Thursday, November 29, 2007

Welcome to the lame family

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

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

What we did find:

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

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


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

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

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Chunky monkey

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


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

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

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

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

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

And there he is as an elf.

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

weightchart with orange


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

baby food

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

Monday, November 26, 2007

Missed it

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

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

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

Go Vols

Sunday, November 25, 2007

At that point in time

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


At that point in time

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

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

pass it on

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

Clip clipped

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

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

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Happy Thanksgiving

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

All on the line

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

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

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

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

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

Eight random facts about me

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

OK, that should be enough to be getting on with

Monday, November 19, 2007

Coals to Newcastle

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

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

And I have another idea.

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

We all have our diversions

We all have our diversions

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

Saturday, November 17, 2007

TCP movie review

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

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

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

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Very dull, don't bother

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Power T Lawn
My fantasy faux lawn.

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

Condiments in my local caf

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

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

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Low-grade phobias and serial killers

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

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

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

Here's how the scenario plays out.

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

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

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


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

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


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

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

feet first


Not much to say today.

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

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

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

Monday, November 12, 2007

The key to the garden of stone

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

This was how they were remembered:

slipping away

with plastic lettering slipping away.

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

baby and Lambeth civilian war memorial
Baby and war memorial

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

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

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

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

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

If they freed me from this prison

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

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

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

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

Sunday, November 11, 2007


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

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

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

Just sayin'.

Friday, November 09, 2007

with Friends like these

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

With friends like these....

weed in the sky


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

I found this in a ditch on Wimbledon Common.

Thursday, November 08, 2007

I hate Gordon Brown

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

Jen has a rundown.

Who's the daddy?

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

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

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

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

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


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

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


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

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

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

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

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Smart as a whip

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

Alert and active. Because he's soooo smart.

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

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

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

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

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

Readers write in

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

Here's her story:

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

trying on baby clothes

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

And here's the baby in same

My baby takes the morning train

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Two minus what equals one

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

Well, yes and no.

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

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

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

The child looked sad and perplexed.

And I felt sad and perplexed.

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

Monday, November 05, 2007

Blogging block

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

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

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

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

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

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

Porridge goatee

Thursday, November 01, 2007

Grave policy implications

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

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

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

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

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

temporary supports for headstones

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

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

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

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

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

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

jean d'arc
a martyr to health and safety

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

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

Happy Run-up-to-Christmas Day

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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


Slight digression:

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

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

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

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

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