Thursday, May 31, 2007

First lily

The first lily in my garden:

First lily

Not exactly before and after


Lazy Sunday

My swollen feet

I know the toenails are unkempt. But I can't reach them anymore. And I have trust issues re. the ViL, clippers and my tender toes.

I suppose there are worse side effects of pregnancy.

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

t-0 (-10): the hysterical pregnancy

Back in Tudor times, people didn't have a firm idea of how long pregnancy lasted. When Bloody Queen Mary announced her pregnancy, no one thought anything of it when it went a little long. She retreated into confinement. And that lasted a long while (I know how that feels!). And it lasted a little longer and a little longer.

It wasn't a real pregnancy. Some speculated that it was an hysterical pregnancy, born out of her own desire to secure the crown of England to Rome. Some speculate it was maybe a bit of that and the progression of ovarian cancer which would eventually kill her.

Today I had a thought that my pregnancy is starting to seem a little like that...a big countdown and then, waiting, waiting, waiting. Some more waiting.

But I've got ultrasound pics. Really.

And I've got an induction date. Monday. That's later than they normally "allow". I really don't want to make it to that date. And I could fight further. I don't want an induction. But I'm tired of waiting.

No more than 5 days til baby Cletus

Does this work?

I was looking at Household Tips for Women at The Onion when I spotted this one:

When you open yourself to the abundance of the universe, anything is possible... even getting a clean toilet with NO SCRUBBING! Pour a can of Coca-Cola into the toilet, let it sit for one hour, and then flush it clean. You can use that extra sixty minutes of free time to believe, breathe, dream, laugh, or CELEBRATE what makes you UNIQUE!

Does this work? I mean not that it matters too much to me, since it's my husband's job to to clean the toilet. But I just thought maybe, if it did work, he could celebrate what makes him unique.

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

No goose down

I posted yesterday about my fears for the welfare of a pair of Egyptian Goose Goslings. Well, I think saw them today in our walk in the park.

They were really cute before:

Egyptian goose and goslings

But I'm afraid that when they get big...

Egyptian Geese

--they get ugly


(But like so ugly they're kinda cute...) Anyway, I was relieved to see them. And then just as we were moving on - some woman's dog starts chasing after them and they just barely made it to the water in time. I thought I was going to see the little goslings get eaten after all. Then the dog remembered he could swim. And I really thought I was gonna see gosling slaughter. But, the dog gave up.

And what did the owner do? Did she call him off. No, she just chuckled indulgently.


We saw other kinds of wicked bird behavior today, too. The swans with their swanlings thought that a Canadian goose got a little too close for comfort so the swan bit down on the goose's ass feathers. The goose swam/water skated/flew all over the place trying to shake his tail feathers (and the swan) - but not til the goose got onto land did the swan let go. It was hilarious. Though kind of scary.

Swans. Did you know that they can break your arm with one beat of their mighty wings?

t-0 (-9): finally I see a celebrity...on the labour ward

I had a monitoring appointment today. The midwives and junior doctors wanted to put me on the induction train for Cletus's lack of promptness. I said no. They said that only a senior doctor could "let me" go and agree an "alternate" care plan. So we waited and saw a senior doctor. He was totally cool with our wanting to watch and wait. He didn't think there was any risk in waiting until our cut-off date for induction (a week from today). So we went on home.

On the way out I saw Jordan, glamour model, pneumatic breast wearer and one of these people who seems to make a living off being famous.

I almost never see any celebrities, and if I do - I don't recognise them.

And Jordan's pregnant, too. Quite pregnant.

I'm not really surprised that a celeb was there - just by the fact that I noticed her. Our local hospital is reknowned as one of the better for "problem" pregnancies, and despite the fact it's really not a very nice environment it's definitely the place you want to go if you want to be on the safe side. Or if you're a celeb, you might want to go to a nearby private birthing centre - which is just spitting distance from the hospital. (My house is the same distance, which is why I've felt OK about a home birth).

I actually had my camera with me, but there's no way I'd have got it out at the hospital. First off, what if it wasn't really her? And even if it had been, it just would have been too trashy to snap someone's pic in the hospital.

Monday, May 28, 2007

bracken heart

My bracken heart

We keep walking despite the rain. Not the best weather for photos. The temperature has plunged to the 40s in Southern England, the sky is leaden and the wind is blustery. It's a holiday weekend here - so that's totally expected.

Update (in response to a comment):

This is a still closed furl of bracken - a big-ass fern. I fancied having some in a difficult spot in my garden, and planted some but then thought "Hmmm- this stuff covers a whole park, it grows in every nook and cranny, the deer can't kill it." So I chickened out -pulling the little fledgling things up. Turns out that was the right thing to do (from the Wikipedia entry):

bracken may be considered to be one of the most successful ferns. The plant sends up large, triangular fronds from a wide-creeping underground rootstock, and may form dense thickets. This rootstock may travel a metre or more underground between fronds. The fronds may grow up to 2.5 m (8 feet) long or longer with support, but typically are in the range of 0.6-2 m (2-6 feet) high


It is a prolific and abundant plant in the highlands of British Isles. It causes such a problem of invading pastureland that at one time the British government had an eradication program. Special filters have even been used on some British water supplies to filter out the bracken spores.

t-0 (-8): latent National Socialism and projects to pass the time

Back in 1999, I was on a bit of a Roman kick. We'd visited some ruins in the countryside and seen some mosaics in the British Museum. I bought a book on Roman mosaics and started on a painstaking complex mosaic coffee table. I'd seen the table-top tiling project done on tv and it was completed, in an afternoon, by two people. I chose a more intricate pattern, smaller tiles and there was only me - but I figured I could complete it in a couple of weeks of mosaicking and tv watching in the evenings. This project occupied a central space in our living area - after I all I wanted it to be convenient. It turned out to be pretty painstaking and tedious. Months and months later, the Vol-in-Law threatened me: Complete the project or he would start randomly gluing large white bathroom tiles to the table top to finish it himself.

I knew he was a bit fed up, but I did not believe that he would interfere with my art. I did not think that he would dare. I awaited inspiration to finish the work.

Beneath my horrified gaze, he glued down the first tile and I took a whole new tack with the table and it was completed by the weekend. It wasn't exactly a Roman design anymore - in fact, it's Roman in the central motif - and abstract Gaudi-esque moving outwards, until you get to the edges, where large white plain bathroom tiles prevail. I would show you a picture, but the table is now covered with a wine rack and the paperwork detritus of our lives.

My next project was a needlepoint design based on a Roman mosaic pattern found in an ancient Romano-British villa. I painstakingly copied out and slightly altered a design I thought I could do in two colors in needlepoint. I was trying to be a bit less ambitious - and needlepoint can be put away in a bag.

It was only when I stepped back a bit, that I realised that the design was full of swastikas. Crap. Well, I'd already started. Plus, swastikas are used as a perfectly normal and nice design element of symbol in loads of cultures (Hopi, Hindu and Roman).

Somewhere along the way, I decided to stitch in the year of completion - 1999. The Vol-in-Law warned me against doing that. He said that I'd be setting myself up for failure (particularly given my extensive track record of 90% completion of art projects before giving up - it wasn't just the table). Rubbish - I said. Thanks for your vote of confidence - I said.

It's 2007, and I pulled out everything in our junk closet to find my roughly 50% completed needework with a big mocking 1999 stiched into the design. I needed a project to pass the time. I needed something to occupy my time while I waited for the baby, propped up my swollen feet and watched old Columbos and Sally Jesse Rafael in syndication.

Well, I finished it. And then some. I added a design surround and stitched in a motto.

Agere et pati Romanum est

To do and to endure (suffer) is Roman. Apparently, the ViL's mother used to say this to him when he was complaining. I changed it slightly to Agere et pati Vol-Abroadium est when I was feeling a bit down about my lot. Which I am now. Perhaps I should have made it Exspecto et pati Vol-Abroadium est - To wait for and to endure.


I've also stitched in 2007, too.

I'm still awaiting and enduring, but now I'm out of needlepoint.

8 days of baby Cletus lateness

Goosey gone


I think these little guys have been eaten. I've been looking for them every time I visit the park. I've seen their parents (Egyptian geese), but no sign of the goslings on a number of occasions now.

Sunday, May 27, 2007

t-0 (-7): it's someone's birthday

Mine. It's my birthday. I hadn't wanted to share. But at this point, I'd have been just as happy to evict the little blighter. After all, I already share the day with Hubert Humphrey, Henry Kissinger and Siouxsie Sioux*.

We had a pretty quiet day. Despite gray skies and constant drizzle, we went for a long walk - almost two hours and then out to dinner at an "American" chain restaurant. It's hard to make big plans when you're over a week overdue.

(photo ripped from Underground T-Shirts, with a fine range of similarly imaged t-shirts from the era)


* Which just goes to show that there really is something in the whole horoscope thing. I feel my personality is really something eclectically between Henry Kissinger and Siouxsie. That is - given free rein - I'd probably orchestrate a secret war while wearing wild costumes, wild hair and a lot of eye make-up.

7 days of baby Cletus lateness

Saturday, May 26, 2007

t-0 (-6): cute outfits

Well, I'm still out walking - we took another long walk in Richmond Deer Park. It's the Saturday of a holiday weekend, but there were very few people about. I guess the leaden skies threatening rain kept the less cabin be-fevered away. It was nice though, and the cooler weather has helped keep the swelling in my feet to a manageable level. We went pretty much straight after lunch, and there's a lot of strain in my abdominals, so I got a stitch from walking. This happens a lot, but I find myself wishing and hoping it was more than a stitch.

We saw swans and geese with their hatchlings. They're kinda ugly. But they're kinda cute. I'm trying not to be jealous of the critters with their newborns.

swan parade

watchful goosey


We've been trying to entice Cletus out to the world outside by telling him about all the things that he can do and the places he can go. Right now, it's not much, but surely it's better and more interesting than the current cramped quarters.

We've got all kinds of interesting things for him. We've got cats and a swing. We've got a baby snuggle nest. We've told him so. I also told him that he's got lots of cute outfits to wear. As soon as I said it, I realised how stupid that was. I myself used to run at the phrase "C'mon and try this on."

6 days of baby Cletus lateness

Much needed

Happy Birthday to me

These arrived today. From my mom, for my birthday (tomorrow). They were much needed.

We're still waiting.

Friday, May 25, 2007

t-0 (-5): If I'd known there was a test...

...I might have studied.

I had my 41 week appointment today. There was a vaginal examination. I failed.

Basically, there's a Bishop's score of 10 - which indicates favorableness of induction, I got only a 4. That's a bare pass at best.

What does this mean? It almost certainly means more waiting.

Cletus. Get out.

5 days of baby Cletus lateness

Birthday ideas

OK, it's my birthday on Sunday - and we hadn't really made any plans because, well, we're expecting a baby.

But I know I'll be disappointed if the Vol-in-Law doesn't come through with some kind of thoughtful gift. Last year we took a print making course at the Wallace Collection, which was fun. I know I don't want clothes and the ViL scoffed at a suggested of jewelry as he thought I had enough already (foolish male). My garden is chock full of plants.

Usually what I do is make some suggestions, and he picks from the list but I can't think of anything.

Please help out the ViL with a few suggestions in the comments. I won't peek. But please - don't say "a baby".

Mao Tse Tung thought

Growing up in the American South at the apogee of the Cold War, I was surrounded by knee-jerk anti-communist sentiment. Looking back, I still can't be sure how much of that anti-communism, anti-socialism was knee-jerk and how much of it was a considered position. But I do remember wondering why this accepted wisdom was so pervasive. Occasionally I heard stuff about writers being silenced in Soviet Russia or people queueing hours for bread, clutching their string bags in the deep cold of a Moscow winter. But when occasionally one heard about the great strides in literacy or the abolition of true hunger or a greater sense of equality and fairness - and it was difficult to make an accurate judgment about the right or wrongs of communism. Particularly when those rights and wrongs were being judged by a young and idealistic mind. Why not focus on the true goodness of human nature - perhaps the right system could help foster that rather than encouraging the competitive, ruthless and essentially artificially harsh nature of the spirit under a capitalist system?

I certainly hadn't met any card-carrying members of the Communist party. Even amongst the more radical kids I've met - most of them only espoused a sense of wanting some aspects of socialism introduced into the US to a greater or lesser extent.

Once in England, however, I did begin to meet Communists. Yes, card carrying members of the Communist Party. I met members of the Socialist Workers' Party. Many of these people are very sociable and very nice, with nice clean middle class looking homes. Some of these were people who I would gladly have lunch with and might even discuss politics with over sandwiches and cups of tea.

At one such lunch I had with one of these CP or SWP members, at a bijou joint serving vegetarian soups and overlooking the picturesque ruins of Kenilworth Castle, we started talking about China. I can't remember how we got started on that - but perhaps there had been a serialisation of Jung Chang's Wild Swans - or another book which covered the period of famine during the Great Leap Forward. I remember expressing horror at the needless human suffering on a truly monumental scale.

My communist luncheon companion said so cooly and dispassionately "Sometimes there must be sacrifices in order to make progress."

I was revulsed. I really didn't know what to say. I think I said something about not wanting to be one of those individuals sacrificed - but whatever it was it was completely inadequate. Yes, I'd heard the concept before, and on the face of it - it makes sense. After all, I must sacrifice expensive work day lunches if I want to go on a nice vacation. But that's not the kind of sacrifice we were talking about and she knew it. Along with Mao, she had consigned millions to the charnel house of history in her defense of hollow Communist ideals.

By this point, the Great Leap Forward had been so sufficiently identified as a failure that the any sacrifice hardly seemed worth it. I was then of the belief that Chairman Mao didn't know that millions were starving each year, but that because of the nature of the system his underlings in the know were too afraid or too callous to say so. I had never, ever heard anyone defend the deaths of millions of Chinese people. This was an important moment for me. To me this would have been like saying, - you know all those Jews and Gypsies that Hitler killed - well, sometimes sacrifices have to be made for the greater unification of Europe. Absolutely horrific.

It wasn't until a number of years later that I read Jung Chang's family history - Wild Swans which was her grandmother's, her mother's and her own stories as intertwined with 20th century Chinese history - arguably among the most tumultuous of our times. I could read about the effects of Maoism on one family and the complete failure of Maoism to deliver anything like improved literacy, ending hunger, etc.

Jung Chang and her husband, Jon Halliday, have since published Mao: The Unknown Story. This provides evidence from previously hidden sources about how much Mao knew about the effects of the Great Leap Forward and the Cultural Revolution. The book has been criticised for painting Mao as a cardboard cut-out version of evil, and I'd certainly agree that there were opportunities for painting a more nuanced picture of Mao. This was a man certainly not without talent for political machinations and for population control. One has to respect that kind of genius, much like holding awe for the destructive power of a hurricane. The authors don't seem to want to grant him any credit for a monumental (though monstrous) achievement - getting to and staying at the top of the world's most populous country.

I finished the book some time ago and have been meaning to post about it for quite some time (the original draft of this post is dated 25 March). But my thoughts on the matter are complex and convoluted and a little difficult to pull together. I've retrieved this post because last night I watched a documentary called Mao's Bloody Revolution: Revealed - it was about the cultural revolution. This was a slightly more balanced approach to Mao though acknowledging that the Cultural Revolution was violent, destructive and chaotic. But it bought into the radical line that destruction must be achieved before we can re-construct a better world - though we may need near-perpetual revolution before that's achieved. Actually, I'm not sure Mao had in mind a better world at all, I think he revelled in the unending meat-grinder. And that's basically the argument that Jung Chang and Jon Halliday put forward. Mao was a monster.

About the book
Mao: The Unknown Story is very long, very complex and though I know this sounds terribly ethnocentric there are so personages with difficult to remember Chinese names (I feel bad saying it, but it's kinda true). But it was gripping. I started to carry this brick of a book with me on my daily commute despite the fact that weight was beginning to tell in my developing pregnancy.

Mao: The Unknown Story - reviews on other blogs

The scales fall from student's eyes.
An Israeli sees Chang and Halliday speak on a book tour.
Chiang Kai-Shek a revised hero and nice guy? (Not sure about that!)

Growing up with fundamentalism

Anglofille had a post about the tolerance of (Islamic) religious fundamentalism by some of Britain's leading politicians. I've been meaning to comment on it - but I've been quite distracted. All I can think about is baby, baby, baby - why are you so late?

I guess I'd like to say that I broadly agree with her points in the main post and in the comments section - so do go read it. But I'd like to add additional nuances to the argument, but sadly all I can think about is baby, baby, baby - why are you so late? (With the occasional, I feel really uncomfortable and moody thrown in - see I don't have a one-track mind).

Here's some of what she wrote:

I’ve been shocked to read about how Tony Blair and London Mayor Ken Livingstone have embraced certain Islamic fundamentalists here in the UK, men who have expressed vile and disgusting views. Under normal circumstances, I imagine that Livingstone would condemn a person who, for example, was a raging homophobe. [And if the person were Jewish, he may even call them a Nazi.] But apparently if you’re an Islamic fundamentalist, you can trample all over the liberal values these politicians supposedly hold dear. How is this possible? The mind boggles.

I'm not so certain about Tony Blair - although top people on the left have certainly accepted Saudi-funded, Wahabi-style, politicised fundamentalism with abhorrent views of women and homosexuals as the "mainstream" Islam. Ken Livingstone is certainly guilty of literally and figuratively embracing the leaders of Islamist movements - like Yusef al Qaradawi - a most nasty chap by almost any account.

Maybe Blair and Livingstone don’t have much experience of fundamentalism in their own lives and don’t understand how it operates. They associate it with “foreign” people and tolerate it on their home turf because they don’t want to appear racist, perhaps.

Racism is seen by opinion formers here as "the worst thing in the world"* and in order to get the same protection and promotion as the anti-racist agenda - some Muslims have quite pointedly played up the race element of Islam. (Anyone can be a Muslim, but it so happens that most Muslims in the UK have their ethnic origins in the Indian sub-continent.)

But I think we are getting into seriously dangerous territory when we associate thought, behaviour and belief (religion) with race. If we can't discriminate against people because of the way they behave, then we've lost our standards. After all, Sharia (Islamic law) is essentially a discriminatory framework based on religion and behaviour (fair enough, though I disagree with it) and gender (not so fair). If I can't say to the fundamentalist/literalist Muslim as well as to the fundamentalist/literalist Christian "I think you're wrong about evolution - and this wrongness leads me to doubt your approach to other scientific matters," then there's something not right.

Anglofille then writes of her own experience:
As an American and someone who knows a thing or two about religious fundamentalism, I worry about the threat religious extremists pose to British society. I see it as a very real and dangerous threat

I think she touches on an important point. I don't think it applies to Tony Blair or Ken Livingstone who are men of the world. I think Livingstone embraces Islamism as part of his cynical Trotskyite self-loathing and destructivist tendencies (just as he embraces Chavez and Castro to the cost of London taxpayers).

But I do think it applies to vast swathes of London upper-middle class policy makers and opinion formers and the mass who form "general public opinion". Their experience with church and religion has been cursory at best (at worst?). They have no idea what it's like to live in a community dominated by one prevailing and strongly religious world view. Well, I'll tell you what it's like as someone who grew up in the buckle of the Bible belt. If you're a natural non-conformist - it sucks. It's oppressive**. And that's exactly the kind of world that Qaradawi and political Islamists want us to live in.

Trouble on the left?
I consider myself something close to a classical liberal. And oddly this makes me pretty right-wing in the UK. But there is a movement on the left which recognises the danger of extremism.

I've written a little about that here - when I still had brain.

* I agree that racism is bad and harmful and ill-informed, but I'm not sure it deserves the "cause of all evil" status that it seems to have in UK society.
** Yet at the same time, religion can support good behavior and vital social structures and provide a comforting and useful moral framework. Go figure.

Thursday, May 24, 2007

Green eyed monster

Mary Cheney had her baby. Why not me?

Just one more reason to hate that cow and her war-profiteering family.

(I recognise that I'm losing it.)

t-0 (-4): Lime punch

People who tell me to enjoy my sleep now are killing me. I'm already not sleeping well. This seems cosmically unfair. The constant need to pee wakes me up. Sometimes the swelling in my feet actually wakes me up. The anxiety of waiting keeps me up. I'm not very good at this.

Last night I couldn't sleep from about 3:30 to 6:30. I tried to play computer games, but eventually gave up and watched a Perry Mason tv movie - you know from the later years when he's all fat and you're all wondering "How come Perry and Della never got married." Usually, these put me straight to sleep. But not this time. I know I'd seen it before because it had Joe Penny in it. I've always had a fondness for Joe Penny. And I knew I'd seen him in a Perry Mason, but I couldn't remember what the outcome was. Since he was the defendant, you know that he was the one person (other than Della and Perry) who was guaranteed to be innocent. He was, of course, and it was the step-daughter of the victim who-dunnit. Since I'd come in a bit late this was a total surprise to me. I'd never even seen her before.


I was trying to catch up on my sleep this afternoon. Unfortunately, there was much hammering going on in my street and I couldn't quite get past it to doze off. And then I started to think about Lime Sherbet Punch. We used to have this at school parties in the 70s. It was made with luminous green sherbet and Sprite. The best sherbet base was from Kay's Ice Cream. Is Kay's still around?

I got a bit fixated on it - perhaps even developed a craving. But I could make an attempt to satisfy this one. I had diet lemonade - R. White's by Royal Appointment (British lemonade is kinda like Sprite) in the fridge and lemon-lime Italian sorbet in the freezer. This is the noughties and I'm an urbanite now - now we have sorbet.

I tell you, it was pretty good, but it was a pale yellow not uranium green and that just wasn't the same.


I'll tell you what else I'm craving. A Marlboro Red. Man, I'd just about kill for one of those. And if Cletus doesn't show up soon, I'd definitely trade my firstborn for a pack of 20.

4 days of baby Cletus lateness

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

t-0 (-3): fed up

I've said all along that I didn't want to share my birthday with Cletus. I'm selfish that way. I'm starting to panic. My birthday's on Sunday.

Each day seems like an eternity encapsulated - but the birthday (mine) draws ever nearer. I got my first birthday card today.


Last night I dreamt of labor symptoms, but when I woke up it was a just a dream. I was so disappointed. I'm really fed up.

3 days of baby Cletus lateness

We fed the crows

I try to go walking every day, but filled with a sense of ennui - I was dissatisfied with visiting our usual haunts. The ViL suggested Wimbledon Common, which we haven't been to in over a year and even packed a picnic.

Given that he'd brought a big loaf of Italian bread for our repast, we had quite a bit left over. The perfect opportunity to feed the ducks. So we headed for the pond. On our way, we noticed some crows. Turns out they were little beggars. We sat on a park bench and tossed out chunks of bread. They were viciously competitive, squabbling and squawking, black feathers flying. And the noise only attracted more crows, more noise, more crows. But as much as they wanted the bread, they were cautious things, too. If we threw the bread too close to our feet, they would tilt their heads to eye us up suspiciously before only the bravest would quickly snatch up the crumb. If we threw it even closer, they passed on it and moved a few steps further away. (They hadn't forgot - and as soon as we left, there was a big fight for a teasing bread)

It was fun feeding the crows, but admittedly a little weird, being surrounded by all those black carrion creatures. So we headed on down to the pond. The crows followed. Apparently they're used to fighting the ducks for the bread - and the crows even have a cool trick of catching the bread mid-air as you toss the bread slow and underhand to the ducks.

the crow takes the bread
A previously spotted crow.

still checking?

If you're still checking on the status of Cletus arrival, we're still waiting.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Local blogging

Gummint blogging. There's a topic I'm interested in, though probably best not to go into why (I could tell you, but I'd have to shoot you.) Here in the UK, there is at least one blogging minister. I may not care for his politics, but I do like his style. And there are increasing numbers of local councillor bloggers.

Michael Silence asks what a local government blog should be like
and then bemoans the fact that we have such a limited elected representational presence in the blogosphere, despite the fact that Tennessee has such a fine blogging community.

Well, I'm proud to say that one of the blogging elected is Chris Jackson, Lawrence Co Commissioner and stripling lad (a mere 21). Sure, he's from Loretto, but that's still close enough to the big Burg that I can claim a sense of local pride.

I would like to say to young Mr Jackson:

  1. First, good luck with your blogging endeavors. I hope you keep it up.
  2. Please use the tags function to differentiate your postsby category.
  3. Please, please if you're going to use your Commissioner title blog about some Lawrence County issues.

t-0 (-2): still waiting

The Vol-in-Law has developed a special tone now for answering the phone. (I refuse to pick up now.) "We're still waiting," he says. That usually short circuits many of the questions.

We're still waiting. We're tired enough of saying this, that lately every time I hear the phone ring I hope it's Satvinder in Mumbai - masquerading as Sam in the Midlands - wanting to sell me a new mobile phone package - rather than someone asking about the late delivery of the goods.


We went for another long walk today. I told the ViL about a birth story I read in Ina May's Guide to Childbirth. It was a birth that took place on the farm and the mom-to-be started her day by hiking in the woods around Summertown with friends. She described herself as fairly bounding along. I told the ViL that I felt a little bit bad that I wasn't bounding.

But the ViL said "You've basically got three speeds. Meander, trudge and stride. You've never been a bounder."

Nor a cad. Nor a roue.

2 days of baby Cletus lateness

Not fast enough

The Cutty Sark* - reputed to be the fastest sailing ship ever built - a clipper in the tea trade and now a museum piece over in Greenwich - burnt up. Cutty spark, as one newsreader announced.

I meant to blog about it. But I have a lot on my mind these days. Kathy F has blogged about it here. She said she didn't go on it because it was closing just as they were arriving. I've never been on it, 'cause I suspect it cost money. (We're very cheap.) But just like Kathy - you think, yeah, it'll always be there...

Now it's not.

Fortunately, big bits of the ol' Cutty Sark were off someplace else for restoration - so these didn't burn up. It's not clear how restorable she'll be, but they're already coming up with giant estimates for the additional costs to an already expensive restoration project.

And the ship has been declared a crime scene. Someone burnt her up on purpose.


*Cutty Sark is also, apparently, the world's first light colored whisky. Isn't it amazing the things that Google can show you. I've never tried the stuff, but it's my view that blended whisky is suitable only for stripping varnish.

The mountain laurel

Regular readers may know that I'm quite fond of visiting Richmond Deer Park and since becoming pregnant we've gone even more regularly. It's not smoky, focused on drinking and the long walks are healthful and relaxing. And recently, walking is the only thing that reduces the increasingly uncomfortable swelling in my feet and legs.


In the Spring, the most beautiful part of the park is the Isabella Plantation - a fenced in area (to keep the deer out) known for its magnolias, azaleas and rhododendrons. There are great drifts of azaleas to rival to the most ambitious dogwood-trailer in Knoxville (but of course, there are no dogwoods).

On Sunday, we went a way I hadn't gone before and I noticed an enormous mountain laurel. It must have been very old, because laurel as extremely slow growing. It wasn't yet in full bloom.

Kalmia Latifolia

I pointed it out to the Vol-in-Law. I was pretty excited, because it's a native of the Eastern US - and a formerly favorite plant of mine (since I worked at a garden center I had a lot of favorite plants) and I've always liked the unusual crinkled flower buds. Its latin name is Kalmia latifolia. Apparently, it was once very fashionable among the plant collectors of Europe (probably because it is so slow growing and a little picky about conditions). I don't know if the variety pictured above is anything special, but you can now buy cultivars which are quite showy and useful in a partly shaded, acidic garden.

Linnaeus, the father of modern taxonomy, himself named this plant after a friend. I told all this to the ViL - and how I'd also read recently that Linnaeus named nasty plants - like stinkweed - after his critics and detractors.

The unsolicted comment

In England, unlike America, the unsolicited comment is frowned upon. You can't just - as a passer by - say "Nice suit" or "That dog sure is frisky." (In some circumstances you may make an unsolicited comment about the weather.) I have to admit - I like being free from the unsolicited comment - at least on the receiving side. But like many Americans, I do like to make unsolicited comments. I do my best to refrain.

But as we were still admiring the Kalmia, a couple came upon the shrub and were discussing amongst themselves what it might be. They determined that it was more like a rhododendron than a rose. That's the right approach to plant ID. What's it like? What might it be related to? But comparing it to a rose is just ridiculous. I interjected. "It's a laurel, a Mountain Laurel." (It did have a tag, but it was pretty well hidden and read only Kalmia latifolia).

They were surprised. They thanked me. I refrained from adding anything else (like it's native range, growth habit or use in the garden) But as we moved on I asked the ViL if I had been totally out of line. He said no, that he thought they were crying out for information.

Did the eggplant work?

I made the famous labor-inducing eggplant recipe last night. Maybe the flavors need more time to blend. It was really delicious, but like many such things - it will be even better today. And the recipe is huge - so there's a lot left over.

And no - no sign of baby.

Monday, May 21, 2007

Scalini's labor inducing eggplant

Here's an update from the previous countdown post. The eggplant parmesan, made to Scalini's labor inducing eggplant recipe - is in the oven - the flavors blending, the cheese melting, the perfect goodness of al forno. ( forno sounds a lot like how I got myself into this position in the first place.)

Accept no substitutions
VolMom suggested a simpler, easier recipe in the comments section of the previous post. That might be all well and good, but I'm afraid I need every step and part of the ritual to take full advantage of the sympathetic magic. Plus, they say that the active stuff is probably in the herbs. The recipe calls for fresh herbs, so I got me some fresh herbs - and no jar sauce - no matter how good it is will be able to compare.

I have tasted the marinara - and it is divine.

marinara sauce

It's a lot of work
This recipe takes a lot of effort. There are many stages. But luckily, I had two helpers.

The Vol-in-Law

My husband grates the cheese
who grated the cheese.

And Fancy...
Fancy on her perch

...who frankly provided the kind of help I didn't need.

my special helper

Now, don't worry about cat hair in the sauce - because basically I'm doing this for Cletus. He needs to have exposure to dander and dirt to prevent asthma. I'm just looking after the health of my unborn baby.

And here are some more stages in the process...

The panfried eggplant slices:


and the first layer of the construction:

the first layer of eggplant

I'm getting pretty hungry.

Of course, now the kitchen is a total tip. And normally that wouldn't matter, but I am planning a home birth. I just hope the early stages of labor (brought on by the eggplant of course) are easy enough that I can supervise the ViL in a little kitchen tidying.

It's ready!

I just heard my oven beeping. So that's it for this post, I have to go.

UPDATE: I've just noticed that people are landing on this post from a Google search. So... did it work? No. It did not.

I made and ate this at 3 days past my due date. I had it for lunch the second day. We had leftovers again several days later. I am still pregnant 9 days later. I am very overdue.

Was it good? Yes - it was effin' unbelievably tasty. The marinara sauce was great (best I've ever tasted - anywhere) and in itself wasn't that much trouble. I will use that again. If I made this again, I would probably oven roast the eggplant slices with a light seasoning of Italian herbs and a drizzle of olive oil rather than pan fry and I would cut back (a bit) on the cheese. This would save about a million calories and I think it would tast a bit "fresher". That's just me. And the most trouble about the whole recipe was the frying up of the eggplant slices.

Further update: I've noticed this is a very popular post - and I realise that if you're searching for this, you're probably at the tail end of your pregnancy and desperate for it to be over and to have that baby. Well, good luck. I made this just past my due date and delicious though it was, my baby was born 16 days late after three days of labor. Your mileage may vary. Of course, the labor inducing drugs didn't work very well for me either. (Read birth story here if you want). The best thing for me was using one of those swiss balls or birthing balls.

And, of course, you will get your baby in the end. Here are some photos!

t-0(-1): the big guns

OK - Cletus. It's time to bring out the big guns. The Scalini's Eggplant Recipe. Apparently, it works.

I'll let you know how I get on.

1 day of baby Cletus lateness

I dream of Jeanie

Daytime tv. Gotta love it.

Today I saw the pilot episodes of I dream of Jeannie. It had a different intro, but most of the recognisable characters seemed to be there. The Major (as played by Larry Hagman) was a Captain. And given how goofy he was in the opening episodes, I'm not really sure how he got that promotion.

I remember really liking the show when I was young, but I'd never seen the opening episodes. I'm not sure how the series got commissioned, but that Sidney Sheldon must have been a pretty persuasive producer.

In the 2nd episode, Jeannie magics herself and the Major Captain back 2000 years to ancient Baghdad. But everyone's already Muslim (Islam isn't yet 2000 years old). It was quite interesting to see the Major being held captive by a barbaric, giant Baghdadi. It all seemed quite dark and prophetic, in a way.

Sunday, May 20, 2007

t-0: where's Cletus?

Still no real sign of Cletus. I'm wondering if maybe he's refusing to come out until we stop calling him Cletus.

At least we got out of the house today and went to Richmond Park. Being a lovely sunny Sunday (contrary to predictions), the park was quite full. I hope all that walking will kick something off.


On the way over, I got out the old MP3 player and plugged it into the car. I realised that my "Dixie Fried Rock" playlist is probably completely inappropriate for tiny ears. Too many adult themes. One song that didn't deal with screwin', drinkin' or cheatin' was The Battle of New Orleans (this verison, performed, I think by The Nitty Gritty Dirt Band).

I love this song. I've even sung it in karaoke, in the UK. Followed by an appeal to the better natures of the rowdy patrons of the scariest pub this side of the dogtracks. My appeal went like this "Please don't kill us."

I love singing this song to the Vol-in-Law - "We fired our guns and the British kept a-comin', but there wasn't nigh as many as there was a while ago. We fired once more and they began to runnin' on down the Mississippi to the Gulf of Mexico. Oh they ran through the briars, and they ran through the brambles and they ran through the bushes where a rabbit wouldn't go..."

The Vol-in-Law, despite being a not-reluctant admirer of Ol' Hickory (him being the quintessential Scots-Irishman whose conception place was within walking distance from where the ViL grew up) does not sing along.

And even this song is a little inappropriate. Poor Cletus, soon to be born an Englishman, won't know which way to jump on this one.

0 days til baby Cletus

Saturday, May 19, 2007

t-1: last day - right?

We've had our last baby class today. It was all about taking care of baby. We were given lots of leaflets.

Here's the main thing I learned: Don't overdress baby. Babies in Britain should be kept at 65 F - but of course that's 18 C. Babies in America are supposed to be kept at 70 F.

Our house doesn't have any air conditioning, so basically ambient temperature is what our house will be. The best advice I've seen though is that baby should be wearing one more light layer than what you're comfortable at. Of course, unless it's broiling here, I'm not hot. When Brits are sweltering, I'm reaching for my cardigan.


I reset my due date til tomorrow, to take in this last class. But officially it was yesterday. Nobody in my family has been overdue for 60 years. Maybe Cletus is just being a good boy and complying with my original wishes.


I haven't really complained. Until now. But my feet are really swollen. Painfully swollen. Last night I stubbed my toe on the hearth, but instead of just stubbing - I managed to cut my foot open in two places. Not bad, really. But given that my problem is painful swelling the cuts only make things worse. Only walking gives me any relief from the swelling - and now that I've got a cut on the bottom of my foot - walking is a lot less pleasant than it was before.

Still, we managed to go for a walk in a "park" near our house today. It's called the Wandle Wildlife Meadow - but it's really a grown-over wasteland, a disused sewage works with a path cut through it.

But there was some wildlife. We saw some feral children and a couple of young foxes.

And the swelling went down...temporarily.

1 day til baby Cletus

Friday, May 18, 2007

Pick me

Newscoma reports her disappointment that she wasn't picked for the latest gummint made-up post: War Czar

I am very sad I wasn’t asked to be war czar. I think I would make a fine Czar. Maybe I can be Pilsner Czar. I think I would like that better.

I told the Vol-in-Law yesterday that I would like to be War Czar. He said that he didn't think I was qualified. That I needed to be male and Republican and have a head filled with empty, disproven ideas from 1970s MBA programs. That I also needed to ignore the reality and stay loyal and not actually improve anything - and he didn't think I had the ability to do that.

But I said, no - I've worked in consulting to and regulating government for a long time. I know how to stay busy but not actually improve much. That wouldn't be my first preference, that isn't the way I like to work, but it is a skill I maintain.

t-2: I'm so bored

I had this idea, see - born of the times my grandfather gave me makework* in the summer to keep me from sleeping in all day. I always thought that if I heard a kid complain "I'm so bored," the standard reply ought to be "That's probably because you don't have enough chores to do."

I am so bored.

It's not like I don't have enough chores to do. I could do endless chores. I think there's some laundry in the dryer. That could be folded. Vacuuming, bathroom cleaning, I just took my seedlings outside finally and there's accumulated dirt in the windowsill. I should probably get that up before the midwives report me to social services. And if I'm too tired to do it, I could always command the Vol-in-Law (don't know how well that would go down, though).

There's weeding and planting out to do - although at 40 weeks pregnant, that really is a bit difficult and something I don't want the ViL messing with.

I could do my little scanning in old photos project. I could go shopping for food.

But no. I am so bored. I am just puttering about, waiting. The waiting is getting oppressive now. We're just waiting for baby to arrive - and the anticipation is so distracting and consuming that neither one of us is really able to concentrate on anything else. Not even getting ready.

2 days til baby Cletus

*one year I'd have to paint the wrought iron, super ornate garden furniture with white lacquer and the next year I'd have to paint it black - the next year white. This necessitated multiple coats to cover the - in my opinion - still good paint job from the previous year. And because I did NOT follow instructions - scraping and removing rust before painting - I managed to seal in the rot. Not that it mattered, since no one ever sat on that garden furniture.

I had to paint it with a brush. Spray machines were not allowed. I complied. My brother did not. He waited until my grandfather left the house and then used a sprayer to do a "really good job."

King Gordon and other observations

Well, Gordon Brown lifts the crown. That is, in the arcane fashion of the Labour Party choosing its next leader they've managed not to have a contest at all, and we must all live with the consequences as he becomes Prime Minister at the end of June.

Gordo says he didn't threaten, bully or cajole MPs against signing up to support a possible contender*, the Labour left winger MP John McDonnell (who you might ask? I dunno. But one thing's for sure, we won't be hearing from him again, so no need to worry) I believe Brown. I think there was no need to threaten against supporting another candidate - thus necessitating a contest. Because I think they all know what Gordon Brown is like. The Dick Cheney of British politics, Mr Brown is a man who knows how to carry a grudge and a man who will freeze you out and make you pay for your impudence. Long live King Gordon!


I note that Tony Blair and George Bush had a last love-in in the Rose Garden yesterday. Many in Britain are suggesting that Tony step down now and let Gordon move his offices to Number 10. Gordo seems to be in new hurry, perhaps that was part of the deal to let Tony have his farewell tour - no matter what. His original departure date was set to coincide with the end of the leadership contest, but since that wrapped up very early there seems to be no impediment to office.

The Brits are used to swift transitions. You know the results of the election by 1am on the morning after polling day and by 10am the movers have removed your last box from Downing Street - and the new PM has got a throng of people outside the front door to wish you on your way. (I'd be tempted to leave something nasty in the middle of the velvet coverlet in the master bedroom) But as an American, I'm used to the idea of a lame duck presidency - from November to January - so it doesn't bother me in the slightest that Tony's taking his own sweet time to pack up.

Although I do note that he's off to a European "constitutional" meeting in his last week in office. I wonder will he sign us all up to something that Gordon Brown backs but which he'll be able duck accountability for - e.g. the European constitution by the back door.

Only time will tell.

*Yesterday was the deadline for Labour party challengers to get 40-some signatures from fellow MPs as a nomination to become candidate. No one made it, so Gordon Brown goes unchallenged.


Yesterday we went for a nice long walk in Richmond Deer Park - probably about four miles. I didn't bring my camera as I usually do, because I feel like I'm carrying enough right now. I knew as soon as I didn't bring my camera there would be something good - sure enough we saw three does swimming in the lake. The surface was choppy and silvery - it would have looked cool. Maybe something like this:

king deer in the water

Anyway, the sky was overcast, a heavy gray. We also felt quite soporific. Several times I wanted to lie down in the grass and bracken and sleep. I think the pollen count is very high - quite pollenious I described it.

Yes, I know it's not a real word - I told the Vol-in-Law.

It sounds like a Latin surname, he said.

I think it's a Shakespeare character, Ophelia's snooping father.

I still feel sleepy. I don't know if it's being 40 weeks pregnant, or the polleniousness of the London air, or some combination of the two. But I'm a bit stuffed up and tired.

Thursday, May 17, 2007

t-3: don't drink the camel milk

Months ago, someone advised me that if I wanted baby to come on time, that I should:

  • drink plenty of water
  • walk for one hour every day in the last two to three weeks
  • avoid all dairy - but especially NOT to touch camel milk. Camel milk will make your baby come late.

She said this with a straight face. Seriously. Of course, this person was raised and was twice pregnant in the Middle East.

The first two make perfect sense. At least, they can't hurt - walking is well advised and it's always good to stay hydrated. I have to admit, I haven't been avoiding dairy - but I mostly come from Northern European stock and we are adapted through evolution to drinking the milk of the cow, so I figure there's no harm in it.

But we're not used to the milk of the camel.

I have managed to go almost 37 years (my own birthday is in 10 days!) without a drop of camel milk (to my knowledge). For the vast majority of this time my avoidance of camel milk has been purely coincidental - but in the last couple of weeks my abstinence has been deliberate. And now I am curious.

I wouldn't know where to buy camel milk, but I would bet that I could probably procure some in a shop off the Edgeware Road in London. I admit, that if some were offered to me now, I would have to refuse it - just in case - but I would take a sample to freeze and try later.

And I was curious enough to look up a UN Food and Agriculture Organization report on Camel Milk. Turns out:
  • excellent lactation rates on poor fodder, better than other lactating livestock
  • good nutritional quality,
  • but variable taste depending on the amount of moisture available.

I also discovered that in some cultures only unmarried women, young boys and ritually pure men are allowed to milk camels. There's something I didn't know before - and really another good reason to marry.

3 days til baby Cletus and camel milk is safe once more

for honor

Anglofille has been writing about the death of a young woman in Kurdish Iraq. It's all pretty horrific. She was killed, savagely beaten to death, for being a gal who cut her own path. Her death and post-mortem kicking were filmed. How 'bout those cell phone cameras.

And while some of us find such a thing shocking - apparently the clip of her death and her bloody corpse being dragged off the streets have inspired more "honor killings".


These things don't just happen in Iraq or Afghanistan or Jordan or Egypt. No, they happen here, too.

While researching this issue of honor killings in Britain, I found a BBC news article from last September. According to their poll, 1 in 10 British Asians believe that honor killings are acceptable. The government estimates that 13 women in the UK die each year as a result of honor killings, but support groups say this number is way too low.


Wednesday, May 16, 2007

t-4: we'll call you

So, we should be all clear now. The Vol-in-Law is on vacation now. The doula's husband's birthday was today (not that she wouldn't have come) - but I'm sure she'd have rather spent today with him. And we've no more plans, so we've given Cletus the all clear to make an appearance whenever now.

And perhaps his arrival will put an end to the phone calls.

So, just to let you know. I am still pregnant. And when I'm not, we'll call you.

4 days til baby Cletus

Double tagged

I've been tagged again on the 5 fave restaurant meme. So, I'll just link to my original post.

One thing I will say, in my original post I listed pretty much all local places. Yes, London has many, many fabulous restaurants, but I really like going out in my own neighbourhood. I've felt more this way since getting involved with local politics.

But I do have an update. One of the folks I tagged, listed a place called Pizzeria Sette Bello, in Tooting on Amen Corner. It sounded really good and good value (by London standards). I really wanted to try it before the baby arrived, and since it really could be I figured I better go soon.

So we went tonight and we decided to walk, with the option of catching the bus home afterwards. I'm awfully, awfully glad we did walk up there (and back) because I absolutely stuffed myself.

For starters I had the eggplant parmesan - or melanzana parmigiana. I don't know if it has the labor inducing properties of the famous Scalini's recipe, but it was certainly delicious. Really delicately flavoured with a lovely herby marinara.

I also had the pizza, which was very traditional - tasted quite like the ones in Italy - which isn't necessarily a fantastic thing. I'm a big fan of faffy pizza with complicated ingredients put together in an artistic way. But it was still very tasty. I also had a side salad which was big enough to split - a rare thing. The Vol-in-Law had a penne with a creamy tomato sauce which was also very good. I don't think I've ever seen him order anything other than a pizza at a pizzeria.

And then we had dessert. It was a cherry cheesecake. It looked fantastic, like a New York style baked cheesecake. You see, cheesecake in Britain is usually the congealed kind, not baked at all. And it usually has a nasty, non-cheesy, chemical aftertaste. Well, this wasn't a beautiful baked cheesecake, but I have to say it was the best "English" style cheesecake I'd ever had. Light, delicious and with no nasty aftertaste.

But best of all, the place had a friendly, open atmosphere - and great service - so unusual in this country...

Yum. I can't say when I'll go again, given my impending change in life circumstances, but I'd go again soon if I could.


Members of my mom's church clubbed together to give us money for a nice baby gift.

I just spent it on a new gas grill.

Baby likes bbq.

A full day's worth of craving

I want a sausage biscuit.

I have no sausage. My biscuit making skills are poor, and of course you can't just go out and buy biscuits.

However, you can buy soda farls. A tasty triangular soda bread from Northern Ireland. Nearest to a biscuit in the British Isles - except you don't seem to cut in any lard to the recipe - so it's not quite as melt-in-your mouth good. (Though probably not as artery hardening either).
The sausage here isn't meaty or sagey enough for my taste. All-in-all there's but poor substitutes for what I need.


I want some meat and three. Fried okra, mac & cheese, greens of some sort or green beans - actually I can't decide between greens or green beans - ok, I'll have meat and four. With a side of cornbread. And some ice tea. Oh, I didn't tell you what meat? I don't care - what's good today?

What kind of pie do you have?


I'm kinda full. I'd like a BLT for supper, with Vlassic dill pickles as a side. No mayonnaise on mine. Just a thin smear of brown mustard, please. Maybe an RC to wash it all down with? In a nod to health, I'd like some carrot sticks, too.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

t-5: things I'll miss

Well, here I am down the last few (hopefully) days of being pregnant. I could compile a list of all the things I'll miss about it, but basically it boils down to one thing.

My legs really haven't needed shaving. The hair on them has become smooth, sparse, light and fine. Even the rather coarse hair on my knees - the result of an accident during a race with a big wheel on a textured driveway - has gotten downright manageable.

5 days til baby Cletus

like watching a trainwreck

A former colleague of mine had a moonlighting job acting as guide-cum-chaperone-cum-cultural interpreter to American high school bands and majorette corps who march in London's New Year's Day parade. I'm not sure who goes to see that parade and if it's shown on tv it's up in the nosebleed channels on some open access programming. But American high school students pay to march in London - so there's a parade.

This colleague often had to deal with American parents and chaperones who were a bit shocked by the more open, permissive culture of Britain. For example, one came to her complaining of the unrelenting pornography on the hotel tv and could they please have the channel blocked?

Upon investigation it was discovered it was one of the regular old, free-to-air network channels - good old Channel 4 with a little late night, educational, culturally enlightening documentary. And no - since it was a "terrestrial" channel - it could not be blocked. This stuff was being broadcast into every home in the land.

I had to admit I had some sympathy with the American parent. After all, on what other channel can you find a man talking openly about his love for his pony (as I have watched - rapt)? And I don't mean like a little girl's love for her pony. Not at all.

Of course Channel 4 doesn't always have stuff like that on, but sometimes it does and tonight it did. It was all about the Virgin School - where a group of middle aged women (often twice the age of their clientele) help men become - well, not virgins. They've all got certificates in something called "sexual grounding", so I'm sure it's all totally legit. Did I mention that this school was located, rather conveniently, in Amsterdam?

This particular programme was focusing on James, 26, from Kent who was their first English client and who had gone over to Holland to learn how not to be a virgin. It was cringe, after cringe after cringe as young James shopped with his grandmother for new underwear for his course (he told her it was a confidence building course). The Vol-in-Law was working on the laptop and said "I'm averting my eyes."

I did not turn away when a woman over twice his age ( and certified in sexual grounding) was encouraging him to touch her wherever he might. I said "I can't, it's like a watching a trainwreck." But indeed even I had to turn away when the role play turned to a school reunion and James was confessing his undying love to the intimacy therapist (playing some old crush of his) within moments of asking her onto the dance floor.

Channel changed. Even the hardiest of us have to turn away when the carnage gets too bloody.

The soulful science

Being at home, I've got BBC Radio 4 on all day. It's talk radio for the chattering classes. So I get to hear all kinds of interesting things. Like yesterday, I heard a piece on the Soulful Science.

What do you think the soulful science is? Is it the study of saxophony? Is it the discipline of understanding the lurve connection between lustful adults? Is it economics? Yes, you guessed right. It's economics.

Economics is perhaps best known as the dismal science, but Diane Coyle wants to rebrand the study as The Soulful Science. She says that economists are misunderstood. Yesterday she enumerated those misunderstandings:

  • economists are heartless/ don't care about people
  • economists only care/ think everything is about money
  • economists don't understand how people really behave
  • economists don't understand the complex realities of real life
  • economists know the price of everything and the value of nothing
...and so on. I've been told all these things to my face, mostly when I was a graduate student in economics. And that might have hurt me, had the screwed up little dark spot in my chest not already been dried to dust by the too much microeconomics.

Just kidding.

I kept saying "No, you don't understand..." or "Money's only a points system, it's not about the money." But that got me pretty much nowhere. And when one of the econ professors in our department said all economists share two traits - a fondness for high school geometry and a cynical view of human nature we couldn't find any student amongst our number who bucked his theory. And frankly, cynical geometry buffs don't sound very soulful.

Dr Coyle says that everything has changed about economics though...

Coyle shows how better data, increased computing power, and techniques such as game theory have transformed economic theory and practice in recent years, enabling economists to make huge strides in understanding real human behavior. Using insights from psychology, evolution, and complexity, economists are revolutionizing efforts to solve the world's most serious problems by giving policymakers a new and vastly more accurate picture of human society than ever before.

I'm not so sure that economics has changed. I always thought that the power of economics was its ability to predict human behaviour and inform policy and decision making. Economics, like any academic discipline, is pretty diverse. And while I didn't think much of Freakonomics, I did appreciate that it helped bring a more "human" face to economics. And I guess, it's easier to sell books on an argument of revolution rather than evolution.

Monday, May 14, 2007

t-6: baby doll

Just a quick post, so you won't think I've gone into labor in case you're following the countdown posts.

Our doula came round and brought her baby doll. It's not quite life sized, but it's to scale with the pelvis she brought round. It's meant to show how baby travels through the pelvis. You can also use the baby doll to practice breastfeeding holds. I have to admit it seems a little more complicated than I thought. I was warned that having stiff shoulders and tension in the old shoulder blades is the worst thing. Of course, my shoulders are tighter than a high wire.

The Vol-in-Law practiced holding the baby doll. He's never held a baby before.

He cradled its little head and didn't drop it.

Start as you mean to go on.


I showed the doula this article on breastfeeding from the Mail on Sunday. This article is basically saying "breastfeeding Nazis made me starve my baby" - it all works out when the mum goes on to give her child formula. The doula was very disappointed. I have to agree [mostly] with one of the stories commenters:

It is outrageous that the lack of support women are getting to breastfeed, is being characterised as being a problem of some kind of bullying breastfeeding mafia, rather than the problem it really is -that our culture and our health service, while paying lip service to the desirability of feeding our children with the best food there is,specially designed for them, is actually deeply uncomfortable with it.

Although I'm not sure how much they're deeply uncomfortable with it - as they don't have the time or the patience to make sure that it happens.

6 days til baby Cletus

Sunday, May 13, 2007

t-7: I go out walking

I've got two reasons to go walking. My feet are pretty swollen and gentle strolls actually help to keep them from being quite so puffy. And it's said that walking, walking can bring on labor.

Yesterday, we took a fairly lengthy stroll in Richmond Deer Park. The weather threatened to be terrible, but didn't really carry it out so long as we were there. We walked down through Isabella Plantation where the recent rains and slightly cooler weather have sustained the azalea and rhododendron displays.

Drifts of azaleas
drifts of azaleas, this area is normally covered in picknickers

flame azalea
the flame azaleas were especially lovely

And with the unsettled weather and gray skies the place wasn't overrun with visitors as it often can be this time of year.

Even though yesterday was the last day I wanted to go into labor, I still did all that walking. I was rewarded with a few twinges, but nothing major. Cletus is a good boy and will arrive at a convenient time, I'm sure.

7 days til baby Cletus


We did watch the Eurovision song contest last night. The Serbian lesbian pop ballad won. And I'm a winner, too. Who knew my semi-finals results post would get hundreds of hits off the search string "Serbian Lesbian Eurovision"

It was one of the better songs, definitely. And the staging was really brilliant. Somebody somewhere said "How can we turn a short, ugly obviously dyke singer to our advantage? I know, let's have lots of lipstick lesbian Amazonian types stiffly writhing in the background, implying that while she might not be a looker to you or me - at least she appeals to a certain type - in Serbia" Whoever came up with that is a pop genius. It really worked. It was compulsive viewing. It handily beat even the most favored entry - the Ukranian transvestite with the nonsense song and the mirrored outfit (that was fab, by the way).

The Texan came over to watch the Eurovision. In her five years here, she had never actually sat down to watch the Eurovision all the way through (I have to admit I don't always manage it). She was amazed by the cheesy, cheese-cheese of the songs and the strange Eastern-European stylings. Even though she still has family in the Czech Republic - growing up in America you can't really get your head inside those particular tastes and preferences.

There were some good examples of ethno-pop - and I do like me some ethno-pop (Moldova, Bulgaria, Georgia and Ireland and Greece entrants all fall in this category more or less). You can hear all the songs here and check out videos here for every single entrant.

What's even more interesting than the performances are the voting patterns and system. It used to be that winners were chosen by a panel who, although internationally representative, were just as on the up-and-up as a Russian Olympic skating judge. But in recent years, the tv companies have figured out there's a lot of revenue in phone-in, so now each country runs its own phone-in sytem - and the votes are tabulated in a kind of particularly unbalanced electoral college system. That is - the UK can vote for any of the entrants but the British one. The votes are counted and the top 10 entrants are allocated points between 1 and 7 and then 8, 10 or 12 points for the favored contestants. All other entrants receive 0 points (or nil points en Francais) from the UK. Alright, it's fair enough that Britons can't vote for the UK entrant (I guess), but why should the smattering of votes of each of the itty-bitty countries count exactly the same as the millions of votes from the UK, France or Germany.

And then what's worse all the little countries vote in blocks. (See an analysis here) All the Scandinavian countries vote for each other. All the Baltic countries vote for each other. Now all the former Soviet Republics are in the contest and they vote for each other - as do the Balkan nations - united once again in the name of music - which has a bit of a distorting influence. The dire Russian entry - which was all about whoring (I'm not kidding - check out the lyrics ) appears to have won because every surrounding country feared having their gas supply cut off if they didn't vote for Russia. On the other hand, Turkey with the stupid "Shake it up" seems to have done quite well because Turkish emigrants in a number of Western European countries (e.g. Germany, Austria) voted for their home nation.


Anyway, congratulations Serbia. Next year, Belgrade.

Happy Mother's Day

Today is Mother's Day in America.

It's not the same day as it is in the UK. Back when I first came over - I was dutiful about buying a Mother's Day card in March (the British time) and sometimes I even remembered to actually send it to VolMom at the right time.

Anyway, Happy Mother's Day Vol-Mom. Now, I'll just blog a Happy Mother's Day wish.


Back in March, during the British Mother's Day time - I asked the Vol-in-Law what he was going to get me on behalf of Cletus or in honor of the fact I was carrying his child.

He said "Well, why should I get you anything for Mother's Day? You're not a mother yet. Let's see how you get on and maybe you'll get something next year."

The ViL's not really good at gift giving - so I wasn't really expecting anything. I'm certainly not expecting anything today - since he's not even American. He did wish me a happy mother's day, though.


One of VolMom's many talents is flower arranging. I'm not so good at that - and I don't usually bother with cut flowers. But I saw these Sweet William and snap dragons today - going fairly cheap - so made up a bouquet.

So here's a virtual bouquet for VolMom.


And if you get bored of my Mother's Day thoughts - check out this list of women bloggers in Tennessee in honor of the day - or the Mother's Day wishes to the mom bloggers of Nashville is Talking.

t-8: Free birth!

Technically, I missed a countdown post yesterday, but since I'm up at 5am and it's not fully light yet, we'll just count this as yesterday.

Regular readers will know that I've been scanning in old photos. Here's one of my previous cat.

My kitty

She died about two and a half years ago, when she was roughly six years old. She had mouth cancer. Probably too much Redman. I kept telling her to cut back.

Anyway, we got this cat because we thought she was a boy. We wanted a boy cat. This kitty had the cutest little fluffy kitten testicles - so neither we nor the crazy German cat shelter woman who gave us this cat suspected that she was anything other than male.

We'd neutered our previous cat a bit too young and stunted his growth, so we held off giving this cat the snip until he started displaying signs of sexual maturity. This didn't happen and it didn't happen. We were quite poor and the cat was quite healthy, so we never took her to the vet.

Then "he" came on heat at about 18 months. We felt pretty stupid. Kitty was pregnant. We pretended it was planned.


Just like in human pregnancies, people like to offer advice during cat pregnancies, too. Everyone kept telling me that the cat would sneak off and have her kittens and I wouldn't know about it until I noticed she was missing. And then that I should leave the kittens alone and that she wouldn't want me around.

I knew this was the conventional wisdom.

But one night, I was playing Tetris while the Vol-in-Law was off doing his weekend warrior stuff (he was in the Territorial Army at the time) and she kept pestering me. Well, I was pretty annoyed with her pestering because I was doing really, really well at the Tetris. I was on a roll. I was set to break my old record by a mile. All the little pieces were falling into place. I was in the zone.

But the cat wouldn't stop. And I looked up from the screen to find that there was a kitten head emerging from her rear. I paused the Tetris. I didn't really know what to do. But as a smoker, I was sure that my next step involved a cigarette. So, I went downstairs to grab a smoke (I didn't smoke in the house)

She followed me.

Turns out she wanted a birth attendant. So I sat with her and reassured her and helped her break the amniotic sack and encouraged her to lick her first little kitten into breathing. (She was hopeless as a kitty mother.) And then I sat with her for the next one and the Vol-in-Law came home and we both were with her for the third kitten. And she let us watch the whole thing and help her.

And then, it was after midnight, and it seemed to be over. I called VolMom - as it was her birthday - to wish her happy returns of the day and to inform her that she had predicted correctly and the kittens were born on her birthday and then we went to bed. There was another kitten, unbeknownst to me, but he was dead when I found him in the morning.

We kept one of the kittens - here's Other Cat on her 7th birthday:

other cat on her birthday


Although my cat did not choose an unassisted delivery, I mention all this because I've just been reading about the Free Birth movement in The Guardian. Women who choose to labor and give birth completely alone (see the Unassisted Childbirth website). Some of the people who give birth on their own do so because they're afraid of being pushed into interventions they don't want. Some do so because they're probably just freaky.

To me, giving birth is as personal as having sex," says Sarah, 24, from Essex. "You don't want someone else sitting there watching you." Sarah chose to "freebirth" her first child, now two, at home.

Helloooo, you didn't pregnant all on your own did you? There probably was somebody else in the room, I reckon.

I'm pretty private and I don't really like other people touching me. I've never enjoyed back rubs from friends, for example. And there may well be times during labor that I want some private time and I need to make sure I ask for it. I also am very clear that I don't want midwives yelling at me telling me what to do (I'm quite contrarian - so screaming Push! at me might just slow things down). But birthing alone sounds unnecessarily dangerous - and I'm not sure whether to blame slightly addled headed free-birthers or the medical establishment who can't deal with women who need a bit more space. Apparently some of this is a reaction to the obstetrical insistence on doing things their way...

Although it is never going to be a majority movement, the issue of the over-medicalisation of birth is pushing freebirth on to the mainstream agenda in the US. A slogan war has broken out, with natural birth websites selling T-shirts which read "Pizza boys deliver. Women birth", while the American College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists gave out bumper stickers at a meeting last year, bearing the opposite message: "Home delivery is for pizza" (From The Guardian)

Well, we're planning a home birth - and depending on length and how hungry folks are - we may opt for home delivery, too.

8 days til baby Cletus and a large veggie and prosciutto pizza

UPDATE: A friend of mine posts on Alabama caving to the medical lobby and disallowing midwifery- it's stuff like this that pushes women of a certain disposition into unassisted childbirth.

Friday, May 11, 2007

t-9: slacker mom

Somebody sent me a copy of a book called Confessions of a Slacker Mom. There was no gift tag. I don't have any idea who sent it.

It looks pretty funny. But I have to wonder...

Is the mysterious gifter trying to reassure me that my parenting style - which will no doubt be fairly slackerish - is OK after all.

Or are they trying to deflect me from my nascent plan of hot housing a child bent on world domination by subtly undermining me with humor???? 'Cause it's not gonna work - baby Cletus will be emperor one day and when he is - I'm going to institute some serious changes.


I've been a total slacker today. Watched some more daytime tv. Sally Jesse and Judge Judy. Scanned in some more photos. Went to my last midwives appointment. They asked me to schedule an appointment for 41 weeks - that's past my due date. No - wait, I didn't sign up for extra time.

I asked them what I should do if I didn't need the appointment. They seemed to think that I'd be back, but if not - I should just ignore it - no need to call - just forget about them. Cool - I said. Do nothing, just what budding slacker mom wants to hear.

9 days til baby Cletus, and 20 years until I get my hands on some serious power

Bidness advisory service

I've see the stuff going around about Mothership BBQ. I haven't had a chance to eat there yet. But I'd really like to try it.

Hang in there, man. Most new businesses have some cash flow issues in their first year. It's tough. I know you're looking for some investors and I hope that's going well. But have you thought about perhaps diversifying a little bit?

Here's one business model you may have overlooked:

pit bbq and diversification

Lawrenceburg, TN '96 or '97 - I've been scanning in old photos!

Thursday, May 10, 2007

Eurovision semi-finals - the results

Tonight my husband and I watched the Eurovision song-contest semi-finals. 'Cause really you just can't get enough cheesy Euro-pop.

Here's my take:

Bulgaria - great if you don't mind the shrieking - they seem to have a nice line in trick drumming and chain mail vests

Israel - apparently a controversial entry "Push the Button" might be about nukes or it might be about sex. It's appallingly bad.

Cyprus - do you really think singing in French will make the French vote for you. As far as I can tell it's a recitation of the first two French lessons you'll ever have - Comme ci, Comme ca

Belarus - nice touch with the 007 moves - the lead singer's claim to fame is that he looks like Princess Diana in the face.

Iceland - an unhappy halfway house between ballad rock and Eurovision pop - sample lyric "A tiger trapped in a cage"

Georgia - I had no idea that the first generation Klingons were based on the Georgians. This isn't bad - and I love the men dancing with swords. Careful!.

Montenegro - this is their first time competing as an independent nation. It's not bad guitar rock - sample lyrics Kochi biscochi, crochi biscochi - is this a song about Italian cookies?

Switzerland - apparently a favorite to break through the semi-finals and win the whole thing - they've got a whole gothic ensemble onstage and their song is called "Vampires are alive". That song would make me want to put a stake through my heart. The ViL says that apparently Swiss vampires are very orderly.

Moldova - lots of tossing drapery about. I'm not sure how the singer manages to keep her trousers up. Perhaps they're glued on just below the pubic bone. Sample lyric "Never let nobody in". Sugar, ain't nobody want to go Moldova I mean.

Netherlands - classic Eurovision bubblegum fare, and good stuff if you like leggy Dutch women pararding around in high heels and white shorts. I imagine this will go through.

Albania - the song: "Hear my Pleas", the singer: a chubby Albanian waiter, the back up singer's dress: wow, that's some fluffy yellow meringue.

Denmark - a pink be-feathered drag queen sings "Drama Queen" - sample lyric: "I'm your drama queen tonight, everything's gonna be alright" A favorite to go through, apparently. I think it's dreadful.

Croatia - I liked it. I did wonder how many people their lead singer had killed in the war, though.

Poland - Black Eyed Peas meets the Beastie Boys in the Baltic with girls in cages. Sample lyric (and pretty much the only one) "Everybody has the right to party."

Serbia - brings us the little known genre of Balkan lesbian pop balladry. The ViL says "If we knew what she was singing it would probably be a lot less impressive - as it is - your mind is free to roam." Her back up singers writhe over each other in the weirdest, stiffest way.

Czech Republic - make their debut entry here. The ViL says "I'm still thinking about the Serbians". The Czechs should have waited until next year. Dreadful.

Portugal - I like it. It's very scorchio. I like a man who's not afraid to outline his packet in pearlescent white satin and wear a low cut shirt made from net curtains and wave a really big fan.

Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia - even Prince couldn't carry off using "former" in his stage name. Sample lyric: "Music is the only world for me, in my world we live in harmony"

Norway - a nice little salsa number - those Norwegians - loco! Why aren't they moving their hips? The ViL says "They're Norwegians, They're like Brits, but without our laid back funky cool." I'll give them credit for two onstage costume changes - including one that might have precipated a major wardrobe malfunction.

Malta - wowza - something for the laaadies. Shirtless, buff background dancers sashaying around with fans and violins. Sample lyric "Loving you gives me vertigo". I really hope they make it through.

Andorra - I think this might be emo - in really bad English accented Spanish.

Hungary - a bluesy number. The singer is not wearing any shoes. She's hugging a bus stop prop. The ViL says this sounds like an actual real song.

Estonia - the singer is a cross between Pink and Posh Spice and she sings just about as well as the famous Mrs Beckham.

Belgium - who knew that Belgians would try to be that funky?

Slovenia - Goth meets Evita. The BBC announcer describes her outfit "She's wearing a bad leather corset."

Turkey - No, just no. A new level of sleaziness. But at least the Turks know how to move their hips. Sample lyric: "lovey dovey all the time, I've got lots of cake for you". You have cake? Why didn't you say so in the first place?

Austria - Rhinestone hoodie lying on a bed of red be- feathered back-up dancers. The male ones have bejewelled codpieces.

And finally...

Latvia - I really don't know what to say. The 5 Latvian tenors, wearing top hats. Are they singing in Italian?


And the winners, chosen by phone in voters, are (inexplicably):

  1. Belarus
  2. FYR Macedonia
  3. Slovenia
  4. Hungary
  5. Georgia
  6. Latvia
  7. Serbia
  8. Bulgaria
  9. Turkey
  10. Moldova