Thursday, November 30, 2006

Homophonic offences

This morning - still in bed - we heard the BBC radio announcer say something like this:

Police investigating allegations of racist and homophobic offences have raided about 150 addresses across London.*

But the announcer stumbled over one of the words and said "homophonic offense".

Homophonic offense! I howled. About damn time they went after that - all those extra apostrophes - it's is just not the same as its - and for far, far too long people have been using them interchangeably with impunity.

I mentioned this at work - and one of my colleagues said "This has come not a moment too soon." We laughed all day about this.

Of course, though I try my best, I too am guilty of the occasional homophonic slip. Most of us in our team admitted to having difficulty choosing between bear and bare in certain circumstances. I urge forgiveness and understanding, but not silence, when it comes to the homophonic offense.

* yes, yes perhaps I should be more concerned with the fact that police powers are being used against people who've committed thought or speech crime (at worst) or that real crimes (vandalism, harrassment, actual but small-scale violence) are being prioritised over other similar real crimes because they've come under some kind of "hate crime" category - but you have to admit that homophonic offense is pretty darn funny.

Jim Webb?

Democrat Jim Webb sounds like my kind of politician:
Anyone know anything about him?


The Vol-in-Law isn't much of a one for buying flowers. He once found a fresh-ish bouquet of mums in the gutter of a windy Preston Road in North West London and gave those to me. He was very proud of himself for that - and to be fair he did change the water every day so it lasted a long time.

I do drag him to the garden centre several times a year, but he gets antsy like a little kid. He can only look at the garden statuary for so long.

But last year we saw a most beautiful, but over priced pot of fancy chrystanthemums last year. It was £10 - but the complex blooms were fluffy and butter yellow. We looked at it for some time before buying it. This is not the kind of purchase we usually make. I have never seen the Vol-in-Law willingly spend money on any kind of flowers and certainly not ten whole pounds. (With current sliding dollar values - almost 20 bucks).

It survived the winter, and I cut it back in Spring and dutifully pinched the growing tips over the Spring (with the last pinch on the Fourth of July as a garden centre co-worker Ty Justice advised me to do) - so there would be one set of fabulous blooms in the fall. But I'd never overwintered chrysanthemums before, and I didn't cut it back hard enough in the Spring - so the plant is all floppy and mis-shapen.

The blossoms are still that beautiful yellow - but they're droopy. And one or two of the blossoms have reverted to a purple color and one blossom is fully half-and-half.

multicolored chrysanthemum

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

more on the effin PCC

Shamelessly ripped from Open, but it just made me laugh too hard not to use it.

Apparently, I'm not alone with a Press Complaints Commission go screw yourselves message - after they suggested that there be a "voluntary" "code of practice" for blogs. Self-regulation? This blog is already self-regulated.

  • Antony Mayfield says: You can't prescribe self-regulation for blogs - they do it themselves as far as they are interested. You didn't regulate newspapers effectively. Go away.
  • The Devil says: Go fuck yourself. But in the true spirit of things establishes his own code of conduct. ('s actually pretty well considered.)
  • The Select Society has some actual analysis as to why it's a stupid idea.
  • And Disillusioned and Bored has even developed an anti-code logo - pretty cool:

kids these days

The Vol-in-Law told me last night that one of his students told him she wasn't too sure about this free speech thing - after all she'd "never heard of it until the Mohammed cartoon thing."

"What are they teaching kids these days?" I said.

"Nothing," he said. "Absolutely nothing."

My friend bought that

My friend Vol K works for a multi-national corporation that you've heard of. She's a procurement executive or some such. I think what she does is make strategic procurement decisions (?) and set up and negotiate the contracts and other people make the decisions about buying off from those agreements. But whenever she's here on business, I always ask her "What did you buy today?"

This company has a store on a famous London shopping street - one of the streets with wow-y Christmas lights and city sidewalks, busy sidewalks dressed in holiday styles. She took me there one time and showed me the promotional banners and other items that she had set up the procurement contract for.

I pass that store at least once a week and sometimes I say to my husband "See that banner? Vol K bought that."

Not feeling Christmassy

I know that it will be December in a couple of days, but I've done no Christmas shopping (but I have an idea) and I haven't even thought about trying to drag my Christmas decorations down from storage. I turn my head from the Christmas displays in stores or the lights on Oxford Street.

It's hard to feel in the holiday mood when you still have this in bloom in the garden:


Tuesday, November 28, 2006

I promise to be good

The UK Press Complaints Commission [PCC] has called for a voluntary code of conduct for bloggers. Since self-regulation is a lot like putting several 10 year olds in charge of themselves*, I'm all for it. I'm now self-regulated. No change there then.

"On the internet "there are no professional standards, there is no means of redress", Mr Toulmin [of the PCC] said.

He added: "If you want to see how the newspaper industry would look like if it was unchecked, then look at the internet."

He said a voluntary code of practice would allow content to be checked without government involvement, stressing: "We're not in favour of regulating the internet. The flow of information should not by regulated by any government."

Hmmm - exactly who is doing the checking. The PCC? And who pays for it? The individual Brit blogger by paying a membership fee to the PCC?

Here's what I have to say to the PCC. Go screw yourself. I'm not paying you busybodies any money.

*at least the 10 year olds I liked when I was 10 - I'm not talking about that goody-goody girl with the gleaming straight hair, unwrinkled clothes and the tendency to tell on others to teacher

Creationism on the rise

For all the Brits who like to sneer at the Bible-thumping Americans denying evolution:

Creationism is on the rise in UK schools.

Sunday, November 26, 2006

successful dressing

Thanks to my helpful contributors Newscoma and Genderist (recipes here in the comments) I managed to make the best cornbread dressing of my life. And I've just come back from a lovely Thanksgiving meal at my friend's house. It may have been in London and on a Sunday, but one thing was certainly traditional. I'm feeling uncomfortably full. Like really uncomfortable.

Using Nana's recipe list (that's what I already had) - plus Newscoma's mother's use of many, many eggs - I managed to get a dressing the way I liked it. Unlike the Newscoma recipe, mine was an all cornbread affair - but I may try to half cornbread/ half biscuit thing next time round.

But being me I couldn't follow a recipe straight up. Here were my alterations:

I added herbes de Provence - I know it sounds French (and I guess it is) but it's parsley, sage, rosemary and thyme and bay leaf. I also used leek - a very popular vegetable here in the UK as well as onion.

I still don't know what a fluted mushroom is - so I didn't use any of those. I was a bit doubtful about the sliced almonds, but that worked out really well.

veggies for dressing
sauteeing veggies: celery, leek, onion and mushrooms - plus those herbes de Provence

finished dressing
et voila - the finished product

I also made some pies (pumpkin and pecan) - and they were really tasty - but weren't quite as pretty. There was an incident - a slight mishap - in the making of the pumpkin pie. Something akin to this holiday disaster and cover up. I'm not really ready to reveal exactly what I did, but you know, no one noticed, and I ate it myself.

Saturday, November 25, 2006

recipe emergency

Law-Co blogger Genderist sent me her grandmother's recipe for cornbread dressing (a woman I know and whose food I trust). Thanks. I need this because as expats we're celebrating Thanksgiving on a Sunday (with a bunch of foreigners). But there's a leeetle problem. I was going to start on it today - but then when I checked my blackberry to look at the recipe and write it down in my book - I couldn't get all of the email.

Unfortunately, my work server is down this weekend. I knew it would be, but I plum forgot. So I was able to get all the ingredients out of the email - but none of the instructions about how to actually make the dressing.

I know that it's basically a question of mix it all up and bake it - but for how long and at what temperature??? (Oh, who am I kidding - my oven reads out in centigrade - and all the recipes are in Fahrenheit - I'm too darn lazy to do the math and convert so I just guess - which sort of defeats the purpose of my fancy digital oven.)

Anyway, Genderist, if you're out there - can you copy the recipe into the comments?? I've got it all down to the line "fluted mushrooms" - and could you maybe tell me what a fluted mushroom is while you're at it?

Friday, November 24, 2006

...and now my Thanksgiving begins

I have celebrated Thanksgiving on a Thursday several times since living in the UK, but it's hard. You end up having to cook the whole dinner yourself, and I don't know what you do in your family, but I'm very much a believer in having Thanksgiving as a collaborative effort. You bring this, I'll bring that. So, American expats sometimes celebrate Thanksgiving at the weekend. It is, after all, a moveable feast.

So, my friend the Texan is hosting Thanksgiving at her house. She's doing turkey, mash, cranberry sauce and green bean casserole. (I haven't mentioned it, but I'm not a big fan of the green bean casserole with cream o' mushroom - I'm in the cook-them-beans-down-in-bacon-fat camp).

I'm doing some kind of Thanksgiving related pie (probably pumpkin, but I've seen a recipe for some kind of monster pecan-pumpkin hybrid pie) and the cornbread dressing - since I'm the only one anyone knows with cast iron skillets to make the corn bread.

Request for help
So...since y'all have only just pushed your swelling tummies and loosened belts back from the Thanksgiving table - does anyone have any a really good recipe for cornbread dressing? Mine never turns out that nice cake-y way that it should. (Partly because I've been trying to make a vegetarian version for finicky Brit guests - since I'm bringing and not hosting I don't feel under any such obligation.)


My colleagues wished me a "Happy Thanksgiving" as I arrived at work yesterday. Awwww. Then one of them paused. "That is the right greeting, isn't it? I mean - happy isn't inappropriate or offensive is it?"

I wish I'd thought to feign offense and say "Well, actually you were supposed to wish me a Reflective Thanksgiving."


Later on, when I told another colleague that I would be making the cornbread dressing and pumpkin pie on Sunday (after having been asked) she said somewhat wistfully "I've never had pumpkin pie or cornbread - if there's any left over on Monday you could bring it in."

I just laughed. "There won't be any left over," I said. But I do feel kind of sorry for people who've never tasted cornbread.

Thursday, November 23, 2006

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Atomic Tumor

Today's the birthday of a special 10 year old boy, a little boy who just lost his mother. I hope he's having the best birthday he can muster.

His mom was a blogger, part of the Rocky Top Brigade. Her husband kept a hopeful vigil on their blog Atomic Tumor, while there was hope and has kept a diary of celebration and mourning of her life since she died.

I don't know them. I knew of their blog. I wouldn't say I had been a regular reader, but I did occasionally check a post here and there. I guess maybe there were like fellow residents of my subdivision. I might nod at them in passing.

Since he began keeping his vigil, I've been reading more regularly. I admit I thought his hope was admirable but misplaced. But then I believed that she would pull through, too. The power of his hope was so strong and so convincing. I didn't check the internet for a couple days and when I saw that she had died, I felt almost a physical jolt. She was only 29 years old - the mother of two children. She was about to graduate, she had hopes of a new career.

In his writing, he describes places that I know: Sophie's, the Krystal* on the Strip where they had their first meal together as a romantic couple. Somehow, through the miles it makes it more real for me. But even if it weren't it would be so touchingly sad, but joyful, too. He really has celebrated their life together through that blog.

Her name was Barbara Jamie Bearden Kilpatrick. Here's the obituary her husband wrote for her. But the whole blog of late has been a moving testimony to her life and the people that she loved.

*That would have totally worked with me. No matter how bad English food is, they haven't come up with anything as disgustingly yummy to my tastes as a Krystal. I would, if not kill, then threaten or maim for four cheese Krystals right now - I'd kill for it if it were washed down with a SunDrop.

still alive

Hey, handful of devoted readers out there. I'm still alive, and all is well. I just have something in my life that's quite blogworthy, but I'm not ready to blog about it and it seems like I can't think of much else to post on.

That's all. Sorry to be cryptic.

Except, hey - Go Vols - I'm glad we beat Vandy after the two previous losses. But sorry to all you Vandy fans, that shouldn't even be worth mentioning except for that disaster of a 2005 season.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

free speech

Nick Griffin is the head of the British National Party. Nick Griffin is almost certainly not a very nice man. The British National Party are a far right David Duke-ish bunch of Know-Nothings. They've been ever-so-carefully avoiding saying racist things, but at the very least, in the past, the have been an overtly racist political party.

Nick Griffin was speaking above a pub to his party faithful several years ago. An undercover television reporter happened to be in the audience. One of the things that Nick Griffin said in his vitriolic speech was that "Islam is a wicked, vicious faith." For this and several other controversial utterances, he was brought up before the dock on charges of "stirring up racial hatred." Charges which he vigorously defended himself against.

There were some mutterings of protest amongst the general public at the time. Most people didn't really defend what he'd said, but many people have said something a little off-color in a pub at one time or another or at the very least failed to protest when someone else had done so. But Nick Griffin is hardly a beloved national character, so not too many people came to his defense. To make it even easier to swallow, the Government promised that charges such as these wouldn't be brought against your every-day bigot, but would only be brought in egregious cases like Nick's.

In Griffin's first trial, he was acquitted of most charges. The case was pretty weak. Is saying "Islam is wicked..." etc really stirring up racial hatred? After all, Islam is a religion not a race, and as a religion Islam really is about as multi-racial and multi-cultural as it's possible to be.

But the jury failed to reach a verdict on a few of the charges. An independent prosecutor is supposed to make the decision about whether a case should be brought to trial, whether it's in the public interest to do so. This decision takes into account the probability of achieving a conviction, the importance of the crime and even the cost of the trial. But I don't believe that the decision to prosecute Nick Griffin a second time was an independent decision. And Nick was brought to court again recently. And he was acquitted of all charges this time.

Did the Government accept defeat graciously? Did the Government say "Well, we are bringing in a law soon which makes it illegal to stir up religious hatred. And we couldn't have got him that time, but with our new law we'd be able to get him if he did it again,"? No, no they did not. Gordon Brown, the Chancellor and heir apparent to No 10 Downig Street, was stating to reporters the next day that they would be looking at ways to toughen up the laws to stop people like Nick (or anyone?) saying the things like Nick said. Absolutely sickening. And the Attorney General is looking at "gaps in the law". What is happening to our ancient liberties of freedom of speech?

Protest in Parliament Square, London
A sign I saw in front of Parliament Square on Remembrance Sunday

Not just the law
What is stirring up religious hatred? Saying things like "Islam is wicked..." doesn't stir up any hate in Islam for me - and I'm very unlikely to make such blanket statements. But what if I say "I think Islam treats women as second class. I find the way that women are treated in Islam, by and large, abhorrent," or "Islam as is popularly practiced in many communities is encouraging seperatism, discord between communities and even terrorism," or even "I think literalist, fundamentalist Christianity such as I witnessed growing up in the Bible Belt encourages a decline in empiricism and reason and a blinkered world view." Will I be prosecuted for stirring up religious hatred? Am I allowed to criticise Christianity because that's the religion I grew up in? Or am I not allowed to criticise Islam because no one is allowed to?

This isn't just about the law. Carol Gould, writing about the weird juxtaposition of the prosecution of an Islamist terrorist, the head of MI5's report on the danger of Islamist terrorist plots which received little social commentary and the universal hand wringing which resulted after Griffin walked free.

No sooner had Griffin been cleared than every pundit in Britain, and even the BBC reporter who had covered the case, was pontificating about the appalling state of Her Majesty’s empire that such a scurrilous character as Griffin could be allowed to go scot-free. It was mooted that the government would ‘urgently explore new legislation to curb religious and racial hatred.’ The disappointment that Nick Griffin had gone free was palpable on the faces of the usual crop of social commentators wheeled out on various television stations.


No sooner had I absorbed this bizarre sequence of events than I opened my mail to find an urgent call to members of my union, the National Union of Journalists, asking us to endorse the idea of censuring journalists who use terms that denigrate Muslims and encourage Islamophobia. Journalists who will report their colleagues to the union or to law enforcement authorities will be performing a virtuous deed.

Fair and balanced
Nick Griffin is a nasty sort and BNP politics are divisive and worse. When I heard that BNP candidates were running for council seats in our neighbouring borough, it actually struck fear in my heart. That was too close for comfort. Generally speaking, where BNP candidates run racial tensions will be high and can only be made worse still by their presence. Yet still, I defend his right to free speech partly because I strongly value my own right to free speech.

So I can't comment on his acquittal without commenting on the conviction of Mizanur Rahman. Rahman was convicted of "stirring up racial hatred" for his part in protesting at this rally outside the Danish embassy or a related one about the Danish "Mohammed cartoons". Rahman had been carrying a placard saying "Behead those who insult Islam." Lovely. If you watch this video of the rally, you can see that quite a few in the crowd were to my untrained legal eye inciting violence on both a personal and a monumental scale. But I really didn't see anything that incited racial hatred against Westerners, not to me anyway. It think it's pretty clear that the hatred was for non-Muslims, the foolish Kaffirs who cling to their traditions of discourse that include satire.

It's true that Rahman may be retried for inciting murder, but his conviction also shows the Government's willingness to bring charges of stirring up racial hatred wherever they can and against people like 23 year old web-designer Rahman who may be abhorrent but who's hardly a public figure on the scale of Nick Griffin.

Grand advice

The best seasonal advice I've seen since no white shoes after Labor Day.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Knoxville, Knoxville, Knoxville

The tv at the gym today was showing The Simpsons epsiode where Bart goes to Knoxville on Spring Break.

"Disneyland or Knoxville?" Bart asks.
"Knoxville, Knoxville, Knoxville," is the unanimously chosen destination shouted by his rag tag bunch of chums.

I know it ends in strife and despair. I know the Sunsphere falls over in a heap. I've seen this episode before. A friend in York taped it for me and sent it through our work's internal post years ago when it was only a fabled rumor. Still it cracks me up. Who ever went to UT who hasn't felt stranded in Knoxville at some time? I laughed so hard at the scene of the decrepit and abandoned World's Fair site I felt compelled to tell the woman on the bike next to me as she stared at me quizzically "That's where I'm from."

I stayed on the bike a full 20 minutes longer than I meant to just so I could watch the Bart goes to Knoxville show.

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Monday, November 13, 2006

Post election anecdote

I know it's not definitive or anything, but I found this email from VolBro just today - he'd sent it back in October. No racism in Tennessee? I don't know if it was what cost Harold the election, but given the closeness of the outturn isn't it just possible that the margin of defeat was composed of people like the ones described below?

(Please excuse my brother's swearing, he spent much of his childhood in the company of a degenerate older sister.)


Anyhow Bo and i have been working on the Harold Ford jr campaign. We've put
up signs here and there. Got a beer bottle thrown at us on Clinton highway while
doing our civic duties. Fucker hadn't even finished it yet. A sign of a trully
wasteful and ignorant Republican, but that's not the best.

A guy came into the store while my co workers and I were discussing
the stupidity of the smear campaign run against Ford.
Guy: ya I got a harold ford sticker on my truck bumper.
Politically aware: oh yeah good for you.
Guy: ya this redneck pulled up to me at a stoplight on kingston pk and called me a nigger lover Politically aware: thats awful but typical.
Guy: thats not the best part, he didnt know i was gay so i told him not only was i indeed a nigger lover, but also a faggot nigger lover. Apparently the redneck peeled off in disgust. Lucky queer.

We lost it and so did everyone else at the counter.
But on the other hand, you gotta love Tennessee. My brother and his friend Bo are some good old, Volunteer football lovin', bass fishin', country music listenin', beer swillin' boys - but they were out hammering in yard signs for Harold Ford. So how 'bout that and racism?

Remembrance Sunday

Yesterday was Remembrance Sunday. In the UK, this equivalent of Veteran's Day (though focused almost exclusively on the war dead) is a big deal. A really big deal.

It started as a memorial to the Britain's many, many sons sent to slaughter in World War I. That was a really big deal, too. On the worst day of fighting at the Somme 60,000 British men and boys perished - many of their remains were never identified and they lay nameless in a corner of a foreign field that is forever England.

Commemoration of Remembrance Sunday (the Sunday closest to Remembrance Day 11 November) begins with the wearing of the poppy. Just about everyone wears them. It's just a simple paper poppy on a plastic stem to be pinned to your lapel. The poppies are available for a small donation and the money from the poppy appeal is used to support veterans in need.

The Remembrance Sunday ceremony is broadcast on radio and television. The Queen solemnly lays a wreath of poppies at the base of the Cenotaph for those who gave all. As does her husband, representatives of Commonwealth nations, Heads of the Services, chief clergy, and dignataries of all sorts. Veterans groups and the association of War Widows march past, leaving their memorials as they pass.

I have never gone to see the Remembrance service. To get a spot where you might be able to see anything, you'd have to arrive very early. It's very crowded and usually very cold and you have to stand very still for a very long time. But I do usually try to make a visit to the Field of Remembrance, on the lawn of Westminster Abbey - and I did so yesterday.

The Field of Remembrance is actually a fundraising exercise too. The field is divided into plots dedicated to different regiments, different campaigns or different countries. Crosses are available for a small donation. Far away organisations send in money and labels for their crosses. If you're in the area, you can go down to Westminster Abbey, buy a cross, write your memorial on it and hammer it in to the damp soil with a rubber mallet available to borrow.


There's a section for the American fallen, too.


The wreath is for the fallen soldiers of the state of Arkansas. A man who was a boy during WWII and was treated well by some Razor Back boys brings a wreath for them every year. I met him one time as he brought the wreath and he asked me to lay it for him.

The plaque from the US Department of Defense, which must have been engraved fairly recently, is already sadly out of date. This morning UK dead are 125 and US dead are 2,848.


Mostly people wear red poppies. There has been a movement to support wearing a white poppy for peace since 1933. This year a religious think-tank said that wearing the white poppy was more Christian, since the red poppy implied that redemption could be found through blood shed.

Yes, there's always a danger that pomp and circumstance can lead to glorification rather than reflection. But anyone who's watched an old veteran battle his own arthritic knees and bend to the ground to hammer in a cross for a fallen colleague, blink back tears and then struggle wearily to his feet will not have seen redemption through bloodshed in that act.

Saturday, November 11, 2006

Normandy and remembering

Today is Veteran's Day, tomorrow is Remembrance Sunday. My husband and I visited Normandy in September and saw the countryside that was filled with paratroops and bombs and bullets and blood. We saw the graves and the twisted metal left behind. I hope it helped me have a tenth of the appreciation I ought to have for those who suffered and sacrificed overseas and at home.

Both my grandfathers were in the Army during WWII, one helping to build the atom bomb and the other fighting in France and Germany. You can read the latter's story here.

Omaha Beach
Omaha Beach

American cemetery
The American Cemetery

memento mori
Memorial tokens left at the British and Commonwealth War Graves in Bayeux, France

Arromanches, Normandy, France - many of the store fronts were decorated with similar messages of appreciation.

Replacement therapy

The Vol-in-Law has been eagerly anticipating the release of Medieval 2: Total War. He has been buying a lot of cheap, older games over the past month or so - trying to replace the thrill of Total War combat. We now have a lot of games installed that he's tried once. None of them really come close to the Total War experience.

He pre-ordered the game on Wednesday and it arrived yesterday. I heard the crash of swords as I drifted off last night. He said he wanted to try to invade Wales before going to bed. Historically, it took the English a couple of centuries and a big castle building campaign to subdue the Welsh. I probably won't be seeing very much of my husband over the next couple of weeks.

I won't be seeing very much of our computer either. Blogging may be light.

UPDATE: I've just spent over two hours playing the Medieval game myself.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Rumsfeld resigns

I just heard it on the radio. I can't believe it. Donald Rumsfeld is resigning.


I sure can pick 'em

I woke up this morning, nervous and giddy. I woke up the Vol-in-Law, too and told him I was "too nervous" to turn on the radio or check the political scores on the Internet.

"For God's sake, VA, it's only the Midterms, just turn on the radio."

I turned on the BBC - national news radio for the UK, and much to my surprise and chagrin, it did not have detailed coverage of Volunteer State elections.

I had to have some coffee and wait for the PC to warm up before I found out the Tennessee result. If you don't already know the result...then you can read the heartening words of Rex L Camino

In the event of a Corker victory: Um, yes, congratulations on electing a smaller version of what you already had, Republicans. I suppose rubber stamps come in all sizes.

In the event of a Ford victory: Congratulations on electing someone who voted for the war, invokes the name of God in every sentence, and who strongly opposes gay marriage. That’ll really teach those Republicans.

I'm a big loser
The Democrats might have done well nationwide, but if my ballot had been a betting slip, I'd be crumpling it up and throwing it on the floor and walking out of the betting office in disgust. Yeah, I did vote for Bredesen - but the odds were so bad on that I'da barely got my money back. I'm disappointed, but not surprised that amendment 2 (tax breaks for profligate old people) passed. And I'm disgusted, but not entirely surprised that amendment 1 passed.

Those who said they were defending marriage by voting on prop 1 did the wrong thing. Things are moving in such a way that businesses and other employers will be granting benefits to same sex couples. Hospitals will be granting visitation rights to long term same-sex partners. And as same-sex couples get these rights by hook or by crook (because they can't get them through marriage), hetersexual couples who are too lazy, too decadent or too anti-establishment to marry will demand these rights, too. (We're starting to see this in the UK.) In the end, denying rights to homosexual couples will have a greater eroding effect on the institution of marriage.

I'm sorry, too that Harold Ford didn't win. The Vol-in-Law said "Well, that's what you get for putting up a black candidate." I think he was kidding. Maybe he was kidding on the nose.

But for those who might say that the Democrats have lost Tennessee forever with this loss, I don't think this is the case. This was a dirty, hard-fought and close run campaign. The Corker campaign sank low - and it was hardly a landslide victory.

What really chews me up about this is Bob Corker is a nobody. If Lamar Alexander - a guy with real political experience - can't pack a punch at the national level why in the world would Bob Corker be able to do so? He's boring. At least Harold, you know, he woulda been a player.

Good night for the Vols
Heath Schuler, former University of Tennessee quarterback, won his North Carolina 11th District Congressional seat. Go Vols!

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Hang him high

I've been asked several times over the past few days if I thought Saddam Hussein should bear the full brunt of his death sentence. Not that anyone in the Iraqi government or the White House has a hot line to my opinions, but yes. Yes, I do think that death sentence should be carried out.

But I think the whole trial has been a travesty and a waste. And not because I don't think Saddam received a fair trial. I don't know if he did or he didn't - I believe that there was an attempt to give him a fair trial. But no matter how it was run - Saddam was guilty as sin. He was going to be convicted and I think the only sentence that would make sense would be the harshest one on the books - in this case death.

I think it's been a travesty because it was a wasted opportunity for Iraq to move forward. The point of these high profile trials focused on war crimes/crimes against humanity/genocide is to provide an airing in a public forum of the grief and grievances of the victims. If handled correctly, maybe just maybe there will be some healing for the survivors and their relatives. Those who never had a voice as they lost all or almost all are finally given their day in court. These trials are never about punishing the guilty, the truly guilty. What could be the right punishment for Saddam Hussein? How could anything that any human could do to him offer even a fraction of redress for what he's done.

But if I understand Iraqi law (and it's quite possible that I don't) if Saddam Hussein's appeal fails (and I don't think there's any possibility that it won't) - then he will have to be executed within 30 days. And that means that he will not face trial for the other grievous crimes he's committed or directed. And that means that victims will not be able to stand in court or have their staements read into evidence while he has to listen. Of course, I'm sure there's other people to try, lowlier they may be.

Ming Campbell, leader of one of the British opposition parties - the Liberal Democrats (American readers, if you don't know who he is, don't waste your time trying to find out - he won't be around for too long and even if he is he's not important) has said that killing Saddam Hussein will make a martyr of him. I don't really think so. So long as Saddam Hussein is alive he's a beacon of hope for hardline baathists. His death won't stop the insurgency. There are too many different groups with different motivations for that to happen. But I cannot see that keeping him alive would avoid any violence (except his own death) and would not be worth the political intervention.

Ming and others like him in Europe, I fear are being disingenuous. They oppose the death penalty on principle (as I generally do). If that is the case, then say that, as some European leaders have done. But I'm afraid the practical argument is on the side of letting the penalty proceed as it has been handed down.

Not the best part of waking up

An old pal of mine had a pretty disastrous alteration to his morning routine.

Expat voting pros and cons

So it's election day in the good old U.S. of A. My American co-worker asked me yesterday if I'd voted. I thought a) you've already asked me this and b) what if I hadn't - too late to fix it now.

Anyway, the great thing about being an expat voter is:
1. I never have to stand in line. My ballot comes to my house - I fill it in and send it back
2. I definitely have to vote early - which means that there won't be anything which prevents me from voting on election day.
3. I have plenty of time to mull over my paper ballot in the privacy of my own home. I can show it to my husband - a foreigner. Or my cats - also technically foreigners, but I feel they have been raised American. (BTW - the cats have never had any good advice about who to vote for in those weird downticket elections where I always struggle)
4. This year, I even showed my ballot off at work to those poor ignorant English. Maybe after we're done bringing Democracy to Iraq, we can help them out.
5. There's a paper record of my vote!!!

What's not so good
1. I have to pay to post my vote. This year it cost me almost two dollars. I could take it to the embassy for free posting, but the security queues are crazy. Plus - do I really trust them?
2. There's no excitement in the run-up to election day. I had to mail my ballot back ages ago. It's kinda all over but the countin' for me.
3. If I want to watch the election returns, I have to stay up really, really late.
4. Despite the fact that there's an actual paper record of my vote, election officials are unlikely to actually tally my ballot.

Sunday, November 05, 2006

Admit defeat?

About two years ago we bought a bedside cabinet from IKEA - which we were going to use as a side table in the living room. I decided to tackle the assembly of the flat pack furniture on my own. I wanted to prove to the Vol-in-Law that I could do it on my own.

Unfortunately, I was not able to do it on my own. Several steps in, I discovered that some important holes weren't matching up. This jeopardised the structural integrity of said cabinet.

Sadly, as a couple, we let this problem fester. The cabinet has been sitting in our living room - unfinished - for these two years.

Today, the Vol-in-Law said that he wanted to buy a Play Station so that we could have more quality together time. (Women out there - this sounds like a male ruse to me - does the purchase of Play Station or similar result in more quality couple time?) I said - sure, yeah, let's go get one of those game consoles - after we've finished the cabinet.

After all this time - there was some doubt that we'd indeed still have all the bits and pieces - the screws, the nails, the special Alan key that goes with flat pack furniture. And the Vol-in-Law got to work - while I remained on the couch in a supervisory capacity.

Sure enough, the cabinet was improperly made and we were about four holes short of being able to put the frontage on a drawer. Yes, we got out the drill. But we did not choose each other on the basis of our carpentry skills.

After split wood, a hole drilled through the front - and two adjacent holes which bracketed where the real hole should have been, the Vol-in-Law gave up. The cabinet is still not complete, but it is two steps further than it was two years ago.

return to GMT

We got caught out yesterday. The nights are drawing in and our walk in Richmond Park was finished in darkness. We know the paths well and it was a full moonlit night last night. But we couldn't quite remember if the annual deer cull had started or what time they shut the gates.

sunset ducks


Thursday, November 02, 2006

ViL: Awesome

Kerry's mistake

John Kerry made a boo-boo. He slipped. He said something insensitive - apparently by accident - and now he's apologized for it. The Republicans are spinning and spinning to make the most of it. Which is kinda funny, since their leader isn't exactly gaffe-proof.

I'm sorry he said it just before the mid-terms. I hope the Republican spin doesn't damage Democrat chances. I really, really think it's important to slow down the crazy train the White House is on before it derails and hurts even more people. But on the other hand...I'm glad there's been a bit of a brou-ha-ha, since he was a disastrous candidate in '04 - and I'd like to see a campaign for a re-run in '08 scuppered before it gains any serious momentum.

Brittney did a nice round up of the TN bloggers' take on it at Nashville is Talking. But it took hearing a Tennessean interviewed on BBC radio this morning to put it in perspective. That fellow said something like John Kerry's words had been twisted - and that anyway he was a war hero. Which kind of put this comment Brittney picked up in perspective

Bear Creek Ledger:
For those who think this is an abberation, no, it isn’t. Kerry has been doing this since the early 1970’s, in fact I think John Kerry has never gotten out of the 70’s. He’s STUCK in Vietnam and his anti-war treasonous ways...

Hey, John Kerry might be stuck in Viet Nam - but at least he's actually been there.

I feel sick - Halloween hangover

I didn't do anything for Halloween this year. Which is unusual for me, as it's my favorite holiday. We were late home on Halloween night itself, but we stopped at the grocery store next to the Underground stop to pick up some candy - just in case. Halloween is becoming increasingly popular in England. I even heard less whining about it being "Americanisation" and the loss of "English custom". As to adopting holidays - my rule is a) is it fun b) is there good food and c) is there a frisson of danger (e.g. fireworks or hidden razor blades in foodstuffs or the possibility of being gored by running bulls) and d) will there be potentially embarassing photos later? If yes to all or most, then adopt the holiday. It's free candy, people, c'mon. And it's probably the one time of the year in London - where people actually give each other something for nothing. Seriously, Halloween's got more good will in it than Christmas.

It was almost 9 when we got home - so most little kids should have been trying to fight off the sugar rush in bed, but I did see three trick-or-treaters, or rather 3 kids in costume on the walk back from the store. Two little kids had their costumes obscured by coats. I thought about digging the candy out to give them some, but couldn't be bothered. Then I saw Darth Vader coming from the direction of my house - and I thought again about reaching into the bag and tearing into the packaging, but didn't.

And that was it. No one knocked on our door. We had bought not only miniature candy bars but also a large bag of peanut M&Ms (not the American "large" but the British "large" which is considerably smaller) which would be our treat once we'd given all the other candy away. I ate most of those M&Ms on Halloween night.

Even though it wasn't a huge amount of M&Ms - it was still enough to make me feel sick. It was still enough to cause words between the Vol-in-Law last night as we argued over who should have control of the bag. (He thought he should since he'd had almost none on Halloween. I thought we should share since it was a new night.) He maintained control of the M&Ms until his attention dropped when attempting to pet a cat and I wrenched the bag out of his hand.


In bed last night, we commented on the perceived change in peanut M&Ms. I probably hadn't eaten any in quite a while, perhaps over a year, perhaps longer, but they seemed different. The Vol-in-Law agreed. They seemed less peanuty and more chocolatey. It seemed like when I was a kid, it was mostly peanut with a thin layer of chocolate and then the colored candy coating. And we also agreed that the more chocolateness was to the detriment of the M&M eating experience.

And the colors seemed more lurid*, too. There were yellow and brown M&Ms I remember those colors. But there was also a cobalt blue (isn't cobalt deadly to humans?) and a vivid green and a glowing scarlet. Back in my day, it seemed to me that peanut M&Ms came in yellow, brown and green and that regular M&Ms came in yellow, brown, tan and green (tan was my favorite).

The Vol-in-Law piped up..."And red."
Oh no, I said, red had been banished in the FD&C Red food colorant #5 scare.
"We had red when I was growing up in Northern Ireland," he said.
Well, growing up in Northern Ireland in the 70s and 80s- red food dye is going to be the least of your worries.

*A good blogger would have photographed these lurid M&Ms before snarfing down, but I had eaten all of them before I thought about taking pictures.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Ken backs terror - again

London Mayor Ken Livingstone had to make a big old U-turn yesterday after supporting the employment of a convicted terrorist on the Underground system.

Mohammed Kamel Mostafa is the son of Abu Hamza-al Masri (currently in jail for inciting murder and racial hatred). He was hired as a labourer by one London Underground's subcontractors.

This Mostafa is the same guy who is embarking on a rap career and has sung glorifying odes to the 7/7 bombers.

But what did Ken say in a press conference yesterday morning?

"Has he broken any law here in Britain? [No, so] we are happy to have him working for us," he said.
And then went on to say we don't hold the sins of the father against the son. I'd be sympathetic to that point of view - except Mr Mostafa had done time in Yemen for plotting terror against tourist and economic targets. Sixteen British tourists were kidnapped in a reputed attempt to exchange them for Abu Hamza's son and the others. In the attempt to free the kidnapped Britons four were killed. All very messy - and though I'm not sure Abu Hamza has been convicted of being an accessory - he has been linked to these crimes.

Mayor Ken now says that he didn't have all the facts - and of course he doesn't support Mostafa's appointment now.

So Ken, why did you shoot your mouth off in support of this guy if you didn't have all the facts. and why have you once again made your presumption in support of violent Islamists?