Tuesday 31 August 2010

Lady of Mazes

My latest build takes off

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Monday 30 August 2010

The practice must go on

Soccer was almost rained out this evening, although since there wasn’t any lightning Corwin’s team just waited out the heaviest bits and went back out in the lighter rain. Charles’ team waited until it was just drizzle. We had a very bright rainbow afterwards, with a secondary rainbow visible and several supernumary arcs as well.

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Charles - chick magnet

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Sunday 29 August 2010

A lovely dinner

While we were eating dinner, Alice let loose a barrage of flatulence so loud and long that Mom had time to glare at her, Alice to say “I’m sorry”, and still not have completed her emissions. Dad, ever able to take a bad situation and make it worse, started a conversation at the table …

Dad: Alice, I hope you don’t do that at school.

Alice: [laughs nervously]

Dad: [to Mom] OK, I should have asked.

Mom: Better to live happily in ignorance, eh?

Corwin: Alice, does your teacher ask you “what is two plus two” and you answer [Corwin makes sound effects]

Mom: Corwin, that’s enough.

Alice: My teacher doesn’t ask things like what is two plus two!

Dad: Oh, Alice. Now I am seriously concerned.

[The boys are barely able to contain their mirth at this time. Mom has to hand Charles another napkin to cover his mouth to prevent laughter flung food bits all over.]

Dad: [to Mom] You must be so proud of your daughter right now.

Alice: [burps loudly]

Dad: Alice, you’re not even on the same planet as “Princess”. Perhaps you could hop in a space ship and maybe wander in that general direction.

[Mom pretends she has no idea who these people at her table are.]

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Saturday 28 August 2010

Saturday outings and cleanings

Another very busy day. Mom and I took care of some work and house stuff in the morning, and then it was off to the annual Sweet Corn festival because Charles had a concert there at noon. We wandered a bit while waiting for the start and ran in to Josh and Jake. Corwin refused to talk with them until I gave him enough tickets so he and Josh could play Laser Tag. Josh’s dad showed up as well around then and paid for Jake and another friend to go as well. They got lucky and their game was disrupted for some reason which meant they were able to play another complete game for quite a long period of laser tagging. Eventually, though, Corwin joined us at Charles’ concert, which was very nice.

Corwin went home with Josh after we explored the festival a bit more. I had to head out to a rocket launch to do some test flights and try out my almost completed rocket Lady of Mazes. The paint scheme wasn’t quite complete but I decided I need to try it out while the weather was so nice.

While I was gone, Mom decided to start cleaning out the garage. She had made quite a lot of progress by the time I returned, leaving the garage only crowded rather than overstuffed. It was even possible to use the space between the door and the freezers to set up our new overhead circular saw. It turned out that we had a lot of junk that we didn’t really need anymore. Kind of bizarre. But someday I will be able to park again instead of pulling short because of the piles of junk.

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Friday 27 August 2010

Avoiding disaster

Have I mentioned how glad I was that Charles did not turn his scout camp in to a brain washing center for Dogbert? I saw some plans before he left and forgot to tell him specifically to not do that. I worried about it the entire time he was gone. I was reminded of this because Charles finally got a copy of the badge he designed for the scout camp this summer. It kind of looked like what he originally drew, although it looks like his fireworks were interpreted as trees. Otherwise it was mostly close to his original.

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Thursday 26 August 2010

New girl discovered!

We discovered that a family has moved just a few houses down the street. They have a daughter named Alexis who is just 6 months older than Alice. The two of them immediately became best friends and started playing together. It was actually a couple of days until we met the parents. I just wonder how well Alice’s temperament will wear on Alexis, although for in neighborhood friends her choices are rather limited.

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Wednesday 25 August 2010

Phoneme assembly troubles

We have been a little concerned about Alice’s reading ability. She ended up not exceeding expectations at the end of kindergarten. Mom has been working with her over the summer to try to get ready for first grade. I help a bit and was getting worried because Alice has a lot of difficulty sounding out words. She is good with letters and sounds but has difficulty putting them together. She will frequently get stuck even though she has all the sounds in the word in order, e.g. “p” “eh” “t but doesn’t hear it as “pet”. Some of her mistakes are quite bizarre. In the previous case, she might sound out all the letters and then guess “pill”. It just seems kind of an odd sort of mistake to make.

However, Alice has been doing better since school started. Yesterday she even made up a bunch of word cards to play with, just some index cards that she wrote words on, although she needed help with some of them. At least she’s expressing some interest in words and reading. So perhaps there’s hope for her playing her GameBoy on her own yet.

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Tuesday 24 August 2010

Electrical snap!

We bought Charles an Electronic Snap-Kit a few days ago. He had a good time with when we got home, building a number of the projects. It’s a very nice kit, the one thing lacking is a good explanation of how the circuts actually work. I suppose Charles can experiment with them to try different things — there are a number of variants on the same basic setups which serve as nice compare and contrast set ups. Charles is still enjoying it today, so it’s lasted longer than many toys. I will probably consider getting him the next kit up, with more pieces and projects since he seems genuinely interested. He has been asking me a lot of questions which I try to answer by dredging up memories from college which I haven’t really used for a couple of decades or so. it’s a whole family education!

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Monday 23 August 2010

Another time of the season

First day of soccer practice. Corwin has the same coach as last year and mostly the same team, although naturally all of the formerly in 8th grade players have moved on. It’s a big team, at least 25 players (possibly more) which is a bad number, not quite enough for two teams but too big for one. Corwin had to get new shoes which Mom, thinking ahead, had us check for the day before\ practice rather than 20 minutes before.

Charles has a new coach. I thought he might get his coach from last year but as far as I can tell he’s not a coach this year. Instead Ema’s dad is his coach and AnnaO is on his team. For once, though, RachelG isn’t a teammate. Charles’ team has only 3 4th graders so it is a young team which means Charles will have to upgrade his game this season. He’s started well — the bit I watched had the kids running up and shooting goals from out in the field and both times Charles was the only one who got his ball in the goal. If he does that and gets his running game back he should be golden.

Alice isn’t doing soccer these days, she’s too busy with dance and acrobatics. It’s just too hectic to try and get her to soccer practice as well.

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Sunday 22 August 2010


Chook eggs! Mom’s chickens have started dropping eggs. Naturally they are not using the roosting box. Instead they are dropping them in the corners of the cage. Still Mom was quite pleased. One was even a double yolk which Mom declared to be lucky.

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Saturday 21 August 2010

Fashion icon

We went to a local arts fair here, despite much whining from the children. Alice was wearing her “Alice” dress and we have three or four women stop us along the way and compliment Alice on her dress. For once she wasn’t thrilled about being the center of attention and admired. Overall it was nice, if small, but the one thing that bugged me was they had stages with performers but no signs describing who was on stage! Gosh, surely they could afford little name cards so you can see what group was putting on the show.

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Friday 20 August 2010

They're not going to live long and prosper at that rate

Corwin discovered a month or so ago that Mom can’t do the Vulcan hand sign, where you spread your first and second fingers to one side, and your third and fourth fingers to the other side. Corwin pointed this out to Charles and Alice who, it turned out, could all do it1. The kids thought this lack on Mom’s part was utterly hilarious and they brought it up on a regular basis. Corwin acquired the habit of when he was being criticized by Mom for some lack (such as of utensils while eating) he would just Vulcan hand sign back at her. Mom was not generally amused by this but what can she do? Not the hand sign, at least.

1 Clearly inheriting it from me. Probably a big reason Mom chose me as breeding stock for her offspring.

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Thursday 19 August 2010

Mystery Pods

I was looking at some Charles Lego™ work the other day and I asked him what the outboard pods on his spaceship were. He said he had no idea. Apparently it was a complete mystery to him, despite his earlier penchant for having a detailed description of every piece of a design. Apparently it’s all visuals and aesthetics, he’s been infected with the modernist school of art. So sad at such a young age.

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Wednesday 18 August 2010

Fat of the milk

We were short on milk so Mom, while out doing some organic shopping, bought some yuppy milk which just means they saved money by processing it less while charging more. One thing that wasn’t done was “homogenization”, a consequence of which was that there were a number of fat lumps floating in the milk. Basically butter without the salt. The kids hated it. I found it a bit annoying but tolerable, especially if used for chocolate milk (mmmmm, chocalate flavored milk fat …). We eventually got through, partly because the milk fat lumps float so they went early and after about half way there weren’t any left.

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Tuesday 17 August 2010

It's almost that time again!

School tomorrow! Last free day for the kids. Not that they did anything special. Charles’ second grade teacher moved up to fourth grade and as punishment has Charles in his class again. Alice has a new teacher. Mom has been working with Alice on her readin so hopefully she’s not too far behind when she starts.

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Monday 16 August 2010

More of the G. Crew

We had Laurie, Sara, their parents, kids, and brother Dan over for a cookout. It almost ended disastrously when Mom set the grill on fire and melted the control handles but, thanks to Dad’s incredible talent at mechanical adaptation, we were able to keep on cooking (after Mom put out the internal grease fire with baking powder). Much fun was had, although my attempts to get a Kaplan project started was done in by some “help” from Graham. When it got dark I went to check on my glow sticks and discovered that while I had a good supply, they had suffered from significant decay. Rather than leaving on the shelf until they were totally useless I let the kids fire them all up. This was met with much enthusiasm. One fun project was gathering up the sticks and throwing them en masse in to the air to create technicolor hail. It was quite interesting looking.

Glow stick hail

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Sunday 15 August 2010

Vacation wrap up

Time for a vacation wrap up, now that we’ve mostly recovered. Little things I forgot to mention —

  • Alice started a collection of shells the first day on the beach to which she was totally dedicated, to the point of getting upset if any one messed with the shells. By Tuesday it was basically forgotten.
  • Uncle Evil taught Corwin how to make one of his signature dishes, microwaved cheese. I asked about Uncle Evil’s other signature dish, “potatoe things”, but he said Corwin wasn’t quite ready for that yet. The fulminating look from Mom might have influenced him a bit. Mom claims that microwaved cheese is unhealthy but I am not clear on why it’s more unhealthy than non-microwaved. Uncle Evil claims it’s better because a lot of the fat boils out in to a pattern of little fat puddles. It’s food and art!
  • After we visited the battleship Alice complained that Corwin and Charles got toys but she didn’t. Of course she didn’t get any because they didn’t sell any plush items. For Alice, the vacation is about the toys. Uncle Evil tried to help by wrapping a brown napkin around some cotton balls from the Corwin hand repair kit and calling it “Mr. Potsticker”. This didn’t make Alice happy but the boys thought it was awsome.
  • When we had lunch at the Biltmore, Mom ordered Charles the “Plowman’s Plate” which was grapes and a variety of cheeses. Charles liked most of the cheeses and definitely liked the opportunity to sample more fancy cheeses. One result is that he acquired a taste for goat cheese to such an extent that this week, while shopping with Mom at an international food store, he and Corwin insisted that she also buy them some goat cheese. At the same lunch I had a bison burger which was quite tasty. It didn’t taste much different from very good beef. Definitely worth giving a try.
  • At one point I called Alice “white-butted girl”. Alice objected and started to say “Why would you call me that? Why not white —” at which point she noticed Dad’s expectant grin and changed to “never mind!”.
  • As part of the safety briefing for rafting, the guide told us to not wrap a rope around our hand, because it was likely to get pulled on very roughly and strongly, and wet rope can bind up so it won’t come off. She then wrapped the rope around her neck and said “if I have to tell you why this is a bad idea, please stay on the bus and do not get on the raft”.

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Saturday 14 August 2010

Rockets and TV

Corwin’s Funbird on a D12

Corwin and I went out to launch some rockets with the club today. It was a busy day but I needed to get some test flights in for a church project I am working on. The day went reasonably well, with just one close call but otherwise some nice flights. My test flights all went well. Corwin had several flights with his Quark until he lost it in the sun. He had been flying it on just ½A motors to keep it in sight but one blink and it was gone. However, I received an email later from another club member who found it in (as expected) a place where none of us thought it could have landed. I had a nice flight on the Royal Momba on an F45-5. It went almost out of sight and then drifted almost in to the power lines and the road but this time I was waiting for it and snatched it as soon as it landed so it didn’t drift in to traffic. I also got my two stage rocket working after a disappointing failure last time. Two for two on successful launches. Yes!

Dan, Noah, and Dan’s father came out to watch us launch for the first part of the day. I think Noah enjoyed watching the launches.

Another reason we went out was that a local news channel had emailed me about doing a feature on us. Of course, the club is always looking for good publicity so I had to help out with that. That went well. While we were launching another local TV channel called and then came out to get some footage. That makes three TV shows the club has been in this year. That’s more than the entire previous history for us. Odd.

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Friday 13 August 2010

In town crew

Laurie, one of my best friends from high school, was back in town today. She and her family are living in London these day but she still comes back now and then to visit her family who live near us. The entire set was back, including Sara and their brother Dan, who is the boon companion of Uncle Evil (you should have seen the kids eyes get big when, introducing Dan, I casually mentioned “yeah, he goes on adventures with Uncle Evil”). We had a lot of kids, two from Laurie (Grace and Noah) and two from Sara (Ella and Graham) (Dan, fortunately for humanity, has no known progeny). It was nice to talk to Laurie and her siblings again. Alice had a good time together with other girls. Noah liked Charles’ massive collection of Lego™ and Kapla. Charles played with them a bit, while Corwin mostly hid and played on the computer.

Grace and Ella styling in the Barbie car

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Thursday 12 August 2010

Peeling feet

I noticed today that Alice has a lot of skin peeling off the bottom of her feet, particularly on the bottom of her heel. I asked around and Mom claims that it’s “normal”. Corwin had this happen but, being Corwin, he had long since picked off every bit of peeling skin. Charles and I, however, managed to keep our foot skin on. I wonder if it’s because Alice walks on tip toe so much the bottoms of her feet got sunburned. But that doesn’t explain Mom or Corwin. I’ll just put it down to “freaks”. I noted this to Alice who replied “Hey! I am doing some growing here!”.

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Wednesday 11 August 2010

Busy busy!

Struggling through vacation recovery, trying to get the energy to actually do something.

Meanwhile, here’s a picture of the kids having fun with inflation while Mom buys booze.

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Tuesday 10 August 2010

Homeward bound

Not much to write — we piled in the car in the morning and drove home. On the way Mom pointed out and lets us stop at Smokey Mountain Knife Works which claims to be the world’s largest knife store. It’s certainly very large with far more knives than you could look at in a day. I picked up a few things, plus a new camo folding knife for Corwin, and a multi-accessory folding knife for Charles, now that he has his whittling chip. We didn’t stay as long as we could because I decided we needed to leave before I had too much stuff to fit in the van. Charles was very helpful at that point — the moment I stopped to look at anything he would grab me and say “we have to leave! Now!”.

We got home around 7 PM, relaxed a bit, and started recovering from our adventure. I thought that in the old days, vacations were relaxing because as strenuous as they were, they were still less work than one’s job. Now it’s the vacations that are the most strenuous activity we experience. I was totally exhausted and aching when we got home. A week of work and I should be OK again.

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Monday 09 August 2010

The Big House

Today’s adventure was Biltmore House which Mom had been enjoying yesterday day until she was ripped away in an untimely manner by an overly demanding husband and her two whiny boys. Her ticket was good for a second day and kids with adults are free so we needed only a ticket for Dad. Therefore off we went in the morning.

Mom and I left the kids in the van while we popped in to get a ticket for me. Mom had ordered it online the previous evening so we expected to pop in, get it, and head out. There was a line marked specifically for such orders. However, there was a couple there who decided to spend their morning getting tour guide information from the express check out lady who was unwilling to shift them off to the actual information desk or let someone else take over the express lane. Mom eventually became irritated enough to complain to one of the other staffers that it was somewhat silly to have an express lane that wasn’t express. The reply was that one could pick up pre-ordered tickets in any line. The question of why there was a line specifically marked for that was left unanswered. We managed to get the ticket by shifting to another line and 20 minutes later we left, the obstructing couple still chatting away with the staffer.

Then it was off to the Big House for a tour. No photography is allowed inside the house so no pictures from that. The kids were pretty good for the first part of the tour (just like the Battleship adventure) but were getting whiny by the end. The most interesting part to me was the amount of staff needed then to have what are now common amenities.

After the Big House we toured the gardens, and then some gift shops. Unfortunately for Alice these were adult oriented and had a rather pathetic selection of stuffed animals. Next, at Corwin’s request, we visited the working farm. There was a courtyard type thing with a number of pseudo-authentic workshops such as a blacksmith shop which was Corwin’s favorite. Near that was the actual farm. We didn’t go out to watch the crops grow, although Mom popped out to see the herb garden. The kids and perforce me spent our time in the animal husbandry section which had goats, lambs, horses, and lots of chickens. I am not sure any two chickens were the same breed. Mom was thrilled.

The kids liked the animals. They even had a large tank with chicks in it (I presumed male chicks, as they would be expendable but Mom said I was too cynical). Most of the chickens were skittish but a few were laid back or stoned and could be easily picked up. Corwin made friends with one, which sat by him placidly until interacted with by Alice. Some of the bantam chickens were able to scuttle under the stall door and hang out with the very large horse, which prevented humans from bothering them. We were told that one chicken had taken to nesting in the horse’s hay and even laying eggs there, which lead to the horse eating an egg, which resulted in quite a lot of equine unhappiness.

As we exited the area we dropped by one last gift ship which had a few stuffed animals in it, albeit pricey ones. Alice was finally satisfied with a chipmunk while the boyen purchased cork pop guns, something they were able to use to annoy Mom the entire trip home.

To reward the boys for not melting down in complaints we went back to Fun Depot for another evening of child fun. The only downsides were that it was raining, so no outdoor go-karts, and the attendance was down, so Charles and I had to do the electric go-karts as the only car on the track. Charles seemed to have a very good time at it anyway. To pay for that we made Charles do the wall climbing again and this time he got all the way to the buzzer at the top.

Corwin with his chicken friend, Alice saying hi, Charles building in the dirt

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Sunday 08 August 2010

Mountain Time

Today’s big event was some white water rafting for Corwin, Charles, and me. Alice was too young and Mom volunteered to keep her while they looked at some local attractions / gardens of interest to Mom. Mom drove out to the raft guides which was about 40 minutes from the hotel and dropped us off. We arrived early although so we had a bit of a wait but eventually a reasonably sized group of people were gathered for the trip. We were issued our basic equipment — personal flotation device1, helment, and paddle. The PFD was the standard type except for a little pillow on the neck which would keep your head up out of the water even if you passed out (from, say, slamming your head in to a big rock as your raft tipped over). The guide told us though that “80 percent” of all injuries were paddle related — basically people hitting each other with the paddles, particularly a handle to the jaw. Charles managed to do that to me, fortunately not hard enough to actually damage me (unlike the coffee cup incident).

The group took four rafts and 3 “duckies” which are two foam outboards with a foam seat in between. The three of us, another married couple, and our Brazilian guide “Pedro” were in one raft. I need to point out that you don’t sit in the raft, but on the side so you can paddle. Charles asked me if anyone would be falling out and I said it was likely that at least one person in the group would be dumped in the river.

The trip was interesting but mostly uneventful. There was only a moderate amount of paddling although, as the lead raft, we had to do extra paddling after a rapids to get in to a lee so our guide could provide support should any of the following rafts lose people. Several of the duckies got dumped during the day but only one rafter fell out, a young (10?) girl who followed the guide’s pre-launch briefing and swam back to her raft, grabbing a paddle to haul herself the last bit. On the other hand, one of the rafts was filled with some young girls (roughly Corwin aged) who were a bunch of screamers. They screamed at most anything, including any bumps during the rapids. Our guide commented, when asked by the wife “what’s wrong?”, “I think they just like to scream”.

We stopped for a nice lunch, and also for a jumping spot, a bit of cliff about 10 feet above the water where you could jump off in to the river. Corwin was the second to go, claiming afterwards that he wanted to see someone else survive before he did it. Charles was third and while he hestitated a bit, he did make the leap. After that he and Corwin went three more times and I had to grab him to stop him from a fifth because the lead guide had already declared “last call” so we could move on down the river. There was a girl who went up to jump but couldn’t make herself go off the cliff (it’s a lot higher looking when you’re actually at the edge looking down) but eventually after other people had gone once or twice she managed (with a bit of a Pedro-push) to fling herself in to the river. She immediately queued up for another jump. I predict sky diving in a couple of years.

At lunch, it being North Carolina, the call was “ladies first” yet when I went over to get in line after the womenfolk had gotten their food, there was Corwin finishing off his lunch and looking for seconds. I noted this to him but after he lead the way on the jump I let it slide.

Another sort of stop was a Class I rapid called “swimmers’ rapids” because it was mild enough to swim through. The guide called for volunteers and Corwin, once again, took the lead. So Charles decided he would go too, then the husband, which got the wife to go, and I wasn’t going to be the only lump in the raft with the guide so all of us bailed and floated down the river through the rapids. The water was mostly too deep for me to touch bottom but there were some large rocks there, large enough that I would hit them even while floating on my back with my feet above water. I could tell when this happened to any of the screamy girls because they would, naturally, scream. At one point they started swimming desperately for the raft even though fewer than 20 people die from rock bites every year.

Corwin drifts while Pedro indicates we should get closer to the raft

Both boys had a lot of fun. Even Charles admitted that he had at least one minute of fun during the day and expressed his enthusiasm for the Class III rapids, although the Class I and II rapids were nice as well. Corwin even managed to keep his burned hand bandaged until we were back at the base.

After we were done we called Mom to come pick us up, which interrupted her day. We had about an hour wait before she was able to retrieve us and didn’t get back to the hotel until after 5. After resting a bit Mom decided she hadn’t been out and about enough during the day and took us all off to the Asheville Arboretum so we could walk among the trees. Charles went barefoot because he preferred that to wearing his river soaked shoes. The kids whined a bit but not too badly.

Alice was mollified somewhat because Mom had finally broken down and taken her to McDonalds. Unfortunately the Happy Meal had the wrong toy and Alice broke down. This helped Mom convince the staff to exchange the default toy for one of the type Alice wanted so by the time I saw Alice again she was happy. I don’t know if Alice actually ate any of the food.

1 No longer a “life preserver” apparently because too many people thought it would automatically preserve life, rather than simply make you float.

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Saturday 07 August 2010

Leaving the beach

Up early, packing and cleaning. We managed to get on the road a few minutes before 9 AM, our planned departure time, which was quite good for us. Uncle Evil and Aunt Nong were on the road by 7:30. I am not quite sure what we did for the next 90 minutes but Mom and I were busy the entire time. We had to dump all the food, even the condiments, as per the rental agreement. The kids were able to have fudgesicles and ice pops to reduce the amount of food waste.

I must have been running on adrenaline the entire week because I woke up very tired and sore, kind of creaking out of bed to start loading up the van. I managed to bruise a rib at one point, probably via the sand skimmer. Charles, naturally, has found it a couple of times with his hugging and the point of his elbow, just so I could be sure where exactly the problem was.

I made the boys do some cleaning on the van, picking up the debris from the week, along with a lot of water bottles. At one point Corwin picked up a couple and held them in a way that let one partially full one drip on my camera bag and the seat while he rooted around for something. I said sharply “Corwin! Stop it!” to which he responded by looking at me while tilting the leaking bottle to a faster flow. Situational awareness is just not one of his strengths.

We spent the day driving over to Asheville. It was a nice drive, if a bit long. We stopped at the “Crazyfire Grill”: again, because I liked it and I think Mom wanted to annoy the kids. This time Mom used the double-bowl technique. I personally preferred the aesthetics of piling up a single bowl, to improve balance and planning.

After arriving in Asheville around 5:40 we stopped by a local art fair just a few minutes before it closed. That was enough time for Alice to get a new tie die dress. She didn’t want it initially, but when Mom said “you can wear it tomorrow” Alice changed to “oh, yes, I want it! I want this dress!”. Dress obtained, we headed over to our hotel.

In the late evening we went to a kid’s entertainment place called Fun Depot which is a big warehouse filled with kid stuff. Corwin and I did outdoor go-carts. It started out with a massive pileup when the leader didn’t make a turn and the next person hit him, blocking the track. Things spread out a bit after that, although Corwin used the opportunity to get ahead of me, along with another college aged girl who looked exactly like Zina ten years older. But I hung on and just on the last lap managed to squeeze in when she messed up a turn, beating both her and Corwin. Yes! We also did the indoor electric go-carts because those had double cars and everyone could be out on the track. I thought Mom was a road hog until I got behind Corwin who, I think purely fortuitously, weaves back and forth making it very hard to pass (I bumped in to him fairly hard a couple of times as I tried to get past just as he turned). Fortunately, once I was past him he kept Mom bottled up so I didn’t have to face her mad driving skillz.

We also did some laser tag and video games. Charles tried the rock climbing wall but didn’t quite make it to the top. Mom said he was about 2 feet short. A family game of air hockey and some batting cages and we were done for the night.

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Friday 06 August 2010

Beach, Day Seven

Today was our last day on the beach as we have to be out of the rooms and on the road by 10 AM. The weather was definitely better than yesterday until the afternoon when a storm rolled in.

Mom and I took a morning walk on the beach before the kids woke up. When we got back Mom yelled at the kids for turning on the TV, which turned out to be Charles making beeping noises. My Uncle Frank used to be able to perfectly fake the sound of a cat vomiting, but things change and now my child can imitate the sound of a forbidden electronic device turning on.

We had beach time in the morning, with even Alice forced along. Charles spent a lot of time building and some time in the waves.

A thunderstorm came in the early afternoon and everybody left the beach. After we got all of our water sensitive items off the beach and in to the room, Uncle Evil, Corwin, and I played a game of MTG. It was still raining with heavy wind and I thought “gosh, it would be cool to play on the beach in that!”. Uncle Evil also thought it was a great idea but no one else did, not even Corwin. So the two of us went down and had a grand time. The tide was coming in, with big waves and wind from the sea, so we spent some time setting up channels with shovels to bring water to some of the larger pits dug in the sand above the normal high tide line. That worked well. Uncle Evil also tried collecting some of the “evil sand” but that ended up abandoned after a while after Uncle Evil decided to focus on keeping one big pit filled with water. Most of the time we could look up and down the beach and not see another person so we could do whatever we wanted, even though we stayed out of the water due to the (distant) lightning. The storm eventually passed out to sea but Uncle Evil and I were quite tired by then so we headed in for some rest.

The evening was grey but we went out for some group pictures and some last time on the beach. Uncle Evil found an abandoned float, a big donut about 4 feet across and a couple of feet in minor diameter in fluorescent green. He did well wave riding with it despite the wind and choppiness. I just watched the waves while Charles built and Alice sat sullenly. Cowin escaped by claiming he needed to dress his burn. A lot of people had left for the week when the storm hit so the beach was mostly unpopulated and there was a quite a bit of abandoned and broken beach gear (overhead shelters, a dump truck, floats, skimmers, etc.).

We retired for a late dinner (cooked by Aunt Nong) and an early bedtime to be ready to pack up in the morning.

Despite my resolution of the previous day, I almost convinced Alice that Charles had stolen one of her letters because he had seven in his name and she had only five, while Corwin had six. So clearly everyone should have had six. Alice wanted to know which of the letters in “Charles” he had taken from her. I suggested ’s’ and that she should have been “Salice”.

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Thursday 05 August 2010

Beach, Day Six

It dawned grey and windy this morning. Mom and I popped out for some fancy coffee and decided that it would be a good day to head out to see the Battleship North Carolina in which Charles had expressed interest. Of course, both the boys had been there before but no longer had any memory of it. Uncle Evil and Aunt Nong passed on the opportunity. We piled in to the van and headed off for an hour drive arriving a little after 10 AM.

The boys found it mostly interesting, Alice not so much. Mom kept us going over the entire accessible ship. Corwin had the best moment of the day when he remembered the name of a piece of battleship equipment — a paravane. My primary impression was that it was quite hot and stuffy inside the ship, and this was with fans blowing, some air conditioning, and in a subtropical climate. I can’t imagine what it must have been like cruising in the summer near the equator while having to perform hard physical labor. Mom and I just had a crew of increasingly whiny kids.

We departed the ship around 2:30 and headed for lunch at the Reel Cafe after walking around the downtown for a while. Corwin really wanted to go to a fondue place but I wasn’t eager to have the three of them interacting with boiling oil. We didn’t get back to the beach until after 5, but it stays light and warm so late that we went out for some beach action anyway. The waves were very choppy with an incredible cross current. Uncle Evil decided to play “knock down” and I was perforce required to participate. In the middle of this Corwin comes up and asks us “what are you doing?”. We both just laughed because it’s not a very complex game, the entirety of it consisting of trying to knock down the other guy with the help of waves and current.

I must stop telling Alice odd things, she’s far too trusting. Today we told here that the bits of black sand on the beach was evil that had leaked out of Uncle Evil because he had too much in him. Alice seemed to take that at face value and mentioned it a couple of times later as an observation proving she knew what was going on. We told her that Uncle Evil had to be mean to her brothers so that less leaked out and she was quite accepting of that.

Everyone was a bit tired so we retired early and played a lot of MTG in the evening.

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Wednesday 04 August 2010

Beach, Day Five

It was a nice morning except for Alice having an overnight containment failure, despite being told specifically before bedtime to go potty. “I just forgot” she explained.

After cleanup and breakfast some of us hit the pool but most of us went to the beach. The waves were good but getting a little choppy by lunchtime. Mom came out in the waves for a while and I had fun saying “wave, attack!” just as a big one came in to smash Mom. Mom wasn’t overly amused but the boys thought it was great. They tried it themselves but (1) I am much more resistant to waves than Mom or them and (2) their timing and wave judgement were sub-optimal. Bwahaha!

Mom decided we should visit a local museum which featured Operation Bumblebee memorabilia. We stopped at a gift store on the way and bought a lot of fancy fudge, the only reason the boys agreed to come along. However, we didn’t let anyone have of it before we got back so it was a long suffering trip for Corwin. Mom also tried to visit a local turtle rescue house but it was closed for tours for the day.

The afternoon was very choppy waves with a strong side current. It was some work to stand out there and hold position, although I got some nice boogie board rides (as did Corwin and Uncle Evil). Alice and Aunt Nong spent most of their time at the pool, with the boys there most of the time as well. Charles did come out for a while to build a fleet of sand warships, consisting of two cruisers, some destroyers, plus a couple of other ones that he wouldn’t identify for security reasons. Uncle Evil and Corwin played “sand tower bombardment” for a while. They would make two small sand towers with a bucket, then use the shovels to fling sand at the towers to knock them over.

Alice is still complaining that we haven’t gone to McDonalds yet. She’s starting to get worried because the toy she wants is no longer in the advertisements on TV. Her primary complaint is that Mom claimed we would eat so much McDonalds that Alice would be sick of it and we haven’t been to a McDonalds even once! It’s not looking good for the rest of the week either.

We went to a late dinner at the Sea View restaurant which is just down the road. The proprietor came by and gave Charles a little show involving a paper bag and an invisible magic gnome1 he would toss up and catch. Charles even tossed it a couple of times. Charles realized it was a trick but didn’t figure out how it worked. Apparently this floor show was in much demand as the next table over had a little girl (roughly Alice age) who kept demanding when the proprietor would return to entertain her again. They had a map with pins of where customers came from and we were able to add two new pins, one for us and another for Uncle Evil and Aunt Nong.

During the trip there and back, Uncle Evil and the kids had been having an argument about conquering, each claiming sucessively more outlandish capabilities to defeat the previously imagined capabilities. Charles was eventually forced to retreat to Mars, which he pronounced “Mares” and it took Uncle Evil a few times before he figured out what Charles was talking about but eventually it was conquered as well. On the way out of the restaurant we spotted what we think was Mars and I lamented to Charles “that used to be yours”.

Another element of the argument was Charles’ wugging which Uncle Evil found … disturbing. He was eventually forced to develop “anti-wugging technology”. Corwin, in the spirit of brotherly love (I optimistically presume) brought out some “anti-anti-wugging technology” and the three of them were soon lost in the depths of recursion. I am not sure who got the best of it in the end.

1 The boys have taken to claiming any unfortunate incident as the fault of invisible magic gnomes rather than “Nobody”.

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Tuesday 03 August 2010

Beach assault

Dad assaults the beach despite heavy defensive fire.

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Beach, Day Five

In the morning, Uncle Evil and I were sent out to buy shrimp. We had seen a seafood place on the way to the restaurant for lunch the day before and Mom had decided we should try grilling shrimp. We stopped by but were told we had to show up early in the morning. However, when Uncle Evil and I arrived around 9 AM, we were too early. So we headed out to find other seafood sellers. The first one was “sold out, back tomorrow” but the next one had actual shrimp, if of a smaller size that we had wanted. But we bought four pounds anyway. We also went shopping for medical supplies to treat Corwin’s hand, Uncle Evil for unimaginable reasons being familiar with such treatments.

Then it was time for more beaching. I had purchased a sand skimmer at the store yesterday and tried it out. Unfortunately I had neglected to bring along the sticky wax that went with it so the experimentation did not go particularly well. I had one or two short glides but nothing really good.

We made Alice go to the beach with us despite her complaints of sand. She stayed up in the dry sand mostly, refusing to do more than dart in to the waves up to her ankles. Corwin, in contrast, spent literally hours letting himself get pummeled by waves. He and Charles also did quite a lot of boogie board. Even Mom tried it out, achieving two personal bests on both the boogie board and body surfing. I think she’s ready for learning some advanced techniques. Charles is still struggling with the basics. I suspect that he isn’t strong or possibly tall enough to kick off well as the wave comes in so he usually doesn’t catch it properly. Corwin did well and it’s starting to come back to me, I had a number of very nice rides in to shore. On one of them, however, I managed to hit my toe on something and get it bleeding so that I had wounds on both feet. Mom was thrilled.

Uncle Evil started a game of tag using a small soccer ball. There was a lot of chasing around the beach. I got tagged once because Charles nailed Uncle Evil so well I was laughing too hard to escape his tag. Corwin executed an really excellent sneak at one point as well. I got Corwin with a bounce off the head so the ball went flying off in to the surf before he could retrieve, allowing an easy escape for me. By the afternoon, however, all three of the kids had retreated to the pool.

Uncle Evil also dug a hole at the beach camp site with one of Charles’ nice shovels that got all the way down to the water line in the dry sand. At one point after I got tired from the surf I headed back to camp to find a very cute girl in a very nice black bikini with gold trim down the middle of the top hanging out there. I thought I had the wrong place but it turned out she and her companion had lost their football down the Evil Hole. We managed to get it out with the shovel. At a later point, I dropped off my video camera because I was done filming. When I came back, the camera was missing. Everyone thought I was confused but it turned out to have somehow made it to the bottom of the hole. Uncle Evil tried to use the shovel to get it out but it would dig in to the side and not come up. I was able to reach down and grab it while Uncle Evil said “you’ll never reach it”. Bwahahaha.

Charles had been complaining (once or twice a day) that despite being next door to Camp Lejuene we had not seen any military transport ships. But today we saw two Osprey aircraft cruising up and down the beach. Charles was not as thrilled as I had hope but at least he stopped complaining about no military craft. We saw a couple of helicopters later in the day too.

In the evening Uncle Evil, Corwin, and I were sent down to grill the shrimp. There are a set of grills for the condiminium complex. One of them was available will already lit coals so we had an easy time getting things started. Mom came down to join us after all that hard work. She and Uncle Evil decapitated all the shrimp and then skewered most of them (saving a few back for boiling). They turned out excellent and Aunt Nong made some Thai food for us for a good dinner without having to go out.

After dinner we all went out for a walk on the beach at night. We got a couple of compliments on our flashlights because we had white, green, red, and blue. We saw the Milky Way. Mom claimed to see two satellites and two shooting stars but Uncle Evil and I think she saw two airplanes. We saw some crabs. One was captured by some young girls who claimed they would release them crab later. For another one, Corwin spotted a rather large one that we tracked until another family, to whom we pointed out the crab so they could see it, grabbed it for bait. We decided to not make an issue of them poaching our crab however. At one point Alice spotted a tiny little crab and started running around in circles shreiking. Uncle Evil thought she was just being funny but she was actually terrified of the crab which was “coming to get me!”. I suggested that in the future, she try running away by actually running away rather than in circles. Alice did not take it well.

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Monday 02 August 2010

Beach, Day Four

Uncle Evil and Aunt Nong arrived early this morning (I am not sure what time, probably about 1 or 2 AM — I had fallen asleep waiting). Alice had been able to sleep in her own room the night before but we moved her over to the fold out. There had been some fighting about that earlier in which Alice insisted on a room, which she would end up having to herself. We though that perhaps Alice was old enough to bear some of the burden of vacationing, as the boys would have to share a bed. Corwin orginally objected to the fold out, until he realized there was a TV with a remote in front of it. But that still wasn’t quite enough for him to actively campaign for it.

We had a slow morning, eventually getting out on the beach. One problem was the coffee maker had failed which, as you can imagine, was a major impediment to getting started. Mom called up the rental agency which promised a new coffee maker and a parking tag for Uncle Evil’s car by afternoon. Meanwhile we had fun on the beach. At one point Uncle Evil got buried in the sand so well he couldn’t escape. I had to drag 5 gallon buckets of water up the beach to loosen the sand for him to get out. Why we didn’t just use a shovel is unclear. It’s not like anyone except Uncle Evil would be hurt.

For lunch we tried to go to a restaurant we had visited last time we were here (back in 2002, sadly just the summer before I started this kidlog). Unfortunately it is only open for evenings so we went next door to Captain Jim’s for lunch.

We did some shopping after that, buying a bunch of beach stuff that we’ll have to leave here at a store where the entrance is a giant shark. We got some more boogie boards — Alice didn’t want one until Charles got one than she had to as well. Mom was weak and gave in. Uncle Evil bought a lighter that has a special way to light it because the normal way causes an electrical shock. We popped over to a grocery store across the highway after that, during which Uncle Evil discovered that the shock function didn’t work. So he walked back over to the store to get a new one. There’s no getting away with anything with Uncle Evil. On the way back, he discovered a store selling full sized garden shovels for the same price we were paying for the plastic beach shovels. We debated whether getting one would be a good idea but eventually decided it might get us in trouble actually using it on the beach.

While driving back we got a call from the rental agency that we could drop by to pick up the car tag. That was at about 4, and the office closed at 5. Fortunately, I suggested Mom check the room before heading over and there it was, along with a new coffee maker. For some reason it had been left on so the carafe was very hot and Corwin, being Corwin, immediately gave himself a nasty burn on the back of his hand and finger with it. This kept him unhappy on the couch (until we left and he could watch TV uninterrupted) while we swam. Corwin put ice on the burn for several hours which I think helped, although it still turned out rather nasty.

It was mid to late afternoon by then so we put in some more time on the beach. While we were there Uncle Evil made a little heart of bubbles for Aunt Nong but she didn’t come over soon enough to see it.

Of course once we bought a boogie board for Alice she refused to use it. She became very upset about getting sand in her swimsuit, at various times taking off her top because it had too much sand in it. She wouldn’t go out when the tide was low because of the “hurty place” where there were more pebbles and shells. Alice’s view was we should all go to the pool instead of wasting time in the ocean. Aunt Nong was willing to go to the pool so she got stuck with Alice there.

We saw a dolphin pod go by in the ocean, then we stayed up late watching Howl’s Moving Castle because Alice wanted to see it again.

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Sunday 01 August 2010

Day at the beach

Today was our first full day at the beach. We headed out reasonably early to the beach to get our time in. It was a rather cloudy day, with bits of drizzle now and then.

Alice wanted to go to the swimming pool but Mom pushed on to the beach. Corwin spent most of his time just hanging out in the waves, which he likes. Alice started out timid but determined to follow her brothers she ventured out rather far in to the water. Fortunately the beach slope is very shallow so she didn’t get out in to water over head (on average — some of the waves would require her to jump up for a bit). Usualloy she had our one boogie board or, far more wonderous, she wore her Dora life jacket. She’s never worn that in the water before but she had insisted on packing it and we finally put it to use.

Both Charles and Alice tried out the boogie board for surfing in on waves and both had at least a couple of good rides. I spent some time with Alice and especially Charles trying to teach them the secrets of boogie board and body surfing but I don’t know if any of it had an effect.

We were on and off the beach, leaving in the afternoon because of a heavy rain (we heard thunder but didnt’ see lightning). We tried a bit of late afternoon swimming but it was getting cool so we spent some time resting up, watching TV, and playing MTG. Alice was able to get Mom to take her to the pool for a little while so she had that going for her.

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