Friday, October 31, 2014

Day 7.294: A lion, a witch and a wardrobe...

...went out to trick-or-treat...

...and found our whole neighborhood is kind of a Halloween street-party.

We estimate that more than 250 trick-or-treaters visited our house between 6 and 8 pm, E5N1 had to be persuaded to bed - he wanted to sit on the step to give out candy 'just in case' even after the street emptied almost as suddenly as it had burst into life.

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Day 7.293: Back to sliding

Back in March, I mentioned the game 2048. It was all the rage for a while, I went through being frustrated to obsessed with it and then I succeeded in making the 2048 tile and happily left it alone with no intention of playing it again.

Some time later, I heard that it was possible to make a 4096 tile, but I wasn't tempted to go back.

Due to a series of coincidences and technical weirdness, I found that I had the 2048 app on my phone and over the last few days I've been tempted to investigate again. It turns out that there is a fair amount of technique involved and I can get to the 2048 tile about one try in three.

And then it happened:

and now, as long as nobody mentions the possibility of the 8192 tile I can leave it again.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Day 7.292: Spa bath dining room

Here are three recent Lego creations. The two on the right were made from instructions by E5N1 with piece-finding services supplied by Exile #2 (train) and me (robot). The room on the left, however was designed and built by Exile #3.

She was keen to point out the dining table - with plates, the fancy sculpture and the large fancy bath tub (with mixer tap) - she probably said "faucet". As for why the bath tub is in the same room as the dining table? I have no idea.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Day 7.291: Running late, running early

Since I wasn't planning any heroically long runs on the weekend after my race, I was able to start a bit later on Sunday and run in the daylight. It was still early enough for views like this:

Not too bad!

Tomorrow, Exile #3 is going to run with me now that her cross-country season is over, so we have to be hitting the road at about 5 am, which means back to running in the dark and - yikes - I need to be getting to bed!

Monday, October 27, 2014

Day 7.290: The labours of our fruits

A couple of behind-the-scenes photos from our pumpkin carving activity:

Contrary to appearances, Exile #3 enjoyed her contribution to the carving, although she did admit it was harder than she expected. The bottom picture was the result of stirring the seeds we collected in their soaking-water - but we all thought it looked quite amazing.

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Day 7.289: Exile #2's Sunday Column #28

Exile #2 writes...

With Halloween being this Friday, things have been decidedly pumpkin-shaped this weekend. The kitchen has been full of sticky innards and we have an impressively large bowls of seeds waiting to be roasted, As usual, we geeked-out a little when it came to carving:

and Exile #4 added her own twist by arriving home from a party with a "zombie pumpkin", painted a lovely shade of green:

Costumes have been on our mind too. Old items have been repurposed and much sewing, sticking and painting has been going on. In the meantime, the adult Exiles have been nervously looking at our candy supply and wondering if it needs further bulking up. Our neighbors tipped us off that they were visited by over 100 kids last year and that we should prepare accordingly.

Meanwhile, in the continuing saga of The Exiles versus the leaves, a mighty effort was put in this afternoon but judging by the state of everyone this evening, the leaves might have won.

Saturday, October 25, 2014

Day 7.288: Sylvan Trail

During the summer, we were cautious about walking in the woods due to a couple of hikes that were adversely affected by biting insects. In a few days, walking in the woods will become questionable again for a time thanks to hunting rifles, but for now, all is well.

All was especially well today because it was a sunny day after three solid days of rain, so - before getting on with our long list of must-do activities - we went to walk the first trail opened by Saco Bay Trails - the Sylvan Trail.

Its location is not particularly auspicious - a strip of woodland along the side of the Maine Turnpike, but this morning at least, it was every bit as magical as its name would make it seem.

The 1.7 miles is surprisingly varied - with woods, a few stream crossings and some open fields:

We had a great time!

Friday, October 24, 2014

Day 7.287: Racing - uphill both ways

Last Sunday morning I ran a small local half marathon. The course is almost entirely on this rail-trail.

I have run along different sections of it on several occasions - often, like the race, out-and-back and I've had the same experience each time - it's uphill in both directions.

I am aware that this is not actually true.  But it really feels like it.

Obviously, being a former railroad line, it is not steep anywhere but I don't know why long fairly-flat sections can somehow appear to slope up whichever way I'm running. I don't have the same problem running on roads, I can usually tell the difference between gentle uphill and gentle downhill slopes, but on this trail - no way.

Anyway - my uphill-all-the-way half marathon got me a 3 minute PR, so I'm pretty happy considering the injury problems I had during training.

Onward and (since I seem to have no choice) upward!

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Day 7.286: Throwback Thursday - soft wear engineering

When we applied for our first mortgage (in the UK in 1999), I told the person filling in the forms that my occupation was "Software Engineer", but he wrote "Soft Wear Engineer" which I've always thought would be a much more challenging career path. In retrospect I probably should have worried more about that form having accurate information and less about embarrassing the form-filler, but it worked out OK.

I don't know why this Throwback Thursday photo from my Dad's archives reminded me of that story. It's me in 1979 possibly showing athletic ambitions that lay dormant from soon after this for more than 20 years.

My actual career in software dates back to a couple of years after this, when we first had a computer in the house - which I soon appropriated - a Sinclair ZX81 with 1Kb of RAM - that's just enough to store this blog post - not counting any fancy formatting or the photo.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Day 7.284: Cross-country

My first recollections of cross-country running at school are fairly positive ones - I was probably seven years old and quite enjoyed running around the perimeter of our primary school. I don't remember much in the way of running at my next school, although I did, for a short time, manage to have some success with sport - playing rugby and cricket between the ages of 8 and 11.

When I started secondary school, I remember seeing cross-country running as a kind of cruel and unusual punishment meted out by the PE teachers from time to time. Funnily enough, towards the end of my school career, aged 16 or 17, I was surprised to discover that it became one of my least disfavoured sporting activities, but I did no running by choice until much later.

So it is that I witness Exile #3's growing love of running with equal parts surprise and pleasure. She's coming to the end of her cross-country season at school - we went to see her run the other day:

She is looking forward to getting back to running with me and wants to set herself the challenge of running a longer race sometime soon. Maybe she'll take a few days off first, but I hope she doesn't feel the need to take a 25 year hiatus like I did.

Monday, October 20, 2014

Day 7.283: Pumpkin Valley Farm

As Exile #2 mentioned, we visited Pumpkin Valley Farm yesterday. These are some of the non-corn-cannon activities we engaged in: levitating, cows, metal cow, hayride, yikes, corn maze, pumpkin picking.

Also this:

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Day 7.282: Exile #2's Sunday Column #27

Exile #2 writes...

Exile #1 spent the morning notching up another running triumph, coming in 9th overall and top of his age group in the Harvest Half Marathon. So to keep him awake this afternoon, we headed out for some fun at Pumpkin Valley Farm.

This pumpkin patch had a lot to live up to, following our experiences in New York but I think it was equal to the task. Exile #4 and E5N1 rode the "cow train", a handful of small carriages, towed by a ride-on lawn mower and all the young Exiles enjoyed the enormous bouncy pillow. There were animals to coo over and a great corn maze, with quiz questions to help you decide on your choice of route. Only when we got back and saw an aerial photo did we realize quite how impressive it was, made in the shape of a bear. We picked out pumpkins, of course, and took a hay ride back from the field but perhaps the most unique experience was the opportunity to fire corn cobs at targets with what I guess you'd call a corn cob cannon. Surprisingly satisfying.

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Day 7.281: Candlepin

After I left for Indiana on Monday, the rest of the family went bowling and they were keen to share the experience with me today.

The local bowling alley offers candlepin rather than ten-pin bowling. A variant only found primarily New England and eastern Canada. We played on the glow-in-the-dark lanes and had a great time. It's rather harder to rack-up a big score thanks to the small light balls but after Exile #3 schooled us all with both her form and her score in the first game, I managed a respectable 95 in the second.

Afterwards, we played a little skee-ball. The kids traded their hard-won tickets for some cheap candy, but Exile #2 and I spent some of ours on a finger trap - which we all enjoyed getting caught in during the rest of the afternoon.

Friday, October 17, 2014

Day 7.280: Undercurrent

As we neared Portland last night, we flew past a thunderstorm. Thanks to the new burst-mode on my iPhone camera, I caught some pictures. It's not every day you get to look down on lightning at night.

Unless you come back every day to watch this GIF.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Day 7.279: Flying home

On Monday, I flew to Chicago with a colleague where we missed our connection, found out our rescheduled flight was cancelled and ended up driving for nearly four hours to reach our destination instead.

Today, it was time to come home. Fortunately, we made our connection and, as the plane climbed out of the band of clouds that producing a rather grey day at ground level, I saw this:

and then I enjoyed these (the book is Stone Mattress - a book of nine short stories):

and then I arrived home.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Day 7.278: Lego - sorted!

One of the things I learned from all the parenting books I have read over the years was the art of giving a child a choice in which any of the options were acceptable. It has been a successful tactic - not 100% reliable admittedly especially as the kids have got older and wiser.

Now it seems that E5N1 has started applying it himself. On Saturday he asked me, "Shall we make the plane or the car?" Gesturing towards two Lego set instruction booklet covers. I chose the plane and of course that committed me to a weekend of searching though a huge pile of Lego pieces for the correct blocks. 

On day two, I suggested that the searching might go quicker if we did some bulk sorting of the blocks as we searched, so i started some colour piles and before we knew where we were we had an excellent plane and a lot of sorted Lego blocks:

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Day 7.277: Running update (or not)

Back on Day 7.250 I wrote about getting back to running after three days off with an injured foot. It went well and I managed a reduced mileage week followed by two normal weeks. Then, on my last run of the week before last, I felt the familiar pain in the foot.

It turned out to be worse than the last time - this time I managed only two miles in the whole week (last week) even though I got up every morning and went out to try. Eventually on Sunday afternoon I decided I had to get some exercise and got on my bike (literally).

I took these at the turn-around point on my 15 mile ride:

It was quite good but I was reminded often that I am not really a cyclist - both by my thighs and my struggles to remember to stay to the right on the side streets that I usually run down the left side of.

Happily since then I've managed two consecutive days of running, so maybe I've turned the corner again.

Monday, October 13, 2014

Day 7.276: Rattlesnake Mountain

Our hike on Saturday was a trail at Rattlesnake Mountain in the town of Raymond, ME. The trail appears to have several names, but the sign at the trailhead calls it the Bri-Mar trail:

We walked the length of the trail - including an accidental detour down part of a side trail. In total, the main trail out-and-back is a little over two and a half miles. The bottom and top are fairly level with a steep climb in between. There are two partial-view overlooks with a great overlook in between.

Pictured: a big toad. E5N1 climbing over and rolling under obstacles on the trail, sitting on the rocks for a snack at the far end of the trail.

It was a great hike for a beautiful autumn day.

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Day 7.275: Exile #2's Sunday Column #26

Exile #2 writes...

It has been a beautiful fall weekend, beautiful enough to forget that some years there has been snow on the ground by the end of the month! After a lazy Friday and a busy Saturday, today was a mixture of this and that. Church in Portland, plenty of Lego construction and a big bike ride for Exile #1.

After lunch, though, this team kindly tackled phase 2 of Operation Rake Up. Our large maple, which is shedding copiously and covering not just our yard but also our neighbors immaculate lawns with leaves, is, for the moment, held at bay. Well, possibly not any longer.

With Exile #1 due to be out of state for a few days, I am anticipating a week of seat of the pants stuff when it comes to after school activities. If I'm not careful I'll have E5N1 sitting through Exile #4's karate class in a wet bathing suit and Exile #3 calling to ask me where I am and didn't I remember I needed to collect her half an hour ago!! See you next week with a few more grey hairs...

Saturday, October 11, 2014

Day 7.274: Saco Pumpkin Festival

We had our customary Saturday hike (more on that another day) but, thanks to the kids having had a decompression day after a short school week yesterday, we had some energy left so we headed out to find out what the Saco Spirit Pumpkin Harvest Festival is all about.

We arrived and walked onto the closed-to-traffic Main Street, and this is what we found:

We had a great time. E5N1 and Exile #4 want to try everything. Exile #3 doesn't want to do anything but enjoys hanging out with her parents and is pretty good company, so it worked out pretty well for all of us.

Friday, October 10, 2014

Day 7.273: Cartographantasy

E5N1 spent a part of his day off school today making a map of an island federal nation he imagined. It has states with names and capitals and a federal capital city.

The style of the cartography is definitely influenced by the placemats we bought several years ago so we could learn some of the geography of the country we live in.

The kids are one day into their four-day weekend, but I'm just getting started with my normal length one.

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Day 7.272: Throwback Thursday - the previous generation

This is my sisters and me on holiday in France in 1976.

It's pretty shocking how familiar that cheeky grin aimed at older sister is to me - I see it often and now I know I have to bear some of the blame!

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Day 7.271: What if I burn 'em?

On our walk on Saturday, Exile #2 noticed this small maple tree had berries instead of keys. Of course, she was aware that meant it was not actually a maple tree, but we had no idea what it was.

A bit of internet research suggests that it is probably viburnum acerifolium also know as maple-leaf viburnum.

Not just us then.