Saturday, December 29, 2012

Happy Holidays!

Hooray for Jasper's bat ears!

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Age Appropriate

We did some toy shopping this past weekend.  Not for Brynna - she's well taken care of - but rather to get some things to donate to Toys for Tots.  We picked some of B's favorites: play-doh, Chutes and Ladders, map puzzles, and two decks of Uno.  We figured that if she's gotten a lot of fun from them, probably other children will as well.

It was only later that I noticed, in the small print in the lower-left corner of the box, the notice saying "For Ages 7+"  Now, as a totally unbiased observer, B is a pretty smart cookie, but does it really take a seven-year old to understand Uno?  Here she is just last month schooling me:

Friday, December 7, 2012

Vanity Plate

Well, shucks, I guess that's one vanity plate we'll never have.

Not to worry, though. With only about one million registered cars in all of NH, and only an extra $40 tacked on for vanity plates, there are plenty of options still available.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Election Retrospective

If I were a serious blogger still, and not shy about spouting forth my opinion online, I would have gotten about 100 posts out there this past election season. Certainly there was plenty I would have liked to have said. But, really, given the size and mostly like-mindedness of my audience, it would not have been all that persuasive or useful.

Now that the election is over, what I have to say about the current state of politics is even less relevant. So, rather than wondering aloud about the future of the GOP, or fretting about the fiscal cliff, or prognosticating on whether Obama's got any mojo left for the next four years, I have a different plan. I find that the best antidote to the sturm und drang of presidential politics is satire and silly fun. The creator of the youtube channel Bad Lip Reading understands that, and created a number of hilarious videos.

Ahmed, how did you know about whodunnit in the lounge? Oh you didn't! They started clapping for the mad cow. Until someone sold him. And when he died they had him stuffed like that water buffalo: stuffed.

Cause even log legged women can't tell there's a blue-eyed hobbit, and I am a witness for them....Are you really drinking my bottled judgment? Y'all think I won't whip them pintos.

[Shucks, the man ain't funny even in parody.]

I had to fire someone. He was flippant. He was probably suffering....Let's go parachutin' on Tuesday....Oh yeah, I got swag. Because everybody needs toucan stubs!

Save a pretzel for the gas jets.

Where I'm from, mama gets a what-what. You know I represent!...And when I buy stickers for folks in prison, I bring milk, not backyard meth. It's a prison party.

Join the laughs: it's the only way to heal our nation!

Sunday, November 18, 2012


This hardened kernel, about the size of a large grape, is the dried seed of a tree. This is what I buy at the grocery store. After scraping it against the grater shown next to it, I have a pile of small bits that, collectively, I call nutmeg. The tree it comes from is called a nutmeg tree.

But can anyone tell me what to call this little guy? The nutmeg nut? The nut of meg?

Tuesday, November 13, 2012


   I do not know to what extent ignorance of science and mathematics contributed to the decline of ancient Athens, but I know that the consequences of scientific illiteracy are far more dangerous in our time than in any that has come before. It's perilous and foolhardy for the average citizen to remain ignorant about global warming, say, or ozone depletion, air pollution, toxic and radioactive waste, acid rain, topsoil erosion, tropical deforestation, exponential population growth. Jobs and wages depend on science and technology. If our nation can't manufacture, at high quality and low price, products people want to buy, then industries will continue to drift away and transfer a little more prosperity to other parts of the world. Consider the social ramifications of fission and fusion power, supercomputers, data "highways," abortion, radon, massive reductions in strategic weapons, addiction, government eavesdropping on the lives of its citizens, high-resolution TV, airline and airport safety, fetal tissue transplants, health costs, food additives, drugs to ameliorate mania or depression or schizophrenia, animal rights, superconductivity, morning-after pills, alleged hereditary antisocial predispositions, space stations, going to Mars, finding cures for AIDS and cancer.

   How can we affect national policy - or even make intelligent decisions in our own lives - if we don't grasp the underlying issues? As I write, Congress is dissolving its own Office of Technology Assessment - the only organization specifically tasked to provide advice to the House and Senate on science and technology. Its competence and integrity over the years has been exemplary. Of the 535 members of the U.S. Congress, rarely in the twentieth century have as many as one percent had any significant background in science. The last scientifically literate President may have been Thomas Jefferson.

   So how do Americans decide these matters? How do they instruct their representatives? Who in fact makes these decisions, and on what basis?

      -Carl Sagan, The Demon-Haunted World, 1996
It is usually considered poor form and a little dishonest to make a quotation at such length from someone while contributing so little yourself. But the nature of this statement, recently rediscovered in this book that had long sat dormant on my bookshelf, seemed so timely, so prescient, and so well stated that I could neither abbreviate nor amend it in good conscience.

Thursday, November 1, 2012


As a fine counterpoint to my previous post, here is a NYTimes article, on the eve of the New York City Marathon and its 50,000 competitors, about the awful realities of race-day photos.

When caught in mid-stride, most athletes do not look awesome. They look haggard, in pain, with jiggly rippling muscle and fat. You think you are going fast? One ill-timed photo will reveal a short stride, all heel-strike, no different than crude power walking. Think your super-aerodynamic tri bike with full carbon race wheels lets you cut through the air like a knife? Well, your bike might, but the photographer can find the angle and moment that makes you look like an uncoordinated, slack-jawed goof on two wheels with the seatpost shoved way to high up your arse.

The lens is often not kind.

A candid shot, taken by a coworker, mid-stretch after Lobsterman. Oh, and I was waiting for a port-a-potty to open up.

Water exit from our first ever triathlon. It did not go so well for Hilary, true, but the gasping for breath look is not entirely justified.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Tri pic

Sometimes the line between self-improvement and narcissism can blur a bit. I will admit that triathlon can be an exercise in vanity. My putting in all those miles, hours, laps, and races isn't curing disease, ending world hunger, or stopping global climate change. I'm doing it to stay fit, to stay sane: to challenge myself and see just what I'm capable of.

Purchasing overpriced professional pictures of yourself from race day just bolsters my point. But, hey, if you are going through all that pain and suffering in the name of challenging yourself, you may as well look good doing it:

Monday, October 29, 2012

Lights Out

Wouldn't'cha know? A hurricane comes blowing into town and we lose power. Well, only for about an hour - things are back to normal for the moment. (UPDATE: we lost it half an hour later, and cooked dinner using a Peak 1 in the garage. We had it back by 3 am. Thank you, linemen!) But we discovered that, among our many headlamps and flashlights, one of the best sources of light is Brynna's lightsaber, recently repaired for last Friday's homecoming bonfire. Go Big Green!

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Oak Hill Firetower--Conquered!

Earlier this summer, we tried to climb up to the Oak Hill firetower on the border of Concord and Loudon. Brynna-bean couldn't quite make it, and we turned around about a quarter mile short of the summit.

About a month ago, though, we had a beautiful weekend day and Brynna proposed that we try again.

Silly faces at the trailhead:

Trek-trek-trekking along:

Jasper, as always incredibly happy to be outdoors with his pack:

Brynna's main interest in hiking, I think, is the consumption of trail mix. We had to carefully negotiate how often we were going to stop and snack, and carefully plotted our stops on the map. This is snack number one:

Snack number two. "We're going up, up, up!"

Mugging for the camera at snack stop #3:

Alex was off doing the grocery shopping while B and I made our (extremely slow) ascent, and Brynna was incredibly proud of making it to the top before Dada caught up to us. She and I made a quick ascent of the tower, during which I was acutely reminded that I get a little freaked out climbing up those things! Brynna was a champ, however, and didn't seem nervous at all.

We descended quickly, since Jasper was quite frantic waiting at the bottom for us. I had tied him to a tree, because otherwise he would certainly have followed us up, and with the incredibly steep stairs, I was afraid he wouldn't be able to get down safely, or that he would knock one of us down trying. He had chewed halfway through his leash by the time that we got back to him.

When Alex arrived, I stayed on the ground with Jasper while Alex took Brynna up again. Here they are peering over the edge of the platform:

A full view of the firetower (Alex and B just getting ready to start down the stairs):

Jasper and his funny bat ears, romping around at the base of the tower:

Alex-Brynna-Jasper on the trail home. Alex mostly entertained Brynna with the story of the tortoise and the hare in an attempt to encourage slow-and-steady progress down the hill.

We negotiated just one snack stop on the way home. Jasper was wondering if we brought goodies for him too:

Before dark, we made it back to the car without difficulty, and with everyone still in a good mood. Success! Brynna's first ascent under her own power. She was SO SO proud of herself, and we were very proud of her too. 

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

The Hopkinton Fair

A few weeks ago, we took a family trip to the Hopkinton Fair. We got a taste of everything.

We checked out the animal barns, including cows, pigs, goats, alpacas, sheep, chickens, and rabbits.

Marveled at the singing puppet chickens:

We watched kids working with teams of oxen.

We saw some prize-winning fruits, veggies, and flowers, including this giant pumpkin:

We ate some fair food (would've been more fun if I hadn't had non-functional taste buds from a cold!).

And we hit up the midway, which (no surprise) was Brynna's favorite part:

And ended the day with face painting:

Not quite the same as the Minnesota State Fair, but good times nonetheless!

Monday, October 8, 2012

Trip to the Moose Museum

On Friday, Brynna and I had a mom-daughter adventure day. At B's request, we went up to Norwich to the Montshire Museum (known by Brynna as the "Moose Museum" because of the large stuffed moose on the second floor). It was a gorgeous fall day, and we had a wonderful time exploring inside and out.

Here's Brynna examining the rings on a large tree (cut on the Dartmouth campus, apparently).

Experimenting with soap films...

Playing this very cool botanical detective game that focused on the differences between plants. There was also a very helpful poison-ivy identification game. Brynna turned out to be very observant!

This is B's favorite exhibit: rolling pennies into a big smooth funnel and watching them zoom around. The bonus at this museum is that the pennies fall out the bottom to use again!

This is one of the outdoor exhibits. Brynna is dropping gravel through a grid of nails of different lengths inside that big metal container, making lots of different sounds.

And, we went on a train ride! The "White River Flyer" comes right along the Museum grounds on the way up the Connecticut River to Thetford, and we jumped on board.

We lunched on local apples, cider, and Cabot extra-sharp cheddar cheese—must be autumn in New England!

The Dartmouth boathouse, from the train:

View of the Ledyard Bridge from the train:

And a variety of lovely Connecticut River valley photos:

The Dartmouth Organic Farm:

B had a great time, though was a little restless by the end.

So we went back to playing at the museum!

All in all, a wonderful day together!

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Yes! We Are Still Here!

Everyone is fine here, and suddenly it is fall.

I have just finished what I am not-so-affectionately referring to as "Hell Week," during which I delivered a poster presentation, completed and edited two papers, took two finals, and gave a huge presentation at work. It all went very well and I start my next term of classes tomorrow.

Alex has been (as always) a rock throughout.

Brynna is busy busy busy. The lovely Miss A has had her baby, so B is now temporarily spending her days with Miss R, also wonderful. B is taking swim lessons (with friend C), dance lessons (with friend A), as well as Suzuki violin lessons.

We finished our triathlon season quite successfully.

Jasper is wonderful as always.

More details to come. Here are some upcoming posts:
-tri recaps
-B's birthday (yeah, it was two months ago. So what?)
-family hike
-trip to the Montshire Museum
-fall harvest festival
-Hopkinton Fair

In the meantime, since we know you mainly come here for pictures of Brynna, here you go:

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Fence - Nearly Complete?

A few weeks back I finally got around to installing the gate. It took me a while to get around to it after putting in the rest of the fence. In the meantime it had just been gently leaned between the fence posts. This was sufficient to keep Jasper from escaping, but also greatly reduced the urgency to get the project finished. There were two other hiccups in the way: 1) the fencing distributor had given me a crap set of hinges not suited to this application, and 2) neither had they provided me with the proper cladding/trim pieces that need to be installed before the gate hardware.
I got around to it eventually, though, and am rather pleased with the results.

Plumb and level, with a nice uniform gap
The bottom corner of the open edge bulges out about an inch. This is not my fault. The posts on either side are plumb and parallel; it is the gate panel itself that is not flat.

It may not be obvious without close examination, but I needed to take a hand saw to the gate when I installed it. The fence rails are 2x3s, but the gate panel was assembled using 3x3s. This means that, when I installed the hinge and got the pickets all in the same plane, the rails of the gate panel were an inch (well, 3/4") too thick. So here, where the gate mates to the open side post, I notched the gate panel rails. This has the handy side benefit of keeping the gate from swinging too far closed.
As I said, the fencing distributor didn't really give me the right trim pieces for covering up the metal fence posts. While the flange of the metal post can be covered with a 1x4, it really ought to be done with a 1x6. I haven't gotten around to picking those materials up yet. Better hurry I suppose, or it'll be winter before I get around to it.