You may now call me El Kazunkel

On Sunday 26 May at 11:00pm, my sister gave birth to her first child — a 52cm long, 4kg baby girl, who a couple of days later was named Elke Adele Smith. (It can be fun to guess what a newborn baby will be called; my guess was Leisel Olivia Smith. That Rebecca would go for a German name was easy to predict, given her strong ties to our German friends.)

My choice of zeroth birthday gift was a copy of Dreamland by Putumayo, a collection of lullabies from around the world, in various languages (you can hear a clip of each track at the website). If I have one criticism, it’s that the songs should be associated with the country they are native to instead of the country the artist happens to come from, but such quibbles mean nothing to a newborn baby.

Below is a Youtube version of one of the tracks — Cradle Spell of Dunvegan by Lynn Morrison — which is in English, although parts are rich in Scottish dialect words that I don’t understand.

I made my own card to go with the gift, featuring this photo of an elk for Elke. The front of the card is very personalised, but the inside is generic and could be used for any baby girl (which you may do, if you wish). Here are images:

Elke1 Elke2

The message inside reads:

On the birth of your daughter
I give you wishes for a lifetime.
As you grow older
– And she has her turn to grow older –
May you find in her
A friend and daughter who enriches your world,
A fellow traveller on the adventure of life.
And may she find in you
The security of knowing she is loved and respected
In troubled as well as joyous times.
Grow with her! Have fun with her!
And remember fondly how it all began.

Soon after the name was announced, I told Rebecca by text message that I was changing my name to El Kazunkel, which I used again when I signed the card. Rebecca got the joke straight away (it’s pronounced “Elke’s Uncle“), but most people need a hint. They do tend to like it once they get it, though, and it was later featured on my own birthday cake (of which, more later).

I went home to spend a week with my parents on the evening of June 5th, and met Elke for the first time on June 6th. Rebecca told me my card was lovely. Here are some photos of Elke — mostly from that first encounter, but a few from later in the week.

With her mother:

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With her father, Ellis:

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With her grandfather:

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With her grandmother:

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With me:

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In her cradle:

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I gave Elke a little speech I’d prepared, referencing the famous bridge scene from Monty Python’s Holy Grail. It went something like this. “Your name … is Elke. Your quest … is to make life as challenging as possible for your parents (and if you ever need any help with that, just let me know; that’s what uncles are all about). As for your favourite colour, well, you get to decide that when you’ve had a good look at them all. And I promise that no-one is going to throw you off any bridges until you’ve made up your mind.

The week wasn’t entirely about Elke. Here are some new photos from my parents’ home, featuring the extensions that were built but not furnished last time I was home.

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And outside:

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(Compare with the photos here and here, taken last August.)

I brought with me a bottle of the coconut, orange, honey & spice cocktail that I created. I gave the recipe in a previous blog post, but to repeat: it’s 1 part Island Sting, 1 part orange juice, and 2 parts coconut water (alcohol content is 5% per volume). Dad said the flavour was interesting and very drinkable, adding that he detected a hint of ginger. I’ve left the bottle with him to share with guests, whose feedback I look forward to hearing about.

My cousin Robert, his wife Katrina, and their three children Kate, Leah and Joshua, now live on the same peninsula as my parents, and I saw quite a bit of them over the week. Saturday June 8th was a particularly busy day. We had lunch at the annual craft fair in Maitland, and spent the afternoon lighting small bonfires on the farm.

In the evening, I read Joshua a story that I had bought him as a gift: Ankylosaur Attack by Daniel Loxton. Circumstances weren’t ideal — I had a headache, Dad was making noise washing dishes in the background, and Josh insisted on sitting in a chair that meant I had to contort my body awkwardly in order to read — so it felt like something of an anticlimax. But later (on Monday evening), Robert told me that Josh had asked for the book again the following night, so it was evidently a success.

Here are some fire photos:

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And a video:

On Sunday 9th June, we gathered at Rebecca’s place for a barbecue lunch and a walk on the beach. It was then that I received the birthday cake I mentioned earlier (my actual birthday is June 12th).

Here is a video of Kate throwing a ball for Rebecca and Ellis’s dog, Molly:

And here are some photos of Molly that I took earlier in the week:

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I saw the wider family one last time at a Monday evening restaurant meal, and on Tuesday I returned home to Adelaide.

I bought a new modem while I was away, which I’m planning to install the day after I publish this. The main advantage of the new modem is that it has a wireless option, so once it’s set up I’ll be able to connect from my laptop and participate in Skype video chats, etc, from my own home (my desktop does not have a webcam).

Chairs, calendars, and the continuation of life

This is the second part of my update spanning most of October and the first part of November.

It’s been an exciting month for me, mostly because I finally got the new lounge chairs (or sofas, in more international English) that I ordered back in July. These are the first non-second-hand lounge chairs I have ever owned, and were custom made with my choice of colour and style.

(The shade is greener in life than in the picture, but it depends on the light.)

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News and links for late August 2012

Herewith another link collection and general update. This one’s a little out of schedule (given that I aim to post these things near the 7th and 21st of each month), but sometimes it’s a battle to keep my queue of to-read links from growing a lot faster than I can read them….

There’s a little personal news at the end, including one 3D photo.

I heard about the death of Neil Armstrong from my alarm clock radio. It’s unusual that my alarm clock radio tells me something I care about; normally I look upon radio as merely an inoffensive noise to get me out of bed. But this was an exception. I linked to an interview with Armstrong back in May, but never got around to listening to more than the first two episodes. Should do that.

It seems appropriate this month to put my space-related links first, and let everything else follow.

Parent visiting and camera testing

I visited my parents on the weekend, and while I was there I also tested a new digital camera, which I bought on Thursday. This blog post therefore serves two roles — a report on my latest trip home, and a gallery of photos from my new camera.

I travelled home on Friday morning — as far as Moonta with friends and then (after a coffee, walk, etc), the rest of the way with Mum. It was a good trip home, and the second time I’ve visited Mum and Dad since they moved into their new house in the town. Here are a couple of photos from the first time (back in Easter, via my blog archives): [1, 2]

The new camera is an Olympus VG-170, and replaces my old Olympus D-545 Zoom, which had been getting worse for wear lately. The new one is capable of up to 14 megapixels, but I have it set on 5 megapixels for now.

So … here are some shots of the outside of my parents’ house.

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Post-Easter link catch-up

It’s been ages since I shared links, so I’ve got some catching up to do. First I’ll share older links. Then I’ll share some photos from my Easter break (think of it as an intermission). And finally I’ll share recent links.

Over Easter I visited my parents, and saw the inside of their new house for the first time (they’ve recently moved from the farm into the town). Here’s a sample photograph. Read the rest of this entry »

House tour: the ultimate domestic post

I’ve been wanting to do this for a long time, but it meant getting every room in my house clean and tidy at the same time. This happens about as often as a conjuction of five planets. Which room corresponds to which planet is left as an exercise for the reader.

Below is an animated GIF image, giving you a quick tour through my home. You can think of it as an overview of all my renovations and furniture acquisitions over the last few years. Or you can think of it as a peek into my mind, and try to analyse it psychologically. Or you can look out for interesting objects that raise questions you’d like to ask me. Or you can compose a fictional real estate ad for it. Or you can write a text adventure game based on it. However you choose to think of it, I welcome all comments, no matter how whimsical.

Interesting Stuff: Late March 2010

Some interesting articles that I’ve found recently, followed by some personal updates and other bits & pieces.

  • Essay on the resurgence of scurvy in the early 20th century.
  • Tasmanian Devils that seem to be resistant to facial tumour disease.
  • Video of simulated flight over Martian terrain.
  • Octopuses fooled by high-definition video.
  • Find out what’s on the other side of the world. [Update: that link is dead, so try this instead.]

A little more about that last item. Some years ago I figured out that the opposite side of the world from my present location could be determined more or less as follows: take the latitude of the Straits of Gibraltar, and the longitude of the southernmost tip of Greenland, and where they intersect, there you are. But how close is that? What location in Australia is precisely opposite those coordinates? Using the online Antipodes Map above, I’ve discovered that the answer is a point off the west coast of Kangaroo Island.

How might you specify your antipode with reference to landmarks rather than distances/coordinates?

In personal news, here’s an alarm clock radio I bought recently. It has features I’ve always wanted but have never been able to find before, so I’m very pleased with it.

Renovation update

Last time I wrote about home renovations, I posted photographs of the curtains in my living room and office. I didn’t get curtains installed in my bedroom at the time, because I couldn’t find a material that suited the colour scheme.

I have now, though, and here’s a photograph of the new bedroom curtains that were installed today.

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Curtains and floors

My floors have now been renovated. They look great, and there is a very noticeable improvement in insulation. This was the last of the major renovations  I’ve been planning for some time, so my home looks more-or-less the way I want it now.

In a lesser renovation, I recently had new curtains installed in the living room and office. I’ve mentioned this as upcoming didn’t blog about when it happened, as I thought it best to wait and write about both renovations at once. (I also had my exterior doors replaced recently, but that doesn’t count.)

Here’s a photograph showing the curtains and the floor in the living room. (The telephone cable is currently lying loose; fixing it is a job for another day.)

livingroomcurtains

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Cork for floor, bird for sky

In a moment I’ll be going offline for a day and a half. My carpets and lino are scheduled to be ripped up and replaced with cork tiles tomorrow, and in preparation I’m packing my possessions away either in the bathroom or on the kitchen benches. I’ll shortly unplug the computer and store it on the kitchen benches too. This isn’t merely generosity on my part; if I let the workers move my stuff around, they’ll put things back wrong.

Now, here’s a funny story.

Yesterday morning I awoke to discover a bird in my house, trying to fly out through the kitchen window glass. The only explanation I had — however unlikely — was that it must have flown in the evening before (when the door was very briefly open) and been trapped inside all night. I got it out, but a little later it was back again. In my house. With even that implausible explanation ruled out. This morning I chased it out at least three times, and cleaned various messes off the sink, basin, benchtop and floor.

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