In the UK on the other hand people consistently talk about "road-works" again presumably sounding strange to US ears. When the presenter says at the end of the section of the news that he will be "back in 30 minutes with more Sports" - he doesn't mean a different set of sports he means more news about Sport. Finally how's your Maths?

Maybe it is the same problem that has many British people singing "Rule Britannia! Britannia rules the waves." instead of "Rule Britannia, Britannia rule the waves!" That one does actually mean something different though, despite my bias I can't really bring myself to object to any of the others. Actually "a savings" is obviously nonsense. Oops.

It would seem that for all her mastering of American phrases and pronunciation, Exile #3 is still British at heart.

Or maybe she's developing a sense of irony.
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Monday, May 14, 2007

Day 124: Repel the invaders

You will have seen on the news by now about the alien invasion of Upstate New York. Unless they're hushing it up. Here is my picture of the event.

Fortunately, the 'glass ceiling' defensive device is doing a good job of allowing our 'birds' to come and go without allowing a foothold for the invaders. The first wave has been repelled for the time being and we are able to continue life as normal. I fully expect them to return to test our defences more fully later.

The roll-call of the known-to-be-faithful is as follows. Cardinal, Northern. Chickadee. Finch, House. Finch, Gold. Nuthatch. Titmouse, Tufted. Woodpecker, Downy. Woodpecker, Hairy. Wren, Carolina.
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Sunday, May 13, 2007

Day 123: Happy Momma

We had a relatively relaxing day today (Mothers' Day in US). Breakfast (in bed for Exile #2 with newly made cards). Church. Lunch in the garden. A game of kick-dodgeball, a game that Exile #4 has seemingly invented that involves me trying to kick a rather deflated football (soccer-type!) so that it bumps her while she runs around the garden. Playing/dancing (Exile #3 and Exile #4), sleeping (E5N1), talking about houses (Exile #2 and me). Both Exile #2 and I spoke to our mums (although I had some technical problems). We had a nice tea, bath time, bedtime.

The girl's seemed to grasp the idea of Mothers' Day well. Although it would be nice to think that their thoughtful behaviour might extend past today, I think it's best for us to appreciate this happy day for itself.

Exile #2 returned with this cape from one of her groups the other day and Exile #3 insisted on putting hers on to form a superhero tag-team. Exile #4 provided the essential 'animal in trouble' - a staple of the wonderful Wonder Pets as well as the much-quoted Go Diego Go!

So, with this picture of the back of the cape: Happy Mothers' Day Exile #2 - a Super Mom indeed.
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Saturday, May 12, 2007

Day 122: Keep my tulips waiting

Today we spent a few hours in Washington Park at the annual Tulip Festival. It was an interesting moment as on our last trip as a family to the area in May 2006, we saw the tulips on a similarly sunny day, just a week or so before the festival was to take place. There was live music (most of what we heard was by The Cinematics - a Glasgow band, as it turns out - a long way from home). Exile #3 was also determined to visit the Toyota "Highway of the Future" exhibit - so we did and walked away with a flashlight that uses motion to recharge. We also heard the song alluded to in today's title, when Exile #3 reacted to it with a little dancing, Exile #2 told her that I used to be in a band that played it. That was some time ago mind you.

Before our trip to the park, we did some more house-hunting - including a visit to a house we nearly bought in September of last year - still on the market and still appealing to us. Who knows?

So, it's pop pun #16 (actually stretching the definition of 'pop' a bit): Baby, don't-cha know that it's rude?
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Friday, May 11, 2007

Day 121: Super Trooper

It's amazing what you see at times. As we were leaving the office at lunchtime today, two men were wheeling a Stormtrooper (of the Star Wars 'Imperial' variety not ein Sturmmann) through the building. They stopped briefly for unknown reasons and removed his helmet - giving a rare glimpse behind the mask.

Today was a problematic day for me, this morning I had to contact Ticketmaster to find out why they had refunded my credit card for some tickets we bought as a birthday treat for the girls. It turns out that whoever I spoke to a week ago who said that everything was now fine and the tickets would be on their way was entirely wrong. Fortunately for him and nearly disastrously for me, he managed to leave no trace of our conversation on their computer system. On the bright side, since I happened to notice the refund today they were able to sell us some tickets one row in front of the ones that they had by now resold to someone else. This afternoon I was chasing shadows in the medical insurance world after an anxiety-inducing voice-mail message - the shadows have evaded me though and all now seems to be OK.

Another happy ending: after some mail-order shenanigans, our 'squirrel bafflers' arrived today and we have now refilled our bird feeders. Hopefully over the next few days we will succeed in feeding some birds without feeding the squirrels. We will see.
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Thursday, May 10, 2007

Day 120: Croaking wet

This evening, after our latest round of house-hunting the weather broke with some reasonably exciting thunderstorms. You would think an amphibian would be pleased about the damp conditions after a couple of dry weeks, but this one seemed to be asking to be let into the dry - knocking on our screen door.

Exile #2 said that the frog reminded her, once again, of E5N1. Maybe it's just as well we're going to have a little cool-off, I think the sun must have gone to her head. Anyway so far, in this blog, he has been compared to a misdirected fountain and a frog. He has also been likened to an armadillo because they are known to swallow air to make them more buoyant when swimming (E5N1 does the former but has not been able to see if it makes him float yet). He's also been called air-bag - for the same reason. Exile #3 also referred to him as 'chipmunk' the other day because of his developing chubby cheeks. Poor little man.

Lately I see that Mars has started advertising "Snickers Marathon" energy bars - how funny that sounds to Brits of a certain age. For those that don't know, Snickers was known as Marathon in the UK until Naomi Klein taught the world the importance of global branding (probably). Of course that is nothing compared with seeing "Dove" chocolate bars advertised. These are known as "Galaxy" in the UK and whenever I see the advert saying how smooth the chocolate is, I expect them to add that it is "made with 1/4 moisturising cream" like Dove skincare products. Tasty.
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Wednesday, May 9, 2007

Day 119: T42 & 24T

At some point, I felt that I should make this entry a long acrostic poem like its psalm numbersake. But I haven't really got the energy for poetry this evening.

Coming home from work, I found tea still being finished in the garden. Delightfully, Exile #4 was really excited to explain to me that they had been eating out at their little table. E5N1 aside, they had all spent most of the time having got back from the school run outside. For this time in the year it has been really warm today - my car thermometer reported 88 ­°F as I drove home.

Golf is a really big sport here - there is even a segment on the weather forecast especially for people who get up at dawn to fit a round in before work. Honestly, nothing is further from my mind at that time in the morning than a round of golf.

I'm getting a bit tired of this now. Joking aside, it is getting a little tedious. Knowing that I've got this far, makes me want to finish though.

'Literally' is a much misused word, often it is used to mean exactly the opposite of what it really means. "Music venues are literally on the doorstep of this home!" No they are not. "On the doorstep" you are not likely to find a music venue unless you are carol singers. Previous years we have had the local kids sing a half-hearted verse or two. Quite unlikely that we will have the same experience here. Really good singers maybe, but not just cheerful youths. Summer's not the time to be talking about carol singing anyway - sorry I'll stop.

Think about this post and don't give up on me. Understand that normal service will be resumed tomorrow. Very little can be done to rescue this one now. Whatever I attempt will be completely inadequate, so will you forgive a few percussion references? Xylophone, Glockenspiel, Timpani. You are too kind.

Zanily yours, the_exile.
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