Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Day 5.203: Running - not thinking!

Running does funny things to your brain - at least that is my excuse. Here are a couple of examples. The first one is slightly complicated. I'll need pictures.

I was several miles into a long run. I'd just run over a large hill when I approached a three-way intersection where a cyclist was considering which way to go.

"Can I get to 123* down there?" He asked gesturing down Road B. This is where my brain-off status starts to cut-in.

* I changed the names and numbers, but apart from that it's as close to word-for-word as I can remember.

"123? You mean Apple Ave?" Apple Ave is the same road - several miles away.

"Yes - right." he replied - kindly.

"Yes - you can go up there (Road A) to the top of the hill and take a right. This way takes you to Peach Road (Road C)." I was totally fixated on my own route.

"What about that way?" He asked again - patiently - pointing down Road B.

"Oh yes!" I finally said - remembering that I had run from Rt 123 along those roads on my last long run just a week earlier. Yes - you can take Pear Road or the next one."

"Thanks!" he said - but left me wondering why I couldn't just answer the question the first time.

The second one is simple.  I'll need pictures again.  It happened when I spotted this while running along a minor side-road in the countryside:

and, not completely unreasonably, thought they might be old railroad lines. Ah look - you can see where the tracks used to cross the road.

Except that I knew I was here:

Yeah - like I said, my brain is not fully functional once I get a few miles into a run.

Monday, July 30, 2012

Day 5.202: None of the above

After I saw this, I was left wondering where I stand on the line between being an "American" (not sure how that differs from just being an American) and being one of the should-be-deported ones.

I'm not sure where the sign-maker would like me to stand - but this is not the warmest of welcomes.

Saturday, July 28, 2012

Day 5.200: I won a pillow (visit)!

We were back at Jacob's Pillow tonight for the third consecutive Saturday.  The first visit was Exile #2's birthday present and my parents stayed home with the kids.  The second was our mad dash over there with the kids to see the free early-evening performance by the dance summer school.

Tonight we were there, thanks to babysitting services by E & C, to catch the last performance by the summer school (sadly moved inside from the beautiful Inside/Out stage due to the weather) and then to see another performance in the large theatre venue.  The tickets for that I had won by playing "Trivia for Tickets" in the Jacob's Pillow email newsletter.

Here is an edit of the exchange I had with them on email:

Congratulations! You were the first person to respond to our Trivia for Tickets question with the correct answer, which means you have won tickets to Bill T. Jones/Arnie Zane Dance Company on Saturday, July 28 at 8pm.
Thank you - that's awesome! My wife and I were at the festival on Saturday to see the school performance and Borrowed Light both of which were excellent - probably our best night-out in twenty years of going to dance performances together.

Here is my wife's emailed response when I forwarded your email to her:


so I think it's safe to say that she's pleased too! Last week's tickets were her birthday treat - so we'll consider this an extended celebration.

Thanks again!
We are very happy to be able to extend your wife's birthday celebration!  Have a fabulous time and thank you so much for the enthusiastic reply.  We enjoy hearing when patrons have a wonderful time.

The work pretty much defies description.  My attempt is that it was 70 stories chosen in a random order, each read in exactly one minute by Bill T Jones, while dancers danced around him and avant-garde electronic music was made live to accompany it all.

This might give you a slightly better idea.

There was a technical problem early on and after the first three minutes, the performance had to be stopped because the clocks that allow the musician, reader and dancers to keep there one minute pieces  to, well, one minute were not working.

Bizarrely, several people left during the two minutes or so that the house lights came on before the performance was restarted.  It does make me wonder what they saw in those few minutes that convinced them not to stay for a performance that they had either bought or been given tickets to go and see.

For my part I thought it was challenging but thoroughly enjoyable and it gave us plenty to talk about on the drive back through the Berkshires.

Friday, July 27, 2012

Day 5.199: Best of British

The US TV coverage of the Olympics opening ceremony is playing now. It started at 7.30pm several hours after the rest of the world saw it. Still, we gathered a few fellow Brits as well as our own American to stay up late to watch the as-live coverage.

We enjoyed the US commentary team exchanging their ignorance of who Tim Berners-Lee was and their disbelief as they announced, "They are actually so proud if their National Health Service that they wanted to include it in this opening ceremony!"

For my part, I thought the music selection for the journey through the 60's, 70's, 80's, 90's and up to the present day was impeccable.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Day 5.198: Missed - another photo opportunity

This is number two in a short series of "Things I photographed when I was out without a camera".

I don't claim any great credit for these - I was just in the right place at the right time with my iPhone.

Having said that, I'll confess that it bugs me a little when someone sees what they think is a good photo I've taken and starts complementing my camera.

"Hold on a moment," I want to say, "I can also take lousy photos with this nice-looking camera!"

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Day 5.197: Rats - no camera!

Occasionally, I am caught without a camera. Sometimes I remember that I have my phone (sometimes I don't even have that!)

Anyway, I saw a large mammal with a rat-like tail. It wasn't actually - you know - a rat, but a rare-ish on-land sighting of a muskrat.

It was the best my iPhone and I could do having been caught unawares.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Day 5.196: Sunny Sunday in New Paltz

On Sunday, we headed down the Hudson valley to visit New Paltz and, in particular, Historic Huguenot Street.

We arrived in late morning and had a quick look around the rather nice visitor center which is in one of the early 18th century houses that are the the heart of Historic Huguenot Street.

After that we took a short walk down the rail trail in search of some lunch so that we could be back in time for a walking tour of some of the houses.

The rail trail led us to the Water Street Market - a mixture of shops, cafes and small outdoor spaces with people playing chess near to water features. It was bustling - presumably partly due to the chalk art festival that was going on (we didn't make it to see the artwork).

We chose to have lunch sitting outside at a cafe on the upper floor (basically sitting on the roof!). Harvest Cafe turned out to be something a little special. Not cheap, but very good indeed.

Here is our food - Exile #2 had a sandwich turned into a gluten-free salad and I had the same sandwich (roasted vegetables and goat cheese) in its normal form.  Also pictured E5N1's kid's meal.  Not your average presentation and, if you hadn't guessed, it tasted at least as good as it looked!

After savouring our lunch, we had a bit of a rushed walk back to catch the 1pm walking tour at HHS.

It started at the visitor's center (the 'fort' - top left - required by the English government as a stronghold against attacks by the native tribe who had sold the land to the settlers) and ended at the reconstruction of the first stone church in the community (top right) and also took in two houses.

The main part, where the rest of these photos were taken  was spent in a house that was being opened to the public for the first time (we were in the second tour) after a restoration project spanning more than ten years.

It's known as the Abraham Hasbrouck house although their research has shown it was built by the son of the original settler (who had built a wooden house on the same site).  The community was founded by twelve families who settled there having arrived from an area of northern France which is now Belgium.  They were french-speaking protestants fleeing from Roman Catholic persecution and because the area was dominated by these few families for a long time there it was remarkably preserved, and many of the families donated homes and belongings to HHS to keep this piece of history alive.

The house that Daniel Hasbrouck built for first himself and his mother and later extended for his wife and children has been beautifully restored and populated with artifacts from the 1720's during the time that Daniel's widow lived as head of the family after his death.

The personal nature of the history and the overwhelming enthusiasm of the guides made this tour really special and kept the attention of us all.  E5N1 is pictured asking some questions in the cellar where we learned about the African slaves that are known to have lived and worked down there.

After the tour we went back down to the market for a cold drink and then returned to Huguenot Street to walk a trail by the river and see some nature.

The trail took us by a beautiful community garden, through a wildlife sanctuary on the bank of the Wallkill River and then over some farmland (we'd over-shot where we were supposed to loop back) through some fairly British-looking countryside inhabited by this monarch butterfly and the hawk I posted on the day.

Altogether a rather fantastic day out and well-worth the 90 minute drive each way!

Monday, July 23, 2012

Day 5.195: Electrical disruption

Lightning by Flickr user Qualsiasi

It's been stormy today.  I woke up to get ready for my run to hear the heavens open first with very heavy rain and then with thunder and lightning.  I didn't go out.

The storms started again in the afternoon and this evening we've had quite a show. The kids seem to be sleeping through it.  Hopefully we can now do the same - and maybe I'll be able to run in the morning!

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Day 5.194: Hawk with a view

We had a busy day out today. All very good but I'm too tired to do it justice this evening.

We had a very close encounter with this hawk, which I'm pretty sure is a  Red-tailed Hawk despite it's not-obviously-red tail.

This is a picture from near where we saw it.  I'm guessing this famous sky-line will tip some off as to the area we were in.

And I will attempt assemble thoughts, words and pictures from the rest of our day soon!

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Day 5.193: Pool party

We spent the heat of the day sitting in the shade enjoying food, drink and conversation at a very congenial gathering at one of my colleague's houses. The kids meanwhile, a little more actively, had a blast in the pool.

Contrary to appearances, they were not the only ones!

We left a little early, but happily before either my long-run-day or the kids' much-swim-day tiredness caused any social difficulties. After we left we made a mad dash over the border to Massachusetts to let the kids witness a free performance at Jacob's Pillow. It was a little over an hour's drive each way to see about twenty minutes of dancing, but it was nice to share a little of the magic with them.

Friday, July 20, 2012

Day 5.192: Three (more) random things

...from our walking tour of the decorated giant clog sculptures in Albany.

A bauble in a tree, a solar compactor and a no parking sign that is possibly diminished just a little by the comedy signs posted next to it.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Day 5.191: These clogs were seen by walking

I mentioned that I found a set of pictures from our visit to downtown Albany.  We went on a little walking tour in, to be honest, too close to the full heat of the day to see the decorated clogs.

Here are some moments from our tour:

Clockwise from top left:  One of our favorites; a wistful reminder of the Albany Aquaducks on their penultimate day of operation; some of downtown's wonderful trompe l'oeil artwork under an unassuming bridge; some real peek-a-boo brickwork that caught our eye just afterwards; the excellent map-clog; sharing Mayor Whalen's bench and the rather lovely clog at the Quackenbush Square.

It was a nice excuse to spend some time downtown although we always manage to drag my parents there in difficult weather (last time it was cold and windy, this time hot and humid) - maybe next time we'll time it better!

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Day 5.190: A surprising find

I discovered a day's worth of photos including a walking tour of Albany we undertook on my parents' last weekend here still un-downloaded on the camera.

I thought that this one might deserve a caption:

Anyone feeling inspired to offer one?

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Day 5.189: From the sublime...

So, yesterday I blogged about dance and poetry and music and worship and silence...if you want you can go and read that because today I am writing about a sign on a vending machine in a public bathroom.

Have you ever wondered what happens when someone wants to sell a generic over-the-counter medicine in a country that mainly knows it (that is what we Brits call paracetamol) by its best-selling trade name: Tylenol. The solution is to take a different drug with some of the same properties and advertise that it is not that.

Of course not - no-one would do something that contrived - right?

Wrong. So very wrong.

Monday, July 16, 2012

Day 5.188: Shakers, Tero, Lauren and Aleph

The dance performance that Exile #2 and I went to see on Saturday at Jacob's Pillow was a piece called Borrowed Light by Finnish choreographer, Tero Saarinen. It is a collaboration between Tero and seven other dancers from his company and singers from Boston Camerata who perform some Shaker songs on stage in amongst the dancers.

I've been interested in the Shakers since we started visiting the local sites where they lived.  Here we are close to the original Shaker site in the US - the birthplace of American Shakerism if you like.

As I wrote a year ago:
The Shakers - despite their nearly-extinct status - seem very 'now' to me, with their understanding of the equality of the sexes, sustainable living, and a theology of humble non-certainty.
The dance piece - 'inspired by' more than 'about' the Shakers - is a fusion of some of these ideas with aspects of Finnish folk dance and other things.  Only the music is really Shaker, but there are many references throughout the work to Shaker worship and life in movement as well as sound.

I recently read and very much enjoyed Mr Lincoln's Chair - a book about the Shakers by Anita Sanchez following a recommendation in a comment on this blog.  So that was in my mind as we watched and listened, but the more visceral reaction took me to a less obvious place.  As the lights went up giving us our first glimpse of the wonderful set, dancers and singers, the lead dancer stood with her back to us at the front of the stage and began to walk in deliberate silence slowly away from us and towards the other performers. We knew that there would be rhythmic stomping later, so this silent advance was all the more striking.

It immediately reminded me of a piece that Lauren Winner read for us during her session with Over The Rhine at the Wild Goose Festival a few weeks ago.

In it, she spoke about how the first letter in the first word of the first commandment that God spoke to Israel was Aleph - a letter with no sound - a pause or silent breath to still the world to hear from him.*

And that is how that moment on Saturday evening felt - we waited - hardly wanting to breathe - and watched as the silent moment passed and then we were ready to see and hear when the singing and dancing started.

Here are a few snippets of the stunning Borrowed Light:

* I'm not coming close to doing her piece justice.  You can hear an earlier, longer and maybe slightly less evocative version of Lauren's words about Aleph here.

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Day 5.187: Departing, Acadians

Today was my parents' last full day with us on this trip and the first really rainy day since they arrived. We spent a good deal of the day at home playing some games and the like. We did make it to Five Rivers, but were driven back to the car by sudden-onset rain and some dramatic (if still reasonably distant) thunder and lightning.

Meanwhile, I'm still catching up on some pictures from last week.

This is some of what we did in Acadia National Park (except for seeing the animals I posted earlier): tidal pooling ("rock pooling" was not understood by the lady at the visitor center) at the beginning and end of the day including a spectacular splash when E5N1 went up to his waist in a pool and then panicked ending up emerging from the pool less one shoe - fortunately it floated; E5N1 and Exile #4 having fun at an event we happened upon run by one or two of the park rangers; lunch at a nice cafe (two of us had lobster); visiting a lighthouse; and looking at the steep climbs that the trails go up, but not attempting any of them.

It was a long and busy day.  I'm not convinced we got it quite right, but we all enjoyed it at least in parts.

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Day 5.186: Pillow talk

Exile #2 and I are out for the evening (and night) thanks to childcare services of my parents.

We went to two performances at Jacob's Pillow. The first was on this spectacular outdoor stage. An excellent evening which I will write about another time when I have chance to collect my thoughts.

Friday, July 13, 2012

Day 5.185: Maine beach fun

Our first full day in Maine was spent at Crescent Beach State Park in Cape Elizabeth, just south of Portland. We had a great time.  Here are a few photos (as promised).

As expected, the water was very cold, but that didn't stop Exile #4 trying to drag me in far enough for her to swim - I actually turned back once my big toe was out of its depth. She soon found some new friends to jump over waves with and Exile #3 joined them for a while too.  Meanwhile E5N1 was happy to run away from the waves in the edge and to help the sea to destroy my engineering projects.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Day 5.184: Maine wildlife

I promised some photos from our trip to Maine. Here is the first installment.

First the birds at the beach - terns and cormorants putting on a spectacular fishing show not far from where people were swimming in the frigid water.

Crabs from the tidal pools at Acadia, a carnivorous plant, a common yellowthroat and a deserted duckling.

Oh yes, and one barnacle doing its thing!:

And this may be one of my favourite photos ever:

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Day 5.183: Rocket, nonsense!

Apparently, I missed a day of science experiments today. Here is one of them:

After work, I did manage to join in with a family trip to the movies. As you can see it was difficult for me to find the others when I arrived:

In fact, several other groups came in so it wasn't quite a private viewing. We saw Madagascar 3 which is complete nonsense, but thoroughly enjoyable.

This is the effect it had on E5N1:

...so we'll call it a success I think.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Day 5.182: Busy, beaver!

Today, after dropping my parents off at the rail station for a city break in Manhattan and a busy and fairly unproductive day at work, I spent just a few minutes in the dying light of the evening at Five Rivers.

Once again, one of these fascinating animals put on quite a show for me.

I may get used to seeing beavers around the place, but it hasn't happened yet. Of course, until very recently - despite many walks around their habitat - the only definitive sighting I'd had was this one so maybe it's reasonable that the novelty hasn't worn off just yet.