Friday, December 28, 2007

Jab the kids

Y'all remember how Bob Barker used to admonish the viewers to spay and neuter their pets at the close of every Price is Right? Man, I wish somebody would update that message for the noughties.

And remember, please vaccinate your children.

For pete's sake people, pleeeease, vaccinate your children.

I participate in these online forums for babies born in May 07. Yes, my baby wasn't born in May, but he was supposed to have been. Anyway, on both the US and British equivalents, there are a number of parents who have chosen not to vaccinate their children. Generally, the discussion forum etiquette is to not criticize. I skirt the line already and I knew that I couldn't reply and be civil. These are threads I've seen today:

American scenario in which I paraphrase:

I want to give up pumping breast milk. It's a pain. It takes a good part of my day and I only get 8 oz a day for my 7 month old son. But the thing is, I haven't vaccinated my child so my husband is on my case saying that what's a little bit of time when it's our son's health on the line? What should I do (support only please)?

OK, sweetie. I'm a big breastfeeding advocate, and I would gently (hopefully) encourage anyone with a baby under one to stick it out a little longer. But I gotta admit the pumping thing is a pain in the ass and frankly I probably would have given that up ages ago. But kudos to all the pumping moms who are able to do it. And for sure, your hubby probably doesn't understand what it's like to have a machine slurping at your bosom, so I'd discount his opinion slightly.

Yes, I also believe that breastfeeding helps with immunities and it's part of the reason I continue to breastfeed Buddy.

But breastfeeding is not a magic bullet. It does NOT GUARANTEE against your child catching infectious diseases. If it did, do you think infant mortality pre-vaccines and pre-formula when babies breastfed would have been quite so high? If it did, do you think we'd have epidemics and stuff? We'd all be drinking little bottles of breastmilk daily.

If you don't want to pump anymore, fine. But please, vaccinate your child.

British scenario:

I think my 4 year old son has measles, he's been (a run down of measle like symptoms). I asked the doctor what I should do? He said not to worry, but to keep my son away from old people and those who haven't been inoculated. Now my baby has a fever, too.

I feel bad for this woman. I do. I hope it's not measles. I hope it's just a little snuffles that goes away tomorrow. But she'd be a lot more sure it wasn't something serious if she had vaccinated her child.

And you know, I'd be a lot more sure that Buddy wouldn't be exposed to measles before he was old enough to get the shots if she and a lot of other people had vaccinated their children.

The Vol Abroad reviews some stuff

Sometimes I wish I was good at film or book review. Maybe it's years of built up resentment from the school book report, but what I really want to do is say "I read it. I thought it was boring/ok/pretty good/great. I would (not) recommend it." Strike out as appropriate.

We saw Borat. Rubbish. Can't believe I spent money on the DVD. He should be slapped for rudeness. The character on his old show was pretty well conceived - but in the movie it was executed lazily. Only the bear head and the line "We support your war of terror," were any good. And continuity...did anyone notice he went to DC and then to a local tv station in Jackson, Mississippi (without naming it - but they did show the weather chart - and everybody knows that Yazoo City is in Mississippi) and to Virginia and then to Jackson.

He's goin' to Jackson and people gonna stoop and bow.

We saw Magicians. Written by the writers of a British tv series Peep Show - one of those Brit specialties in cringe humor - so funny sometimes I couldn't breathe while watching it - and co-starring Robert Webb and David Mitchell - the stars of same Peep Show - it plays off some of the same riffs. Not quite as uncomfortably funny, it was still pretty good, enjoyable. Watch it.

Last night on broadcast tv, we watched The Queen. It was watchable. Interesting reliving the time after Diana's death. Helen Mirren was soo much better than all the rest of them, why did they get that James Cromwell guy to play Prince Phillip. I normally like him, but he just couldn't wear the part.

I'm reading pretty slowly these days. Buddy has started to take an interest in the things we take an interest in. Like the tv remote control or books. Buddy likes to grab books. Buddy likes to tear pages. Buddy likes to eat books. But I have fairly recently completed Wicked. I thought it was pretty good. If you kinda like the whole Oz thing and maybe have read one or more of the original books and you're over the age of 14 - like a mature 14 - then I would recommend it.

Thursday, December 27, 2007

O'Henry twist

It's not quite The Gift of the Magi - but both of us received DVD sets for Christmas - and last night our DVD player gave up the ghost.


We didn't pay much for our DVD player. We bought the thing at ASDA - a supermarket chain owned by WalMart. We bought it because once during a trip to the dump I found about 30 ring binders full of porn DVDs. Clearly a local production company was having a clear out. Now, I have to say I'm not a big fan of porn or the porn industry but also not being one to sniff at dumpstery-goodness, I thought - this must be a sign. A sign to get a DVD player. Because up until that point the Vol-in-Law was having a one-man boycott on DVD players because of the the artificial segmentation of the global market into DVD regions through a mere twist of code - just to extract the maximum consumer surplus. Code which some poor Swede went to jail for cracking.

But when you've got 2 binders full of dumpster porn (we randomly selected two - it just wouldn't be right to have a whole shelf of the stuff - that would be trashy) you gotta have something to watch it on. So we bought a cheap DVD player and 8 Mile with Eminem which was super discounted.

Thanks goodness Mr Marshall Mathers. It turns out that they weren't porn DVDs at all, but rather CDs storing files of porn movie cover art and promotional materials.

And I really enjoyed watching 8 Mile. And we returned the nasty promotional materials whence they came.

How's that for an O'Henry twist?

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

experimental pork

I don't post about recipes or food very often, but I just had to share this.

Last night, for Christmas Eve dinner, I marinated pork loin in Dale's sauce (smuggled from America)and oven roasted it with acorn squash, a sliced fennel bulb and a sweet red pepper. I also baked a quick cheesy grits loaf (or polenta if you must).

It really didn't take very long to prepare - it does take a while to actually cook. I did pre-cook the acorn squash as it takes a little while to get to the perfect soft/sweet stage.


I just coarsely chopped the veggies, so mine didn't end up that pretty - but this dish could be presented beautifully.

Merry Christmas

P1020263 fix

Merry Christmas!

Saturday, December 22, 2007

Missed chances

Here's the thing about growth spurts. Certain outfits are too big, still too big, too big...oops...too little.

So yesterday, I finally dragged out the real tree baby camo outfit. And dang if it wasn't just a little too small. My mom paid full price for that outfit down in Loretto, so we wedged him into anyway.

P1020241 crop

Before he was born, I had planned on a little photo shoot - putting the baby in his real tree camo in the leaves - captioning it "Where's the baby?" But he mostly sleeps during our walks in the park and I couldn't really justify dragging him out of his cosy warm blanket just for a funny picture. Though I did think about it.

He was wrapped in his new fleecy Vols blanket, before we put it on him I asked the Vol-in-Law if he thought hunter camo goes with Tennessee orange.

"I dunno," he says. "Shall we be the first to try it?"


Soltice sun

Yesterday was the shortest day of the year and also the Vol-in-Law's birthday. As we did last year, we took a walk in the deer park.

soltice sunset

It was very cold and the lake was frozen over

sunset on frozen lake

And the pond was frozen over, too. And we learned that ducks either can't read or just think that it won't happen to them.

So it's one rule for ducks?

Friday, December 21, 2007

Things I'll never do

Did I ever tell you about how I used to sell Christmas trees? I don't think I have. Anyway, I did. When I worked at a garden center in Knoxville we sold Christmas trees, at Christmas obviously. Mostly it was pretty good fun. The smell of the firs and spruces. Using a chainsaw to put a fresh cut on a Christmas tree. Chainsaws are fun.

Mostly it was fun. But sometimes it wasn't. Sometimes people weren't as nice as they could have been. Like the guy who threatened his wife because she ordered a big ass live blue spruce for their entry foyer and he was gonna pop her if it scratched the marble tiles. (It was a questionable choice of tree, but hardly an excuse for domestic violence)

Another time, I saw this mom tell her kid who was - I don't know - seven? - that he could pick out any tree in the lot. He was a thoughtful little guy and he wandered amongst the trees and picked one out. It was a good tree. Even, full, of a harmonious conical shape, nice good limb development for optimal ornament hang-age. Well, I can't remember, but I do remember being pretty impressed with his choice. On the other hand, we didn't have many duff trees.

All the trees were hung up with twine from the marquis frame, so the kid pointed out his tree and Bruce (a co-worker) and I cut down the tree and started to take it over for the fresh cut to the base. Now once we make that fresh cut, you have to buy that tree - that's the rule. But mom comes out and directs dad and kid inside to look at the poinsettias - and tells us that she really wants this other tree instead.

The tree is really no better, really not that much different. But mom's the one with the money, so we do what she wants and we don't say anything.

Bruce and I feel bad about it, so we work quick. Normally the fresh cut and the baling will be more or less a one person job, but we worked together so that we could get that tree baled up and tied onto the roof of their car before the kid comes back out again.

We were just tying the last knots on the luggage rack when the kid comes up to us and says, in a quiet voice. "That's not my tree, is it?" He seemed more resigned than upset. We could have lied - cheerfully. We could have. But something about the way he said it - we just looked at each other and said "No, it's not." And the kid was not surprised, it clearly wasn't the first time something like this had happened.

Anyway, I swore when I had a kid, this would be something I'd never do. If it mattered that much to me, I wouldn't offer a choice. Cause a kid can tell his own tree even baled up and tied to the roof of a car.


Chris is wrestling with the things he said he'd never do as a parent. Like use the tv as a mollifier. I think I said something like that, too. Plus we agreed we'd stop swearing. Well, that hasn't happened. Never say never. But I'm still sticking with my promise not to pull a stunt like the Christmas tree swap.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

The world is just about enough

Now I'm as imperialist as the next gal and I'm not against a little world domination and you know I'm proud as punch to be a citizen of a superpower. We are a lucky few in the grand scheme of history and all that. But even I was a bit surprised by the information flier which accompanied Buddy's new passport.


With Your U.S. Passport, the World is Yours!

Not your key to the world, not the world is your oyster, not you can see the world...but no - the world is yours (exclamation point!), for the American was given dominion over the earth. Note how for once the globe is not centered on the continental United States - see how the non-US territories are ours.

Note also the old style abbreviation and capitalization styles. Interesting. You'd be forgiven for thinking this flier is a relic of our unreconstructed past. But I don't remember getting one of these. And the passport pictured is of the new style - with integral electronics - that's what the little eye-ish symbol means. Well, that or it's the mark of the Illuminati. Hard to tell.

Monday, December 17, 2007

Not dead

We're not dead. We're just resting our eyes.

My mom has been visiting and we've been out and about seeing the sites and sounds and smells of London and environs. City sidewalks, busy sidewalks dressed in holiday style.

I'm pretty tired, 'cause what with my entertaining duties and all I'm not managing to get my 20 minutes of snooze during the Rockford Files. (It also works with other old crime solving series) It's my sleuth sleep. I need it. Buddy is still waking in the night to eat. We're almost to the point of serving him three meals a day - so maybe when that happens he'll start sleeping through again.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Not something you'd expect from the Welsh

An Irishman, a Scot, an Englishman and a Welshman all walk into a bar. No, that can't be right, at least three of them must have been smart enough to duck.

Seriously though, of those four - which is the least bright? Did you say the Irish fellow? Shame on you. You're not allowed to say that anymore. It's racist. The Irish have their own box now to tick on forms. You can't have said Scottish or English because they have different cultural stereotypes. So it must have been the Welsh guy. He must be the stupid one.

The thick Welshman was a new stereotype for me when I came over here. I had no idea. But it's pervasive. I once had a long, long conversation in the first class smoking carriage of a train to York with a Welsh fellow. We traded secrets about how we'd played on our regional accents (I can still sound Southern if I want to) acted dumb and gotten away with - if not murder - then free bus fares and out of traffic tickets and used it to gain advantage in sales. How we laughed. How we garnered the sulking, resentful looks of the English on the train. Surely, they didn't think the Welsh really were that stupid, surely they must have had some suspicions all along?

In an age of offense, there do still remain some groups it's ok to pick at. Groups which it's still OK to make fun of - like Redneck Southerners or Welshmen from the Valleys. Hey, it's all for a laugh right?

Apparently so. The Adverstising Standards Agency has rejected a series of complaints about an ad which cast less than flattering light upon the Welsh intellect:

The advertising watchdog has rejected 21 complaints about a commercial which featured a Welsh team in a quiz show. Complainants said the advert for Welsh firm Brecon Five's vodka presented Welsh people as of low intelligence.

It showed a woman called Jones getting a question about a philosopher right, before a voiceover that said: "That's not what you'd expect from Wales".

Hardy, har, har.

The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) ruled it was light-hearted and unlikely to cause widespread offence.

Well, it's not likely to cause widespread offense outside Wales, I guess. I mean, I admit - I'm not offended and my mother's maiden name is Welsh and all.


And in other news from Wales, this story also struck me funny.

Warren Gatland [the new Welsh rugby coach] has dismissed the notion that there is a widespread drinking culture in Welsh rugby.

Mwwwa, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha. ROFL, LMAO

That's not what I'd expect from Wales. Or rugby players.

Monday, December 10, 2007

To boldly go

Regular readers may remember that I collect floral tributes. The curious custom of laying shaped and decorated wreaths on graves and at the crematorium. Since we go walking in the graveyard on a regular basis to cool fractious tempers (Buddy's and mine), I've been able to capture even more.

Mostly floral tributes are just flowers, a wreath, maybe a heart shaped wreath. But sometimes they're little works of art that capture something about the personality of the dearly departed.

Like this:

To boldy go where no one has ever returned from

I can certainly say I've never seen a Star Trek floral tribute so I was quite excited. I told the Vol-in-Law about it and the Superman one I'd seen the same day.

ViL: On the same grave, I suppose?
ME: Oh, yes. You don't see many like that.
ViL: I guess geeks don't die very often.
ME: Or maybe they usually don't have enough friends to actually bring floral tributes.

Sunday, December 09, 2007

Busy mom's poinsettia

A couple of years ago Busy Mom blogged about a weird light up poinsettia Christmas decoration that she'd somehow inherited. As usual, it was a funny post. Ha, ha. All the comments were like "Poor Busy Mom, but you should see the weird decorations I/ my in-laws have" But me - I was like, "Man, I want a light up poinsettia."

Oddly, I think about that thing, every now and again. But I try not to comment on it more than once a year. I don't want her to think I'm internet stalking her Christmas decorations or anything.

So when Busy Mom opened a contest to win an MP3 player of a well-known brand and all you had to do was name the craziest thing you'd ever bought online - I thought, well, if she'd sell that poinsettia to me - that would be the craziest thing I'd ever bought online.

But honestly, I couldn't think of anything really crazy that I'd ever bought online. I did shop for door knockers on e-bay. I wanted something kind of different, kind of unique and I got some kind of weird lion manimal thing that reminded me of that mutant lion-guy show that used to be on tv in the 80s. (What was that show?) And I do do a lot of shopping online - but mostly for things like cereal or diapers - as we have our groceries delivered.

But then I did remember something I had bought online. Something that might fall more into the stupid than the crazy category. This was my contest entry:

I bought a house for frogs. We found a bunch of tadpoles near my in-laws house in Scotland and my husband carried them down to London on the plane. We dug out a pond for them in our garden - but they needed some place to live after they got legs, right?

So, I bought a frog house online. It was really cute, with a thatched roof and everything. It wasn't forty dollars cute though. (I'm an idiot). And the frogs? After the first storm they hopped away and we never saw them again.

My cats enjoyed sitting on the forty dollar frog house for a while and sharpened their claws on the thatched roof. And now, it's forty dollar mulch.

Yeah, of course when I bought the frog house the dollar hadn't slid into the latrine storage area so it wasn't actually a forty dollar frog house - but it was still stupid enough. I mean any money spent on a house for frogs is stupid money. After all, how would they know the house was for them? I should have bought the $5 sign that said "Frog house".

You can see a corner of the thatched roof here in the lower left hand corner of this picture.

Christmas gnome in its new home

And I do know what some of you must be thinking - Did she buy that paint-it-yourself gnome online? If so, why is she going on about the frog house being the craziest thing ever?

Well, I didn't buy the paint-it-yourself gnome - online or anywhere else. My mom did, online. That's what we got for Christmas last year. The now inhabit a very, very dark corner of the garden. Next to the frog house.

Anyway, you can add your own entry up til tomorrow over here.

Thursday, December 06, 2007

He's an American boy

Today we finally got to the US Embassy to register the birth of an American child. Our child, Buddy. After the calamity of trying to find our marriage papers which we needed (apparently) and requesting a last minute copy of my high school transcripts to prove I'd been in the US for a period of time, we were pretty convinced that we'd be missing something essential. Or that somehow the US Embassy records would be linked the University of Tennessee's traffic citation section and that Buddy couldn't get his passport until I'd paid off my brother's campus parking tickets. And that was before we left the house.

We were only a little bit late leaving the house, but we didn't reckon on the fact that we'd have to queue up in the rain (stupid really) or that all the sidewalks and the road in front of the embassy were completely torn up as part of a "beautification" effort. The US Embassy is one of if not the ugliest buildings in that area of London, and it takes more than a new forecourt and little bit of window cleaning to beautify that thing. If I weren't afraid that it might be construed as a terrorist threat, I'd say that only a stick of dynamite could beautify that building. But anyway, why lie? They're not beautifying - they're bolstering the security cordon, which does need doing.

Another couple nipped ahead of us in the queue, so we were a couple of minutes late for our appointment, otherwise we'd have been there on the stroke of eleven.

Now, when I say appointment, I assume that means we'll meet up at the appointed time (or slightly later since I'm punctuality challenged) and we'll discuss stuff and then we'll part having accomplished something.

When the Federal Gummint says appointment, they mean that's the earliest that you should show up to wait in their well appointed waiting room.

I digress:
A few words on the waiting room. It's oddly transatlantic. The snack machine is stocked with oreos and Hershey bars and pretzels and Reese's Cups (American snacks not usually found in British vending machines and Scottish shortbread and flapjacks (oaty bars).

The signs say "Please place your rubbish in the bins" and "Please place your trash in the bin".

There were a few toys in the corner and posters suggesting that we register to vote and a lot of families with small babies who looked they'd already been waiting a very long time. A very, very long time. And if I thought that long waits for officialdom were bad when I had sudoku and a novel to keep me occupied - well, with a little baby they're that much worse.

We also waited a long time and I had rehearsed my explanation of why I didn't have the exact dates of my various entries and exits from the US. Like my one evening trip over the border to Ciudad Juarez. I can't recall the exact date, but the buckets of Corona were mas barato.

Anyway, I don't know exactly what checks they do - but they didn't want my high school transcripts (though it was interesting to see how my memories of high school matched up with my permanent record) Nor did they want the sordid tale of the one night in Mexico and the buckets of Corona and goodness knows what else. But they took the papers away and deemed that I qualified as sufficiently American to pass my rights along to Buddy. We swore or affirmed some stuff and paid a lot of money - almost $200 for the paperwork including first passport and £15 for the new passport and social security card to be sent to Master Buddy Vol-in-Law. And then they told us that Buddy was indeed American - and with this finding he had, in fact, been American all along.

We were warned - strongly - by the Consular official not to lose this very important piece of paper. And we tried, very hard, to give him a look like "Who us? Do we look like the kind of people who would lose such a thing?"

And one day, son you could be President

Or maybe not. I had heard that if you got this retroactive citizenship certificate, that meant that your child wouldn't be denied the opportunity to sit behind the desk at the Oval Office just because that American was foolish enough to be born on foreign soil. On our explanatory paperwork that accompanies the certificate of a Consular Report of a Birth Abroad that proves that Buddy was always American is this nifty little paragraph:

Running for President or for Congress
Legal scholars disagree whether someone born overseas to a US parent or parents is considered a "natural born Citizen" one of the Constitutional requirements to become President of the United States. The courts have never made any definitive ruling on this section of the Constitution. One US Senator introduced a bill in October 2004, however, to clarify what this term actually means. If this bill becomes law, your child would definitively be considered a "natural born Citizen" of the US and therefore could run for the White House. At ay rate, as an American citizen your child can indeed run for Congress, even though born overseas,....

and then the kicker

...but he/she would still have to meet the Constitutional residency and age requirements to run for the House or Senate.

So no matter how well your little tot can press the flesh and work the room and raise money and no matter how bright you think their political future ought to be they still have to wait til they're way past kindergarten.

But I guess the point is, it's never actually been tested by the courts. Anyway, I wouldn't want Buddy to be President. I wouldn't want those pesky reporters looking into Mommy's colorful past. And besides, who would want to vote for a guy who said:

My fellow Americans, I end tonight where it all began for me- I still believe in a place called Tooting.

first passport pics
Buddy's first passport pictures

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

It's political correctness gone mad, I tell you

Check this out. A man from Northern Ireland has been sentenced to 10 weeks in jail (suspended) for calling a Welsh woman English.

Apparently, being called English is a racial slur. Can I demand prosecution of the judges or magistrates who've handed down this silly sentence for declaring that being called English is offensive? They've offended me and my English son.


Actually, I'm not that bothered about the English bit. What really bothers me:

The former lorry driver[Michael Forsythe], who is originally from Northern Ireland, but lives in Powys, Mid Wales, called Lorna Steele an "English bitch" during an argument after he collided with her parked vehicle in the Welsh market town of Newport in February.

Why is it OK for a probably big and burly trucker to hit a woman's car and then call her a bitch. I'll admit that "English" wasn't the right label for the Welsh woman, but it's hardly the end of the world. I'll even grant that out of the mouth of someone from Northern Ireland, English does carry a bitter weight (whether they be Protestant or Catholic). But the hurtful, hateful part is indisputably calling that woman a bitch.

I can't tell you how many times I've been called Canadian*, and I'm tough enough to take it. I've been called Yank**, too - and while I do find that offensive, I haven't called the cops yet. But I'd be worried if someone hit my car and called me a bitch. To use that word is aggressive and offensive in anyone's book. It's usually meant to offend and when used by big, strange men it's usually meant to physically intimidate, too.

I've noticed this before. Why is it OK to be misogynistic - but even the slightest, tiniest touch of "racism" is deemed worthy of 10 weeks in the poky? I'm not calling for the use of gender-based slurs to go on the books as a crime (we've got more than enough "hate" legislation as it is). But I bet his use of the b-word went without comment.

I'm not defending Forsythe's behavior. Far from it. He sounds like a nasty man. But I'm inclined to agree with him here:

Forsythe has attacked the prosecution as a waste of time and money, according to the Daily Mail newspaper.

"I find it unbelievable that I've been prosecuted for this," he said. "I've travelled all over Europe as a lorry driver and never had any problems with anybody and now they're officially calling me a racist.

"It's political correctness gone mad."

* The Canadians, rather churlishly, do seem to take offense at being called American, so a lot of Brits use Canadian first since we Americans don't seem to mind.

** As a Southerner, I really don't like being called a Yank. But I usually just try to explain to the offender what they've done.

Monday, December 03, 2007

Buddy's half birthday

Cletus is six months old today. And now that he's reached his half birthday he's hardly Cletus the Fetus anymore. So from now on, he has a new blog name: Buddy. Sure, it's still a pseudonym. Sure, it's still a little redneck. But we do actually call him Buddy - some of the time anyway. And I don't reckon he'll sue me for the cost of therapy if he reads his blog name was Buddy.

Anyway, I'm very proud of myself for having made it this far. After all, I've had pets that haven't made it this far. Mammal pets, I'm ashamed to say. And pets aren't nearly as much trouble as babies.

Still, I know that getting this far isn't actually the universally recognized benchmark of success. And I also know we haven't done everything right - for example, it's 10pm and Buddy is watching a Canadian crime drama. That's not right on so many levels, but it's keeping him quiet.

I'm six months old today

Sunday, December 02, 2007

They didn't fancy our chances

Buddy and Smokey don't think much of our chances

This was taken before the SEC Championship game yesterday. Clearly Buddy and Smokey don't think much of our chances. And boy, were they right - but not by much. The Vols did pretty good for themselves. I'm down, but not cussin'. Heck, considering the way things started out - I think the season ended pretty well.

And you know what was the best thing? I actually got to watch the game - via pay per view at College Sports TV. The website's a little clunky and streaming video is never crystal clear nor very big - but I was actually watching live. Awesome.

Saturday, December 01, 2007

T is for Toothbrush, T is for Tennessee

I'd rather drink muddy water, sleep in a hollow log
Drink muddy water, sleep in a hollow log
Than be down in Atlanta, treated like a dirty dog
- Jimmie Rogers

Nope. I don't care if we are treated like dirty dogs. The point is Tennessee is playing in Atlanta for the SEC Championship. Y'all might not like the way we got there, y'all might think your team should be there, y'all might not have liked the bumpy, hard, hole pocked road to Atlanta - but we made it.

Holy Cow - who'd a thunk it after those losses to Cal and Florida and that humiliating stumble down in Tuscaloosa? Goodness, come again, who'd a thunk it after those nail biting, nauseating overtimes and missed field goal triumphs against ...cough...Vanderbilt?

And if Smokey can sneak away the bone of the SEC Championship, y'all can call him a dirty dog, y'all can say we're undeserving. That'll be just fine.

IMG_0126-1This toothbrush has been on reserve for a few years. It's still in its original packaging and it sits on top of our bathroom cabinet, visible but out of reach. The Vol-in-Law occasionally asks me if it's time to open up that toothbrush. Nope, I say, not yet. Not yet. We've got to wait until the right moment.

The right moment is almost here.

He asked me this week if the Vols win in Atlanta if we can open the toothbrush. Yes, I said. If Tennessee wins, I can open the toothbrush.

Brush-a, brush-a


OK, I just want you to know, before anyone starts with any toothless hillbilly slurs that I've been using other toothbrushes. Orange, yes, but not any special Tennessee Vols toothbrush.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Welcome to the lame family

Today my husband said "Buddy*, I'm sorry we've brought you into such a lame family."

And what prompted such an apology? Well, we've spent the whole day - both of us - looking for a very important piece of paper. Which we did not find.

What we did find:

  • 8 year old adoption papers for our dead cat, which list her as male proving those surprise kittens really weren't our fault
  • 3 year adoption papers for our live cat
  • the first ultrasounds of our baby which we lost before we could show anyone
  • the plans to our dream home, which is a little less dreamy than the last time I saw it
  • the lyrics to Rocky Top and Family Tradition and You Never Even Called Me by My Name that I handed out like hymn sheets at party I once threw.
  • receipts from every time we've ordered pizza (wtf?)
  • Instructions for our long dead, long-gone washer dryer
  • Countless warranty registration certificates - partially completed
  • a freedom of Budapest card
  • a photocopy of a friend's passport that he entrusted to us for safekeeping

Click thru for an even bigger picture of our ex-dream home


*Yep, we often call him Buddy. Tis but one little redneck step up from Cletus, I guess.

UPDATE: we found it - it was our marriage certificate! I'm not pointing fingers, but I found it in area that someone else said he'd gone through with a fine toothed comb

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Chunky monkey

My baby is not a chunky guy. He's just not. My dad was visiting recently and downloaded some photos he'd taken when Cletus was about six weeks old. He looks like a little skeleton baby. He looks almost like one of those little African starving babies. At least that's what he looks like to me now. Anyway, he wasn't a chubby little roly poly baby.


When he was about three months old, I took him to the garden show and some older woman asked me how old he was and I said and she said that was about the same age as her grandson. But her grandson was so much bigger. She asked me how much my baby weighed. I told her (I think it was about 12 pounds). She looked shocked. I said "Yeah, he's little." He was about the 9th percentile for weight at that point - meaning about 90% of babies his age weighed more than he did. And then she said her grandson was 16 pounds. Her grandson was just growing and thriving. He was just coming on leaps and bounds.

Shut the fuck up, I wanted to say. I wanted to say "Hey, you know I'm sure you're thrilled with your grandson's growth. And while on the one hand I don't actively want him to shrivel up and fade away on the other hand I don't know you and I don't really care and I don't know why you think I would care. I don't begrudge you your little chunky monkey, but just so you know I'm actually very worried about my son's growth. I don't know why you'd want to rub in the fact that your grandson seems to be doing better than my boy when you could equally well take private pleasure in it or share it with the parents of your grandson later. But I don't really need you exacerbating my anxiety so you can get off in some kind of weird way. You old freak."

She probably didn't mean anything by it. But her co-grandma, who was standing next to her, looked a little uncomfortable, too. So I know it wasn't just me.

Anyway, it all worked out. Here's Cletus looking like a lumberjack and he's ok.

he's a lumberjack and he's ok Have yourself a scary little Christmas

And there he is as an elf.

He's so OK, in fact, he's up to just over 17 lbs and according to CDC weight charts he's on the 50th centile. He's Mr Median. (According to English charts based on formula fed babies he's just above the 40th centile).

weightchart with orange


A blogger with a new baby is having trouble*. She's finding life with a newborn difficult. Really, it's probably all OK or will be OK, but it's really, really hard. And I think she probably feels like if she complains it will seem like she's not grateful for her much wanted baby.

I tell you what, I wonder if I'm guilty of "My baby is easy. I breezed through the newborn thing. He's a walk in the park. I'm a kick-ass breast feeder. My baby can already drive and I would let him start University next fall, but well...I'm needy." A little bit like that crazy grandma and her fat lump of a grandson.

Anyway, if I have been - I'm sorry. I'm just trying to accentuate the positive. The newborn thing sucked. It was awful. In the early days, I had to remind myself that if I didn't take adequate care of him the law would come after me. I had to tell myself "Fake it til you make it," because I really didn't feel especially bonded with him. Not like all those other women on-line "It was love at first sight..." blah, blah, blah. I couldn't imagine my life without him. Well, I could and often did. I kept thinking about how I heard that Bulgarian babies were bringing about 50,000 Euros and so how much more would my baby be worth on the black market? (To a good home only - and yes, I know it's ethnocentric to rate my baby higher, but it was my fantasy)

Breastfeeding actually wasn't that bad for me, but there was an awful lot of doubt about whether he was getting enough nutrition. And there were many times that I was just plain tired of it and felt like it was sucking the life out of me.

Cletus screamed and screamed. At one point, I thought we'd never be able to eat a meal in peace again. He still can't stand to be put down much. He's now old enough to go into a door jumper and a baby activity center - but he doesn't like them if you're not actually looking at him. And heaven forbid you should do something like blog.

He does cry a lot less, but that's because we're better trained to attend his needs as quickly as possible.

Actually, now that we're approaching six months, it's a lot better. He's a lot cuter. He's more interactive. We can kind of share experiences. Really. Like when I help him pet a cat (his fave thing). It's still hard, but the rewards are greater. I guess this parenting thing is always hard, but as you go on it's hard in a different way.

I don't know if this makes you feel any better mystery blogger. Probably not. But I just want you to know you're not alone.

*I'd link to this blogger, but I don't think she'd want me to. I will if she lets me know.

baby food

Pureed lentils come out about the same way they went in.

Monday, November 26, 2007

Missed it

What a monumental close one. On Saturday, the Volunteers beat Kentucky by whisper after slogging through four overtimes. What a season. Now Tennessee is playing for the SEC championship.

Of course, I missed it. My dad was visiting and even though he's an alum, he's not a football fan. Not in the slightest. And he told me that he was a jinx for Tennessee. If he listened or watched the game, that was it, the Vols would lose.

So, I put chose not to listen live, but hear it in the morning. I don't know what went wrong, but I couldn't load the game. I tried for quite some time before I gave in and watched the video highlights where they freaking gave away the outcome of the game in the first 2 seconds.

Go Vols

Sunday, November 25, 2007

At that point in time

Did y'all know Fred Thompson wrote a book about Watergate? Well, he did. At That Point in Time It's not in print anymore, but I got my grubby little paws on a grubby little copy this weekend.


At that point in time

And yes, it's a little rough around the edges, but the darn thing is 32 years old. (Younger than I am, though.) My dad brought it over. It had been languishing on his bookshelves for years, apparently.

It's a signed copy, to my grandfather. He apparently thought so much of it, he passed it on to his son-in-law within a month. I guess he was a pretty fast reader.

pass it on

My dad thought I'd get a kick out of it. And I have. But I've gotten an even bigger kick out of the fact that an autographed copy is selling for almost $750 - and that's without the dust jacket.

Clip clipped

My dad doesn't want me to sell it, but it's sooo tempting when I know the book will return to its normal low,low value after Fred's campaign crashes and burns.

I know what my granddad would do. Oh yes, he'd sell. This was a man who sold junk antiques into his dying week and had a price tag on the walker he used to get around the shop. (For $5 more than my mom and my aunt paid for it)

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Happy Thanksgiving

Happy Thanksgiving to all my American readers, wherever you are. We're fixing up a turkey day repast. Things are simmering as I type. My dad is here and I reckon we'll have a wonderful meal in about 90 minutes. Giving myself the excuse of the baby, I bought prepared mash and an "easy cook" turkey joint and gravy in a carton. The cornbread dressing, pumpkin pie and cranberry sauce are all made from scratch.

By the way, if you've never made cranberry sauce from scratch it couldn't be easier or more delicious. Just plunk the berries and some water and some sugar adjudged to your taste* in a pot and simmer until all the berries have popped plus a couple minutes little longer. You don't even have to stir it more than once or twice. Let cool and serve.

Thanks again to Newscoma and Genderist for the dressing recipe. (In the comments of this post).

*Quite a lot of sugar is required even to get a tart sauce

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

All on the line

I'm kind of an intermittent football fan - and by football I mean soccer. I absolutely love the international tournaments - the World Cup and the European tournament and I support England all the way. But I have to admit, I don't usually watch the qualifying matches and friendlies.

I'll be watching tonight, though. Tonight it's all on the line. If England don't at least tie with Croatia, they won't be going to Euro 2008. And this is a serious second chance. If Israel hadn't beaten Russia recently, this game would be a mere formality.

Tonight they play at home in Wembley Stadium - the sight of great England football victories of the past. But tonight it could be a den of shame, particularly for Steve McClaren the England football manager. He took over from Sven-Goran Eriksson after the last World Cup. Folks criticised Eriksson because they saw him as conservative and lacking flair and because England never went all the way. Others thought he was too in train to personalities (e.g. Beckham, particularly during his lackluster days during Euro 2004) and too obsessed with celebrity life .

But if the Football Association wanted a different style and a different approach why go with McClaren? He was Sven's assistant and a bit of Sven-lite.

I hope England pull it out tonight. I'll be watching. But win or lose, I think McClaren's days are numbered. That it should even be a strong possibility that England fails to qualify for an international tournament should be putting him on seriously shaky ground.

Eight random facts about me

This is a curious meme. I know that there are blogs which are focused, on topic and on target. But this ain't one of them. This whole blog is a collection of random facts, mostly about me. (Or at least my take on them.)

I was tagged by Katie Allison Granju. One of her random facts is also true for me. She hates mayonnaise. Blecchhh. I think it's disgusting. Get it away from me. I could say that was my random fact, too - but here's a slightly different one to start off with:

1. Off and on I keep a small jar of Hellman's Mayonnaise at the back of my cupboard. It remains unopened until I have some mayo fiend guest demanding their stuff for a sandwich. The last couple of jars expired and got chucked out before ever having been used. Best way to do mayo, in my opinion. There's not a jar there right now, but I might get one before my mom comes to visit.

2. Although most of my life has been spent in the great state of Tennessee, the greenest state in the land of the free, I've lived longer in my current London house than any other place I've ever lived in. After that, a house in Knoxville. After that, my grandfather's house in Lawrenceburg.

3. The job I've held the longest was at a garden center in Knoxville. Oakes Nursery. I think it's shut down now. I didn't hold the post continuously though - as the work was seasonal. I really enjoyed it and learned a lot about plants and people. Everyone should work retail (or wait tables) for at least three months.

4. Shortly after I started blogging, I saw an online discussion about me - and who I was. This blogger said something like "For all, I know we could be cousins". And it turns out that we are, distant, but still. Heck, we've probably been at the same family reunion (at the picnic shelter at David Crockett State Park). I was the surly teen trying to figure out a way to sneak off for a cigarette. Well, given our genetic disposition - that's probably not much of a clue.

5. I have SunDrop in my house right now. It's liquid gold. I only refrigerate one can at a time so I don't go through it too quick. My husband put an empty can in our transparent recycling bag, and I grant is a perfectly normal thing to do. But I had this paranoid fear that some SunDrop addict would walk by our house, see it and then break into our house to steal my stash. That's the grip SunDrop has on you.

6. I use commas and dashes, way too much. Regular readers will know this. I'm aware of the problem - but I just can't stop. Every time I stop typing, I add a comma or dash. I paused, I want you to pause. Just think of it like a blog conversation, and I sigh and take deep breaths a lot. Don't think that's your opportunity to start talking though. No. Just leave something in the comment section when I'm done.

7. I can play the fiddle, but I haven't for five years. And I want to start back, but I'm finding it hard to pick up the bow again.

8. I can't stand for the sappy works of Celine Dion to played in the house while I'm in it. (This random fact prompted by someone forgetting that very important rule.)

OK, so with memery - the idea is to pass it on. I'd like to see some random facts from Rachel at Women's Health News, the eight random facts could be about women's health. I'm going to randomly pick the rest of my tag-ees from my blog roll once removed (somebody whose on the list of somebody on my list who isn't on my list.)

From Mel's Diner I choose Dixie Peach and wouldn't you know, her most recent entry is about mayonnaise.
from Ginger Snaps I choose My Quiet Life (actually I'm not sure why he's not on my blog roll, he's in my Flickr contacts, which is a great pleasure)
from Haiku of the Id I choose Change over the waters
from Jen's Den of Iniquity I choose Noble Savage (another one I don't know why isn't on my list)

OK, that should be enough to be getting on with

Monday, November 19, 2007

Coals to Newcastle

Apparently there's a writer's strike in America. The only way I can tell, is that we no longer get our daily dose of the Daily Show. It will be months before it bites here, since series are lagged by quite a bit.

Unlike the last writer's strike, we now have a host of reality tv formats to fill the viewing hours. NewsComa has some great ideas for more.

And I have another idea.

Since America has given the British many, many, many hours of American talk shows (Jerry, Maury, Ricki, Phil, Montel, Sally and Oprah are on each day) - I think it's only fair that y'all should get to watch back-to-back reruns of Trisha and the Jeremy Kyle show. It ought to strip the anglophiles among you of any notion of British culture and aplomb.

We all have our diversions

We all have our diversions

That's Cletus playing with his toy, while I watch some trashy daytime tv. Jeremy Kyle, who some say is the British equivalent of Jerry Springer. I say he has the tiniest touch more class. Every day is a DNA test special.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

TCP movie review

Pretty much why I won't be seeing the new Beowulf movie. I think Aunt B has covered nearly all the points.

  • Judging by the trailers it just looks creepy, but I grant that's a matter of personal taste.
  • This is really the first literary work of a fabulous English language literary tradition. Why do you want to go messing it up?

I always thought Beowulf, or maybe some combination of that and John Gardner's Grendel, would make a great film. But I wanted something that would help kids cheat through 12th grade English, not something that would give kids a completely distorted view.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Very dull, don't bother

I have a funny little thing in my Flickr account. It's a widget that generates a set of my least interesting photos. Why bother? Well, I thought it would be interesting to see what Flickr's algorithm decided were my most dull photos*.

2005-10-02 003
This picture was taken on a bike ride in the New Forest. I agree that the photo is dull and a little washed out.

Rotation of 2006-04-19 002
This was some kind of miracle foot cream that I bought in Florence, Italy. It cost a fortune in a chi chi pharmacy. But it turned my cracked, dry and painful tourist feet into something almost normal within 36 hours. It's probably made of Chinese dissident belly fat.

corn bread for dressing
Last year's cornbread for Thanksgiving cornbread dressing.

Copy (2) of Picture 191
Houston Alred and Miss Alexis on New Year's Eve at a tiny wee bar in San Francisco. Celebrations with my friends Q-Vol and Vol K. Apparently Miss Alexis was later fired for reasons unknown. How could that be uninteresting?

2005-08-27 walk 130
A local burger bar where terror arrests were made in the weeks following 7/7.

If you'da seen how high my husband jumped when we saw this snake, you wouldn't think it was so uninteresting.

Power T Lawn
My fantasy faux lawn.

Picture 140
My friend Q Vol and I wandered around this essentially deserted play area on a wet December day in Oakland, California.

Condiments in my local caf

OK, maybe they're not exactly prize winning shots, but they represent some interesting moments in my life.

* The set is automatically generated, so you may get a different batch of dull shots.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Low-grade phobias and serial killers

I'm afraid of heights and that's pretty normal, though I wish I weren't. But I also have some weird low-grade phobias. By low-grade I mean I'm very afraid of it, irrationally so. But I also understand that the likelihood of encountering my trigger is pretty low - so it doesn't exactly rule my every day life.

I did have a low-grade phobia of being sued. And I was sued. And it was pretty awful.

Currently, there's a story in the UK press which has aroused my sense of fear relating to another low-grade phobia I have.

Here's how the scenario plays out.

There's a knock on the door. It's the police. It's probably a plainclothes officer. He has a warrant. But it's not because of anything I did. It's because some psychopathic nutcase who used to live in my house is suspected of hiding human remains on what's now my property. And now the police want to dig up my garden. My beautiful garden, with its perennials and shrubs and layers of bulbs and small but perfectly formed magnolia.

You know you can't refuse, because the police have a warrant or will get a warrant. And you also know that no matter how careful they are, all your horticultural effort will be gone in a couple of days.

So what brings this up? Police are currently digging up the garden of someone in Kent, because Peter Tobin used to live there. Human remains have been found, but not the ones they were looking for.


Peter Tobin was convicted for the slaying of a young Polish woman, Angelika Kluk. Her body was found in a church and I remember the story because during the investigation it was revealed that she had had an affair with the priest. Although it had broken off, and he was entirely innocent of her slaying.

I don't think any of the former owners or occupiers of our home were sex killers, but you never know. I know a lot of them were odd, because of their post that we're still receiving. Psychics and scientology mainly.


There may be some illegal remains in our garden though. Our cat is buried there, and I think, technically, we're not supposed to dispose of animal remains that way. But we were careful, we buried her deep.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

feet first


Not much to say today.

I took off to do some shopping in Wimbledon. I'm not much of a shopper, but I can poke around the shops and come back by bus without being gone too long. I bought myself some Sharpies, which I'm very excited about. They've only recently become available in this country.

In the past, when I've left Cletus along with the Vol-in-Law he's been, uncharacteristically, good. But today he let his true colors shine through. Much screaming. Demanding to be taken out. My husband said he couldn't get anything done with the baby screaming like that.

Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha.

Monday, November 12, 2007

The key to the garden of stone

Yesterday we took Cletus to the re-dedication of a WWII civilian war memorial. Although Remembrance Sunday is about fallen soldiers, it was good to remember the loss of life locally during the war. From the collection of names on the memorial, some must have been sleeping in their beds or gathered round the dinner table or sheltered together in the space under the stairs when the bombs fell.

This was how they were remembered:

slipping away

with plastic lettering slipping away.

But the memorial has been redone, with nice bronze plaques and raised lettering and new paving leading up to the memorial. And indeed it looks lovely. So yesterday, the rededication was held and they released doves and everything. We really, really meant to be on time. But we weren't. You see, the memorial is at one end of the cemetery and although we come from that direction we have to walk down to the middle of this very long graveyard to get to the entrance and then walk all the way back. It's probably about 2/3ds of a mile and to be honest, we really just didn't allow enough time. We're still not factoring in how much time it takes to get a baby ready.

baby and Lambeth civilian war memorial
Baby and war memorial

So by the time we got there the doves were gone and the folks were breaking up. But we did get invited to tea and we were given the combination to the nearest gate. Obviously we can't abuse that, but it saves us a quite a long walk along the busy road.

And I used the combination today to slip easily into the graveyard and funnily enough, the doves were back, just milling around, waiting. Two lovely white peaceful doves.

Last week, I also made my usual trip to the Garden of Remembrance at Westminster Abbey. I noticed that the wreath to Arkansas soldiers wasn't there, I wondered if the old man who always brought a wreath for the Razorbacks who had treated him so well as a boy during the war was gone or if he just hadn't made the trip yet. I also noticed the crosses from the DoD (I guess) were the same ones from last year.

Field of Remembrance, Westminster
It's now US dead 3860, UK 171 and Other 133

Here's what I said about Remembrance Sunday last year and here's what Kathy has written this year helping us to remember the living and the dead.

If they freed me from this prison

I love cable. I'm watching Johnny Cash singing from the Tennessee State Prison 30 years ago. He's doing a train song medley. Everybody's hair looks horribly dated except, oddly enough, for the styles of about 90% of the prisoners.

It wasn't just Johnny playing. but also Linda Ronstadt and Roy Clark and a comedian called Foster Brooks. Anybody remember Foster Brooks? I don't. Is that what passed for funny back in the 70s?

Do folks play prisons anymore? Do prisoners have cable now and watch Johnny playing to inmates of three decades ago? (I guess some of those guys are still in prison.)

Wasn't there a song about a guy who wanted to see Johnny Cash and he got into all kinds of scrapes and so forth and ended up in prison where he got to see Cash. Heh.

Sunday, November 11, 2007


Today we were stuck in a traffic jam. Not really a surprise in a city of over 7 million people with a road system designed in the day of the horse and cart.

But the cause of the jam was a back up of demolition derby cars on their carriers trying to enter demolition derby arena.

I didn't leave Lawrenceburg, Tennessee and travel across a mighty ocean to live in one the most cosmpolitan (and expensive) cities in the world to be stuck behind a beat up, windowless car with a name like the Spud-a-nator.

Just sayin'.

Friday, November 09, 2007

with Friends like these

Hizb ut-Tahrir (HT) is what I would describe as a radical Islamist group. To put this in perspective a fundamentalist Muslim I know thought they were a dangerous cult. This group is proscribed in a number of European countries, but not the UK.

I would guess that many of the members of HT in the UK are of a Pakistani origin. I don't know what the ethnic breakdown is, but I'd guess there are enough that they feel they it's legitimate for them to turn their organisational attention to the situation in Pakistan.

And it's no surprise what they feel the right solution is for Pakistan - more Islam. Sharia law - the whole thing - the establishment of the Caliphate or Khilafah. That's what a brochure I found on the street in my neighborhood says anyway:


And here's the text:
Since its inception in 1947, Pakistan has been tormented by failed dictators and political parties.

The US and UK, constantly meddling in the affairs of Pakistan, are desperate to save their only hope in the region, General Pervez Musharraf, by working to ally him with failed politicians such as Benezir Bhutto. They have thus brought about an alliance between the most treacherous leader and the most corrupt politician in Pakistan's history.

Pakistan is in need for anew type of leadership which look after the needs of the people according to the Quran and Sunnah, and implements a system which is truly representative and that has an independent judiciary: the Khilafat State.

Hizb ut-Tahrir, Britain has organised a conference to artculate the need for a new leadership and new system for Pakistan - an alternative to the failed leadership and systems of the past 60 years.
It doesn't really disturb me that HT is calling for a Caliphate state. Yep, that's what they want - what they've always wanted for all countries, not just Pakistan. What does disturb me is that Friends House - the home of the peace loving Quakers in Central London is hosting this conference. Why oh why oh why are they providing a venue for a group which would give all Christians and all women second class citizenship or worse.

For many years of my childhood we attended Quaker (Friends) meetings. I'm pretty sure that Quakerism is incompatible with the establishment of a global Caliphate. I'm pretty sure that message of tolerance and forgiveness that I learned in First Day school are not in line with the harsh, biased justice of Sharia.

With friends like these....

weed in the sky


This is something like Queen Anne's lace - or it might be Queen Anne's lace, but anyway like that flower and carrots I'm pretty sure it's in the parsley family.

I found this in a ditch on Wimbledon Common.

Thursday, November 08, 2007

I hate Gordon Brown

I haven't been following Gordon's premiership as closely as might - but I hate him. He's full of dumb ideas. He's spiteful and petty and controlling and not as smart as he thinks he is. He comes up with dumb policies. He did this in his old job and he's doing it now.

Jen has a rundown.

Who's the daddy?

I never knew that the daytime talk shows essentially drive the DNA paternity testing industry. It seems like everyday at least one show features are paternity testing special. And as sick as this is, I never get tired of it. I watch a lot of talk shows while nursing a baby. And while I'd like to say I spend my time watching documentaries - that just wouldn't be true.

I'm getting pretty good at guessing if daddy really is the daddy. Mostly by judging the demeanor of the mom. On American shows, they often show a picture of the child next to the daddy which does provide a clue. On British shows, small children aren't shown or brought out, so it's all down to the body language of the purported parents.

Recently I saw a show where the baby was cute as a button. He was about eighteen months old and dark as a berry. I mean this kid was black. Well, that's fine. But momma was white and so was daddy. Both parents were blue eyed and dirty blond. I know that genetics is a weird and wonderful thing, but I really think that maybe Daddy ain't daddy. Mom had brought him on the show to reveal the secret and dude was shocked. I mean shocked. And when the DNA results were read out, the man was devastated. The power of denial. I know it's a tragedy and to this man, in a way, it was like his son had died - or at least the dream of his son. But I had to laugh. There weren't no way that kid was his - at least not in a biological sense - and he'd managed to convince his heart that his eyes couldn't see. Of course, the really sad part is that the apparently the bond was broken and he no longer sees the child.

Sometimes more than one man is tested, and none of the candidates is the father. Ooops. That's got to be pretty embarrassing - unless, of course, you have no shame. No shame and the desire to see New York one more time on Maury Povich's dime. Do you feel sorry for the fifth man tested, the poor schmuck who's alleles match up? Maybe you shouldn't - I mean if you don't want unintended consequences maybe you should keep your trousers zipped. But I know a guy this happened to. One of my brother's friends got tested in the third round up of suspects. The one night stand with the extra strong swimmers. And he's a nice kid*.

*Well, actually he's coming up to 30 now - gosh, I'm old.


One of the blogs I read regularly is Girl from the South. I don't see eye to eye with her on every issue. Adrienne hates feminists. Adrienne hates the left. Adrienne hates Crocs. Hey, one out of three ain't bad.

But Adrienne's a hypocrite. She's now the proud owner of a pair of Crocs. But they're orange and emblazoned with a Power T. What's not to like? Well, except they're crocs.


Until about a year ago I could read Adrienne's blog and her croc-hating posts and just snicker and sneer. Crocs hadn't yet crossed the pond. But now they have - and the foam footwear have taken the country by storm.

When I was in the hospital with my three day, failing-to-progess-labor, many of the obstetrical staff were wearing Crocs. How could I trust their medical decision making skills when clearly they couldn't choose decent shoes?

And yesterday, I saw a woman in the full black burqa and face covering niqab in the local grocery store. She was a big woman, tall and probably pretty bulky, too. She filled the aisles with her presence and her eery black garb. And she was wearing Crocs - in black, of course.

And I thought of you, Adrienne.
Photo of crocs from Flickr user mstephens7 under creative commons license. Great image, crap shoes.

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Smart as a whip

No matter what Cletus does, my parents put it down to his intelligence.

Alert and active. Because he's soooo smart.

Waking in the night: Because he's sooo smart.

Throwing fits from apparent cabin fever: Because he's sooo smart.

Watching tv like a couch munchkin: Because he's sooo smart.

Later on in life, they may be saying the same thing. Disruptive in class? He must be bored, because...well, you know.

Who knows if he's a smart baby or not. But here's some new evidence that says there may be a reason why he's sooooo smart. Katie Allison Granju has more on the link between breastfeeding and IQ.

Readers write in

I've had a little bit of interest about the cat in the sidebar. You know the cat wearing the orange sweater. I've had some comments in the last few days, but because I don't check my mail that frequently (yer, I know, I'm bad) I didn't pick up on it.

Here's her story:

She's seven years old. We've had her since she was born. She's special, special as in short bus special. She hates being picked up. She hates visitors. But she looks good in orange.

trying on baby clothes

You can pretty much dress a cat in a baby sweater one time only. So I'm glad I got it on camera. The sweater was made by a work friend. She loves cats more than babies, so she was more than happy to see this picture.

And here's the baby in same

My baby takes the morning train

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Two minus what equals one

I don't know much about pedagogy. Don't know much about the science books. But I do know one and one is two.

Well, yes and no.

I was visiting a local school today as a school Governor. And it was a lovely day. The kids were, for the most part, well behaved. I dipped in and out of a number of lessons. I was invited to color. I was complemented on my coloring ability. I told them I'd had a lot of practice over the years.

But they were teaching kids using some kind of new fangled method of math teaching. It looked like algebra. But it wasn't. For addition it was like algebra, but for subtraction I didn't have a freakin' clue what they were doing. And I feel pretty confident about my math ability.

I witnessed one of the kids getting the right answer but using the subtraction method incorrectly. I could see what she was doing. And she was getting the right answer. The teacher told her she didn't care about the answer, only that she was doing it the right way. She wasn't doing the method.

The child looked sad and perplexed.

And I felt sad and perplexed.

During a number of our evening meetings the teachers have talked about teaching the parents how to help the kids with their maths homework, because of the new way. Now I understand why that's necessary. Necessary, I guess.

Monday, November 05, 2007

Blogging block

I think I'm having a little blogging block. Partly because I'm really, really tired. I don't do well without sleep. You know those torture techniques, I think I could keep a secret through pain and threats of pain. But deprive me of my sleep - I'll tell you everything.

Anyway, in place of any actual blogging, here's some random thoughts about today's ripped headlines:

Writer's strike:
Well, I don't care, since I'm mostly watching the Rockford Files, Columbo and four year old Maury shows. That Maury, he's timeless.

Pakistan and martial law
: err, still lawless. Obama's idea of kicking butt and taking names seems more sensible all the time. Although I don't really mean that, because I think we should take a little break from invading countries until we can get it right.

The Vols - hey, we got our sacrificial homecoming win. Hurray. Go Vols. Now, to beat Arkansas - all you true orange blooded Volunteers should get busy writing poetry for the weekly Hail Mary Haiku contest. And in other football news, did y'all see this? Those kids must have a lot of character built up by now.

Oh...and since I also blog about babies now - here's a picture of the tyke - the reason why I'm getting no sleep.

Porridge goatee

Thursday, November 01, 2007

Grave policy implications

More seasonal policy pronouncements. This time about the disturbing trend of making graves safe by absolutely ruining them, laying headstones flat or tying them to giant dowel rods hammered into the ground. The idea is that some people somewhere were killed by falling headstones, and so local authorities must test the stability of all stones (using a topple testing machine) and then make them safe.

Finally someone's standing up to the topple tyranny; John Mann, a Labour MP for Bassetlaw.

John Mann says no-one has been killed by falling headstones in churchyards in the past 10 years. Yet families are being forced to pay for graves to be made safe in local council graveyards because of "inaccurate" risk assessment tests. Headstones are made safe by a process known as "staking", in which wooden stakes are driven into the ground next to the headstones to prevent them toppling over.

The Local Government Association states that most councils pay to make graves safe themselves, but where grave owners are charged to make graves safe the costs are reasonable. I'm not sure what reasonable is, but our local cemetery manager told us the cost and it was somewhere around £200 or £300 ($400-$600).

I'd say that roughly between 70% to 80% of graves in our local cemetery have been staked.

temporary supports for headstones

And as Mann points out, these aren't necessarily the old graves, but rather ones less than a decade old. He paid for a topple test and claims that 95% of the staking is unnecessary.

These things simply don't fall on people. There is much more chance of people dying on their way to church," added Mr Mann.

New health and safety guidelines for gravestones were issued in 2004 after reports of five deaths caused by falling headstones.
But Mr Mann said councils were being "tremendously over zealous" in their application of the rules and "a whole industry" had sprung up around "topple-testing" of graves. He said the graves being tested were often too small to topple over and cause injury let alone death - but they were still being "staked" by private contractors, at a cost of "hundreds of pounds" to berieved families.

Oh yes. We had a run-in with one of these contractors back in March.

The ViL pointed to the staked marker at our feet. The plastic straps weren't even touching the headstone, which was one of those low lying ones that barely rose 12 inches from the ground. Sure it was at risk of crumbling - if you jumped on it, a bunch - but the stake rising from the ground at a 45 degree angle posed a greater safety hazard.

In a radio interview yesterday, Mr Mann also claimed that the stakes themselves were a greater risk to health and safety, being trip hazards. I'd concur. I've seen headstones that stood no more than ten inches off the ground staked - with the stake standing dangerously high over the marker.

jean d'arc
a martyr to health and safety

Mr Mann further states that trees and branches are a bigger hazard to the cemetery visitor. Certainly in our local cemetery many branches hang hazardously from old and cankered trees and the footpaths are dangerously uneven - an elderly person might easily fall and break a hip.

Really. This staking is just plain insane, especially when one can spot greater risks with an untrained eye. And how this fits in with the policy recommendation to make better use of these dead spaces is beyond me.

Happy Run-up-to-Christmas Day

By 4pm yesterday, I had bought no Halloween candy. Last year, we got no trick or treaters and I had to bring the candy in to my work (and eat a fair bit of it myself). But in a last minute glow of Horror Holiday nostalgia I rushed to the local grocery store to find the shelves picked nearly bare. I managed to find some Werther's originals and some kind of strange candy stick thing in boxes, probably the politically correct offspring of candy cigarettes.

I also checked the "seasonal aisle" to see if I could find anything to top up Cletus's outfit. Nope. Where accessories had been reasonably well stocked only days before, there were only a few vials of fake blood and some tatty witches hats. An Arabic speaking father and daughter where tearing through the remnants in search of costuming for a little boy and they sought my help. I pointed to some novelty skull spectacles in a child's size and he seemed happy enough with that, but the distressed daughter was pointing to the spot where £1.50 ($3) capes used to sit.

On the way home I noticed two jack-o-lanterns on my street. Two more than I had ever spotted before. And it warmed the cockles of my halloween heart.

We had two sets of trick-or-treaters - though I did have to go out for a while during peak trick-or-treating time, so we might have had more. At any rate, I did give away some candy - although we do have an awful lot of Werther's original.

Anyway, despite much sneering for many years by the English about this "American" holiday, they finally seem to be taking to it. I've always wondered why folks haven't taken to it more - I mean c'mon, dressing up and free candy. What's not to like? Who doesn't have room on their calendar for an extra fun holiday?


And as we all know, Halloween is no longer All Saint's Eve, but the Run-up-to-Christmas eve. And in recent years it marks the beginning of the "War on Christmas", too. And here's the first story in the gruesome advent calendar. Because this story appears in The Daily Mail - it's hard to tell exactly what the truth is. They distort everything to make it "political correctness gone mad" - I know this because this happened to a project I worked on.

But it appears that a favorite Labour think-tank, the IPPR is about to issue a report calling on us to "downgrade" Christmas. Leaked recommendations include:

"If we are going to continue as a nation to mark Christmas - and it would be very hard to expunge it from our national life even if we wanted to - then public organisations should mark other religious festivals too. We can no longer define ourselves as a Christian nation, nor an especially religious one in any sense.

Britain may no longer be particularly religious, but this country is still ethnically and culturally Christian to a large degree. And folks still love their Christmas.

I'm all for celebrating other holidays - as long as they're about fun and feasting and not scourging and fasting. But I don't see why we need to downgrade any existing holidays to do so.


Slight digression:

Another finding of the IPPR report was that the state should make a bigger deal of the birth registration.

The system in which parents are required to register a new baby at a register office is dismissed as "purely bureaucratic". The occasion should be transformed into a "public rite", using citizenship ceremonies for immigrants as a model, the report says. "Parents, their friends and family and the state [would] agree to work in partnership to support and bring up their child."

Hell, NO! I'm not working in partnership with the state to bring up my child.

And anyway, this shows a leaning toward a particular ethno-religious tradition - infant baptism. I guess there are parallels with some other religions, too - the Bris for Jewish boys and I think there's some kind of thanksgiving sacrifice traditional made for Muslim children (two lambs for a boy, one for a girl, if I recall correctly). But in my religious tradition - hard core Protestantism - we don't hold with such things.

And besides, the report authors (two men) have clearly never had a c-section. You have to register the birth within six weeks - but at that point I couldn't even get myself down to the town hall never mind organise some stupid statist ceremony.