Sunday, 25 July 2010

The Dentist

Jack has been to the dentist a number of times. Not just for checkups either. His molars are very weak and prone to decay, so at the age of 3 Jack has already had 4 fillings and still needs one more.

Jack isn't afraid of the dentist. He likes sitting in the big moving chair, seeing all the dentists tools and getting a balloon and sticker at the end. The only problem that Jack has with the dentist is, as he says He puts things in my mouth and they don't taste very nice.

Obviously Jack doesn't like the anesthetic needle. Our dentist takes the approach of hiding the needle from Jack and having him close his eyes while the injection took place. I've got no problem with this approach thought it's flaw came to light pretty quickly because Jack's curiosity got the better of him and he captured himself a glimpse of the needle. So the dentist still had to explain what it was in the most non-frightening way possible. He described it as some sort of cleaning sprayer, I'm not sure jack believed him. He had to give the Novocain in two sittings because Jack wouldn't sit long enough for the dentist to complete the injection. Pain is pain no matter how it's described.

Once the dentist was satisfied with the injection we struggled on through the rest of the appointment but came pretty quickly to the next hurdle. The dentist tried several times to start up the drill but each time Jack wouldn't let it near him. A number of tactics were employed, he explained that it's really only a special tooth brush and he's going to use it to brush Jack's germy tooth and that it wouldn't hurt, he slowed it way down and vibrated it against Jack's thumb which Jack really liked. After each stop and subsequent conversation Jack would calmly lay back and open his mouth only to jump up and start swatting once the drill got close saying Not so fierce.

It then occurred to me what the problem was. I explained to the dentist that Jack doesn't like loud noise. After a quick thought we came up with a plan. Jack sat through the reminder of the appointment with his eyes clamped shut, mouth open wide and both hands held tightly over his ears. I only wish I'd thought to take a picture.

Thursday, 22 July 2010

Batribike Part 2

Batribike part 2.

Ok so I've had the bike a little over a week now. So far I've taken it out four times and broken it twice. The first problem, we're putting down to shipping damage, was the pedal spindle having worked it's way loose. They sent out a technician, to my house, and quickly sorted the problem out.

I took the bike out again yesterday for a leisurely 8 miles or so when a real problem struck. Whilst engaging the regenerative braking system something happened. The back wheel more or less locked up and what movement I can get out of it was accompanied by a grinding noise. I dragged the bike home, 3 miles or so, and called Batribike. They're going to replace the bike, but they're out of stock so I'll have to wait a couple weeks... Not sure what I think about that.

Sunday, 18 July 2010


I've taken quite a bit of video of Jack over the last 6 months, mostly with the intention of posting them in individual blogs. But a lot of the time I either couldn't think of anything to write in relation to them, or I just plain never get around to it. So I'm just going to publish my whole library. I'm eventually going to make a separate page for this, but I'm to lazy right now, being unemployed and all.
So here they are in no particular order.

This is just him digging on a beach in Devon.

This is a different beach in Devon.

Same beach, about twenty minutes later. Check out the little strut he does at the end. I'd been trying to catch it on video for weeks.

I taught Jack the valuable life skill of rolling down hills. He swears that he doesn't get dizzy, you be the judge.

This one is just him playing with his water slide.

Thursday, 15 July 2010



Let me explain this review. I've recently purchased a Batribike Granite. I, like lots of people these days, have been looking for a way to save money on fuel. My situation is that my school is 12 miles away, so driving my car there and back 4 plus times a week was looking a little expensive. So my alternatives were; get a motorbike, get a scooter, get a bike, take the bus or walk. I looked into each of these options once by one and they were either just to expensive or not practical.

Eventually, I can't remember how, but I got to looking at power assisted bicycles. My wife and I spent weeks looking over electric bikes, any that we could find, I needed something that could consistently travel 25 miles or more on one charge. Very few bikes could do this. We came across a competition to win a Batribike so we looked them up. Their bikes promised nearly twice the performance that even more expensive bikes did. Was is too good to be true?

The thing that we couldn't find was objective reviews of the bikes, especially Batribike as they seem to be fairly new. Occasionally we came across reviews but they were either poorly spelled 3 sentence summaries or sponsored by the manufacturer. So I wrote this in the interest of helping another person in this situation make up their mind.

The bike.

The bike arrived needing some assembly, there aren't any instructions so if you're not familiar with bike maintenance I'd suggest that you take it to a shop for assembly. Most bike shops will be happy to help you assemble it for a small fee. Once built my first impression was "Wow, that's a big bike". My wife said the same thing but looking at it stood next to other bikes, it's no bigger. So if size is a problem for you, don't worry, the rugged frame makes it appear bigger than it is.

It's an attractive looking bike, I like the silver finish, I like the thick frame. Even the rack over the back wheel is sturdy and good looking, much better than those wire hanger contraptions you get on lots of bikes. The battery sits under the rack, with a pannier you'd never even notice it. The motor controls are on the left handle and a 7 gear changer is on the right, nothing is cheap looking or poorly placed. All the wires have plenty of slack where needed and are otherwise held neatly to the frame.

The bike comes with front and back LED lights and a bell and a big comfy saddle. The battery is Lithium Polymer that's supposed to have a life of 1000 cycles, it powers a 250W motor. 26" Wheels, and an 18" frame.

I'm not going to lie to you, it's a heavy bike despite the aluminum alloy frame, 24 kilo's (53 lbs) with the battery. My wife's mountain bike comes in at 15 kilos. Most of the additional weight is over the back wheel where both the battery and motor are. The bike isn't heavy enough to be any sort of problem, it's easy enough to life and maneuver, but it did concern me a little when I attached it to the bike rack on the back of my car, the whole thing tilted to one side. With a few adjustments I was able to correct it but I'm doing to have to rethink my bike rack solution should my wife get one of these as well. The center stand is a nice touch but I don't think a standard kickstand would be up to the job.

The Ride.

The first trip that I took was the 12 mile trek to school. This is by no means an easy trek, in fact I couldn't manage it on a normal bicycle, I tried once, after 40 minutes I hadn't even made it half way so I gave up. I admit that I'm not in the best of shape but 24 miles is a long way even on a bike. I wanted to be able to ride to school without having to train for a triathlon first.

On the Batribike I was there and back in 105 minutes.

Throughout the journey I just a mixture of power assistance level, I tried to favor level 1 and 2 but spent a fair amount of time on level 3 and 4 as well as I grew tired. When I got back the power remaining was somewhere between 1/2 and 3/4, which means that I could have made the trip possibly 2 more times. So it seems that the promise of 40 miles minimum pedal assisted might not be to good to be true after all.

The bike rides nicely, it's stable and comfortable. There are shock absorbers on the front fork and seat. I've never been a big fan of suspensions systems on bicycles but it really seemed to help smooth out the ride. The gear Shimano gear system is very responsive and easy to use, teamed up with the power assist it makes for a very consistent ride. The motor hums but isn't very loud, except when coasting down a large hill it sounds like you're dive bombing, don't get me wrong you'd be nuts to think you could fool the guys in the Tour De France but after little while  you stop noticing it.

The power assist on this bike has 4 stages, the first to are the ones I tend to use, they just help you to get up to and maintain speed despite any inclines you might come across. I've broken the 4 settings in to 2, on levels 1 and 2 the bike assists you, 3 and 4 you assist the bike. I found level 1 is great for just general riding where level 2 is better for hills. Level 3 is more for maintaining higher speeds, it doesn't seem to work very well in a stop/start scenario. As soon as you put any real pressure on the pedals the motor stops assisting. Think of it like gears on a car, you can stop start in 1st and 2nd but not 3rd. Level 4 is more for the throttle, it will work with the pedaling but it doesn't give you much more than level 3, it is a tad more forgiving though. Level 4 will take you to a higher maintained speed than level 3. 

The throttle is awesome, while on a bike ride my wife took great delight in throttling past me at every opportunity. On a flat surface the it will take you up to 15 mph in no time. The throttle works on all power settings, which is really handy when you're crossing dual carriageways or negotiating tight obstacles, but take your time getting used to using it. It takes a second to respond and even on level 1 it means business.

The regenerative braking is a new feature on the 2010 Granite and Diamond models. This is activated by pedaling backward, be prepared when you use it. It's designed to slow you down and that's exactly what it does. No matter how fast you're going it'll take you down to a crawl in roughly 2 seconds. It's a handy feature and no doubt it will become my primary brake.

The Service.
Through no fault of their own I've had to contact Batribike a few times already. I had special delivery instructions and they were very understanding and accommodating so I can't complain. They returned messages promptly, left messages when they missed me and have got to great lengths to resolve the issues. They even sent out one of their technical guys to my house. They're based 3 hours away! It's prize winning customer service no doubt about it.

Wednesday, 14 July 2010

To Utah and back.

We arrived back in the UK on Saturday morning. We're all jet-lagged and grouchy. Jack is struggling getting his sleeping pattern back to normal.

We had a great time. When we got there my Mom showed us her color coded activity calendar which Helen promptly re-arranged completely.

Our biggest concern about the trip was being able to keep Jack entertained on the plane. 13 hours trapped in a seat must seem like a lifetime for a 3-year-old. But wouldn't you know it, the little guy came through. He was patient and happy throughout the whole trip. He got a little grouchy in Atlanta airport, mostly because he'd fallen asleep at the end of the first flight and had been woke up to make the connection. But he even managed to get through that with the help of some snacks. At one point he looked at me through teary eyes and said, "I'm trying to be patient Daddy, I really am."

When we got to SLC airport he was asleep and had been for a few hours. I carried him most the way to the baggage claim before he stirred and asked to be put down. I put him down and gave him Dylan, he staggered about 15 feet, then plopped Dylan onto the floor and declared him a mattress.

We landed on Saturday night at 8:30. Jack was understandably grouchy after 13 hours on a plane but my mother was armed with a tootsie-pop which put him in a good mood for the drive. He chatted a little bit, but mostly sat quietly in the back seat. He fell asleep the moment we put him in bed.

Jack met all of his cousins on the first day, which was no easy feet, he's got 15. On Sunday the whole family set upon my mother's house for dinner, after dinner we headed out to the local amphitheater for a family photo. It became suddenly very obvious to each of us just how long it had been since we were all in the same place at the same time. I'm not really one to get all soppy about family but it's been 5 years since I've seen any of my brothers or sisters and it's likely to be another 5 years before I see them again, so even I couldn't deny that it felt special.

On Monday we went to the dinosaur museum with his cousin Adell. The two of them were just like old friends. They gabbed and played and fought just like brother and sister. We were joined by Fiona and Alison after an hour or so and the four of them took to the sand/excavation pit.

This was a trip of firsts for Jack, as well as Helen. We traveled into American Fork Canyon where we wandered around and explored for a while before we built a campfire and ate S'mores at 11 in the morning. Jack played in the river and reigned for a short time as King of the Trees...

We also took the opportunity to see Toy Story 3 as it was released in the US nearly two months before the UK. This was Jack's first time going to the cinema so we  went all out. We bought pop corn and soda had a great time. Jack loved the film, he sat entranced looking at his favorite characters on the big screen.

Jack was fascinated by all the drinking fountains but he never did quite get the hang of them.

He Saw his Grandparents, all 4 of them. His grandparents are the only members of my family that Jack had meet before, only it was when he was about 9 months old. Jack professed that he remembered them, but I doubt that he really did. He warmed up to the instantly, and after just a few minutes Jack was treating them just like grandparents.

The wave-runners on Deer Creek were the highlight of the trip for me as far as activities go, Jack didn't like them much. I managed to talk him into getting on it with me, but after only about 10 feet out he decided that it was too wavy and told me to take him straight back. He happily spent the day playing with the other kids in the sand while we blasted about on the wave-runners.
And he met his half-sister. We picked Sam and her little sister Austin and took them to the Aquarium. I was quite nervous about this particular part of the trip. I haven't seen my daughter since she was 5 years old, I know very little about her and wasn't sure what she knew about me. We knew that she'd been told all about Jack, so by proxy that meant me as well.

Sam and her little sister are very typical girls. Giggling and pestering each other endlessly. During the drives to and from the aquarium they took turns sitting the back with Jack and entertaining him. Jack had a great time playing with them.

I've come away feeling like I've got to know my daughter a bit. She's a very sweet and dynamic girl, frighteningly we have a lot in common, starting with independently locking distal interphalangeal joints... Much to my delight Sam asked for some details so that she could maybe write me and/or Jack a letter. My mother quickly provided her with everything she needed, including paper. So I also come away from Utah with the hope that I will have some contact with her.

So now we're home, the flight back was long and two of our suitcases were damaged. The house was still intact, the cat and dogs were alive and waiting for us, there was even a live pigeon in the fireplace as well.
It's the first time I've been back from the States since moving here that left me feeling homesick. Both Helen and I have already pretty heavily researched the job and housing market.