Thursday, January 31, 2008

Day 1.021: Electric of Nouns

So, another sick-day today - although we did send Exile #3 to school and Exile #2 managed two small shopping trips, one before and one after the kids went to bed. E5N1 has been ravenous and slightly symptomatic still. Exile #4 has also had something of a relapse and as a result we discouraged her from eating. In the end after her constant cries of "I'm hungry, I'm hungry" and a check of internet medical advice, we relented. Never has a child of ours been so grateful for a piece of toast. What bad parents we are!

When Exile #2 went out, I decided to beat out some of my frustration at my two zero-achievement days on the Rock Band drum-kit and when she got home she was tempted into joining me. We formed a band and went on the road. Rather than go to a lot of trouble to enter names using the on-screen keyboard and a D-pad, we accepted some auto-generated ones, so Exile #2's drummer-chick persona is Donna (Donna the Drummer?) and the band's name...well I think you already know.
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Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Day 1.020: Boxed-in

I was at home today - sick. Yes, the stomach flu caught up with me. I'll leave it at that. In fact, in the end everyone was at home - it seemed too soon to send Exile #4 to school and Exile #3 had some odd symptoms which, combined with the thought of how inconvenient it would be to have to go and collect her, convinced us to keep her home too.

As it turns out, she was fine and another day in this house may not have been the healthiest option in retrospect. At least Exile #2 managed a short outing this afternoon to the shop - which seemed like a big deal to her after along stretch 'inside'.

The other day, I brought home some of Exile #3's work from school, it included two great pictures from art, and this science project - a model of one of the animals of New York State in its habitat. In this case it is a box turtle. We learned from her while she was doing her research that it can close up its shell with a flap when it retracts its head. Cool. Here's some other evidence.

Anyway, this end of the day I feel significantly better than I did. I still feel like I'm not quite right though - here's a glimpse into what it's like to be me.
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Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Day 1.019: Cool Britannia?

Not long after we arrived we noticed that the background music playing in supermarkets and other large stores seems to be disproportionately British. We're not talking about The Beatles or David Bowie here either - most often noted are The Sundays but other ear-friendly 80's and 90's rock/pop also features strongly.

Two explanations have been offered so far. First, that the performance rights for this music is cheap over here (both because of its age and foreign nature) or second, that it sounds like the sort of music people like without it being instantly recognisable - this gives a generally comfortable feeling to people without the risk of them either listening with too much attention (and stopping shopping) or hearing something they are fed-up of or otherwise hate.

Incidentally, when Christmas shopping we heard Tori Amos (well, she lives in Cornwall so she almost counts) doing Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas - and we both said "That sounds like Tori!" but had no idea she'd ever recorded it.

Anyway, the picture is my excuse for all this reminiscing. It is a page from the Pottery Barn catalogue that Exile #2 did a double-take over today. Not because she saw the perfect picture frame - but because of what was in it. As far as I know the artwork pictured is not available at Pottery Barn or anywhere else, but who could resist this work:
if it could be purchased? It's a fairly random list of places in Oxford (where we used to live), including, in pride of place, all but the troublesome 'S' at the end of Blackbird Leys - the area of the city where (when I lived nearby at least) you were most likely to have your car stolen by joyriders. I can't see it selling well on Oxford High Street, but maybe over here cool things are exotic enough to be British (rearrange at will - but I like this version).
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Monday, January 28, 2008

Day 1.018: Pink eye and worse

This morning, all seemed relatively OK. Due to my condition (pictured) I elected to work from home rather than spread it around the office. In any case I had plenty of computer and internet work to do so it made sense. Exile #2 was complaining that she didn't feel too well, so I took Exile #3 out to the bus and then drove Exile #4 to school leaving her to have a break while E5N1 napped. She never really re-appeared - she has what seems to be called stomach-flu here. Anyway, I managed to get a good amount of work done in between taxi service and meal preparation duties.

This evening it became clear that E5N1 has not recovered from his own bout of stomach-flu - and shortly after bedtime Exile #4 joined the party. Twice.

So, once again we're left wondering who will be standing tomorrow. We're hoping (but not expecting) that Exile #3 and I can escape with only the conjunctivitis and avoid the other. Time will tell.
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Sunday, January 27, 2008

Day 1.017: Child stars?

Look what I picked up at Walmart yesterday. Cool huh?

Health problems have persisted - but we've got through the day. Exile #2 went to the church gathering on her own this evening (including playing some real music) - taking news of the original contents of this box ready for for its DDR night debut on Friday.

Only the morning will tell how many of us will be fit to do our day-jobs tomorrow. It depends on how the germ pass-around we seem to be in the middle of goes overnight. If we are all reasonably well it will be a very pleasant surprise.
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Saturday, January 26, 2008

Day 1.016: Lake effect

Well, one year on from our first Day at the Beach it was our intention to have a family day out at the Grafton Lakes State Park winter fun day. Once again, things did not go quite according to plan. Exile #4 was coughing this morning and seemed quite ill, although professed (at first) to a desire to go. Then E5N1 threw up everywhere on sampling some fairly innocuous breakfast - he later repeated the feat at teatime, so it was definitely a reflection on his health not the food. So in the end only Exile #3 and either Exile #2 or myself were in the running to go and in the end it was just Exile #3 and me who left Exile #2 and two sick children and picked up Albaniana and family for a grand day out.

There were many things going on - indoors was a sort of trade-show including an appearance by the New York State Correctional Department and (at the next stand) the Geico Gecko (without his normal cockney accent). Around the lake were snow shoe races, horse and cart rides, and a "Winter-tree identification guided walk" - learn to identify trees not by their leaves but by their bark and twigs - who could resist - well us for starters. On the lake itself, disc golf (played with special frisbees), ice-hockey, skating, a rescue demonstration and a fishing competition. Not bad considering this sign was still up:

In fact, much like last year the lake was very solidly frozen - 7 to 9 inches we were told, not 79 inches as someone (not in our party) mis-heard - but there was not much snow (none in places up to a 3 or 4 inches in others). Still, it was enough for a bit of tobogganing.

The other event on the ice today was the first holding of the (possibly) annual ice-plunge. The sight of people walking across the ice, barefoot (in many cases) and wearing only swimming costumes then jumping into a hole in the ice (only kept liquid thanks to the attention of a man with a rowing oar) virtually defies description, so you can see for yourself:

When we got home, Exile #4 was curled up on the sofa with (as it turns out) a 104 degree fever. However, half an hour ago, she surfaced seeming much better for a cool-down and a sleep.
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Friday, January 25, 2008

Day 1.015: Precious doll

Exile #4 was at school this morning as usual, although she has spent the afternoon doing a good impression of being significantly ill. Exile #3 was home from school today with a suspected case of conjunctivitis and seems absolutely fine. Kids!

Actually, we have beautiful children - we know this because random strangers in shops tell Exile #2 such things when she's doing the grocery shopping - somehow that doesn't happen so often in Sainsbury's or Tesco.

As well as groceries, Exile #2 took Exile #4 to give her the opportunity to spend some of her Christmas money. She fell in love with a doll on first arrival and then walked around the rest of the stock before returning to her. She is 'so precious' apparently - and not in the British sense, but in the sense of the all-American way of describing other people's babies.
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Thursday, January 24, 2008

Day 1.014: Motley crew

One of the advantages of not having just called today "Day 379" is that it is immediately obvious that it is the anniversary of my one and only totally missed day since this blog was started (Day 14). The other anniversary (adjusted for day-of-the-week) is of the annual Shakespeare performance at the school. Last year Exile #3 had only done about 5 days of school thanks to a string of illnesses and this year she nearly missed it too. Twice. Yesterday, she was sent home at lunchtime with a fever. That's that, we thought she can't go to school tomorrow. In the end Exile #2 took her in at lunchtime when she went to collect Exile #4. About half an hour before I was due to leave work to go up to school this evening, I got a phone call to say that Exile #3 might be sick again and this time we were almost certain that she would miss out.

In the end, for better or worse, she was granted a reprieve and allowed to perform. She did really well, holding her own with her first-grade class mates in a dramatised reading of Nothing by Jon Agee.

Exile #4 was also on good form as the 3 and 4 year olds - motley hats and all - performed some vaguely Elizabethan dancing and my favourite song from Exile #3's performance last year (complete with actions):
I'll build a teapot big enough for two,
Big enough for two, my darling,
Big enough for two.
I'll build a teapot big enough for two,
Under the greenwood, under the greenwood tree.

I'll be T.H.I.N.E. thine if you'll be M.I.N.E. mine
And I will L.O.V.E. love you all the T.I.M.E. time.
When we are married happy we will be
Under the greenwood, under the greenwood tree,
With tea.

The rest of the school all did some Shakespeare-related items. The 2/3s featured him in The Boy, the Bear, the Baron, the Bard, the 4/5s did a Shakespeare-themed "Are You Smarter than a 4/5th Grader?" and we had (edited for length) Macbeth from the 8th Grade and an (edited for length and political-incorrectness) Taming of the Shrew from the 6/7s. Top stuff.

Exile #2 said she thought it was better than last year - then she elaborated - "I didn't understand a word of it last time." From a graduated student of English Literature that's sad really. Of course, she said it was because last year she wasn't tuned into the local accents yet. Forsooth.
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Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Day 1.013: That's funny

There is an accepted wisdom amongst British people that Americans have no sense of humour (or at least irony). It's not true of course - and we know it. We enjoy American comedy and know of lots of American comedians (some of them - on investigation - turn out to be Canadians of course, but that's a different story).

So where does the belief come from? My theory is that it is not the 'what' or 'how' of comedy that is different so much as the 'where' and 'when'.

An example was when a man came to the house to say that he'd noticed that no-one was registered to vote and would we like his help. I explained that we were not citizens and therefore could not vote. As he turned to leave I called him back. "Actually there is one US citizen in the house - my seven month old son!" He turned, in all seriousness and said, "No, you need to be 18." He was just doing his job and - whether he detected the irony in my comment or not - he was going to give me a straight answer.

While my ex-pat colleagues and myself have been dealing with culture-shock as a result of being here, our new US colleagues have been dealing with the culture-shock of having us here - among them our 'inappropriate' workplace humour (and no I don't mean inappropriate in the sense of anything that our HR department would frown upon). They're getting used to it now, but I still have a nagging doubt as to whether they actually get it. I like to think it's just that they don't expect humour to be so widespread in the workplace.

I suppose they can be thankful that due to the fish-in-a-barrel rule they have avoided most of the new-employee tormenting so common in the UK. Who hasn't been sent in search of a left-handed screwdriver or stood for hours at the stores having been sent to ask for a 'long weight'? Well, not me of course - not more than once anyway.
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Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Day 1.012: Fast food

I know how you all live for these moments from our everyday life, so here we are preparing dinner (and playing with play-dough) and then eating on Sunday lunchtime. Total elapsed time one hour - but it will only take two minutes of your time. How cool is that?

We had a good meeting of our church planting team tonight. It means I missed the chance to go and try out my new skiing skills with my colleagues - that would have been fun too, but this way I get to go to bed on time and hopefully not wake up too sore.

Monday, January 21, 2008

Day 1.011: Waste-scarf want-scarf

As I arrived at work this morning I was greeted by this wonderful garment - I hoped it was called a waistscarf or scest or some similar combination of scarf and waistcoat/vest but my research suggests that the more prosaic 'button scarf' is the accepted name. It is interesting to note that my first reaction was about the form of the garment rather than the Burberry check. Here there are no chav-related overtones here to keep it in the front of the mind.

It was cold today and I wore scarf (buttonless), hat and gloves for the first time this year. It turned out that the walk outside the building from our office to the cafe was bearable thanks to a bit of sun and a shelter from the wind, but the indoor route was used more than on any other dry day so far this winter.

The walk back to the cold car on leaving work in the dark was always the most painful moment last winter - today we got away with it thanks to finding a parking space very close to the building. The reason for this aberration was that it was one of the partially-observed holidays that happen through the year here. The shops were open, our bins were empted, but state and federal employees and some others were on holiday and the schools were closed. About a week ago, Exile #3 told me that they had sung a song in assembly about Dr Martin the King - it turns out that it was about Dr Martin (Lu)the(r) King rather than being a misspelled paean to the inventor of the air-cushioned boot or any other medically qualified or otherwise highly educated Martin/Marten(s). Today's holiday is held each year to honour his peaceful civil rights work on the occasion of his birthday (give or take a week or so).
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Sunday, January 20, 2008

Day 1.010: Angle falls

Sometimes it's good to get a different perspective. At our church gathering this evening I was teaching the 3+ kids. The topic was the story of Jesus walking on water. The material we had suggested singing (to the obvious tune):

Row, row, row your boat
Gently down the stream
Jesus does not need a boat
He walks on the sea

I wasn't convinced that that really helped forward anyone's understanding - although we have now had at least three good laughs about it. Instead I found a craft activity about the same story on a website.

After we got the kids into bed and watched an episode of House, we turned over to one of the HD channels to see if the local-ish team the New York Giants would make it to the big football game of the season (Exile #2: what is it called again?. Me: The Superbowl. Exile #2: It can't be - there's no bowling - I thought that must be baseball. Me: they call it 'pitching'). It's not cricket, and it's not football, it's not even rugby, but we're all about the new perspectives today. It was 20-20 with ten minutes to go. Ten minutes on the clock that is. At least half an hour later the ten minutes were up, the score was still 20-20 and they were into sudden-death extra-time (for only the second time in history apparently).

Earlier, my camera saw the world from E5N1's perspective.
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Saturday, January 19, 2008

Day 1.009: Interior design

Exile #2 and I spent this morning putting some pictures up. It's a job that we've been putting off for some time. A bit later, Exile #3 made this rather nice house - I helped with the walls a bit, but the contents of the house are all her work - they include a computer with a revolving office chair and a whole family watching TV. Her ideal home scenario presumably.

After lunch, I took Exile #4 to a birthday party. It was a mermaid party with a pirate twist with appropriate and very extensive decorations around the house. On the way home, she asked me who would be having a birthday next in our family. I thought for a moment. The answer surprised me - E5N1. Where has the time gone?

When we got home, it was time to tidy up. Fans of time-lapse action will be pleased to know I recorded the action. Enjoy it!

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Friday, January 18, 2008

Day 1.008: I get knocked down...

I had a rough day today. I spent most of it nursing a headache, and when the drugs finally kicked in I was completely wiped out. Soon after getting home I discovered that when I dropped my new camera it had not come out of it unscathed and was now only partially functional. Exile #2 was feeling ill and tired and all the church folk were coming round for craft/pizza/video gaming evening. I was not in a good place.

In between getting home and getting cross, E5N1 tried to roll off his changing mat, but because he was strapped in he just rolled it over on top of himself and disappeared underneath it. I thought it worthy of a picture - Exile #2 said, "He's got the strap around his neck!" He was fine - and 'around' was more like 'across' but I take her point - maybe I shouldn't make my children suffer for my art.

Anyway in being forced to be a host for the evening I mostly forgot about my sick camera and enjoyed some Guitar Hero. Later, the oldies got a look-in on the Wii - hooked up to the church video projector - Boxing was the order of the day - I now fear that my victories may have been bought at the cost of more muscle strain to add to that from my skiing on Wednesday.

...but I get up again. Everyone just left and I have managed to get the camera working properly again - phew.

You're never gonna keep me down.

PPPQ results:
Winner was regular contributor A with a heroic 74/80.
Honourable mention to locals grinned who claimed to have run out of time and only submitted answers to 25 of them - scoring 45/50.
The international field was the strongest ever this year - congratulations and thanks to all.

The ones no-one solved were:
Day 197: (I'm a) smart rug (I take it you want to feel good? I take it you want to feel smart?)
From the wonderful if rather obscure Blue Aeroplanes - (I'm a) Smart Drug.

Day 242: They're melting in the show (you're just a breath away)
The lyrics in question can be found here. (show = snow). All About Eve - In the Clouds (which we were as you could sort-of see!)

Also, nobody recognised that the Shadows in the Rain on Day 220: Wait wait, what is the key in? were from The Dream of the Blue Turtles by Sting, and not the Police version.

Well done A, I'll be in contact about your prize!

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Day 1.007: Present - and correct?

I joked with the girls on my birthday that it would last thirty- something days in honour of my age - it would seem I wasn't as far out as I might have thought. These arrived today from my sister and nieces, very nicely wrapped by Mr Amazon.

Skiing after-effects update - I'm a bit stiff, but definitely mobile.

And so, to the Pop Pun Pop Quiz as announced on Day 345. Here are the answers (with a few fragments of explanation - especially where I claimed there was a pay-off for those who solved them):

  • PP1 Day 22: This means nothing to me...
    The answer was elsewhere in the post - the pun was in the missing words.
    Ultravox - Vienna

  • PP2 Day 37: Life in a northern town
    No real mystery here, but again the ellipsis at the end contained a little reference to the plumbing work.
    Dream Academy - Life in a Northern Town
    The missing lyric was: "Watch the water run down the drain"
  • PP3 Day 45: Yo Baby'll solve it
    Yoghurt meets rap on a 45 (a numeric reference for the older readers). The beginning of the classic pop pun and the first one to be solved (by one of my regulars).
    Vanilla Ice - Ice Ice Baby
    "if you've got a problem, yo Baby I'll solve it..."

  • PP4 Day 54: There's snow beginning
    Several extra clues in the text, again solved, still no pay off for solving this except comment-glory.
    Wet Wet Wet - Love is all around

  • PP5 Day 58: Climbing up the Ariel
    A tribute to my daughters' love of Disney Princesses and an artist who makes another appearance later. No solution posted, but I'm sure some of you got it
    Kate Bush - Nocturn

  • PP6 Day 64: Do you still (atom) feed me?
    I still don't know if anyone uses the atom feeds, but this reference surely wasn't too challenging - I was 64 after all.
    The Beatles - When I'm 64

  • PP7 Day 65: All white now, baby
    Again, not much of a challenge, but back to back pop puns and a snowstorm stretches any daily blog poster.
    Free - Alright Now

  • PP8 Day 69: Trudging (in stilettos) in the snow
    Did you remember? this one was solved - one accused me of being cryptic, the other said it was easy.
    Marillion - Kayleigh

  • PP9 Day 81: Get your motor running
    The song was easy - but where was the pun, weakly raising it's head in the last line of the post (which if there was any doubt kind of gave the game away)
    Steppenwolf - Born to be Wild

  • PP10 Day 83: So what if I tie my hair?
    Solved by an anonymous commenter. Still no pay-off though.
    Toyah - I Want to be Free

  • PP11 Day 91: Queen of the mountain
    Adrian suggested this was about Elvis - he's right of course, but take care - the comments may mislead.
    Kate Bush - King of the Mountain

  • PP12 Day 94: Hey you! Who said fat baby?
    I quite liked this one the picture and the title worked nicely, still no pay off - nor anyone admitting to recognising this one. Jump in and have a go!
    Van Halen - Jump
    "Hey you! - who said that? - baby how you been?"

  • PP13 Day 99: Sleep, wave your hand
    Glad I tricked someone in recognising this bit of classic 80's tat. First pun with a payoff for those who solve it.
    Black Lace - Superman
    Wasn't it obvious from the picture?

  • PP14 Day 111: Look a brassiere?
    I know someone in the US managed to see the pun (by making the mob connection), but didn't know the pop - not surprising as this is quite British - not English though. Were you losing interest yet and slipping into a comatose state?
    Catatonia - I am the Mob
    "Luca Brasi - ah - he sleeps with the fishes"

  • PP15 Day 113: Back to realty
    Those who know the pop (and others) may have missed the fact that the title was subtly changed to mark our re-entry into the housing market.
    Soul II Soul - Back to Reality

  • PP16 Day 122: Keep my tulips waiting
    I like this one. Well done Adrian who knew there were words to this classic (or like me found out this year!).
    Glenn Miller - In the Mood

  • PP17 Day 135: Bang collared - eh?
    Again, the solution makes sense of the title on this one.
    Blur - Bank Holiday

  • PP18 Day 137: Go turtley crazy
    Back to basics here, but with a left-field (for me) musical reference.
    Shania Twain - Man I Feel Like a Woman
    "Go totally crazy"

  • PP19 There was no pop pun 19 - no points here
    A mistake or a pop reference to Vietnam - you decide!
    (Paul Hardcastle - 19 !?)

  • PP20 Day 143: Oh babe, I ate to go
    A couple of pay-offs here although the solution comment makes it easy for you (Exile #2 donated this one)
    John Denver - Leaving on a Jet Plane
    He wrote it you know - and that's where I was - "Oh babe I hate to go..."

  • PP21 Day 193: The toast is always changing
    No pay-off. Solved but only in a comment to a later post.
    Maximo Park - The coast is always changing

  • PP22 Day 197: (I'm a) smart rug
    Probably not too hard a pun, but the pop is getting more obscure.
    The Blue Aeroplanes - (I'm a) Smart Drug

  • PP23 Day 208: Mormon business...
    Plenty of clues - and a little pay-off about where I was (sorta).
    Baltimora - Tarzan Boy
    I was in Baltimore!

  • PP24 Day 220: Wait wait, what is the key in?
    Partially solved and plenty of clues in the comments, but take care with this one.
    Sting - Shadows in the Rain
    He covered his own song on his solo album featuring the spoken introduction:
    "What key is this in? Wait, wait, what key is it in?"

  • PP25 Day 224: Falls gold
    No pay off, but a classic tune.
    Stone Roses - Fools Gold

  • PP26 Day 225: Ah, Maid of This
    Very satisfying, but only a baby pay-off.
    Eurythmics - Sweet Dreams
    E5N1 was having some perhaps

  • PP27 Day 237: Somewhere in the scene
    No pay off here.
    Kate Bush - Somewhere In Between

  • PP28 Day 242: They're melting in the show
    It was a slideshow. There is a real pay-off here though.
    All About Eve - In the Clouds
    We were!

  • PP29 Day 246: Eight more to weigh
    Not too hard, and a little pictorial pay-off.
    Tom Robinson - 2,4,6,8 Motorway

  • PP30 Day 253: I don't - no - why?
    A great pay-off here, I'd hate to think no-one got it, did I catch you dreaming?
    R.E.M. - Strange Currencies
    Well - just look at it - strange indeed!

  • PP31 Day 263: Jay'll bar St Gold and Gates
    Another pay-off for those willing to work it out.
    The Fugees - Ready or Not
    Well, it was a game of hide and seek!

  • PP32 Day 270: Long distance fun
    No real pay off here, but the comments will finally make sense.
    Yes - Long Distance Runaround

  • PP33 Day 275: Blondes hear: don't jump!
    I enjoyed the pun and the song very much.
    Tori Amos - Almost Rosey

  • PP34 Day 280: No leaves, no glory
    A little cryptic clue on the second paragraph will satisfy those who solve this (hopefully).
    Damien Rice - The Blower's Daughter

  • PP35 Day 288: It's such a...
    Solved but not named in the comments.
    Lou Reed - Perfect Day

  • PP36 Day 295: Driver - wait!
    No pay-off here.
    R.E.M. - Driver 8

  • PP37 Day 317: Island on my feet
    Excellent comment 'solution' for this one.
    Shakespear's Sister - I Don't Care

  • PP38 Day 322: Strike oppose
    No solution to this one as yet and a pay off if you solve it and read the lyrics.
    Avril Lavigne - Complicated
    "laugh out when you strike your pose - take off all your preppy clothes"

  • PP39 Day 323: Bumper grind
    Another easy one for you and a comment solution from Our Adrian.
    R Kelly - Bump N' Grind
    R Adrian geddit?

  • PP40 Day 328: Eye? might be
    No pay off here, but a nice picture ;-)
    Radiohead - I Might Be Wrong

  • PP41 Day 344: Going fishing for a while
    No pay off here, but nice to have a round number of solutions for the quiz.
    Maximo Park - Going missing
Scores and results to follow! (Those who had a go but didn't get your entries in - mark your own and let us know how you did - no cheating now!)
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Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Day 1.006: Ski - sore marg'nally

...doors have opened on another world with my first ever skiing trip. Colleague and friend-in-exile T had kindly offered to take me last winter but it never quite came together (both of our wives were heavily pregnant and we had only recently arrived - so it's no great surprise). So, as soon as the slopes opened this year he started asking me if I wanted to go.

Skiing has never really attracted me, I suppose it always seemed a bit elitist and expensive and...well to be honest how much fun can it be?

OK - it was lots of fun.

We went after work, the whole thing cost about $50 for ski hire and a 4 hour lift pass. I was not too hopeful when having tried the first exercise OK - falling over sideways - I found it frankly impossible to get back up. Then I found myself unable to move on the flat - the shuffle being more of a snow-polish. However, we were soon snow-ploughing down the learn-to-ski slope and after the third time down, T said it was time to go up the other lift. On the steeper novice slope (pictured) I did my first proper falls, and managed to get back up much more successfully - and did my first decent turns (fully committed and weight forward most of the time). My very patient instructor was kind enough to say he was surprised by how much progress I made - and eventually he stopped skiing backwards watching my technique and just took to following me down watching out for faster skiers coming down the full-length runs behind. So there you go - to all those who said you must ski while your over there - and met ambivalent agreement - you were right. Now we just have to find a way to handle the logistics of getting Exile #2 (no problem with motivation) to the mountain.

And yes - I am feeling quite sore - but from the muscle exertion rather than bruises I'm happy to say.

Whether I'll be able to walk tomorrow is another question.
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Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Day 1.005: Running around

I seem to have been dashing headlong from one thing to another all day. Of course I spent large parts of it sitting still (mostly in various meetings) so the headlong rush was illusory.

Exile #2 was talking to another Mom at school today who is involved in some way in one of the presidential candidate's campaigns. She observed that politics here in the US was rather 'dirty' compared with her European home country:

Exile #2: There seems to be a lot of money involved.
Political Mom: At home that would be illegal - we call it 'bribery'.

I wish I could say the same about the UK's increasingly (it seems from afar) money-driven political system.

It also reminded me of another great US invention: jaywalking. It is fantastic that they have made a crime with a fancy name out of something that the rest of the world calls "crossing the road". Fortunately, there is no need for any road-crossing during the bus-catching process - running around on the other hand is virtually compulsory.
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Monday, January 14, 2008

Day 1.004: Snow what?

As you can see, we woke to snow - both settled and falling. It continued snowing all day, but for the first time the temperatures hovered around freezing point (as they often do when it snows in the UK) and so the roads stayed clear and we probably had less snow on the ground by the end of the day than at the start. The wet clumps of snow do cling well to branches though and made the place look very nice and wintry.

This time-lapsing is all very well, but it's not always easy to predict where and when something is going to happen - by the way, Exile #2 warns you look out for the bus as it hides behind a tree when it comes. Anyway, expect more riveting episodes soon. Maybe.

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Day 1.003: Tooled up

This morning I decided to undertake the dishwasher-swap that has been on the cards since October and waiting to be done since before we left for the UK. In fact, the whole time we were away the 'new' dishwasher - a kind hand-me-down from T & S (although we may still work out a way to repay them!) - was in the back of our minivan for almost a whole month.

The job turned out to be harder than I originally expected - because of the position and nature of the plumbing (copper pipes and compression fittings rather than hoses) and the wiring (not a plug), but easier than I feared (I managed to do it in half a day and without visiting the hardware store). For once, the girls resisted the temptation to want to help, but as you can see - I have a new assistant in training.

We watched half an hour of local TV this evening after we went to church, had a good gathering, came home from church, realised that Exile #2's handbag (purse included)/purse (wallet included) was still there, went back again (me)/put the girls to bed (Exile #2). It was full of classic local TV moments. First was in the rolling event announcements - they are enough to make anyone swear at the b*** of times but what is the uncensored version of Rock N** Skate I wonder. This was followed by a clip of people playing dodgeball - Exile #2 thought that it was a comedy game invented for the film - along with the announcement that they were looking for players for the 'Jewish Olympics'. It turns out there is actually an Olympic-sanctioned event called the Maccabiah Games - wonderfully these are named after someone who strongly disapproved of the Hellenisation of Jewish culture including the holding of athletic events and competitions. I'd like to see this naming convention used for all major sporting events. Finally, in the spirit of the almanac-culture with statistics for everything - they announced on the local news that the 'First Homicide of the Year' was being investigated. A date for the diary indeed.
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Saturday, January 12, 2008

Day 1.002: Basket face

After a slow start (including 'Saturday Breakfast' for the first time in over a month), we have had a fairly busy day. Exile #4 had a birthday party to go to. I took her to this rather wonderful indoor play place where as well as the birthday staples of pizza and cake, there was climbing, ball-pit, preschool roller coasters, a parachute session, dancing, and (as you can see) basketball. Meanwhile I tried to hold a few conversations with the other parents and took the opportunity to test my new camera.

This afternoon we spent some time in the garden. The main occupations were:
1) pulling large branches that had fallen, but not quite to the ground, while we were away (I even chopped the end off one and used it as firewood - but I need a new saw blade if I'm going to make a habit of it)
2) playing hide-and-seek
3) trampling the remains of Makka Pakka - the last of the snow in the garden.

Just as the mountains of snow that we came back to finally disappears, we seem also to be getting to the bottom of the backlog of unattended-to correspondence and knock-on chaos. We are also mostly healthy and time-adjusted at last.

Having said that, Exile #3 and E5N1 are looking a bit off-colour (tee hee)

So with the deadline for last year's pop pun pop quiz almost upon us (do you have the time to listen to me whine?), I present pop pun #42 for title watchers with normal non-prize-winning service resumed - I am one of those melodramatic fools.
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Friday, January 11, 2008

Day 1.001: Happy New Year!

January 11th 2007 = Day 1
January 11th 2008 = ???

This equation has been troubling me on and off for some time. So for all those who think today should be Day 366 or Year 2 Day 1 or whatever - sorry. I decided on "years.days" with "Day" for old-times' sake.

A group of us from work went out for lunch today. At the end of the meal there was the usual scramble for the correct cash for each person to pay their (equal) share of the bill. Today 5 people managed to have the right money(or get change). I borrowed $10 and then could pay. Two others managed to pay together with a couple of dollars to be sorted out at a later date. Finally, one of my colleagues recently arrived back from the UK managed to sell 10 Euros to a US colleague about to go on a business trip to the Euro-zone. It's usually a bit complicated, but this is getting silly.

Talking of silly, we found out the answer to the question I asked about how Exile #3's classmates would respond if she told them about In the Night Garden. Today, she managed to talk three of them into doing a play based on said show for the rest of the class. As far as I can work out the play was even less fathomable than the TV programme - partly due to only two of the four of them having seen the source material, but predominantly due to the absence of Derek Jacobi (or a stand-in) to talk about The Ninky Nonk, Igglepiggle and the Tombliboos as if they are perfectly normal.

As you can see Exile #2 prepared a little anniversary celebration. You can see how it went here.
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Thursday, January 10, 2008

Day 365: What a year!

One year ago we had just arrived at Albany NY airport on one-way tickets. Our luggage (6 suitcases and a hold-all) was still in Newark NJ and as a result we would hang around the airport waiting for it to appear and then waiting to report its absence for some time. Eventually the four of us - well 5, but E5N1 was only making his presence felt in a abdominal way - got our hire car (unnecessarily large as it turned out - since we never needed to get the four of us and our luggage in it at the same time) and drove a mile or so to our first night as residents of New York state.

By the time we collapsed into bed it was midnight local time (5 am in the UK) - Exile #4, still wearing nappies (definitely not diapers) was used to a long daytime nap and 12 hours night-time sleep. Instead she had totalled maybe 2 hours since 7 am UK time that morning. Still, at 4.15 am the girls woke us up - apparently full of beans and ready to go. by 6.30 we were having breakfast and by 8.30 we were at a nearby park hoping to kill time until the first flight of the day from Newark brought us our luggage (we hoped). In the end, even the mild (for January) New York weather was enough to drive us - hopelessly under-equipped for anything other than sitting on planes and in airports - to bring forward our appointment at the house that would be our home for six months. The rest, as they apparently say, is history.

The history is here for all to read. Here are some of my favourite posts (for a variety of reasons) - if you have such things, feel free to share yours - and if those pop puns ever made any sense to you don't forget you have until Monday night to get your entries for the PPPQ in.

January - Day 2
February - Day 35
March - Day 66
April - Day 88
May - Day 119
June - Day 162
July - Day 179
August - Day 212
September - Day 249
October - Day 285
November - Day 301 and Day 310
December - Day 336
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Wednesday, January 9, 2008

Day 364: End of an era

A mere ten months before the presidential election polls, election-fever has this nation in a tight hold. At one point yesterday, the votes of 17 residents of a hamlet in New Hampshire was considered newsworthy. In a nation of 300 million people, that is quite something.

Ever since we arrived I have been seeing a bumper sticker:
The end of an error

Celebrating (in advance) the end of George W Bush's presidency.

We are of course only interested observers of the whole circus. Maybe it's just as well - it allows us a certain detached pleasure as we look on.

So, anyway - today is the end of an era - the demise of this trusty camera. It has taken most of the pictures posted here (all except for a few mobile-phone shots) until today. On Day 250, the shutter release button came off and it has never been the same - often just failing to take a picture despite my best cut-off-tack and insulating-tape repair - and more recently developing an occasional stripy special effect. So it has been retired in favour of Christmas/Birthday money spent on a newer curvier model. As you can see, it takes a pretty good picture too.
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Tuesday, January 8, 2008

Day 363: Anniversary #1

With a few days to go to the anniversaries of this blog and our US adventure, today has been my birthday. Last year we spent it watching our possessions getting packed into boxes but today was a fairly normal day (albeit with cakes, cards and the odd present). I say odd with good reason - Exile #2 and the girls' present for me was to go to the shop and pick up one of my Christmas presents.

This evening we had a good core-team meeting and got back to some practical discussions of what we want our new church to look like to people as we start to open up our meetings to new people. It was also great to spend time with these friends having been away from them for a month.

After they left I did check out my Christmas present with birthday delivery (with thanks to purchasers and collectors) and cranked up Guitar Hero III for a few minutes and let me tell you I ROCK (it said so).
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Monday, January 7, 2008

Day 362: Who's strange?

As I was leaving work today I noticed that a large amount of snow had been piled on the grass next to the building and had covered an in-ground floodlight fixture. The heat from the light had melted a cylindrical hole in the snow and from the bottom of the hole was coming a wisp of floodlit steam.

Of course, my reaction was to attempt to get a picture of this to share with you.

Of course, a passer-by was curious to see what I was doing.

She looked.

She saw.

She said, "Oh Kayyyy!" In a whatever-turns-you-on sort of voice.

In other news, I received my first entry for the Day 345 Pop-pun pop-quiz today. It is a good entry - but not completely correct, so I will give you all one week to get your entries in and try to beat it. Even if you don't get the winning entry blog-post glory could be yours if you make the funniest asides or get an answer that others don't get - so please get your entries in with as many answers as you can work out.

As for me, I continue to risk social pariah-dom to bring you pictures such as this.

Worthwhile or what?
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