Sunday, November 30, 2008

Liam earns his “Seepferdchen”

Last Friday Liam’s swimming lessons of the past 3 months paid off when he earned his Seepferdchen badge (literally seahorse) which shows he can

  • Jump into water from the side and swim 25m unaided
  • Retrieve an object with his hands from shoulder-deep water

This completes his trio of 2008 sporting achievements where he learned to ski, cycle and swim in one calendar year. His parents are very proud :-)

Wednesday, November 19, 2008


As Electra disclosed in her earlier Last Walks post, we’ve known for some time that she has cancer. The tumours in her throat had receded recently, and we were starting to hope that she would get better. However, what started as a limp a week ago progressed quickly to an inability to use her real left leg. A visit to the vet yesterday revealed an aggressive and painful bone cancer. Heike made the difficult decision on the spot to put her out of her misery.

Below I’ve pasted some pictures of Electra which we’ve taken over the last few years.

Saturday, November 08, 2008

Militant Atheists on their bus again

You’ve got to love Jesus and Mo


Tuesday, October 21, 2008

The Atheist Bus

Today I donated 5 pounds sterling of my hard-earned cash to a worthy cause, the Atheist Bus Campaign. Ariane Sherine of the Guardian has been instrumental in driving this bus (pun pardoned), the full story is here.

Here’s how it will look on a London bus in the near future,


And here is a widget showing progress so far:

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Parachute Jump

I finally managed to cash in on my last year’s birthday present from Heike, namely a tandem parachute jump.

The video below shows me landing in the airfield at Lachen-Speyerdorf, although all the hard work was done by Karlheinz Heilig of, who expertly pulled all the right strings at all the right times.

From 10 12 - Parachute Jump

The weather was not as good as forecast, but there was nonetheless plenty of visibility across the Pfalz hills.

Heike was so impressed that now she’s talking about having a go herself.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Corsica Highlights

We’re more or less recovered from our trip to Corsica, inasmuch as the washing machine is no longer running 4 times a day. Below I’ve posted a few pictures of our holiday, there are plenty more to be found in the gallery.

We were staying in Tiuccia, a seaside town just north of the Corsican capital of Ajaccio.  The beaches nearby at La Liscia and Liamone are both good, with crystal clear water at temperatures of about 22°C. The accommodation was by no means luxurious, particularly with all family members on the sofa.

From 09 21 - Tiuccia

However the neighbours were friendly, as evidenced by this little guy on our wall. He’s a Tyrrhenian Wall Lizard, and found all over Corsica, to the great amusement of our children.

From 09 21 - Tiuccia


These lizards were not our only neighbours, our friends Wiebke, Thomas, Greta and Marta were also in the same area. They were the ones who originally persuaded us that Corsica is a fantastic venue for a holiday outdoors. Below both families pose for the requisite tourist picture looking out of a cave near the Tête Du Chien rock formation in the beautiful Calanches area.

From 09 23 - Tête Du Chien

From 09 23 - Tête Du Chien

The following day we walked the lower section of the Gorges De Spelunca, an impressive canyon going up from Ota to Evisa. We stopped at the charming Pont a Zaglia pictured below, an old Genoese bridge which marks the point beyond which 3-year-old children no longer wish to hike.

From 09 24 - Gorges de Spelunca

The next day we struck out on our own southward, looking for menhirs and other prehistoric relics. Along the way we were somewhat unnerved as we ran dangerously low on diesel along what seemed like the most forlorn and remote stretch of road in Corsica. Luckily we managed to get as far as Filitosa on the last few drops.

The menhirs at Filitosa are pretty special in terms of being elaborately carved, and the site is very well equipped with recordings explaining the various statues and dwellings.

From 09 25 - Filitosa

As it was still early, we decided to drive the extra hour (to drive anywhere in Corsica takes at least an hour) on to the menhirs at Pallaghiu. In contrast to Filitosa, there is no entry fee here, and no attempt to provide any information. However the site is just as impressive in its own way, with extensive lines of menhirs in east-west formation.

From 09 25 - Pallaghiu

After all that time in the car, the kids were in need of something closer to home, so the following day we visited the (Europe’s largest!) turtle sanctuary A Cupulatta along the road between Ajaccio and Corte. Primarily set up to showcase the native Corsican species, there were also plenty of other beasts on display here, including the Galapagos and Seychelles giant, and the rather vicious alligator turtle.

From 09 26 - U Cupulatta

The next day saw us back near Evisa, this time walking along the Chemin de Châtaignes (chestnut path) to the Piscine Naturelle (natural pool). The chestnuts turned out to be far easier to peel than the kind we get here in Germany, but as a trade-off tasted absolutely horrible. Apparently they’re mostly ground down to flour, or eaten by the many semi-wild pigs that roam the forests until they end up as some farmer’s charcuterie.

The Piscine Naturelle is where Liam imitated Dr. Foster by stepping into a puddle right up to his middle. As thoughtless parents we had insufficient dry clothes, so I packed him up in Heike’s coat and carried him home. The walk back with 25 kg of children on my back was that bit more tiring.

From 09 27 - Chemin de Châtaignes

A bit of tamer sight-seeing followed in Ajaccio, birthplace and of Napoleon. Funnily enough he’s marketed locally as Napoleon I, indicating perhaps an expectation of more emperors? In any case Liam undoubtedly horrified the citizens of La Grand Nation by clambering all over the memorial to N.B. with what looked suspiciously like disrespect.

From 09 28 - Ajaccio

The following day found Heike  suffering from Delhi Belly (or perhaps Tiuccia Tummy) so the kids and I left her resting at home and went donkey riding. More accurately, Liam and Greta had a donkey and pony respectively, the rest of us had to walk.

Soon it became clear how donkey economics works: tourists pay the donkey owner 40 Euros in order to give the beast a light workout and lead it to free food. Our donkey did nothing but eat vegetation all the way up and down the path to the delightful Lac de Creno.

From 09 29 - Lac De Creno

In search of further proof that there are no shortage of beauty spots in Corsica, we visited the Cascades des Anglais, reportedly a favoured destination for the Victorian English. It is beautiful there, but the real hit for our kids were the blackberry bushes up the hill, which are still producing sweet berries in early October!

From 10 01 - Cascades des Anglais

All in all, Corsica is a great place for a family holiday, especially for a family who traditionally have divided preferences for mountains and seaside. We’ll definitely go again.

Thursday, October 09, 2008

Testing the Postal Service

I found this story brilliant:

Illustrator Harriet Russell put the postpersons to the test by concocting puzzles hich resolved to addresses. From 130 letters sent, 120 arrived. The example puzzles are pretty good, I failed the colour blindness one :-(

Tuesday, September 09, 2008

Last Walks

A guest post from Electra, along the lines of Randy Pausch's Last Lecture...


Greetings to all of you humans out there on the interwebs.  My can-opening, Frisbee-throwing walk companions have finally given me permission to speak directly to you, my loving fan base.

Unfortunately the news I have is not good. Although the rumours of my demise are exaggerated, they are not greatly so. Today I visited the premises of the Tierklinik Hofheim, and inspected their fine equipment for radiation therapy. It all looks very high-tech and impressive, but unfortunately the vet's opinion there is that the melanoma in my throat is not suitable for treatment, and that it's more sensible to make my remaining time as comfortable as possible.

The prognosis is for my demise in the next 4 to 6 weeks. My human companions are understandably upset, but I think they also understand that the important thing is to look after my every whim in the time I have left. I fully intend to sleep in the bed, eat steak and go for forest walks as often as I like within the timespan left to me, and they'd better see to it that my wishes are fulfilled. The upcoming holiday in Corsica will be a good start.

So, dear readers, please feel free to comment with suggestions on how the humans can pamper me even more than usual in the time remaining. You know I'm worth it.

Monday, September 08, 2008

You know you're living in Germany when...

You know you're living in Germany when the following conditions apply:

  1. You visit your father-in-law in hospital, who won't eat the food because the chef may just come from Nord-Deutschland.
  2. You drive halfway across the city to get a particular type sausage for said hospital-bound father-in-law.
  3. You enter the shop 15 minutes before Feierabend, only to be told that the Wurst was packed away 15 minutes ago, and who do you think you are anyway coming in at this time?


Friday, August 29, 2008

Pope spares a thought for crucified frogs everywhere

I was fascinated to read that the Pope has been criticising the work of art below as blasphemous.


Local politician Franz Pahl has even gone on hunger strike to protest at the piece, and ended up in hospital.

Why does the head of a major religion have time for this nonsense? Is he concerned about frogs everywhere suffering at the hands of copycat killers? Apparently not, the official reason for outrage is as follows:

[the sculpture] "wounds the religious sentiments of so many people who see in the cross the symbol of God's love"

I'm not aware that wounded sentiments are a diagnosable medical condition, so I'd have to say that the actual damage caused by this sculpture is pretty close to zero. I wish people would take more notice of PZ Myers. As he so eloquently framed the great host desecration debate last month, "IT'S A FRACKIN’ CRACKER!", or in this case "It's a frackin' painted wooden frog!".

So please your popiness, stop getting excited about this trivia, and do something constructive instead. How about slowing down the spread of AIDS in Africa by recommending condom use? Now that could actually save lives and make you seem less like an irrelevant old fart...

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

A Walk up Ticknock Hill

Although tired after his exertions on Dublin Bay, Liam agreed upon his return to come along with my dad, Heike, Davnet, Doireann, Rosalie and Alannah for a walk up to the TV mast on Ticknock Hill.

As is clear from the pictures below, Liam also managed to scramble up a few rock formations together with his very responsible grandfather...

Liam tries out sailing with his grandfather

We extended our weekend in Dublin until Monday, so that we could do a little more than run straight to the airport after Saturday's festivities. Specifically, Liam and I joined my father for a trip on his boat around Dublin Bay.

The sun managed to make a short guest appearance at the appropriate time, and the wind was a very gentle breeze, which made it perfect sailing weather for a three-year-old.

Rosalie senior celebrates her birthday

The Heidelberg branch of the Cassidy clan travelled to Dublin last weekend to join assorted sisters, nieces, nephews and cousins all celebrating Rosalie senior's 70th birthday.

A highlight was the cake which Fiona organised - it was made up of a collage of photos of my mother during her lifetime.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Rosalie on her new Puky Wutsch

Heike has pointed out to me that I have neglected to post a photo of Rosalie on her new Puky Wutsch, so here it is.

Yes, she was as delighted to use it as she looks. For those who are not yet familiar with Puky's fine products I can heartily recommend them. Liam has the Laufrad, bicycle and tricycle, and has had enormous fun with all three. The Wutsch is great for kids who are even too small for the trike, and will keep Rosalie busy for a while yet.

Monday, June 30, 2008

The Website is down

This tech support training video is hilarious (also available at Who says tech and marketing people can't communicate?

Sunday, June 29, 2008

Schwarz, Rot, Gold

The excitement has been building in the last few weeks with regard to Germany's participation in the European Championship. Neither Heike nor I are particularly interested in football, certainly not enough to fly a black, red & gold flag from our cars, as most Germans seem to be doing. Apart from anything else, the extra drag caused by those flags no doubt translates to another few million tons of CO2 in the atmosphere.

So instead we decided to put a flag on the kids' bike trailer, as shown below.

In addition, Liam is super-proud to have an extra large (freebie beer advertising) flag installed on his bike.

The fact that a three-year-old is trailing a beer advert around is somewhat embarrassing, but the price compensates.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Family Barbecue in Kilmacanogue

Although our main destination at the weekend was Cashel in Galway, we also found time on Sunday evening to get invited to a family barbecue in  Fiona's house. This being the Cassidy family, there were plenty of people around, as the picture of the younger generation below shows.

The food was pretty good too.

David and Cliona's Wedding

Heike and I were in Ireland at the weekend. After depositing the kids with my sisters in Dublin, we journeyed over to Connemara to help celebrate the wedding of our friends Dave and Cliona. As can be seen from the picture below, the bride was radiant, and the groom was very happy.

The priest doubled as Cliona's uncle Sean, and generated a laugh or two when Dave needed to be prompted for an "I do". To be fair, I don't think Dave or anyone else was expecting an "I do" in the first 60 seconds - I suspect Fr. Sean was deliberately trying to throw him with the hidden negative - "Do you declare that there is no impediment...".

The reception venue was the very pleasant and comfortable Cashel House Hotel, famed apparently for once housing Charles de Gaulle, and even having a wooden bench on the grounds named after him. The bench is pictured on the right, there's nothing that spectacular about it...

It being Connemara, the landscape was beautiful and the weather was terrible. Apparently there was a storm during Saturday night with trees and power lines down, but the sound was drowned out by revelry. Below is the view on the following day from the De Gaulle seat of Cashel Bay and the Atlantic beyond, unfortunately my photographic skills can't do it justice.

The honeymoon destination was at the time of the wedding a closely guarded secret, known only to the groom. Poor Cliona was left in the dark about what to pack and for how long - David had made secretive arrangements with her employer for the absence without her knowledge. There was naturally some speculation amongst the guests, and some discounting of destinations where shots and visas are required, but at the time of writing I am no wiser where they went.

Update on 30.07.2008: The current information is that the destination is Australia

The great thing about weddings of college friends is that you get to meet people you haven't seen in years, and so it was here. Below are some snaps of Caitriona, Dorothy, Heidi, Albert, Dara, Dermot, Rachel and Jebu proving that if anything they've only become younger and better-looking in the intervening years since graduation.

As is traditional on such occasions, the Best Man (ab)used his position of authority to chat up women, though not much is known about his success rate, nor even what he was boasting about below.

There was some singing and speechmaking in the first official language. Starting in the church with a round of "Ar Nathair" (spelling?), David was really belting that out. Cliona's father peppered his speech with more of the same, then if memory serves correctly Amhrán na bhFiann brought the musical entertainment to a close at about 1 am. My wife tells me that I was in the room by 4, so that leaves not much time at all where I can't explain my whereabouts.

Monday, June 09, 2008

Stadt an den Fluss

On Sunday we joined our neighbours Ralf, Fabian and Anne for a cycle trip to the "Stadt an den Fluss" Erlebnistag to celebrate the coming pedestrian area on the Neckaruferpromenade. The plan is to build a 2.6 km tunnel underneath the current riverside road, and pedestrianise the entire riverside area. There were various stalls, bands and street performers available to give a flavour for pedestrian street life will be.

The weather played silly buggers, but fortunately in a quite innocuous manner. We managed to get our bikes locked before a sudden downpour drove us under some trees for shelter. Ten minutes of torrential rain later the sun was out again, and we enjoyed the bands, bratwurst and beer which make summer living in Germany a pleasure.

As usual Rosalie was in a good mood

and Liam was thrilled to have his friends Fabian and Anne on hand for climbing around the Altstadt.

On the way home we passed by the Heidelberg Globetrotter shop, and noticed that it was open - strange for a Sunday. Since Ralf knows the owner we dropped in, and were treated to a beer by the owner Sven. Now that's what I call service!


Last week saw the Cassidy-Schwab household transplanted to the Loire-Atlantique town of Préfailles. Here we met up with assorted Cassidys, Nolans and Conneelys for a very pleasant holiday.

I can definitely recommend the accommodation if you're looking for a 9-bedroom self-catering place to house 12 adults, 5 children and two  dogs.

The photos are to be found here. I like this one of Rosalie particularly:

Liam of course could not leave the country without his Laufrad. Here he is posing in front of his favourite cousin Alannah.

and my dear wife was also on hand to do some insane smiling :-)

For those who claim that Germans are immune to humour, my brother-in-law proved otherwise by changing the locks on our house while we were away. The humorous part was of course to not tell us, so on our return at 3am I had a chance to impress my family by breaking in. What fun and games.

Monday, May 26, 2008

More mischief

Digging through recent photos it has become clear to me that my daughter is not not always the angel she at first appears. Take the photo below as an example. The photographer is pleading with her to be reasonable and not climb stairs at the tender age of 10 months, and all she can do is giggle her head off..

Mischievous Giggler

I've known for some time that my son has a mischievous streak to him. It wasn't until I captured the photographic proof below that I realised my daughter has inherited the same sense of humour...

Saturday, May 17, 2008

Bike Trailer for kids

Transporting 2 children by bike brings a new set of challenges compared to a single child. With Liam alone we used a Römer Jockey child seat, as shown below (not actually ours, I grabbed the pic from eBay).


We have 2 of these, so theoretically we can bring both kids anywhere we want to cycle. However, for visits to the Freibad, where a significant amount of towels, floating toys, sandwiches and sand toys are required, or indeed any situation where the adult:child ratio is less than 1:1, this is not applicable.

Thus once Rosalie was old enough, and the weather sunny enough (=end April) we splashed out on a Chariot Captain XL, shown with contents below.

The kids love it, and I'm impressed too. It's far easier to pull it than I had feared, the suspension soaks up the bumps for them pretty well. Uphill is still a struggle, but fortunately there's not too much of that on our regular routes anyway. The luggage space is pretty impressive, all "necessities" for the swimming pool can be brought along, including the (deflated) life-size dolphin.

The only catch is that Liam is so keen on cycling himself these days that he refuses to be carted anywhere less than 5 kilometres distance...

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Liam takes a cold bath

As the weather has warmed up in the last few weeks, we've put out Elektra's paddling pool, which is filled with cold water. She loves to jump in to cold water on her return from a walk in the sunshine.

However we hadn't counted on Liam's enthusiasm for a cold bath al fresco. He spotted the water, and within seconds his clothes were off and he was in.

Footnote: we tried the same trick with Rosalie, but she was not having any of it - anything less that 30C is out of the question for her...

Saturday, May 03, 2008

Facebook, but for real

The video below is great - what happens when people transfer their online manners to offline situations...

Friday, April 25, 2008

Rosalie tries out her new Stokke Tripp Trapp

The advantage of being able to sit up while eating is clear - it's even easier to smear your food around the house...

This is what happens when three-year-olds dress themselves


Notice the detail of boots on wrong feet, the whole look is simply captivating. It's just bound to catch on.

Animoto Slideshow of Liam's birthday

A remix of photos set to music, courtesy of Animoto

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Pavement Artist

About the same time as her brother was learning to cycle, Rosalie was using her artistic creativity to enhance the pavement outside our house. As the video below shows, the biggest issue was to first choose the right colour of chalk...

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Liam learns to cycle

Liam has been using his Laufrad since his second birthday, and his bicycle plus stabilisers since Xmas 2007. Today was lovely and sunny, so against Heike's advice, I let him have a go without the Stützräder.

A video of how he got on is embedded below. He was hesitant at first, and agreed after an attempt or two that it'd be wise to wear a helmet. Then he suddenly got the hang of it, and was off cycling towards Rosalie at top speed!

I think I learned to cycle about age 6, so it can't be my natural talent that he's inherited :-)

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Liam's third birthday

Liam celebrated his third birthday today, first at home with a candle-lit birthday breakfast, then with his classmates in the Kindergarten, then in the JumpInn indoor playground.

A slideshow of Picasa photos is embedded below:

My choice for US President

Everyone has an opinion about who to vote for in the US Presidential election. Apart of course, from Scott Adams, who considers himself not well-informed enough to vote, and me, who has not as yet made the effort to understand the candidate's policies.

Up to now I've been of the opinion that replacing GWB with just about any other US citizen would make a marked improvement. Indeed, opening the rules to allow Arnie into the White House would have my support, if only for the amusement value of a half governor, half cyborg combat chassis running the White House.

The candidates all seem agreeable enough on first inspection. McCain has been vocal in renouncing torture, Clinton obviously cares about the healthcare disaster, and Obama seems like a generally nice guy. But that's somewhat less than an understanding of their policies...

But now, thanks to an online questionnaire from Der Spiegel, I don't need to make the thinking effort - I have discovered that I support the policies of Barack Obama, followed by Hillary Clinton, then John McCain.

Here's my political profile:

Disclaimer: I'm disenfranchised enough already by being non-resident in my country of birth, and a non-citizen in my country of residence, so please don't point out the bleedin' obvious fact that this election has nothing to do with me ;-)

Tuesday, April 08, 2008

Uses for a butterfly net

I was intrigued by this picture of Liam taken at his grandfather's house in Walldorf... Is it just me or does he look like he wants to catch those deer heads in his butterfly net?

Alannah's Christening Party

We were in Dublin at the weekend for my niece Alannah's Christening party, or more correctly her welcoming party, as she didn't get any water poured over her.

Unfortunately my camera batteries  died in the church, so I didn't get any pictures of her there, but we got a few of the party back at my parents house later. It was great to see all the assembled aunts, uncles and cousins again, there's nothing like a good family bash for that.

Liam and Rosalie had a great time too - Liam is always thrilled when he meets up with his Irish cousins. Here are Rosalie and Oran enjoying a bit of sofa time together.

Definitely a fun weekend, and once again congrats to Alannah on her welcoming ceremony.