Red Heads

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We have an unusual number of redheads that work in the Human Resources department at iRobot. This group stopped by my office this morning for a meeting to discuss why I was not in costume for the Halloween open house. Children of employees are invited to Trick-or-Treat throughout the facility which is elaborately decorated for the occasion and to enjoy a special Halloween lunch. I have been unusually busy with two new product launches and have had little time to think about anything else. With the pressure on, I was able to improvise a headless pumpkin costume using only my normal work apparel, a rather sad statement about the nature of my professional wardrobe. Despite the fact that it was thrown together at the last second, I can tell you that this outfit produced more fear in small children than any other at the company. I was able to see well enough through the buff covering my head to track down and approach youngsters who found my lack of a face quite disturbing. Add a low pitched growl once in close proximity and they were quickly looking for the arms of their parents. I am guessing this Hallow’s Eve behavior will earn me another visit from the red heads.

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Sox Fan

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Since we moved to the Boston area ten years ago the Red Sox have won the World Series three times and the Patriots have won the Super Bowl three times. Even though our family does not generally follow professional sports it is hard not to get pulled into the excitement of rooting for your home team when they are competing for a national title (kind of arrogant that we call them the “World” Series as I think about it). Jeanine multi-tasked (Open Table e-mail) during the early innings of the game and was fast asleep by the fifth inning. Maya made it till the bottom of the eighth but I woke her up for the final out of the game. This year’s victory was made more poignant because the team made such a dramatic turn around from last season and because the team and the city rallied around the Boston Strong theme after the marathon bombing last spring.

Sunshine Coast

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Pulled this photo off of Nico’s Facebook account. It was taken on the Sunshine Coast in British Columbia where he is completing an internship with SideStix, the manufacturer of his forearm crutches. He has learned many aspects of the business and everything there is to know about building and maintaining his crutches. This week he is in Seattle speaking at the local VA hospitals and demonstrating the product. I was thrilled to learn he will be returning in time for Thanksgiving as will Kyle.

Headlamp Sale

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Reluctantly, I have placed these PrincetonTec Apex headlamps up for sale on Craig’s List today. They are veterans of my coming of age adventures with both boys and many solo adventures I have taken over the years. They have seen the bottom of the Actun Tunichil Muknal cave in Belize and the top of Mount Kilimanjaro in Tanzania. They have guided my path through the Patagonia regions of Chile and Argentina, up the slopes of Mount Fuji, and over the Salkantay Pass in Peru. They have never failed me and remain in near perfect condition. With my upcoming trip to Nepal, however, I am switching from AA batteries to 18650 and CR123A type batteries for all of my equipment. They offer lower weight for the same illumination and longer life. The downside is that the batteries can only be found in specialty retailers.

Maya & Papa

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Maya is about mid way through the half year long Coming of Age program offered at our church. Participants examine their spirituality and belief systems with the goal of developing a personal credo and sharing it with the entire congregation. Unitarian Universalism is characterized by a “free and responsible search for truth and meaning”. Members do not share a creed, but are unified by their shared search for spiritual growth.

This evening parents shared a letter in which they tell their child what they admire about them, why they value them, favorite memories, and words of wisdom. I worked on my letter all week and practiced it many times hoping I could control my emotions while reading it to Maya in front of her peers and their parents. Jeanine had a great letter and delivered it with style and grace. I didn’t make it through my first paragraph before I totally lost it. I felt very vulnerable as I struggled to complete the letter, sobbing uncontrollably during parts. Maya put her hand on my shoulder and only that consolation helped my to finish. The feelings I expressed came from deep within me, tapping into emotions too powerful for me to control. Maya’s hug as I finished pulled me back from the depths. This photo was taken yesterday but I thought it appropriate to post today.

After Brunch

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wpid11103-2013-10-26-104347-280.jpgThe Earle family hosted a brunch for friends and family of the bride this morning. We spent the better part of five hours catching up and making new acquaintances. I enjoyed getting to know the groom, Kyle, whose adventurous nature belies his shy personality. The owner of no less than 22 alligators, he immediately recognized from my blog photos, the location where I had taken them while in the Everglades photographing gators. He had personally captured several of his in that same location. His ambition is to one day move to Florida and establish a sanctuary for dislocated reptiles. Other than Beth and her brothers Colin and Jamie, Maya knew few people and was happy to snuggle with Mama until she befriended the Earle dog, Saint. The head of this dog seemed to outweigh the remainder of its body but to its credit he was a very cooperative photographic subject. The party eventually moved to the local football field where Jamie was in action playing wide receiver on offense and safety on defense. We caught most of the first half before we had to leave for the airport.

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Bethany’s Wedding

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Jeanine, Maya and I traveled to Bryn Athyn, Pennsylvania this morning where we attended the wedding of Bethany Earle, daughter of Jeanine’s childhood and lifelong friend Kris, to Kyle Asplundh. We arrived early enough to tour the Glencairn Museum located adjacent to the Bryn Athyn Cathedral where the service was held. The castle-like building was the former house of billionaire businessman Raymond Pitcairn and his wife, Mildred Glenn. It consists of more than 90 rooms on 10 floors including a tower from which you can see the 15-mile distant Philadelphia skyline. My first wedding photo was taken from this vantage point as I noticed the bride in her white gown walking into the cathedral. I have known Beth since she was a baby and it is hard to believe she is all grown up.

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One of my favorite pictures of the evening was this one of best friends and their daughters.

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Fall Homestead

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Every year I tell myself I should take a photo of the house when our burning bushes are at peak color. I have finally made good on that intention.

Parking Lot

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I arrived in the office early today and was able to take this photo of the iRobot parking lot before it filled with cars. Did I recently suggest that peak color was behind us?

I spent more than an hour with Maya this evening helping her to prepare for a big test tomorrow. At one point I became bored with her seemingly perfect recall of the material and asked her to duplicate a very complex page of diagrammatic notes from memory. The result was a near perfect copy of the original information organized in nearly identical spatial orientation. It is clear that Maya shares my visual learning style preference but I am now convinced she may also have something of a photographic memory.

On Fire

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Maya was in top form today as Concord Carlisle faced arch rival Acton Boxborough to whom they suffered their only loss this season. The match ended in a 1-1 tie. Maya played center midfield with a level of passion I have not seen in her before. Pictured above she launches a rocket from the 18. It was low and hard to the right corner. The goalie dove for the block but could not handle the ball, fumbling it in front of the net. A quick toe poke from our nearest striker would have won the game but the shot was not taken in time. Below Maya makes a sharp cut to beat a defender as she carried the ball down field. She made a total of three runs where she beat as many opponents each time before completing passes to one of her attackers. I wish her brothers could have watched her play today. They would have been very impressed.

I tested my recovering calf for the first time with a three mile walk over my lunch hour. It was still a little tight but I finished without tweaking it again and experienced only mild soreness afterwards. My Nepal trek will cover a distance equal to walking from Boston to my home town of Schenectady, NY over a mountain 3.3 miles high. Expressed in these terms, it is easy to understand why I have to get back to my training regime as soon as possible if I am going to be ready for my adventure.

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Hanging On

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The fall season is coming to an end but there are still some very fine scenes to be found. With cold weather and rain on the way I suspect that this will be one of my last autumnscapes.

Crop Walk

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Neighbors walking together to take a stand against hunger describes a CROP Hunger Walk (Communities Responding to Overcome Poverty). Funds raised by the Concord area CROP Walk go to the Church World Service for worldwide emergency relief of disasters, for refugee aid and for fighting the root causes of hunger through community development programs in 80 underdeveloped countries. One quarter of the funds raised provide substantial contributions to ten local supper/food pantry programs including Open Table which Jeanine now heads. Maya and her friends volunteered to man Checkpoint #4 where they greeted walkers on their final leg of the course offering them water and first aid (fortunately none of the later was needed).

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Mount Greylock

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Jeanine and I started the day with a couples massage at the Cranwell Spa. I opted for the deep tissue variation and asked for extra time on my recovering right calf while Jeanine enjoyed a Swedish style massage. We decided to spend the balance of the day in the Berkshires. Mount Greylock, our first destination, is the highest natural point in Massachusetts at 3,491 feet. The mountain is known for its expansive views encompassing five states and the only taiga-boreal forest in the state. We drove to the summit where stands the iconic 93-foot-high lighthouse-like Massachusetts Veterans War Memorial Tower. We paused for lunch at the adjacent Bascom Lodge which lived up to its reputation for extremely fine food, not something you would expect at such a remote outpost. We continued on to North Adams and finally joined Route 2 and gradually worked our way back to Concord stopping often to enjoy the scenery along the way.

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Norman Rockwell

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I woke with the sunrise to explore the Cranwell Resort grounds before breakfast and my first meeting at 8am. Just as I was heading in, I came across a very healthy looking coyote who was also looking for a bite to eat. He was kind enough to pose for me in front of a lovely Berkshires autumn backdrop. Equally cooperative were my Home Business Unit colleagues who posed for a group photo during a midday break.

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This evening we were joined by our significant others for a private tour and dinner at the Norman Rockwell Museum. Rockwell (1894–1978), an American painter and illustrator, is most famous for the cover illustrations of everyday life scenarios he created for The Saturday Evening Post magazine including The Four Freedoms (Freedom from Want, Freedom from Fear, Freedom of Worship, Freedom of Speech), pictured here, a series of four oil paintings he produced in 1943. The paintings were made for reproduction in the Post over the course of four consecutive weeks alongside essays by prominent thinkers of the day. Later they were the highlight of a touring exhibition sponsored by the United States Department of the Treasury. The touring exhibition and accompanying sales drives raised over US$132 million in the sale of war bonds. Rockwell’s obsession with the details of his work was matched only by the poignancy of the images he created. We dined in a room containing all 321 covers he created for The Saturday Evening Post.

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Cranwell Retreat

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In 1853, the Reverend Henry Ward Beecher purchased Blossom Hill located in the Berkshire Mountains just outside of Lenox, Massachusetts, where the Cranwell Mansion now stands. He loved the views from the top of the hillside and it is from this vantage point that he proclaimed, “From here I can see the very hills of Heaven”. He was active in the women’s suffrage and the anti-slavery movements and had presidential ambitions, which were ended by a scandalous affair, and so, it was left for his sister Harriet Beecher Stowe to claim fame through her anti-slavery novel, Uncle Tom’s Cabin. General John Rathbone purchased the 380 acre property from Beecher in 1869 and constructed a new home called Wyndhurst, enormous by any standards of the day and ironically referred to as a “cottage.” At the same time, on the backside of the hill, United States Naval Captain John Barnes, Flag Officer of the North Atlantic Fleet during the Civil War, erected Coldbrooke, now known as Beecher’s Cottage and part of the Cranwell property. John Sloane, a relative of the Vanderbilts and co-owner of the famous furniture firm, W & J Sloane, became the next owner of the property when he built his “cottage” in 1894. After tearing down Rathbone’s Wyndhurst and Beecher’s farmhouse, Sloane constructed another Wyndhurst, which rivaled the enormity and elegance of the first. He also commissioned Frederick Law Olmsted, the landscape architect who created New York’s Central Park and the Boston area’s Emerald Necklace, to design the grounds. It is this new Wyndhurst that stands on the hill today. The property was briefly run as the Berkshire Hunt and Country Club until purchased by Edward Cranwell in 1930 who deeded the estate to the Society of Jesus of New England in 1939, to be turned into a private school for boys. After prospering for many years, the school slipped into decline, closing its doors in 1975. Today Cranwell, with much of its original grandeur restored, is a premier four-season resort and was the site of a two day iRobot management retreat which I am attending.

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Center Midi

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Maya turns the corner on a defender as her coach looks on. She played nearly the entire match at center midfield and is really starting to look comfortable in the new position. Her vision of the field, ball control and strategic distribution are excellent, characteristics she shares with her older brothers. Her team shut out Wayland by a score of 3-0 and Maya had a very nice give-and-go assist to her close friend Sarinnagh who produced all three goals for Concord.

I am still limping but am well on the road to recovery from my torn calf muscle. I am feeling very confident I will be fully healed before leaving for Nepal on Thanksgiving Day but I have little hope of playing any more soccer this season. My day started with a 6:30AM breakfast interview in Chelmsford with an employment candidate and ended at 9PM at the Concord Wheelhouse where I participated as a judge in the OARS annual photography contest. The organization’s mission is to protect, preserve and enhance the natural and recreational features of the Assabet, Sudbury and Concord rivers, their tributaries and watersheds.