Friday, June 30, 2006

Poor prognostication

Well, I predicted Argentina to win over Germany (it was a pretty hard fought thing) and dark horse Ukraine to beat Italy (it was a walkover). And I was wrong on both counts.

Let's hope third time lucky, 'cause I picked England to win over Portugal.

Come on, England!

think of England

Mad libs to protect the guilty

The back story is that I went to a work thing - got pissed off by the content of a conference speech and panel discussion, wanted to blog about it, but was too spittin mad to suitably disguise the detail. So I "mad libbed" it, and put it to you, gentle reader to help me cover up the dirty details.

OK, it's been a while since I've designed any mad libs - so let's see how it went.

(BTW- it's great to be able to access some Americans. Brits don't play this game - because they don't know the English parts of speech. Half the Brits I know wouldn't know the difference between an adverb and an adjective and nobody seems to have heard of a gerund at all. Guess all those School House Rock cartoons really paid off...Conjuction junction, what's your function?)

In order of appearance:
St Caffeine

It was a conference of Economists with a special guest from the Rutabaga industry. Now, I guess everyone's entitled to their opinion, but really. Clearly a case of producer capture. This is the reason why Britain's in the state it's in today. The folks are just way too stretchy on erudition. I think they mean well, but their intentions have sometimes caused more harm than good. They need to concentrate more on the fishermen and less on the Freemasons.

Interestingly, Labour party insiders Boy George and Trumbly Highcrown, MP put the boot in to their own Government. It looks like these guys are really crumbling. If junior ministers have to go on attack mode with economists, who could be seen as a core constituency - then they are really leaving.


It was a conference of sex therapists with a special guest from the camera industry. Now, I guess everyone's entitled to their opinion, but really. Clearly a case of producer capture. This is the reason why Britain's in the state it's in today. The folks are just way too sticky on imagination. I think they mean well, but their intentions have sometimes caused more harm than good. They need to concentrate more on the army and less on the bouquet.

Interestingly, Labour party insiders Rob Van Winkle (Vanilla Ice) and Adele Stephens, MP put the boot in to their own Government. It looks like these guys are really crumbling. If junior ministers have to go on attack mode with sex therapists, who could be seen as a core constituency - then they are really painting.


It was a conference of philosophers with a special guest from the litterbox industry. Now, I guess everyone's entitled to their opinion, but really. Clearly a case of producer capture. This is the reason why Britain's in the state it's in today. The folks are just way too insouciant on desire. I think they mean well, but their intentions have sometimes caused more harm than good. They need to concentrate more on the mosquitos and less on the babies.

Interestingly, Labour party insiders Kathy Griffin and Anthony Covington, MP put the boot in to their own Government. It looks like these guys are really crumbling. If junior ministers have to go on attack mode with philosophers, who could be seen as a core constituency - then they are really dancing.


Actually, one of you came remarkably close to the real thing. Extra points to St Caffeine for Trumbly Highcrown, which actually makes me LOL.

Stupid pet names

As I rushed to get ready this morning, I heard a piece on BBC Radio 4's Today Programme* about stupid pet names - or rather quite sensible human names given to dogs and cats.

Max, Charlie, Holly and Molly top the table of popular pet names in Britain. I've certainly known people and pets with these names.

I admit I'm guilty of giving my cats people names. But I've tended to give them names which, if ever popular, have faded out of general use. Hence, Otis the Cat and Berty the Cat. These names never caused any problems. (Bert was coincidentally the name of my grandfather's girlfriend - which I knew before I named the cat - oops).

But Berty's kitten, Other Cat, was hard to name due to her blankness of character. Eventually we settled on a moniker that is a person name - but I'd never heard of anyone with this name, nor had I seen it used in fiction. Other Cat blogs pseudonymously, but trust me it's not an everyday name. We moved around the time Other Cat was 2 months old and guess what our new next door neighbour was called - yep, the same. For the two years we lived there we called her Little Cat to avoid embarassment.

We can't call her Little Cat anymore, because she's fat.

Fancy the Cat came into our house after Berty's death No doubt someone, somewhere has christened their child Fancy, but they really shouldn't have. We named her after the 'ho character in the Reba McEntire hit. She might have been born just a plain black cat, but Fancy is her name.

Other cat - not so little anymore

She's Fancy

Thursday, June 29, 2006

Career ending blogging...or let's play a game

I'm itching, just itching to moan about an event I went to today. Where wrong-headed attitudes just absolutely pissed me off - but my personal opinions aren't those of the existing Marxist dialectic which pervades mine and allied fields, so I really needed to keep shtum.

And I'm blogging about the same event on a work blog - where I can't really let my personal feelings show - which just makes it more frustrating and more dangerous to post here. It would be bad form to blog about it in both places, just in case anyone's looking it up. (Yes, I have another blog - it's very boring).

So - let's play Mad Libs! You come up with the parts of speech below - and leave them in the comments section. Then I'll take the best answers (or perhaps the only answers) and fill them in for a post later - your answers will help me vent my frustration and suitably disguise the topic of my post.

1. professional position, plural (e.g. cable guys)
2. concrete noun, singular (e.g. pencil)
3. adjective
4. abstract noun (e.g. ennui)
5. collective noun (e.g. bartenders)
6. collective noun
7. D-list celeb
8. British politician (heck, just make up a British politician sounding name)
9. (skip - same as number 1)
10. gerund (e.g. walking)

It's all there below in white font, but it would be cheating to look.

It was a conference of 1________ with a special guest from the 2 _____ industry. Now, I guess everyone's entitled to their opinion, but really. Clearly a case of producer capture. This is the reason why Britain's in the state it's in today. The folks are just way too 3_____ on 4______. I think they mean well, but their intentions have sometimes caused more harm than good. They need to concentrate more on the 5________ and less on the 6________.

Interestingly, Labour party insiders 7_________ and 8__________, MP put the boot in to their own Government. It looks like these guys are really crumbling. If junior ministers have to go on attack mode with 9_________, who could be seen as a core constituency - then they are really 10______.

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

No soccer today

Today is the first day in weeks without any World Cup football. Did you think I wouldn't post about the World Cup? Not a chance.

There's a new crisis in Germany. Germany is famous for its beer. The country is awash in it. But English fans are drinking Germany dry according to The Mirror.

ENGLAND's massive army of World Cup fans is drinking Germany dry, it emerged yesterday. Breweries warned beer could run out before the final because of huge demand from our supporters. In Nuremberg, organisers revealed 70,000 England fans who flooded the city drank 1.2MILLION pints of beer - an average of 17 pints each.

Astonished bar keeper Herrmann Murr said: "Never have I seen so many drink so much in such little time."

Yes, never in the field of human sport has so much been drunk by so few.

We shall drink our beer, whatever the cost may be, we shall drink on the beaches, we shall drink in the bars, we shall drink in the fields and in the streets, we shall drink in the stadium car park; we shall never surrender (til they really do run out of beer - and then we shall switch to schnapps).

I grew this

shiny cosmos

from seed

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

My democratic rights

I got my ballot for the August 3rd elections. I'm not sure I'm really entitled to vote in this election (Federal elections are clear, local and state less so).

And I'm not sure who I'd vote for anyway in Lawrence County, Tennessee elections. The only name I'm sure I recognize on the whole list of candidates is my cousin, who's running unopposed. (There's a couple of others who I think I might know of).

The Sherriff's election does interest me though. I don't know who any of these people are but no doubt it's a rogues' gallery. Lawrence County has not always had the highest standards when it comes to county-wide law enforcement. One Sherriff excelled himself by repainting all the cars from black and white to brown and tan. I'm sure that took a bite out of crime.

The same fellow had all the tires slashed when he parked his brown and tan sheriff's car at the Rustic Park Beer Garden down on the state line at St Joe. The RPBG had a rough reputation, and I guess it takes a mighty hard cracker to pull a stunt like that. I drank there once after I turned 21, though they didn't seem to take much notice of the drinking age when I was there, so I could have had years of happy drinking in St Joe. (Although there were rumors of regular shootings among patrons, so perhaps it's better I didn't).

The beer garden is gone now and the building - which is quaint and indeed rustic - now houses a catfish restaurant.

But anyway, if anyone knows anything about Lawrence County Sherriff candidates Jimmy Brown, Paul Shults, John Wesley Batewell, Tony Crouch, Jim Honn or Kenny Taylor, please drop me a line.


I can't let too many days pass without some kind of World Cup commentary. I saw a bit of the Australia-Italy game, the end anyway. Italy scored on a penalty in the closing seconds of the game. I really hoped that Australia would make it to the quarter finals, but they failed to really press and finish when they could have and paid the price.

On the upside, some Italians I met recently told me that most countries get a swing in GDP when they start a war, but Italy gets one when they win the World Cup. They seemed pretty pleased with their make goals, not war statistic 'til I pointed out that it's much easier to start a war than to win the World Cup. And of course, some countries find it much easier to win wars than to win the creme of sporting tournaments - hence the Jerry-taunting England terrace chant "Two World Wars and One World Cup" (I think this chant can get you a spell in the cooler under Germany's tight running of this tourney)

Then Switzerland v Ukraine. How 'bout them Ukrainians. 120 minutes without score and then after the first three penalties still nil-nil. I had thought the Swiss looked pretty good, but I guess I'm pleased by the Ukranian win. Of course, are the folks back home pleased? Did they swamp the streets of Kiev with soccer celebrations? They were out in force alright-10,000 Ukrainians waving banners and placards in the capital today, but not for something really important...nah, instead it was something about global security, fuel prices, yatta, yatta. C'mon y'all, get your priorities straight.

I missed Brazil v Ghana. I could have watched it (I was off sick today) but as the score crept up for Brazil, I had no interest. I thought Brazil would have it in the bag and they did. Though now I'm sorry I missed it, since Ghana's coach was sent off by the referee. And apparently Brazil's offense is back on form (helped by a dodgy call)...but the defense is still weak. Quote of the day has to be from the Brazilian coach:

Brazil coach Carlos Alberto Parreira had little sympathy for his counterpart, however, saying: "That is what losers do, they whinge and they cry."

And guess who else is back on form? Yep, the cheese-eaters. France's performance thus far has been pretty pathetic, but Zidane scored the final, beautiful goal for France in injury time tjis beating Spain 3-1. I was really hoping that Spain would finally get into the later stages of an international tournament, and of course I was really hoping that Spain would smash those smug French into the turf. Oh well, let France play Brazil and see what they can make of that weak Brazilian defense.

So quarter final line up is:

Argentina v Germany - Argies to win in a tough and bloody battle fought on German soil.
Italy v Ukraine - Hmmm, I'm not sure. If I had to put money on it, I'd wager Ukraine.
England v Portugal - England to win against a depleted but dirty Portugese team
France v Brazil - Braaaazil. Though it's no fun sneering at France if they go down to the class South Americans. Ah well, maybe it is.

Granddad blogging: Tuition

Last week in granddad blogging, my grandfather told an old family ghost story. Now he describes how he went to college and paid for his first year.

My mother and daddy didn’t want me to farm, because they had such a rough go of it. They wanted me to do something else, I don’t know if they didn’t think I could. I don’t know what they thought. But anyway... and I wanted to go to college, too. I went over to Murfreesboro to try to get a football scholarship. I played football in high school. I wasn’t very good, but I didn’t know I wasn’t. But anyway the boy I went with, that Murfreesboro did want decided he wasn’t gonna go, so they had no more interest in me.

I had taken agriculture in high school, and the agriculture agent came by and he and my daddy were talking about college and said that if was gonna go to school I was just as well to go to the best one. My daddy wanted to know what that was. And the man said the University of Tennessee.

I don’t think either one of us had heard of the University of Tennessee at that particular time. So I went on up there, the only thing is I didn’t have any money. I think I had saved thirty dollars from a black sheep that was mine. I got the wool and I got the lambs. I accumulated thirty dollars. And I had a pony that I had ridden to school for a long, long time, and I sold him for thirty dollars. That made sixty. And I reckon my mother and daddy gave me forty. Anyway I headed to UT with a 100 dollars, that had to be room and board and tuition, books, clothes, everything. I hitchhiked up there. I hitchiked home at Thanksgiving and I hitch hiked back home at Christmas.

Uncle Ben didn’t want me to go to college. And he had a pretty good sized farm, it’s where his son lives now. But he had thirteen acres across the creek and he told me that if I wouldn’t go to college, he’d give me that thirteen acres to start a farm with and that I’d be better off farming than I would going to college. He mighta been right, I don’t know. But anyway that wasn’t what I wanted, and my mother and daddy did neither. So I managed to go to college.

I had a hundred dollars when I started to college the first year. And that was to pay my tuition, my books, my room and board and everything else. Well, I got a job firing furnaces to get a place to stay free. I got a job workin’ in a greasy spoon, a restaurant, to get some meals. And I got a job working out at the farm for twenty-five or thirty cents and hour, I’ve forgotten which. It was a National Youth Act, one of Roosevelt’s government programs.Fort Sanders garden
The house where my grandfather stoked the furnace

And I just barely made it through, and came home that quarter and had no money at all. And no way of getting any, ‘cause I’d sold my pony and sheep and things I had to get the first hundred dollars together. I didn’t have anything else left. And I didn’t know how much my daddy could or couldn’t have given me. I don’t think he could have given me a hundred dollars.

But he and Uncle Ben talked and Uncle Ben said “Looks like he’s gonna go. So here’s fifty dollars Neal for him to go next quarter.” I reckon my daddy had fifty dollars, I don’t know, anyway. I just went a quarter at a time. Just went a quarter at a time. But then my daddy started working on the tobacco floor in Gallatin. Five dollars a day, big money.

Go to the granddad blogging main page for more including WWII oral history
Read the previous post

T-tags: , , , , , , ,

I will not shake your hand

My summer cold is little abated. I went to a workshop yesterday - 60 some people - and a there were a few that wanted to greet me with the classic handshake. Since my hands were pretty much non-stop clutching a nasty old germ-laden tissue, they could be classified as a disease vector. I refused to shake hands.

No matter how nicely you explain that it's for their own good and that if they were touch my hand and then touch their nose, eyes or mouth they'd be likely to get my cold, people still seem offended.

Monday, June 26, 2006

Geopolitics and football

The Vol-in-Law is not the biggest sports fan, but for the World Cup, he tries.

Yesterday while the Texan and I were watching Portugal v Netherlands, our eyes glued to the screen as the beautiful game descended into gutter brawling, the ViL provided us with running commentary. It was along the lines of "Ex-fascist countries do better at football than ex-communist countries, but good football doesn't seem to be compatible with stable democracy and civil liberties."

Ahhh then - England's football chances should be improving. And for that matter we should begin to see the US become a footballing phenom.
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The curse of Wimbledon

The tennis is about to start - today marks the beginning of Wimbledon. I live not too far from Wimbledon. It's possible to walk from my house (though it's a heck of a long walk).

After three weeks of near perfect June weather, just the thing you'd want for the outdoor courts, I awoke to rain this morning. Typical.

My garden needs the rain.

I don't actually watch the tennis, but it's a fun atmosphere in South West London when it's on. I've always meant to go to Wimbledon. In the first week it's possible to queue for relatively cheap tickets that allow you access to Centre Court, and it's quite possible that you'll see some big names. But thus far, I've been too lazy to take the day off and get myself down there.

Sunday, June 25, 2006


England scrape through to go to the quaterfinals. We now know that they'll face Portugal.

As to the games themselves, my heart is with England - so any game they're in is inherently more exciting to me.

But that Portugal-Netherlands game. Unbelievable! There were yellow cards being handed out like candy, as much violence as a minor league hockey game and nearly as much diving as a swim meet.

The Dutch had more posession and more shots on goal, but no finish. On the upside, with two Portugese sent off and Ronaldo's injured,* I think England actually stand a better chance than they would have against the Netherlands.

Here's what some others had to say:

The game between Portugal and the Netherlands was a disgrace. While a small part of the English supporters may have had a battle against Germans in Stuttgart on Saturday, the battle of N├╝rnberg took place on the playground with participation of most players in both teams. 16 bookings and four players sent off is a World Cup record in one game.

After such a misconduct neither of the teams would deserve to go forward in the tournament. Portugal does, though, thanks to the strong goal by Maniche in the middle of the first half. That was the only sportsmanlike performance of the game. The rest of it has nothing to do with football. - More shameless remarks by Larko.
or you could look at it like this:
Alright, this game is what the World Cup is all about. These teams played very physical football and it led to a exhibition of guts, discipline and national pride. The game was under control until the 22nd minute of the game when Portugal scored from a trade of passes sending the ball deep into the net and sending Netherlands deep into despair. From then on the game started to spiral out of control as both teams continued their physical attacks that led to a few yellow cards. Wes' Mind
The Russian ref lost control of the game by handing out some pretty iffy yellow cards at the very beginning in an attempt to stamp his authority. Players then dived and drew fouls and faked and it just got uglier from there. But it was some exciting game to watch.

Roll on quarter finals!

time to win
Time to win England

T-tags: soccer, Football, World Cup 2006, germany, England, World Cup, Ecuador, Netherlands, Portugal

*I wish Ronaldo a speedy recovery, i.e. full fitness sometime in mid-July, yet I fear he'll be back in play soon.

Summer cold

After a terribly busy week, I started to feel the familiar ticky itch in the back of my throat Friday night. By yesterday morning it was a full blown cold. I feel like crap.

England plays Ecuador in less than half an hour. I have my supply of beer and kleenex. I should be ok.

Friday, June 23, 2006


There's an amazing set of photos on Flickr. Portraits of burn survivors. A triumph over tragedy.

I've got their whole world in my hands

Well, not their whole world... Just the academic and future careers of 20 or 30 students.

The Vol-in-Law is behind on marking scripts and exams. I went by his office to pick up the test papers so he wouldn't have to carry the whole lot home himself (academia can be backbreaking physical work).

I'm plagued with thoughts of what if I forget the bag of papers on the Underground. What if I throw them under the train in a fit of pique. What if I went ahead and marked them myself - assigning random numerical grades, justifying them only with banal academical comments like "thesis is underdeveloped" or "perhaps if you'd spent a little more prep time", "excellent work, are you sure it's your own?" or "keep on truckin'".
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Thursday, June 22, 2006

No thanks, I'm American

The US played Ghana and the Czech Republic played Italy this afternoon. Every team needed to win to have any chance to go through to the knockout round of the World Cup (and for some sides - their chances depended on the outcome of the other game). So each and every minute mattered - these were bound to be hard fought, exciting games. And I missed it. I was speaking at a conference - and couldn't get away. This event wasn't even held in a hotel, where I could sneak off to the bar for a quick check.

On the train home, I wondered if I should avoid all news and try to catch a re-airing. But as soon as I got to my own neighborhood, I knew there was no need to keep myself in the dark - this is what I saw when I left Tooting Station:

Ghana celebrates

Ghana wins

Yeah, baby

In case you couldn't figure it out, that flag they're flying is Ghana's. They were screaming and shouting in such a way, that it meant that not only did they win but that Ghana went through.

Their jubilation was infectious. I walked over for a closer look and one enterprising lad tried to sell me a Ghana head band. "No thanks," I said. "I'm American." But I congratulated them on their win. This is Ghana's first World Cup appearance, and I'm happy for them. They were curious about my sportsmanlike attitude - and asked if I liked football. I told them I loved football, but that even though I was American I supported England. I was told "We're gonna beat England, too."

I corrected them on their wrong assertion and took my leave.


Although I'm pleased that Ghana's so happy, I wish the US had won and I am sorry for my die-hard soccer-loving compatriots - all six of you. Commiserations, too, to the Texan - who supports the Czech Republic.

T-tags: soccer, Football, World Cup 2006, germany, USA, World Cup, Ghana, Italy, Czech+Republic

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Who would deny me a kitten?

The Vol-in-Law would, that's who.

Now go and look at this kitten appeal at the Battersea Dogs and Cats home. I sent that by email to the ViL and asked him if we could have a kitten. And you know what he said? He said No. He must have a heart of stone to look upon those adorable critters and then turn me down.

Problem is, at Battersea they have such strict rehoming policies that if I showed up without my husband, I'd be denied a kitty on the spot. So I couldn't go behind his back on the super-cute, fluffy kitten caper. He'd have to sit through the rigorous rehoming interview with me.

Cross of Red

So England face Ecuador on Sunday in the first of hopefully quite a few games in the knockout rounds of the World Cup. And perhaps we'll continue to see the red and white flags flying on cars and shops and homes that have become part of the landscape of London for some little while to come.

Over the time that I've lived in England, it's become more acceptable to fly the Cross of St George, the flag with the red cross on a field of white. Like the Confederate battle flag, it had become associated with racism, xenophobia and white trash. But the England flag, unlike the stars and bars has undergone something of a redemption. It's become transformed into recognised symbol benign national pride largely because the very people it was supposedly alienating have embraced it.

To be sure, the white working classes that weren't indoctrinated by Marxism have never really put it aside, and it's also true that the thuggist British National Party used it as a symbol of an "indigenous only" England. And since it indeed was a Crusader cross, some use it in symbolic battle against a rising tide of radical islamism.

But maybe it's because of this history that British (English?) Asians, Africans and West Indians have embraced it.

It's nigh on impossible, it seems, to become English. My husband could become American, if he so chose. I could even move to Texas and become Texan (George Bush did it). I could take a British passport, but I could never truly become English. And for a long time, it seemed that even 2nd and 3rd generation people of colour couldn't become English either. So, many non-natives identified as British - something that's been seen as a little bit more about nationality than ethnicity.

But Britishness is losing its identity, largely down to the whinging of the Scots and to some extent the Welsh. I know Scottish folk who vehemently deny their Britishness as if being Scottish was somehow especially exclusive and overrode geography and the fact that they were born on the island of Great Britain in these British Isles.

The English are awakening to the fact that their British compatriots are denying their Britishness because it's seen as too English - and are embracing Englishness. But as the British identity fades, immigrant populations are left with few options for expressing their love and pride in the country where they live and perhaps where they were born. And so they cleave to Englishness, too. Since being English is partly about ethnicity - the way to express your love of England is to wave the flag during football internationals. I'm an immigrant, too, and I fly the St George's cross in support of my host country and my team.

The guardianistas and chattering classes still don't like the sight of a St George's cross fluttering magestically in the breeze, but there's little they can say about its racist overtones when people of all colors, creeds and nationalities are flying it in a sense of inclusive pride.


Germany, the World Cup hosts, are seeing a resurgence in flag waving and national pride, too as a result of the German side playing well in all three matches of the group stage. Their recent history on this score is a little uglier than most - so perhaps it's a welcome relief for their populations. Still, I hope those flags come down soon after they lose and lose big to Sweden on Saturday.
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Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Oh, England (or I blame the space aliens)


England tied v. Sweden 2-2. Another brilliant goal by Gerrard - but some poor defending at the end let us down. I was really looking forward to seeing England smash Sweden.

Looks like maybe the space aliens were right. Sort of. I can't believe I'm doing this - but let's look at the space alien football punditry versus the facts:

Speaking through former police worker Stephany Cohen, of Lancaster Close, Bromley, the Grays say England will reach the quarter finals.

Entirely likely.

And she says they will definitely not make it to the final, which she believes will probably be won by Brazil.
Brazil are good this time, but not great. Who ate all the pies? Ronaldo.

The aliens, from the planet Sirrus D, have also scuppered hopes Wayne Rooney will be fit enough. Apparently his metatarsal fracture will not heal in time for any games and he should be replaced by Jermain Defoe.

Ha ha, Sirrian Ds - it was only an injury of the soft metatarsal (whatever that means). Wayne's playing! And Defoe went home, maybe that was Sven's cunning plan to thwart the aliens, 'cause heaven only knows why else he kept the lineup he did (yes, I'm talking about Theo Walcott). But I guess I can grant the space aliens some slack. Rooney hasn't been up to form, yet.

And the spiritual healer also says Michael Owen is not 100 per cent fit but will still play in the tournament.

Umm... no, you're right, Michael Owen is not 100 per cent fit - and with that knee buckling incident in the first minute, we may not see him again.

She added: "Their success should read win against Paraguay, beat Trinidad and Tobago and draw with Sweden.
Eerily, acurately prescient. Still - England win their group and play Ecuador on Sunday.

I watched a little bit of the Ecuador v Germany game, which was mucho yawn-worthy (I was supposed to be working from home, turned on the tv, and actually kept working through the game.) However it clearly indicated that we did NOT want to play Germany in the first game of knock-out stage. I couldn't believe that it was the same Ecuador side that I'd seen play so snappily and naturally before. Turns out it wasn't - five of their starting players were rested this game and the coach apparently just decided to take the dive against Deutschland in preparation for the knockout stages.

Thanks to Rex L Camino for the original space alien tip.

blogging, football and politics

Via Instapundit, I picked up that the Ghana World Cup side is drawing flack for a player waving an Israeli flag after scoring a goal -Anti-semitism turns into anti-ghanaism


I generally support Israel - the country. And for 90 minutes on Saturday I supported Ghana (the World Cup team), too - as they smashed the Czechs and left an opening for the US to possibly, just possibly go through. But I don't really confuse the two.

Sadly, the chance Ghana gave us was almost certainly blown to bits by the 1-1 draw in the Italy-USA game. (It's still possible for the US to go through if the Czech Republic beats Italy and the US beats Ghana by a substantial number of goals and the moon is rising in Aquarius and the wind blows from the North East on Thursday). And come Thursday - I hope the US beats the pants off Ghana.

For those on either side of the Israeli flag debate - I say, get a grip, grab a beer and enjoy the football.


Speaking of football and politics - the UK Labour party is indulged in some silliness on this front. My local MP, Sadiq Khan, is participating in the Labour World Cup blog. Look I don't care if you blog about politics and football and whatever else. But setting up a special Labour party football blog seems to be prurient popularist pandering.


And most importantly:

C'mon England!

I know I shouldn't, but...

...I just can't help it.

My dad sent me these today.


Guy from Tennessee passed away and left his entire estate to his beloved widow, but she can't touch it 'til she's 14.

How do you know when you're staying in a Tennessee hotel?

When you call the front desk and say, "I gotta leak in my sink," and the clerk replies, "Go ahead."
How can you tell if a Tennessee redneck is married?

There's dried tobacco juice on both sides of his pickup truck.
Did you hear that they have raised the minimum drinking age in Tennessee to 32?

It seems they want to keep alcohol out of the high schools.

What do they call reruns of "Hee Haw" in Tennessee?

Where was the toothbrush invented?

If it had been invented anywhere else, it would have been called a teeth brush.
An Tennessee State trooper pulls over a pickup on I-40 and says to the driver, "Got any I.D.?"

And the driver replies "Bout wut?"

Did you hear about the $3 million TennesseeState Lottery?

The winner gets $3.00 a year for a million years.

The governor's mansion in Tennessee burned down!

Yep. Pert' near took out the whole trailer park. The library was a total loss too. Both books-poof! up in flames and he hadn't even finished coloring one of them.

A new law was recently passed in Tennesee. When a couple gets divorced, they are STILL cousins.

A guy walks into a bar in Tennessee and orders a mudslide.

The bartender looks at the man and says, "You ain't from 'round here are ya?
"No," replies the man, "I'm from Pennsylvania".
The bartender looks at him and says, "Well, what do ya do in Pennsylvania?"
"I'm a taxidermist," said the man.
The bartender, looking very bewildered now, asks, "What in the world is a tax-e-derm-ist?"
The man says,"I mount animals".
The bartender stands back and hollers to the whole bar.."It's okay boys, he's one of us!"


I'll be here all week.

Lily bolero

My oriental/asiastic lilies are starting to bloom (I can't remember which is which)


red lillies

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Monday, June 19, 2006

Am I bad?

The Vol-in-Law's mother slipped and fell on a manhole cover yesterday in her home city of Edinburgh. She broke her hip and will have surgery tomorrow.

She's 71 years old and very active, normally. She's not enjoying her stay in the hospital very much.

My father-in-law phoned during the closing minutes of the Spain-Tunisia World Cup match. Because Spain were up 3-1 and because I don't really care that much, I let the tv go off without hesitation while the Vol-in-Law spoke with his dad.

But, I thought to myself, if my Scottish in-laws call during the England-Sweden match tomorrow, the Vol-in-Law can take his phone outside.

The cycle of life

I've blogged before on the mysterious deaths of the fish in our garden pond. In fact, I haven't blogged about the fish unless there was death or disappearance. But at last we have good news on the fishy front. We have two new fish born - not bought - into the pond.

We spotted one of the tiny fish a while ago, but it was such a slip of thing it hardly seemed worth mentioning. Now we've spotted another baby fish - this one is a bit bigger, but a dark gray and we hadn't spotted him/her/it until two days ago.

We've named them Swimmy and Blackie.

UPDATE: I named Swimmy after a fish literary character from the eponymously named book. But I remembered Swimmy as the one red fish in a school of black fish. Turns out I named the wrong fish Swimmy - as the original character was the single black fish in a school of red fish. I asked the Vol-in-Law if we should rename the fish. Maybe we should have a contest?

Sunday, June 18, 2006

Who says Americans don't care about the World Cup?

Yesterday I was on a pub crawl hosted by an American university alumni association. We visited a number of pubs along the King's Road in Chelsea (chi-chi shops and pubs serving Belgian biere blanc and fruit beers).

The Cup was on in just about every pub - of course. I have to admit, not so many people were watching the Portugal v Iran game, though most people were pleased to see Iran lose - they'll be heading home soon.

Then we watched a little of the Ghana v. Czech Republic match. Now that one was kind of important, with Ghana winning, it made the US v Italy game more important. It meant if the US team won, there was a still a chance to go through to the last 16 and the knockout stages of the tournament. Americans were chanting "Ghana, Ghana, Ghana" in a cute little pub in the heart of Chelsea.

Then there must have been about 150 Americans packed into the Cadogan Arms on the King's Road, there was no room, it was sweltering, it was probably over 100 degrees in the pub. Standing room only? There wasn't even room for that, people spilled out onto the street craning their necks to watch the game - and screaming and shouting.

And what a game! Three players sent off, an Italy own goal, a scrabling, striving tie throughout much of the game. I couldn't believe that this was the same US team that so outclassed by the Czech Republic. Even two men down, USA gave their all and played agressively. In the end, it wasn't enough, but I think it was definitely a respectable effort.

The Vol-in-Law and I left the pub at half-time to find a less crowded venue on our side of the river. We watched the rest in a pub on Battersea Bridge Road with some folks clearly supporting the US and some shouting at the screen in Italian. It was one of the more entertaining games that I've seen, and I was more upset by the outcome than I would have anticipated. I told the Vol-in-Law that I felt like resorting to hooliganism to vent my frustrations - and he helpfully pointed out a pizza restaurant across the road.

Saturday, June 17, 2006

Britain's welfare frauds

There was an ad which ran on British tv a few months ago discouraging welfare/benefit fraud. It showed a delivery guy, a construction worker, a woman cutting hair in a downmarket salon. The tag line was "We know where you commit benefit fraud."


That's not where benefit fraud is committed. The fraud is perpetrated at the benefits office. It's not criminal to work. It's criminal to take payment from the state as if you weren't working.

New findings from the Joseph Rowntree Trust, a social research think tank now tells us why people commit benefit fraud, but falls into exactly the same trap.

People in some deprived areas work informally, out of 'need not greed', in response to poverty: they feared going without basics such as food and heating or facing mounting debt.

I, too, work to pay my food and fuel bills. Again the assumption that people commit fraud by working, rather than by "signing on".

I'm not naive, I understand why people do this. It's very, very hard to get into the benefits system in the UK. Once you're out, it's very, very hard to get back in. Even earning a small amount of money in a temporary job is enough to get your benefits not just suspended, but terminated. And working for a low wage simply doens't pay. It's not just the diret payments you miss out on, but also the housing benefit (free or subsidised rent), the free prescriptions (which are overvalued by many- all prescriptions cost in England cost no more than around $10 each), and the council tax benefit (the government picks up your share of the local residency tax, that's based on the value of your home) - in some places this can be worth over £1200 or $2000 a year - even for people who live in very low quality housing.

In many deprived areas, the jobs aren't permanent. Local businesses, the handymen, the small scale construction, etc. don't have enough employment to keep people on permanently. If they hire directly, they face a mountain of red tape - if they hire through employment firms, they pay an outrageous surcharge on the labor costs. It's easier to employ off-book and pay cash.

I don't blame the people who "work informally" and continue to claim. But I do blame a system that encourages them to do so and sees work as the crime.

Abandon all hope - a fun day out!

You've got to love the people who take European development money and develop bizarre tourist attractions. When I was up North the other day, I picked up a brochure for an attraction which is bound to get even the laziest parent to bundle the kids in the car with a picnic lunch for a day of fabulous edu-tainment.

Fun for the whole family

Yes, that's right the Killhope mine. What kid wouldn't want to be sent down a lead mine? With a name like Killhope, it's got to be good! The pictured kids look absolutely ecstatic. But it's not just a creepy tour into mining conditions of the past. Oh no, there's so much more...

Playing with lead
You can engage in a little child labor. The brochure suggests that you:

Try your hand as a 'washer-boy' and see what you can find - shiny bits of quartz, flurospar or galena maybe?

Hmm...what's galena? Galena is lead mineral, lead ore, basically. That's right parents, you can take your kid to play with some lead!

On the road

I've been on the road, but unfortunately, mobile blogging seems not to work for me right now. I went up North on business.

I watched the England game on Thursday in a hotel bar with other business travellers. The right result in the end, but it was an awful tense eighty-plus minutes until England scored.

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Is marriage state business?

Yes, marriage is a matter for government, though many libertarians would argue against that.

To me it's less a question of if the state has any business in the relationships between individuals, but how much.

Does the state have any real business in the day-to-day emotional aspects of my marriage? No, not really. Should the state tell me to pick up my clothes from the bedroom floor or tell my husband to clean the toothpaste splatter off the bathroom mirror? (A definite no to the former and a grudging principled no to the latter.)

But the state does have a role in establishing reasonable terms for a marriage contract and enforcing that contract should either of us become unreasonable.

In most marriages, the state gets no more involved than at the beginning - ensuring it's a valid, exclusive contract, and at the end - establishing probate on the death of one of the partners. The state oversees privileges (state pensions, etc) and enforces responsibilities. In case of divorce, the state steps in to enforce common law principles of equity where parties cannot agree over the dissolution of the partnership contract.

People enter into contracts all the time. Where parties are reasonable, the state doesn't get involved, e.g. I hire somebody to do some work, they do it, I pay them, that's it. Where we can't agree, we turn to the state in the form of the courts to seek resolution.

Now some would say that's an intrusion of the state. Maybe. But how else would you like to enforce contracts? Do we reward the sneaky, the corrupt or the brutal by allowing them to enforce or break their own contracts? Should the distribution of property after a marriage ends rely on who's willing to act the worst, hiding or taking assets, threatening physical violence? Clearly, it's better if people behave reasonably, but we have evolved institutions such as marriage, the law or the courts because we recognise that people don't always behave reasonably and don't always keep their word.
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Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Hierarchy of allegiances

The great thing about the World Cup is that you can support more than one team. To be sure, there's one you pull for more than the rest, but you can form a hierarchy of allegiances. This keeps your interest focused after your real team gets knocked out.


I support England above all. Most English people are pleasantly, but deeply, surprised by this. There's an automatic assumption that if you're an immigrant in your hierarchy of allegiance you'll support first your home country team and then maybe England as well. (Unless of course you're Scottish, but I'll come on to that later). Many want to know the source and path to my fandom. It's like this:

I first arrived in this country in the middle of the European tournament Euro 96. It was hosted in England and it was hard not to get caught up a little. England did well, but got knocked out by Germany in a penalty shoot-out in the semi-finals. I happened to be in Scotland for that, and wanted to watch that game in a bar. But when my then boyfriend (now the Vol-in-Law) and I hit the streets of Edinburgh in search of a suitable venue all the bar crowds were pulling for Germany, quite demonstrably. They have a "I support Scotland and whoever's playing England attitude" that I find unsportsmanlike*. So we ended up watching it at his parents' as I favored England.

I think that sealed it for me right then, and my passion has only grown. It's not as if I've jumped on a winning bandwagon either. Oh no, England will always break your heart in the end.

I like all the hoopla that goes with supporting England, the bunting, the flags, the t-shirts, the chanting and even the pop record releases. England goes nuts...though it's not a tenth of Knoxville level support for the Vols even post-season, even post a losing season.

Plus, for a long time supporting England has been seen as oikish (Britspeak for trashy) and flying the St George's cross as pandering to unpleasant nationalism at best and vaguely racist at worst. There's nothing I like more than wallowing in the slightly un-PC gutter and getting up the noses of whinging killjoys.


Of course I want the US soccer team to do well. But like many expats over here, I'm sort of "Why should I waste my passion on this team when y'all back home hardly care?". It's a bit sad really. And I think it's a sign of increasing US isolationism when not only do Americans not care about the World Cup - which everyone else in the world gets in a frenzy over, but increasingly y'all seem to care less about the Olympics, too. (I always cheer on US athletes).

The Americas

After the US, I'll root for any American team. It's part of my pan-American hemispheric solidarity. Mexico first, then just about any of those little countries, then Argentina, then Brazil, then Columbia, then Canada.


This is where it all gets a bit murky. I'd support Finland out of ancestral solidarity, if they were any good. I'm generally going to pull for a European team over an Asian or Middle Eastern team but there are plenty I don't like (e.g. Germany, France). I am quite liking the Australian soccer-roos in this World Cup, if for the nickname alone, and I'll pull for them when they meet Brazil. Thus violating my earlier general rule.

Preferences between European teams will generally depend on whether I've had a fun, good value vacation in that country. So I'm particularly looking forward to seeing England smash Sweden.

*Although I dislike the Scottish attitude of "any team but England". I do fondly remember the bumper stickers that said "I'm for the Tennessee Volunteers...and whoever's playing Alabama"
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Granddad blogging: ghost story

Last week in granddad blogging, my grandfather described how his family began to get out of hard times by raising tobacco. This week he recounts a ghost story that he told us grandchildren when we were little.

Uncle Ben used to set out there under the shade tree in a swing with that sharp knife and a cedar stick and he had a lot of ‘em, and he’d whittle and whittle and whittle, shavings would pile up all around him. People riding up and down all around the road would stop and say “Ben, what in the world you doing?” “Cuttin’ timber.” That was the stock answer that he gave him. And that tree was right beside my grandmother’s house where Uncle Ben and daddy were raised. And that’s where the ghost story came in.

[Uncle Ben occasionally actually whittled some thing. I have a child sized rolling pin in cedar that he made me. It's a crude rendering, but one of my prized posessions.]

Daddy had gone somewhere, I don’t know where to see a girl somewhere I guess. I don’t know where he’d gone. But it was along in August, September. Moon was full. And he was coming back home and it was getting late and there was a fence row that had grown up on one side of the road. And it was on the east side, ‘cause he was looking up at the moon, and when he looked up he saw something white floatin on top of that fence row.

Well, it scared him, he didn’t know what it was. So, he decided that he’d kick his horse up and move a little faster on down the road. Well this thing on top of the fence row, it moved up faster, too and kept right up with him. And he thought, well, I’ll slow down and see what happens.

So he slowed down and this ball of a thing up on top of the fence row it continued to slow down and go right along with him. And he decided well I’m gonna get home, so he kicked his horse and kicked off and here that thing was floatin’ on top of the fence row right along beside him.

Finally, the fence row ran out and an old grey mule trotted out. And with its head throwed up in the air it was just the right height for that fence row to make it look like there was something floatin’ on top of it. And that’s the story of the old mule.

Go to the granddad blogging main page for more including WWII oral history
Read the previous post

T-tags: , , , , ,

Monday, June 12, 2006

This really bites

Beautiful, beautiful goal by Czech Republic's Rosicky. See my previous post.

This bites

I tried to get away early. I was 20 minutes late leaving, but could stilll catch the kickoff in USA v Czech Republic World Cup match if everything worked my way in Transport for London land.

The commuter gods conspired against me and I had a hellish journey - and got home in the middle of half time commentary and a 2 -O score in favor of the Czechs.

There's 20 minutes left and team USA looks outclassed and they still have Italy to face.

Good thing, I support England. (Or maybe not)

In positive news, Australia's socceroos defeat Japan 3-1. Congrats to them!

Another day of Cup

I didn't watch a whole match yesterday, but saw a bit of Netherlands v. Serbia & Montenegro (Holland wins), a bit of Mexico v Iran and a bit of Portugal v. Angola (Portugal wins, 1-0)

Mexico v Iran was the game was most interested in, was the most exciting, and was the one I saw the least of, dashing in and out while grilling some burgers and talking to my mom on the phone while it was on.

But the result was what I wanted, Mexico won 3-1 over Iran. Que bueno.

Tonight the US team gets its first outing in a match against the Czech Republic. The US has a tough group, with Italy, Czech Republic and Ghana to beat to get through to the knock-out stage.

White like me

I used to do a little internet genealogy research, and from time to time I'd get an email from someone claiming to be a long lost relative wanting to know if there was any Indian ancestry in some surname line.

My research was taken off what my grandparents did and nothing they found, and nothing I subsequently found indicated any Indian ancestry. It doesn't mean it isn't there. There are a few lines we can't trace back. No records...the provenance of my ancestors simply vanishes into the mists of time. That's the way it is.

To my view, genealogy is a bit of pot luck. You might as well be proud of what you get, 'cause you certainly can't change it. But for some reason the frequentish emails about Indian ancestry used to get up my nose. I never got a request for evidence of being descendant from Black or Chinese or anything else. I replied to one respondent that I'd found no evidence, but that one should be careful about claims for Native American ancestry because often progenitors who were rumored Indian may well have been part African - and that, either way, at the time, these ancestors may have actually taken steps to conceal their own parentage which would make it hard to know for sure. Sad as it is, that's the way it was.

Bring it up to modern times and we have DNA testing to supplement handwritten entries in the family Bible. My Dad just took one of those tests (from a place like this, if not this company) and phoned with the results yesterday. I didn't speak to him myself, but the Vol-in-Law took the message. My father is 91% European, 5% East Asian and 4% African. The East Asian is not a surprise, his mother was Finnish - and there's a lot of Asian admixture. And to be fair the African is not really a surprise either. My family has been in America for a long time.

Sunday, June 11, 2006

Playing politics: Soccer and Iran

Mexico meets Iran today in a World Cup fixture in Nuremburg. But media attention will be focused as much outside of the stadium as on the pitch.

Jewish groups are planning a protest in response to Iranian president Ahmadinejad's holocaust-denying remarks. Via the BBC:

One of the biggest fears the Germans have for the World Cup is that Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad will come here to watch his team play. His comments casting doubt on the Holocaust caused outrage in Germany.

This match is serving as a focus for protests against him, even though he is only sent his deputy, Vice-President Mohammed Aliabadi.

Iranian expats will also be putting on a separate protest outside the game.

I've always had a bit of a soft spot for Mexican football, so I would be rooting them on anyway.


In other axis-of-evil soccer news, a new Iranian film called Offside directed by Jafar Panahi tells the story of Iranian girls and women who are caught trying to sneak into a World Cup qualifier in contravention of a ban on female attendance at matches.

From a review in the New Statesman:

...anyone who watches Iran in the World Cup, and also sees Offside, may find it difficult not to imagine the persecuted female fans, just out of view, just off-camera. With this quiet, profound film, Panahi shows that divisions between the personal and political are as vulnerable as a striker's metatarsal.
One more reason to pull for Mexico.

T-tags: soccer, Football, World Cup 2006, germany, Iran, World Cup, Offside, Mexico, axis-of-evil

They did it - just

We watched the England-Paraguay match on television yesterday afternoon after we went grocery shopping (we had no beer and no food).

You would have thought everyone in Asda ( a supermarket chain owned by WalMart) was on their way to the match grounds. I think 85% of shoppers were wearing some kind of England gear, including red and white wigs, goofy hats and face paint.

The game itself was not the most enjoyable I've ever watched. England scored early with an own goal header by Paraguay captain Gamarra. It sounds as if it were a lucky accident, but it follwed a superb free kick by David Beckham.

Actually, I shouldn't say it wasn't enjoyable. Football, after all, is a game of two halves. In the first half England was agressive, playing a pressing game, taking advantage of the Paraguay's bad luck and shattered nerves. After the half, Paraguay was a team re-born (fortunately reborn a little lame) and England was back to its shrinking, defensive style playing in its own half. Coach Sven blamed it on the heat exhausting the players. I blame it on the fact that he removed Michael Owen (which I think is fair enough - he has had an injury plagued season), but failed to put anyone back in front. Beckham was crossing, but there was only a lonely, but hardworking, Peter Crouch to receive. He just couldn't make the most of it without support. But still, England win, 1-0, and look set to finish at the top of their group. We also watched a bit of the Trinidad & Tobago v Sweden game, the other teams in England's group. The Trinidadians played with a little bit of heart, the Swedes definitely seemed lacklustre - and didn't even manage to score after T&T went one man down. It was a nil-nil draw in a yawn inducing match - and bodes well for rest of the group stage.

After the game we took a walk in the local graveyard, just to shake out the tension. It looks like absolutely everyone has Cup Fever. Many, many graves were decorated with England flags instead of flowers this week.

Forever England

Supporting England, whatever happens

T-tags: soccer, Football, World Cup 2006, germany, England, World Cup, Paraguay, Sweden, Trinidad

Saturday, June 10, 2006

Cup fever

I am absolutely beside myself with World Cup fever. England's first match is today - against Paraguay - and I'm as jittery as a bride.

Speaking of weddings and World Cup, the morning radio news did a piece asking us to spare a thought for the rather silly English brides who scheduled their weddings for today. Since English weddings are never in the evening always in the early afternoon, most receptions (in England eternally long boring affairs cluttered with poor public speakers - usually groom, best man, bride's father) will be scheduled right during the match. The commentator defending the brides who scheduled their match over England's match said they spent months planning it and it should take precedence over a silly football game. Yeah, right. Don't be stupid. This is the World Cup. It's only once every four years, whereas Saturdays in June are usually cluttered with weddings. Believe me, had I been invited to a wedding today, I would have gone, signed the book and then slipped off to the nearest pub with a tv, only to return after England victorious.

England's games are all pretty much at convenient times, but US games will require some very clever shifting of my work schedule. I'm already feeling a migraine coming on for Monday afternoon and the afternoon of Thursday the 22nd. I'm actually speaking at an event on the 22nd, but I'm keynoting, so should be able to get away in time.

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Update: on second thought - if someone had scheduled their wedding a long time before England's fixtures were announced, then the only choice would be to run with it. Do the wedding, themed with red and white flowers, show the game on big screen in the reception hall, with beer on tap instead of champagne. It would have been a wedding no one would forget in a long time.

T-tags: soccer, Football, World Cup 2006, germany, England, World Cup

Friday, June 09, 2006

Let the games begin

Opening day of the World Cup, England's first game tomorrow

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Blair busted in hosepipe ban

Tony Blair recently came afoul of the hosepipe ban snitchers. The gardens of Number 10 Downing street were being watered with a "hosepipe like" instrument.

Number 10 defended itself saying that they were in fact directly observing the hosepipe ban - by using a "bowser with a dowser" - a portable container with a hoselike ending. I'd never heard this term - and in a quick internet search - these seem to be the industrial sized, but portable tanks. Once again Number 10 spins larger than life, what they have holds the equivalent of about six watering cans. Something more like this, than this.

See what we've come to, arguing over water? Actually, Number 10 is completely right. They are not in contravention of the hosepipe ban, it's perfectly legal - and I use a similar contraption myself (a pressure sprayer). You can water more efficiently, sending the precious liquid closer to the roots.

Thursday, June 08, 2006

The Vol-in-Law's mosquito farm

The Vol-in-Law pretty much keeps out of the garden. That's not to say he doesn't sit in the lawn chair and soak up the sun (when we have it), but he doesn't tend the soil. That's my area. I have very specific ideas about gardening and I don't really need him messing with my plans.

Last year, pre-blog (I now find it difficult when I can't hyperlink back to a previous episode in my life), we created a frog pond. It's really just a hole in the ground lined with the remnants of a kiddy wading pool. But we stocked it with spawn collected from the ruts in the road left by logging trucks in the Highlands of Scotland. The Vol-in-Law brought the frog eggs back in a jam jar, past the security of Aberdeen airport and we set them up in our little London garden.

The spawn became tadpoles, the tadpoles became tiny perfectly-formed frogs. And then batch by batch, after heavy rains, they all left. Never to be seen again. I was very disappointed since I wanted them in the garden to eat slugs.

They didn't return to spawn this year. (I reckon they became tiny, perfectly-formed, dried-out frog skins on the railroad track which runs behind our house). But we still have the little pond. The Vol-in-Law checks the level regularly and fiddles around the with the moss that grows around the edges. But I'm worried it's going to become a mosquito breeding paradise, and since our cats don't catch mosquitos, we've got nothing to keep them down.

I know London's no tropics, but I worry about malaria and Nile fever and icky-looking, itchy mosquito bites. On the upside, I'm not preferred mosquito food. If there's anyone else around I won't be bitten much*, so perhaps the Vol-in-Law will reap what he's sowed and dig over the pond.

*this has been true everywhere I've been except in the murky oxbows around Memphis where I was eaten alive.

Stockholm syndrome?

Yvonne Ridley was a British tabloid journalist who travelled to Afghanistan during the fighting there. She was captured by the Taliban, who after some time freed her when she promised she would read the Koran.

She admits that she would have promised just about anything to get out, but anyway, she claims she kept her promise. She then duly and publicly converted to Islam.

Conversion has been good for Yvonne, she was lambasted for the ill-advised adventure in Afghanistan, but upon conversion she has her own tv show (dreary though it is) and is able to keep herself in the public eye more regularly than in her days as a member of the Church of England.

Last night (actually two days ago now - I couldn't post because of stupid Blogger outages) we watched a bit of her show on the Islam channel - way up in the nosebleed section of the cable channels (where you can also find Christian Evangelical offerings such as the God channel).

The show itself was not terribly exciting. She was interviewing a Palestinian farmer who was a little difficult to understand - I really only got "to exist you must resist". And apparently, you can resist by buying his brand of olive oil. Although Yvonne did her best to enliven the proceedings by asking the farmer if those in Egypt and beyond were following the example of the "heroic resistance in Palestine". He admitted he really didn't know much about that.

What was much, much more interesting was the ticker at the bottom of the screen, apparently based on viewers' text messages. It constantly scrolled three texts, which I paraphrase:

1. when will we stopped being fooled by the lies of America and Israel?
2. Umma, when will we rise up and establish an Islamic state?
3. It seems that some members of the community are trying to stir up trouble.

Well-spotted, Viewer Number Three! Yes, call for the establishment of an Islamic state in the UK does smack of stirring up trouble.

Yvonne herself was stirring it up last night. Probably at the same time we were watching the pre-recorded show, she was at meeting of George Galloway's Respect party exhorting Muslims not to cooperate with the police, following a recent terror raid in East London.

Now we all know that the Met are hardly infallible. And maybe this raid was a colossal error following a malicious tip-off. But what are the police supposed to do? Yvonne Ridley seems to be encouraging both revolution with the ticker of terror and for an entire community to choose to become accessories before the fact.

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

Quick hits

I've been quite busy with work, plus with the hose pipe ban and unprecented four or five days of unbroken sunshine, I've been quite busy hauling buckets in the garden, too. But a couple of things have caught my eye:

  1. The Kennedy article in Rolling Stone on electoral fraud in Ohio. I'm worried.
  2. It's been 40 years since the beginning of the cultural revolution in China (or it was in May, I'm late noticing this story). What a terrible time - a true reign of terror, only one view of the way to live was acceptable. You could do worse than reading Jung Chang's Wild Swans to get an appreciation of what the cultural revoluton was like.
  3. George Bush is dusting off the cover on the anti-gay-marriage constitutional amendment (shoot that was a link to the last time he feared GOP losses - here's a new one). It must be another election year. (See item 1).

Granddad blogging: the wages of sin

Last week my grandfather described hard times raising hogs, this week they begin to get out of their financial difficulties by raising the evil weed.

But we weren’t doing any good, and my daddy decided he had to do something else, other than this hog business. Now, we did raise some wheat, but normally just enough wheat to make our flour and swap some of it for meal and some of it for chicken feed, but we never did sell any wheat that I recall. Might have sold a little.

So, Daddy thought about raising sweet potatoes, he thought about raising cotton, he thought about raising peanuts, he thought about raising soy beans and finally for some reason, for a cash crop, he would try tobacco. None of us had ever seen tobacco stalk around there then. There was a man that went to church with us about six miles from us. We were three miles one side and he was three miles the other side. He’d been raisin’ tobacco a little. He was my mother’s first cousin, I guess, they were some kinda kin anyway. And Daddy went to talk to him and we decided we’d raise tobacco.

Back then you had to pile up big brush piles and burn ‘em to kill all the seed in the ground. And then you had to break up those ashes in the ground and then you seed in that and raise your own plants, and set ‘em out.

We raised an acre of tobacco that year. We put it on the best ground we had and put the most cow fertilizer on it we had and grew it on richest spot there was on the farm. It made a fine crop and we carried that stuff to Gallatin, which was about 25 miles from our home. No, the first year he hired somebody to carry it, on a truck. They brought it back, and it had brought four hundred and thirty somethin’ dollars. There had never been that much money in our house at one time ever. And he took that check from the tobacco barn and put it up on the mantle over the fireplace and let that check set up there where we could look at it and see.

Well, the next year Uncle Ben [granddad's paternal uncle], he decided he’d raise tobacco. We had an acre and he and Robert [Ben's son] put out 5 acres, but my daddy he never would expand that big. That year the trucks were gonna charge too much to carry it to Gallatin, so they got wagons and teams and loaded the tobacco on those wagons and took old quilts and tied over it and tied it down, ‘cause it was rainin’ and they drove that 25 miles. They left about 4 o’clock in the morning and they got there about 8 o’clock that night. They slept on the tobacco floor that night in what they call the bull pen. It was just a room, there was stove in it and benches around and people could sit there and sleep and this that and the other. And the next morning they got up and drove back home.

I don’t know when it sold, it didn’t sell then, but ‘bout a week or so later. And we went in a car when it sold. So we began coming out of the kinks a little bit then. It was pretty hard for me to be against tobacco. I would have never gone to college if it hadn’t been for tobacco. I don’t guess Virginia [my granddad's sister] would have either.

I remember one story about it when we were raising it. We had what they called protracted meetings. Protracted means going on a long time at church. And then they’d usually have church in the morning or the afternoon one and again that night. The preacher that we had that time, he was against tobacco and he preached several times about how nasty chewing tobacco was and how bad on you it might be, smokin, we didn’t know. Anyway he was against it.

I remember we were down at my grandmother’s one afternoon after dinner. The preacher always stayed with my grandmother. We were sitting out there under the shade tree. And Uncle Ben said “Well Brother ????, I don’t guess we’ll be able to pay you for holdin’ this meeting.” And the preacher wanted to know why. Uncle Ben said “Well, the only money that we have comes from raising tobacco. All the people round here raise tobacco,” and said “That’s our cash crop. You against tobacco so, we just don’t feel like you want the money.”

He didn’t preach about tobacco anymore.

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Sunday, June 04, 2006

What I've been reading...

I haven't been reading that much lately, at least nothing worth mentioning. A lot of work stuff.

But in the last week or so, I've read A Patchwork Planet, by Anne Tyler. What can I say? I'm not much of a reviewer of fiction...I'm more of a "yeah, I read it, it was good" kind of person. And yeah, I read it and it was good, but not the best one I've read. If I were making recommendations - I'd say, don't start with this one if you haven't read Tyler before. Ann Tyler's books, mostly, are absorbing in a way that few authors really achieve...I really enter the Universe of the character. Anyway it certainly beat the book I'm currently reading...a Spanish murder mystery, where as yet I can't distinguish between the characters and in the first chapter the author used the voice of a rat eating on the corpse of the first of what promises to be several more murder victims. Yuck. I may have to give up on that one fairly soon.

The other book I finished recently was George Lakoff's Don't Think of an Elephant. I picked it up because I thought it might teach me, in 5 easy steps, to frame arguments. I wanted it as much to be convincing at work (where I spew half-truths for money) as in my personal political life.

Of course, Lakoff didn't promise to do this on the dust jacket, so I can't blame the author for failing to teach me some critical debate skills. But still my hopes were dashed. Here's what was promised:

In this book Lakoff explains how conservatives think, and how to counter their arguments. He outlines in detail the traditional American values that progressives hold, but are often unable to articulate. Lakoff also breaks down the ways in which conservatives have framed the issues, and provides examples of how progressives can reframe the debate.

Lakoff's premise was that American Right are framing all the current policy debates, by setting the semantic frame in which ideas are discussed. For example: tax relief. You can't argue with tax relief, can you? So Lakoff says don't argue against it. Re-frame the debate by saying "investment for the future" or something like that. And somewhere in between lies the truth - some people probably are paying too much tax (e.g. the aspirant lower middle-classes) and taxes do make sense in that we club our money to invest in our future through building things like roads, tackling public health issues, or providing for the common defense.

George Lakoff also talks about the key differences between conservatives and progressives. And it's down to the whole approach to life and particularly parenting. Conservatives favor the "strict father model", whereas progressives favor the "nurturant parent". Lakoff frames this debate by avoiding feminising the progressive approach (sadly feminising is still seen as a dismissal.) But I'd seen this argument before in the framed "Republicans are the daddy party and Democrats are the mommy party." And it's true that Republicans do try to paint the Democrats with the "worst" aspects of "femininity" - e.g. shrill, emotional, vascillating, soft, weak, etc.

How about Bad Dad? Repressive, authoritarian dad. The dad who throws you out of the house for getting pregnant or coming out? How about Bad Dad? Daddy drank up all the money in a wild testosterone fueled spree in Iraq. Now there's no money for a prom dress. Irresponsible dad who fixes everything with duct tape (if at all), and when the pipes burst (or the levee's breached) the rest of the family is left to mop up the mess.

His assessment certainly does tie up with what seems to me like just plain meanness by many Republicans. How many times have you seen in editorials blogs "doesn't deserve any sympathy" or "have made their choice" or "must live with the consequences". I don't for a second think that this is the way that all Republicans think, but too many have left empathy behind. Leaving behind empathy and understanding for the way real human beings behave and are motivated makes for bad public policy.

Anyway, despite the book's many problems, I would still recommend it, it's cheap, it's short and it's a fast read - even if my main complaint with the book it's repetitive in places and certainly could have used some shorting editing. Oh yeah, and it would have been helpful if it had had some quick and easy tips to help me win all my arguments and write more persuasively.

Friday, June 02, 2006

ViL: Staying the Course

We just lost Larry the Fish, within a few days of Darrell & Darrell. He wasn't seen yesterday and today at feeding time there was just Darrell & Smokey.

This is no time to be disheartened. Darrell & Smokey remain resilient and look forward to peace and stability in the fish pond. Comments from certain parties like "Omigod they're killing them off one by one, Oh well I'm tired of the pond" give aid and succour to our enemies. This is no time to cut and run.

Update: I just saw Larry, safe and well. The Vol points out that this proves the naysayers wrong.

To form a more perfect neighborhood

The Vol-in-Law has been working on a constitution for a community crime reduction panel. It's kind of like a jumped-up neighbourhood watch. It's supposed to advise the local unit of the Metropolitan Police about neighborhood priorities and conduct "visual audits" (i.e. walking around, being nosy and spotting eyesores and potential troublespots).

It hasn't done, as far as I can see, a lot of visual auditing or advising. This is mostly because the panel has been spending a large part of the last year drafting a constitution. In my view, they should have spent almost zip time on this - a constitution should have been provided for them and they could tinker around the edges, discuss it for 45 minutes and ratify the sucker. But no - in their wisdom, the Home Office squivel servants have asked panels to come up with their own constitution, thus creating a nice space for largely unqualified locals to squabble and waffle and do absolutely nothing and thus cause the police little actual trouble by holding them to account for neighborhood needs and wants.

Of course, the Vol-in-Law is a lawyer, and after his first attendance at the panel, he has drafted a constitution. And I advised him (being something of an authority on public sector governance matters, if I do say so myself). He's quite proud of it - and asked me last night if he should add a preamble. Let's not overstuff the pillow, I think - but we get on the Internets and Google the preamble to the US Constitution. The Founding Fathers, after all, were clever chaps with a nice turn of phrase.

And in our research we discovered a bit of constitutional construction I was completely unaware of.

In 1789, an amendment was proposed:

No law, varying the compensation for the services of the Senators and Representatives, shall take effect, until an election of Representatives shall have intervened.

Now that's a good one - I think. I'm not sure why it needs a Constitutional amendment, but it makes sense. It just means that if you vote for your own pay raise, you can't get it until after the next election. So you just might be voting for more money for your opponent, and hopefully this means our reps will be a little more hesitant to vote for raises.

As any constitutional scholar will know, amendments have to ratified by X percent of the states (see I'm not a constitutional scholar). And this one duly was - exactly 203 years after its introduction. Two hundred and three years. Yep. You can look it up - the 27th amendment.

Taking a year to draft the neighbourhood panel's constitution simply pales in comparison.

We the People of the Tooting, in Order to form a more perfect Neighbourhood, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the Safer Neighbourhoods Panel.

And for my British readers, as Citizen Smith would say, Freedom for Tooting!