The Dead Pigeon Mystery

Yesterday evening, Eve informed me that there was a dead pigeon in the chicken run. I had no intention of trying to deal with a bird corpse while it was both dark and raining, but I did promise to get rid of it this morning.

This morning came and went and, shortly after lunch, I went out to deal with the dead pigeon.

It had gone.

So now the question arises as to who might have been sneaking into our garden on Saturday morning to help themselves to a Columbidae corpse.

I have my suspicions.

Scratch

A few weeks ago, William told me he wanted to make his own computer game. So I installed Scratch on his laptop and told him to see what he could do. It turns out he can do quite a lot.

Scratch is a visual programming language. While it has all the features you would expect, the programming itself is done by dragging and dropping blocks rather than typing text. This makes for a very intuitive interface which allows you to get up to speed very quickly. Well, William did.

After a couple of pointers from me about loops and variables, he was off and now has a working game in which teleporting monkey has to collect various objects.

He then discovered that there is an online editor and a collection of tutorials and, after two weeks, he’s probably a better Scratch programmer than I will ever be. If he carries on like this, it’s not going to be long before he has a better handle on event-driven programming than I do.

As someone who makes a living as a developer, I’m not sure whether I should be proud or embarrassed.

Either way, Scratch itself is proving a very effective way of enabling kids to not only build their own applications, but also understand the underlying principles. The visual interface allows them to focus on developing applications, rather than having to worry about syntax, and the development environment provides instant feedback which encourages them to try things out and see what happens.

I am very impressed.

Hello Monday

After a wet and windy weekend, it’s Monday. To tell the truth, Sunday wasn’t too bad but we stayed in anyway. I think it was justified, though, given how much of a rush Saturday was.

Macsen had another karate tournament, two hours away, so he and his mum were out of the house for most of the day. This left me to get the twins to their morning karate practice, fed, and delivered to their youth club for the afternoon. They were a bit when by the time they were home, although not as wet as I’d feared.

With Coronavirus restrictions still in place, audiences at the karate tournament were very restricted so the club had helpfully set up a YouTube live stream so that parents could watch from home. It worked really well.

I saw all four of Macsen’s fights (two wins, two losses — although one of those was very nearly a win) and was suitably impressed. He came fourth in the end, but it was close4 and he could easily have come third.

And here’s a sunrise to start the week.

How was your weekend?

Chillies

When Chili, (the cat) died last year, the boys wanted to bury the cat and to plant a chili plant to mark the spot.

With the Covid-19 lockdown in full swing this spring, getting to a garden centre became rather problematic. We did, however, manage to eventually acquire a couple of plants, albeit a little later than I would have liked. The plants did pretty well though, providing us with a reasonably decent harvest of mild and spicy peppers.

They were rather tasty, too, and ended up in pretty much everything.

It turns out though that we’re not yet done with them. Over the weekend, I noticed that the plants are flowering again.

I know I recently whined a bit about the prospect of yet another heatwave, but if the autumn stays mild enough for another batch of chillies to survive, I shall stop complaining immediately.

We also held on to quite a lot of seeds and, next year, I shall see if I can germinate them. Here’s hoping for an endless supply of the glorious fruit.

Ten plus Ten

Alexandre and William both hit ten years old today and, since they are at school, we have the best part of the day to make sure everything is ready for this evening.

There’s no party this year because of the coronavirus, and the outdoor play area we would normally unleash the kids onto is still closed. But we will be having a barbecue tomorrow (which is promising to be the hottest day of the year so far) and plans are afoot for a proper (if small) celebration either this weekend or next.

Hitting double figures is not something that can go unacknowledged and, today, there will be cake.

That was the long weekend that was

Garden furniture is weird. At least, the way it’s priced is weird.

We have a table and set of chairs for eating outside and, while the table is still perfectly good, the chairs are starting to show their age somewhat. They are generally okay if you don’t sit on them but chairs that can’t be sat on is a tad suboptimal so we started looking around for more outdoor chairs.

Garden chairs are quite expensive, but much cheaper if you buy them as part of a set. This is why we now have eight new chairs and yet another table.

It all came from Ikea and was delivered on Friday. The boys all did a remarkably good job of putting the chairs together — the oldest, completely on his own and the twins with minimal help from me.

Since we have a table, we must also have drinks and it was off to the drink shop that I went. Here I discovered, much to my delight, that they are stocking Bass pale ale again which means that summer has definitely started.

You can fit a lot of board games around a big table and with the weather this weekend being absolutely glorious we have spent most of the time outside. This all culminated on Monday — a public holiday in Belgium — with a suitably large barbecue and a couple of drinks.

And now, having looked at the state of our barbecue, I think we’re going to have to start looking for another one.

How was your weekend?

We have a teenager in the house

Macsen turned 13 today.

Obviously, with the current situation his planned celebration has been postponed but we did manage a rather nice breakfast brunch at home. Outside, even, as the weather was nice and we have a fair bit of space.

Of course, nice weather is relative and, while it’s nice enough outside when moving around, once we sat down we realised that the wind was a quite a bit coder than we’d initially thought. So, after a lengthy discussion between Macsen and his mum as to who had thought of eating outside in the first place, we picked everything up and finished the food indoors

There will be cake later. And a film night.

Celebrating curiosity

Today is International Darwin Day, which aims to inspire people to reflect and act on the principles of intellectual bravery, perpetual curiosity, scientific thinking, and hunger for truth as embodied in Charles Darwin. There are events taking place around the world, none of which we attending — it is a school night, after all.

We will not, however be ignoring the day entirely.

For Christmas, Alex received a box of Frightful First Experiments which we have been working through ever since. We are intending, tonight, to harness the power of static electricity. But given that Darwin was a biologist, here’s an experiment we did earlier.

carrot

Double Bronze

I mentioned, briefly, that Macsen had another karate tournament yesterday. He did well, coming third in both the kata (knowing the moves) and the kumite (the actual fighting) sections.

He even managed to join the rest of us in time for the pancake frenzy.

So Sunday proved to be a rather successful day all around.

How was your weekend?

Of beer and beavers

Sunday saw Macsen competing in the Flemish karate championship, which left me at home with William and Alexandre. After a morning playing board games, we decided to take advantage of the bright, dry (but cold) weather and head out to the Totterpad, a nearby nature walk.

Bernard the beaver lives in his beaver castle next to the visitor center. When he wakes up one morning, he notices unknown footprints around his castle. He decides to look for the maker of those strange traces. Along the way he has to walk over a tree bridge, crawl into a bird’s nest, do a totter trail and much more.

It’s a nice walk, and one we have followed a fair few times. It’s not too long, but there is plenty of opportunity for exploration and several activities along the way.

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I am also rather fond of the fact that the walk ends (or starts) at the recently refurbished visitor centre and bar, De Watermolen.

The pub was a lot busier than I’d expected so, after having ordered a drink each for all of us, we had a bit of a trek to find an available seat. While looking for a seat, I kept hold of the hot chocolates in order to minimise the risk of hot drink spillage in a crowded bar. This left the twins to handle everything else.

I think the sight of a nine-year-old wandering around a bar, beer in hand, may have raised a few eyebrows.

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The walk home was shorter and more relaxed, the boys having finally burnt off some of their energy, until we reached the point at which we exited the path. Here there is a dry ditch surrounding a picnic table and the twins thought it would be a good idea to roll down the hill.

It’s been dry all weekend, so I thought nothing of it. Until they stood up. Covered, from head to foot, in mud.

This is why we have a washing machine.

Macsen came fourth in the championship. A good result that only just missed his being on the podium.