Monday, March 31, 2008

New Orleans Night & Day


During my short stay in New Orleans over the weekend, I re-discovered that it's a fantastic town. Yes, even the tacky tourist portions. The trip as a whole was a blast, and we all had a great time. I know this is a family oriented blog, so I will keep the gruesome details out of it.

The French Quarter where we stayed was a great place to hang out. The music was varied and plentiful, and there were so many sights that you just couldn't catch it all. I am sure I annoyed the crew by having my camera, but I did want to record some of the city in my short walks around.

One thing I noticed was how the French Quarter is really two different worlds. In the morning you have a serene and beautiful place. The old buildings really have some character, and people are out cleaning and getting ready for the day. The evenings are completely different. There are thousands of people walking around, everyone is having fun, and the whole place is a colorful noisy party with the thump of club music, blues, zydeco, and jazz competing for space in your eardrums. I like both of these faces that the French Quarter presents, but it was pretty amazing just how different the same streets can be when viewed at different times.


Naturally being a parent, I couldn't sleep past 7:30 a.m. even when getting to bed at 2-3am, so I had a chance to go wander around as the rest of the group slept until 10 a.m. or so.


Click on any of the photos in the recent posts and you will be directed to a larger version with more detail. You can then hit the "back" key to come back to the blog.

Test Video

video

Yeah, this was a fun ride and I was trying out the new camera...again. Nevermind the thumb that is in the video for the first 30 seconds or so. That's a new "uber-cool" video trend...all the best home-video-hacks are doing it. Trust me...

Please post me a comment if you can see this video or if there are any problems. I am curious if this is going to work. I would love to get some video shots of the kids up on the blog...especially as Aiden is getting closer to walking. That would be the best way to relay those fleeting moments to my massive audience!

I also am going to design a video mount for my bike helmet, so I can rip off an idea from Jill at Up in Alaska. Yes, it will be a removable mount. Come on, I don't want to look like a dork...OK, ok...I don't want to look like more of a dork than normal...which isn't saying much probably.

Sunday, March 30, 2008

Easter 2008

This year we were in Atlanta for the Easter holiday, and had a great time with all the relatives in-laws and out-laws alike. The kids were dressed in their Sunday best, and looked clean and put together for at least several minutes. Surprisingly, that was several more minutes than we expected. It seems that as soon as you dress children, the clothes seem to reject the child and attract any dirt that is available. So in a matter of minutes shirts are un-tucked, shoes are missing, knees and elbows are muddy, etc... But at least they looked good for a bit!

They really were pretty cute...

Below is Aiden at his first Easter Egg Hunt. He seems to have a knack for it, and we found him munching candy later. He must have stashed it somewhere or swiped it from one of the older kids baskets.

After Mass we headed over to the Chattahoochee river where we found that we weren't the only people with that idea. Bryce led the troops out onto the rocks that make up a mini archipelago in the river and had a blast. Ansley and Lander were trying hard to match anything Bryce did, and so there were some wet feet and nervous parents. They didn't really want to get wet for a change since the water was only 50-60 degrees...shiver...

As the kids played on the "islands" the local Canadian contingent came over to collect any food they could find. The kids really liked getting the geese that close and feeding them. Bryce did his best to pelt them instead of dropping the food close by. Hmmm...he must have learned that from his mom...


Later on that day, after a pseudo-nap, we ended up at Angelique's house for a gathering. Our well dressed kids found the trampoline very entertaining, but it got even more so, when Uncle Nathan showed up. He'll be a great dad...shhh...don't tell him that. He'll get a big ego...

Here they are on the trampoline. I love Ansley's hair.

Nathan arrives and chaos ensues...

Once the kids were tired and hopped off, Nathan tried to teach them what not to do on a trampoline. The instructions to all of them were simple, and from what I can tell, kids always follow this type of instruction... "Ok, DO NOT do what I am doing...no...no...don't even think about it."

Cool...just plain cool...


Thursday, March 27, 2008

Easter Egg colors

Have you ever wondered where they came up with the colors they use on Easter eggs?

I can't say that I had really pondered why Easter eggs are painted with all the pastel colors, and honestly, eating a green, pink, and yellow colored egg was something that I am sure my Mom warned me about during my formative years.

Wouldn't a fire engine red, black, or silver work? Never mind that these would be the colors I would choose for a Porsche.

I'll stop there because I run the risk of digressing into dreaming about a cool car and losing the point of the post. So without adu, back on the topic.

Hmmm...what was the point? EGGS! Yes, painting eggs.

We paint them with these cutesy pastel color combinations that we would never see anywhere else, but this year, I realize that's not true. These are colors that actually occur in nature rather than in some sterile and scary Cadbury bunny laboratory.

Need proof?

I can't think of better colors this time of year, but I still wouldn't recommend eating such a colored egg...especially if it doesn't look like it was painted by a little kid...and its a touch smelly...eewww.

On a side note, I am sorry that I have been so lackadaisically lolly gagging about posting this week. I know my readership demands more of me. I hope they do, or more accurately I hope there is actually someone reading this at all...

I have a couple of posts in mind, but not on paper as it were. I will get the Easter pictures and commentary up in the next few days. Plus a very funny post on how to win every time at skeeball tournaments.

To be sure, since I am in New Orleans until Sunday, check back on Monday morning. My deepest apologies to all my avid readers...

Another random thought: Baseball season is here! So, Brenna sat through the annual tradition of watching Bull Durham...again. Did you know that movie is 20 years old now? The vibrant and attractive and, at the time, respectively 33 and 42 year old Kevin Costner and Susan Sarandon, are probably nervously checking for liver spots now!

Monday, March 24, 2008

Bryce's 6th Birthday

I wanted to start off this post with a shot of Bryce so that you may compare the amazing changes we have watched over the past 6 years. The little guy below, that could easily be confused with Aiden, is Bryce at roughly 1.

Where in the instruction manual, which I managed to misplace on the night he arrived, does it say they can grow up so fast?

On another related note: I didn't get a second and third copy of the kid-instruction-manual upon the respective arrivals of my next two children. I think I heard something about print cost cutting measures in the hospital business when I inquired.


In the second photo above, the caption should read...ahem.

Robin (From Batman & Robin): "Hi! I'm Robin."

Bryce (From some show yet to be named) "Hi! I'm Six!" As he holds up 6 fingers...

I wanted to ask if he had seen Adam West recently, but the kid playing the character probably wouldn't have clue who I was talking about. Unless, of course, he was one of the fortunate few privy to this fantastically educational blog.

For Bryce's birthday, we took him to Six Flags along with his sister.

I was so proud. His first ride on a roller coaster was a good success, and he kept his hands up the whole time. sniff... a chip off the old block. The shot below is his the resulting face from the joy that is riding a roller coaster...One picture says it all, eh?

After riding that first coaster again, and then another bigger one, he asked if he could drive a car, and pleasantly, Six Flags obliged him with a yellow Model T, or S, or Q, or silent M, or something...

I hope he doesn't do this during his drivers test..uh...or at any other time while driving a car!

Here he shows his best table manners as he tried to avoid taking a "real" shot with the elusive "real smile" that parents seem to want their kids to produce when a camera is pointed at them.



Next he and his Mom hopped on the big kid swings while Ansley, who was unfortunately too short to ride, looked on. Make a guess who is having more fun?

Even though it is Bryce's Birthday Post, Ansley was there, and was doing her best to look...well...Ansley-ish (Read: Cute to the point of absurdity)

She is going to be the death of me in years to come. She does deserve a little part in this post because, for a 3 year old, she was fantastic the whole time in the park, which is really a difficult setting for little kids that wear out. How many times have you seen some little kid that was excited upon arrival absolutely dissolving in tears by lunchtime?

The caption below is "Pick Me Up, Daddy!"

Now, could anyone resist that? Nah, I didn't think so. In fact I am sure a few of you just had to resist a strange urge to pick up the monitor and hug it. Don't do this, please. I don't want to be blamed for back issues, or for you being considered "odd" around the office...well, some of you I can't help with that by now anyway.

An Easter Post will be coming in a day or two.

Saturday, March 22, 2008

Holi Celebration

I was at a cheesy pizza place...Ha! I mean the kind with bad pizza and kid video games, not a place that serves only cheese pizza.

Our kids were having some fun, but for the most part, I could have thought of better places to be. Yeah, I'm not a bad Dad, but sometimes that's just the way it is. In the midst of the chaos, a large family came in with several children, parents, grandparents, and all manner of other relatives it seemed. During the moments between our children eating, asking for more soda, asking for more tokens for the games, and being generally noisy and cute, I saw large puffs of colored powder on the breeze outside the restaurant. Being that I don't normally see this occurring outside a pizza joint, I kept watching.

Several of the members of the Indian family were outside laughing and throwing green, red and other colored powders on each other. Honestly, it looked like fun and they seemed to be having a ball. There were young and old in this battle of who could throw the most powder and get the other person messy. The now very colorful revelers came inside again with smiles from ear to ear and began to clean up with wet wipes...ah, the old traditions meet new (and essential) cleaning tools.

I looked up what was happening on Google and wikipedia later on, and it turns out to be a Hindu celebration called Holi otherwise known as the Festival of Colors. Holi is celebrated during two days of the full moon in late February or early March every year. The first day is signified by bonfires representing the burning of a demoness, and the second day, which seemed by far more fun to me, was spent chucking colored powders and water on each other in the streets. There is obviously much more to it, but the lists of Gods and Demons, and the multitude of variations of the holiday among the different groups that observe it, couldn't penetrate my attention-span-challenged brain. If you want to learn more detail behind the celebration, by all means take a look here.

Hindu Holi Celebrations - This is the Wikipedia article with something of a detailed description.

Holi Celebration article with pictures

There is so much to learn about other cultures and people. I am glad to have seen something out of the ordinary like that while hanging out in a Pizza buffet restaurant.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Not So Ancient Chinese Proverb

Man who leave cycling shoes in truck bed during storm yesterday - will ride with soggy feet today.

Well, it’s certainly not ancient since, in my disgust at the dripping-wet state of my shoes, I just made it up. Technically, I guess it wouldn’t really be Chinese either based on my European ancestry, but maybe China somehow annexed Hoover Alabama yesterday…

Spokes for Strokes Ride

Atlanta crew braved rain storms, tornadoes, closed roads, and the general mayhem known as Atlanta traffic to come ride the Spokes for Strokes century with me. None of us were really ready for a century, so we showed up to collect event T-shirts and ride as many miles as we felt we could.


We started out well. They said go, the riders started rolling out, and Nathan's chain promptly popped off. A few greasy fingers later, we were out on the road, where we were met with a stiff headwind that apparently didn't want us to get anywhere, much less to the 30mile turn around point. But, being the strong competitive types, we pushed on. What's a little wind that gusts to the point that it was blowing my bike around under me? Of course, the wind would throw me around only as I approached areas with steep drop-offs, heavy traffic, or opossums that had been on the receiving end of an all-weather radial. During the early portion of the ride my mind began to ponder wind and the nature of cycling in it. Hence the Haiku for a Headwind Post.

Herman, Nathan, and I separated over the miles and rode our own paces while Kimberly SAG'd us in the car. That is a huge help on the first long rides of the season. Thank you!

On a separate note, I had considered putting the vanity tag of "SAGWAGN" on our minivan, but the other 349.9 million people in America, that didn't know what a sag wagon was, would think I was making some...uh...unfavorable comments toward my wife and family.

See Brenna, I am always looking out for you...

Here is Nathan stylin' prior to the ride. Sweet glasses there Maverick...where's Iceman? I think poor Kimberly is still sleeping in the car...


A shot of Herman feeling fresh and happy prior to the ride. See everyone is smiling. We haven't yet figured out that we are going to ride into something like a 200 mph headwind for the coming hours.


This was an early "long ride" of the year because I was bothering to actually stop and take pictures. I felt this practice lent itself to stronger legs, because after taking a shot or two, I would have to work 3x as hard to catch back up with a group and get some reprieve from the wind.

The Atlanta riders as they enjoyed the beautiful Alabama scenery. The roads were pretty good once we got out of the initial traffic.

During the ride, the only person that honked at me turned out to be Kimberly instead of the average angry driver that wants me off their roads.

Uh oh, here comes a bit of a rant...yep. Since the average angry drivers think the roads are "theirs" even though I do have a legal right to ride on them. The average-angry-driver comes up with some tax related argument. "I pay taxes on my car, ergo, I have more of a right to the road." My response: I pay taxes as well, and the fact that I goof off on a really expensive bike means that I probably make more than you in order to afford said bike. That means, I probably pay more tax than you, ergo, I would have more of a right to the road than you. Get your stinking car out of my lane...

The ride itself was beautiful. The weather was still cool at the start, but the skies were clear blue and the springtime sun felt wonderful after riding in 30-40 degree temperatures for the past several months. A lot of the scenery made me pretty happy to be out riding.

Thanks again Herman for the cold weather gear. I wouldn't have survived the past few winters without it. You are the man!!!

One of the flowery scenic shots I took while on the ride. I have more, but only had so much time to edit them, so this is what I could get to. Sorry...

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Graham Watson I am not...

After taking a look at the photographs that I shot over this weekend, I realize that Graham Watson may have some talent. How hard could it be, I thought? I got a camera, I went to a bike race, I pointed and clicked the button at the riders as they come streaking by, and wonderful sports photos should just happen. Right? What, you mean I have to know about lighting, shutter speeds, and actually have some subject and "composition" in the photograph? Composition? I thought that was only a dreaded English class task!

Well, I can tell you as a first-hand-absolute-authority on the subject, that IT'S NOT EASY, AND I HONESTLY STINK AT IT!!! It's a good thing that I do something else for a living, because I would be one skinny guy if I had to eat based on my talents as a race photographer, but since this is my blog, I am going to publish some of the shots anyway! HA!

I will spare you the endless stream of shots of the sidewalk, road (with no cyclists in view), back wheels of cyclists, blurred out cyclists, etc, ad nauesum...

In the following photos are some of the folks that I know and race with in the B'ham area at Saturday's Criterium at Spain Park. As you can see in the shot, there are cyclists, and they are racing, and they are outdoors, and they are at least conservatively dressed...well conservative for some circles... Why do my pictures not fetch $90 dollars for an 8x10 print like that Graham guy?


Here one of the Steel City Cyclists is holding off the attacks of the entire group with a valiant effort. Actually, the most valiant effort may have been to not look sick in front of the camera, and I know my vast readership appreciates that...



The corner was fun to watch, and since I was watching and not snapping photos, Bo was lucky to have his image anywhere in frame... By the way, he was doing 56mph by my estimates...Dang fast! If only he hadn't ended up with a flat tire as a result of all the speed!


This is what happens when you get well educated but extremely tired people together while trying to take down a shade tent in the wind. For those of you that can't tell, he is trapped inside the framework of the awning. Good stuff...I wonder if he is still there? I should go check...



This is my best shot of the weekend's Criterium races. I call it, "Riders From the Storm" using a weak rip off of the Doors tune from...uh...a few years back. Of course, many artisans follow an unwritten rule regarding the lack of actual creativity in order to make a quick buck even faster. They would call it a "Tribute to The Doors". I, however, am not that lame...pretty lame, but not quite that lame... Well, I might be that lame if you wanted prints of my most artistic shot of the race, in which case, they are $249.99 US/$5.99 Canada - excludes shipping and handling.


Check back tomorrow for more on the Century ride.

Haiku for a Headwind

Cool Springtime headwind,
Riding out or riding back,
Always in my face.

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Spring!!




Spring seems like it has been a long time in getting to Birmingham this year. It hasn't really been cold and wintry, aside from the light dustings of snow, but I have noticed more signs of spring in Atlanta than here. That seems odd to me since B'ham is at a lower altitude. Anyway, as of this weekend there are a good collection of flowers out on the trees, and I have been sneezing for about a week. Yep...Spring!

I am going to head over to the bike races at the nearby high school and watch a few friends do their impression of serious racers...or people who are having mild heart attacks. Either way, it's going to be fun. It's 70 degrees, and that makes it impossible to stay inside.

Stay tuned for pictures from this weekend's Cycling. Today there is a Criterium, from which I am staying a safe distance, and tomorrow there is Century ride in Trussville, and I am sure I will be pretty burned out by the end of that. Especially since I haven't trained nearly enough for that distance yet. These rides are for a very worthy cause, educating the public about the signs of a stroke, so that they can identify what is happening, get help more quickly, and save lives.









Thursday, March 13, 2008

Paris-Nice Cycling Race

Don’t forget…like many of you knew or cared about it to begin with…that today’s stage is the Mont Ventoux climb in France.  If you are interested in watching highlights from it, or the whole stage, it is available on www.Cycling.tv.

 

Just sign in as brokemba with the password of bryce1.  Then go to the video on demand section and select today’s stage 4 “highlights” or “as live”.   

 

Enjoy watching 6’0” 140lb guys climb and ride faster than anything we could dream of.  I know, I know… You don’t have to gush about how thoughtful I am, or that I am so kind to let you in on this event, and you are so supremely excited that you can barely sit still in anticipation of getting home to see the race…

 

Oh go on, please…That’s just the kind of guy I am…

 

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

It Snow's in Alabama





It has been a long time since the kids saw snow. Wait, aside from Aiden (the Buddha), who is the only one of our children to be born in AL, they haven't even had a chance to see the stuff, or how oddly southerners behave when it is forecasted. (i.e. Don't get between the hoards and the milk, bread, and beer aisles in the store after the forecast hits the news)


This snow was my kind of snow. It fell overnight this past Friday, and by noon Saturday, it was gone. It took 2 car hoods, all the snow on the deck and any other surface that would hold it to come up with our snowman. Oops, I just made a PC blunder...a thousand apologies to anyone in my vast audience that I may have offended. The snow-person, as it will henceforth be called, could be male or female. I must say, we did just fine in creating a good snow-person. It even had a carrot for a nose. Here Aiden, Bryce and Bryce's friend Paul are putting the finishing touches on the snow-person.





Yes, we did try to use celery for arms, but opted for the traditional twigs.





I must warn all snow-people that living in Alabama is very hazardous. Here is a series of photos detailing the life and times of the average Bama snow-person. Note that the kids thought he needed a good set of SpiderMan sunglasses even from the start. As you may have noticed, Old Frosty here did have a carrot for a nose. Unfortunately, a small dog (or a rogue plastic surgeon) reached up and snatched the carrot later in the day. The kids witnessed this horrific event, and I am sure that therapy will be necessary in the days to come.





"I'm Meeeelllltiiinnng! Aaaaah, It buurrrnss!




The life and times of the average Bama Snowman...dang...Snow-Person, can really be summed up in only 2 photos. Consider yourselves warned.

Monday, March 10, 2008

Aiden Feeds Himself

He has been picking up items and stuffing them in his mouth for a while now. Toys, Paper, Plastic cups from the cabinet, and occasionally, actually food, but now he is attempting the advanced method of....drumroll please...utensil feeding. Now, this "silverware" is actually a soft piece of rubber shaped vaguely like a spoon, but hey, whatever works.

Let's pause and review the events as they transpired.

He wouldn't let Mom or me feed him anymore after about 2 bites of the non-descript mush the Gerber company labels randomly as Peas or chicken & Gravy. Personally, 2 bites is waaaay more than I would have tried. So, the next obvious step for any frustrated parent, is to say..."OK, YOU DO IT." To which he replied..."Boka boka boka" or something of that nature.


Now he attempts to find something palatable on the bottom of the bowl. I agree, there wasn't much in the way of "tasty" actually in the bowl.


And finally, the natural progression to what I anticipated the end result would be!

Hmmm...I'll call the HAZ-MAT team. I'm not touching that stuff.

Friday, March 7, 2008

Ansley Sings & Dances at a School Function

These shots are from Ansley’s school function last night. With all the kids in that gym, the noise levels were just shy of standing in the wash behind a jet engine. Amazingly, the yelling kids, and the parents yelling at the yelling kids, quieted down for the performance. I am posting this from an email as a test, so it may not look right.

In the first shot, she is singing a cute song, but I am not sure if any of them really knew the lyrics, or if they were just pulling a Britney Spears. NO NO…I didn’t mean that they were acting crazy, crashing expensive cars, doing a bunch of drugs, and getting thrown in rehab again and again, and having Kevin Federline (aka K-Fed) being deemed a better parent, I meant lip synching!

In the second shot, Ansley proves that she can dance like a white guy, and the last shot shows her joyful/goofy reaction to the show being over.

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Searching for Spring

I went out today on the Mountain Bike, simply because it was a beautiful day. I was in the mood to look for signs of spring. I am in a phase of just riding for the sake of riding. Which is a nice way of saying I am just riding slowly and trying to see things that I usually don't have time for due to the effort I am putting forth. I have no races scheduled and I am...uh...fat and out of shape...shhhh don't tell anyone... That's what the budgeting season, football season, three kids, a billion and a half calories of poor food choices, beer, and winter will get you.

I thought that it would be a good idea to ride the Oak Mountain loop that is just around the corner from the house, and happens to be one of the best mountain bike trails I have run into. I can hear Rick groaning now... Yes, I have "run into" a lot of thing on trails, and no, most of them wouldn't be classified as "the best"...sheesh...

The temperatures hit the mid 50's and I found myself pretty warm in my shorts and long sleeve jersey. It's nice to be warm for a change. I am very VERY tired of winter; even the short, anemic, pansy-esque thing we call winter here. You can see from my pictures, there isn't much of a sign of spring around here yet, and the absence of leaves actually changes the entire look of this trail. It seems wide open, and you can see all the large boulders and many more creeks than you normally can. The summer incarnation of this trail is very lush and almost dark in the afternoons with the canopy of leaves surrounding you.

The park has one section called Blood Rock. This is rather apropos since it extracted some of it from me the last time I tried to chase someone better than myself down it's rocky twists and drops. (The CT scan came back positive...there is gray matter in my skull... Whether said gray matter has ever worked properly is up for debate in some circles.)

Needless to say, I made it back, and I had a great time out in the woods looking for signs of spring. The fact that I was unsuccessful in finding much in the way of flowers or anything spring-ish, other than the front fork on my bike, just means that I guess I will have to go look more often in the coming weeks.