Wildlife Nooner

I happened upon the beaver pictured above within a short walk of iRobot during my lunch hour. It never ceases to amaze me how much wildlife abounds if you simply take the time to look for it. Pictured below is a male hooded merganser. During breeding season his plumage changes color. The head, back and neck become black, with white stripes near the chest and tail, and a white crest develops on the back of the head that can be extended to attract mates.


In the light of morning, I was relieved to learn that we had escaped the wrath of Hurricane Sandy. The yard was covered in small branches and clumps of leaves but nothing beyond that. By contrast, my commute to work took me past no less than half a dozen downed trees and power lines. Our main inconvenience was the loss of power for about an hour. When the lights went out, I initiated a mental countdown. 15 seconds for the standby generator to confirm a total black out, 5 seconds to auto start, 10 seconds to stabilize engine speed and voila…. and voila…… and…… nothing. After a minute elapsed, I went outside in the gale force winds to determine what went wrong. I tried a manual start. I tried resetting the controller. I verified the natural gas supply, still no joy. Having spent a good bit of time and money installing this generator it would be an understatement to say that I was not a happy camper. The unit does a self test every week and has started perfectly every time. I was perplexed and irritated as I read every detail of the owner’s and installation manual for a second and third time, searching, to no avail, for some kind of answer. About 5 minutes after our power was restored, I developed a failure theory and made a quick modification to confirm my hypothesis. I postulated that the only difference of consequence between the last successful test and the current conditions was the intense wind (gusting to 50mph). I used duct tape to cover the intake baffles which were fully exposed to the wind. The generator started on the first attempt. Mystery solved! Severe winds were entering through the intake baffles and either throwing off the gas-air mixture or pressurizing the chamber in such a way as to prevent combustion. Hard to imagine that an emergency back-up generator design would fail to consider this possibility. I will have to wait until the next big storm and power outage before I can feel any satisfaction with this generator and will be making a call to Generac, the manufacturer, to share my disappointment with them in the mean time.


Even the seagulls of Goldthwait Reservation in Marblehead, MA were hunkered down as Hurricane Sandy made its presence felt. Schools and many businesses (including iRobot) across Massachusetts were closed today at the request of the Governor. I ventured out to the coast for a few hours to experience the raw power of nature. Jeanine was not thrilled with the idea but I was not to be dissuaded. I have never seen anything like it and am glad I made the excursion. I kept a respectful distance from the water and returned to my car when the wind became dangerous.

Calm Before The Storm

It was eerily calm this morning, even as Hurricane Sandy began moving towards the Eastern Seaboard. It could be the largest storm to ever hit the United States, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s website. Anyone out there still doubting global climate change? My soccer game this morning was an hour and a half away in Fairhaven, MA which it appears will be in one of the most seriously affected storm surge areas come tomorrow evening. We were down 0-2 at halftime before clawing our way back with two goals for the draw. I had a very nice assist on the equalizer and saw about 70 minutes of playing time which left me content to spend a large portion of the remainder of the day on the couch. Our final game of the season will be next week against the division champions.

Things 1 & 2

Sarinnagh and Maya pose after putting the finishing touches on their home-made Halloween costumes. They are attending a party this evening where they hope to earn a prize for their efforts. Maya had no less than 2 dance classes and an indoor soccer match today. I am guessing she will sleep well this evening. Jeanine and I did a little work around the house, readying it for winter and Hurricane Sandy which is predicted to impact us on Monday.

Halloween Dance

Maya hosted a slumber party for her friends after they attended their middle school Halloween dance this evening. One of the girls was admiring a photo I had taken of Kyle (or possibly was just admiring Kyle) and wanted to know how I made it look so good (answer being good lighting). I offered to show her and in less than 2 minutes all 5 girls were posing in my studio. Each one could be a model in her own right. Taken together with a small dose of teenage girl silliness and I had the perfect elements to create some very memorable photos.

Overcoming the Odds

It has taken several weeks, but I finally had a chance to capture the story about Nico which appeared on CBS This Morning earlier in the month. This has been the most comprehensive (4.5 minutes) interview and includes very nice commentary by Jim Axelrod who described Nicolai as one of the 5 most impressive people he has ever met. The YouTube post of his amazing goal has reached 1.5 million views and appears that it will stabilize at that level. Interest in the story has all but faded although just today he agreed to a 2-hour interview with a TV show from the United Kingdom for which he will be paid $500.

Maya Pie

I did not download this photo, taken last Thursday, until today and felt it deserved a belated post. Perhaps inspired by the expression “as American as apple pie”, visiting Chinese exchange students were treated to an apple picking and pie baking activity shortly after they arrived last week. Pictured here is the pie/work-of-art created by Maya and Wu, the student staying with us. Maya, a seasoned pie maker, expertly trained over the years by her mother, was able to teach Wu how to cut the strips needed for the crust using only sign language. The results speak for themselves, no translation required.

Hold Out

I used my lunch hour to enjoy another great fall day. I have a standard 2 mile loop which takes me through some nearby wetlands. Peak color has passed but there are still many trees which have yet to start turning. I thought a touch of green would be a nice departure from all the recent orange, yellow and reds of recent posts.

Chinese Exchange

For the past five days we have hosted a Chinese exchange student as part of the reciprocal arrangement for Maya’s recent visit to China. Our student, Yuancheng Wu, spoke little English but was very open to new experiences. Maya’s skill at non verbal communication proved invaluable as they tackled projects including pie baking, pumpkin carving, apple picking, pizza making, and playing chess. Wu also had a chance to visit the Boston Common, Harvard University, and the New England Aquarium. To celebrate his last evening with us, Jeanine prepared a turkey dinner. We were joined by Nico’s friend Sarah and her puppy Findley. Afterwards, Findley and Nala provided entertainment for all as they frolicked in the living room.

Calf Back

I returned to the soccer pitch this morning after missing three games due to a badly strained calf muscle. My legs felt great although my fitness level certainly was not enhanced by the one month hiatus. It was great to be on the field again and I played fairly well. I had two chances to score, the first on a very powerful volley from the top of the 18 after intercepting the ball which was just a few inches over the bar. The second from within the 6 after beating a defender which found the keeper rather than the back of the net. The officiating was terrible and both teams had players ejected, theirs for breaking our goalie’s nose (which he reports has corrected his deviated septum). Jeanine, Maya and a Chinese exchange student who has been staying with our family for the past few days spent the day in Salem while I did a little kayaking on the Sudbury River.

Berkshires Roadtrip

The call of autumn color drew me into a road trip to the Berkshires today. After a brief visit to Nashua, New Hampshire it was apparent that peak color would be more prevalent further south. I traveled for hours along Route 2 and as far as Shelburne Falls before I broke out my camera. I found many great photo opportunities as I slowly made my way back to Concord with additional stops in Turners Falls, the King’s Bridge at the Connecticut River, and Millers Falls.

Morning Glory

The colors in New England this fall have been spectacular. This morning before sunrise I set out with my camera and was rewarded for skipping breakfast with this scene of the Sudbury River which I found less than 3 minutes from our house. The light was perfect and there was a thin layer of fog on the water. I am really pleased with the photograph and feel like I am finally starting to get the hang of rendering autumnal landscapes.

Greatest Fans

In the United States, soccer does not have the same following as football or basketball. Most high school soccer matches are only attended by the parents of the players. The group pictured here has attended almost every match, home or away. This is not a fair weather fan club. These guys are hard core. They cheer for the team, they encourage the players, and they keep the refs in line. If the team should make it into the late rounds of the state tournament again this year you can rest assured that a large contingent from the high school will come to support them. These, however, are the true fans.

Lunchtime Discovery

I usually grab a soup or salad from the cafeteria located in our office complex and work through lunch at my desk. Today I was compelled by a perfect fall day to go outdoors. I located this rather idyllic scene less than five minutes from the office. It never ceases to amaze me what great photos I can find in my own backyard. I need to remind myself to keep looking.

Aerial Beast

Nicolai saw lots of action today in a match against Boston Latin. The 1-0 victory brought the team’s record for the season to 10-1-1. Nico was dominant in the air and made several nice passes to set up attacks on the goal. We have learned that both People Magazine and USA Today would like to do articles about his recent exploits.