Allison and The Blocks

Allison Block Zen

We don't have any pictures like this of the boys because any time the boys noticed a pile of blocks they immediately knocked it down. Aggressively I should add.

When they were Allison's age we used to play a game to see how high I could stack blocks before they knocked them down... My record was 4 blocks, but that was because the boys were taking a nap and had to wake up climb out of their crib and run down the stairs. They were and still are very committed to entropy.

So yesterday with the boys out of the house I set these up... went and got my camera... and then took a bunch of pictures. I had all the time in the world. Allison just laughed. She found the tower really funny.

This is a video of Allison just hanging out with the blocks. She eventually knocks them down but even then it seems more like she was reaching for one than trying to destroy it. I'm starting to think girls really are different from boys.

Alex and Conner Paint The Fence

On Saturday the boys took a bucket of water and some paint brushes and painted our fence. Together... Without involved parental supervision... Straining to listen from inside the house I could hear Alex being a great big brother and explaining to Conner how to get just the right amount of water on the brush. It was awesome!

Conner and Alex Getting Water IMG_2086

Alex and Conner Painting

Alex and Conner Painting

Bird Picture


Taken from our kitchen window in Clinton the winter of 2007 - 2008

Rainbow Out Our Front Door


A few days ago this rainbow appeared across the street from our house. Alex, Conner, Christine, and I watched out the front door as to grew brighter. Allison was asleep.

Putting George Jetson Out of a Job is Not Easy

George Jetson is a fictional character who appears in the animated series The Jetsons. George' s job primarily required him to repeatedly push a single button (or on occasion a series of buttons) on a computer. - Wikipedia

I used to think George Jetson's job was pretty silly. With all this computing power how could we possibly need a guy to push a button?!? Alas, I've been humbled by my Macbook Pro...

I've been trying to figure out how to get my Macbook to wake up in the middle of the night, run my Monster Pirate Flickr Uploadr, stay awake until it finishes, and then go back to sleep. And do all that with the lid closed...
  • I can schedule the Monster Pirate Flickr Uploadr to run automatically using periodic or iCal.
  • I can get my macbook pro to way up at 3am using the System Preferences >> Energy Saver >> Schedule >> Start up or wake setting
It's the staying awake part that's the problem. Apparently Macbooks like sleep as much as I do. As soon as it wakes up it checks the lid, sees it's closed, and goes back to sleep with no so much as a care that it's supposed to be backing up our cherished family photos!

You'd think this computer would have a Do-Stuff-While-I'm-Sleeping-And-Quit-Your-Whining-Because-You're-A-Stinking-Machine capability, but this is not the case. Apparently the robots union requires that we either leave our computers on all the time or sit with them while they do our menial tasks.

Bill Cosby Live

Last Christmas Christine's parents got us tickets to see Bill Cosby in April 2008. It was a blast!

Before Bill Cosby

This was the stage just before Bill Cosby came on and made us laugh for 2 hours.

Alex Kind of Jazz

I've been trying to expose the boys to a lot of different kinds of music. All different styles of Jazz, Classical, Rock... A few weeks ago he was into Van Halen.

We make a game of trying to identify which instruments are playing and Alex has started getting very good. He knows the difference between a tenor sax and trumpet with and without a Harmon Mute and can even pick out all of the instruments playing in a jazz combo...

The other day I asked him what he wanted to listen to while we were driving. He said Jazz... I tried Big Band, Dixieland, Blues, Bill Evans, and Vince Guaraldi (The Peanuts music) but he just kept saying that wasn't the kind of jazz he wanted.

Finally he describe the music he wanted, instruments and the way they sounded. So per his instructions I added Kind of Blue to my iPod and played it for him. Cool as a cucumber he said "That's the jazz I like, dad." The kid's got taste and style...

Auto Upload Photos and Video to Flickr

Now that Flickr has unlimited bandwidth and storage space and supports video I decided to have my pictures automatically upload to it each night. I'm already paying them so why not use them as off site backup?

Well it took some coding and a bit of learning about my Macbook, but I got it working.

To make this happen I started with a python script called by Cameron Mallory that uploads all the new photos in a director/folder to a flickr account. Life Hacker has this easy to follow explanation on how to install it and use didn't do everything I wanted so I rolled up my sleeves and made some changes to his script. My version does everything does and...

  1. It uploads videos!

  2. It only uploads a video if its length is under 90 seconds (the Flickr limit).

  3. It requires you install qt_tools for any of that video stuff to work.

  4. Theoretically everything but video will work if you don't install qt_tools.

  5. If you run ./ -markuploaded, the script will ignore all the existing images and videos in the directory so you don't re-upload the 15,000 photos you already manually uploaded. Only images added in the future will be uploaded.

  6. It supports multiple directories (or backing up multiple users pictures).

  7. It saves a log file which is comforting if your wondering if it ran.

Multiple directories is also big deal if you use iPhoto because there are two directories under iPhoto Library that you want (iPhoto Library/Original and iPhoto Library/Modified), and one that you don't (iPhoto Library/data) which only contains thumbnails images of the stuff in the other two directories.

After the script was working I made this AppleScript, saved it as an application called Monster Pirate Flickr Uploadr, changed it's icon to that pirate monster I found here and put it in the applications folder.

do shell script "cd /Users/Shared/bin/flickr-auto-uploader/; ./;" user name "yourusername" password "insertyourpasswordhere" with administrator privileges

Update 2008-04-26: There was a bug in the original script. I've fixed it above.

The Monster Pirate Flickr Uploadr application is so that either Christine or I can kick off the upload easily. The pirate icon is because Christine said it looked cool.

The next step is to get this thing running without me having to be George Jetson.

On Python: This was my first excuse to try out Python. For a language that cares about white space and doesn't use {brackets to wrap function content} it was surprisingly fun to use. It's like Perl with real objects. The one thing that got me was the syntax for "Else if" which is "elif" in Python. That's just plain weird...

Update 2008-11-08: Reciently the script started re-uploading pictures at random. It appears that DB I was using a pythong "shelve" construct has a maximum size of 5,222,400 bytes. We have so many pictures that we've exceeded that space just for storing their names in a database. I don'y have a fix for this so I simply changed the upload directory in the script to only upload this years files. It's a hack, but it works...

Catalog Choice or Return To Sender

The people at Catalog Choice have a tough job. They have to convince catalog providers to sign up to honor the catalogs people decline through their service. Sometimes the catalog companies aren't interested and keep sending me crap I don't want. I was thinking there might be a way to help the vendors get my point.

From now on when I get a catalog I've previously declined I'm going to attach the following "Return to Sender" label to it and drop it back in the mail.

Return To Sender

The idea is to show companies I'm really not going to read their catalog or buy anything from them as long as they persist in sending me unwanted crap. In other words they are waisting money and losing future business.

If you're interested in trying this out you can download the Return To Sender image or a page of them here:

This is a work in progress as I'm dropping the first batch in the mail in the morning. Right now the major offenders are Macy's and Pier 1 Imports.

The Piñata Finale

Alex and Big Connor had a go at a piñata during my surprise party. Connor provided the hit that knocked it off the rope, but it didn't break open. So Alex... Well Alex sort-of... It's probably best to just watch the video...

Update: If you're reading this in Google Reader click here to see the video of Alex and the Piñata. Apparently Flickr Video does not show up in Google Reader.

The Weekend I Turned 102

This was one of those weekends I made a blog to help me remember.

Conner played outside a bunch...


And then inside...


Then the boys took me out for a birthday lunch at Panera and Alex payed! As soon as the cashier said how much it was Alex handed a pile of money to her... I showed him how to read the money while we waited for the food.

Afterwards the boys insisted that they take me to Chuck E. Cheese to play games. We had a lot of fun!

Conner and The Bulldozer

Little did I know that this was all a ruse to keep me out of the house. Christine threw a surprise party for me and a bunch of family and friends were there when we got back from lunch.

It would have been a total surprise, but about 90 minutes after the boys and I left for lunch Christine started calling asking when we were coming home. In our family if one of the parents takes more than half the kids out, the other parent never calls and asks them to come home because that would be insane. Have three kids and you'll know what I mean... Needless to say I figured something was up.

A bunch of cars were in the driveway when we got home and Alex insisted that he go into the house and that I wait in the garage until he came to get me. Conner was asleep so Alex herded the party goers from room to room so that I wouldn't see them as I carried Conner up to his bed.

When I came down I was greeted in the kitchen by a huge SURPRISE! One thing I'll never forget is Alex standing in front of everyone beaming at his successful surprise party orchestration. He was awesome!

We adjourned to the backyard where Big Connor and Alex worked on a piñata.



And then there were Bison burgers and chocolate layer cake. Allison sat on my lap while the boys helped me blow out the candles.


I almost lost that beer...

In an effort to avoid buying new candles Christine put all the candles we had in the house on the cake...


And so it was that my 102nd birthday passed. I spent it with family and friends and it was a great day.