With the kids otherwise occupied, Jeanine and I did some shopping at REI (probably my favorite place to spend money, other than a good camera store) followed by a late dinner at the John Harvard’s Brewery and Ale House. Probably best known for their beverages, none of which I imbibe, we found the food to be quite good as well. Jeanine and I shared our meals and an hour of uninterrupted pleasure in each other’s company absent the distractions of our normal life.
Maya and her friends Sarinnagh and Fiona performed an excerpt from the Pirates of the Caribbean during the winter recital for her drama class. The girls delivered their lines flawlessly, with great projection and dramatic flare. I videotaped the performance for the benefit of Jeanine who was obligated to attend a Board meeting for our home owner’s association.
Nicolai shared his life size, abstract body map with the family this evening. He completed this self portrait for his Rivers and Revolutions class, an avant-garde program which has had a profound effect on him, impacting his perspectives on both college and career. Students started by tracing their outline and adding the outline of a loved one which they then embellished with iconography of personal significance. The photo suffers from excessive glare and does not do the original justice.
My indoor soccer season started this evening and with my various injuries healed I was feeling unstoppable and was able to find the back of the net three times. We led for the entire match but had to settle for a 4-4 tie as our endurance waned in the closing minutes. We had one sub to their five which made all the difference.
This year we are trying an experiment with two different holiday card formats. This version follows the theme we have used for years. The second, inspired by a card we received last year, will be in the mail shortly. I spent the evening completing both versions and updating our mailing list with Jeanine. We generally wait until the last minute and it feels good to be slightly ahead of the curve this year.
My work commute is 90% across the grain which is to say that I spend very little time in traffic. There are, however, two choke points where things can back up. Having studied the exact details of these traffic patterns for more than two and a half years, I have developed strategies to most efficiently bypass the delays. One of these involves a brief excursion into a lane more generally reserved (as in all the time) for travel in the opposite direction. If properly timed to the signals this maneuver is entire safe as there is no oncoming traffic. This little trick can shave five minutes off my return from work and also benefits other drivers since I reduce the amount of congestion they face. A perfect win-win scenario except for the small matter of being distinctly in violation of traffic law. This evening, after an all day product road map planning session, I was anxious to get home and combined my normal maneuver with a higher rate of speed than usual; all of this in front of a well hidden Bedford Police cruiser which promptly pulled me over. I was prepared for the speeding and lane violations but did not realize that my registration had expired in September. As is my practice in such situations, I was extremely contrite and acknowledged all guilt. I find that if you are polite and own up to your actions, many police officers will show some lenience. In this case, the officer let me register my car on the spot using my smart phone, thus avoiding a mandatory tow to the local impound. He gave me a $100 citation for driving with an expired registration and let me off with a warning for the speeding and illegal lane travel. I was very fortunate that I did not pick up any moving violation points which would have jacked up my insurance rates. The $100 fine seemed entirely reasonable given that I have saved more than 50 hours of commuting time since I began using the maneuver. The downside is that I have used up my good will with the Bedford Police. I can expect that a repeat offense will earn me a much less favorable outcome and must therefore revise my choke point strategy accordingly.
I spent the bulk of the day making preparations for my up coming adventure to Patagonia with Kyle. I spent hours agonizing over which cameras, lenses and tripod to bring. We will be trekking in excess of 10 miles every day so weight is an important consideration . My photography equipment is hovering at around 12 pounds which I would like to trim to 10. To put this in context and to illustrate my priorities; my day pack, tent, sleep bag, sleeping mat, pillow, and all my clothing for 12 days (less boots) weighs less than 10 pounds. I decided it would be easier to lose a couple of pounds between now and our departure in 2 weeks than to give up any gear. With that in mind I took a 4.5 mile walk with my loaded day pack and camera gear. Along the way I found this nice scene which I must remember to photograph again in spring and fall.
Although I have thousands of pictures of each child, I have almost none of them interacting in pairs. The down time in Minnesota has afforded me a great opportunity to catch them enjoying each other’s company. Kyle will fly back to California tomorrow while the rest of us returned to Boston this evening.
Despite having taken more than 10,000 photos this year I do not have a single family portrait to use for this year’s holiday card. Frigid temperatures and snow, therefore, did not stand in the way of several outdoor family portraits which included this grouping of the cousins. Maya has started to learn how to properly use my DSLR (thoughtful control of aperture, shutter speed and exposure compensation) and produced a rather nice portrait of me which I have paired here with one of my beautiful bride. The balance of the day included various activities many of which featured me in service as a horse being ridden by Rose and Sophia. Mark prepared a magnificent prime rib dinner which was followed by an early celebration for my sister Alissa’s 50th birthday (Dec. 2).
It has been 19 years since my family last reunited for Thanksgiving in Minnesota where my brother Mark and his family reside. We missed my sister Mayela and her husband Stephen who were not able to make the trip from North Carolina. Joining us for the gathering was Jeff, Rory’s tennis coach, who would have otherwise celebrated the holiday alone. To know my brother is to understand that the Thanksgiving meal would be something to remember for years to come. The feast lived up to our highest expectations and then some. Most enjoyable for me was watching the 9 cousins interacting. The boys all look like men now and the girls are all going to break hearts. Here are a few portraits of the young beauties.
Dinner was preceded by an assortment of cheese, sopressata, home made pate and pesto, with freshly baked bread. The 22 pound turkey just barely fit in the oven with wings just touching the sides. Mark insisted it rest for 40 minutes before serving. While this no doubt produced a more succulent result, it caused near mutiny in the kitchen as the aroma tortured us with the promise of what was to come.
Maya had her hair done today. I am not sure exactly what the process entails but I believe at some point her head is placed inside a vice. I really like the new look and enticed Maya to sit for me. She got the idea to throw her hair about and I have 2 dozen photos, each better than the last. We both had a lot of fun and enjoyed reviewing the results.
It has been a few days since Kyle returned home from college and I have been delinquent in posting a photo of him. He reports that he is enjoying his classes and doing well scholastically. His various injuries have healed to the point where he is running and lifting regularly. He looks very trim and healthy again which is helping to motivate me to get back in the gym where I could stand to shed more than a few pounds. His sleeping schedule is still quite shifted from ours, a combination of the three hour time zone difference and the three hour college lifestyle difference. Last night I tried to repair his computer which is no longer functioning after he attempted to water it (more beneficial for plant life, as a future reference) and he is experiencing withdrawal symptoms from Facebook. Fortunately, he did not water his phone which is now his only lifeline into his social network.
About this time each year, our home is visited (invaded) by legions of Ladybugs. They gravitate to the top corners of our highest ceilings where they huddlle together for the winter in a state of diapause. As day length in spring increases, they are among the first insects to return to the gardens where they provide a very helpful function by feeding on aphids and spider mites. Coccinellids are found worldwide, with over 5,000 species of which more than 450 are native to North America alone. I have a live and let live policy with respect to Ladybugs. Our cleaning ladies take a different view.
I generally wake up every day at 5AM so leaving the house at that hour to retrieve Kyle from the airport was perfect. He spent a good portion of the remainder of the day making up for the sleep he lost on the red-eye from California. Running and lifting have left him fit and trim and ostensibly rehabilitated from his various muscle injuries.
I spent the bulk of the day completing a project to refit the house with LED light bulbs. This latest generation of lighting technology consumes 1/5 of the energy of conventional incandescent bulbs of the same brightness, start instantly, have a pleasing color temperature and are advertised to last for more than twenty years. The downside is that they cost more than $10 a pop and with close to 100 fixtures and lamps throughout the house it was quite an expensive undertaking. Reaching the nine fixtures in our vaulted master bedroom ceiling required me to set up a crude scaffolding which was the most time consuming part of the project.
After a delicious welcome home Sunday dinner, Jeanine took Kyle and visiting cousin Johnnie to see the new Lincoln movie. I spent the evening assisting Maya in my wood shop. She is constructing a miniature book shop from plywood for her French class. Here she is seen laying out the patterns to be cut for the door and windows. Under my supervision she used the table saw for the first time. It is the most daunting of wood cutting tools and her first attempt resulted in a kickback. Fortunately, she was not hurt at all and the incident left her with profound respect for the power of this tool.
Nicolai gave what is likely to be his last interview regarding the amazing goal he scored this season and the video of it which went viral. The segment will air next April in the United Kingdom on a television show produced by October Films. His publicity manager (yours truly) was able to negotiate a $500 appearance fee for his efforts. I think we are all ready to put this chapter of Nico’s fame behind us now. One can only imagine what he will do next.
This evening after work I joined several colleagues at Waxy O’Connor’s Irish Pub to bid farewell to a pair of long time iRobot employees who are leaving the company. The setting did not afford an opportunity to make any speeches but I did have an opportunity to personally thank both guys for their fine work at the company and to wish them well in the future.
With the winter months approaching I have been giving serious thought to my next solo trekking adventure. The Patagonia region of Argentina and Chile has long been on my bucket list. This morning, Jeanine suggested I invite Kyle to join me. I loved the idea but didn’t expect him to want to spend 2 weeks of his winter break climbing through the Andes with his father. To my great surprise and delight he said yes. It has been 7 years since Kyle and I traveled to Belize for his Coming of Age Adventure and I am really looking forward to adding another chapter to our story. Perhaps this will mark the beginning of a new tradition.
From the time they were mere toddlers, I have cut the hair of my boys. Motivated initially by a desire to save money, I long ago came to enjoy the father-son intimacy it offered. I still have fond memories of my mother cutting my hair as a child. During their early teen years each haircut would end with a tirade about my total incompetence as a barber if even 4 or 5 hairs were cut too short. Now, I am more likely to be asked to make another pass because I have not cut the hair short enough. Despite my purported total lack of ability, I am pleased that my only two clients have remained with me all these years and look forward to cutting their hair for years to come.