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August 31, 2009

Alden, Lately

Alden has been enjoying herself these last few days. Yesterday, she and Robbi went to Baltimore to visit Iris, Christian, and Emily.

Every time they get together, the girls understand one another just a bit better than they had the time before. They know one another's names now. Occasionally they say them. When one of them throws something across the room, the other one scurries to pick it up.

Yesterday, they played with bubbles.

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And ate popsicles.

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Alden shared hers with Christian.

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This morning, back home, we had a nice surprise. Bob and Seiko brought Alden a pound cake.

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She unwrapped it.

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And admired it.

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And decided to take a bite.

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Luckily for the rest of us, she has a very small mouth.

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Seeking greater efficiency, Alden acquired a knife. We decided it was time for her to return to the floor.

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Once there, she found my shoes.

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To our surprise, they fit her perfectly.

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With a belly full of cake and shoes on her feet, Alden accompanied me to Eastern Neck Island for a bit of adventure.

She power walked through the marshes.

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She navigated obstacles.

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She climbed to the top of the observation platform.

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She reveled in the thrill of ascent.

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Emboldened, she stole my hat and glasses.

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She was smug and satisfied.

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Eventually, she returned my belongings. I can't say why.

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Maybe she was embarrassed to be seen with me.

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I decided to try and teach her some new skills. Since she is my child, she will eventually need to know how to jump. I showed her how it worked.

And she tried to follow suit.

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And tried.

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And tried.

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And tried some more.

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Eventually she quit in wretched disappointment. I tried to console her, but she fled into the wilderness in shame.

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When I finally caught up to her on the boardwalk, she was far too busy to chat.

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Apparently, it was time to feed her dog.

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And herself.

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By the time she finished her picnic on the island, the failure to jump was long forgotten.

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When we got home tonight, Alden's tried on her new shirt, a gift from a colleague of mine.

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Contrary to appearances, it is not a choir robe. Rather, it is a very special shirt (albeit intended for a significantly larger child) from my very favorite organic burrito franchise.

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My colleague knows someone who works for Chipotle. In addition to the shirt for Alden, there was a miniature foam-rubber burrito replica for me. The thing is so lifelike that I am tempted to try and eat it.

Apparently, Alden was fooled.

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Posted by bogenamp at 09:16 PM

The Latest on Makers

Late last week, Irene Gallo, the art director at Tor.com, did a nice post on her blog about the Makers serialization. Basically, she writes out the story that the illustrations tell when considered without the text.

Here is the grid to date:

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And here is Irene's interpretation of the story, according to what she sees in the illustrations:

Once upon a time there were two dinosaurs. And lots of people that went off to build something. Until it burnt down. They rebuilt it but there was a rat in the mix! (Isn't there always.) They were very industrious and good at multitasking until...Sabotage! And love. And maybe a little crabbiness. The usual ups and downs and ideological wars -- punk rock keepin' it real Vs. Helvetica men in ties. But with marriage in the air and death on the horizon.....

Those of you who are reading along with Makers will notice that the above bears little resemblance to the actual story. Which isn't too surprising, considering what we're up to.

Although some of the illustrations play on the book's major narrative elements, we've also taken a highly conceptual approach in imagining many of the tiles. There aren't any actual dinosaurs, octopuses, or crabs in Makers, for example, just metaphorical ones. So, when considered literally without the text, the visual narrative gets kind of wacky.

Which is, I suppose, why it's called illustration. There's a collaboration going on between Cory's words and our images. Together, they harmonize and make a larger point. Alone, the illustrations might amuse but don't result in the intended narrative coherence.

Though I might argue that narrative coherence is not always a virtue.

Speaking of Makers, here is last week's batch of tiles, the illustrations for episodes 23-24.

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For those of you who are counting the days until this project ends (count Robbi among them) so that we will finally stop talking about these tiles, you may take comfort to know that there are only 57 more to go.

Posted by bogenamp at 12:30 AM

August 27, 2009

Not Popular

Just this morning, my mother sent me a link to a section of the Social Security Administration's website that tracks the occurrence (and thus the popularity) of various baby names in America.

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If your name is on the list above, you may glow with pride to know that, had you been born in 2008, your name would be very, very popular.

I could not help but indulge my curiosity and find out just how popular (or not), Alden's name was.

According to my search, had Alden been a boy, her name would not have been very popular.

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As a girl, however, Alden is so unpopular that her name does not rate among the top 1,000 in any of the last nine years.

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Surely hers is a classic name, I said to myself. I just need to shift the parameters a bit and find the era in which her name was popular. I searched again.

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Had Alden had been born in any of the last 99 years, she would still have been spectacularly unpopular.

The realization was crippling.

In a near panic, I searched for the new baby's name, certain that he or she would right the family's ship by surging to the heights of popularity.

Alas, it was not meant to be.

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Desperate, I threw a Hail Mary:

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But came up empty.

Thinking on this further, however, I am sanguine.

Given that Robbi and I have spent long stretches of our lives in states of profound unpopularity, it seems only fitting that our offspring should taste the bitter pill of like indignity.

That which does not kill us...

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...leaves us still woefully unpopular.

Note: I see that this is The Barnstorming's 600th post. If you have found the time read all (or even most of them), I'm guessing that "popular" is not a word you often use to describe yourself.

Posted by bogenamp at 08:36 AM

August 26, 2009

Half-Baked

Yesterday we went to the OB for Robbi's 20-week checkup. Here's how the lady is looking these days.

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Manifest destiny is beginning in earnest.

During the 20-week appointment (the halfway point of the pregnancy), the fetus is developed enough for rather close scrutiny, so Robbi's doctor examined Tarzan's tiny body parts from all sorts of angles. We got to see the spine, ribs, kidneys, elbows, feet (in full kick), heart (in full beating fury) and face, such as it was.

Here is my child-to-be. If you're not quite sure what you're looking at, this is a profile of Tarzan's head. He/she/it is looking to the left. The round thing that kind of looks like an eyeball is, in fact, an eyeball. Because the lens of the eye is so dense, it shows up pretty well on the ultrasound. At least I think that was what the doctor said.

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If you are thinking that my child bears an uncanny resemblance to Skeletor, you are not alone.

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We opted not to have a look between the legs, preferring certain aspects of Tarzan's identity to remain somewhat more mysterious for the time being.

For her part, Alden has just reached the 17-month milestone and seems daily more determined to reach her teen years ahead of schedule. She has taken to pointing at Robbi's bulging abdomen and screeching "baby!" enthusiastically, but I don't think she's really grasping the big picture.

Bigger and bigger each day.

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Posted by bogenamp at 08:15 AM

August 24, 2009

Best Free Gift Ever

This morning I decided to clean out the car. After a couple major road trips and some car camping, we had successfully gotten it so filthy that a colony of ants had moved into the rear storage compartment. It was as if we had been eating all of our meals in there since the beginning of time. And so - it was finally time to clean.

In my efforts to eradicate the ant colony, I found lots of things that had been missing for a long time. Alden found an old cookie, and saved it from the ants. I'm not sure if I should have let it happen, but oh well - she is bigger than they are.

However, the most important thing I found was a leaflet advertising an incredible offer. I can't believe someone just tossed it under the seat! (It was clearly Matthew, as I am all about free gifts). There didn't appear to be any shipping and handling fees or hidden costs, which are usually what make Matthew throw these things away.

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I can't wait to get it.

Posted by ribbu at 02:11 PM

August 23, 2009

Retreat

On Saturday we drove through enthusiastic sheets of rain from Chestertown to Schuyler, Virginia, for my company retreat.

The skies cleared not long after we arrived, and so we headed outside.

Alden got her first crack at a slip n' slide. At first, she didn't seem to grasp the concept.

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But she figured it out.

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And ended up having a fine time.

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After the slip n' slide fun had run its course, we played a wiffle ball version of home run derby. I agreed to participate in spite of my total lack of athletic coordination. The last time I swung a bat in any remotely competitive way was when I was seven or eight, the first day of practice for little league. I had previously been hitting balls from a tee (even under these conditions, I had difficulty making contact). On the first pitch of my first little league at-bat, the ball came in and hit me on the knuckles. It hurt. I wept. That evening I told my dad that I wasn't cut out for little league.

And so I was leery of the diamond. Here I am at my first at-bat. Notice my patented one-hand swing.

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Here I am moments later, glowing with pride (or perhaps it was shock) after hitting my "home run", which, we had decreed, was any ball that landed beyond the slip n' slide.

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Alden joined me in celebration.

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Later, Alden and I relaxed on the porch swing.

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Robbi decided it looked fun, and decided to swing a bit herself. With attitude.

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After dinner, there were fireworks. Alden let us know how much she enjoyed them by bursting into tears and demanding to be taken inside.

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She had a better time during the gift exchange.

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Alden decided the lemon wedges looked delicious.

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This was her reaction.

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You decide whether or not it is best described as outrage or delight.

Robbi, Alden, Iggy, and I spent last night in the back of our van. If you fold the seats down and happen to have a full-size futon on hand, you can make a fairly comfortable bed back there.

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This morning, we hiked around a lake and encountered many industrious spiders.

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And one unmotivated turtle.

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Apparently the turtle was dull.

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While others ate brunch, Alden continued her late-morning snooze.

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And I spent some time with my new friend Karis.

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She is two. I like her very much.

After brunch, we drove home. The rains are pounding Chestertown again. I just checked the calendar, and we actually get to be home next weekend. But once September arrives, a whirlwind of fall activity begins. More on that to come.

Posted by bogenamp at 08:37 PM

August 22, 2009

Look Out, Universe

The serial release of Makers marches on, as does the conversation among mathematicians on Ephblog about how to quantify the number of possible permutations for the tiles if they are removed from the 9x9 grid and allowed to roam free in whatever configuration they desire. The rising consensus seems to be that it might be mathematically impossible to say for sure, but that, in any case, (and I quote directly from the comment thread) "It seems quite reasonable to say, then, that the number of free-form tile arrangements when using all 81 exceeds by many orders of magnitude the number of atoms in the universe."

Little did we know we were stumbling into a proposition of such cosmic proportions.

Picking up where I left off last week, here are tiles 18-21.

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We are heading off today for the wilds of central Virginia. My intrepid colleagues and their collective families are gathering for a weekend of hiking, boating, eating, camping, and gun shooting. Yes, gun shooting. I will not be participating in the gun shooting.

I will focus on the eating.

Posted by bogenamp at 07:53 AM

August 20, 2009

Unwelcome Guests

We heard some bad news today from our neighbors in Alaska. Apparently, a bear (or possibly two bears) broke into our main house through one of the windows, ransacked the place, and left through another window. When I say the bear went "through the window," what I mean is that it ripped off the piece of plywood we use to cover the window in the winter months and then bashed through the double-paned glass and wood framework. What I'm saying is that the bear was motivated.

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It seems the bear injured itself climbing through the window and bled all over everything. And for some reason it also chewed up our windowsills. They are/were awfully nice windowsills.

Although having one's house wrecked by a bear is unpleasant in any setting, our problems are compounded by the lack of a Lowe's or Home Depot anywhere in the vicinity of Coffee Point. Any new building materials we might need for the repairs will have to be shipped in by barge at the beginning of next summer.

On one hand, we are lucky to have eluded bear intrusion for so many years, but we still don't look forward to dealing with the aftermath.

Darn bears.

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If Alden had been there, I'm sure she would have given them a piece of her mind.

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It seems she fears nothing.

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Posted by bogenamp at 10:32 PM

August 19, 2009

Still Having Fun

My friend Kate wrote me today that it seemed that the ratio of posts about work relative to those about fun had grown skewed of late in the direction of work.

Perhaps this is true. We have been busy lately with various projects. But I assure you that we are still having plenty of fun. Life with Alden is consistently diverting. She is in the process of learning to speak, for example, which amuses and gratifies us. She can now correctly identify her ears, eyes, mouth, nose (though it is sometimes confused with ears), and belly button by pointing to the body part in question and crudely approximating the related word. She has been so far unwilling to repeat the feat for the video camera, but I will keep trying.

This evening, while we were cooking dinner, she disappeared briefly, and we wondered where she had gone. The answer came quickly. Apparently, it's no fun to spend time in the dark with a bunch of canned goods.

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While she was in cabinet exploring mode, she investigated the cavern beneath the kitchen sink.

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Again, the fascination was short-lived.

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So yes, we are still having fun. And so much more fun lurks on the horizon. Robbi was sitting at her desk today and suddenly cried out in pain. She reported that young Tarzan had kicked her so hard that it actually hurt.

Given this tendency to violence and Robbi's recent, inexplicable craving for salami, I'm thinking this one might just be a boy.

Fun.

Posted by bogenamp at 11:14 PM

August 18, 2009

Makers Tile Game, V 3.0

Friends, the Makers Tile Game has expanded once again, this time to a 4x4, 16-tile grid.

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I apologize in advance for the hours of reckless merriment that will likely now ensue.

Go to it.

Posted by bogenamp at 09:33 PM

August 17, 2009

Lake George

A week ago today we filled our car with far more vacation-related items than we actually needed and headed off for Silver Bay, NY, a lovely blip that is not even really a town on the Western banks of Lake George.

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Silver Bay is an old camp complex (think Dirty Dancing) where families come to escape from the city or suburbs in the summer. There is shuffleboard and a craft room and a yearly musical and various places to swim.

Robbi's grandfather built a cottage on the hills above the camp complex decades ago, and the family has been making regular pilgrimages ever since.

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I've previously chronicled several of our past trips to Lake George, including the one last summer when we wound up stumbling upon a war in progress and the one the summer before, during which Robbi and I discovered a previously unknown island.

This year's visit centered squarely around the child (as will all other visits in the foreseeable future, I suspect), and so I did a poor job of photographing any non-Alden-related elements of our sojourn.

As evidenced by the following. (I have the sense that most of you will not complain.)

We took Alden swimming at Oneida Bay. She dragged this little inflatable thing out of the boathouse.

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It succeeded in keeping her from sinking to the bottom of the lake.

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Later, she sunbathed. With attitude.

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We took her hiking up the mountain behind our cottage to Jabe's pond.

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Once we got there, she stomped around in the pond like she owned the place.

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At the end of her long day, she ate a lot of rigatoni.

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We were in Silver Bay for four days, but really didn't take many pictures. Perhaps we were too busy relaxing? I can't say. Not photographed but heartily enjoyed was time spent playing shuffleboard, reading, and sleeping.

On Friday morning, we left Silver Bay and drove east to my mom's house in Andover, Massachusetts. My sister Lindsay (along with her husband and child) was visiting from Portland, Oregon.

In order to get from Silver Bay to Andover, we had to cross Lake George. Luckily, there is a ferry just north of Ticonderoga. As the seven-minute journey across the lake began, we carefully read the signage.

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Alas, we did not heed it.

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On our way across Vermont, we stopped in the charming town of Woodstock, where Alden dragged us into a high-end toy store and tried as hard as she could to convince us that it was her birthday.

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After a beautiful drive through the heart of New England, we arrived in Andover, where I was reunited with my favorite nephew, Orin.

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And Alden was reunited with her grandma.

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The cousins were inseparable the entire time we were there.

They ate together.

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They ran around the yard together eating popsicles.

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Together, they enjoyed the pleasing sounds and textures of the garish plastic playtable.

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They slid together.

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The swung together.

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They tried their best to share a cousinly kiss (Alden's aim was a little off).

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At the end of a long day of having fun, they even nodded off entwined.

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It was a very nice vacation. We are already nostalgic, especially Alden, who misses her grandma.

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Of course, I also miss my mother, as a son tends to do. But right now, mostly I'm missing that beautiful lake and the days we recently spent lazing on its shady banks.

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Posted by bogenamp at 10:06 PM

August 16, 2009

Paradise Lost

After a nearly twelve-hour drive from Andover, Massachusetts, we are finally back home in the barn. I have made a note to myself to never, ever try driving along the Eastern seaboard midday on a Sunday in August. I could go on and on about the godforsaken wasteland that is Connecticut, but instead I'll share a photo that pretty much sums up our vacation, which is, sadly, now over.

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Much more to come, including artful and spirited invectives against traffic in its many hideous manifestations.

Posted by bogenamp at 11:35 PM

August 12, 2009

Catching Up with Makers

We are in Lake George, NY, enjoying life beneath the trees. Fun things have been happening involving babies and swimsuits and photos and movies have been taken. But the internet connection here is weak, and so I will make you wait until next week to see them.

For now, I will post the last few Makers illustrations (the following accompany sections 14-17). I see that I have been falling behind.

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I'm off, now, to a shuffleboard tournament. I'm not expecting it to go well for me.

Posted by bogenamp at 01:15 PM

August 09, 2009

Me and My Girl

Tomorrow we leave for a few days in Lake George, New York. We love it up there among the trees and old, small mountains, but Robbi had to get a few projects out the door before we left town, and so my job this weekend was keeping Alden (and myself) out of her hair.

On Saturday, the child and I set out for Eastern Neck Island, a state park near Rock Hall, a town on the Bay, about 25 minutes from Chestertown. The island is a great place to bird watch (when there are birds to be seen). This weekend apparently wasn't one of those times, but Alden and I took a walk across the boardwalk over the wetlands anyway.

Occasionally we crouched.

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At the end of the flat part of the boardwalk, there is a stand of trees with a gravel path winding through it. This, too, is a fine place to crouch.

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At the end of the gravel path is another boardwalk, this one a ramp leading up to a blind with clever slits for watching birds without being watched by the birds. As I've already mentioned, there were no birds to watch, so I watched Alden, who was also not watching birds.

After not watching birds, we stood near corn.

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It was a real thrill. Or so I thought. Just when I thought we couldn't possibly have more fun, Alden implied (none too subtly) that it was time to go home.

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While we were gone, Robbi got a lot done. So much so that she sent us off again today, this time to Betterton Beach, a very nice stretch of public sand on the Chesapeake (also about 25 minutes from Chestertown).

Alden was unsure at first what to make of the surf, which, considering her size, was rather impressive.

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Her first temptation was to turn her back on the problem.

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But then she looked around and saw the other children having fun and determined to find out what the fuss was all about.

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She settled right in and seemed to have a very nice time.

When we were done swimming, she said something like, "Gosh, Dad, I love spending the entire weekend with you. Here's hoping Mom's really busy every weekend from now on."

What can I say? The kid seems to like me.

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I think it has something to do with my sunglasses.

Posted by bogenamp at 11:10 PM

August 07, 2009

A Really Big Number

Yesterday, a nice piece about the Makers Tile Game was posted on EphBlog, a blog that is for the most part authored and read by graduates of (and other people interested in) Williams College.

The fellow who authored the post ended with an invitation to mathematicians (or anyone, I suppose) to offer some clarity on the number of different illustrations that could be produced with the 81 tiles, keeping in mind that they need not be bound in a 9x9 grid.

The post set off a flurry of computation, which I will do my layman's best to summarize.

There seems to be consensus that the number of permutations of the 81 tiles, provided they remain in a 9x9 configuration, is represented by the formula:

81!*4^81

This solution was offered by a reader in the Williams class of 2013, which means s/he has yet to start her/his first year of college.

In response to Robbi's and my bleary-eyed confusion, another reader (this one in the class of 2010) offered an elaboration:

If you're not used to standard math notation, maybe the formula would be clearer as

(81 factorial) times (4 to the 81st power)

81 factorial is the number of possible orderings of tiles, since there are 81 tiles, 81 squares, and each tile can only be used once, so there are 81 options for the first square, 80 for the second, and so on: 81*80*79*78*77*...*2*1 = 81 factorial, which is written 81!
Given a particular ordering of tiles, there are 4 possible rotations of the first tile, 4 possible rotations of the second tile, and so on, so the total number of possible rotations of all tiles is 4*4*4*4*...(81 times)..*4*4 = 4 to the 81st power, written 4^81.
This is all (essentially) middle school math - nothing too arcane here. If you plug this into Wolfram Alpha you can get the decimal expansion, which is:
33890036684543440769057774862779477997325787000968328173127424517002031965929221017975069852474193892633
991640448359911591329973070266928563916552273920000000000000000000

Did you catch that number? If we could get a penny for each permutation, I think I'd be able to eat Chipotle for every meal between now and the apocalypse.

The above reader went on to derive a methodology for determining the total number of permutations for the tiles in the case that they were not bound by the 9x9 grid and came up with

5322104461771248733888756294268672420502329732509626654780191251062519166280634799983000941106981640028
4678589873542620401522891642307846173296171051198503843439135688106818076670719846538576638412291828766
2625270487563813106780026905028515211580860660972244763980457160290841275487508600844834730980341935984
8120875254453369923376565452800000000000000000000

Which would, I think, allow me to double my Chipotle consumption between now and the end of days.

But, the reader went on to lament, the formula was flawed (for reasons beyond my ability to articulate) and was providing an over-large estimate.

Therefore, it stands to reason from the perspective of this English/religion double major, that the total number of two-dimensional permutations for the Makers tiles is somewhere between

33890036684543440769057774862779477997325787000968328173127424517002031965929221017975069852474193892633
991640448359911591329973070266928563916552273920000000000000000000

and

5322104461771248733888756294268672420502329732509626654780191251062519166280634799983000941106981640028
4678589873542620401522891642307846173296171051198503843439135688106818076670719846538576638412291828766
2625270487563813106780026905028515211580860660972244763980457160290841275487508600844834730980341935984
8120875254453369923376565452800000000000000000000

In either case, I shouldn't go hungry any time soon.

Perhaps the most reasonable solution was offered by Robbi's and my Williams classmate Jeff Zeeman, who attended Williams back before the kids got so damn smart.

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The conversation/debate appears to be ongoing, so join the fun if you have an answer of your own.

As far as I can tell, no one has yet tackled the question of what happens if the third dimension is introduced...

Posted by bogenamp at 07:49 AM

August 06, 2009

Bounty

When Robbi set out to plant her garden last spring, both of us were pretty sure it wasn't going to work. Not only does she lack the skill and experience to gently guide growing things on the perilous journey from seed to fruit-bearing plant, but the sorry stretch of soil in front of the barn gets only partial sun. Nevertheless, Robbi was set to try. And who was I to naysay?

Here's what the garden looked like on May 21, right after we poured in the topsoil and planted the tiny plants Robbi had been growing by the window upstairs (back then, before she was bitter and jaded, Alden was oh so easy to impress).

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And here is the garden as of a few days ago.

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Something happened while we were in Alaska. Tiny gnomes came in the night and built these lush green plants for Robbi's satisfaction. They even left some ripe red tomatoes for her.

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Though a few are besotted with the rot.

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A minor detail. It is the appearance of success that pleases us. It is the looks on the faces of the neighbors who now admit that they were highly skeptical that any sort of garden would succeed in such an unlovable stretch of land.

As is the case with all things that belong to Robbi or me, Alden immediately declared the garden her own and the fruits contained therein here property to sample and distribute as she pleases.

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Alas her tiny mouth, though capable of producing mighty sounds, is not yet capable of opening wide enough to accommodate even a rather small tomato. Her embarrassment was evident.

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She now claims that she "didn't want to eat that stupid tomato anyway," and that "gardens are for weenies."

Though once I might have been inclined to agree with her, I must admit that there is something satisfying about our unruly patch of ambitious plant life. It makes this barn a bit more home-like. It makes our growing roots feel just a bit more anchored in the soil.

Posted by bogenamp at 06:36 AM

August 05, 2009

Makers Tile Game, V 2.0: Bigger and Badder

As promised, the Makers Tile Game has expanded to incorporate more tiles.

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The 3x3 version has just been released, and you probably want to drop everything and play with it. But wait! In addition to containing nine tiles instead of four, the new version has some exciting new features:

1) you can now save your tile configurations to your desktop as a jpeg.

Like this, for example:

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Or this:

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If you make a configuration you are particularly proud of and send it to me, I will post it here along with your name (or without your name, if you are full of shame).

2) you can now click off of the live area to make the heavy red border along the "live" tile go away

3) you can now toggle between the various versions of the game (from V 2.0 to V 1.0, for example) if you want to, though you won't want to because nine recombining tiles is much more badass than four any day.

Enough blather. Go play. Now. Your boss won't mind. He/she is playing the Makers Tile Game V 2.0 at this very moment!

Posted by bogenamp at 09:46 AM

August 03, 2009

Makers, Part 13

Part 13 of Makers has posted. Today's section marks the beginning of Part 2 of the book.

Here's the related illustration.

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Posted by bogenamp at 01:13 PM

August 02, 2009

Meanwhile

There has been a lot of fuss about books and creativity and other kinds of dullness here of late. For those of you who have been patiently waiting for photographs of babies, we will, today, provide some satisfaction.

Last week we took Alden in for her scheduled checkup. We were, of course, curious to hear the latest medical opinion on her size. According to the doctor, her head is in the 75th percentile but her weight is well below the 3rd percentile. Based on other indices, the doctor determined that she is, in fact, thriving, but thriving on her own scale that bears little relevance to the norm.

She continues to eat.

Sometimes balanced, healthy meals.

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Sometimes cheesecake binges.

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When Robbi was Alden's age, she had a beloved rocking horse that she would ride with alarming vigor. We decided that Alden deserved the opportunity to alarm her parents, and so we purchased Lightning, who arrived in a large brown box.

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Alden helped with the assembly.

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My pace was too slow for her tastes. She seemed to be judging me silently.

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Eventually Lightning was ready for a rider. Alden was shy at first.

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But wasted little time in taming the beast. She even learned how to squeeze Lightning's ear, which, to our dismay, causes his animatronic mouth to sing a cheerful little ditty called, "I'm a Pretty Pony."

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Confident in her mastery of animal husbandry, Alden insisted on being taken to the County Fair.

She made small talk with this horse, who had won some sort of prize.

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As we walked away from the stall, she confided to Robbi that she was unimpressed.

Grandpa John, who was visiting from the great Midwest, introduced her to a cow.

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Alden squeezed its ear, and did not hear, "I'm a Pretty Pony." Disgusted, she demanded to see the pigs.

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Apparently, she liked the pigs, or perhaps it was their filthy sty that she admired.

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"Reminds me of home," she mused, as we walked on.

There were live chickens.

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And roasting chickens.

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There were large, inflatable structures.

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Alden and I decided to give the bouncy room a try. First we bounced together.

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Then we bounced separately.

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Alden did her best impression of a ping pong ball.

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Eventually, it seemed, she was done.

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Dad and I decided to do some bouncing of our own.

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Robbi was inspired to scale the monolith on Tiki Island.

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Not bad for a pregnant lady.

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Alden relaxed with Grandma Judy.

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Did some swinging on her own.

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And did some sliding with Grandpa John.

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Later on, inspired by the day's inflatable theme, we filled up Alden's pool for her very first swim.

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She proceeded with caution.

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But before long...

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...discovered her amphibious potential.

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We grilled some salmon for dinner.

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And had some ice cream for dessert.

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All in all, it was a very good day. This is how we roll in Chestertown.

Posted by bogenamp at 04:47 PM

August 01, 2009

Idiots'Books in Urbanite Magazine: Story Circles

This weekend, the August 2009 issue of Urbanite (a magazine devoted to Baltimore and the people who live there), will hit the newsstands. The August issue is focused on emerging writers and features an interview and original work by Idiots'Books.

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That's right.

You heard it here first.

We are emerging.

Robbi and I are the subjects of this month's "Keynote", a recurring feature interview that frames the central theme of each month's issue. We had a very nice conversation with Urbanite's editor-in-chief David Dudley, who edited our responses and printed them in his magazine. I suspect he was interested in what we had to say in large part due because (as I may have already mentioned) Robbi and I are emerging (and at least one of us is a writer).

The good people of Urbanite commissioned us to do a piece of original work that somehow dealt with the issue's theme. After some stewing, we came up with the idea to riff on the One-Page Wonders series we did with Tor.com this past spring. Working with a folded-paper concept we found in a Cracker Jack box a few years ago, we came up with a two-sided page that contained three circles (or pieces of circles) of image and narrative, which can be combined and recombined in many, many ways. (The formula is not as simple as it was for Ten Thousand Stories).

Each of the three narrative/illustration pairs focus on the angst, trials, and fates of a struggling literary striver, hence the title, The Plight of the Emerging Writer.

Here's the front side.

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And here's the back side.

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And here is a short video (featuring a song by our friends at Bombadil) that shows you how it works.

Those of you who live in Baltimore (or feel compelled to go there some time soon) may pick up a hard copy of the magazine in locations around the city.

Those of you who live everywhere else, may link to the interview.
This photo appears in the print version, but not online. Why should you, remote reader, be denied the full experience?

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Just below the interview is a link you can click to download a PDF of the story circle. Note, however, that you will have to print it out on the two sides of the PDF of the same piece of paper (with the top of both sides oriented in the same direction). This requires advanced home printing skills. If you have difficulty and are very, very motivated, you may take the file to your local Kinkos. (We imagine that few of you will be so motivated.)

But if you do, and if you come up with a particularly pleasing combination, please send us a photo or scan and we will be sure to post it here. And if someone feels that he can identify the correct number of possible permutations, we'd be interested in hearing. We will post any reasonable (or far-fetched) theories, as long as they are based on sound mathematics (or wild, unsubstantiated conjecture).

Posted by bogenamp at 12:34 PM