Friday, August 31, 2007

Put me in the zoo

Last year on our vacation to Normandy and Brittany, we visited Branfrere animal park where we saw (and petted) wallabies amongst other animaux.

Although our holiday this year was was but three days and two nights, we thought we'd take in a nice big zoo. The Port Lympne Zoo looked pretty good, although had I seen a topo map of the place I'm sure we would have avoided it.

And the philosophy of the park was quite different. At Branfere - the animals were on show - but on their own little islands - giving them the illusion of freedom and us the illusion of proximity. And indeed many animals were allowed to roam free around the park. At the Port Lympne ticket booth we were warned that it wasn't a zoo, but rather a park dedicated to conservation, where the animals really do come first. And that meant that they kept the night shelters open during the day and that the enclosures were really big (and as turns out full of weeds) which meant that it might require patience to see the animals.

If we hadn't already stood in line for nearly an hour just to buy our tickets, I might have turned around.

When I pay a bunch of money to go into a zoo, I expect to see some animals. And they should either be available for petting or feeding or they should do some funny tricks.

Many of the cages at Port Lympne appeared to be empty. Animals were either hiding or sleeping in others - and given that the enclosures were so big - that meant that there was a heckuva lotta walking between boring animal displays. And given the steepness of many of the paths and us pushing a stroller full of baby and baby accessories, it was a lot of work to catch a glimpse of a "small cat" that looked suspiciously like the neighborhood tabby.

But they did actually have some cool animals:

We saw baby lions


Ginger monkey

(our own little ginger monkey?)

red pandas
Red panda

and rhinos

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Beside the sea side

We took a quick trip down to the sea side and to see some sights, just a short break - two nights away.

ice cream

It was our first vacation with the Baby Cletus.

Every experience is a learning experience.

Actually, he was pretty good. We're pretty tired - more tomorrow.

Monday, August 27, 2007


Don't be surprised if there's a paucity of posting over the next couple of days. I'm sure we'll have loads of lovely pics to share when we get back to blogging.

Baby in the sky

Conspiracy theories

If you want to criticize the handling of the War on Terror, I'm happy to listen. My theories as to why things have gone wrong include: poor governance, lack of evidence based policy, no respect for evidence based policy, a poor understanding of human nature, greed, venality and valuing personal loyalty over integrity and good outcomes.

Conspiracies? Maybe. If by conspiracy you mean mercenaries and consultants and crony suppliers working together and ripping off the US taxpayer with no-bid contracts and failing to deliver any sort of effective nation building, then yes, I'd be willing to listen to your conspiracy theories.

Conspiracy around 9/11. Not so much. No really - just shut up. The Jews didn't turn up to work that day (lies). Mossad did it (of course). Jet fuel doesn't burn hot enough to snap steel girders. Errmmm.... In what way is it surprising that a building collapses after a jet smashes into it? I only took half a class in civil engineering, but I know the difference between compressive and tensile strength and steel isn't as strong as you think - that's why it has to be used in conjunction with concrete - and to build to any height concrete has to be used with steel. (A nice long list of conspiracy theories and their de-bunkification is here at Popular Mechanics).

Do I think that we know everything about what happened that day? No, of course not. But if there were any conspiracies it was people after the fact trying to cover each others' asses for not waking up to the fact that Al Qaeda was planning something big earlier on.

Do I worry about 9/11 conspiracies? Well, a little. If we ever want to come to some peaceful accord with the "Arab Street" we need to understand that even the quackiest theory has some resonance there. And even the brightest and most rational folks you meet from the Middle East often at least entertain the what seems to me like ridiculous notions. And this matters because if two groups of people can't even agree on a relatively small set of facts, we certainly aren't likely to agree on a peaceful way forward

I was told by a person I thought quite reasonable that Jews normally employed at the Twin Towers didn't turn up to work on the morning of September 11. When I completely rubbished this, I was asked "Have you looked at some of the 9/11 websites, it proves it."

No. It doesn't. There are loads of kooky websites out there. Take a look around this one, for example.

But when you see 9/11 conspiracy theories mooted in a reputable paper, I find it a little harder to blame the gullible and the susceptible. And I find it a lot easier to suggest that a national newspaper is irresponsible and stirring up trouble.

Sunday, August 26, 2007

When you're a Jet

The Vol-in-Law and I don't go to the cinema. I think he'd like to more often than we have done, but I won't do it. The Knoxville Dollar Theater spoiled it for me. Since then, I've always felt ripped off when I've seen a film. I don't particularly enjoy the cinema experience and I leave grumbling like an old codger "Arrgghh, they don't make films like they used to...."

I'm not a movie buff, I admit, but I like a good movie sometimes. In fact, we've just watched The Importance of Being Earnest - the one with Colin Firth and Reese Witherspoon and it was fun. That was just a random Sunday night showing. But sometimes we buy DVDs as well. We'll buy them when we're in the mood and if they're cheap enough. Sometimes we'll buy a whole handful. We bought some about a month before Cletus was born - and have only just got around to starting watching them.

We bought Jarhead (It was OK, a bit anti-climactic). We bought some musicals. Guys and Dolls, The Wizard of Oz. Obviously, I've seen them before. They're great.

West Side Story. We bought that. Can you believe I'd never seen it? Well, I hadn't and I'd always wanted to.

And I still haven't seen it.

Oh - we tried. We put it on not long ago. And you know - I just didn't like it. We turned it off after the "America" song. The pacing dragged. It somehow didn't look right. It seemed like a weird out-of-date world with its quaint euphemisms for everything. And weirdly, it seemed kinda gay (not that there's anything wrong with that). But just that little bit too gay for a story about hot heterosexual passions and street gangs.

So, I've never seen West Side Story, and I don't guess I ever will. I feel a little weird hating such an icon of musical theater, but there you go.

Happy Equality Day

Happy Equality Day

find out more about it via The Tennessee Guerilla Women,

Saturday, August 25, 2007

What's in the brown paper bag?

It was rumored when I was a lass, that certain Baptist preachers of Lawrenceburg would stake out the parking lots of liquor stores in the seat of our neighboring county - the nearest place to buy hard spirits.

I don't know if that was true or merely a means of keeping thirsty and wayward church-goers on their toes, but now watchful ministers won't need to drive so far.

Apparently, Lawrenceburg, TN my old home town of a mere 10,000 souls is going to allow packaged liquor sales within the city limits. The resolution passed earlier this year. I guess the town fathers were tired of seeing potential tax revenues leach to nearby counties.

Hell done froze over...and nobody told me. This seemed unimaginable when I was a kid.

From the local Rotary website:

Mayor Durham gave an update on the liquor store lottery that had been held the night before at the City Administration Building. He stated that after the Ordinance for sale of liquor passed this Spring the City Commission voted to limit the number of liquor stores within the city to four stores, which is one for every 2,500 citizens in the city.

Expect scenes of depravity as demon rum and mother's ruin are loosed onto the streets of the Burg.

Personally, I'm saddened a little that I will no longer be able to truthfully tell astounded Brits that I hailed from a bone dry town and a semi-dry county.

Friday, August 24, 2007

Gettin' ready for Freddie

A recent edition of the LA Times features Lawrenceburg, Tennessee Woo-hoo. It's all about how the town is getting ready for Freddie - that is Fred Thompson's announcement of his intention to run for the presidency. Apparently folks are convinced he's going to announce in the Big Burg. My old home town has cleaned up the square and forbidden trash by the side of the road. Does this mean they're getting rid of those old guys who inhabit the benches on the square? Has VolMom planted up the town square with flowers as she is wont to do - or has the drought and her librul politics overcome her civic pride and gardening passion?

Chunky Moore's menswear and the Ledbetter drug store sure are getting some good press out of all this. Here's a tip - Ledbetter's used to have awesome real milkshakes made right in front of you at the counter. I don't know if they still do that, but it's worth asking if you're a visiting journo or political junkie. The Vol-in-Law and the rest of the groomsmen rented their tuxes from Moore's - I don't know if you need to rent a tux while you're in town for the day - but maybe Chunky will sell you some wing tips real cheap.

As for me, I just think it's pretty wild that people I know are written up in the LA Times. I recognize every name in that article.

HT: The Tennessee Politics blog

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Baby wear

Cletus is measuring on the small side of normal - but even so, we're nearing the end of the 0 to 3 months range of clothing. Some 0 to 3s still swamp him, but others are a little snug. Still other outfits - like the adorable seersucker rompers are useless in the cold spell we're having.

VolMom bought a lot of outfits for Cletus. I mean a lot. Three big old suitcases full. They were all sorted into different size ranges and newborns and 0-3s were stored accessible areas - but further age ranges (he has pretty much the first year covered) were in the highest shelf of our closet - reachable only with the aid of a step ladder. At least that was the plan. I have to admit that I didn't pay too much attention when the clothes were first brought over because I had a brand new little baby and, as it turned out, a raging post-operative infection.

The other day, I dragged out the ladder and started going through the clothes. I found a whole little treasure trove of untouched 0-3s. Some of them still had their consignment store price tags along with their original labels - meaning at least one other baby never wore them either. I wonder just how many babies never wore them. There could have been an endless chain of baby wardrobes these rompers and onesies passed through essentially untouched.

I hope VolMom had a fun time buying them - 'cause I hate to admit - a few of them went right in the storage bag.

But there were some outfits I just had to put on him - even if he only wore them once.

old fashioned baby

I smile because my Mommy dresses me funny.

Cross cultural comparisons

A Tri-Cities area chicken farmer featured in the latest round of the US version of Survivor. It was filmed in China. And here's how Steve "Chicken" Morris summed up his observations.

“There’s no biscuits and gravy, and there’s no cornbread and beans. And not too many front porches,” he said. “A very unusual culture it is.”

Well, there you go. Genius. You could say the same about England. And Steve - you should see what they do to ice tea here!

(Of course, I do some pretty darn good cornbread and beans - if I do say so myself.)

Hat tip to Big Orange Michael's TV coverage at Music City Bloggers.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Apropos of nothing

I've always wanted one of these.

Running hot and cold

For my readers in the South, you're not gonna like this, but I have to report: I'm cold.

I'm wearing a sweatshirt in my house. It's August. I have to bundle my baby up to take him out. (And I'm not a bundler.)


I note that Metro Davidson's [Nashville] school buses do not have AC. I had two thoughts:

Thought One:
Ha - those kids need to suck it up. Try commuting on the Underground when we do get a hot August. It's hotter than EU regulations allow - if you're transporting animals - no regulations exist for maximum allowable temps for transporting London commuters. It's crowded. And there's the underlying current of concern over the continued smooth running of the line. This concern is ready to tip over into panic at any moment - since the Tube trains have a tendency to stall in any weather that isn't dry and with temps hovering between 45 and 60 degrees Fahrenheit. And there's not much worse than being stuck for upwards of an hour, stood with your face in your neighbour's armpit, sweating, straining to understand the driver's announcements. (Unless, of course, this happened in the Summer of '05 when we weren't just worried about trains stalling.)

And the smell... best not to mention the smell.

But, I admit, this is not a charitable thought. And the children...won't somebody (me?) please think of the children? I mean what would I do if Cletus were faced with such conditions? Knowing me - I'd probably tell him tales of commuting on the London Underground.

Thought Two:
At a cost of $15,000 a bus, I'm not sure Metro should be retrofitting air conditioning. They really only need the AC a few weeks a year. As the bus fleet is replaced, perhaps they could invest in a little cooling.

But I also note that Metro schools are open only half days this week because of the heat. (Here's Nashville News 2 film on that) - although there is a positive note:

Brunch will be served at all schools.

How civilised.

You know what. It's the South, it's August, it's hot. Yes, I know it's not usually that hot - not like it has been this year - but it's usually pretty darn hot. In August, kids should be at the pool, not sweating in school.

So why not roll back the start of the academic year? I don't really understand how it crept so far forward anyway. (Was it to match up with the semester schedule of the state Universities?) To be fair, the Mayor said a later start would be considered. I think Tennessee parents should push for it.

Monday, August 20, 2007

Holding down the fort

I got my first email from a work colleague in a while.

How's the world of work?


What's the latest project?


What's the future of xxxxxx in xxxxxxxxx?


My colleague sent me a link to this. A cat cam site.

It's really cool. She's thinking of getting one.

I can't decide if they really need me or if I'm really not missing much.

Maybe I should get a cat cam.

cat from below

Sunday, August 19, 2007

Speaking of must see attractions

I posted yesterday about some of the most exciting and most disappointing tourist destinations. I can't believe that Natural Bridge in Virginia didn't make the must-see list. Especially with such added attractions as the Dinosaur Kingdom for your education and amusement:

It's 1863 and Union soldiers have discovered a hidden valley filled with dinosaurs. Now the Yankees plan to use the dinos as weapons of mass destruction against the South.

Something tells me things kinda backfired for the Union Army.

I gotta see this place.

Hat tip: Hillbilly Savants, photo courtesy of The Anti-Zim check out the rest of her amazing
Natural Bridge photo set.

Davy's birthday

It was Davy's birthday on Friday, and what did I get him? Nothing. But the taxpayers of Tennessee are gonna get him a brand new statue in Nashville.

Sharon Cobb has more on the monumental resolution passed this year.

Col. Crockett already has a lovely monument on the square in Lawrenceburg.

2006-01-11 013

Apparently paid for by the people through the largesse of the Tennessee legislature.

2006-01-11 014

Saturday, August 18, 2007

Gone native

Now we all know that the situation in the Levant has been hot for a long time. No matter what side you come down on, it seems like everybody has a side. Personally, I plumped for Israel ages ago. It's not something I think much about. I don't discuss it much, because it's one of those things that I'm not likely to change my mind about. No, in fact, I won't change my mind. I guess it's tribal.

I could go on about the Palestinians this, the Israelis that, but if you have an entrenched position on the matter I'm not likely to change your mind either.

Suffice to say, little that the Palestinians do surprises me much. The photos of the wee kids holding some pretty heft weaponry and just waiting for the day that their martyrdom dream comes true is sickening but doesn't really work me up.

But this video from Palestinian children's tv showing a man in a bee suit abusing cats and lions in the Gaza zoo just floors me.

And there you go, I've gone British. They're abusing animals now. I may just have to write a strongly worded letter.


HT: Harry's Place

Must see

What are the world's top ten most disappointing tourist attractions? Virgin Travel Insurance asked over 1,200 British adults what they thought, and it turns out they are a jaded bunch.

The top two most disappointing sights globally are in Paris: the Eiffel Tower and the Louvre. I visited both for the first time just over a year ago. The Eiffel Tower is a big old open work tower. I had pretty low expectations to start with, but I have to admit it looked pretty darn cool. Now, if you had your heart set on going up in that thing, I guess it would be disappointing to wait for hours and fork out a shed load of money. We just walked up to it and had a look, that was free. The best thing about the Eiffel Tower is seeing it from different vantage points while you're in Paris. For that, check out Anglofille's fab collection of Eiffel shots

2006-04-30 102 crop
My crappy picture of the Eiffel Tower

Or you could always go to Vegas.

The Louvre on the other hand. If you don't like the Louvre, you just have no soul. I guess if you were expecting to find the burial place of Mary Magdalene and get some kind of divine revelation while being chased by an albino monk then I could see why you might be disappointed.

The rest of the list includes the Statue of Liberty, the White House (I was disappointed I didn't get to go in), and the Spanish Steps in Rome - which I admit were a bit anti-climactic.

The British list of disappointments include Stonehenge. I concur wholeheartedly. And my expectations were lowered time and time again. I will say that Stonehenge is a lot bigger than I imagined (not disappointing), but you can't get anywhere near the darn things (very disappointing) - and you have to pay a bunch to park. We drove out to Stonehenge during the hundred degree heat wave of 2003 - so it wasn't that bad since the car had AC but our house - just like pretty much every other house in the UK did not.

There was also a list of must-sees - and on the global list the only thing I have seen - the Grand Canal in Venice, well...I could take it or leave it.

Friday, August 17, 2007



The Vol-in-Law's latest kick is the cultural marxists. Apparently, they want to ruin everything. Occasionally, I think he has a point. When you hear the phrase political correctness gone mad - well, that's my life - working in the British public sector.

He talks about it a lot. It usually sounds something like this:

blah, blah, blah

and now he's been telling the kid, too.

Blood sugar bonanza

An article in Wednesday's Tennessean provides recipes using some of the MidSouth's favorite sweeties. Including a cake recipe using SunDrop , that nectar of the gods, which the Tennessean describes thusly:

Quench that thirst

Another popular local soda pop, Sun Drop, which originated in St. Louis, started like many drinks of the day, with the parent company selling its formula to small bottlers across the country. One of the largest bottlers remains in nearby Pulaski, which feeds a strong and fiercely loyal pocket of fans in the counties south of Nashville that buffer the Alabama line.

Fiercely loyal? Addicted more like. Mmmmm - SunDrop. Once only available in a limited area - now you can order the stuff online. Do you think they ship transatlantic? In exchange for a permanent advertising space on this blog?

Hmmm, I think VolMom might know the Pulaski bottler - hook me up, let's make a deal.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

A death in the [tacky] family

I've been "collecting" photos of floral tributes for a while. A great benefit of living near a cemetery. But today I saw the best one ever. A work of art. Seriously.

tiger, tiger

Sometimes you have to wait a while for someone with relatives tacky enough* to commission a truly elaborate floral tribute to die. But when they do...yeah.

If you're wondering if anyone in your family is tacky enough and you're kin to me - well, you're just gonna have to wonder which side of my raging internal battle between cheapness and tackiness will win.

Points of orange


Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Sucking the words right outta your head

We don't have any Baby Einstein DVDs. Just hadn't gotten around to getting any. Someone I know swears by them, keeps her little rascal captivated. And they're so educational, what with their shapes and their colors and their classical music and all.

Except apparently, they're not. Oops.

the [University of Washington] research team found that with every hour per day spent watching baby DVDs and videos, infants learned six to eight fewer new vocabulary words than babies who never watched the videos.

We can't be having Baby Einstein now anyway, as Disney bought it out not that long ago and that would go against my husband's one-man Disney boycott.

But there's no need. Two out of our hundreds of channels are full of bright colors and simple tunes designed just for baby. And I tell you, ol' Cletus is already entranced.

And is one hour of silence worth 6 to 8 words?

Could be.

Vacation, all I ever wanted

SAD. I think maybe I've got SAD. That's the good ol' seasonal affective disorder caused by lack of daylight. Only in Britain could one get SAD in the summer.

It's dreary here. Oh, sure - there have been the occasional glimmers of sunlight (last week wasn't bad). But summer has largely been a washout. For many people, a complete washout - i.e. their homes and everything. All I've lost is a tomato crop. Vine rot. Blecchh.

I'm not the only one feeling the cool. Apparently, there's been a rush on last minute vacations to...wherever there might be a glimmer of sun. Carbon footprint and environmental protesters be damned, people are crawling over each other to get off this sodden, gray island.

Us. Not so much with the foreign vacation plans. I haven't even taken Cletus north of the river yet. Plus travel docs, he doesn't have any. But I wouldn't mind a little time in the sun.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

More on the Undercover Mosque

This article pretty much exactly encapsulates my opinion on the matter:

Andrew Anthony's Comment is Free article: When did the police start collaring television?

Channel 4's controversial documentary Undercover Mosque was great investigative journalism. That the CPS thought it incited racial hatred beggars belief

To recap: Channel 4 commissioned a documentary on extremist preachers working in the UK and supported by Saudi Arabia. Preachers with some extremely unpleasant views. The documentary focused on a mosque in Birmingham. West Midlands Police (headquartered in Birmingham) investigated the preachers - when the couldn't find enough evidence for a crime of incitement, they turned on the programme makers.

That radical preachers hold radical (and repugnant) views, is sadly, nothing new. That those holding extremist views are often embraced by the UK government and are given positions of responsibility - encouraging "community cohesion" is laughable if weren't so disturbing. That the police are going after journalists for exposing them, practically acting as religious enforcers for Wahabism is terrifying.

Monday, August 13, 2007

A case of mistaken identity

I named Cletus's favorite toy - a jingle bull (he has a bell in him) - Shambo in honor of the slaughtered Hindu holy cow.


But the Vol-in-Law pointed out the label said it was a donkey. And VolMom left a comment on Shambo's photographic portrait in my Flick account:

That looks more donkey-like than bovine

Can you believe I was once in receipt of an Agricultural scholarship? But we didn't cover livestock toys in Ag 101. Maybe I've just had too many years of city life, trapped like a goose in a pen.

Saturday, August 11, 2007

Friday, August 10, 2007

It's not about the next election

I'm still not blogging about the 2008 Presidential election until, ya know, it's an election year. But this is about the process, so it doesn't count. John H hits on the forever backwards creeping primary dates in post entitled

In a blazing round of ‘Who’s on First’, Tennessee proclaims its Presidential Primary to start RIGHT NOW

and says:

If Tennessee could somehow become an actual meaningful primary instead of the afterthought of the backwash and therefore often ignored or taken for granted (nice job AL!) by moving the primary up a bit, I guess I wouldn’t object.

I didn't vote in the Tennessee primary last time. Partly cause I never registered with a party (yes, I know you don't have to in Tennessee, but you do if you want to receive a meaningful primary absentee ballot), but also because I gave up my vote so I could participate in the UK Democratic caucus with hundreds of other American expats. It was so much fun I'd advise everyone to move to Iowa for one electoral cycle (or here, or Paris whose caucus attendance numbers we beat, so a hearty yah boo to the Americans in Paris) Seriously, it was like a big ol' grown up pep rally

We've got spirit, yes we do
We've got spirit, how 'bout you?

But in place of spirit plug in, rational foreign policy and non-punitive tax code for expatriates (we deserve it - after all just who do you think is minding the empire?)

So maybe Tennessee should get a caucus - or since we're such a great online community, why not a blog-cus. The candidates with the biggest online word counts win*. What do you bet we'd be the only contest to return two native sons who aren't even running.

*written by registered TN voters, of course

Wasteful ways

I could be more frugal. I could waste less. That being said, I found this absolutely appalling.

So I am there yesterday stocking up on dog food and I noticed a mini-van, parked, engine running, in the parking space adjacent to mine. an hour or so later, when I was wheeling out my cart, I noticed the van was still there, still running, and I could hear the compressor cycling on and off. I could only conclude that she [the vehicle owner] was ensuring that her vehicle would be a brisk 60 degrees upon her return. At that moment, I saw America’s impending demise.

I can't say that I quite predict the demise of the good ol' US of A from leaving a vehicle running, but it does smack of the downfall of profligate Rome. And it is downright annoying and needless and wasteful.

I'm not a big proponent of man-made global warming theory, but you don't need to believe in global warming to see that there are negative externalities from this kind of behavior. The choking emissions, the waste of a non-renewable resource.

I don't want to sound like a sanctimonious European, but every time I go to America I'm shocked by how waste has become the norm.

HT: Music City Bloggers where the comments went a little crazy.

Thursday, August 09, 2007

Fresh outrage

The Muslim "community" is up in arms again. Just metaphorically this time. There's fresh outrage over a documentary - Undercover Mosque, which aired in January on the UK's Channel 4.

The documentary is largely based on secret filming by a undercover reporter at Birmingham's Green Lane mosque. It shows that some Muslim preachers are spewing hate. Hate for homosexuals, hate for Jews and Christians, and at the very least disrespect for women. (We are "deficient" - fathers should beat daughters who don't don the hijab from around ten.) This same mosque claims to be working toward "community cohesion" - i.e. multicultural understanding, blah, blah, blah. But as the program shows, really a number of preachers are Saudi trained, Saudi subsidised and supported.

This was supposed to be a shocking expose. I missed it when it first came out in January. But I watched it this morning (See it here on YouTube) Can't say that I found anything terribly shocking. Religious fundamentalists hold abhorrent, archaic views. Duh. I didn't need to go to years of Church of Christ Bible study to work that one out. Some religious fundamentalists hold particularly militant and violent views (some of these preachers were filmed saying that Muslims should bide their time, wait for the right moment for the big jihad and establish the UK branch of the Islamic Caliphate - I'm paraphrasing). Onward Christian soldiers, marching as to war.

I do understand that folks living with their heads in a kind of soft, fuzzy, lefty la-la multi-culti land might have found this shocking. "What - you mean evil isn't an exclusively Western attribute?" Ha. I have to admit that while I don't find the revelations particularly shocking, I do find them disturbing. I don't want to live under Sharia law.

The outrage though - from some of those filmed - was that their comments were taken out of context. I doubt it. Sure, the documentary makers picked out the most inflammatory statements, but the statements were made. It would be like the highlights of a sermon being taped in your local church, but editing out the prayer list and information about next Sunday's potluck.

And those filmed were given a right of reply.


Here's the outrageous bit.

Following the documentary, the police investigated. They may have investigated some of the nasty things that folks said. You can watch the show and judge for yourself, but only a few things sounded to me like they might have been direct incitement to violence - the rest were just deeply unpleasant. And yes, they might well fall foul of "stirring up hatred" - which is against the law. I don't believe that should be against the law - stirring up an emotion. So we'll let that pass without further discussion.

But the police also investigated the program makers:

After investigating 56 hours of footage, West Midlands Police said that it had been advised by the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) that there was insufficient evidence to prosecute the broadcaster for stirring up racial hatred, but that selective editing had helped to create an impression of Muslim hatred.
And from the Metro:

Confirming that police had now made a formal complaint to broadcasting regulator Ofcom, Assistant Chief Constable Anil Patani said: "The priority for West Midlands Police has been to investigate the documentary and its making with as much rigour as the extremism the programme sought to portray."

Stop just a moment and let that sink in. Someone spews hate. You film it. You do some necessary editing. It's got to fit into an hour less commercials. You broadcast. It could certainly be argued that it's in the public interest to broadcast this material. Some of the people filmed have advised or are associated with those who advise the government on community cohesion. It's in the public interest to understand just what kind of community they're hoping to cohere.

And then you get investigated by the police. Rigorously. For stirring up racial hatred.

And what lesson is in that? Investigate unpleasant elements in the Muslim community, get investigated yourself.

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

Wild wetlands

I've been wanting to go to the London Wetland Centre for years. It looked like fun. A little wildlife reserve right in the middle of London. We could see the birds and the water plants and yadda, yadda, yadda.

Well, we never managed to go. Until Monday. You see, I finally feel like getting out a little bit and we wanted to do something different. Something we could take a baby to. A baby who does not sleep much in the day. A baby who does not suffer from a weak cry. So a nice outdoor activity seemed good.

Except, apparently, a lot of what makes the wetland centre so fun is its interpretive exhibits. Exhibits that are pretty much all inside. And an adventure playground that we're too big for and Cletus is too little for.

So we walked around the vast acreage - but the only thing was that path space was actually quite limited - and you're only allowed to walk around maybe two-thirds of the perimeter and none of the wetland area - which is all blocked off from both foot traffic and they eyeline of anyone shorter than 12 feet - to respect the bird's privacy or something.

Of course, there are hides from which to watch the birds. And on the outside of each hide there's a sign saying

Quiet. Birds have ears.

Really? I've never seen a bird ear. Have you?

But Cletus can't read yet and he did scream every time we entered an indoor area. So we couldn't really see any birds except the ones on the main paths. But those were just regular old birds - birds that I could see in just about any old London park.

And we paid big bucks for the privilege. I wanted to tell those shy birds behind the hedges: "Hey, this is London. Nobody but Russian oligarchs get everything they want in terms of real estate. If you can't stand sharing your space, why don't you bugger off to the country?"


Some people did seem to be enjoying the centre, though. But these visitors fell into two narrow categories:

  • Mums with children between 3 and 8
  • Slightly creepy looking men, on their own, carrying cameras with giant lenses

And I couldn't help but wonder how the park managed to sort out the bird watchers from the pedophiles.


Some photos I took:

Thatched roof at London Wetland Centre



And this frog which was sitting in the drainage ditch outside the centre. The Vol-in-Law, whose one word review of the centre was not glowing, said he enjoyed the frog the best.


Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Breastfeeding awareness

Today marks the end of breastfeeding awareness week - and I haven't done much for it. Oh sure, I've been breastfeeding, but I was doing that anyway. So it's a little like Christmastime, when I note that I have Christmas decorations up - but it just so happens they've been up all year. (I jest not, I just looked around and saw a Christmas candelabra - it's not sooo yule-ish that I couldn't get away with it - but the holly bedecked reindeer on top of the tv is maybe not so excusable).

Anyway, happy breastfeeding week. Rachel from Women's Health News had stuff on it from the beginning and has lots on breastfeeding generally.


This morning on radio news a woman from the formula lobby was interviewed - along with a breastfeeding advocate - about the possibility of a total ban on advertising for formula (currently you can't advertise infant formula - but you can advertise follow-on feed, which has a slightly different formulation and is meant for babies over six months old).

The lobbyist started out with the usual breast is best message but quickly managed to run rings around both the interviewer and the lactivist and ended up with pretty much free advertising for formula.



Breastfeeding rates in the UK are pretty low - lower apparently than even in the US (which has seen a recent increase in breastfeeding rates). On the parenting discussion forums I participate in, I see a lot of excuses for quitting breastfeeding - but I don't see a lot of support for continuation. In theory, the system of health visitors (community nurses specialising in early childhood health) should provide support for breastfeeding and the local health system provides support for breastfeeding clinics in my borough. But in practice, I found the breastfeeding support very hit and miss and I received sometimes contradictory messages from healthcare professionals. The best advice I got was from a pediatric nurse who is an old family friend and who had just come over to see the baby.

But in one sense, breastfeeding advocacy shoots itself in the foot. What I'm about to write is controversial, but it's just my observation.

Formula can be used to supplement and even aid breastfeeding, but no one will tell you that.

Don't get me wrong, I believe that breastfeeding is the best way to nourish your baby. I also believe that full-on formula feeding should be used only in extremis (you adopt, you must take prescription medication which is incompatible with breastfeeding, etc).

After my monumental 3 days of labor and emergency c-section, I also didn't manage to sleep for a further two days because of the conditions in the post-partum ward. I was absolutely exhausted. Cletus wasn't latching well - probably because he was pumped full of epidural drugs, but also because his poor little head was so beat up he was in a lot of discomfort. Nursing wasn't going well for us. But I absolutely refused to give him any formula in the hospital. Partly out of pride, but also because I was under the impression that should a drop of formula pass my baby's lips - that would ruin breastfeeding.

Eventually, we realised the poor little mite was starving. I really wasn't producing enough, because I wasn't healthy enough. So we gave him some formula. Just a little. The extra boost of calories helped him to nurse better. And I also never gave him any formula unless I'd put him to the breast first - thus to stimulate my supply. But nobody told us how to use formula as a kind of bridging food - until my milk came in.

When it did, we did without formula for a while. But unfortunately, I developed a post-operative infection. That didn't knock out my supply, but it didn't help. Again we used formula, sparingly, to ensure Cletus got enough to eat. My infection came back and Cletus also had a bit of a growth spurt. I really couldn't keep up. We used formula.

It shouldn't have been an issue, but I felt soo bad. I felt like some kind of renegade. I felt I was letting down the "exclusively breast fed" side. Again and again I'd read that so long as nary a drop of formula was used, I'd never have a supply issue. Well, being in the position where I hadn't used formula for over a week and really not having enough and wearing myself out and fretting over a hungry baby - I discovered I did have a supply issue. I used formula.

I still use formula. But largely out of convenience, I admit. Cletus gets one small feed of formula (3.5 to 4 oz) several days a week just to give me a break. Yes, I could express milk, but that really hasn't worked out for me - and let's face it, while I'm still recovering, it wouldn't be much of a break.

So yes, I used formula. But it was because I'm totally committed to breastfeeding that our formula use has been limited. Many people would have just switched over to formula once they'd started on the tainted feed. Using formula has helped both me and Cletus have the strength to carry on with breastfeeding.

I'm disappointed with the lactivists for making me feel bad for using a little formula and I think the formula companies would be more than happy to exploit this feeling. And that's sad - because the point is to encourage breastfeeding and all its healthful benefits, not to sweat the occasional ounce of formula.

Monday, August 06, 2007

Ol' Tennessee

Here's a great post with great photos about Tennessee in the Depression.

My Tennessee grandparents had it pretty lucky, relatively. My maternal grandmother's family came down with a bump. Her father had been a partner in a store and a cotton gin and they lost it all one way and another. But he still had friends, and so was able to get various appointments, including a live in position at a Middle Tennessee women's prison. My grandfather's family raised hogs and "this, that and the other" - he said they were so poor the depression didn't make much difference to them. But he said they weren't hungry. His family began raising tobacco during the depression, and thing began to get a lot better.

HT Music City Bloggers in a post with lots of other historical links.

Which way do you go?

Busy Mom posed the question over a week ago:



Handles up, or, handles down?


And boy, did they ever. Fifty-three comments and counting. I didn't add to it and I didn't read through all the comments, but a quick scan suggests that most of her readers are the dead wrong handles up type people.


When my grandfather was dying, VolMom had to do a lot of things for him and I suppose that she mostly did them the way he wanted them done. But they didn't see eye to eye on the dishwasher thing. Her view was that handles up is a lot safer. But I reckon that she got this method of loading from her husband, 'cause I know that's not the way her daddy taught her to do it.

I'm not taking sides, but:

  • The man is dying, can't you load his dishwasher the way he wants? You bought the man a new alarm clock every day to satisfy some bizarre notion during the last week of his life - why not just put the handles down?
  • Your daughter is both loading and unloading your dishwasher , so what's the biggie? Who knew that someone dosed up on oxycontin washed down with bourbon could care so much.
  • Handles up is just wrong.
Anyway, I knew there was a dishwasher difference, but I didn't think much about it until I loaded his dishwasher while I was visiting. He hobbled into the kitchen from the other room. And that took some monumental effort from a shrunken and bent, 83 year old end stage cancer sufferer. But he came to ask me how I was loading the silverware, and that took much less effort than bending over to reload the dishwasher which he would have done.

And to be honest, I kinda went into a teenage defensiveness stance. We lived with him while I was in high school and he was always a bit of stickler for household chores and I blanked on which way he liked it under his stern questioning.

"Handles down," I said. "Otherwise the food just pools up at the bottom and besides sharp knives might slip through the basket and get into the washer blades."

He just grinned. He probably told me this himself a hundred times. "That is right," he said emphatically. "You a good girl."

Cuba libre

A Nashville blogger (and kick ass funny one at that) may be getting the nod to head to Iraq.

Apparently, he's read the travel brochures and isn't keen:

My biggest question is why do we keep invading crap holes?

We've got nice tropical paradise with a dictator, just 90 miles south of Key West. I could swim on to the beach with a pistol in one hand and a mojito in the other.

For some reason, I just can't shake the Daniel Craig as Bond image from my head. I assume that he has both the pistol and the mojito just under the water protected by a zip-lock baggie and an Aladdin thermos respectively.

And the other thought I have - and at the risk of sounding like a paleo-con, invading crap holes instead of tropical locales is just one more area where Bush diverges from the Reagan legacy.

And finally, I hope it ain't so, but if it is so - Short and Fat - I wish you luck and full requisitions of the appropriate body and vehicle armor.

Saturday, August 04, 2007

another first for Cletus

Cletus received his first copy of The Watchtower today. A couple of Jehova's Witness folk came by to help restore my focus in a troubled world. Yeah, right.

I'm not really into a religion that would deny me birthday cake, Halloween treats, Christmas crackers and potentially life saving blood products.

So I almost gave Cletus another first - closing a door in the face of a Jehova's Witness.

But the two fellows were older West Indian gentlemen with lovely, gentle deep voices and mellifluous accents and Cletus was rapt listening to them. He'd been grizzling all morning, but he shut up and gazed at them wide-eyed.

And sometimes I'd rather listen to even Jehova's Witness than a whiny baby.

Friday, August 03, 2007


gephyrophobia (pronounced: JEFF-i-ro-FO-bee-uh) "bridge phobia"

At a conference last summer, I met a woman who had bridge phobia. Bridges and overpasses. She could not drive over a bridge. She was pretty open about it. She was talking about it in the bar with other delegates gathered round. I guess she couldn't deny it, because at the same conference the previous year she had a team of people working out how she could drive from the venue back to her home without crossing a bridge. It was apparently a lengthy and circuitous journey - crossing the breadth of England - but no bridges.

On the way to the seminar apparently she'd suffered a trauma when she'd come to some kind of large flyover outside Birmingham. She'd had to stop her car on the motorway hard shoulder and just wait - I assume trembling and trying to work up the courage to drive across. Some kind soul stopped and after a little discussion and perhaps a tearful admission, this young fellow drove her car across the bridge.

Now, how's that for a phobia? You can't drive over a bridge, but you'll let a random person drive your car with you in it. (Coincidentally, she emailed me not too long ago with an opening line - "I don't know if you remember me..." and I thought to myself: Of course, I do - you're the bridge freak. )


Apparently, she's not alone. Loads of people have bridge phobia. According to an ABC News article:

Bridge phobia is more common than many may think; more than 4,000 people per year relinquish control of their vehicles and let state officers drive them across the Chesapeake Bay Bridge in Maryland, for example.

"Their fear is not that the bridge is going to collapse; their fear is that they will get halfway across and freeze or drive off the bridge," says Jerilyn Ross, president of the Anxiety Disorder Association of America

Although, apparently bridge failure or the thought of bridge failure can trigger a lifelong anxiety, one London sufferer of gephyrophobia said:

His fear of bridges began suddenly when, in his early teens, he was walking across a footbridge over a stream near his hometown of Cookham in the Thames Valley "Halfway across a friend mentioned that bridges were dangerous and could collapse. I had never thought about it before, but suddenly became very nervous as I became conscious about the danger".

Some friend....thanks, buddy.


Of course, a phobia is supposed to be an irrational fear. But now, following the horrific bridge collapse in Minnesota, the phobia doesn't seem quite so irrational and a bridge doesn't seem like a thing that poses no actual danger.

And there are loads of creaky ol' bridges (i.e. structurally deficient) in the US. Via TGW:

Scores of ‘Deficient’ Bridges | 9:44 AM The Department of Transportation’s 2005 judgment that the bridge was “structurally deficient” has emerged as one of the most prominent signs of a missed signal of an impending disaster. But there are many, many more bridges with that rating, according to a 2006 count by The Federal Highway Administration. Minnesota alone has 1,135 bridges on the list of “Deficient Bridges,” and other states have thousands more. Check your state against the “SD” column on this spreadsheet.

According to the very long list of crumbling infrastructure, Tennessee has 1,324 structurally deficient bridges

Thursday, August 02, 2007

Cletus and cultural insensitivity

Baby Cletus had his first check up this week - and his first set of vaccinations. He's been a bit fussy since they injected him with whatever it is they injected him with. I know there's a lot of controversy about vaccinations and generally I believe in being the free rider wherever I can get away with it (let the other kids get vaccinations) but London is a dirty, dirty, dirty town and full of people who free ride, too. I've decided to get Cletus jabs for whatever's going.

Cletus current favorite toy is a little blue bull with a bell inside him. Kick or hit the bell and hear the bull jangle. I've named it Shambo. Shambo was a hindu temple bull in Wales - who was the subject of much legal wrangling when the state wanted to slaughter the bull when he tested positive for bovine tuberculosis. There were several rounds of court appeals, but in the end Shambo lost his appeal in the highest court of the land and was extinguished by lethal injection just last week. Needless to say this was a little bit upsetting to many Hindus

Anyway, I'm trying to jolly Cletus along at the doctor's; it's a pretty stressful situation after all when Cletus punches the little blue bovine.

"Ooooh," I cooed "Hit Shambo. Hit Shambo."

The doctor jumped and started. Oops. Hindu. Holy Cow.

I'd just like to say I'm honoring the memory of Shambo with the little blue jingle bull.