Thursday, March 31, 2011

Day 4.080: Redesign (including the colour)

I didn't change anything as drastically as turning Coke green.

The picture is from Japan of course where bright green 'melon' soda is big business. It's sweet and fizzy. And green. And more than 5 cents.

But the redesign I am talking about is the blog of course. I stayed up late doing it last night and made a few tweaks today. Comments (on that or anything else) are always welcome.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Day 4.079: Work, kids, Korea

It's not always easy coming up for blog material during the work week so I am always happy when Exile #2 tells me there are photographs for me to see. Today it was the kids' camera that had been in action. This is what they caught:

I've also managed to get the next few pictures from my Far East adventure uploaded so here is my return to Seoul set.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Day 4.078: Albany NY: fashion capital of the Northeast?

I was in Pittsburgh airport recently. In particular, I was in the line for security screening for quite some time.

Imagine my surprise when I saw this there:

No, not the display of Pittsburgh themed sweatshirts, the picture on the display unit. I suppose that this town must be the epitome of high fashion - or at least sweatshirt fashion. Or perhaps not.

Monday, March 28, 2011

Day 4.077: An infectious sense of hopefulness...

Just before I left for my Far Eastern adventure, we rebuilt the snow fort and once again it looked quite grand:

By the time I got back - it was barely visible:

And by Friday, it was about to disappear (along with most of the snow in the yard):

But that wasn't enough for Exile #3 who decided that she would literally take matters into her own hands to hasten the arrival of spring. She spent quite some time laboriously tearing chunks of snow and ice from the banks to spread it out and therefore ensure it melts more quickly.

Of course, temperatures have barely been above freezing since then which doesn't help.

In any case, here's the real remedy for all late-winter ailments - it's pop pun 118 ...and prayers for spring.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Day 4.076: "Not all those who wander are lost"

Exile #3 had two birthday parties this weekend - both were bowling parties. I was curious to see how the bowling unit they had done in P.E. at school would affect their 'form'. The answer appeared to be that she looked the part, but the bumpers were still instrumental in making sure that a number of her shots threatened the pins.

As I was on the way there to pick her up I saw an SUV with a bumper sticker with the above quote from J.R.R. Tolkien. I thought it was a fairly cute sticker until I noticed that the vehicle had an out of state plate. It was from Alaska. That's over 4000 miles of wandering!

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Day 4.075: Collapsing in a heap

It was mostly a stay-at-home day. Exile #4 was not well enough to go to her classmates' birthday party but I did take Exile #3 to one this afternoon.

This was one of the home-projects:

I think everyone is doing better but despite a long and good night's sleep both Exile #2 and I have been rather tired. Now it's time for us to collapse in a heap. Or perhaps in a bed.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Day 4.074: Stealing away

It was meant to be a day trip. We decided to leave early to make that possible. Thanks to a combination of a cancelled flight (largely out of the control of Continental I think) and a lost hotel reservation by Expedia "Dot Com" (completely their fault - they sent a confirmation for a reservation they hadn't made) it ended up feeling a little like a 30 hour day.

I did get a few hours sleep last night but it was fitful and short. In the end the journey home was delightfully uneventful today.  Incidentally, does anyone who doesn't know recognise where I went?

I got home to two sick kids and a very tired wife. Exile #3 then had to be collected from the nurse's office early in the afternoon so that's the full set. E5N1 has antibiotics so hopefully he will be doing better soon and the girls...well, tomorrow will tell.  Exile #2 and I are just hoping for a good night's sleep.

Happy weekend everybody!

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Day 4.073: Travelling - again?

I'm in a hotel room again.  I planned to be at home again.  The day involved a cancelled flight, an eight and a half hour journey, a seven hour working day and a lost hotel reservation.

Tomorrow, my only aim is to get home safely and quickly - too much to ask? 

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Day 4.072: Hashtag: #aoa3

Exile #2 and I had an evening out tonight without the kids.  We realised that the last time this had happened we saw Inception at the cinema.  Yeah - quite a while ago.

Anyway, leaving the kids with the very brave and kind J, we headed into downtown Albany for the All Over Albany 3rd birthday party.

It was great - like last year there were lots of nice friendly people, we had paella and gourmet goat's cheese and I caught up with some people I'd met before and met some new ones including Laura who made these 'pins' (badges) for the occasion.  All the better for being able to share it with Exile #2 in person rather than by report after the event.

As ever, Greg and Mary were charming and engaging and threw a great party.

As we were leaving, the weather was doing "Hollywood snow" - pretty but not troublesome.

I think that's about all I'm up for at the moment. Quite happy for this winter-storm-in-spring to pass us by quietly.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Day 4.071: Time (and the) traveller

This is a picture from the day before I left on my trip less than a month ago. Already it's hard to believe we had this much snow. Or that it made such a good building material!

Life is getting back to normal gradually, but everyone is getting sick.  Hopefully we will be able to power through over the next few days.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Day 4.070: Spring forward - fall back

Not only is spring said to start on the day of the Vernal Equinox here, but often the time of the equinox is brought into the equation so that spring started at 7.21 pm yesterday and today is the first full official day of spring.

Twelve hours into spring the snow started to fall. It snowed all morning.

Memories of the post from four years ago came back. If you want to watch the video that inspired me then you can see it here (for now). The Albany moment comes just after 5 minutes in.'s spring now, so today was just a fluke - right?!

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Day 4.069: Korea progression

We had a frustrating but amusing time trying to talk to my parents on Skype today. We could see each other but the sound was missing some of the time. At other times we could hear them but they could not hear us - I failed to communicate that clearly resulting in them writing things down to show to the camera when talking would have worked. At the end of the call I got everyone together to wave goodbye and it turned out that they could now hear us. Of course, by then their sound had dropped out for us! We'll try again another time.

Here are some more pictures from my trip. These are from my time in rural southern South Korea. Again, click through for titles and higher resolution.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Day 4.068: Melt, mud and many geese

We went for a last-full-day-of-winter walk at Five Rivers today. Some of the trails were impassable due to melt water, but we had a good time. Geese were a major feature - swimming, sunning themselves and trudging across the soft melting ice on the lakes.

Mud also featured. Fortunately, we had planned for that.

Friday, March 18, 2011

Day 4.067: More Seoul

I've been home from work today - partly because I am either coming down with something or taking longer than I hoped to recover from my trip - but mostly because Exile #4 had to be home from school and Exile #2 had to be at school for her volunteering job helping with reading skills.

It was a good, quiet, down-time kind of day.

I got some jobs done - including editing and posting some more pictures. Here are some more from Seoul back at the beginning of the trip.

Click through for titles and descriptions (for some of them) if you are interested.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Day 4.066: Not good...

Just when I was beginning to get over the jet-lag and feel normal... today happened. I've been feeling off-colour all day. I got home from work early but then slept all through the early evening. Earlier I heard that a friend had received some terrible news. This evening Exile #4 is sick.

Not good at all.

Day 4.065: Spring, the trap

This morning I spotted these buds in the trees in the yard. It certainly gives a little hope that spring is on the way. There is still quite a lot of snow on the ground but on days like today it is retreating quite quickly.

This evening I got home from work to find some frantic pre-bedtime craft activity in progress. It turned out that the kids were making a leprechaun trap. Apparently, as far away from their native Ireland as we are it is possible that they will be visiting to celebrate St Patrick's Day.

When I went to say a final goodnight to Exile #3 she was in the dark in her room but seemed to be fighting to stay awake long enough to tell me that I needed to add 'a ladder or something' to help the leprechauns climb into the box/trap. I hope that the ruler will suffice.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Day 4.064: How to park

So, the answer to yesterday's question is that you are all right!

They are car turntable attendants at a lift/elevator-based (car) park(ing garage).

Sorry for the jerky video - I didn't have a suitable camera with me to record real moving pictures and sorry that I ran out of space on the camera before the giant greyhounds were released.

Quite efficient.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Day 4.063: Another near miss!

Mine was the second car to arrive on the scene of a crash this morning. On my way to work I suddenly saw a car going at high speed at right-angles to the lanes. It crashed into the central barriers and bits of it flew in all directions as it spun back out coming to rest in the middle lane. I was far enough back to put my 'flashers' on and slow down gradually.

I stopped long enough to see that another driver was already calling the emergency services and that the driver of the crashed car was OK. Realising that I did not have any idea what had led to the incident and had only seen it at some distance I decided I couldn't really help and continued to work.

Yeah. You might want stay a safe distance from me for a while.

On a happier note, inspired by the Korean photo challenges going on over at Albaniana's, I thought I would set a Japanese one. Any ideas what's going on here?

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Day 4.062: Tired and emotional

I probably would feel like I deserved a drink today, but that's not what I meant.

It's been a difficult day for all of us.  Dealing with jet-lag and post-trip tiredness combined with the shock of the reality of what I was so close to and the ongoing news from Japan has made us all a bit snippy with each-other.

I don't want to overstate my experiences and so belittle the real tragedies unfolding for so many other families, but my little brush with this event had certainly brought it home for me.

This picture is just a normal view of suburban Tokyo taken on Thursday afternoon.  These buildings are quite a way from the devastation caused by the tsunami and were likely not significantly affected materially by the earthquake.  In fact, the time I was closest to the epicenter was the time I spent at the airport in both directions - including the hours I spent there on Friday afternoon.  I'm sure however that all the residents of the nation have been deeply affected by the events and still have the unfolding nuclear crisis to contend with.  My thoughts and prayers are with them.

Tomorrow will be the time to try and regain some normality but first - hopefully - a good night's sleep.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Day 4.061: Perspective

I didn't love my time in Japan.

In part it was the contrast with my time spent in Korea where I not only had excellent company in my travelling companion, but also was very well looked after and able to spend a bit of time outside with my camera (even it was just at dawn).

Japan was a more normal hotel-work-hotel-work-hotel-... until yesterday that is.

Around 1pm I took a picture of 'my final taste of Japan' and nothing could have been more normal as we boarded our very full flight.

It's hard to take in my experiences still then. Of course, we have all been learning the seriousness of the situation I left behind as I flew away after what now seems like a minor inconvenience of a seven-hour delay.

My memories of this trip to Japan will, of course, now be dominated by the last few hours - hours that if things had been timed differently by five minutes of so, I might have spent obliviously flying back to the US.

Talking of the US. It was good to arrive back yesterday!

Here's a news report on our flight from the local Fox station in Detroit:

And it's very good to be back at home with the family today.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Day 4.060: Eight point nine

After an uneventful journey by train across Tokyo to Narita airport, I boarded my flight. We made it to the end of the runway.

Gradually we realised that we were stationary but the plane was rocking violently. At one point it looked like the wing was flexing nearly enough to ground the engines. My only thought was that it was the down-draught from a near miss with another plane. It was quite a relief to hear from the flight deck that it was an earthquake. Of course at that point we did not know how major it was.

When it became clear we were not leaving immediately, we started to get information from elsewhere. First 7.9 then 8.8 and then 8.9. Of course we
soon started to wonder about the tsunami threat.

I tweeted about what was going on while looking up the latest news. You
can read the as it happened here: @the_exile

Eventually we heard that the terminal was evacuated but there were people back in the tower and sending out a tug to take us back to the buildings. We got there 4 hours after we'd left to find that the safe area was full and we could not leave the plane. We sat and had a meal while watching the cases and cargo being unloaded and taken away then later brought back and reloaded. It seems that Delta had de-cancelled our flight having realised that staying Tokyo would not be good. In the end we took off seven hours late. In total we were on the plane for nearly twenty hours.

When I cleared immigration and customs I heard that I was booked on another flight home this evening. But it turned out that that flight was cancelled so I should be heading home at lunchtime tomorrow.

This is my view of the earthquake. Actually it was just afterwards, but apart from a little wing flexing it was the same in this wide flat location.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Day 4.059: Re-Fuji

I was woken up about five minutes before my alarm went off this morning. This is what woke me:

Seeing as I was up and about and the morning was beautifully clear I grabbed my camera, walked boldly past the "Closed" signs and found a window on the top floor to get this shot:

Some of you may feel like you've seen it before but I guess there's been some building work in the last three years.

This being my last evening in Japan, I really should have gone out for a nice meal or tried to achieve some more of Tall_Guy's challenges. But I wasn't really in the mood. I did manage a cultural experience however. Not only did I take my camera round the basement market at the local department store and buy my dinner I also achieved the almost-impossible foreign business-trip feat of spending some coins.

Tomorrow is shaping up to be a very long day (or two)...