Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Herman Park Lights

Last night we all went down to Herman Park in Houston to look at the lights. For the brief moment that Dada wasn't on my shoulders I was able to get this picture of a row of trees that line the reflecting pool. I'm pretty happy with the composition and the clarity of the picture considering that it was hand held and a very slow shutter speed.

Dada seemed to enjoy the lights although she was more interested in the ducks in the reflecting pool than the lights. She also enjoyed the jazz band that was playing in the park, insisting that I dance with her on my shoulders as we headed back to the car.

Christmas in Houston

Or maybe "Pinball Wizard"

We spent Christmas day in Houston, where Dada got to open lots of presents. Grandma Boo got her this little pinball machine, which seemed to actually hold her interest for a little while (otherwise she was more into the opening than the contents of the packages).

Of course it was over much too quickly but that's Christmas for you

Making Pies

Here is a picture of Dada helping her daddy make pie crust on Christmas Eve. She's more interested in the flour and butter as snacks than in the fine details of pie crust making, but it's a start. I'm sure before too long she'll be making light flaky crusts just like her daddy.

This year we used a combination of no-trans-fat Crisco and butter for the pie crusts and they came out really nice. In years past I've usually made all-butter crusts and they're OK but not usually quite as light as I'd like. The Crisco seemed to make the crust a bit lighter.

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Chicken Waterer

In the interest of being complete in my documentation of the chicken coop, I present this picture of the newly-installed automatic poultry waterer. I had to cobble together the piping, which was fun. It took me a couple of tries to get a water-tight connection from the hose to the pipe (tip: cheap plastic hose repair items are not likely to be water tight) but it seems to be drip-free now (it didn't help that I don't know where my pipe wrenches are so I had to use a couple of vise grips to tighten the joints, which is not necessarily best plumbing practice).

Daddy Got a New Camera

For Christmas Grandpa Bill sent Eliot a very fancy camera (Canon EOS Digital Rebel) with which can be taken some pretty cool pictures.

This picture was taken at the Houston Museum of Natural History in available light as Dada ran past. We were down in the Discovery Center. The very slow shutter speed combined with the colorful surroundings resulted in what I think is a pretty nice result.

This camera makes it possible to actually capture the moment, rather than the moment after the moment, which had been the case with our older camera and camera phones. It also allows one to take a lot of pictures because it is fast. If you want to see the result and you are one of our Flickr friends or family contacts, you can see way more pictures of Dada than you should have any interest in seeing. Anyone can also see way too many pictures of our chickens [Flickr tag "chicken"] (I can now express my artistic obsession with chicken photography much more completely than before).

IMG0005I'm also very pleased with this portrait of Dada, which really shows off the capabilities of the camera.

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Christmas Letter 2006

Image039As we are hopeless about getting out holiday cards in anything like a timely fashion I thought I would post the obligatory Christmas Letter here. Sure you could just go through the blog archives for the year to get a sense of what we've done over the last 12 months but that would be really tedious. Besides, it wouldn't give me the opportunity to trot out all the well-worn holiday letter clich├ęs that you've come to expect. So here we go.

It's hard to believe it's already Christmas again and another year has flown past. So many things happened this year: we finished building our new house (Flickr tag "construction") and got moved in in April, settling into a more or less normal daily life after a year of visiting the construction site nearly every day. Dada flowered from a toddler to a fully-realized little girl of almost three (Flickr tag "dada"). We started raising chickens. CIMG4034Then started raising chickens again (Flickr tags "chickens", "chickenhouse"). We didn't travel much but we hosted a number of guests over the course of the year, something we couldn't really do in our old house. We had a big crowd for Thanksgiving (held on the screen porch thanks to global warming). We made friends with many of our new neighbors here in the neighborhood. Eliot visited the Philippines for the first time (Flickr tag "philippines"). Dada started taking gymnastics classes (Flickr tag "gymnastics"), which she enjoys tremendously ("I like Coach Kelly"). Dada had her first experience with trick or treating for Halloween (Flickr tag "halloween"), which she enjoyed tremendously (something about free candy).

Our home was featured on the Austin Cool House Tour, one of about 12 homes in the area that demonstrate exemplary energy efficiency and ecological sensitivity (go us). As a side effect we got a bunch of people to clean our house for us, put up a bunch of art, and do a bit of landscaping in the front. We got the solar electric system up just in time for the tour (we now produce about 1/3 of the electricity we use from the solar panels).

We spent a lot of time watching Warner Brothers cartoons, Robots, Chicken Run, and, lately, A Bug's Life. Eliot spent way too much time playing Lego Star Wars and Lego Star Wars II, one of the few XBox games that can be played with Dada in the room. That and Guitar Hero (Flickr tag "guitar"). And thank God for digital video recorders, that's all we have to say. And we knuckled in and started letting Dada watch Clifford the Big Red Dog even though we know that TV is evil evil evil but you know sometimes you just need an hour to get some stuff done and it seems harmless enough and it does teach life lessons and how are you going to say "no" to that little face so just get off our backs already.

CIMG4016But it wasn't all fun and games. We put a lot of work into the new house, preparing the site for the playscape that Dada's grandfather bought (Flickr tags "grandpa" and "playscape"), spreading two truckloads of mulch on the yard (Flickr tag "mulch) (thanks Joshua!), building a chicken coop (Flickr tags "chickenhouse" and "chickencoop"). Eliot set up two worm bins for composting our kitchen scraps (no pictures, sorry) and produced enough worm castings to fertilize our new rose bushes. We became landlords, turning our old house into a rent house.

Dada is settling right into the stereotype of the high-achieving adopted Chinese girl--she can recognize her name ("'D' for Dada!") and draw crude D's and A's. She can draw remarkably good faces. She can build towers out of regular Legos. And of course she's become a regular Chatty Cathy with an ever-expanding vocabulary. She's not quite ready for Baby's First Cyclotron but it won't be long I'm sure. She loves books of all kinds and is still whining about the fact that the dead laptop I gave her to play with isn't actually a working computer.

Image002Forrest and Lucy are doing well. Forrest is about 12 years old now but is remarkably spry for a dog that age and Lucy is about 6 or 7 (we don't know her exact age). They enjoy barking from the screen porch at the various miscreants who walk in front our house and at the feral cats that haunt our neighbor's yard. And of course, sleeping.

Eliot's job role at work has changed from focusing primarily on software development to pre-sales support, which will probably mean more travel, both in the U.S. and overseas, as he works more closely with the Innodata Isogen groups in Asia. But it will give him an opportunity to be more directly involved with Innodata's core business of data conversion and, hopefully, a chance at a non-trivial bonus if we make our revenue targets, something he's never really had before.

In 2007 we're hoping we can travel a bit more as a family now that we have vacation again and have, hopefully, recovered somewhat financially from the whole new house thing. We expect to start getting eggs from the chickens early in the spring (Eliot needs to start building the roosting boxes pretty quick here) and we might even be able to start doing some more serious landscaping around the yard.

Monday, December 18, 2006

Wii Woes

This year both Sony and Nintendo have released new video game consoles. Both are, like last year's XBox 360, in short supply and high demand.

Of the three new consoles, the Wii is the one I really really want. The Wii has an innovative motion-sensitive controller that seems to really make the games accessible to a whole range of people who would never want to or be able to mash buttons for hours. It's also relatively inexpensive and promises to play lots of older Nintendo games, including the classic Mario 64 (which I used to play incessantly whenever I visited Catherine's house before either of us became parents).

The Wii is on my wish list but I decided that I wanted to try to get one myself--worst case I'd have an extra to sell, best case, I'd have one NOW.

So I found a nifty Web site that tells you when the stores near you are slated to get a shipment and how many they are supposed to get (Wii Seeker). It told me that this last Sunday, 17 Dec, all the targets and Wal-Marts would be getting between 10 and 50 units.

Sunday morning I woke up about 6:00 a.m. and couldn't go back to sleep. I thought about it and decided that this was probably my last chance before Christmas to make a try and I had to do it, even though I knew I was probably already too late.

So I got in the car, after promising Julie I would return with donuts, and headed toward the nearest target. I drove up and there were people out front, and not that many. I had a glimmer of hope as I drove up to the group and asked if they were the Wii line. The guy at the front said "Wii line is done--they had 12 units". Doh!

Disappointed but not surprised I headed off to get donuts from our local Krispy Kreme. On the way there I happened to pass another target, and saw another short line. I had to ask so I swung past and asked the same question. The lady I talked to said they had had 18 units, which they handed out tickets for at 5:30 a.m. Yow.

So I collected my donuts and headed on home. But somehow I felt better knowing what would have had to do to have been one of those 12 or 18, which was pretty much to have set up camp the night before, which I was certainly not willing to do (even granted that the weather this weekend was quite balmy, with lows only in the high 60s, unlike the weekend before when it had been pretty cold and damp).

So now I am content to wait for Santa or the post-Christmas supply ramp up that will surely happen.

And thank goodness that Dada isn't old enough yet to know that she should have been whining for one of these things since late September....

[The picture is of Dada's hand, a completely unintentional composition provided by my slow-as-molasses camera phone.]

Monday, December 04, 2006

Man of the House

Originally uploaded by drmacro.
Last night we acquired a rooster to round out our little flock. We have provisionally named him "Dude Lebowski" because he's such a mellow guy. Julie arranged for him through the Austin chicken keepers list serve from a lady who had produced several roosters in a batch of chicks and was looking for homes. She assures us that Dude is mellow and relatively quiet for a rooster. And yes, we have gotten approval from our neighbors to have a rooster.

We're hoping that Dude will help to keep the flock protected from varmits. And he's a very pretty bird. He's a mix of araucana and other breeds but the araucana is definitely dominant.

The foreshortening in the picture makes him look bigger than he is compared to the girls but he is a little older and closer to full grown. However, the girls don't seem to be intimidated by him in the least.