Conversations that matter…

Yesterday was my regular “Lizzy & Daddy Day” – where we make sure that Liz and I do something for just the two of us.  This time we had decided that we would be going fishing together.

We got up early, got everything ready, and headed out.  Once we had been driving for about a minute, Lizzy decided that it was time for the sort of conversation that she could only have with just me in the car.

“Dad, I know this isn’t related to anything we are doing, but…

If ‘i’ is the square root of negative one, what is the square root of ‘i’?”

A lengthy discussion followed that both of us enjoyed. (for the curious – the correct mathematical answer to the question is that the square root of ‘i’ is the square root of ‘i’.  If you need a more detailed explanation – I suggest that you go fishing with me).

Later, when I told Werona about this conversation, she said “Only Lizzy would ask you that!”.  To which I had to explain that only early in the day I had contemplated, on a whim, “If the odds of something happening are 1 in 100, what are the odds of it not actually happening if you try it 100 times?”.  Some short math later showed that the odds of a “1 in 100” event not actually occurring after 100 attempts was 1 in 2.73.

Ah.  Maths….

Cheers,
Ben

Work off an Easter egg binge? Yeah, right!

For a while now I have been watching my diet, exercising regularly, and all the good stuff.  That said, I have learnt that for my sanity (and the sanity of those around me) there are times when you have to forget about the diet and celebrate the moment.

For me – Easter is one of those times.  For the Easter weekend I do not exercise, I do not track my diet, I just enjoy the occasion…  And eat *lots* of chocolate.

In fact, my Easter chocolate binge has become a tad excessive.  You see, come Monday morning I am back to tracking everything.  So somewhere in my mind I have decided that the best thing to do is to try and eat all of the chocolate I can before the weekend is over.  That way I do not have to balance a large amount of outstanding chocolate with the rest of my diet.  Makes sense?  Right??

Anyway, questionable logic aside, I made a reasonable attempt at “death by chocolate” this year – and when all was said and done I had a small bowl of solid little Easter eggs come Monday morning:

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Now, to be clear.  This is a small bowl.  I can hold it in one hand easily.  And these are the smallest little Easter eggs you can get.

So after work I sat and looked at this bowl and thought to myself: “How much exercise would I have to do to be able to eat the whole darned bowl today, and still stay on my diet”.  After a lot of number crunching, the results were depressing (to say the least).

A one hour (60 minute) walk?  Three eggs:

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*cough*

A one hour run, covering over 8 kilometers? Ten eggs:

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To eat the whole bowl?  You would literally have to run a marathon.  42 kilometers of running (which for me would take about 4 hours, and would probably kill me in the process).

Tonight I opted for the 8 kilometer run and had ten eggs with a coffee afterwards.  But it does make me quite aware of the fact that I ate a staggering amount of chocolate yesterday, and I will probably be paying for that for a couple of days yet…

Cheers,
Ben

Camping in the North West

Isaac and I are out on a camping trip right now. This was planned weeks ago. But at the beginning of this week, the big question on my mind was: How bad is the rain going to be?
You see, we do get fine days – and even sunny weeks here in Washington. But more often than not, it rains.

That said, the rain is usually light and sporadic. Usually you can ignore it and get on with your life. But when it comes to camping, the impact of the rain is quite notable. Handling rain means that you need a lot more gear and a lot more planning.

At the beginning of the week, the forecast for rain was 40%. At that stage I was debating whether we should take our chances and pack light. By the end of the week, the forecast was 80% and the debate was over. We were going to pack for rain.

We drove to the campsite on a lovely sunny Friday afternoon, and as we setup our large rain shelter, we joked about how all this effort would be wasted if it did not rain. We had a good nights sleep, and when we woke to blue skies, I wondered if maybe we had gotten lucky. But not 10 minutes later the clouds rolled over and the first drops of rain started to fall.

Not to fear.

Being experienced Washington campers meant that our shelter (a large tarp on wooden poles) is quite large. We quickly shuffled everything under cover and proceeded to make breakfast in the dry.

We will probably go for a hike shortly. It is still raining, and we will get wet, but that is all part of living in Washington!

My Evolving LEGO Story

When I was a child, I was a big Lego fan.  I used to love creating large and complicated Lego creations.  I have fond memories of sunny weekend afternoons spent in my room creating new inventions.  I created medieval battle scenes, suburban villages, rocket ships and more.

As I grew older, I got interested in Lego Technics and Robotics.

However, by the time I had moved out of my parents home I had pretty much stopped playing with Lego.

A couple of years ago I started to get back into Lego again.  Specifically – I started to get into the new 12+ kits that are available these days.  I started out with a number of the Star Wars Lego kits.  My personal highlight here was the AT ST Walker:

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One of the things that I liked most about these kits was the hidden complexity.  It would be very easy to take something like the AT ST walker and just fill the empty space with nothing, or plain bricks.  But that is not what Lego does.  Instead, the entire model is full of interesting details – many of which will only be seen by the person who puts them together.  In the case of the AT ST walker – I can tell you that the inside of the feet is actually quite complicated.  You would never know that from looking at the outside.

Over time I started to fall out of love with the Star Wars Lego kits.  This was primarily because they are mostly ships and vehicles of one kind or another – and once you have four of them on a shelf, the fifth one does not really standout compared to the others.

After Star Wars Lego I started getting into the new town house series that Lego have been doing.  I absolutely love these things!

They are big and complicated, and they are beautiful when on display.  Here is my current Lego street (that sits on a shelf above my computer desk):

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On top of this – these houses were designed to be played with.

Let me explain.  My eldest two children have shown a mild to moderate interest in Lego.  They have always admired my Lego – but not really been interested in playing extensively with them.

Kai is different.  He loves Lego, and he loves playing with it.  He often comes and points to something on my shelf and asks if he can play with it.

Given this situation, I have come to have a solid appreciation for how hard it is to break each of my Lego creations, and how easy it is to fix if it is broken.  For example: pre-Kai I would have told you that my AT ST Walker was the best Star Wars Lego model I had.  It is striking and complex.  Unfortunately, it will also break if you look at it really hard.  In comparison my X-Wing fighter is quite robust, and is easy to fix when it breaks.  For these reasons I would recommend the X-Wing over the AT ST Walker any day.

So how do the town houses stack up?  Fantastically.

They are actually designed to come apart at each floor, and reassemble easily.  So if Kai asks to play with one of the houses, I pull it down onto the floor and split it out into the pieces for him:

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He can then play with the figurines and have them explore the building.

It is funny.  While I genuinely appreciate the process of creating these buildings, and am happy to have them on display for their pure aesthetic value, it is also great to have someone who can play with them in ways that I won’t.

As a result – I now find my interest in Lego kits changing.  I still love the town house kits, and want to get any that I do not have yet, but I find myself eyeing off some of the vehicle kits – like the large VW Van:

Or the remote control 4×4:

Simply because I know that I would enjoy making them, and Kai would enjoy playing with them Smile

Cheers,
Ben

Fastest Bicycle in the World

Kai got a new bicycle for Christmas.  It is nothing fancy – just a little red bike that we got on sale (from Costco I believe).  But Kai loves it.  Not only does he love it – but in his mind it is the fastest bike in the world.

We do not have much flat ground – so we have been taking him to the local park where there is a tennis / basket ball court that he can ride around in circles on.  While he does this he is constantly talking about his bike – with phrases such as:

“I’m going 100 miles per hour!”

“Using turbo rocket boosters!”

“This is the fastest bicycle in the world!”

It is hilarious and wonderful to watch.  Every now and then he will come over and ask if you are impressed by his fast bike – to which you have to agree that yes, it is an amazing bicycle.

Cheers,
Ben

Cleaning house, and breaking a piano

I am currently on Christmas holidays.

One of my top goals for the holidays was to clean out our garage.  It has been accumulating junk for a while now.  Some of it we wanted to donate, some of it we wanted to throw away – but all of it needed to go.

There was one particular challenge though.  Our old piano.

We picked this piano up from a neighbor down the street when they moved away.  It is old, beat up and out of tune.  And it weighs a ton.

When we bought our new piano we asked about options for what to do with our old piano.  It turns out that people were not even willing to take it for free.  You see, in this area of the world any charity with the vaguest need for a piano already has been given a nicer one than our old piano.  Checking the local newspapers confirmed that there were numerous local residents with adds that offered free second hand pianos to anyone who would come and take the thing away.

Given all of this, the logical conclusion was to throw it out.  But that posed new problems.

Mostly around how big and heavy the thing is.  Our dump has size limits – which a piano certainly breaks.  And even if it did not – there is no way that I could personally manage to get a piano into (and out of) our minivan.

There was only one thing to do – break the piano into smaller parts.

I started with an electric screwdriver and slowly, meticulously, dismantled the piano.  I found some entertainment in seeing how far I could disassemble it while still being able to play it (and occasionally encourage the kids to play on it and see how the internal mechanisms work).    Once it became apparent that I was about the cross the line from playable into unplayable – I ditched the screwdriver in favor of a sledgehammer – and progress increased rapidly.

Let me say now – it is a very odd experience to take to a piano with a sledge hammer.  Noisy too.

When I was done, I was tempted to keep the metal frame from inside the piano.  If you have never seen one of these, they are quite elegant – and I could easily see using one as an artistic component of some furniture or other room decoration.  However, I concluded that it would just sit around and become clutter, so off to the dump it went.

Besides, if I ever want to make some piano furniture in the future I know of a number of people in the area who are just giving the things away!

Cheers,
Ben

RD-Tee Toe?

Kai has recently started playing Star Wars Lego on our XBOX.  Now, Kai has never seen Star Wars – and knows next to nothing about Star Wars.  To him this is the “outer space Lego game”.  He is doing okay, and learning to play the game well enough (though there are certain levels where he frequently requires help from Isaac or me).  What I do find amusing is his name for R2-D2.  To the best of my hearing he calls R2-D2 “Arr Dee Tee Toe”.

This is made all the more obvious, as R2-D2 is actually his favorite character to play, and he talks to him all the time while playing.

As I was writing this sentence I heard Kai Say “Arr Dee Tee Toe, where are you going!?”

I have tried to correct him saying “His name is R2-D2!” – To which Kai responses “Yes! He is Arr Dee Tee Toe!”

Cheers,
Ben

Reliving the past

I have been reliving the past a lot over the last two weeks.

Kai is now 4 and a half – and has suddenly started discovering many of the computer games that I played with Isaac.

This started when we were down at the local GameStop and Kai found a copy of Super Mario Galaxy for sale.  Kai was very excited about the idea of a computer game that combined one of his favorite characters (Mario) with a recently discovered interest (Outer Space) and immediately asked if we could buy it.

When I told him that we already had this game, he was very confused.

You see, Super Mario Galaxy was released in 2007, before Kai was born.  Isaac and I bought it when it was new and played it through together.  Since then it has been put away in storage, and Kai has never even known it existed.

So, Super Mario Galaxy (and Super Mario Galaxy 2) have been dragged back out of the closet.  It is now (once more) my daily routine to play a little bit of Super Mario Galaxy each day with my son.

On the plus side – this time around I can ask Isaac to help Kai out with a level or two if I am trying to get some work done around the house!

Cheers,
Ben