Monday, April 30, 2007

t-20: napping

The best part of pre-natal maternity leave is the naps.

20 days til baby Cletus

UPDATE: you can have too many naps, turns out, didn't sleep well last night - a bit grumpy today!

Sunday, April 29, 2007

I saw a dogwood

I saw a dogwood in bloom today.

I haven't seen a dogwood in bloom for 11 years. Really.


They're pretty rare in England. In fact, I don't think this is a Cornus florida (the common dogwood we know in the South East USA) - but probably something a little different. Still, I was pretty excited. It was at the RHS Wisley botannical gardens.

t-21: ante-natal class, 2nd time

Last week we were late to our ante-natal (pre-natal) classes. These are free and offered by the NHS at the hospital where I'm registered to give birth. (Yes, I'm scheduled for a home birth, but attended by employees of this hospital trust). We only live across the street from this place, but the Vol-in-Law was very grumpy, didn't really want to go and dragged his ass and so we were late.

I was FURIOUS. And I mean, spittin' mad. I was so mad that I might have felt sorry for him for having to put up with me, if he hadn't been the cause of me being so mad.

And things didn't get any better once we got to the class. They were doing group activities where we flip charted our expectations for the class. And because we were late, somebody else had the flip chart pen. Because of the ViL and his arse dragging, that meant I didn't have the flip chart pen or at least the opportunity to magnanimously decline the flip chart pen, despite my superior facilitiation skills or the fact that my usual day rate for facilitation is probably around half the other woman's monthly take home (not that I actually get that money, but still). And then she committed the flip charting faux pas of actually altering someone's point as she charted it (it's ok to abbreviate although you should ask, it's never OK to change).

A woman said that one of her expectations for the class was to learn about breastfeeding. Well Miss Flip Chart Pen said "Yes, they're a bit heavy handed on the breast feeding. Not everyone can do that. I'll just put down feeding." And then she proceeded to put down "Feeding. Different methods." (BTW, it would have been OK, if she'd said - yes, breastfeeding - but I'll put down formula feeding, too - as she was a participant-facilitator.)

I thought I kept schtum about it, but apparently I harrumphed. I didn't really want to become a breastfeeding Nazi. But heck, there are fewer and fewer privileges to being well-educated and middle class and if I can't look down on people for their inferior feeding choices then that list just got unacceptably short.

I did start to feel a little bit better when another woman arrived even later than we did. And she was alone. She said "My husband doesn't like hospitals," and she sat down - all our eyes upon her.


We talked about this later in the week and the importance of the ViL attending and why we needed to be on time. We talked about how important it was for me not to be the woman who showed up alone, how I didn't want people to think that I was a single mom.

Like that other woman, the ViL said. Who couldn't even manage to get her husband to show up for birth class.
Yes, I said.
And everyone else was thinking. Oh dear, she can't manage to even get her husband to show up for birth class.
Yes, I said.
And that she knew that's what everyone else was thinking.
Yes, I said. I mean how does she expect to be a decent parent if she can't even control her husband?


We weren't late this week. But there were some other disappointing things about the class. This week was about pain relief and the 2nd stage of labor (the pushing bit). The midwife teaching the class seemed terribly pro-epidural. Don't get me wrong, I'm glad epidurals exist. But there are trade-offs with every medical choice you make.

In her talk, there was very little about the possible side-effects of epidurals and it was only when pressed that the reality of being paralysed from the waist down emerged.

If you have an epidural:

1. you will be put on a fetal monitor
2. you will be put on an iv
3. you will be catheterised

The fetal monitor thing doesn't sound so bad, but many people complain that medical staff focus on the numbers and not them. Also, if baby's numbers jump (as I suspect they might in the drama of birth) you'll be whisked off for an emergency c-section.

Not only that, but epidurals, the midwife granted usually slow down labor - simply because you can't get up and about and let gravity be your friend. (Even with a "mobile epidural" that only means that you can move your legs, they won't actually support you.) In a hospital birth, she said, you have to be on a pathway of progression. And once the second stage kicks in (post 10 cm dilation) - if you have an epidural you have ONE HOUR only to get the baby out, otherwise - it's c-section city. Without an epidural, they give you more time. Plus you're more likely to have other interventions (ventouse or forceps assisted delivery and episiotomies) if you've had an epi.

I'll grant the midwife some credit, she did admit that sometimes epis fail to work at all - or in my imaginings - even worse - they only numb half your body.

Oh, yeah. Plus they put a big old needle in your back. I've had a needle in my back before and I can't say I enjoyed it. I was sick with high fever for days around the time I turned 18, in hospital, on demerrol, the whole thing was really a blur - but I do remember that spinal tap. Quite clearly recall it and the fear I felt.

Apparently, at my hospital there's an 80% epidural rate for first time mothers. I'm not saying that some people don't progress a lot better with an epi than without, but somehow that epi rate seems really high. (It's true that our hospital does deal with a LOT more high risk deliveries than most - it's a centre of excellence for such things - but still...)

Anyway, I've decided that an epidural is not for me. And while things can change - what won't change is that I've definitely decided I'm not going for an epidural as a first option. Of course, with a home birth - it's not actually an option at all.

21 days til baby Cletus

Why I love the internet

Ahh, the internet. Bless.

Let's take that word apart. Inter I think that means something about connections between or across and net meaning tied strands in many different directions. These multi-faceted connections means that we can all put our heads together to come up with some solutions.

Here's a recent example. I was confused about something. I posted on it. Commenters commented. And then one reader provided a tutorial on her site.

All my questions answered. I now have a vaguely unpleasant taste in my mouth, but all my questions have been answered.

how to hack off two major interest groups

If there's one thing that the Brits like, it's animals. Especially cute fluffy animals, but all animals really. They take animal cruelty seriously. In fact, only recently, tough new laws on animal care have come into force. And since the rather heavy handed Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (RSPCA) will be the ones knocking down my door if its revealed that I don't take good enough care of my cats, this actually strikes a little fear in my heart. It's not enough just not to beat the critters, you've got to provide a good standard of care now if you take on animal ownership.

There's another charity, too. Not nearly as popular, but still well known - the NSPCC - the National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children. They can't take your kids away, fine you or put you in jail (like the RSPCA) but they can rat on you to social services, who can. The NSPCC is famous for adds that tug at the old heart strings - like a sad-eyed, quiet toddler and a voice-over "Mikey is quiet because he's learned that nobody comes when he cries." (Hmm - is there a book with tips?) Or ads that try to encourage parents to stop and think about their behaviour before it becomes abuse. Although, one of their campaigns last summer featured a 10 year old boy, repeatedly kicking a ball against a holiday caravan (vacation trailer home - yeah, I know, Brits like the strangest things) and the mum, who is washing up inside while dad reads the paper - and then finally she goes out there and yells at kid. Oh no!!! She yells at him. But she looks lower class and her voice is shrill and quite angry, so it must be verbal abuse. (If you ask me, the little blighter had it coming.)

Anyway, with this photo (an update to this post about baby sweaters) I'm courting disapproval from both lobbies.

trying on baby clothes
Other Cat has learned that nobody comes when she meows.

And yes, I will put that sweater on baby Cletus.

Saturday, April 28, 2007

t-22: a note to Alabamians

For my color blind Alabama friends (here and here) who say hurtful things like:

Tennessee orange = hunter orange
Tennessee orange = pickin-up-trash-by-the-side-of-the-road orange

I would just like to point out the difference.

My mom, a Tennessean by birth and alumna (a couple of times over) of the University of Tennessee made this outfit for baby Cletus:

baby vol outfit
And you gotta click thru to see the orange top-stitching

But my friend, a Brit, who doesn't understand the ways and subtleties of orange, made Cletus this:

blaze orange baby sweater see that is blaze orange. See.

Scroll up and down. Spot the difference. Adjust your monitor if necessary. One is a bright golden orange (the top photo) and one is a safety beacon.

And again:
color sample color sample2

Still, this blaze orange sweater might come in quite handy - for example, if he were wearing this...

Cletus Wardrobe 006

...just on its own, we might lose the baby if we accidentally set him down in a pile of leaves.

22 days til baby Cletus

Friday, April 27, 2007

t-23: homebirth bag

OK, since I've reset my due date for my own convenience - it's actually officially 21 days away according to my doctor and midwives. From today, Cletus is counted as a full term baby by the National Health Service. From today, the NHS will support my home birth should I go into labor. Yesterday, I would have been pre-term and would have had to go across the street to the hospital. Today, I'm full term and they have to come across the street to me.

Today the midwifes' assistant delivered a bag that says "Homebirth bag Vol Abroad"* printed out on a sheet of paper and fastened to said bag by copious amounts of tape.

It doesn't say not to mess with it, so I'm presuming I could open up the bag and have a good old root around.

The bag is quite heavy. I know that the NHS supports the use of nitrous oxide for pain relief in home birth deliveries (as in hospital). What if there is a cannister of nitrous in there?

I've already been warned that the bottles they give for home birth are quite small, so I'll need to hold off on the nitrous til the more painful bits (will they let me know which those are? will it be obvious?). They said they didn't want to have to go back to the hospital for more gas.

I told them that I'd be more than happy to send the Vol-in-Law for a new tank. They did not seem to take this on board.

You see, I've used nitrous for pain relief and for recreation. And while it's ok on the pain relief (it just kinda takes the edge off) - it can be really fun, too. (If you know what I mean - whomp, whomp, whomp). It seems a shame to hold off using it until I really need it.

So I should get into the bag or not?

23 days til baby Cletus

*clearly it has my real name on it.

t-24: last day

Today was my last day in the office. My due date is three weeks away and I am really feeling the effects of gravity now. Lumbering in to the office, changing trains, fighting for a seat, eyeing up young men for their potential to commit mass terror on the Underground - these are all things I'm not going to miss.

Things I will miss: my actual work. I like it. I have an interesting job. But I'm not quitting work cold turkey. I'm weaning myself off work. I'm not officially on maternity leave, but instead have started off with a week's worth of vacation days. So - I've arranged to do a little bit of work next week - probably about 2 days over the 5, just to wind down.

25 24 days til baby Cletus

Popular beat combo

I keep seeing this word "emo" to describe some kind of new fangled musical stylings.

What is it? Can someone direct me to the quintessential downloadable clip?

Is it some kind of "txt" version of the power ballad? I mean are kids too lazy to type out whole words these days?

And why does it have its own overwrought I-cut-this-myself-because-I-hate-you hair style, as in:

but, all his hair combed forward, emo style, is just silly looking

I feel old.

Taller than on the internet

I'm used to the idea that celebreties are smaller than they appear on tv or the big screen (not that I ever go to the cinema).

But this well-known conservative British blogger was much taller than I expected. I saw him at an event last night where he pretty much defended the reputation of blogging single-handedly. Well, he did when he was given the opportunity for an edgewise word. I won't go on about it, 'cause I will be blogging for work on this, too - but just a few points:

  • Blogging is all noise and no voice.
  • Blogging is too agressive and male-oriented to be a truly democratic movement.
  • It's too hard for the little bloggers to get heard.

Errr...blogging is about individuals. This blog is my individual point of view. This is my voice. If you think it sounds like noise, you're more than welcome to go elsewhere. What's that Ms. Professional Journalist - you didn't hear what I was saying? You were too busy spouting off your opinion? For money? Still, it's a good thing that a slip of a girl like you has made such good headway in such a male dominated profession like journalism.

I just do not get why people who are in exclusive professions like PR, mainstream journalism, or books complain about blogs (free to run, anyone with internet access can do it) for being too exclusive. And as for the little blogs not getting heard, I've come to the conclusion that the best bloggers - the ones who get read the most are written by the people who listen*, who are part of a community. Blowhards always reveal themselves. Just like real life.

*my empathy-expression and listening skills have always been areas for improvement, but at least I know this.

Tennesse tornado

Over at Nashville is Talking, there's a collection of tornado clips from YouTube - all in Tennessee. I knew people who lost property in the 2005 Ethridge tornado. Last year's Gallatin tornado happened the same day my baby cousin was born. My poor cousin A was wisked to the ER to have an emergency c-section. Pre-eclampsia and extreme weather don't mix. (It's all OK now).


I was telling a co-worker about my baby cousin's birth and the tornado that bore down on the Nashville area the same day. He said "What was it called?" - I told him the baby's name. "Was that the same as the tornado?" he asked.

I sat there puzzled, and I finally figured out that he was asking what the tornado was called.

Me: Oh, we don't name tornadoes.
Him: I thought you did.
Me: Nah, just hurricanes. But that's not us, anyway. That's those emotional, coastal type people who have to name their big storms.

Thursday, April 26, 2007


This azalea came with the house. It's not a color I would pick, but I can't see myself getting rid of it.


t-25: baby soundtrack

I'm starting to feel a bit remiss that I haven't playing classical music to Cletus in utero. It's not so much that I'm a big old music snob, but that I've heard that if you play (especially) classical music to the babe-in-womb the same piece can later soothe the babe-in-arms.

But I haven't really been playing much music at all lately. I'm a talk radio gal. But the if the BBC World Service can put baby to sleep, then I guess that's still good.


The Nashville Knucklehead says there are other reasons to have a baby soundtrack. He writes a really sweet post on the music a father and daughter can listen to together and rounds it off with a pragmatic twist.

Someday, when she is sixteen and has dyed her hair black and has a tatoo and mulitple piercings and she hates me, she will hear one of those songs and realize that she really doesn't hate me after all.

Awww. Maybe me and Cletus should have an "our song" - not sure what it would be. The only song of any length I know all the words to is Rocky Top. I'd like him to understand American folk music and early forms of indigenous popular music (like Blues and Country) - particularly if he grows up in the UK.

And what would the Vol-in-Law choose? He likes to sing, but mostly songs about cats that he makes up.

25 24 days til baby Cletus

Can I get some service?

There are some issues that I have to admit I don't care about anymore. Issues that I felt quite strongly about at one point, but which have now - like the sands through the hour glass - passed me by.

For example:

Pre-18 voting. It burned me up that I turned 18 in a general election year (May), but was unable to vote in the primary. I really wanted to vote for Al Gore. But I didn't get my chance, since that other fellow - who was it? - some guy from Massachusetts got the nomination instead. Boy, did that turn out good.

Policy prescription: Those eligible to vote in the November general election shall be able to vote in their respective state's primary.

How much do I care about this policy now? Not at all.

I kinda got over my disappointment about getting to cast my ballot for Al in 1988. After all, I got another shot in 2000. Sadly, and to my eternal shame, I actually didn't bother to return my expat ballot that year. I thought Al would be a sure thing in our mutual home state of Tennessee. Nope. And without Tennessee, Florida really mattered. Boy, did that turn out good.

But there was one age based policy that took me years to get over. The drinking age. Just about the time that I could start to imagine turning 18*, states were one by one succumbing to the threat of removal of Federal Highways Matching funds and raising their drinking age. But I thank those legislators. For without their meddling, I might have been a law abiding citizen instead of the scofflaw you know today. 'Cause - get real - I wasn't not gonna drink at 18. Thank you for freeing me from any sense of obligation to obeying your petty, arbitrary rules and poorly enforced misdemeanor laws.

Policy prescription: Drinking age of 18 or 19. If you're worried about deaths on the highways, throw in tougher penalties for drunk driving, including revocation of driving license until 21 for anyone registering any blood alcohol content while in charge of a moving vehicle.

How much do I care about this policy now? Well, the threat of prosecution still stings, and I do think it's a bit silly to wait 'til 21 - but really I don't care that much. And I have to admit to a certain kind of schadenfreude - if I had to suffer, so should you.

But I still thought it was interesting when Bob Krumm, Tennessee blogger and political aspirant, suggested lowering the drinking age.

One of the things, that we used to say in our salad days was "Over in Europe, you can drink at 18. Over in Europe, they let children drink a little and then it's not that big of a deal when you get older and people don't get so drunk."

Well, I'm over in Europe now (sadly having moved here well after I turned 21). And that all seems to be true. Well, once you get onto the Continent anyway. The legal age in the UK is 18. And for many years, British people liked to have a go at me for stupid, puritanical American drinking laws (talk about blaming the victim), usually in drunken conversations down the pub.

But kids are certainly able to obtain alcohol from a much younger age (though there has been more emphasis on proof of age lately). And sadly, alcohol is probably not handled well in the Anglo-Saxon family. These kids get stupid drunk and cause problems. They get stupid drunk at 18, too. In fact, the British are pretty well known for maintaining their ability to get stupid drunk well into their majority.

But, now - and rather ironically - folks in the UK are starting to think about raising the drinking age to 21. Well known, think tanks are suggesting a review of the minimum drinking age.

And what do I think about raising the drinking age? Well, I've been there done that and I don't think it makes much difference.

David Poley, chief executive of the Portman Group, said: "What we really need to do is change the drinking culture through education rather than making drinking a social taboo by raising the legal drinking age."

Sensible talk from the Portman Group (an alcohol manufacturers' lobby - BTW), but the real tough thing is finding the policy prescription that achieves that aim.

* bless the City of New Orleans, which kept their 18 limit at the time I was 18. Maybe I shoulda gone to Tulane.

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Just plain wrong

I love Krystals. I miss Krystals. I liked them as a kid and I loved them as drunk college student when Krystals was the only place open on the strip. No trip to America is complete without dragging my British husband to Krystals where he marvels at my capacity to eat the gut bombs.

But this, this is wrong:

To make Collins' "Krystal Pizza," the only ingredients needed are two large pepperoni pizzas, twelve to fourteen Cheese Krystals and one cup of garlic butter. The Cheese Krystals are arranged on top of one pepperoni pizza. The second pizza is then placed upside down on top of the Krystals and the first pizza.

Collins says the pizzas are then put into the oven and allowed to melt together, sealing the Krystals inside. For the final touch, he suggests poking holes in the top of the "pizza" and pouring on the garlic butter, allowing it to soak down into the Krystals and pizza. After that, it's just "slice and serve" according to Collins.

This is the recipe that got Justen Collins of Maryville, TN a spot in the Krystal Hall of Fame.


(HT - Lynnster)

t-26: nesting

I'm working from home today. Normally, my working at home days are spent doing a lot of "thinking" and "reflecting". Today I was a little demon. I guess knowing my days at work are numbered has helped me focus.

The Vol-in-Law has been focusing, too. On cleaning and re-arranging. One of the quirks of pregnancy is the phenomenon known as "nesting". In this, a pregnant woman approaching her confinement will beginning cleaning and preparing a "nest" for her new arrival.

I've been waiting for this to kick in. And since I hate cleaning, I can't see much sense in doing a lot of cleaning when I've been told a time is fast approaching that I'll be biochemically driven to clean.

I mean, why not wait til the compulsion hits?

Apparently the compulsion has hit the ViL - and he's preparing the baby's room. Unfortunately, this is our office - so he's been working around me. And I've been working through the nesting storm.

26 25 days til baby Cletus

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

t-27: winding down

And so I began my last week at work. I'll be off for probably 8, 9 or even 10 months. I've never not worked this long without being:

a) a kid
b) an agoraphobic, depressive drop-out

So, needless to say I'm a little worried that I'll both have a kid and become an agoraphobic, depressive drop out.

Still, I'm sure blogging will help to keep me from being a morosely self-obsessed loner.



Speaking of depression anxiety, on one of the baby forums I read there's a thread on the grim anticipation of post partum depression. Some of the women, 2nd time moms, had experience of PPD, could recognise the chemical onset of symptoms and knew how to seek treatment (this time). Some of the women, instead of describing symptoms, described their bleak and dismal lives, their poverty, their chaotic personal relationship and their abusive families of origin.

It was like a Jerry Springer researcher's dream.

But I had to think to myself - ya know, maybe you are depressed. But I'm middle class, my life is basically pretty good, and yet I get down. Very, very down. That's depression. But you - your life sucks - hard. Your sadness may well be a rational response to your set of circumstances.

27 26 days til baby Cletus


I miss the Rocky Top Brigade.

Just sayin'.

They shoot foxes, don't they?

Did you know that if you live in London you can hire a man with a rifle and a night vision scope to come to your house and hang out with his gun propped on the sill of your bathroom window? And that he can take out any visiting foxes with hopefully no more than one shot (per fox)?

I did not know that. I found this out on a show called Meet the Foxes - which was all about the foxes of North London.

I'm not sure this is such a good idea.

I know it's only a .22, but my patio is made of some kind of composite concrete. That's the kind of thing that might chip if dude missed.
my garden

Monday, April 23, 2007

Shakespeare's birthday

Today is Shakespeare's birthday. Yesterday (and perhaps today) the Globe Theatre had a whole range of special events and free entry into the Globe. My visiting friend and I who were in the area to visit the Tate Modern, decided to go to see the bard's festivities upon rather convincing cajolement from a Globe employee rounding up tourists along the Thames walk.

Shakespeare's Birthday

We tried on outfits from Shakespeare plays.

I am a centurion

We took a class on reading verse (and by the way you've never heard Hamlet's "to be or not to be..." soliloquy until you've heard it done quite dramatically by a young Polish woman.) All of us in the class split up the lines, I got:

For who would bear the whips and scorns of time,
Th' oppressor's wrong,

My friend, Q-Vol, got:

ay, there's the rub,
For in that sleep of death what dreams may come
When we have shuffled off this mortal coil,
Must give us pause.

I'm not sure I learned much, but I am going to try to have more dramatic pauses in my speeches. I did have an ulterior motive for attending this workshop - I wanted validation for the rather heavy-handed Shakespearean way I recited Marc Antony's speech (Friends, Romans, countrymen...) as required in Sophomore English.

My teacher said: What kind of accent is that?
I said: A Shakespearean accent. You know like the records. (The recordings of various chunks of Julius Caesar, where I swear they all camply enunciated and rolled Rs and overacted)
She said: Just say it normal

Hmmph. Anyway, apparently this class on Shakespeare readings was in line with my Sophomore teacher. When Miss Poland was all outraaaa-gee-ous four-tune. Giles, our instructor said "just try to let it flow out normally. Normal speech".

globe theatre
We did not get to strut and fret our hour upon the stage

my neighbourhood

Fellow American expat - who also lives in Tooting - (but in the Northern bit) tell us why she loves living here.

I like this neighborhood, too. And I've liked it more since I've been more involved with the local area. Recently, I've been reflecting on my relationship with this house, this neighbourhood, this city and my hometown(s).
  • I've lived in the house I'm in now for longer than I've lived in any house.
  • But I've lived in Knoxville longer than I've lived anywhere else in the world.
  • Only recently, I've lived in London continuously, longer than I've lived anywhere. (My Knoxville years have been broken up)
  • I've had (and maintain) Lawrenceburg, TN as a permanent address longer than any place else - even though it's a distant third to Knoxville and London as places I've actually lived.
  • I've lived in Tennessee longer than anywhere.

t-28: dual heritage

I've got behind on the Cletus countdown posts. I've been busy having fun with my friend visiting from San Francisco.

I just hope falling behind doesn't make Cletus late.

Guess what else was late, the first book the my husband ordered the baby. In fact, it was about four months late.


The Vol-in-Law ordered a book called Our Island Story - basically British imperial propaganda for small children - in its centenary edition. He ordered it before Christmas for baby Cletus - to make sure that he's properly proud of his British ancestry.

Unfortunately, the book did not arrive and did not come and there was no sign of it for months. But this morning, there was a knock on the door - and a package was handed over - and it was Our Island Story.

I had a quick flip through, and suggested that we might have to skip the chapter called "How America was lost," lest there be any conflicting messages for the young boy.

My husband immediately began to read aloud from the book and such phrases rang from my ears:
  • But the Americans were not meek at all. They made ready to fight.
  • The colonists looked upon Britain as their mother-country...and now for a want of a little kindly feeling and understanding between them, mother and children were fighting bitterly.
  • [The war minister Pitt advised] "You cannot conquire America. They are of our own blood. If I were an American as I am an Englishman, I would never lay down my arms - never, never, never."

And he said, "I don't think you need to censor this at all."

Anyway, I guess this was our first cross-cultural parenting "discussion".

28 27 days til baby Cletus

Sunday, April 22, 2007

t-29: ante-natal classes

The Vol-in-Law and I had our first pre-natal classes yesterday. The ViL thought it was "unfair" that he should have to get out of the house and travel to the hospital for a 10am class on a Saturday.


I'll show you unfair.

Oh, did I mention we live across the street from the hospital?

Saturday, April 21, 2007

Porn video or ikea flat pack construction

  • Do you need me to be the second man in this picture?
  • Is that going to fit in this hole?
  • That's a weird position.
  • It doesn't seem to fit quite right.
  • It all looks quite crude, doesn't it?
  • Don't do it too tightly - there's supposed to be a gap.
  • That's a safety device.
  • Mine clicked.
  • You must have a better one than me.
  • Grunt
  • That smells like bait

Yep you guessed, the Vol-in-Law and visiting Q-Vol were assembling an Ikea fold-away bed.

Friday, April 20, 2007

t-30: The hidden gene for humor

Once I heard a comedian talking about senses of humor. He said that almost everyone claims to have one, but very few people actually do. He said, it wasn't enough to be able to identify funny, to laugh at a joke - but one had to have a sense of what made other people laugh - one had to be able craft funny. This made a lot of sense to me. I think I have a sense of humor - not as strong as some, but better than most. I think I understand funny. Like I understand color. I have a sense of color - I can remember color shades and usually pick out exact matches without bringing a sample. I know what goes and what doesn't - beyond simple coordination. I have a sense of color. Other people can say -"that's blue" or "that goes", but I know what pops or soothes or sizzles. Still others are so devoid of the sense of color that they are color blind. It's a recognised trait. It's heritable. And humor. Is that heritable? I worry that it is.

The Vol-in-Law makes me laugh. He's kinda funny. Funny as in ha-ha. I don't like to go on about it too much, because it will give him a swelled head. He specialises in the dry quip. That's his schtick. Sometimes he makes me laugh out loud. He also has a sideline in "humorous" cat songs - songs he sings to cats, about cats - the lyrics altered from popular tunes. He thinks this is quite funny, but it's not quite as funny as he thinks it is. The cats don't mind, though. I suspect our future child will find it hee-larious. For a while. Then it will be deeply embarassing, but that's years off.

In his family of origin, they didn't think he was so funny. His mom and his sister often just didn't get it. The dry quips passed them by. His dad didn't laugh out of some misplaced notion of parental solidarity when his mom took his words seriously. I'm straining to find an example here - but I've got one of my own.

Shortly after I met his mother for the first time, I met some of her friends - Irish women. I presume Protestant women from Northern Ireland, women not much given to compliments. She told me that they were really impressed with me.

Me (trying in my lame way to be humble): No surprise there, everyone loves Americans...
Her: No. They don't. (earnestly and informatively)

At any rate. I think his mom and his sister are humor blind. Oh, they can laugh like sociopaths - when they see that other people are laughing, they can laugh, too. And they can laugh at the really base stuff (which I find ironic, since they like aspire to effete intellectualism), but they don't like the dry, the clever, the sarcastic or the ironic.

I know some moms-to-be obsess about having a red-headed child or cleft-palate or with a sub standard number of toes. But I'm worried that our child will have a heritable humor deficiency. The Vol-in-Law believes that even if this were the case that this no-humor gene is likely to be recessive - and so we'll be ok.

But what if we're both carriers, I say to him. I mean look at your mom, she passed this no-humor thing on to your sister. It could be quite likely you're carrying this hidden gene for no-humor.

Yes, the Vol-in-Law, says drily. I see what you mean. With this hanging over us, I'm not sure why you married me.

30 days til baby Cletus - much longer before we find out if baby carries this shocking disability

Thursday, April 19, 2007

I hate slugs

I love hostas. I don't know why. They're kinda boring in a way - after all they're grown mostly for the foliage, which is just leaves. But somehow they inspire a kind of hostamania in their devotees. (We can go on about the form of the leaves, the ridging the variegation, the quality of their rather limited blossoms, even the speckling on their floral stalks).

Sadly, I can't really have hostas, because I've got a serious slug and snail problem. I poison and use barrier methods (copper tape) and biological controls (nematodes) and mechanical controls (I squish the snails under the heel of my garden clogs) - but I can't keep up. Still sometimes I try with a new hosta and then I have to face up to the fact that I've offered up a lovely specimen as sacrifice to those slimy, nasty critters.

This is what they did to my lovely Hosta Krossa Regal last year....

I hate slugs

...despite the fact I planted Mr Regal in a pot with copper taping and slug shocka mat and nothing touching the pot. (I think some snails dropped down from an overhanging plum tree branch).

But here is Krossa Regal back for more this year

hosta krossa regal

t-31: terrifying advice

So, I'm at my conference today - and folks who know me from previous conferences, projects and my professional online persona were all wishing me good luck with the impending parenthood. Over the last few days several people have been telling me how worth it parenthood is, best thing they've ever done, etc. etc. Just who exactly are they trying to convince?

Any time folks start overegging it, I start wondering what they're trying to hide. At this point, I think maybe I should have just got a new kitten - but I'm hoping that I'll get a lovely oxytocin hormone brain wash at Cletus's birth that will make me smile like a Stepford Parent, too.

Apparently the effects wear off over time, though. One person whipped out a book called My Teenager the Alien, or Teenagers are from Pluto or Hell or something like that. And she advised me to "enjoy them while they're young" - 'cause when they get big they get ugly - but apparently it's all so worth it anyway.

Ha, ha. Change subject. Let's move on.

Still, I guess that beats people telling me labor and birth horror stories.

31 days til baby Cletus

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

t-32: would this be wrong?

I am speaking at an event tomorrow.

It's a subject I know pretty well.

But still, I'm not really prepared. It won't be dreadful, but it won't be the kind of performance I like to give. Problem is - I've got a week of work left and I just don't care quite so much.

Would it be wrong to take my jacket off and rub my big pregnant belly a little bit and hope the audience is more sympathetic to me? Would that be bad for the sisterhood?

Just asking.

32 days til baby Cletus

Don't take your guns to town, son

Oh the usual predictable reactions to the massacre at Virginia Tech.

We need more gun control.

I would tend to agree. But without a complete hand gun ban, which is probably way too late anyway, I'm not really sure how this particular tragedy could have been prevented. From what I've seen so far, the perpetrator didn't have any particular form which would have raised a red flag.

We need more guns.

If only a student or a teacher had had a gun on campus, they might have stopped this madman.

Are you people CRAZY?? I really would rather not have attended university with a bunch of folks hopped up on NoDoze, cranky and dull from hangovers, raging with stress and hormones, lacking the wisdom and discretion of experience and carrying concealed weapons.

And the folks wanting a carry-on campus are generally the same ones who don't really want any kind of training or control over who gets to have a carry permit or not. So any untrained dimwit can whip out his weapon and accidentally shoot himself or others.

OK if some brave soul had engaged in shootout, maybe just maybe this madness might have been stopped on this occasion (and maybe not). But how many more gun deaths would have occurred over the years in ones or twos? Sad to say, as a society we've become so used to single murders from gun shot wounds that scarcely a hair would turn. After all, the first shootings were seen as some kind of business-as-usual domestic +1 innconcent by-stander.

Are we somehow less concerned with overall loss of life than we are about experiencing the shock of one campus killing?

And since most of these shootings seem to happen in high schools rather than universities - are you people advocating guns in the K-12 years?

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

t-33: things I'll never do

VolMom has always said that you should never say never - 'cause that will be the one thing that you'll be guaranteed to do. I bet that particularly applies to parenting.

  • I'll never smack my kids
  • My kid will never be disrepectful or disobedient.
  • I'll never belittle my child.
  • My boy will never use the outside voice when the inside voice will do.

But my friend VolK recently told me about something that I can pretty much guarantee I'll never do.

She lives out in California, so maybe they do things differently there. She's been visiting friends who have a new baby. She learned some things about breastfeeding which she's passed on in an email. These friends of hers are also keeping a journal. A journal of every time the child breastfeeds (how long, which breast) and every time it makes a poo - and what the poo was like.

And yes, I can pretty much guarantee that I'll not ever - yes, that's never - keep a poo journal.

I can gurantee that because I'm way too lazy and a poo journal just seems way, way too anal.

33 days til baby Cletus

Could arming up have prevented a massacre?

Kat Coble has posted about Jonestown after watching a documentary about it. I did that, too - not long ago.

People of a certain age (and if I remember correctly, she's nearly exactly the same age as me - born May 1970) will have Jonestown imprinted on them as their first memory of newsworthy tragedy.

If you're a wee eight year old, and 900 people "commit suicide" by drinking a Kool-Aid like substance and Kool-Aid, is the object of much desire for this 8 year old, (my parents did not provide me with anything like what I considered an adequate amount of the sweet, colored drink) - you're going to remember it. Plus nearly a thousand people died and news reports showed body after body, many of them kids your age, piled on top of each other and rotting on the jungle floor.

But her long term reaction...

I believe in guns because of Jim Jones. I believe in the ineffectuality and haphazardness of government because of Jim Jones. I believe in being a Discerning Believer because of Jim Jones. One of the more fun things about ideas is being able to trace the growth of one of your deeply-held beliefs to the source. I’ve been able to do that more in recent years as pop culture digs up “nostalgic” events from my childhood.

...and my long term reaction are very different. I'd say my overriding feeling has been that people are crazy and can be induced to do even crazier things. They can be convinced to kill their kids, kill their neighbors, kill themselves - and all it takes is a loudspeaker, sleep deprivation and a little peer pressure. In fact, you can do it without the sleep deprivation.

I will say that I agree with her 100% on the importance of scepticism (i.e. the Discerning Believer). When you're in a big old group of people, who are all being told the unbelievable or the unlikely or the downright disgusting, and they're all raring to go - it might be a good thing to question those in authority. But then again, it might be too late. But I suppose one take some comfort in saying: I told you these guys were crazy, I had a feeling that this would all end badly. I know that it would make me feel better to be able say "I told you so," even as the bullet bit. But that's just me.

As to the ineffectuality of government the massacre at Jonestown was triggered by a visit from Congressman Leo Sayer, but it had been practiced and practiced well before his trip had been thought of - and if so many discerning believers hadn't asked to leave with the congressional delegation then the mass murder-suicide probably wouldn't have happened for another week or so. But, I can't say that's a lesson I took away in 1978. I only recently learned about his role. I so understand the sentiment, I've worked in the public sector for almost all my adult life, so I've seen a lot of ineffectuality in my day - and even perpetrated some. But I've seen a lot of good done, too - especially the basic and thankless work of organising infrastructure and managing the collective work (public health, transportation, education) that has brought our society to the point it is today. And one thing I'll say for those working for the public is that most of them mean well. I've hardly ever met anyone who entered public service (in the US or UK) because they wanted to do ill to their fellow man.

But where I really digress in experience and sentiment is on the guns. No. I don't think having more guns would have made a blind bit of difference in Jonestown. There were guns there. But those guns will have only been in the hands of those who plotted evil or blindly followed. Guns can't prevent craziness. In Jonestown, they only helped precipitate craziness. (The shooting of Leo Sayer and members of the delegation was used by Jones to tell his followers that their utopia was coming to a crashing end and that they would all be carted off and split up - so they were better off dead at their own hand.) And how would you have got guns in the hands of the Discerning Believers? Who would have doled them out? The Government? Why would most of the people there think that they needed guns - they largely believed they were part of a radical and loving experiment that could change the world for the better.

But more importantly, I just don't believe that guns are the key ingredient, the critical success factor for a responsible, respectful society. Responsibly held and largely unused weapons in the hands of citizens is something you see because there is a mature relationship between state and citizen (government by and of the people, where citizens exercise their responsibility to participate) and where there is largely a feeling of trust between citizen and fellow citizen. The feeling of trust, the mature relationship doesn't occur as a result of folks being armed to the teeth.

Maybe I'll agree that weapons are a bellweather. If you're a responsible, calm and largely non-violent person and you have to ask "Why can't I have a gun?" - then you have to wonder what's going on in the relationship between the people and the power. But you don't even need guns to ask that question - in Jonestown, questions with similar answers (Why can't I leave? Why do I have to hand over all my money and property?) could have been asked.

The questioning of power and the engagement of the responsible, free citizen in governance prevents the abuse of power, not tooling up. After all, those in power will always be able to out-purchase and out-gun an individual.

Monday, April 16, 2007

As an ambassador

I went to France when I was 15. Before I left, VolMom reminded me that everywhere I went I was an ambassador for my country, my culture and my family. (Just no diplomatic immunity).

Tomorrow, I'll have a very unpleasant ambassadorial task.

Tomorrow, my British co-workers will ask me why.

t-34: the work countdown

I've only got 7 more days of working. Not counting today. I'm not going in for at least two of those days (I'll be working from home).

I'm worried I'll be bored, but I think I've maybe had it. It takes me almost an hour to get to work (door to door) with at least 40 minutes in the Underground system.

But really, it's working at a desk that's getting me. I don't remember to get up to move around - I stick at my chair. And now my feet and legs are really swollen. They get swollen, too if I work all day on the desk at home - but it's easier for me to remember to get up and walk around and take a look at the garden, pet the cats, catch up on my reading with my feet propped up.

I'm still worried I'll be bored in the low mobility, post work, pre-Cletus days. But for now I think I've had it.


On the upside, I've stopped listening to the stuff that doesn't apply to me. But I'm still annoyed by the co-worker who seems to undermine me for no reason. This person just doesn't get it and seems to be bothered by the fact that I do. I was quite worried that the project I was working on will fail without me. It probably will fail - but I care less. I'm not going to kill myself making sure it doesn't.

34 days til baby Cletus

how much for a dead azalea?

Yesterday, I was explaining to a friend of ours how the weather in Tennessee (first the excessive warm, then the excessive cold) had had devastating consequences.

By way of illustration, I said how my mom's flowers and shrubs (she's a very accomplished gardener) had been bit hard and how the governor had asked for Federal disaster status.

Vol-in-Law: (incredulous) Federal money?, for the gardeners!?
Me: No, hon, for the farmers.

City boy.

Sunday, April 15, 2007

Opposition and web 2.0

Girl from the South has an interesting post on the Republican Party and Web 2.0 - that is, why aren't they down with it?

She opines (and I'm paraphrasing quite a bit) that it's partly about whose in power in the party and the youth vote and all that and a growing divide between the old crusty party apparatchiks and the youthful foot soldiers for whom life without the Net is unimaginable.

Well, partly. But she herself points out that Howard Dean neatly got it. He didn't just use it, he worked it. As a member of the Democratic Party (but not a Dean supporter), I was a pretty amazed but just how fired up his supporters were and many remain. Howard Dean's early presidential campaign and new style of leadership were transformational for those folks (and actually for the rest of the party, too - just in a less obvious way). And let's face it, Howard Dean isn't exactly an under-35-er. But he managed to capture the real power of the social internet - where people at a distance collaborate online and people close by actually meet up and get stuff done.

Rather than something inherent in conservative or liberal approaches or the Republican or Democrat parties. I think there's something about opposition.

Here in the UK, the Conservatives are leaps ahead of Labour when it comes to the use of social media. Take Conservative Home, for example. It was groundbreaking in the UK. Or 18 Doughty Street (British conservative "web tv"). And these aren't sites that are part of the official Conservative Party - in fact, contributors to these sites can be quite critical of party leaders and party policy. But folks like George Osborne (the Shadow Chancellor) who I saw recently speaking on such matters (and open source government) at least say that they embrace this grass-roots online movement. (And they probably do for now - Osborne is a bit of a Geek, but he also understands the need for buzz).

What do top Labour thinkers do? Well, folks like Matthew Taylor (Labour policy and research guru) criticise blogs and bloggers. The entrenched Left in the UK resist the power of the grassroots, because - well, because they can. And so long as Labour is in power, the entrenched Left can see online activists as nothing but a threat (whether they come from the Left or the Right).

Even when Labour does copy some of the concepts that Conservative activists are using they do so in such a hack-handed way - (e.g. Labour Home - c'mon guys get a new name - and anyway that sounds like a lock-up institution for unwed mothers). Labour isn't going to get with it until they get out of power. Failure and desperation to return to Government is what makes people innovate and strive in a (largely) two-party state.

That isn't to say that the Right hasn't had their day in the US. Think back to the early days massively popular talk radio - before the Internet was in everyone's home. Who dominated there? The Right - and in some instances it was kinda, even like a real conversation. Who still dominates talk radio? The Right - despite efforts like Air America or Nashville's Liberadio.

So how does that play out for GFTS's fears for an unwired Republican party? I'm not sure - maybe like the American left they won't be able to catch on to new media. One thing's for sure - so long as Republicans feel they're in power (in the White House), the current power structure isn't likely to move over to make room for the grass roots geek.

And I can't say that breaks my heart.

Fun, fun, fun

Anglofille highlights a new theme park on her blog - Dickens World. I couldn't be bothered to follow the link. In fact, I said so on her site:

OK, I’m not even going to follow that link, but just imagine - imagine what Dickens World would be like. Oh, the street urchins, the squalor, the bleakness, the pick pockets, the long hours, cold rooms and utter desperation…

Paah, why leave London?

I mean what's next? Flannery O'Connor Land, the Faulkner Fun Fayre*, Dorothy Parker's kiddie adventure playground?

Although at least at Dickens World, you'll have a bit of fun at the end of the day.

*turn left upon entering Yawknapatopha County, from any direction

t-35: Tennessee wiggle walk

35 days til baby Cletus

A long time ago somebody lent me a tape that had the tune "Tennessee Wiggle Walk" (lyrics below) - I can't find the tape (did I return it?) and I don't remember exactly how it went, but it had the line:

And you wiggle and you waddle like a baby duck

It struck me as funny. I hadn't ever been around many baby ducks, but when I came across one, I realised that they do have a funny little waddle.

Guess who else has a funny little waddle. Me! The Vol-in-Law and I do try to go on a nice walk every weekend, usually in Richmond Deer Park. But it's getting harder, especially the last bit back to the car which is all uphill. Especially when you wiggle and you waddle like a baby duck. I definitely feel like I'm walking for two.


Speaking of baby ducks...we walked down to the big central lake to see if the young swans were still feeling frisky (they weren't) and to see if we could catch a glimpse of the Egyptian Goose goslings. The picture below hardly does justice to their cuteness - they were so fluffy - I wanted to pick them up. But then I remembered, they are nasty old geese, after all - and their honking, nasty old geese parents would be likely to take a chunk out of me.

I'm not easily able to bend down anymore to get shots at interesting angles. So I had to sit on the muddy bank (avoiding any goose droppings) and wait for the little goslings to waddle into shot.

Taking a walk


Tennessee Wiggle Walk

I’m a bowlegged chicken I’m a knocked kneed hen
Haven’t been so happy since I don’t know when
I walk with a wiggle and a giggle and a squawk
Doin’ the Tennessee wiggle walk

Put your knees together and your heels apart
Snap your fingers ready to start
Flap your elbows just for luck
And you wiggle and you waddle like a baby duck

Come dance with me baby keep your toes in time
Haven’t been so happy in a long long while
Walk with a wiggle and giggle and a squawk
Doin’ the Tennessee wiggle walk
Doin’ the Tennessee wiggle walk

Lyrics found at this website

Disputed territory

disputed territory

Fancy has found a new place to hang out.
Hey, who's coming?
Other cat says "Watcha doin' in there?"
Fancy says - Get away.

This is an upturned terracotta pot that's used as a base for another pot.

Saturday, April 14, 2007

t-36: the big O

We are having a quiet night at home. The Vol-in-Law has been reading Ina May's Guide to Childbirth. I haven't done my baby countdown post for the day.

Me: What's the most memorable thing you just read in that book?
Him: Twenty percent of women have orgasms during childbirth.
Me: Right, that's the Cletus countdown post.
Him: You're not going to post that are you?
Me: Yeah, unless you can think of something else.
Him: (Anguishedly) I can't think of anything else.

36 days 'til baby Cletus

Pot marigold

The pot marigold - or calendula.


Despite the fact it's so darn orange, I've always avoided them. I think I've thought that:

  • I didn't have enough space with enough sun
  • Slugs would get 'em - hard

But the above photo is from the nearby cemetery. This will have been left over from last year. I know for a fact that the graveyard is inhabited by GIANT slugs - and this calendula was growing in a fairly shady area. (Though I wouldn't count on good blooms in shade.)

I wouldn't normally expect these to be in bloom so early, but our mild weather meant that these have overwintered - with a nice head start for summer.

Friday, April 13, 2007

T- 37: Baby wants cake

37 days til Baby Cletus

I had a midwife's appointment today. We reveiwed my blood test results from the last time I had an appointment with the midwife - which was about 7 weeks ago. Apparently my glucose was a little high.

Now I knew that my glucose would be high. No one told me that I would be having my glucose tested so before I left for my appointment (which is a ten minute walk from my house) - I stuffed some cake in my mouth and washed it down with apple juice.

For once I didn't have to wait long and the midwife appointment didn't take long, so 45 minutes after shoving some cake in my pie hole (and washing it down with apple juice) I was seated in the phlebotomist's chair.

Phlebotomist: Have you eaten in the last two hours?
Me: Yep
Phlebotomist: What did you have?
Me: Cake and apple juice.
Phlebotomist: You're probably going to have to retake this.
Me: Oh yeah, I'm gonna fail the blood sugar thing for sure.

So, we reviewed my notes and yes, the blood sugar was a little high (just marginally over the edge which is pretty good since I'd had 2 slices of cake, if I'm honest). The notes said "Give dietary advice" - meaning I should probably watch my sugars. But my blood sugar wasn't so high that they thought it was worth calling me at any time during the 7 weeks they'd had the results.

But their advice was - avoid fizzy drinks - even diet drinks.

Pahhh - with their advice. And anyway, what's a Jack and Coke without the Coke?

Now if they'd said, stay away from simple refined sugars, including highly processed carbs like white bread - I'd have had a little respect for them.

Cut out all the sweets, they said. The Vol-in-Law was not helpful - he'd said "Didn't you have some ice cream last night, VA?"

This is the first midwife's appointment he attends and this is his contribution? That and pointing out that the domestic violence posters - the one which was about violent partners picking on small details to start a big fight - had misplaced apostrophes (it's when they meant the possessive its) which he said - reasonably loudly in the waiting area - made him really angry.

I asked for another glucose test (since I'd skipped lunch) - and then I argued with the midwife about when my next appointment should be - she seemed to think I didn't need to come in quite so frequently since "the baby is fine and you're fine." (Could I get some ice cream for that?)

Whatever the weather

On our trip to RHS Wisley (botannical gardens just South of Greater London) last week, we passed by the weather station. It's all rain gauges and wind gauges and the weird little boxes these things are kept in (they look like cock-fighting sheds) to protect the weather instruments from the weather.

And then I noticed something odd, up on a platform and beneath a traditional weather vane.


What is that a, yes it is, it's a crystal ball.

whatever the weather

Is that some kind of meteorologist joke? Those guys are corkers, clearly.


On Monday, I went to the local B&Q (a kind of Home Depot knock off) and got some bedding plants. I bought some Sweet William and some white impatiens. I planted out the Sweet William, as they have some frost hardiness, but the impatiens will have to remain in their trays for a little while longer. See, I have something even better than the a crystal ball to predict the weather. I have Tennessee.

Two weeks ago, Tennessee was experiencing unseasonably warm weather.
Now in England we are experienceing unseasonably warm weather - it's absolutely lovely, y'all let me tell you.

Then Tennessee got bit in the ass by ol' Jack Frost.
And if trends go as they usually do, Jack's got his transatlantic flight already booked.

Look out for frost, fellow English gardeners

Thursday, April 12, 2007


More on Katherine Coble's saga. I have to say I think she and her husband have seriously been mistreated. I know that the Tennessee blogging community and the wider blogosphere want Katherine to perservere. I feel a little differently. I've been sued. It's no fun. And it didn't matter that the people who sued me had no grounds to sue. They did it anyway. And the very best outcome I could hope for was to be put not too out of pocket for defending myself.

Now the best thing that could happen is those who've served the cease and desist order back down and chill out and let Ms Coble go on her merry way with her increased hits and a warning to any other company that tries such a stunt. But let's say they lack the good judgement to do so - well, I wouldn't blame the Cobles if they just didn't want any further part of this. Or at least if Katherine Coble decided that she preferred to comply with the letter of the cease and desist order. After all - the truth is totally out there, these folks have already been kirked.

And just to add fuel to the fire and grist to the mill...

Rachel from Women's Health News has a great round-up.
Brittney from NIT did a great job, as always telling the story.
NewsComa has a lotta, lotta linkage to everyone who's posted on this - you cand find that link list at the end of this post.

And here's what Bob Krumm has to say about Katherine Coble's situation: (Sorry Bob - I just went ahead and stole the whole thing!)

Katherine Coble and her husband are having problems with a company called J. L. Kirk & Associates, or Kirk Associates, or JL Kirk, or JLK, or JLK-A, or sometimes just “Kirk“. Whether it’s J. L. Kirk & Associates, or Kirk Associates, or JL Kirk, or JLK, or JLK-A, or sometimes just “Kirk“, whatever you want to call it, it’s just bad form (not to mention, unwise) to sue a popular internet writer over a report about their company that isn’t libelous.

You’re only going to draw more attention to a report that certainly sounds like a scam, a fraud, a rip-off, or a con. Because the next time that someone googles J. L. Kirk & Associates, or Kirk Associates, or JL Kirk, or JLK, or JLK-A, or sometimes just “Kirk“, they can’t help but be directed to Katherine Coble’s commentary about how she and her husband felt like they were almost caught in a scam, a fraud, a rip-off, or a con.

Not that I’m implying that J. L. Kirk & Associates, or Kirk Associates, or JL Kirk, or JLK, or JLK-A, or sometimes just “Kirk” are a scam, a fraud, a rip-off, or a con, I’m simply saying that their reported behavior certainly raises some red flags about J. L. Kirk & Associates, or Kirk Associates, or JL Kirk, or JLK, or JLK-A, or sometimes just “Kirk” and their reported activities because they are similar to those of other companies who are scams, frauds, rip-offs, or cons.

BTW, never, under any circumstances*, ever pay a headhunter or a job placement firm to find you a job.

Also, Just in case Katherine Coble’s post about J. L. Kirk & Associates, or Kirk Associates, or JL Kirk, or JLK, or JLK-A, or sometimes just “Kirk” should ever disappear from the web, just remember that Google is forever.

Coble Coverage:

Rob Robinson strikes an eloquent tone The Big Think Bill Hobbs The World According to Tiff Sniff Hutch Pink Kitty Moncks Corner Moments Glen Dean Ben Kepple My Beautiful Wickedness Professor Bainbridge Hear It From Us GingerSnaps Rex Hammock The Zero Boss
Space for Commerce Silflay Hraka Digital Nicotine Michael Silence Kathy T. at The La Vergne Tennessee blog Home Ec 101 PostScripts Sean Braisted Stackable Bards Sharon Cobb
Baby TrollBlog The Lynnster Zone Steven Hrbar Kathy T. at The Mute Button Jay Bush
Rob Huddleston Bruised Orange People Powered Satisfaction Alphecca: New Verb In Town
Musings from Malicious S-Town Mike Sue Happy Knox Views Saucy Girl Paul Chenowith
Legal is now PR The Stupid Stuff I Witness Lavendar Sparkles Blogger Fodder World and Global Politics Blog Right Side of the Rainbow Captain’s Quarters The Q and O Blog
Patterico’s Pontifications Classical Values Blue Crab Boulevard Outside the Beltway

Designer jeans

When I was being educated at the expense of Metro Nashville taxpayers it was the early 80s. Designer jeans were all the rage. I didn't have any.

Now maybe my parents could have afforded some designer jeans, but I was given to believe - that we were suffering financial difficulties as a family. And I guess we were. I was young, in sixth grade, and I took this on myself. I did want the designer jeans. But I didn't want to ask for them. Even though I was being bullied for my lack of "proper attire". Like seriously bullied - like during outdoor play periods kids took time out of what they might have been doing to ask me questions - pointed, unpleasant questions - about my wardrobe. Or lack thereof.

So I borrowed my mom's one pair of Gloria Vanderbilt jeans and her New Balance branded shoes - yes, I still remember them. Of course, they didn't really fit very well - me being pre-teen and her not. And I wore them pretty much every day. I'm not sure my mom knew this because she left for work early and middle school started late. And now the kids had something else to pick on me for - wearing pretty much the same thing to school every day.

Now fortunately, I changed schools the following year, and this designer bullying wasn't part of the culture. But I still remember it.

And so - Metro schools has passed a "Standard School Attire" rule - a kind of quasi uniform rule. And most folks don't seem to think it's such a hot shot idea. But I do.


On the bright side, ever since then I've absolutely hated anything with designer labels on the outside, especially anything that had big or overt branding on it. I'm sure this has saved me a lot of money over the years.

Kurt Vonnegut is dead

Kurt Vonnegut is dead

And so it goes.

Quinoa for peace and security

I was once in a swanky Westminster bar advising a senior civil servant - the one who was responsible for the UK drugs strategy - what to do regarding opium growing in Afghanistan.

The problem was: he said - the farmers in Afghanistan depend on the income of the opium poppy. The solution was: a replacement crop or source of income. But the problem is: what? He elaborated that Afghanistan is actually a pretty tough growing climate, and poppies do really well there.

I said. "Friend, I've got two words for you. Specialty grains."

He looked at me as if I were mad or drunk. (To be fair, I was at least one of these.) I elaborated - quinoa, grown in the Andes (a landscape like Mars) has all kinds of health benefits, but it's hard to find and people will pay a premium for the stuff. Same could be said for amaranth. I explained how they could introduce the crop, set up co-operatives and promote these grains in the UK and US markets - which could really take off as people start to become more health concious. And sure, it's not quite as glamourous or lucrative as opium poppies, but it would be a pretty good source of income with a little forethought and support.

And what happened? Nada. Bupkiss. Zip.

And Taliban heroin has flooded the global (and especially European) markets.

I really should be in charge.


I flashed back to this incident because of Kathy's quinoa recipe post.

Minus 38: Daddy shopping

It's not just Mom that needs new stuff to deal with baby. Dads need new stuff, too. I guess.

Jonathan Hickman is expecting the arrival of a new baby girl in late summer, and he wants to know what to stock up on.

What's really interesting is the comments section:

Katherine Coble says:

I’m not a dad. I’m not a mom either.

But I can tell you I had an anxiety attack at the next to last baby shower I went to. I had not even heard of 90% of the things they gave the mother-to-be.

I had no idea of the scope of infant-related gadgetry out there.

Good luck.

Yeah, holy moly - there's a ton of stuff.

Mr Hickman replies:

Yeah, it’s kind of crazy, isn’t it?

And I’m pretty sure 90% of it isn’t necessary.

Yer darn tootin', I say. But then again, what do I know?

The Vol-in-Law hasn't really gotten into the baby shopping thing. He did request a camo outfit for Cletus - which VolMom totally went down to Loretto and bought. (This is how I know that her brain has turned to grandbaby mush - as she would have never bought such a thing for my brother or me for that matter. Plus she paid full price for the darn thing.). The ViL knew this wasn't a necessity, however. At least, I think he knew that.

Cletus Wardrobe 006
All babies need RealTree

I do know that some people totally get into the baby and baby accessories race. I was over at someone's house who had a 5 month old baby. The house was covered up with every baby accessory imaginable. And this is a person who is a borderline OCD neatnik (and that's really the kindest way to put it) - and there she was, knee deep in baby hoo-sis and wots-its, many of which required batteries.

She asked me what I'd bought already (this was a while ago) - and I said "Nothing yet, but you know I don't guess babies really need a lot of stuff."

She looked at me so seriously and said so gravely. "Oh, they do."

What do I know? Not much. But I do figure it's a pretty safe bet that the stores will still be open after Cletus's arrival, so we can always go and get something if we really need it.


A couple of people actually left some useful tips - namely Rich from Shots Across the Bow who made up a whole list at his place. The key for some fellas seem to be that you need a diaper bag that isn't like - all girly. How 'bout this one?

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Day T Minus 39

...and so I continue the countdown.

Today Naomi Wolf's Misconceptions: Truth, Lies and the Unexpected on the Journey to Motherhood arrived in the post. Naomi Wolf - for the unenlightened is a feminist author. Probably Feminist with a capital F type author. She's the kind of writer who sort of spends a lot of time pointing out all the crappy things that happen to women. It's not that these things don't happen, it's just that she makes a living pointing these things out. It's kinda negative.

Don't get me wrong. I'm a big fan of negativity. I used to support audit and inspection and regulation - so I know, negative can be positive. But is negative what you really want to read at D-Day -39? Well, I certainly sat down to read it.

And yeah, negative can be good. If it all already confirms your choices. Medical intervention can be, you know, medically necessary. But sometimes it's done for other reasons, obstetrician convenience, profit, well-intentioned but misplaced worry. Ms Wolf's book was a combination of her own personal journey in pregnancy - and catalogue of horrifying interventions and deliberately obscured data on agressive interventions (c-sections and episiotomies).

I've decided that I really prefer at little intervention as possible. I have a delicate disposition - but one that's much more suited to enduring pain than enduring indignity and other people's stupid rules. And that's why I'm choosing a home birth. We had our "booking in" section on Sunday - a senior midwife came round to take a look at our house. We seemed to pass, despite our rather disorganised approach to organisation. (We'd done a bit of a tidy before she came round).

One thing about booking a home birth was that we were assured we'd actually get more one-on-one care from midwives than we would if I laboured in hospital. We've booked a doula as well, to help smooth the relationship between us and the medical professionals. Where I live, the NHS operates a team midwife approach - it's quite likely that I'll meet the person who delivers Cletus on the day that she does so.


I spent some time reading out the bits of Naomi Wolf's book that would annoy him most. Particularly a section about women subverting their choice to give their baby their own surname.

I knew that would send him absolutely spare. He's never totally accepted the fact that I never changed my name. I've never totally accepted that he doesn't accept it.

Anyway, Naomi Wolf points out that many women are surprised that even men who are "feminist" are strongly of the opinion that their offspring should have a patriarchal surname. I'm not surprised. Not in the least. After all - as I told the ViL "Mama's baby, Daddy's maybe" - the surname thing provides the man reassurance and acknowledgement that the child is his. And no matter what anybody says, that's an important thing. To the man and probably to the child, too.

When I asked the ViL if he would mine a hyphenated name, he did surprise me. He said he wouldn't mind. Actually I don't want to. My surname is kinda hard to spell. And we will be using it as one of Cletus's middle names anyway.