Thursday, March 30, 2006
The fan quit working just about the time that my husband was laid off from his job - so we didn't replace it. And then he got another job, but we didn't replace it. The Vol-in-Law was determined that he wanted a gas oven - but that would mean extending the gas line - and finding decent tradesmen in London is like searching for hen's teeth. I myself wasn't in favor of the gas oven, but I knew that even finding someone to install the oven (for, yes, it is a built in oven) would be a Herculean if not Sysaphean task.
But then...something changed. I saw an ad just after Christmas for a "super fast oven". Fast is good I thought. And I started hunting around for the thing. Well, I found it. It costs a packet. But it cooks food "up to four times faster" - using "Genus technology".
What is Genus technology? Well, the oven manufacturer doesn't want us to know. I'm thinking maybe it's a combination of traditional and infrared cooking, but who's to know for sure? It could well be death ray technology - which would be kinda cool. So after much debate between the Vol-in-Law and me, I think we're gonna get it (the store has promised to provide us with a list of installers).
And then we'll have to gather some friends round to enjoy the fruits of the appliance of science.
- "Wow, this casserole is so delicious, what's your secret?"
- "How do you get the cookies so crisp on the outside and so moist and chewy on the inside?"
- "The meat is so tender, it just falls off the bone, how do you do it?"
death ray technology
*No, really the secret is to lovingly prepare the food using only the finest, freshest ingredients and, of course, to cook it with death ray technology.
Wednesday, March 29, 2006
I saw a pretty good eclipse back in the late 90s when I was living in Coventry. Again it wasn't total, but that time it was pretty close, enough to get the corona effect. We all rushed out of the office to watch the eclipse, with our 99 pence eclipse glasses meant to protect us from going blind. Well, all of us, but one office naysayer who refused to look through the cheap glasses and would only look at a reflection of the eclipse in a nearby pond.
When I got back to my desk, I got a phone call from an American journalist (I was a press officer at the time) who wanted to know how many "man-hours had been lost in the UK due to eclipse watching". My employer wasn't the Department of Trade and Industry nor was it the Bureau of Useless Information, so I was a little surprised that I got the phone call. I suggested he phone the DTI as that was more up their alley. He said he'd phoned them and they didn't know. I guess he was working his way down the list of public sector press officers, so we puzzled over it for a while and came up with a reasonable approach for calculating the lost time. Certainly almost all of the office staff went outside to see it, leaving practically only the big boss and the receptionist inside - so we just extrapolated from there. What a way to make journalism (I requested that I not be quoted on the calculation - I'm sure I appeared as "government source".)
A work colleague in another office and her husband were so excited about the eclipse that they booked an eclipse watching holiday in then-stable Zimbabwe for this very week. I've thought about them a time or two as Zimbabwe seems to stumble further into chaos. And today I wonder if they're down there and if not if they managed to get their deposit back.
Tuesday, March 28, 2006
The first day at school, I go bouncing in and Clyde Cooksey met me, he was sort of a bully. He wanted to know if I had any chalk, and I told him, I didn’t really know what chalk was. I said Naw, I didn't have any chalk. He said “Well, you can’t go to school if don’t have any chalk.” He said “You’ve got to have chalk if you want to write on the blackboard and you’ve got to write on the blackboard.”
He said “I’ve got chalk, what’ll you trade me for it?” And I didn’t have anything, but some nice new marbles, and I showed him them and he said “Well, I give you a piece of chalk for every marble you have.” And so then I get in the room and there’s chalk all over the blackboards, everywhere. And that was the first time I remember bein’ lied to and suckered.
I never was particularly fond of him. But he was a couple of years older than I was and a lot bigger than I was and I never did like him. And I don’t know… we got in a fight one time and for some reason he had rings on his fingers that were bands that you put around chickens’ legs, different colors so that you could identify ‘em.
Well, we were fightin’ and he had those rings on and he was literally beatin’ me black and blue. I got a hold of his head of hair in one hand, or both hands, I don’t remember which and I held on to that hair, so long and so hard that I pulled a great big handful of it out of his head. The last time I saw him he still had a bald spot in his head, because that hair never did come back. My face got well.
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That's because my pet called Caspar Weinberger predeceased his namesake by about six months. I hope those looking for news of the former defense secretary's death are maybe touched a little bit as well by the loss of our koi carp in September.
Is this true?
Via the Nashville Knucklehead:
Unfortunately, we will never see him [recently passed Buck Owens] hosting Hee Haw again. Have you ever noticed that there are no Hee Haw reruns? Probably not. The reason? It's enough to start a second War Between the States.Whaa??
When Viacom bought TNN, in the most egregious, arrogant, East-Coast, New-York, Cable-TV-executive ass-holery move ever, the execs at Viacom looked at the assets involved in the sale and said, "What's this "Hee Haw" shit? Some kind of hayseed, hillbilly show? Get rid of it! And change the name to SPIKE TV!"
So 25 years of Americana was burned. The Hee Haw masters were BURNED.
Monday, March 27, 2006
Normally it doesn't matter too much, but today I was helping to run an event. The weather in London was damp and drizzly.
At lunch I said to a colleague "I'm having a bad hair day and it's only getting worse."
Now, guys and gals, everyone knows the correct response is: "It's fine. It looks nice. Don't be silly."
I got: "It's the humidity," and a sympathetic smile.
Sunday, March 26, 2006
Anyway, I left work in the middle of the afternoon, just from being fed up and wandered around central London in search of an effective retail therapy. I met up with the Texan and the Vol-in-Law and did a little bar-hoppin', ate in China Town and met up with some more friends at the labrynthian, subterranean gigantic Waxy O'Connor's pub near Leicester Square. I drank too much.
So yesterday, I nursed me a hangover and stayed off the Internets. And therefore missed this post. I only discovered it after checking my email this morning - where I had the personal message from Genderist of Haiku of the Id. She has cancer.
Genderist is one of those people who while not actually kin to me is a member an associated family, that is - there are three generations of friendships (I used to play with her cousin who is my age when we were visiting our grandparents who lived about two minutes walk apart) and I've known her all her life. We went to the same church in Lawrenceburg. She's not my contemporary, so I can't say that I've really hung out with her all that much, but I've really enjoyed reading her blog and getting to know her better through that over the past year.
Genderist is an oncology nurse herself - so she's an informed patient and says:
My Professional Opinion
Don't cry for me, Argentina. It is true that I've got cancer, and it'll be true that I'll have a time of suck to get through, but everything should be okay. The type of cancer I have is 100% treatable and has very successful treatment plans.
If you've got to have cancer, it's not one so shabby to have. I will be on a thyroid-replacement hormone for life, but it's relatively cheap.
So I guess we have to respect her professional opinion, but keep her in your thoughts just the same. Go on over there, leave a nice comment and give her a little link love.
I can't say I'm a huge Buck Owens fan, but I sure did enjoy him on Hee-Haw. And of course, give the guy his props for keepin' the edge in country music.
I was working out in the garden this morning, trimming the restio and cleaning out the pond, when I heard a startled squawking coming from the dogleg walk by our backdoor. I thought Fancy had a baby bird, and I was about to rescue the little thing, when I realised that she had a rat cornered. My heart leaped into my throat and I retreated into a corner of the yard. After all, she's the cat and I didn't want to get in her way.
The rat made a desperate lunge for it, and managed to get past Fancy and ran toward me. And I did scream like a baby.
I'm afraid that the rat got away. The cats are still looking for the rat, but I'm afraid their murderous aspirations are not met by their skill.
Faster pussycats, kill, kill!
*Trust me, it was no mouse. It was a rat.
Friday, March 24, 2006
Yes, much legislative time was devoted yesterday to combatting the squirrel menace. Britain has a native squirrel - the red squirrel. Red's population has takin' a lick after the introduction of the hardier, bigger North American native the grey squirel. Some Lords and Ladies have been suggested a mass cull, a woodland genocide.
I have to admit that the red squirrel is perhaps a little cuter. But is the anti-grey attitude a further sign of rampant anti-Americanism among the British elite?
And are these native Brits really so cute and innocent? Let's look at the facts:
According to the Friends of the Anglesey Red Squirrels the friendly, fluffy grey is Sciurus carolinensis. And we all know how lovely the Carolinas are. Whereas, the red is Sciuris vulgaris - latin for vulgar little creature. Not only that -but those reds are savage little buggers as I reported late last year.
Even the Anglesey friends had to grudgingly admit that:
We very seldom link to International squirrel stories, but this one caught our eye. This is a rather strange tale reported in a BBC News Story Dec 05 where red squirrels are reported to have chewed a dog to death. Mmmh, we'll let you make up your own mind..
But that isn't stopping their murderous plans. They even have a page devoted to bounty schemes. At one point, you could get one pound ($1.75) for every tail of a grey handed in, but the bounty scheme has faded mainly because the main patroness died.
But perhaps they're missing a trick, the Isle of Angelesey is off the north coast of Wales and is a beautiful area. Imagine taking your vacation there and setting the kids loose with traps and BB guns while tired parents lounge in the pubs. Fun for the whole family. If the kids are quick, the holiday could pay for itself.
Thursday, March 23, 2006
I don't feel strongly either way, but somewhere I have a TWRA certificate showing that I passed that course when it was offered through Lawrence County High School.
The class was mostly a schedule filler and was taught by someone I'll call Coach Lame. We had about six weeks of hunter safety and 12 weeks of driver's ed. Driver's ed was interesting because we didn't have enough textbooks to go around. Coach Lame had a fondness for pop quizzes based on minor text details from Sportsmanlike Driving immediately after covering a chapter - and since I was in the race for the valedictory, I felt at a big disadvantage. There was no way I was going to suffer a B because of Coach Lame's stupid teaching methods. I informed the other valedictory candidate- J -in Coach Lame's class that I was intending to cheat, that I advised him to cheat as well, but that it was up to him. (I felt this notice was only sportsmanlike). I got an A, he got a B - and J began cheating with me at the start of the new six weeks.
I used to cheat by keeping the book open on my desk between me and J. We'd quietly flip through the pages, finding the answers and make As. Another guy in our class, let's call him Steve (that was his name), began sitting next to me and would cheat off my paper. One day Coach Lame spotted the open book on the table and accused Steve of cheating. Steve protested strongly, he had not been cheating from the book. Coach Lame asked me - in front of the whole class - "Was Steve looking at that book during the test?"
"No, sir," I replied.
"Well make sure it stays closed. I know you and J wouldn't cheat."
"Oh, no." I said wide-eyed, offended that he might even suggest it.
Steve later became a campaign worker for an Alabama Republican.
When it rolled around time for us to study hunter safety, Coach Lame became even lamer. While it was true that did have a driver's license (qualifying him in some sense to expound on the principles found within Sportsmanlike Driving) he was no hunter and no woodsman. Class consisted mostly of watching a series of doom-laden survival films that always ended in tears. We did go out one day to try somebody's compound bow by shooting at a rigged up target behind the band room. The draw weight was high, so after a couple of futile attempts trying to pull, I passed the bow on to someone else. Steve took it up, and being a burly fellow, had no trouble drawing back and releasing. He missed the target and the arrow shot past the front of the school. Coach Lame knew we had to find that arrow or he might be in big trouble, so we scouted around. Eventually, we discovered that Steve had shot it through the rubber gasket in the middle of the folding school bus door parked up empty in front of the school and the arrow was wedged in the driver's seat. The arrow was removed and no more was said.
At the end of term, we had our live fire exercise, on school property, supervised by a competent TWRA agent and it passed without incident. I got my badge and my certificate.
Ms Begum, is young and an orphan. She's in the care of her elder brother who's very into the radical Islam thing. Her case has been backed by a radical Islamic group Hizb ut-Tahrir (HuT); a group banned in other European countries and in much of the Middle East, but legal in Britain. This is less a case of someone being banned from generally acceptable religious dress and more a case of radical Islamist trying to push the envelope.
As usual, notoriously shabby Boris Johnson, has brilliant commentary on the case.
This is the 17-year-old from Luton whose dress sense and physical form are now the number one subject for conversation in every household in the country; and yet for years we have been asked to believe that the reason she wanted to vindicate her right to break school rules, and wear a tent instead of shalwar kameez, was to protect - in the word of her lawyer, Cherie Blair - her "modesty".
What total tripe. This ludicrous and lamentable case had nothing to do with "modesty". I don't believe she wore the jilbab to "regain control of her body" any more than I could hope to wear a smarter suit and thereby regain control of my own.
I'm not aware of any students in mainstream schools trying to wear the niqab (face covering with ony the eyes revealed), but surely it can't be too long before someone tries. There's already a teacher who insists on her right to teach in niqab.
Wednesday, March 22, 2006
Now, I want to say I'm solidly against the glorification of terror. But although the Government says this law is "easy to understand", I don't think I understand exactly what that means. Do you?
In other terror news - seven men are on trial for plotting to bomb a whole bunch of stuff in the South East of England, like a big mall and pubs and clubs. Quote of the trial:
I haven't been to a nightclub in years, I'm more of the chatting in pubs type of slag.
Mr Akbar allegedly said [when selecting targets]: "The biggest nightclub in central London, no one can put their hands up and say they are innocent - those slags dancing around."
Somebody nicked some of our intellectual property - we discovered at work today. Obviously I can't go into the details, but it's a hassle I don't really need.
But instead I'll tell you about how the Vol-in-Law and I recently were sent a cease and desist letter along with a demand for a bunch of money.
It's nothing we did. But for some time a guy (who uses a variety of pseudonyms - but let's call him Ed in this post) has been using our address to have things posted to relating to his "psychic fair" business. Mostly we get copies of the local rags where his psychic fairs are advertised, or we get copies of invoices for bills Ed's already paid in cash. One time Ed prepaid for some collectible coins, and accidentally had them sent to our address. Naturally we pocketed the roughly five pounds (maybe around 9 dollars).
This time though it was a letter from the lawyers of a well known British tv psychic/hypnotist who claimed that Ed's website was infringing on his trademark or business model or some such. The Vol-in-Law, who happens to teach this kind of stuff, said that the case was reasonably weak which was why they were only asking for one thousand pounds in compensation rather than much more.
Normally, getting threatening letters from prestigious firms of solicitors is hardly a cause for joy. This time though it had several benefits.
The ViL happened to be teaching a lecture the very next week on that subject and here he had a real life, amusing, but cogent example to share with his students. Plus through discovery of Ed's website we were able to find a phone number and the Vol-in-Law left a message telling him to stop using our address. I listened and asked "weren't you going to tell him about the legal action?". Nah. "I'm going to let that be a surprise.".
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Tuesday, March 21, 2006
Now me...I just don't get it. I love vegetables - I even have a great recipe for brussells sprouts (trim, drizzle with olive oil, cut up some garlic and some sundried tomatoes, maybe a little red bell pepper if you got it, season with a little salt and teeny sprinkling of oregano and steam gently til tender - this recipe converted me) But I try to be sympathetic. I after all, hate melons and have had to endure a lifetime of "Are you allergic?", "How can you not like melons?" and "Well, what about watermelon?" No, I don't know, no.
Anyway, I didn't post this to berate Mel for her vitamin deficient eating habits, but rather to describe the Vol-in-Law's long time friend and best man at our wedding - Craig's eating habits.
Pasty Craig from West Belfast hates vegetables, but unlike Mel, he won't even nod politely. He just won't eat 'em. He won't eat cooked veggies or raw veggies. Nothing green, nothing that grew, nothing that was gathered rather than hunted.
That was until he came over for our wedding in Tennessee. Then he discovered Southern vegetables. He liked the philosophy to cooking - if it swims or flies or walks or grew from the land, fry it - coat it in cornmeal and fry it. Or - boil it to mush and season it with bacon grease. He ate the fried okra and green beans and came back for more.
All of his experiences during World War Two have been posted - but here's the start of his tales of growing up in Wilson County. This story was always told to us as a bit of a morality lesson - be careful what you wish for, and if you get it, be careful how you use it.
When you went to the fair, ‘course everybody had horses then, rode buggies, you needed a whip for your horse and for your buggy and for everything else. And I don’t know the cost, probably fifteen, twenty cents, maybe a quarter, I don’t know what they cost, But anyway, they were beyond my reach and I couldn’t get one. And I surely did want one.
Some of my daddy’s cousins were plowin’ corn on the side of the road as I was going to school, and for some reason I stopped and started talkin’ to them and one of them had a whip. And we got to talkin’ about the whip, and I was talkin’ about how bad I wished I had one, and this old boy that was there, one of my daddy’s cousins said, “Well, if you won’t whip that pony, I’ll give you this whip.” No, no I wouldn’t whip this pony at all if he’d give me the whip.
Well he gave me the whip and I rode the pony all the way to school and put him in the stable and didn’t whip him at all, comin’ back that afternoon, coming back to where they were plowin’ the corn on the side of the road, for some reason I decided I would whip the pony. And I don’t guess he’d ever had a whip laid on him before, and he jumped pretty hard and far and wide and I landed on the side of the road and the horse went on down the road. They just laughed and laughed and laughed.
A neighbor down the road saw my horse in the creek getting’ a drink of water and he caught him and brought him on back to me and told me to get on him and ride him home. And I told him I was not going ride that horse any more any where. He said, “Well, lead him home then. Here he is.”
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Monday, March 20, 2006
Nearly 3 billion was spent in the last month of CPA rule to avoid handing it over to the new Iraqi government. Good money went after bad. This week two civilian contractors were found guilty of fraudently claiming 11 million dollars. In the Guardian Blog:
When the two men who make up Custer Battles - Scott Custer and Michael Battles, (who ran unsuccessfully as a Republican Congressional candidate in 2002) - arrived in Iraq, one former workmate said they didn't have enough money between them to pay the $15 airport tax. Within months they had contracts worth $37.5 million for security and transport work.
In the case that ended last week, Custer Battles were found guilty under the false claims act on three counts. Now they've been ordered to pay back approximately $11 million. The attorney who led their successful prosecution told Dispatches: "There is an orgy of greed among the contractors in Iraq. American law was suspended, Iraqi law was suspended and Iraq basically became a free fraud zone.....in a free fraud zone you can steal anything you like."
Nothing upsets me more than failures of public governance through greed or incompetence or in the case of administering post-invasion Iraq - both. People in power have a duty and a trust to uphold. Honesty, probity, demonstrating value for money. Money wasted is money that belongs to the people not being spent on the people.
But at least somebody finally went after these guys, Custer and Battle (Surely these two jokers must have seen that their last names together was a bad omen.) And while that's eleven million accounted for - there's still 19,989,000,000 to go.
Still nary a daffodil in bloom in my tiny London garden.
This was last year at this time:
This is my "furthest ahead buttercup":
But at least one of my crops seems to be growing well:
Want one of these catflowers yourself? I'll trade ya - three seeds for a cow.
Sunday, March 19, 2006
I must remind them that - given the team that Bruce Pearl inherited - this team has overachieved all season long. They worked hard and left it out on the court all year - they had simply run out of gas at the end of the season. It was a team without depth but with plenty of guts.The dream is not over... really, it's just the beginning.
VolBro was at the arena last night to see the loss - I spoke to him before the game and told him to tell Bruce 'hey' from me. If I could pass along a message now, it would be thanks for a good run, thanks for a fun season.
Saturday, March 18, 2006
Annie Mole the pseudonymous author has a bone to pick with the sartorial sense of her fellow commuters though. She even has a whole Flickr set of fashion victims. Londoners count 7 million, at least half of whom have what might be kindly termed a sense of fashion whimsy and another quarter who just don't give a toss, but there are yet only 95 pics in the set. None of whom, I am relieved to say, are me*.
There are some choice ones... the combination of ugg boots and metallic handbags, lurid tights, dubious claims printed in inappropriate places, and this one has to be my favorite. One of my cousin's girlfriends wore an outfit not dissimilar (but without jacket) to both my grandfather's funeral and a family wedding.
Notable by its omission, Ms Mole doesn't seem to have any photos of the furry look that's been popular this year. Is this an accidental omission - or does is she partial to fur-trimmed look herself?
*Though these have not yet made their debut in the London Underground...I did wear them on BART - the Bay Area Rapid Transit - here's a shot in the Oakland station.
Friday, March 17, 2006
No o'anything actually, he boycotts the whole St Patrick's day hoopla.
I am going out tomorrow to a local Irish pub to celebrate St Patrick's Day with the Texan - I'll take any excuse for a knees-up (Brit-speak for drinking yourself stupid). The Vol-in-Law will be staying at home, I reckon.
Usually Vol Mom sends him a Happy St Pat's day email message - just to get his goat. None so far - but the day's still young (at least in Tennessee). Just for the Vol-in-Law, though, I'll pass along a little poem that has cultural resonance for him - and should be a stern warning to all men who think of doing their poor wives ill:
The Ballad of William Bloat
In a mean abode on the Shankill Road
Lived a man named William Bloat;
He had a wife, the curse of his life,
Who continually got his goat.
So one day at dawn, with her nightdress on
He slit her bloody throat.
With a razor gash he settled her hash
Never was crime so slick
But the drip drip drip on the pillowslip
Of her lifeblood made him sick.
And the knee-deep gore on the bedroom floor
Grew clotted and cold and thick.
And yet he was glad he had done what he had
When she lay there stiff and still
But a sudden awe of the angry law
Struck his heart with an icy chill.
So to finish the fun so well begun
He resolved himself to kill.
He took the sheet from the wife's coul' feet
And twisted it into a rope
And he hanged himself from the pantry shelf,
'Twas an easy end, let's hope.
In the face of death with his latest breath
He solemnly cursed the Pope.
But the strangest turn to the whole concern
Is only just beginning.
He went to Hell but his wife got well
And she's still alive and sinnin',
For the razor blade was German made
But the sheet was Belfast linen.
Thursday, March 16, 2006
So, gentle reader, nothing today.
But here's a picture from the RHS flower show on Wednesday...an early rhododendron.
I was scouting out orange flowers for what I shall theme my victory garden this summer.
Wednesday, March 15, 2006
"Congrats on your mention in The Guardian!"
The Guardian? Do you mean this Guardian or perhaps this Guardian, where I once sold a tv through the classified.
I hope it's the latter. Frankly, I'm happy blogging on in obscurity and anonymity - since a recent post (in the comments) mentions me going through a dumpster for porn and other such embarassing facts.
No. Because the garden is small, I felt that I needed to have a special water butt. One that said "class". So I ordered an oak barrel.
They've tried to deliver it for two days in a row but we were out. Today I stayed home and the thing came at around 9am. When I saw it being unloaded from the truck, I was afraid we wouldn't be able to get it through the front door. But that was fine - slid right through.
It was an interior door it got wedged in. But we found another way to get it outside and after forty minutes of wrestling (it's surprisingly heavy), we finally got it outside.
Here it is - straight from a bourbon distillery in the good old U.S. of A. (Sadly, sans bourbon.)
And if you ever wondered what the inside of a whiskey barrel looks like...here ya go.
I wish I could record the scent, it smelled like heaven. On hot days this summer, the garden should smell exactly like the inside of our house...our dream house.
Anyway, the new water butt hardly makes up for the fact that we're having a hosepipe ban. Honestly, I don't get it.
Here's a picture of the reservoir capacitity across England and Wales just a month and a half ago. (Hat tip to elderrant)
Sure, Kent (Southern Water - in red) has a problem. But why do we in Thames Water area have to have a ban? Anyway, a reader said that she managed to get by on a water butt last year, except for the lawn, and I don't have a lawn. And I do recognise that rainwater is better for almost all of my plants - since the water here in London has so much limestone and I favor the plants like azaleas, rhododendron, camellias and the like...which are all acid loving.
Tuesday, March 14, 2006
Well, that's a relief.
I'm sick and tired of that second-class, pseudo porn being shown on 47 of my 512 channels. We get some unbelievable stuff, including 3 or 4 channels that feature whores and quizzes. Yep, scantily clad woman with an inane trivia call in show. Who thinks of stuff like that? Who watches stuff like that? Who phones in?
The Vol-in-Law just checked his quote and wanted to let me know that it's Sky channel 912. "It's best to memorise it, because all they other channels around it are pay-for-porn channels." The Vol-in-Law may be depraved, but at least he's cheap.
Mental note to self: must call cable company to get child-proofing, channel blocking facility switched on.
A few years ago, whenever the first mad cow scare was, I hadn’t been paying much attention to the news. I did, however, notice that steak, even at Kroger, was plentiful and cheap. I ate like a goddamned king all summer long.It was ten years ago that we had the height of the BSE -mad cow disease -scare in Britain. It was my first summer here. Did I avoid British beef? Did I, heck. VolMom, VolBro, the Vol-in-Law (then just Vol-boyfriend) and I watched a House of Lords debate on the BSE crisis in the summer of '96 and then went off for steak dinner. I took advantage of the cheap beef prices which weren't as cheap as they might have been because the British public - after a few cautious weeks - were all taking advantage of the low, low prices too. Domestic beef sales went up (but of course the international market completely fell away).
It's only in the last few days that the French have decided that they'll allow the le rosbif anglais in Frogland again. (Actually it was worse than that - the EU banned Britain from exporting beef anywhere and that ban was lifted last week.)
As the BSE crisis continued and there were culls and bans, it annoyed me a little bit that the US beef industry seemed to be declaring that there was no way that BSE could be found in American cattle. Remember Oprah getting sued by cattlemen for expressing her concerns about the beef supply on air? And here's an article from a couple of years ago on how American cows were still being fed cows - one of the main ways BSE circulates in the cattle population.
The article also points out that the way cattle are slaughtered contributes to the risk. My understanding is that the nasty little BSE prions seem to concentrate in connective tissue and brain and spinal cord. Some types of bolt killing (firing a bolt into the brain of the animal) can spread the brain tissue around the body as the cow is dying.
And that might not be so bad if American slaughter houses operated in a safe way. Remember that book Fast Food Nation? If you haven't read it, I highly recommend it. Publicised as an attack on McDonald's and other fast food chains, what really struck me were the chapters on slaughtering and packing practices. It was The Jungle all over again. I learned that McDonald's keeps a close eye on its supply chain, so while its burgers may not be especially tasty, they're probably safer than the ones you cook at home from ground beef you buy in US grocery stores.
Fast Food Nation catalogued a range of grisly practices (and that was just dealing with the human workers) and food supply contamination with chemicals and fecal matter. And of course, the Bush administration is a greater friend to organised industry (e.g. Cattlemen) than he is to the consumer. The USDA has been effectively hobbled through a range of cuts and reduction of its statutory powers.
BSE cost the British cattle industry and the taxpayer a fortune. But it was taken seriously, and slaughterhouse (or abattoir in Brit-speak) and cattle feed regulations seem to have tightened up so hard that beef is a reasonably safe choice and the industry has largely recovered.
Tags: BSE, Beef, United States, USDA, Disease, mad cow, Cattle.
Monday, March 13, 2006
Thames Water - my water company - is issuing a hose pipe ban from the 3rd of April. That means no watering of gardens with a hose or sprinkler.
I've blogged about this before. As a keen gardener, I'm not about to let Thames Water's mismanagement of the water infrastructure (1/3 of the water supply leaks from their own pipes) keep me from having a beautiful garden.
I've taken steps to keep legal. I bought a water butt recently (which hasn't yet arrived) and I've been adding organic material to the soil which greatly helps with water retention. I'm a careful waterer anyway, but not being able to use a sprinkler will be a serious inconvenience for me. It's not like I'm watering a lawn - I don't have one.
Thames water in their FAQ - encourages neighbours to nark (or in Brit-talk grass) on each other
My neighbour has his hosepipe running all night. What is Thames Water going to do to stop this waste of water?
All violations of water use restrictions will be taken seriously. If you wish to make a formal complaint, we would be grateful if you could let us have a written statement.
Will you prosecute me if I still use my hosepipe or sprinkler?
All violations of water use restrictions will be taken seriously and this could include a £1000 fine.
- so if I defy the ban, I'm going to have to be sneaky.
Meanwhile, golf courses are still allowed to water their courses and the pipes are still leaking.
Sunday, March 12, 2006
I've just managed to catch the last few minutes of Crufts - the big British international dog show.
Two things strike me. First of all the dog show had days of live (though not unbroken) coverage on a national network. Almost as much as the recent comprehensive winter Olympics coverage. The British love to televise their festivalls. There's even daily coverage of the Chelsea flower show. As a keen gardener who despises the seething crowds of Chelsea, I appreciate watching a few minutes on tv.
The second thing that struck me was the ending of the six month pet quarantine in favor of the pet passport scheme has its downside. Once a British domain, Crufts is now open to all comers. An American dog just won Crufts for the second year in a row.
Go USA! Let's all give a paw to a California based Australian shepherd called Chance. Beautiful dog.
But walking in cemetaries does bring thoughts of death and dying to mind. Most recently, I was reminded of my grandfather's funeral. He was 83 when he died - not bad, you might say. He was taken by prostate cancer - a very treatable illness - but it wasn't discovered until it was very late stage, and he comes from a family where men have tended to live until their late 90s even, so our family was left with a sense that if his death wasn't exactly tragic in the grand scheme of things, we were robbed of maybe a good decade of having him around.
My mother and aunt and his two eldest grandchildren (my cousin and I), went off to the funeral home together to make the final arrangements. I'm afraid we got a bit silly. We laughed and cracked jokes - much to the chagrin of the funeral home manager. He seemed to think that it was his job to stay professional and I suppose he worried that if he did laugh we might take offense. He didn't laugh and he didn't laugh. Our cracks just got funnier - and finally he relented. "I knew B___ pretty well, and I knew he had a good sense of humor, dry it was. So I don't suppose he would mind if I laughed," he told us. No, I don't suppose he would have, though my grandfather would have disapproved of us putting a fellow trying to do his job in a difficult position. But the funeral home guy had his own stock of jokes that he'd clearly felt unable to tell grieving families til we came along. We laughed even harder.
The funeral home guy told us what kind of things people were buried with. One guy asked for a pack of Marlboros to be tucked into his sock and a bottle of Jack wedged between his ankles. I said I wanted that, too. But the funeral home guy pointed out that the way coffins were built, the booze and smokes would be impossible to reach and mimicked trying to reach them over a coffin lid screwed down at chest height. He also said "You know that saying - you can't take it with you? Well, now you can," and slammed shut a locking, concealed drawer in the lid of a coffin.
Of course when it came to our own tastes we had to sort of laugh up our sleeves. People whose tastes you think you know pretty well may have surprising taste in coffins. It's just not something that's often discussed until you're at that difficult moment. And it's too late at that point to say "I can't believe you'd send him off in that!"
The funeral home guy was very interested though in my tale of floral tributes in the UK. They were like nothing he'd ever heard of. Sometimes they spell out names or relationships - MUM, BROTHER, WIFE in chrysanthemums and carnations. They come in all shapes and sizes, and usually commemorate something the deceased enjoyed in life, like liquor or bingo. I like to think that the people who commissioned them have a bit of a sense of whimsy, which I can appreciate. Sometimes, even in the saddest moments it can be good to look at the lighter side.
I've taken a few photos of interesting ones I've seen:
One for the road
What's a four letter word beginning with D?
It's all fun and games til somebody dies
Good hand, shame you folded early.
And then there are the occupational ones... including this one - I presume belonged to a painter:
And in my Flickr account there's even more...
Saturday, March 11, 2006
The piece was commissioned by a mental health charity called Rethink. Rethink says the point is to destigmatise mental illness. An admirable goal, but they've gone about it the wrong way. To me it says, people who suffer from depression need to be constrained, they're dangerous, to themselves and others.
Winston Churchill rather famously suffered from depression, which he called his 'black dog'. Clearly, as one of the greatest political figures of the 20th century, Churchill managed to struggle through his mental illness, however painful that was. That's admirable and inspirational and worthy of being commemorated in art and public memory. But not like this.
The Sun reports that his family are not best pleased. As someone who both admires Churchill and has struggled with depression, I'm not either.
Not only that, but it doesn't even look like him. It does however look like a mad bloke who does need locking up.
Churchill picture from a favorable news article of Norfolk based website.
Tags: churchill, mental illness, depression
Friday, March 10, 2006
In the mean time... I leave you with a picture that I'm particularly pleased with.
Thursday, March 09, 2006
Mr Viking seems to think that it should be part of her right to choose. I disagree. The essence of the choice argument to me is that it's my body, my choice. Those embryos exist outside of her body now and are only half hers - and it seems reasonable that both parties should agree that any implantation go forward. And certainly under the current laws and regulation - which requires consent from both parties at every stage - there is no other ruling that could have been reached.
I feel very sorry for Natalie Evans, she had to have her ovaries removed to prevent cancer and at the time (and perhaps still now) technology for freezing eggs on their own wasn't good. Now these frozen embryos represent her only chance to have her own biological children.
At the time, she was in a relationship and it seemed only natural that she would want the biological children of her partner. Unfortunately the relationship broke down and now Howard Johnston, the ex-boyfriend doesn't want to have a new life created with Ms Evans. It's not ok to say that he should be allowed to terminate his parental rights and she should be able to go ahead. Perhaps he's a sensitive chap and couldn't go on knowing that he had a child and not be involved with the child - not at least wonder how the kid was doing.
The answer, in retrospect, was to fertilise some of her eggs with donated sperm. The answer was also to have better counselling during the fertility treatment - forcing the couple to think ahead about what might happen if the relationship did not persist. This is a sad, sad case and not the only one (there was a similar case in Maryville, TN many years ago with the same results). I can certainly understand her frustration and anguish, but I'm not sure I could support any other outcome.
Wednesday, March 08, 2006
We're also supposed to be blogging against sexism today. Well, I'm agin' it, you bet I am. Mel of Mel's Diner has an interesting post on check-paying and gender stereotyping. We all have our pet peeves, I've been annoyed by the same thing, too, though probably not enough to think of blogging about it. Also, I'm cheap, cheap, cheap - so glad to let whoever I'm eating or drinking with pick up the tab. (It's terrible, I know!)
I'll tell you what really bugs me - the kind of sexism that both men and women display about the opposite gender and each other. It's the thoughtless sentences that begin "All men..." or "All women..." even when they're positive statements. Men are in control of their emotions. Women are in touch with their feelings. Men are excellent parallel parkers. Women are good with people. I'm not a bad parallel parker, and I'm afraid I'm neither in touch with nor in control of my feelings. I'm not that great with people, either. Maybe things would go better if I picked up the check.
Now, blogging under a non-gender specific pseudonym, has given me a very interesting perspective. Most people tend to assume that I'm male - it's happened time and time again when I get linked. The Vol Abroad, he this and that. (Check out the comments section in this TV on the Fritz post) I don't mind in some ways and I don't find it that surprising.
On those brain sex tests I come out thinking "more male" or certainly not stereotypically female. I always knew I thought slightly differently from the other little girls and was sometimes more comfortable in male company. At any rate, I usually don't match up with the "All women..." statements, but sometimes I do. I vacillated between thinking that all the other girls had been oppressed by society and if they were free of these contstrictions that they'd think like me or on the other hand, that I'm a freak. Now I don't worry so much, I am what I am and what I am needs no excuses. (Well except for the part about being cheap)
There's lots more serious, global issue type stuff I could have said about sexism, but I'm sure others say it so much better. Check out Tennessee Guerilla Women, Anglofille, Thoughts of an Average Woman to name a few of the ones I read regularly.
Seeing his name is a bit of a blast from the past. I met him at Governor's School in 1987, where I once played a mean (and stupid) trick on him. We were then at college together, too, but didn't hang out. The last time I saw him, I gave him an earful over a story I disapproved of when he was editor of the UT student newspaper, The Daily Beacon. It was in a bar in Knoxville's Old City, and I'm afraid I was very, very drunk.
The City Paper is growing and changing,” TCP Interim Publisher Jim Ezzell said. “We will continue to make our paper better every day, and Clint is just the person to lead us into the future.”I hate to say it, but when I think of him, I still think of 17-year-old Clint, apoplectic over my prank. It's hard enough to think that I'm supposed to be a responsible adult without imagining old acquaintances having matured, too, and even leading people into the future. Or maybe I should just grow up.
Anyway, congratulations Clint!
Who could have committed such perfidy? There are four suspects.
Other Cat likes the pond and has been seen lurking on the rim. But she's too slow and stupid and her greatest crime is chewing on the leaves of the pond marginals. I feel safe in dismissing her as a suspect.
Other Cat lurking and nibbling mere days before the crime.
Lion Cat, a neighbour kitty, has been seen murderously hunching over the pool and has been implicated in the death of our ghost koi Caspar or Weinberger (they were indistinguishable). Call it intuition, but I don't think it was him this time. This suspect has evaded having his image captured, but my eyewitness description is of a large orange stripey tom. As you can see from the photo fit, he's a bad sort, and has been engaged in a harassment campaign against our two cats, Fancy and Other Cat.
Suspect photofit of Lion Cat
Another possibility is Lion Cat's "brother" and feline co-conspirator in the harassment campaign - Home Invader Kitty. I saw him returning to the scene of the crime this morning. Home Invader Kitty is a thug of the worst sort. He is so aliased because he not infrequently breaks into our home, eats our rather expensive hypo-allergenic cat food and then sprays in the corner of our living room.
Blurry CCTV-like image of Home Invader Kitty
Finally, there is Fancy. She wants those fish, she wants 'em bad. She's not afraid to enter the pond in pursuit and has frequently been seen with four dripping wet legs and leaving her filthy paw prints on our hardwood floor. However, she has lacked finesse, thrashing impatiently in the pond giving the fish ample opportunity to escape. To date, she's managed no more than oxygenating pond weed, which she's scattered across the garden. So have her skills improved to the point where her killer instinct is satisfied by her ability?
Surely this precious creature could not have committed such a crime?
Tips from the public gratefully received through our garden crime email hotline.
UPDATE: Now linked at this weeks Carnival of the Cats so tips should come flooding in.
Tuesday, March 07, 2006
Genderist at Haiku of the Id, posted a special birthday message to VolMom including an amusing anecdote about VolBro.
Today is my mom's birthday. In fact March the 7th is a big birthday day for us. It's VolMom's birthday, two cousins also share this birthday, and it's the birthday of Other Cat. - VolMom predicted the kittens would be born on her birthday and they were. Other Cat is 6 today, my mom is somewhat older.
Happy Birthday, VolMom!
Happy Birthday, Other Cat
The Vol-in-Law has decided to cross the picket line (though only virtually, he's working from home). His university assumed that all the teaching staff would be on strike today, and if he wanted to be paid he had to submit a special form saying he wasn't striking. A special scab form. Nice.
So, after the traditional song Blackleg Miner* and in honor of the Vol-in-Law's courage and indefatigability in bringing learning to the fresh, young minds yearning for knowledge:
It's in the evening after dark
When the blackleg lecturer creeps to work
With his crumpled suit and dirty shirt
There goes the blackleg lecturer
He takes his chalk and down he goes
To shape the minds that lie below
But there's not a student in this town row
Would look at a blackleg lecturer
Oh, University is a terrible place
They rub wet clay in the blackleg's face
Around the classrooms they run a foot race
To catch the blackleg lecturer
Dinna gan near the office mine
Across the way they stretch a line
To catch the throat and break the spine
Of the dirty backleg lecturer
So take your notes and pen as well
And hoy them down the pit of hell
Down ye go and fare ye well
You dirty blackleg lecturer
Join the union while ye may
Don't wait until your dying day
For that may not be far away
You dirty blackleg lecturer
*I've a very nice version of this song by Steeleye Span.
Monday, March 06, 2006
I've been writing, writing, writing for work - which means I have little extra joy in the written word these days. I feel like I'm constantly juggling drafts. One goes out to design and the next comes back with comments. So if the blog seems a little thin these days, without its usual verve, that's why. Plus I think I might be getting carpal tunnel syndrome from all that typing. The top joint of my right index finger is distinctly achy.
I've also discovered today that I miscalculated my annual leave, my vacation days. I have 5 days I need to take between now and the end of March - which is impossible because I have drafts to juggle. And they have to published and paid for by the end of March, too.
Sunday, March 05, 2006
The shredder I got has a finicky appetite. It likes sticks, long straight sticks, not too dry (they break off and sort of "float" in the hopper), and not too wet (it gums up). It doesn't like leaves or any soft, fleshy stems.
Other than bags of leaves and soft, fleshy stems, most of what I had to shred were dry vines from where my neighbour killed the Virginia Creeper and Ivy growing on the shared fence. It was a heck of a job feeding in those curvy, slightly chewy vine segments.
To convince the shredder to eat the vines, sometimes I had to give it a treat of a long straight stick. Though I was a bit of tease. "Here you go shredder, here's a stick - eat it with those vines." And the shredder would start eating the vines "grumm, grumm, grumm, grumm" it would say and bite at the end of the stick. Ha! Fooled ya, I'd yank the stick back out of the hopper. Sometimes though the shredder would get a good bite on the stick - and that would be it, down went the stick. I lost a few bamboo support canes this way.
Friday, March 03, 2006
I couldn't discern any pattern by adding digits together, but it usually got me to sleep eventually.
I should have just Googled it. I was never going to find the division rule of 7 the way I was going. I happened to stumble across it when I was looking for something else.
Here it is:
To find out if a number is divisible by seven, take the last digit, double it,
and subtract it from the rest of the number. Example: If you had 203, you would
double the last digit to get six, and subtract that from 20 to get 14. If you
get an answer divisible by 7 (including zero), then the original number is
divisible by seven. If you don't know the new number's divisibility, you can
apply the rule again.
You can find that rule and a whole lot more at the math forum.
Thursday, March 02, 2006
1. "Reasonably good looking"
All witnesses agree that this is an understatement, and one of them is impartial and knows him well. As a sister it's a tough one to assess your brother's looks. I just wanted any applicants to be pleasantly surprised.
2. "All his teeth are his own."
Ooops. VolBro got in touch yesterday to say "most of my teeth are my own. I had to get one replaced after defending Smokey's* honor in Athens, GA."
So gals, you can see that he has most of his teeth, and that any dental deficiency is not due to poor hygiene but from a deeply held sense of Volunteer pride. Make what you will of that.
* For those who don't know what this means, Smokey is a fine hound and the mascot of the University of Tennessee. One of our keenest rivals in college football is the University of Georgia - who also have dog as a mascot - but he's ugly.
Tags: 26-35, 18-25, Love, Relationships, 46, Marriage, Dating,Knoxville,Tennessee, vols, Tennessee Volunteers
Wednesday, March 01, 2006
When I was home over Christmas, VolMom oft lamented VolBro's single status. She said "I think what he needs is to find a good woman and settle down."
Today is VolBro's birthday, and though he is still a young 28, by Lawrence County standards that's long in the tooth. We hitch young, and many of his Law-Co-Hi classmates will be on their second or third marriage by now.
VolMom's birthday is in less than a week so in a birthday present to them both I have decided to advertise my brother on this blog in search of a "good woman". This is thoughtful on more than one account (well done me!), as the women in our family can be fierce and VolBro has always been a little concerned that we might have friction with a prospective bride. If I select and vet, we should avoid this problem.
- You should ideally be located in the Knoxville area, it's best if you're local to keep an eye on him.
- We're looking for a smart gal, ideally IQ 130 or above - with an emphasis on wit.
- He favors petite brunettes, but that's not a deal breaker.
- You should be skilled and employed.
- You don't have to like SEC football, but if you do, things will go better if you like the Vols. Don't expect to be able to hang your autographed Bear Bryant portrait in the marital home.
- You should be a good Southern cook, but not better than me.
- You should have eclectic musical tastes, including country, bluegrass and Southern rock.
- VolBro will see it as a bonus if you own or have access to a bass boat.
What's on offer:
- VolBro is kind of a diamond in the rough - a good woman could really shape that potential.
- He's reasonably good looking and all his teeth are his own. (Important qualifier here)
- He is funny. He has that classic Tennessee boy dry wit.
- He is smart, intellectually curious and likes to travel.
- He has an even temper and hardly ever raises his voice.
- He's reasonably neat and is a good, but not flash, dresser.
- He has an encyclopaedic knowledge of bourbons.
- He is an excellent card player.
- He makes the best damn BBQ ribs.
- He is frugal with money (OK, he's cheap)
- He's a fun guy to be around.
- Although he's not terribly handy around the house, he has lots of friends who are.
- You'd get me as a sister-in-law.
You can find my email address in the blogger profile, photos of VolBro can be supplied to serious applicants.
Update: There's a testimonial to his looks in the comments. He has dark brown hair and eyes, and isn't untall.
Happy Birthday VolBro!
Tags: 26-35, 18-25, Love, Relationships, 46, Marriage, Dating,