Saturday, June 30, 2012

Day 5.172: Five Rivers - two beavers

As I mentioned, my parents have arrived as has the hot weather.

Once again, we found ourselves waiting for a cooler evening moment to get out and about yesterday. We went to one of my parents' favourite places Five Rivers and we got by far the best view of beavers we have ever had.

For the first part of the walk, we were happy with sightings of a muskrat, cedar waxwings, a belted kingfisher, a bullfrog and several turtles (not pictured).  Then, while I was trying to photograph something making snaky paths in the water, someone attracted my attention to two beavers swimming by.  One of them turned and headed towards the bank off to our right.  My Dad wondered out-loud if it would come up out of the water.  I said no, but then it did.

With the light fading and a couple of noisy, but OK pictures in the bag we left the water-side to return to the car.  Then, at the last viewpoint, we saw that the beaver had followed us along and was right below us.  I got a final picture of it swimming, and one of it eating something.  Really very obliging indeed!

Friday, June 29, 2012

Day 5.171: Wild Goose recap #4 (Sunday)

You can also read the other Wild Goose Festival recaps: Thursday, Friday and Saturday.

We had such a good day on Sunday. After breakfast we packed up the majority of our camp and loaded stuff into the car before going down to meet the parade as it neared the main stage for the closing ceremony.

During the closing ceremony, E5N1 adopted his approach from last year of wandering off - he fully embraced the 'fan someone nearby' and 'pass the shaker' suggestions and continued to do both long after the ceremony had moved on.  While we watched the grievance wall be dismantled, sang, danced and shared communion, I suspect almost everyone there met E5N1 and if not, he probably caught up with them later in the day!

Unlike last year, the closing ceremony was not the end of the festival.  Far from it.  Afterwards we moved the car to the parking lot ready for a quick get-away later and then embarked on a packed afternoon and evening.

It started with Lauren Winner and Over The Rhine - readings and songs.  It was a really special time.  One passage in particular that Lauren read from her new book Still was incredibly moving. Definitely a must-read!

Shortly afterward outside, E5N1 and I met Lauren - she played the age guessing game with a very wet (from the fire-truck/slip-and-slide fun) E5N1 for quite some time.  E5N1 also took up prime position to hear Melvin Bray but I don't know what he heard because apart from snapping one picture I was rushing off to do something else.

My last talking session of the festival was to hear Sarah Cunningham and Geoff Little talk about their relationships with their more-conservative-than-them family members.  It was an excellent thought-provoking and challenging session and contained one of the wisest moments for me when Sarah pointed out that we have contradictory values all the time and we have to choose which we will act on (she was talking about having a strong conviction about something being in conflict with loving her father but it applies in many circumstances).

After that, Exile #2 went to hear some more from Lauren Winner and I had one more stop, to see Aaron Strumpel and his crazy friends (including Spider-man) perform before heading down to the mainstage for the final evening of music.

We couldn't quite stay to the end, but we saw Over The Rhine - lovely - we bought two of their albums after last year so we were much more familiar with their work.  After them David Crowder came with some great music, hilarious stories and crazy hillbilly stylings. Finally (for us) Gungor brought some very spiritual moments, virtuoso musicianship and a wonderful end to our festival as the night closed in.

Then we headed off to the car and left Wild Goose 2012, drove for four hours and found a hotel on the outskirts of Richmond VA at about 1 am.

Photos from the festival (now including Sunday) are here.

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Day 5.170: Wild Goose recap #3 (Saturday)

In the present day, my parents have arrived safely from the UK to visit, but now back to the Wild Goose Festival recap. You can also read part 1 and part 2.

My first session was Dave Andrews talking about inclusive community.  We discussed the advantages and disadvantages and he talked about his community of simple-living part-time employed people.  Excellent stuff.

After that I stayed where I was to hear Melvin Bray talking about the heroes (especially of the Old Testament) and the fact that there were people who God also loved on the other side of the stories.

In the afternoon, I watched The Collection produce a very pleasing sound with no less than twelve multi-instrumentalists on stage.

I caught the end of a talk by Dan Brennan and Jennifer Ould about their long-term friendship.  He is married, she is single.  Wouldn't have expected this to challenge me really, but it did - maybe it was his brutal honesty about being physically attracted to Jennifer and other women - I guess it's just a statement of fact and one that I (and probably most people) could (but probably wouldn't) make.

Cathleen Falsani was talking about her fascinating life and work as a journalist but I have to confess that my tiredness was catching up with me.

After that it was time for a second set by Damion Suomi and The Minor Prophets.  They were playing at the Coffee Barn (outdoor) stage.  They were excellent again.  E5N1 went and sat virtually on their feet and had a great time.  In the end they were asked to quieten down and did the final number unplugged - very compelling indeed.

Next, I went and bought a beer in order to take full part in Beer & Hymns.  Like last year it was moved from its scheduled time-slot.  Unlike last year I was not fooled this time.  It was great.  There are some pictures above, but you really need moving ones to get a flavour (of the singing if not the beer).

The video is a bit deceptive - there were lots of people behind me (at the bar) and on both sides of the tent (at least by the end).

After that E5N1 was completely shattered, so I took him back to the tent and pretty soon we all turned in for an early night.

Photos (now including Saturday's) are here.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Day 5.169: Wild Goose recap #2 (Friday)

You can read my Thursday recap here.

Friday was a much better day than Thursday for us, although there were some frictions caused by tiredness and heat and the fact that we had rushed the girls down there as soon as school was over for the year.

This is what I did (most are represented in some way in the collage):

I caught the end of a session by Logan Mehl-Laituri about his experience becoming a conscientious-objector while serving in the US Army.  He spoke with great passion and I imagine his book is a fascinating read.

After that I went to a session on Photography and Advocacy.  This was slightly diminished by the sun beating the projector for brightness so we were unable to see the photographs.  Still, it was cool to hear someone talking passionately about photography and film-making making a difference in the world.  How much pressure trying to get a good photo of a photographer though?!

While we were getting lunch, we were thrilled to see some more of Aimee Wilson playing in the Performance Cafe.  Loved it!

I caught a bit of Christine Sine - admitting she loved the hot weather - while keeping the kids company while Exile #2 went to see Frank Shaeffer.

Somehow, I managed to catch some of both Phyllis Tickle telling forgotten Bible stories and Ian Cron on being a post-cynical Christian - both were very engaging and I wish I could have heard more.

My main session for the afternoon was Mike Stavlund talking about Integrating Our Losses.  He is about to publish a book which he basically wrote five years ago - one chapter a week following the death of his baby son.  Echoing words from one of my friends recently, he said that we have to stop trying to assign a hierarchy of loss - "Our heart doesn't know the difference it just experiences loss."  He read sections of his book which were very moving, chaired the discussion of grief and loss in a really lovely way and made me cry reading the lyrics of a song by The Cobalt Season which was based on one of his blog posts during that time (lyrics, audio). It was a beautiful and profound time.

Our evening started with Joy Ike who the program failed to compare with Tori Amos - despite her piano style being wonderfully Tori-esque.  It was an enjoyable set (not so sure about the ukulele, but I didn't begrudge her that!).

Then we headed down to the main stage where Damion Suomi and The Minor Prophets were playing.  Wow - what a lot of energy and cool instrumentation.  Combined with funny but profound songwriting.  Great!  They were followed by Jennifer Knapp who had been so engaging in the mid-afternoon sun last year.  For some reason, it left me a bit cold this year except for the sign-language performer who was excellent.

After that, we made our way back to our tent and I popped in to the Performance Cafe where the captivating Tevyn East was performing her dance-song-drama piece.  We got to see more of it on another occasion, but I'm very sorry I didn't get to see it in its entirety - it was something special.

You can see the photos (currently just first two days) here.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Day 5.168: Wild Goose recap #1 (Thursday)

I'm going to attempt to recap my experiences at Wild Goose a day at a time. We'll see how it goes. This will be the easiest one.

On the day, I wrote about our stressful journey. Both the car and my Mum are both doing OK. The car brought us back safely (and uneventfully) and my Mum will be here on Thursday for a visit.

We arrived a little later than planned in the late afternoon heat and set up camp.  With most things set-up but little thought given to the rest of the day we capitulated to the kids' requests and went off to explore the site.

This brought us to the main-stage shortly before the opening ceremony was due to start (top left).

Exile #4 quickly volunteered to sit under a blue umbrella and 'part the Jordan' in a part of the ceremony coordinated by Angie Fadel.

After the opening ceremony we returned to finish setting up camp and have some food.  Our tent was basically back-stage at the second largest performance space - the Performance Cafe.  While we were there, Shane Claiborne was talking.  I snapped a picture (top right), but couldn't stay to hear him.

Later we returned to the main-stage where we heard Aimee Wilson and Aradhna (bottom left).  It was great, but the kids were getting restless.  I think we must have left part way through Josh Garrels' set (mid right).

With the kids in bed I wandered back to the Performance Cafe a couple of times - to hear a little of a session on art in worship (bottom right).  I wish I'd been able to hear more of this (and that I knew the names of the two presenters!)

Our evening ended with a DJ set from Vince Anderson (mid left) again just a few feet from our tent.  They were having some technical difficulties, but several less-tired-than-me people were dancing nevertheless.

I went to bed hoping for a good-night's sleep and for a better day ahead...

Monday, June 25, 2012

Day 5.167: Hair today...

After a nice swim in the hotel pool to avoid the morning rush-hour, we settled down to our task of driving the 550 miles or so to get home.

We made it at about 10 pm. For some reason our Internet service is down but other things seem OK.

I haven't shaved since we were last here and this is about as hairy a I am ever likely to be I would think.

I'll start sorting through photos and thoughts from the festival soon but for now, good night!

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Day 5.166: Bed!

We had a great last day at the Wild Goose Festival and have driven through the late evening back into Virginia.

Now to sleep in a bed again (and maybe even get clean!)

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Day 5.165: Short-lived cool

It rained in the night - more convincingly than when the storms came through. Due to a pegging oversight we did get a little water in the tent, but it has otherwise proved itself waterproof in its first test.

It was, briefly, pleasantly cool this morning. By about 11.30 am, the summer had reasserted itself however.

The other kind of cool persisted longer and included a late-added second set from one of last-night's main stage acts, Damion Suomi and The Minor Prophets. E5N1 was on good form - excited by the dynamic performance, especially the drummer and with a trumpet part in one of the songs.

Later this evening he was fading fast and needed an earlier night - despite his protestations to the contrary.

Friday, June 22, 2012

Day 5.164: Storming!

The festival has been pretty good so far although having three kids means that one of them stands a reasonable chance if being unhappy about what's happening at any given moment.

This afternoon a storm sent us all go and sit in the car for a while, although not before securing all the guy ropes at our camp. In the end we were grazed by the edge of a dramatic storm system but we did benefit from a significant cooling compared with the temperatures in the 90's we have been dealing with.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Day 5.163: Engine trouble

We had a slightly stressful day. I heard that my Mum was in hospital, then just when I'd forgotten about yesterday's car issues, the warning lights came on again and we were limping off the highway.

In the end we got the car running OK and called ahead to a dealership who could look at it at short notice. We left the car and went to get lunch and I was able to talk to my sister, my Dad and my Mum - by then home and doing OK. After lunch we were able to collect the car and get back on the road.

Mid-afternoon, we arrived at Wild Goose 2012. Good to be here - hopefully we can manage to relax and enjoy it!

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Day 5.162: Southward

We're on our way South to camp at the Wild Goose Festival. We've made it nearly to Richmond Virginia.

It was quite hot on the Beltway a you can see, but we managed a nice meal to celebrate both Exile #3's birthday and the near-end of phase one of the journey.

On the short drive from there to the hotel, the dashboard lit up like a Christmas tree so I hope that isn't going to cause us serious travel issues either tomorrow or on our way home. Time will tell!

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Day 5.161: Double figures (nearly!)

After dinner tonight we celebrated Exile #3's 10th Birthday which is actually tomorrow.

Tomorrow is the first day of the school summer vacation and we are leaving on a grand road-trip to attend the second Wild Goose Festival in North Carolina.  Unfortunately for Exile #3 this means that the main activity on her landmark birthday will be nine hours or so of driving.  Hopefully there will be some fun along the way.

Anyway, since most of you will be reading this on or after June 20th, all together now...

Happy Birthday to you...
Happy Birthday to you...
Happy Birthday Exile #3...
Happy Birthday to you!

Monday, June 18, 2012

Day 5.160: The surprising history of Bullock Road

One of the back-streets in a rural-ish area of New Scotland in what is probably part of Slingerlands is called Bullock Road. Even when I happened to find myself on it I didn't think much of it, well why should I?

The road is named after a Matthew Bullock rather than after any cattle farm that does or used to adjoin it. Interestingly however, Matthew Bullock's claim to fame is... cattle farming. The historical sign reads, "Matthew Bullock - Introduced English Short Horn Cattle into Albany County about 1815 and won premiums at fairs."

The interesting history doesn't stop there. Further along is another historical sign about a home built in c.1820. However, it was opposite this that I spotted the surprising bit of history:

Apparently Knickerbocker News was around for 30 years but stopped circulating in 1969 (EDIT: or perhaps it was around until 1988!), so a reasonable proportion of the population may remember it, but it's surprising (to me at least) that a plastic newspaper tube has managed to survive that long.

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Day 5.159: Father's Day

I ran 23 miles this morning. It was obvious that the family had remembered it was Father's Day when I got back to find them all out on the driveway to cheer me home. I don't normally get a reception like that from my training runs!

After I made myself presentable, the kids presented their cards:

E5N1's (on the right) inside said "TO DAD BANANA LOVE [E5N1]"

Exile #4's was a booklet about me including such statements as "My father's favorite sport is football" and "My father is funny" with pictures to accompany (including what I'm assuming is a rugby ball!)

Exile #4 also took on photography duties - trying out her new camera.  Here are her pictures of the present unwrapping:

Such great gifts (the bottom right picture is a from a recipe in the "Smoke" book involving smoking a chicken with a can of beer shoved inside!)

And Exile #2 took the camera over to catch this Father's Day moment!

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Day 5.158: Eyes and wheels

It seems that the sleepover girls did get a few hours sleep last night, so things were not quite as out-of-sorts today as we might have feared. Having said that, we didn't see all that much of Exile #3 during the day.

My day started with a trip to the eye-doctors with E5N1.  He was taking part in a research project in exchange for a free eye-test.  His vision is fine and he got to hang out with one of his friends and wear these cool shades - because we had to walk outside in the sun after they dilated his pupils.

His dilated pupils didn't stop him snapping this photo of me while we waited for the research element of the visit which involved him looking into various instruments that photographed his retina and in particular his optic nerve.  Holding his head still and keeping his eyes open and still is not his best skill, but I could have predicted that.

Later in the day Exile #4 donned some of her birthday presents - pads and gloves and roller blades.  She did rather well with the limited scope that the driveway provided.  Going backwards, forwards and stopping with a good deal of skill and only making use of her protective equipment on a couple of occasions!

Friday, June 15, 2012

Day 5.157: Sleep!?

Exile #3 is celebrating her birthday a few days early. Five of her friends came over for a movie and a cupcake this evening. Two are staying until tomorrow morning.

They may not be planning on sleeping too much between now and then, but I certainly am!

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Day 5.156: A Swifty's visit

An old friend from out of town (I think the UK counts) was in the area and it seemed like the perfect opportunity to finally try the deep-fried-buffalo-sauce-coated burger at Swifty's in Delmar.  It's something I've been planning to do since before I reached my target weight (I'm now some 10 pounds below it - or at least I was before this evening).

It was a fairly perfect evening for sitting outside:

We also drank some beer and sampled the deep-fried green beans.

All round - not exactly health-food, but quite satisfactory and the company was extremely congenial.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Day 5.155: Must dash!

Exile #4's friends got stick on mustaches as part of their spy kits at the party on Monday.

We had a few left over, so...

Yes - that.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Day 5.154: Spies like them

At Exile #4's party, she and her friends became 'spies' and followed an elaborate trail of clues to fill their party bags (black with black lettering) with spy-themed prizes and collect jigsaw pieces for the final clue.

It started with invisible ink:

After various experiments, we found that half and half baking soda and water, allowed to dry and brushed off, followed by painted on orange juice was the best recipe for invisible ink (in terms of invisibility before and visibility after revealing).

There were some riddles:

And word puzzles:

And finally, the jigsaw, with another puzzle to solve once it was complete.

They also had a good amount of crazy running-about time.  They seem to really need to let off steam after they get out of school (especially at this time of year) and of course, there was food and cupcakes.  I think they all had a good time.

Afterwards, Exile #4 opened her friends' presents,

some of which were very popular with her and her siblings!

Monday, June 11, 2012

Day 5.153: #4 is 8!

Happy Birthday Exile #4. Thanks for all who helped her celebrate from afar.

We also had a good time with some of her more local friends this afternoon, but I'll maybe tell you about that another day.

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Day 5.152: Graphic novels

We have become a family that reads graphic novels.

I picked up a copy of Akira from the library a few months ago with that 'it's a classic I should probably see what I make of it' feeling.

I enjoyed it enough to find out that it was just the first of six volumes.  I've read five of them now - but the Capital District library system doesn't seem to have volume 6 - aaargh!

Exile #3 brought 'Bone' home from the school library and told Exile #2 she should read it. Now Exile #3 and Exile #4 are hooked, Exile #2 is still waiting to get another chance to read one and even E5N1 is declaring his love for them and borrowing them in the car - despite their being slightly above his reading age at the moment.

It doesn't stop him picking up the form.  Here is his own creation - it starts with the cover with his name on it - and ends, well, with everything/everyone going pop!

Saturday, June 9, 2012

Day 5.151: Dash, bash, crash

I did a 21 mile run this morning before breakfast. I'll do a proper running update soon for those who like that sort of thing, but let's just say - it's quite tiring to run that far.

So it was a little bit of a struggle to get out of the house at lunchtime to celebrate two years of at an event known as the derryXBash.  Exile #4 and E5N1 came with me, we ate pulled pork at the Pig Pit BBQ, scored a party bag and enjoyed hanging out (with the derryX gang and the eponymous pig).

As a bonus, while I was checking for an alternative exit from the parking lot (that did not exist) we spotted this little chap:

Exile #4 was out this evening at a dance recital at The Egg and Exile #2 and I have been making preparations for her birthday party on Monday so now I'm ready to do the third thing.

By the way, there's some E5N1-related exclusive content on the Exiles in New York facebook page today.  Don't miss it!

Friday, June 8, 2012

Day 5.150: The secret life of this blog

I hope you know how much I appreciate the readers who visit from time to time (or even daily) to read my strange ramblings, perhaps laugh or smile at a photograph or occasionally leave a comment.

However, there is a special class of blog readers for whom my love knows no bounds - these are the real writers who sometimes grace me with their presence and, more importantly bless me with their wonderful words.  These are blog writers whose ability to put a sentence together leaves me in the shade.  I don't think I could ever aspire to write the way they do.

Unfortunately for you, the comments these heavyweights leave are automatically filed into a folder: Special Prose Avoid Making-public (I think that's what it stands for) where I leave them so that you will not desert these digital shores for other blogs with writing in a different class altogether.

However, I have realised the error of my ways and will now share two recent examples of thes gems with you.

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Sorry for keeping them from you for so long. It was wrong of me.