Tuesday 31 May 2011

D-Day + 1

We had a bit of a slow morning, trying to recover from jet lag despite our lengthy constitutionals of the previous day. Charles and Alice were difficult to put down for the night and since we are all sharing one room this made things a bit difficult for everyone.

But it was now Tuesday and the museums were open. First, though, we had a large breakfast at the lodgings as it was included in the price. Mom and I thought it quite a nice repast but the kids were not quite so enthused, Alice in particular complained that things didn’t taste right (by which she meant “different”). Still we managed to get them to eat some food and thus fortified we ventured forth in to Dublin.

Along one of the streets as we walked was a large ditch or a small canal. We only saw one rowboat along the shore, but it did have locks. It wasn’t clear to me if they still worked. They would require at least three people, two to work the lock and one to move the boat.

It’s physically a rather small city, at least the center, so we were able to walk from our lodgings instead of using public transport (as our day passes had expired). We visited the National Museum of Ireland, Archeology Section. It was interesting. Mom particularly liked the bog people — the museum had several actual bodies on display (e.g. Gallagh Man). The kids seemed to enjoy some of the visit, although stopping in the museum cafe for a snack was probably their favorite thing.

Next was Dublin Castle which was nice. We stopped at the Dublin Garden (which was originally a tidal basin leading to the founding of the castle but now is a green space) for snack / lunch. A group or two of the local middle school had the same idea so there was a bunch of running and yelling kids to make ours not so obvious.

Of course, we had to do the Viking thing, which is a big deal in the British Isles. We went to Dublinia which the kids did like. They tried on some early medieval armor but it was too dark (and the kids too quick, even with armor) to get a picture. We climbed the tower for the view and because it was there. We didn’t take one of the “amphibious Viking tour vehicles”:[splash] due to time constraints.

I had hoped to get over to Phoenix Park and see the Wellington Monument but it was late and the kids were tired so we finished up with a walk through the town and along the river and then collapsed in to bed. I did notice that Dublin seemed a place where old American acts when to enjoy their golden years. We saw the Millenium Spire and boat anchors along the walkway for mooring. We also saw these small lights on the walk way which had small plastic sea creature toys embedded in them. Alice insisted I take a picture of them. We all liked the “fish head bridge”:[fishbridge] which is newest bridge in Dublin over the main river. I don’t know what it is supposed to be but it looks like an open mouth of a fish to me.

What Charles likes about visiting a museum

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Monday 30 May 2011


On the steps of our lodging in Dublin

We arrived in Dublin and got a quick start on trashing Ireland. Corwin managed to lose his water bottle during the flight. We had stories from the stewardess of it rolling back and forth under the seats in the middle of the plane (an Airbus 330-300) while Alice managed to vomit in the terminal just after we left (I missed that as I was waiting on the plane to check on the water bottle).

It took a long time to unload everyone from the plane and then customs was slow because they went from nobody in line to 300 people showing up at the same time.

Local time was early morning. After making it through customs we took various forms of transport to find our lodgings. We took a bus to a train station where we caught a local train to a stop near our lodgings. It took us a while to figure out how to get out of the station because we needed to use our tickets in turnstiles to exit — we had presumed that the turnstiles indicated an entrance. But in the end, carrying our masses of luggage, we walked a few blocks to Ariel House and they let us stay despite our disheveled state. We had to just leave our luggage there because it was only about 10:30 AM local time and we couldn’t check in until 2 PM. Mom decided the proper tonic for jetlag was a brisk walk around Dublin. We tried a museum first but it was closed on Mondays. So we went to a park and took a Trinity College tour. We saw the Book of Kells on that tour, along with a really large library, The kids found a play ground at the park which Alice and Charles greatly enjoyed. Corwin was too old.

We discovered that our debit cards let us get local currency from the ATMs. This let us have a late lunch even where they didn’t take credit cards. We dropped by a cheesemonger’s shop but the normal cheese selection in the food stores is as adventurous as we needed — the cheesemonger was much more exotic. Late afternoon we took the train back (because we had all day passes) and checked in. Then we rested and took some naps. For dinner we just got some bread and cheese, no one was very hungry. Mom and I went out for some more walking in the evening because you just can’t get enough of that.

Alice is going to be a challenge as we can’t convince her that traffic is dangerous. She is prone to becoming exuberant and dancing in to the street, or just crossing without regard to lights or cars. Even just walking can be a problem as one time she walked right in to a light post and bounced off toward the street until I grabbed her and pulled her back.

We also saw these painted outlines on almost all of the utility covers along the sidewalk and roads. Mom thinks they were for alignment but why use a tool, and why care about alignment? Maybe it’s an indicator of what tool to use. I think a team of archeologists and anthropologists, top men in the field, need to be assembled to investigate this!

Charles transport scoring — automobile, plane, double decker bus (first!), train.

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Sunday 29 May 2011

Achieving escape velocity

I spent all day yesterday preparing for our trip to the United Kingdom. Mom split her time between visiting with her old high school friend Sarah (who came in to town suddenly).

Mom has put her work in over the last couple months getting all of our travel and housing arrangements in place. The kids have mainly ignored the whole process — even today I had to press on them to get things together for the trip “we’re leaving tomorrow!” just didn’t seem to make these urgent for them.

What probably took the most time for me was just backing up all of my computers so I could leave the backups elsewhere.

Otherwise I think we’re in reasonable shape for a departure later this morning. We’ll be leaving her around noon and arriving in Dublin around 8AM local time, so we’ll just have sleep on the plane to get ready for a full day on arrival.

Update — We had an uneventful drive up to O’Hare where we arrived (as per recommendation) about 3½ hours before our flight left, giving us the opportunity to enjoy that unparalleled airport ambience. Corwin was very eager to go through security to the other side for no apparent reason — it’s not like it was any nicer there than in the main lobby.

The plane to Dublin took off and everyone evenntually passed out. I brought my laptop and the plane had eletrical outlets so Charles was able to play Minecraft for several hours before he got too tired and slept.

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Saturday 28 May 2011

Cuddle Buddies

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Friday 27 May 2011

Not for military school yet

Corwin graduated from 8th grade. There was a “promotion” ceremony at the middle school. This apparently is some legal trick because you can’t keep kids out of a graduation ceremony but a promotion ceremony is apparently completely different. Mom forced Corwin to wear his orchestra concert outfit (white dress shirt and black pants) rather than scruffy shorts and stained shirt (they’re not stained when he puts them on in the morning, but it doesn’t take long…). However, Corwin walked out with his shirt untucked so he wasn’t forced to be embarrassed by looking nice. As soon as it was over Corwin wanted to go home, so we left rather than make him endure talking to his friends.

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Thursday 26 May 2011

Hair styling

Mom: Alice how do you want your hair today?

Alice: I want a part of a pony tail so people can see my curly hair1.

Dad: I think you should make a front ponytail, right here (closes hand in front of Alice’s face).

Mom: Then everyone would see her hair.

Dad: What do you think, Alice? Great idea?

Alice: Bad idea. [consolingly] It’s not the worst idea you ever had.


1 From wearing braids yesterday and over night.

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Wednesday 25 May 2011

Fruits of the garden

The strawberries are coming in strongly. Alice has been enjoying them quite a lot. Now and then she shares part of the bounty.

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Charles and I were playing some Minecraft and discussing using certain quirks to achieve results. I was reluctant (because they were going to get fixed at some point) and Charles says “Use the bugs, Dad, use the bugs!”.

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We have the rule for historical reasons that I have to mess with Alice if she comes in my office. But I’ve been very busy lately so Alice let me deem her as having been messed with without the actual effort of doing so. A great time saver.

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Tuesday 24 May 2011

Pod boy

Corwin’s second biggest gift (the biggest being the paintball outing) was a new model iPod. Mom has been pressuring him to get a smart phone so we can keep in in constant contact and foist a calendar on him to keep him on schedule. Corwin resisted and successfully held out for an iPod which does not have constant connectivity (only WiFi while at home or a hotspot).

For the first day we thought he had wanted it only so he could play Angry Birds but he’s actually started using it for email and Facebook. He’s loaded a few other games on it. I set him up with an iTunes account1. Of course, he immediately bought some Weird Al music I have on CDs. Ah well.

1 You don’t have to provide a credit card, you can use a iTunes gift certificate. Oddly, it doesn’t get used when you create the account (even though you have to validate it). I had to enter it again to put the money in Corwin’s account. So it looks like you could buy one gift and create any number of accounts using it.

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Monday 23 May 2011


I walked over from the car to pick up Charles from soccer practice so he wouldn’t feel abandonded again. As I retrieve him, he said “hello”. One of the other kids heard this and looked up, a stunned look on his face. “Charles spoke!” he exclaimed. He told a couple of other nearby kids this exciting news and he and one of them spent the walk back saying “hi” and “hello” and “say something!” to Charles, but not another word would Charles provide.

The next time I dropped Charles off at practice, one of the kids announced to the entire group “Charles spoke at previous practice!”. The rumours continued to swirl for the next week or so, but I don’t think Charles actually spoke again in their presence.

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Sunday 22 May 2011

Birthday Paintball

For Corwin’s birthday Mom and I arranged for a paintball outing with his friends, neighbors, and their parents. We had 25 people show up which made for a fun outing. The teams were split between the 14 year olds and everyone else (the oldsters and the youngersters). The youngest person in the outing was Charles, who is now old enough to go out. We also had Ema’s younger brother, along with Jake and Levi’s younger brother.

I provided markers for Corwin, Charles, and myself but everyone else used field equipment because I would never ever have had time to prepare for that many people.

I think most people had a good time. We played limited paint, one hopper filled every two games. Most of the games were attack / defend, with a couple of elimination rounds. Corwin’s team did not do very well, with a severe lack of coordination, cooperation, and risk taking. They tended to just hunker down and try to survive, which in the bigger picture is not successful at that or winning. I was transferred over to help out, and then another father, but it wasn’t until the last game that the 14s held out for any reasonable length of time. I was taken out once hiding behind a barrier by someone who swung wide and came in behind me and I couldn’t get anyone on Corwin’s team to counter-flank The nest of them back there was eventually rooted out and exterminated but I guess they thought that was the fun part. Ah well, each his own. I should have rebalanced more vigorously.

We had a few problems with overshooting by the younger kids but tolerable. I took one nasty hit in the neck after declaring myself out. Still, not real injuries so it seems like a success. Corwin admitted it was better than having a clown and cake party.

Corwin in a bunker with two friends. Picture by Pez.

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Saturday 21 May 2011

Corwin Soccer

Corwin had his last game today. It was the second game with the opponents, this time on Corwin’s home field. The previous game had been a great game but this one wasn’t. The other team collapsed and Corwin’s team totally dominated. I thought it was going to be a tough game when very early on the opponents mounted a very strong attack just barely missing a score. But that seemed to exhaust them and it was downhill from there.

Corwin had to leave at half time for a violin recital and it was 5-1 by then. Corwin had some good defense. For some reason Corwin’s team was for once doing a generallly good job with long kicks, Corwin especially with some very nice boots dropping right in front of a teammate.

The opposing keeper had a hard job but at least once he just zoned out and let a score in. I could see he was very upset with himself afterwards. He did have quite a number of good stops but was just overwhelmed by a large number of shots on goal, including one which hit the cross post and then rolled in. I hadn’t seen anything like that since the days of games with herds of kicking players.

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Friday 20 May 2011

Live on stage

Thursday and Friday were Alice’s big nights on stage. She was in two acts, once for beginning ballet and another for acrobatics. They were relatively close together which was good for us because it meant she qualified for “quick change” and was handled by someone else instead of us to change costumes.

I went with Alice for the first night, Thursday, because that was Mom’s “volunteer” night. After watching Alice’s acts, I went to collect her but she wanted to stay in the balcony with the other kids and watch, rather than hang with Dad, so I was dismissed. Friday night Alice went with Grandma and Mom for the full performance again.

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Thursday 19 May 2011

Flowing without moving

We have been having some interesting weather this last month or so. We have had several tornado warnings, severe thunderstorm warnings, flash flood warnings, and high wind warning. The other day coming how I saw a failed funnel cloud - I could see the twisted funnel but it hadn’t fully formed and had lost contact with the ground, lying almost horizontal and dissipating. We watched the clouds for a bit and I noticed that although they seemed to be flying overhead, the storm line didn’t seem to move. I took a little video where you can see the clouds moving rapidly but new cloud forming almost as fast, yielding an almost stead state.

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Wednesday 18 May 2011

I took the fun from them

I have figured out how to get the kids to stop playing so much Minecraft — I give them chores. I have been forcing Charles to build various things for me on my Minecraft house. It took just a few days of that before I got a “that’s too much work!” out of him when I asked him to play some Minecraft. Hahahaha! Age and treacher, my boy, age and treachery.

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Tuesday 17 May 2011

Dance Dance Dance

This week is Alice’s Big Week of Dance. She’s had a couple of rehearsals which Mom covered mostly because Mom gets to a door guard. I had to pick her up one day and was sent up to the balcony to find her, which took a while because it was dark. I had to wait until a number with better stage lighting was sent out. Alice was actually watching avidly. I think it’s interesting that she’s becoming interested in dance as dance, and not just something she does herself.

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Earlier all the time

Corwin has gotten his first college recruiting letter.

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Monday 16 May 2011

Charles Soccer

Charles’ coach arranged for an extra game for Charles agains the one team they hadn’t played (who also have practice on Monday and Wednesday). It was a loss of 1-2 but it wasn’t a very good game. Charles’ team was just off and frankly should have been crushed by a much larger score. How the other team didn’t run it up to 4 or 5 goals I don’t know — Charles’ team was saved only by massive luck.

The other team was winning the vast majority of the one on ones and there was no hustle. Almost any time the ball was kicked out of the scrum the other team would get control. On the first opposing score the attacker came in solo and still managed to take three shots at the goal to score. The 4 or 5 defenders were simply unable to stop him or even just clear the ball. The girl who’s usually the best attacker kept tripping over herself. Charles was OK but more sluggish as well with a couple of big wiffs trying to kick.

The kids didn’t seem too bothered by it, especially after an end of game and season cake. Ah, the days when a good snack made everything better.

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Sunday 15 May 2011

Enough is enough

For those of you who have said to themselves “gosh, I just can’t get enough Alice” — watch this. You’ll say afterwards “yes, that was enough Alice”.

This was taken while we were waiting for Charles at his cello lesson.

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Saturday 14 May 2011

Charles Soccer

Somewhat of a disappointing game today, even if it ended up with a 3-0 win. The weather was cold and drizzly, which didn’t help either.

This is a team that they have played before this season1. Charles played well although it wasn’t a particularly good game — the other team barely had enough players and weren’t playing very well. It was rather crushing although the final score was only 3-0. Charles played mostly defense which rarely had to mount a strong response. The roster was full as well (16 kids for 9 field positions) so Charles was only able to pay for a half.

1 Why the organizers can’t manage to generate a non-repeating schedule with only 6 teams in 6 weeks escapes me. I should have checked and arranged a switch.

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Friday 13 May 2011

Scenes from a Minecraft

Here are a few screen shots for those wondering about what the kids are doing.

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Thursday 12 May 2011

Pre-cook training

The chooks like the ashes very much

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Wednesday 11 May 2011

Marking the seasons

The weather has finally changed. I had to put my air conditioner in my office window and change in to shorts. Mom turned on the house air conditioning yesterday but I was able to hold one for one more day. It’s easier now because I have cute little displays that show me the temperature of all of my CPUs so I can tell if they’re overheating before they fail.

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Tuesday 10 May 2011

Bow time

Charles has rediscovered his old PVC bow. He’s using a half inch wooden dowel that’s about 3 ft long as his arrow. I think it’s fine except for convincing him that people shouldn’t be downrange from the shooter. I had to grab him once when Josie was trying it out and Charles was standing in a bad spot. “But I was behind a tree!” he says. Behind a few thin branches of a pine tree would have been more accurate.

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Monday 09 May 2011

Bike to the basics

Mom has finally broken through on her efforts to get Alice to ride a bike. There were some bad moments but Mom persisted and Alice was able to get started and ride for a bit on her own. Once Alice could bike some she liked it enough to ask to go out and ride her bike some more later in the afternoon. Of course, the next thought that occurred to Alice was “when can I get a better bike?”.

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Sunday 08 May 2011

Quiet time with the kids

A very low key Mother’s Day this year. I got Mom some geraniums and we went out walking later. Alice and Corwin made cards for Mom — Corwin’s was in German.

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Saturday 07 May 2011

Corwin Soccer

Corwin’s soccer game today was against another U-14 boys’ team. None of the girls on Corwin’s team were able to make it leaving it a boys only event.

The weather was clear but the wind was very strong. Corwin’s team had it with them during the first half. Despite this they only scored once, on a penalty kick. On that kick, the boys lined up with the defenders as part of the wall. There was a complaint but apparently as long as they don’t interfere with the defenders it’s legal. I am not sure what the point was but the kick was a good one for the score.

The second half was much rougher, as the wind picked up. The opponents could just put the ball in the air and the wind would take it downfield, even more than the first half. During the first half the other team had managed only one shot on goal but they were all over it in the second half. As a result they scored twice, in the third and and fourth quarters. It was looking grim but once again the team scored just in the minute to tie it up 2-2 at the end. This was the only goal against the wind in the game.

The weather was very funky. We heard thunder now and then but didn’t see any lightning but we could see heavy clouds to the north. Less than one minute after the game ended there was a tornado alert and every one cleared the field as fast as we could. We went home to watch nascent funnel clouds and hail.

Corwin clears on defense

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Charles Soccer

It was a cold windy morning for Charles’ soccer game. The weather and the game were both hard slogging for the team. It was clear in the first quarter that it wasn’t going to be a good game. Several opponents could push through the entire defense winning all the encounters until stopped by luck or sheer mass. Charles’ team managed to hold off the opponents for the first half although it was by the slimmest margin more than once. Charles had a turn as keeper in the second quarter and did well. The second half was worse, both keepers letting two scores through for a final of 0-4. At least this time it wasn’t half on penalty kicks. Charles was near tears afterwards but he perked soon after we let him play some more Minecraft, and I promised to install a Minecraft mod he had been pestering me about.

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Friday 06 May 2011

Dog and Chicken Show

The chickens don’t mind Polynomial very much, except when she chases them around to get scraps Mom has handed out. But the chickens do that with each other so I suppose they don’t take it personally. Other than that the worse they’ll do is cluck at Poly if she’s getting too close (about 1 meter usually, but I have seen just a few inches).

On the other hand, the neighbor dog Trevor was over in the backyard one day recently (before the fence) and the chickens were locked in their coop. The chickens totally freaked out, squawking and flapping as much as they could as soon as they spotted Trevor. It was total coop pandemonium. I personally was surprised that the chickens are smart enough to know Poly and Trevor are different dogs.

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Thursday 05 May 2011

Dinner conversation

Charles: [whining] When I have soccer practice, I don’t get to have a smaller dinner.

Mom: Corwin, you need to close drawers after you open them. If Charles can do it, you can do it too.

Alice: Because they’re related.

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Wednesday 04 May 2011

Corwin Soccer

Corwin had a soccer game this evening against a U-14 girl’s team (I think they played the same girls a couple of years ago, although eveyone’s older now). It was a good game. Corwin actually ran a bit and had a number of good clears with good placement. He needs to do a bit better in the one on ones though.

The girls had two many components to their game, passing and picking. They passed very frequently, I think sometimes more than they dribbled. It was somewhat amusing to watch the boys try to cope — charging the girl with the ball wasn’t a successfully strategy as she was likely to have passed it before the charge finished. They were like cats and a cat toy the first part of the game, until they learned to adjust. The girls were also very good at picking off the ball during attacks by Corwin’s team, both individually and in pairs where the second of the pair would come in at a different angle so it was impossible to defend. Corwin got picked a couple of times because he tried to take time to set up the shot and was picked off before he had the chance. It wasn’t invulnerable, as Corwin’s team scored twice on break aways but I could see it take a big toll on their standard style. Both scores were also excellent shots, from outside in to the top or edge of the goal. The girls also seemed quick on shifting play in response to the game flow.

The girls scored twice as well, for a final score of 2-2 even though they played a (scoreless) overtime. Their keeper was dedicated — at one point she was knocked down with one player jumping over her while another managed to literally step on her. But even as that happened she rolled and grabbed the ball to prevent a score. Corwin’s team’s keeper fell as well but in a mixed blessing was in the path of the ball so he wasn’t stomped but on the other hand couldn’t get the ball to stop the final score of the game.

The girls also played a very physically aggressive game — no shy maidens there. Lots of body checking instead, with good use of hip swaying to nudge opponents. A previous team had a female captain who tried that on Corwin and ColinS but she was skinny and the two of them didn’t even notice. These girls didn’t have that problem and had no trouble knocking the boys around. It was a good experience for them.

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Tuesday 03 May 2011

Isn't it the thought that counts?

Alice spent last Sunday during church service drawing money, in the denominations $1, $05, $10, $100, and $5069. She was very proud of it, although Mom said we couldn’t use it for the offering.

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Monday 02 May 2011

Cutting edge presents

Mom’s birthday was a few days ago. I got her a few presents, I actually could think of things that she didn’t already have and would like. Except for one present, which she already had one of (at least it meant I had some idea of her preferences). The big theme this year was knives. I got her a new knife block because she had been complaining of the old one being too small. I also got her an artsy knife holder with knives and a plush Catbus.

She had to open all her presents the day after her birthday because Corwin was on a field trip with his class to Six Flags and Mom had invited Jack’s parents over to talk about the UK in preparation for our trip. That’s Mom’s legendary scheduling skill at work once again, just like she schedules herself for church activities such that she has to stay for both services.

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Sunday 01 May 2011


Today was a big day for the family as Corwin was confirmed at church as a full member. Corwin managed to get all of his required sermon notes in (which put him ahead of some of the other confirmants, surprisingly). Mom of course was the real work horse during the years leading up to this, or perhaps the teamster would be a better term. Corwin’s main thril was the cessation of confirmation activities.

There were a total of 10 kids confirmed this year and they had a nice little ceremony during church services for them. Mom arranged for a small brunch in the afternoon for his church sponsor and relatives. The big challenge is that Mom asked Corwin what kind of food he wanted and he said “waffles and bacon” (he passed on the chocolate covered bacon). Mom wasn’t thrilled because the schedule was tight, but she was able to come up with a solution and have both of those for Corwin.

I dropped by a bit but this was also picture day for Alice at dance so I spent that time shuttling Alice back and forth because she is in two activies and so needed two different costumes with different hair arrangements1 (the latter of which Mom took care of, between bouts of waffle and bacon cooking). I thought I would have to wait but this year, for the first time apparently2 the dance studio has the pictures running on rails and I was effectively late both times even though I arrived before the scheduled picture time (the second time, 10 minutes early). Alice at least was very excited about the whole thing.

1 Ballet is one bun and acrobatics is two buns.

2 In previous years Mom did this while I crop walked.

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