Happy Free Hugs New Year!

Christine and I were just watching this week's Digg Reel (Episode 51 - The Top 10 Digg Reel Videos Ever!). The number 1 video was the free hugs.

As it was playing Allison leaned over and gave Christine a big hug. Then she climbed over and gave me a big hug.  Free Hugs are really cool!

Happy New Year Everyone!

The Shepherd, the Angel, and Walter the Christmas Miracle Dog

Ever since Thanksgiving I've been looking for my copy of The Shepherd, the Angel, and Walter the Christmas Miracle Dog. Once Christmas came I'd all but given up on finding it...

But it's been nagging at me because it's the sort of book that wants to be read this time of year. It's a Christmas tradition trying to take hold...

Today while I was finishing some work in my basement, the book called out to me. Sort of the way Superman's green crystal called him, except without the super powers and red tights. I discovered it in a box of linens that we had stored, and recently reclaimed, from my parents' basement.

It's a few days late, but the tree is still up and I'm still on vacation so it's all good.  After dinner I sat down and read it. 

As I read, the boys were wrestling on the floor and Allison alternately climbed up to sit in my lap and jumped down to show the boys the proper technique for executing a flying hammer kick.

And in the midst of the chaos, once again, the book delivered. A little sad, a lot happy, and funny in all the right spots.  It's a good Christmas tradition...

Bowling with the Boys

Grandpa Hall and I took the boys bowling today.  Alex seems to be refining his technique while Conner just barely contains his Tasmanian Devil approach.

Alex rolls rock

Conner lets loose the fury

Ice Storm of 2008

Winter started off with the biggest ice storm I've seen in Mass. The night it started you could hear the tree branches snapping and crashing to the ground like individual gunshots going off all around the house. I rushed home to clear out our typically cluttered garage as branches fell all around our house.

It was a race against time as my Civic sat in my driveway haunted by the sounds of falling branches. Just as I finished the garage and ran to get the keys to pull my Civic in I heard a SNAP! that sounded like it was right over my head. A second later the car alarm was going off and there was a 15 foot branch where moments before there had been none. Fortunately there was no damage as the branch just grazed the car....

The power went out around midnight. The boys woke up with croup at 1am. So we started a fire and made S'mores. It was a lot of fun...

The next morning the power was still out and the neighborhood had turned into a beautiful ice city. Functionally it was a mess. The ice coated all of the trees and power was out over most of central MA and NH. And most importantly the tree holding our bird feeder was drooping.

With and Without Ice
The bird feeder before and after the ice storm

We decided to get out of the house for a bit only to discover all but one of the entrances to our neighborhood were blocked by downed trees and power lines. We headed up to NH and grabbed some Bob's Pizza. Bob's was also blacked out, but they have gas stoves. Best pizza ever...

Here's a slideshow of the pictures we took on the way.

We got power back at 6pm that night. We were lucky, a few people we know didn't have power for 11 days! The people that worked to get our power back are amazing. That is hard work they do.

Variations on a Happy Birthday Theme

Sitting at dinner the other night, Alex broke into song and serenaded Christine.   I was bracing myself after the second line, but it worked out very nicely.

Happy Birthday to you!
You live in a zoo...
You look like a Mommy,
and I love you like one too!

The End of an Era

Quizzical Conner Ever since he started speaking Conner has had a unique way of saying certain words.  It often made him sound younger than he was, and I half think he knew that.

As parents we were focused on helping him improving his speech. We tried all sorts of things and none of it seemed to work. Conner was happy to say things his way and there seemed little we could do to change his mind...

And then,  two weeks ago he just started articulating. His old speech patterns disappeared overnight and with it so did baby Conner. And just like that, he grew up...

We got our wish, but Christine and I are both a little sad that we're no longer going to hear any of these Connerisms:

Hok-er -noun a form of football played between two teams of 11 players

Dino-whore -noun Any of various extinct, often gigantic, carnivorous or herbivorous reptiles who engages in promiscuous sexual intercourse (OK. I made that last part up, but this is one of my favorites.)

Old -noun having a relatively low body temperature; having little or no warmth.: Daddy I'm Old [shivers]

Horry –adjective feeling regret, compunction, sympathy, pity, etc.: I'm horry mommy.

Om, Jewwy and Weety -nouns Our cats Tom, Jerry and Tweety

Onner -noun (The name Conner.) We'd often have conversations like:
Me: What's your name?
Conner: Onner...
Me: Onner?
Conner: Noooo! Ooonner!
Me: Ohhh. Conner!
Conner: Yeah.

Fortunately he's still holding firm on the pronunciation of his favorite color. Lellow.

October Sky Video

A few weeks ago the boys and I launched some rockets.  A few weeks later we went again and my dad took this video.  Launching rocket's is a blast!

At the time I didn't know what was bothering Alex. He launched a rocket right before Conner with no problem.

Of course in retrospect it makes sense. Lately Alex has been watching his sister on the stairs making sure that his brother and sister are well clear of automatic doors before they open or close.  While it often seems like a bit much at the time, but I'm really glad he's starting to take care of others.

Intelligence Squared Debates

Intelligence squared U.S. Logo I spent my evening scraping wallpaper and listening to 2 spectacular Intelligence Squared debates

1) Guns reduce crime Tuesday, October 28, 2008
2) Google violates its 'don't be evil' motto Tuesday, November 18, 2008 (audio here)

Intelligence Squared (IQ2US) is Oxford style debating -- one motion, one moderator, two to three advocates for the motion, two to three against. The goal of IQ2US is to raise the level of public discourse on our most challenging issues. To provide a new forum for intelligent discussion, grounded in facts and informed by reasoned analysis. - the IQ2US website
One of the interesting things about these two shows was how different they were.  "Guns reduce crime" had an extremely serious tone which is to be expected when most of the discussion is about death.

On the flip side the "Google violates..." debate was much lighter and there was a lot of laughing and joking. The part that surprised me most was when Larry Lessig asked a question from the audience.  He's usually more of a panelist at these sorts of things.

Shows Intelligence Squared and RadioLab are the reasons I support NPR.  Not only are they a phenomenal source of entertainment and thought provoking ideas; they also make scraping wallpaper a relatively pleasurable experience.

I am an Indian

I've been on a news reprieve since just before Thanksgiving.  It was a nice break, and I was hoping to come back to some light news about Obama's transition plan, or perhaps some news about how the economy was rebounding.

No such luck... It turns out a bunch of idiots trampled a guy in a walmart to get a deal on cheap TVs.  And as horrible as that is, I am completely stunned by the attacks in Mumbai.  My heart goes out to the people there.

On September 12th, 2001 people from around the world stood up and said "We are all Americans." A simple statement that was a show of support stronger than any I've ever heard. Today,  I'm adding my voice to a chours of others saying "We are all Indians."

This symbol of support comes with an immense responsibility.  My country has shown how it can be misused and eventually squandered through the pursuit of ill conceived wars and bullying of other countries.  I hope the government of India will learn from our mistakes, and rather than lashing out aimlessly, find some way to use people's willingess to come together to make something good rise out of this tragedy.

In the mean time, I'm thousands of miles away and only reading about this in the news. With that level of detachment it seems that John Oliver is doing the best job of summing up my feelings.

Driving to Canada

This weekend Christine and I headed up to Montreal for Christine's cousin's wedding.  We saw some amazing scenery.

Lots of Space

Pictures don't do this much space justice. Technology has made it so that we're never alone. Email, twitter, instant messages, video chat, and phones that ring in the bathroom... You can be lonely, but never alone.

But driving through all that space made me realize there are still places where you can actually disappear.  Just start walking and almost never run into anyone. There's something very comforting in that notion.

As we got close to Canada the sun started to set...

Vermont Sunset

and we noticed our cars shadow leading us to Canada.

Car Shadow

A few miles after we crossed the border the sun retreated beneath the horizon.  The southern tip of Canada, near Vermont, makes the Midwest U.S.A. look hilly and it was amazing how far we could see.

We pulled over to take this one. If you look closely you can see the moon rising in the center of the picture.

2008-11-29 024

We arrived in Montreal just before six. I don't remember the last time Christine and I had that much time to just sit and talk without being interrupted every five seconds.  It was a really fun trip.