July 11th, 2008

Back in town after vacation and hiatus and time off all together. We got back to Minneapolis yesterday early evening and were wowed by how beautiful our front garden looked – lilies and everything in bloom – and how many weeds we have to wrastle to the ground this weekend. The kids were fantastically well behaved on the plane (several people told us, so it’s unbiased reporting) and apart from us being woken up by a massive thunderstorm last night, they did pretty well getting home and going to sleep. Dara being almost 10 months is physically compelled to sit or stand up at every single opportunity – we had several rounds of putting her in her bed, only to turn away and find that she had popped up and was sleepily holding on to the bars of her crib, even though she could hardly keep her eyes open.

toby’s daddy

June 24th, 2008

Emma found a piece of paper from a couple of weeks ago – a small project Toby had done for Fathers’ Day. It’s titled “My Special Daddy” and is a series of questions for the kids. I’ll put Toby’s responses in italics:

My Daddy is the most wonderful Daddy in the world!

He is as handsome as a Bottle
He is as strong as a weightlifter
He can lift 10 lbs, and is 11 feet tall.
His favorite food is tomato soup
His favorite activity is bringing me a snack
When Daddy was little, he used to play a lot
I think my Daddy looks funny when he is in his bath robe
But I know he is really mad when I don’t listen
I wish my Daddy would feed me Oatmeal Squares with me every day
I would not trade my Daddy for my toys.


June 24th, 2008

We are off to England tomorrow for a well deserved break plus to drink good beer, eat fish and chips and also show the kids off to family. Really looking forward to it.

However first I have to get through my least favorite activity in the world – packing. I’m actually pretty good at it, especially with all the travel I did in the last few years for work, but I still loathe doing it. Unpacking is totally fine, and I don’t know why it’s such a deal but there we are. And once I get started it only takes a few minutes but I end up stalling by cleaning, complaining and writing meandering blog posts.

how it happened

June 13th, 2008

I’m getting over a Friday the 13th-type disappointment – Holland played France in Euro 2008 and by all accounts it was an amazing match. But! I unwittingly found the outcome (not the score though) based on the Facebook statuses of each of my brothers. And! Even worse – our TiVo only recorded the first 10 minutes of the match. Grrr!! It’s being repeated next week so I’ve set it up to record that – looking forward to it.

Aaaanyway, for those paying attention to some of my blog you’ll remember that I was (probably somewhat over-)obsessed with the recent Democratic primary election. Now I see that the whole thing can be summarized (by in just over 8 minutes. Enjoy:

no good can come of this

June 12th, 2008

Tonight Dara finally got the hang of crawling forwards. I say finally – she is still a week away from being nine months old, but it has been a long project and a lot of work for her as she has learned how to flop over from a sitting position, then spin around, and for the last few weeks has been able to scoot backwards. This new skill has been in her head the whole time as she has been trying to grab toys and also go after Toby. I think a lot of this coming weekend is going to be spent chasing after her, tidying Toby’s toys and re-installing the baby gates. Our lives are about to change again.

Next steps for Dara: learning to talk, answering back, learning to drive, dating. Our little girl is growing up fast.


June 12th, 2008

Part 325 in a series in which I report on an internet phenomenon from over a year ago.

I saw a blog post today which had the “Dramatic Prairie Dog” video – controversy rages on the YouTubes about whether it’s a prairie dog, a hamster or a chipmunk (note: it’s not a chipmunk). The original video is pretty funny in my opinion, and I like some of the remixes here too – enjoy:




chosen one the hero rat

June 11th, 2008

Emma got me a totally great present for my birthday yesterday – an adopted HeroRat from Tanzania. It’s a kind of odd concept initially – it’s through an organization which uses trained rats to detect landmines.

From the adoption letter:

Dear Andrew,

Thank you very much for adopting me. Let me introduce myself: My name is Chosen One and I am an African giant pouched rat. I am no standard rat however because I save lives! I am a herorat, trained to sniff out unexploded landmines in Africa.

Every 20 minutes someone is killed or injured by a landmine. Often they are children. My job is to find the mines before the kids do. Luckily, I have two great advantages over the Children. The first is my nose: I can smell explosives even when they are underground. The second is my size: I am too light to set off the mines.

As a mine detector, I have other advantages too. I am cheap – I work for peanuts. I am easy to train and I don’t mind repetitive tasks. Now that I am trained, I can clear 100 square metres in 30 minutes.

I am now in the final stages of my training and am being prepared to go work in the real mine field. My trainer abdulla, is one of the top trainers here- all his rats pass their tests without a miss!

I promise to do my best to make you proud of me. With your support, I am sure I will soon be out there finding mines and, most important of all, saving kids and innocent adults from hurting themselves. Together we will save lives and limbs.

bangalore traffic

June 11th, 2008

Saw this on BoingBoing today – a video of a train crossing in Bangalore.

Having been there a few times and spent a large percentage of that time stuck in traffic, this is exactly what it’s like. Everyone’s trying to get to their destination as fast as possible with very little regard for rules or safety. And driving between cities (for example when we went from Bangalore to Mysore and back) was exactly the same, except at 70 miles per hour.

challenge your assumptions

June 9th, 2008

Here’s a great story on why the answers may not always be as obvious as you think. There’s quite a movement in the US and the UK (and presumably other countries) based on the assumption that we import so much food now that this can’t be good for the environment. Sounds intuitive, right? Shipping something like tulips to the UK from Africa seems very wasteful compared with growing them in Holland and a short ride across the sea to Britain.

However a recent study by researchers at Carnegie Mellon disputes this fact – their reasoning being that the transport costs are such a small part of the environmental cost of growing food, and in fact it may be more environmentally friendly to grow food in certain locations and ship it to where it’s needed. Here’s a paragraph from a summary:

The line, then, is that the prudent environmentalist will eat local in order to cut down on greenhouse gas emissions. Intuitively, that makes a lot of sense. Bananas shipped from Brazil can’t be good for the environment. But two Carnegie Mellon researchers recently broke down the carbon footprint of foods, and their findings were a bit surprising. 83 percent of emissions came from the growth and production of the food itself. Only 11 percent came from transportation, and even then, only 4 percent came from the transportation between grower and seller (which is the part that eating local helps cut). Additionally, food shipped from far off may be better for the environment than food shipped within the country — ocean travel is much more efficient than trucking.

A further example I heard recently was that buying apples grown in New Zealand can usually be a more environmentally choice than locally grown, because the conditions in New Zealand are so conducive to growing apples that they need very little extra help, such as fertilizers, irrigation etc, all of which are a greater environmental drain than the transportation.

The moral of this: always be ready to challenge your assumptions. The answers are often counter-intuitive or more complex than you would think.


June 6th, 2008

I’m working from home today, due to having a poorly five-year-old. Yesterday evening Toby was complaining about having a sore tummy – we thought it was to do with having too much candy at the school camp-out yesterday, but reports indicate that the quantity of junky snacks was minimal. When he went to bed he was still talking about it, and he didn’t really get to sleep properly, so at Emma’s and my bedtime I ended up staying in his room with him. Not much sleep for either of us – he was going to the bathroom every half hour or so but these were, shall we say, unproductive visits.

I think we were both dozing off at around 2am when …. well I’ll let him describe it in his own words, when he told Emma this morning. “I realized that I needed to run so I held my breath and jumpted out of bed and ran to the bathroom as fast as I could and when I let my breath out lots of…” On second thoughts all the details are probably a lot more interesting to a five-year-old – I’ll spare you. Anyway he was really stoic – after he had been ill he said that he was feeling much better and he said I could go back to my room. Of course at this exact time Dara woke up, but after a change and some milk she went back to sleep pretty quickly. Toby had another couple of zooms to the bathroom but both times he was awesome – didn’t seem to be unhappy and just did what he needed to in a calm and businesslike manner. I was really impressed.

After all those night-time shenanigans we weren’t going to send him to school, so he and I have been hanging out today. He seems to be much better, and right now is watching a movie while I’m catching up with work. I think it’s much more fun being a kid.