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The last couple of years have been rushed at the last minute, but this year I am taking it back to its roots.

For the first time in three years I am including a small homage to a classic Star Wars scene.

James is playing a cheeky looking Darth Vader, I was going to let him wear the mask, but decided people might want to see what he looks like now.  Liam is playing a “serves you right“ Grand Moff Tarkin.  Lucas displays an Oscar winning performance as Conan Antonio Motti; but of course you all recognised the scene immediately, so no further explaination was required.

Off camera Liam is wearing fluffy rabbit slippers, but they got cropped out, but keeping true to the original scene no subtle detail was left unnoticed!

So how has life been for The Reads?  As you would expect the life of the parents has been the same routine repeated over 350times.  But each and every days brings its own uniquenesses. Sure, we have the things we do each week.

On Mondays I have been taking part in a bible study and I have just completed a fascinating study of the gospel according to Matthew.  I had never studied a book in the New Testament to such an extreme so that was exciting.  Spoiler Alert: He dies and rises in the end!

On Tuesdays and Thursdays Chris’ mum comes over the play with the boys for a couple of hours, this gives Chris the chance to decompress and take care of shopping and other chores.  On Sundays we kind of return the favour and take the kids to grandma’s house, then Chris and I can have lunch together and do some grown up activites.  Those are the milestones of the average week.

As reported last year, I am back again at AVL after a four year hiatus and recently completed my first and tenth years, I’m not sure if I get something made of paper or tin, or a combination of the two… a tetra-pak perhaps!  Since September I have been spending some time travelling out of state to be on-site at the customer, only for one or two days at a time.  It’s hard to comment on work for a couple of reasons.  Firstly it is hardly an exciting topic for a newsletter and secondly if I maintain a level of secrecy and confidentiality people can dream up their own scenarios of what I actually do.

“Oh, when he said he was out of state, I didn’t realise he was on a secret mission to destroy SPECTRE from the inside.”

“Why, yes, I was Mish Moneypenny”.

The truth is, from my point of view I don’t do interesting things, but I get to see Chris and the boys do all sorts of cool stuff….

This year Chris has been working on some raised beds in the garden, and has spent most of spring pining for some warmer weather so she can sow the seeds.  Please do not expect me to give you a full run down of what it being grown, because Iain and garden duties never mix.  Getting dirt on my hands is not high on my agenda.  Last year we had a superb yield of corn, 12 cobs were all ready within a few days of each other and needed to be harvested before the local squirrels realised there was a feast hanging a few feet above their sinister heads.  For the winter Chris planted some garlic, because we all know garlic only develops its root system and pungent flavor once it has experienced a severe frost, and this year we had one hell of a frost.  I am hoping the garlic will be strong enough to keep the fangy Nosferatic squirrels in check.

James was enrolled to start school in August last year, but the church which was being converted into classrooms faced a number of delays and so they arranged for him and the class to go to some other school “south of 8 mile”, yes, *that* south of 8 mile.  After one of the boys took his backpack and locked it in a locker he decided that home schooling was more his style, so we agreed to take him out.  He might try again this year, but of course he will need to understand he cannot chop and change as the fancy takes him.  Homeschooling is fairly easy nowadays with all the online resources available. An hour of reading and an hour of math is normally enough to keep on top of things.  He’s become excellent at three things and writing and math be both if them.  James also enjoys designing computer game levels for the various games he plays.  Of course the software comes with a level editor, he’s not coding from scratch, but each of the ones he comes up with are tricky yet possible.  He has also dabbled with some stop motion animation and I recently bought a green screen so this year his syllabus might include a YouTube based audio-visual section.  He does also do the things five year olds do!

Liam is vying for the title of puzzle solver in the family.  He likes nothing more than a tense game of checkers or backgammon or Gobblet or Quarto or any other of the myriad of board games we have collected.  I would never admit to him beating me all the time, that’s such a finite statement, but I am forty and we play a game of something most nights before bed and I by no means have a 100% record either.  Admittedly I probably barely scrape a 50% winning record at this point.  I could blame the stresses of my own life, but to be honest, he beats me fair and square quite often.  Chess is probably the only board game we play where I actually play reservedly to allow the game to continue, but I certainly never throw the game and he never lays his king down quietly.  Chess is a battle to be taken seriously, the death and destruction of your wife, advisors, noblemen, castle walls and eight peasants is no laughing matter… or maybe you’ve never read/seen Game of Thrones!

Liam also likes to read.  We set up a reading light for him recently and now he often falls asleep surrounded by 5 or 6 books which he has reading.  He does not skim the books, he reads them.  A couple of times I have passed his door and I hear Gregorian chanting in the eerie light from the room beyond.  When I sneak a peek he is reciting Fox in Socks or Green Eggs and Ham. “In Nomine Seussti, Amen”.  He’s a true nerd in the making….

…. Fortunately, Lucas is the no messing, brick sheisse hausen of the family.  Each family of geeks and nerds needs one brother who will roll up his sleeves and kick the living crap out of his brother for being a smart-ass! Balance will be restored and maintained, and Lucas is Draconian law in the making.  I guess it is somewhat inevitable that the youngest brother of three would be the toughest, that’s just the natural pecking order.  Actually, the boys rarely fight, so I don’t want to do Lucas a disservice by painting a barbaric picture of him in your minds, but he can hold his own when it comes to “sharing” the ways brothers do.  James and Liam are not able to dominate the computer or remote control or choice of game.

Lucas’ big thing at the moment is Public Service Announcements.  Anything from crash test dummy videos to David Prowse (Darth Vader) as the Green Cross Man.  Lucas is certainly a child of the YouTube era and loves to search for videos of people doing stunts or jumping into pools or riding bikes and skateboards.  I think he loves the instantaneousness and repeatability of his search requests.  They can sometimes be a little specific. “OK, I want to see a kid, a boy kid, fall into a pool, after slipping on a skateboard, while carrying drinks” – boom! 17 results. I have to admit, he finds some gems.  I somehow justify him watching these sorts of videos in the same vein they were originally intended as they have taught him how to carry drinks across the road or near a swimming pool.  Safety Education Level One achieved!

The boys are growing up nicely and actually enjoyed making the picture for the newsletter this year.  I had planned for Lucas to be the one who just sits there and have James choking and Liam pointing, but after they watched the scene a few times, on YouTube of course, they all chose their own roles and I have to admit each of them did a superb job.  Perhaps next year my email will simply contain a link to a three minute video and you can all just sit back and enjoy!

Please keep safe for the next year and please forward to people who might mention to you, “Hey, what happened to Iain’s May the 4th thing this year?” My Email address book is getting horribly out of date, I think there is one or two @AOLs in there!

Take care.

Iain.

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I wrote a short poem this past weekend.

Morsel

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When I was a young boy living in the north east of Scotland I was living in a house which had a loose floorboard in the bedroom closet.

I would hide various things in there.
Toys, notes, self drawn comics, poetry, songs, cereal box prizes and other time capsule trinkets which a 9 year old would treasure!

Thirty years have passed.  I wonder if the items are still there or if during regular home maintenance they were discovered and perhaps enjoyed by a new 8 year old, or even the stash was added to.

I am assuming anyone currently living there is also heading into their forties, and were therefore a kid at the same time I was, perhaps even played in their childhood with the same ET toy from Sugar Puffs.

I can, of course, send a letter to the house and ask the people living there to unearth my secret hole and inspect the contents.  I am not sure on the etiquette of ownership.  Theoretically they own the items as they were part and parcel with the purchase of the house, but it was my stuff originally.

I wonder if it is creepy to send a letter and ask them to remove the floorboard and see what is in there.  Perhaps it is empty and my childhood dream of having a secret stash for eternity has been thwarted or maybe they will find the items and list the antiques on eBay… or maybe they would entertain the prospect of putting everything in a jiffy bag and sending them to me.

I feel I need to start the interaction.

Later this week I will send a letter ‘to whom it may concern’ simply giving a brief outline of my story without revealing the location, include my email address and asking them to contact me.  I hope whomever receives the letter will enjoy going through the items and reliving their own past through the actions of a foresightful boy three decades ago.

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Kodzo's not regularly updated tumblr: Margaret Thatcher is Dead

kodzos:

As a child of the 1970’s Margaret Thatcher was the political colossus of the first half of my life, so I am reading the Tumblr posts and the Twitter comments with great interest.

As it was during her life, opinions are split. Either you love her or your hate her. On one hand she single-handedly…

Source: kodzos
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the Tanzania Challenge: First report from the field!

thetanzaniachallenge:

Hi guys! finally managed to buy a portable internet connection, it takes a while to get the hang of things and well, let’s just say things aren’t quite as hectic here in Tanzania as they are back home in Sweden. We’ve come to a consensus within the group that two things per day is a reasonable…

Source: thetanzaniachallenge
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My wife designed and printed a special tee for me to highlight the community spirit of Nerdfighters and the Kiva Nerdfighters.

It is a revamp of the classic “I’m with Stupid”, but with the Nerdfighter twist.

Afterall, every Nerdfighter is filled ‘with awesome’, hangs around ‘with awesome’ and decreases world suck ‘with awesome’.  I am so pleased to be able to share this with the other people in the world who are also ‘with awesome’…. and I’m with you!

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The new commemorative Kiva Nerdfighters 2million dollar mug.

This mug was awarded as a prize to the Kiva Nerdfighter who guessed the exact time we would lend our two millionth dollar.

This occurred about 11am on Friday March 8th.

Text says: Nerdfighters Grind Our Two Million Beans. March 8, 2013

Also included are a Kiva logo’ed coffee grinder, an ancient globe of less suck, a quaint coffee tray, some spoons and of course the initialism - DFTBA.

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This evening the Kiva Nerdfighters team loaned it’s way past the LOTUS team to become the tenth highest lending team on Kiva.

The team now appears on the front page of the Kiva Community page.
http://www.kiva.org/community

I missed the magical moment because I was reading bedtime stories to my kids.  However, to celebrate I wrote a small ditty on the message board in the style of Dr Seuss’ Green Eggs and Ham.

Would you could you in a dream, become a top ten lending team?
I do not like to see world suck, It’s great Nerdfighters give a (opportunity to entrepreneurs in developing countries!)

 

 

The next milestone for the team is lending it’s 2 millionth dollar, which will happen within the next 8 days.  To join the team follow this link:
http://kiva.org/i/l3MkxTB2qkT

Sign up and join the corner of the internet where the best nerds hang out.

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I loaned the New York Times Bestselling book The Fault In Our Stars by John Green to my Mother in Law.  She emailed me on Monday night / Tuesday morning saying that she could not put it down and was crying like a fool.

This morning (Friday) I received another Email from her saying that she had been reading the book in her car, while waiting to hold a workshop -naturally she was crying!

[The following account is paraphrased to prevent spoilers]

Someone from the workshop group came to her car to let her know it was time and when they saw her crying asked if she was OK.  She replied, “I’m OK, I have just learned of an untimely death”. The person informed her she would not have to run the workshop if she did not feel up to it.  She responded, “Oh no, I’d consider it respectful to the deceased if I were to continue as planned”.

When she got inside she was greeted by a large number of people offering condolences.  She continued the lie and told everyone what a wonderful teenager the deceased was and how they had brought great joy to her life and that they would be sorely missed.

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http://kiva.org/i/YDXGUQ6MXog

Yesterday the company I work for in Michigan paid me back for the gas money to drive the #readrv from California last June.  I took this money and invested most of it in Kiva.

Kiva is a non-profit organization that connects people who need money, with people who have money. Kiva works with over 150 micro financing institutions, providing small loans to entrepreneurs in developing countries. Kiva does this by providing these micro financing institutions with money, -your- money. You can loan as little as $25 to an entrepreneur in the developing world, and help alleviate poverty. Kiva and its lenders, believe that providing entrepreneurs with micro credit, allowing them to create a stable business, is key to alleviating poverty.

So I loaned 78 people $25 each so that they could use my faith in them to further their own businesses and lives.  It may seem scary to lose so much money, but in November each recipient will pay me back a small portion of the loan, and I will be able to relend that money to help more people.  I will receive $609 in November and $714 in December.  This means I can help a further 24 people and 28 people respectively, and the circle continues.

I highly recommend you give it a try, it is a wonderful feeling to think your ‘spare change’ can literally make a ‘change’ and ‘spare’ a life.  When you join Kiva for the first time you will receive a sponsored $25 loan to get you going.  Just go and have a look at the people you can help, I am sure you will find someone you can relate to.  Follow the link above.