Tuesday, November 25, 2008

The measure of things

My granddad was pretty indulgent to his grandchildren on the whole, but not when it came to retracting tape measures. He said that he'd never seen one in the hands of a kid that didn't get torn up.

Unfortunately, his pronouncement only made already very attractive tape measures practically magnetic to me.

Right now, Buddy's tearing up a tape measure - and I'm just letting him.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

snow patrol

snow patrol, originally uploaded by London looks.

It's frosty cold in London this morning. We awoke to freezing temperatures and the threat of snow. Within the hour it was snowing. I got the Vol-in-Law to help me dress Buddy in some reasonably warm clothing and out we went into the garden.

I managed to capture a few pics in the snow before Buddy decided that it was too cold and that he didn't much care for snow. When I asked if he wanted to go inside he headed straight for the back door.

Just as well we took some photos when we did, as within a half hour or so all traces of the snow were gone - replaced by a miserable, cold rain.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Where I've been

Last Friday I had laparoscopic surgery. I've been in pain of varying degrees basically since I went into labor over 17 months ago. Turns out my pain was probably due to a dermoid ovarian cyst that was stuck in an awkward position due to adhesions which were a result of the c-section. So a variety of complaints. I'm now down one ovary, but apparently it was in pretty bad shape. But on the plus side, my other ovary is now freed up - it was also stuck in awkward position from the adhesions - and was probably also causing me pain.

It's too early to see if the surgery worked as I'm still in pain from having my insides mixed up and being puffed up full of gas to give the surgeons room to do the keyhole surgery.

I had considered spending the weekend in the hospital to avoid the rigors of toddler care while recovering. But I discharged myself in a hurry on Friday evening when the hospital staff tried to move me from a private room to a four bed bay. Most of the people in that hospital I wouldn't care to share a taxi with, so I'm not sure why they were so surprised when I decided to leave instead of taking my chances with random strangers and their even more random visitors.

I've been spending the week watching crime shows and Maury DNA test specials while doing needlepoint.

Spode in administration

If there's anything I'm addicted to more than coffee it's tableware. A beautifully designed ceramic bowl, an elegant glass, a well-weighted fork. Divine. Two of the most sparkling occasions of my life were visits to the Iittala/Arabia factory outlet in Helsinki.

This morning I hear that famous English tableware companies like Spode and Royal Worcester have gone into administration (the beginnings of British bankruptcy procedure). The traditional ceramics industry around The Potteries of Stoke are under threat. The latest victims of the credit crunch? A failure to innovate in terms of technology and brand development? Both?

Taking joy at the misery of others demonstrates a poor character, but I couldn't help but have a frisson of excitement at the thought of taking a trip up to Staffordshire to tour the increasingly desperate factory stores.

If the online store is any indication, fine China can be had at low, low prices. For example, this Christmas themed deviled egg tray can be had for less than a third of its original recommended retail price!!

What a bargain! And if I regularly made deviled eggs during the Christmas season, I would snap this up. And just think of the fabulous deals that might be available in Stoke itself.

The Vol-in-Law was not as excited by the prospect. He said that we didn't have room to store more crockery and if we did use it, Buddy would only smash it.

That's not really the point.

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Happy Fifth

In the wake of the American elections, the Fifth of November, an important English holiday celebrating the complete failure* of domestic terrorists to actually explode their bombs and cause mayhem has almost been completely overshadowed.

It's a celebration with bonfires and fireworks. Though tonight it's been wet and drizzly, which also sort of puts a damper on things.

* plus ca change, eh? Let's hope all the terrorists are ineffectual.

Bitch, bitch, bitch.

I think it's good Obama won. Better than the alternative. But I don't feel bittersweet about the election results, I just feel bitter. To me this election says less "Anyone can grow up to be President," than "Forget-about-it, little girl. Not in your lifetime."

I don't think Obama is the uniter that folks are hoping he'll be. I say this as a disenchanted Hillary Clinton supporter. I never felt that he reached out to me or acknowledged my concerns. I never once saw that he understood women's issues. If anything, his expression was derisive and dismissive if sexism was mentioned. He dissed female reporters as "sweetie", he embraced misogynistic music (99 problems, but a bitch ain't one), he was disrespectful to Hillary Clinton and Sarah Palin in a way that he didn't react toward his male opponents Democratic and Republican and his support for "choice" was continually caveated by how women need to consult partners and pastors*, the men in their lives. I simply could not vote for someone who accepted, used, manipulated and promulgated this nasty culture of women-hating.

We saw in this election that racist rhetoric is really unacceptable. Good. But we also saw in this election that sexist rhetoric is not only acceptable but mainstream. From Clinton to Palin, too much was put in terms of gender and too much criticism rested on their sex. I don't like Palin's political views. But as I saw her represent the often schizophrenic Republican views of the role of government, these contradictions were laid at the feet of her being a stupid, ditzy woman rather than the inherent hypocrisy of the GOP position (i.e. subsidies and gov spending bad, unless it's on things I like - roads and wars and stuff). Too much was made of Palin's perceived fuck-a-bility and too much was made of Hillary Clinton's perceived lack of same.

I suppose that some could feel optimistic that at least this rampant sexism has been exposed. But I'm not sure that it has. Obama supporters on the left denied it, accused us often of making it up, or of not understanding the bigger picture. Well, to me, the sexism that's been exposed is the bigger picture. I'm not sure if we will see change that we really believe in so long as it's built on the same old prejudice.

* I'm not saying you shouldn't, but I'm definitely not telling any woman that she should. Being pregnant is something that is really done alone.

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Lame update

Well, the election is almost over - so now I can start blogging politics again. I didn't really want to blog against Obama, but as you know - I had no enthusiasm for him and was disgusted by the sexism in the primary. I hope he wins. I think he's the better choice. But I just couldn't vote for him.

Phil Fulmer is going. I feel a bit blah about that. I guess it was becoming inevitable.

Stop Phil Fulmer
Stop Phil Fulmer

I have a nasty cold. I feel like crap. I put on a Columbo DVD and slept the afternoon away.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Halloween costume tips for the fashion aware

There's been an uptick in visits to the site lately on the search term - "how to dress like a terrorist". I wondered what that was all about, but then I remembered it was Halloween. Really people, the 29th is waaaay too late to be planning a great costume, but I'll help if I can.

Here at The Vol Abroad blog, we love to give fashion tips - but sadly the post people are landing on may be disappointing. It describes the time that my husband was stopped and searched under the prevention of terrorism act.

If you're curious, here's what he was wearing:

He took a record of my physical appearance. I'm an IC1 Male (white male), my height and described my clothing which was a blue shirt, dress trousers and black shoes. Which sounded quite smart, so I was glad I had dressed decently.

I'm sure you've all got something like that in your wardrobes. But if you find that a bit stifling for a festive occasion, you can always wear what the 7/7 bombers wore on their scouting trip of the capital. Thanks to CCTV and the BBC, you now know that ball caps, t-shirts, jeans and combat trousers are just the thing. Note well, the New York Yankees insignia. The NY theme comes up again just two weeks later with the unsuccessful 21/7 bombers. (Image from the Daily Mail)

I hope y'all find that helpful. Basically, you can pretty much wear whatever on a day out of mass murder. But I'd definitely go with the ball cap. Four out of seven terrorists agree.

Toothless Buddy.

Poor old Buddy is nearly 17 months old and he still only has four and half teeth. But now his gums appear to be swollen in the molar area and it looks like he maybe, just maybe, he might be adding to his dental tally.

Never a good sleeper, he's been having some rough nights recently, which, alas, means we're having some rough nights, too.

But not tonight. At least not for me. Tonight I'm spending my first night away from him as I have to travel on business. I had been dreading be away from him, but after several nights of nearly hourly night wakenings I'm quite looking forward to sleeping in the hotel.

I just hope it's a comfy bed in a quiet corner and there are no early am fire alarms.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

rumor mill

Has Phil Fulmer coached his last season at Tennessee (or almost)?

Vol blogger Rusty Stanton outlines what he hopes will happen if Fulmer is to leave.

This season has been a disaster, but there have been other disaster seasons recently, too. Something clearly has to change in Vol-land. But at the same time it's kinda sad.

Although there have been three head coaches in my lifetime, I've only been aware of two. I can still remember when I heard that Johnny Majors got the boot and the surreal atmosphere on campus that night. You could tell by the looks on people's faces whether they'd heard the news. And although there had been grumblings against Majors for years, and Fulmer seemed a refreshing change, it was still a bit of a shock. And I guess when Fulmer goes, as it seems he probably will, there will probably be some strange emotions then, too.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

A lot on his mind

"It's just a special rivalry and a special game to all of us involved in it in different ways. I'll be back up tomorrow. I'm not down. I just got a lot on my mind right now," Fulmer said.

Yeah, I bet he does.

Saturday, October 25, 2008


There's a men's clothing store at Tooting Broadway which sells an amazing array of fine clothing. It's called Taki Casuals. Really. I'm not making it up.

Here's the pictorial proof.


In the window recently, I espied a gorgeous suit in bronze lame. Now, you don't often see anything in bronze lame, but most especially not a fairly traditionally cut man's suit.

I wanted that suit. Not being a man, I wanted that suit for my husband.

I suggested that he could wear it to his lectures. The Vol-in-Law, who usually favours your charcoals and your blacks and when's he's feeling adventurous will wear some navy, was a little dubious about the suitability of bronze lame for the edification of young minds in the subject of statute and case law.

I could see his point, had it been say a silver or a gold lame. But this was bronze, which is downright respectable in its muted glimmer.

Eventually, we reached a compromise. If my brother announced his engagement while the suit was still there, I could buy the suit and the Vol-in-Law would wear it to the rehearsal dinner.

Well, the VolBro's relationship turned rocky and the suit is gone from the window. And I'm just sick, sick that the opportunity is lost.

Friday, October 24, 2008

The love of money is the root of all peace

At the British museum yesterday we saw an exhibit about the changing culture of the Assam region. The knobbly extra bit in the North East of India, tucked above Bangladesh. Apparently, there a number of different tribes who are rapidly becoming exposed to the wider world. SOAS - the famous School of Oriental and African Studies (I think that's what it stands for) have been documenting the changes.

One of these groups was apparently a fearsome bunch and prone to feuding and raiding. Their furry fiber war capes (which also keep off the rain) were displayed in a case. Museum goers were informed that this tribe (perhaps the Atapani?) were no longer quite so warlike.

The explanation read:

With the introduction of a cash economy and the ability to purchase supplies, bartering was no longer necessary and feuding became obsolete.

Now, I'm no SOAS anthropologist, but I'm not too sure about this explanation. Has no one explained the concept of extortion to these poor savages? Have they not figured out that cash is thievable?

The Vol-in-Law, who grew up in Belfast, was especially derisive. He experiemced a culture that was both based on a cash economy and infamous for feuding.

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Wednesday, October 22, 2008

bad day and I'm a geek

No sleep last night.

Finally got caffeinated enough to head into work.

My underground line was shut down.

Decided to work at home, on the way back I was nearly hit by a car. Seriously, within inches.
%*&6ing &*^%!! I had the right of way - though in matters of mass X velocity that matters little.

Taking a little lunchtime break to watch Monk - hoping I might catch a little sleuth sleep.

Adrian Monk is all upset because he gave a ten year old boy a rock polishing kit as a birthday gift. Apparently, this was recognised by all as a bad gift. A gift worthy of deep disappointment.

I always wanted a rock polishing kit.

Bama hate week

Somehow I'm not feeling the hate as much as I know I should.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Striking a blow for fashion and patient dignity

Today I had another follow-up appointment following the whole breast cyst debacle. No more cyst, but there's a dark spot on the scan which is probably just scar tissue. No big deal, but it means I'm not discharged from the service yet.

Anyway, they're usually pretty quick about seeing you, but they have this little routine.

  1. Wait. In an area that isn't exactly a hallway, but people are walking through there.
  2. Nurse calls your name.
  3. You answer and are lead to a cubicle where you're asked to change into one of those hideous gowns.
  4. You go back to your seat - and wait some more.
  5. But now you look stupid and exposed in a hospital gown.

Well, today I said no. I said I'm not going to put on a hospital gown. The nurse was shocked. Shocked I tell you. Her eyes were wide with disbelief. She made me repeat myself. I said I really don't want to put on one of those gowns.

"Well, no one likes them, but we're very busy today."
"I'm a really fast undresser," I said.
She looked doubtful.
"Really fast," I emphasized.

Anyway, I didn't put on the gown and I did undress fast. I'm certain that I took no more time than wearing one of those hideous gowns, since I generally have to fumble with the ties.

And when it was all over, I got dressed again fast, too.

Bad to the bone

I'm lucky I'm not sporting a black eye. Buddy has discovered badness. Badness in the form of hitting. Hitting and throwing things. He threw the remote control with astonishing force at the bridge of my nose. A couple of days ago. And it still hurts. He just laughed and laughed.

Laughing little boy

On the other side of the coin, he's also discovered helpfulness. He likes to throw things away. We now give him things to put in the trash, and he's so pleased with himself when the lid of the bin slams down. We gave him a plate to set on the table for dinner tonight, with some assistance he managed to get it to the right place. One of the the phrases he's learned at nursery is "Tidy-up time." He says it "taahda uh ta" and makes a valiant attempt at wiping down if you hand him a paper towel. Of course, sometimes he gets a little carried away and pitches out something useful, like his milk bottle.

Friday, October 17, 2008

The football hack

I did get to watch Tennessee play and get beat last week. I did that despite the fact that content is supposed to be limited to US IP addresses.

Here's how I did it.

I downloaded a free VPN - that's a virtual private network. If you use a laptop away from work to access your work network, that's what you're doing. Work ones are supposedly secure and often have a little key fob thing which gives you a code to access the VPN. This one was just downloaded onto our laptop (scary - eh?) and then you power it up. It's aimed at freelancers and other folks who are using wifi in airports and punching in credit card numbers or whatever.

Anyway, the VPN's servers are based in the US. So when I accessed the internet through the VPN, it appears that I'm in the US. So CBS lets me watch football.


I'm now looking for a VPN that will let me access a site where I can watch the Tennessee Volunteers win.

So, for reader Sam, who wants to watch premiership football aired in the UK or cousin Dana who wants to watch the X Factor (which, btw, I'm starting to get into) or whatever, this solution won't help you.


Although maybe there's a reasonably cheap VPN based in the UK? That might be worth looking into. I also investigated options for proxy servers where you tell your PC that it's actually running from Guam or whereever - and there were both US and UK proxy addresses. But I couldn't understand the instructions about how to do it, never mind actually get it to work.

I voted

An absentee ballot is wrapped in an official envelope and then wrapped in a mailing envelope. The official envelope has my name on it on a perforated tab. I guess the idea is that they mark that I have voted, rip off the tab, and then throw my sealed ballot into a big anonymous pile. Then, theoretically, they count the ballots*.

Well, today I voted.

I've put the official envelope inside the mailing envelope. Inside the official envelope, I put a piece of paper that said "Not a one of these candidates is worth the ink it would take to mark the ballot."

I hope they get a good laugh out of it.

I don't think it's very funny.

*I have my doubts. I don't think they count the absentee ballots unless there are enough to numerically swing the outcome in close races. I'm ok with that.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Missing you

Here's the obligatory sorry I haven't been posting much post. It's just been work-critter-work-critter. Sulk about the Vols a little - then back to work or critter. I did see that Mike Hamilton made a statement to the effect that there was (almost) enough money in the kitty to buy out Phil Fulmer. Changes afoot? Or just a bit of motivational spinning to the press?

Blogging hasn't been the only thing I've neglected though. Dishes. Laundry. Fun. Food shopping. The list is long.

The laundry one is especially bad, since my part of that chore is making sure my dirty clothes are in the hamper.
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Sunday, October 12, 2008

How much time would I get?

If I sold my absentee ballot on Ebay?

(Or should I go Craigslist?)

Just not good enough

OK, we've been through some losing seasons in football, and you know, that's life. I'd say I don't mind but, of course, I do.

But what I really can't stand is not to be a threat. Even in a bad year, I'd like other teams to worry about Tennessee. While I'm sure Georgia didn't take a win against Tennessee for granted yesterday, it seemed like it was more than you never do that rather than a real worry that the Vols would reach deep down and pull out a whoop-ass (like last year).

Something's gotta give.

Season's not looking so good
Disgruntled Young Vol

Car fire!

Car fire! , originally uploaded by London looks.

On our way home from the playground, I decided that I didn't want to carry the stroller over a pedestrian footbridge on the way home and decided to go by the road bridge.

Of course, this is what we saw... So had to turn around and head back over the footbridge.

You'd think people would have the sense to stay away from a car on fire, but between this photo and the next frame (maybe in the span of a few seconds) a bunch of people had gathered around it.

The air was thick with nasty burning car smell.

Friday, October 10, 2008

Blogging against despair

Just saw Simon Schama's latest documentary Future of America. I don't know when it was filmed, but it was quite prescient for a debut this week. It was full of gloom and despair, pictures of the dust bowl, America needing to recognize its limits. America sowing the seeds of its own destruction through wanton waste.

But at the end of the program, he said that although America's natural resources were limited, her ingenuity wasn't. That it was a bottomless well.


Christopher S. Penn has an idea though...

It has become depressingly apparent that no leadership, no guidance, no inspiration will be forthcoming from any of the traditional sources in our society. Our politicians are locked in partisan bickering with each other, fighting like junkyard dogs over scraps. Our financial leaders are in a tailspin. Our heroes are largely fictional now at best.
Well, ain't that the truth. When I heard that George Bush had been speaking to calm the panic, I admit, fear gripped my bowels.

What's the solution? New media. Yep, all us bloggers, twitterers, Facebookers, YouTubers. Anybody with an audience of more than ten.

It’s not enough to say what to avoid; you have to provide your followers with something to do. A mission. A calling. A focus that will let them in their passion and intensity drown out the voices of panic around them so that they can generate momentum with you. Pick your cause, pick your battle, and engage your followers.

Ummmm, well that's where you got me. So, gentle readers, what battle should I pick and where should I lead you? (See that's collaborative leadership, very new media of me, if I do say so myself.)

First I think there should be a war on Georgia. No, not the one that could get us into trouble with Russia. That peanut growing, cracker eating state to the south of Tennessee. The Vols must beat Georgia to restore order in these troubled times.

Then I'd like to see a return of civility. Please, thank you, pulling over for ambulances, offering your seat to the infirm. Public admonishment of small, unruly children before they become hooligans.

Then I'd like to see a little more volunteering. Perhaps a little bit less wanton consumerism. The return of brass bands playing in the public common, which would of course be well maintained and well planted.

Ummm, how's my leadership so far?

(Thanks to NewsComa for the tip).

Tennessee take down

Go Vols

As y'all may remember, last year I entered into a feud with a fellow expat SEC fan and follower of Georgia. The trash talking escalated into a bet - photo evidence of dressing oneself, one's progeny and one's pet in the colors of the winning opposing team. Fortunately, last year's Tennessee-Georgia game ended in a humiliating stomp of those ugly Dawgs. Bam. Pow. Zap. Touchdown after touchdown and Smokey's handler taught the bulldog a lesson as Uga's nose was rubbed in his own dirt.

Ahhh, those were the days.

Apparently, this is a rebuilding year for the Vols, though. So it wouldn't really be right to put too much pressure on the team to protect my little boy from the humiliating stain of wearing the squooshed G and photographing him. The internet is forever, my friends. As a good mother, I couldn't take the chance of such a stain lingering.

Besides, my brother is in a fragile state these days (relationship troubles) and he said seeing his nephew in Georgia gear - even superimposed by the magic of photoshop, might tip him over the edge. And he didn't give up a tooth in Athens defending Smokey's honor for me to disregard his wishes on matters Volunteer. Family first.

Still, I couldn't be a good Vol without engaging in a little smack talk. So, I agreed to the Free Man's challenge and wrote a guest post about the glory of the Vols - and how I'm raising my boy right, with orange on his back, Rocky Top on his lips, love of the Volunteers in his heart, and giving his all for Tennessee today.

Check it out.

Thursday, October 09, 2008

Not a man of letters

Routine, they say, is the key to getting baby off to bed. So we decided to have a new routine, including the story time that's always recommended as part of the settling down process.

After four nights of non-stop, manic screaming through Frog and Toad All Year, we skipped the fifth story and had a relatively peaceful send-off. We only persisted the four nights because the Frog and Toad stories are just so good that we were enjoying them even above the outraged wails.

I've attempted time and again to read stories to Buddy, usually he just wanders off or tries to take command of the book, flipping pages emphatically and erratically. This bed time story business is a big old fail.

Voting for expat losers

Are you a bit lame like me? Are you an expat disaffected by this year's election and dilly-dallied until it was almost too late to request your ballot. Having procrastinator's regret? Well, here's what you can do about it.

You can get a Federal Write-In Absentee Ballot. Sure, your state probably won't count it, but they probably wouldn't have counted your real ballot either. Anyway, doesn't really matter unless it's close - in which case people will be going to court over whether or not to open your ballot. And you wouldn't want to miss out on that kind of excitement. Would you?

And you may NOT have missed your state's ballot request deadline, local conditions vary. Call your local election commission and find out when it is and if you've missed it. If you haven't, request your ballot and then use the FWAB, because your real ballot won't get to you on time. You can then probably sell your real ballot on Ebay to foreigners who are jealous they don't get a voice in electing the leader of the free world. As dim foreigners, they won't know that it's too late to send it in or that you're not even from a swing state.

If you're from the states oft AZ, IA, MT, ND, NE, OR, SC, or WA you can be even lamer and still vote. Just send in the FWAB. I don't really understand the details, but since I've spent almost no time in any of those states except SC and not much there, what do I know? I've barely driven through most of them, only stepped across the Hoover Dam into one of them and three I've never been to at all.

The beauty of the FWAB (besides the fun to say acronym, just say it: fwab) is that you can print it off yourself and just mail it in with your own special envelope. And guess how you make that envelope special? By writing "Security Envelope" on it. Isn't that awesome? I'm not sure, but I think the words need to be written in ink.

You don't even need to know the name of the person you're voting for. Sure, you could use the Internet to look it up, but you could just write Democrat (or presumably Republican or Green or Constitution) and the local election officials will just vote a straight ticket for you. If you're doing the FWAB, it's probably because you're lazy - this one word voting thing should appeal.

Will I be doing the FWAB? No, I will not. Because even though I requested my ballot so late that I probably won't get it in time, I really only did it so that I'd have a souvenir of this historic election. I won't be voting this time. But don't let my total disgust at this electoral cycle deter you. Get your FWAB today.


This blog appears on the first page of Google search on bad parenting. But thankfully, it's below the fold, so don't call social services just yet.

Vikings will plunder, it's what they do

Mum's gone to Iceland and taken all our money.

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

Up the garden path

Up the garden path, originally uploaded by London looks.

I went to the RHS Great Autumn Show today. Only it wasn't that great. Normally a highlight of the horticultural calendar, today it was just kinda lame.

The problem, apparently, is the £200 charge for vehicles entering London that don't meet specific emissions standards. Most older, larger trucks don't meet the standard. That'll be a lot of the trucks that the nurseries use.

One exhibitor told me it just knocked out tons of great growers.

Not too long ago, I went to an event and saw one of those mechanical organs - it had moving parts, Swiss lads and lasses doing little dances, cuckoos popping out of windows, that sort of thing. Apparently they take it to a lot of charity events to help raise money for various good causes. The same people had an even bigger and better organ, but couldn't bring it because of the £200 emissions charge.

Unintended consequences?

The embassy is moving

The US Embassy in London is moving from its hideous headquarters in chi-chi Grosvenor Square to my borough! Wandsworth. Hurray for South London! It's about time we got something like that. Hurray for America! Hopefully that awful architectural outpost will no longer be a stain on America's aesthetic honor. I'm sure that our Ambassador Robert Tuttle* will choose a design that's suitably classy. After all, who can you trust in matters of taste more than a car dealer from Southern California?

It' s moving to the Nine Elms area. I hadn't been aware there was a Nine Elms area before, but there you go. I have been there. The Embassy's new neighbours will be the Battersea Power Station development and the Battersea Dogs' and Cats' Home and New Covent Garden.

I'm not sure that it will actually be any more convenient for me, given transport and traffic connections in South London. But should I ever be invited to one of those occasional soirees, like the election night one, the taxi fare home should be considerably less.

*That's a bit unfair. I've met the Ambassador and Mrs Tuttle and they were lovely, gracious hosts who sure know how to throw a cocktail party.

- Oh, I've just had a thought. Since Tuttle will likely be leaving his post soon, probably one way or another, there has to be some kind of design consistency. I suggest a panel of worthy citizens. American expats and residents of London, even Wandsworth. People who already know and can work with councillors of Wandsworth. People with impeccable taste. People like me. Sorry, for the jibe Ambassador, I'm ready and willing to serve.

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

And the winner is...


As regular readers will know, I'm a bit disaffected by this whole election cycle. But I hope the debate event goes off smoothly and that Nashville pockets oodles of cash from visiting pols and press.

Update: Channel 4 evening news just did a feature from deepest, darkest Tennessee. They didn't say darkest, but they used the word deep several times. Deep Tennessee? They filmed some pig races at Honeysuckle Hill Farm and interviewed some bow hunters after boar. They were sure to mention racism and show a nice shot of boar blood dripping down through the tailgate and onto a Tennessee license plate. How they must have rubbed their hands with glee over that visual.

Yee haw.

Sunday, October 05, 2008

Here Dawgy, Dawgy


That's what I'd like to see this time next week after Tennessee plays Georgia. Bulldog head on a stick.

Buddy says he'd like to see that, too.


Don't expect we will, though.


From the natural history display at the Horniman Museum.

Go Dores?

I missed the UT v Who-was-that-again game last night. It would have started at midnight here and I'm still working on a sleep deficit (two whole hours of sleep on Tuesday night - and not enough since to catch me up.) Buddy got his MMR jab on Friday and he's been puking and waking and moaning and whining all weekend, so I just wasn't in the mood to stay up for another lackluster performance. Call me a poor fan if you will, I'm just another disgruntled Vol.

Still, first things first, I checked the score and saw to my enormous relief that we hadn't succumbed to defeat. The AP reports:

"We're still very much a work in progress," coach Phillip Fulmer said. "I thought we made some strides in running the offense at times.

Tennessee still struggled, converting three of 13 third downs and picking up only nine first downs.

With the Vols off to a poor start, Neyland Stadium was again less than full. The crowd was announced at 99,539, about 2,500 short of a sellout. It's unlikely an ugly win against a middle of the pack team from the Mid-Amercian Conference will do anything to appease Vols fans who have been displeased with Fulmer.

Work in progress? That's not what I want to hear in October.

But hey, how 'bout the Dores? 5-0? You might think I'd be disgruntled about that, too. And maybe I will be, toward the end of the season. But for right now, it's good to see Vanderbilt transformed. Glad some Tennessee team is doing well in the SEC.

Saturday, October 04, 2008

The ugliest building in London

doesn't look half bad in good light...

This building in Colliers Wood was named ugliest building in London last year or two years ago...or something like that.

It's pretty darn ugly and I think entirely vacant now. It's completely out of place - the only high rise building for miles and certainly the only high rise office building.

But when I saw the sun shining through the building at the setting of the sun, I thought it looked not too bad.

You huddled masses

For all you tired, poor and huddled masses yearning to breathe free after a long, hard, long (did I say long?) American presidential campaign - I bring you BRITISH POLITICS.

Yes, believe it or not there is politics out there and it's just as crazy - let's just look at a few developments this week.

1. London Top CoP gets the sack.

Mayor of London, Boris Johnson (whom I supported) schemed and machinated to get the "top cop" Ian Blair ousted from his position as Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police.

Labour Take: Ian Blair was a really cool guy and bad, bad Boris was sneaky and mean to him and hurt his feelings and fired him and we're all really pissed off because he was such a good guy.

As a recap, Ian Blair was the guy who was at the top when Jean Charles de Menezes was shot at Stockwell tube station. At first, I defended the Met, 'cause we knew for a fact there were a bunch of crazies running around trying to kill us, some had succeeded (7/7) and some were not so good at the mixing of the chemicals (21/7). And then an innocentBrazilian was shot (22/7). Alright it was a crazy time, mistakes happen. Inexcusable mistakes, but a mistake. The Met were prosecuted under Health and Safety law, and got a wee slap on the wrist. Ian Blair challenged that laughable prosecution when he should have just sucked it up.

Ian Blair was also the guy who said the media overreacted to the death of two little girls murdered by a sexual predator in Soham 'cause they weren't black. I'm not saying that crime against black people isn't reported in the same way, I don't know, but how the hell were the parents of Holly Wells and Jessica Chapman supposed to feel about that?

Ian Blair is the guy who is under investigation for handing some kind of lucrative contract to a pal.

Same guy whose whole department seems to be alleging racial discrimination and harassment against him. I don't know if there's truth to it, but you don't generally find charges like that in a place that's well managed.

Labour is spinning and spinning against Boris on this one, saying he didn't follow the rules. (It's not entirely at his discretion to remove the Met Commissioner). But seems to me like he did. Boris, as chair of the Metropolitan Police Authority, has the ability to call for a vote of no confidence. Then between the MPA and the Home Secretary (a Labour politician) they can remove him. The Mayor was about to call for a vote of no confidence and Ian Blair resigned before that could happen. Not so sneaky, sounds to me.

My take: Good riddance to bad rubbish. Though he did help bring back neighbourhood policing, which was good thing. He didn't seem to me he had the confidence of his force anymore or many Londoners. Buh-bye.

2. Gordon Brown is still a loser

Yes, people still don't like Gordon Brown. He's re-shuffled his cabinet. I won't bore American readers with the names of the comings-in and the goings-out. But there were two things of note:

2a The return of Peter Mandelson. I don't expect folks in America to know who he is, but he's a kind of shadowy master of the dark spin and an architect of the New Labour Project. Think Karl Rove of the Left. He helped Tony Blair win and win and the Tone rewarded him with Cabinet positions, which he had to resign twice because of corruptiony stuff (like no interest loans and so on). When he had to go the second time, he got some kind of sinecure in European Government which is a real opportunity to root around in the trough.

Well, he's baaaack. He and Gordo never got along it's not unfair to say they were politcal enemies in the constant power struggle between Blair and Brown, but I guess Brown felt he needed Mandy's sneaky charms. He's now got a position in Cabinet - as Business Minister. A real shocker. I guess keep your friends close and your enemies closer is the theme of this gov reshuffle.

2b A whole brand new ministry!!!! One of things that has never ceased to amaze me is the constant merging, coagulating, separating and invention of whole ministries and government departments. It's kinda my job to keep up with these things and it absolutely makes my head spin. For example, the department that I most often deal with has gone from:

DXYZ to DWZY to OXZP and then DCXG while several of its functions have been shipped off to the DLRR and then DERZ and DSKN. WTF? (Note: these aren't real departmental acronyms, but it matters not.)

Apparently the brand new Department of Energy and Climate Change is sucking the energy out of BERR and taking the heat out of DEFRA.

Until now, the Department for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform (Berr) had responsibility for the nation's energy strategy and ensuring the lights did not go out, while the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) had the task of trying to curb the rise of greenhouse gases and ensuring energy was used more efficiently.
What I want to know is this: Precisely what is the carbon footprint of setting up a brand new government department?

Black identity and gardening

When I lived on Highland Avenue in Knoxville in a house that's no longer there, I had a garden out the front. I dug up a whole patch of grass and had an abundant patch of flowers. It was bursting. I overstuffed it with gaudy flowers and contrasting colors and hit it hard with the Miracle Grow. I tended it lovingly and planted it up with discounted stuff I got at the garden center where I worked. I watered it with a great long hose and water that I borrowed from the fire station next door.

I often carried a little portable Sony Radio with me to listen to Prarie Home Companion or All Things Considered while I worked. But public radio isn't all talk, and I like chatter while I work. Sometimes my neighbor came over and talked to me while I gardened. He was from some Caribbean island, I can't remember which one now. I can't remember his name either.

He talked a bunch of shit, but I didn't really care. He'd stand and watch me while I worked and talk about black identity politics and a lot of anti-white racism and a smattering of Marxist theory. But hey, it was chatter.

"Your ancestors were pigs," he told me.
"It's pronounced Picts," I said.

He gained new respect for me when I told him I had some Asian blood from my Finnish ancestors. A one-drop theory of sorts. Had we only been able to the DNA testing we have now, I might have been able to tell him I have a little black blood, too, which I do. I'm sure he would have warmed further with that.

One time I mentioned Alice Walker, an author I like. He went livid. Apparently, she's a traitor to the black cause. This all flashed back to me because BBC Radio 4 is featuring The Color Purple as its radio drama this week.

I'm not sure why he was so anti-Alice. But I suspect that it was because of that book she wrote about female genital mutilation. (Possessing the Secret of Joy). He seemed to take that as an affront to the global African experience. He said she knew nothing of the African experience and that I shouldn't read her books. Fair enough, Walker hadn't grown up in Africa (the protagonist had), but you know she's a novelist. Those people make stuff up.

Apparently, in his view, this destroyed her credibility on all counts of relating the black experience, or any apparently.

I told him he was talking shit. "What do you know about being black?" he said.
"What do you know about growing up female in the South?" I said.

Friday, October 03, 2008

Why I'm not blogging so much these days

Buddy hates The Vol Abroad. He knows when I'm attempting to post to Vol Abroad. Even in a deep sleep, he wakes and screams just when I'm hitting my stride on a great post about British politics.

Last day

Up! , originally uploaded by London looks.

Looks like we managed to get to the playground on the last nice day. Today it's gone all cold and a bit damp. We may not get out of our woolens again until May or June. If then.

Wednesday, October 01, 2008


I'm twittering under my real name as of a few hours ago. It'll be a lot of work stuff. Won't be much baby, Vols, politics or gardening.

Just so you know...


I think I've had about two hours of sleep. Not in a row. My eyeballs hurt. I'm not a happy camper.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Houston Nutt for President

Oh, my Vols. Ergghhh. Blechhh. Harrumph. Well, I will say this. They didn't totally fold after a series of mistakes that would have crumpled many. But that game was winnable - I'm feeling despondent about this season.

On the upside, Florida lost. Yay, Ole Miss! Not something I would normally say, but there you go.

And that wasn't the only action from Ole Miss last night. The Presidential debates held at the University of Mississippi that Americans saw on Friday was aired here last night at 11pm. So, as I was listening to final dregs of the Auburn- Tennessee game with a headphone in my ear and hanging on with dwindling hope - I was half listening to McCain and Obama grumble and stumble through American foreign policy and the financial crisis.

I'm afraid it re-confirmed by my belief that they're both crap candidates, but that McCain is worser.

I fell asleep pretty shortly after the moderator cajoled the candidates to talk to each other for the fifth time which succeeded only in causing McCain to not know where to look and therefore look as shifty as he probably is.

Obama may not have said much, but kudos to him for not rolling his eyes and saying "What in the hell are you talking about?" to some of McCain's sillier stupidisms and lame, lame attempts at humor.

Friday, September 26, 2008

The monkey and the cat

The monkey and the cat, originally uploaded by London looks.

Today I had to go to Birmingham for work. I hadn't been in ages. I left the event I was speaking at early, skipping the final plenary after I did my last gig.

It was understood that I needed to get back to my very young son. But really, I wanted to make sure I had time to go to the Birmingham Museum, which was located tantalisingly near the event, so I could see this painting before I headed back to London.

I don't know why, but this is one of my favorite paintings. It's really rubbish, though. Apparently, it's taken from a French fable in which a monkey wants some roasting chestnuts and manages to convince the cat to singe his paws getting the chestnuts from the burning embers.

I asked one of the attendants if I could take a picture. He told me that normally you're supposed to have special permission, but if I was only taking one picture that was ok.

At the National Gallery, here in London, you can get any print in the whole museum printed out for you specially while you wait - in a number of superb quality expensive sizes. So if you have weird tastes in art, you don't have to just be satisfied with the usual posters of Van Goghs and Monets. The National Gallery was the first museum in the world to have this on offer.

I really like the Spanish painter Zurburan and his creepy religious pictures. I remember seeing his St. Margaret and thinking "I'd really like to have a copy of this, but this will never be in the poster bin in the gift shop. Wouldn't it be awesome if they had a printer that could just do whatever you want?" And when we went to the gift shop they did have it! How cool is that? I have St Margaret framed above the kitchen table.

It kinda reminds me of the time I wanted a wine rack and I had to go to the dump to get rid of some stuff and thought - wouldn't it be great if somebody was throwing away a wine rack and we got it. And sure enough, the guy next to us was throwing away a wine rack and I made my husband ask him for it and we use to this day to store wine and two liter bottles of lemonade.

I'd pay stupid prices to get a good quality print of the Monkey and the Cat.


Speckled, originally uploaded by London looks.

Toad lily flowers are pretty small, but amazing. This one was at the botanical gardens at Wisley.

I tried to grow one once, but because of my tendency to overplant it got crowded out and disappeared.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Sexism and racism on political t-shirts

In a previous post, I pointed to a particularly disgusting anti-Palin ad which has appeared on several "progressive" blogs.

A regular reader pointed out some nasty racist slogans - you can see them here at Think Progress. And you'll also find out that the Internet vendor who was selling them has removed them. I'm not excusing them at all, they're vile. They should be taken down through social and commercial pressure. But I have a feeling they're not all that pervasive.

There is an Obama racism museum online with ten examples of racist material and include all the material in the original comment, but interestingly the most violent, vile and offensive item (in my view) is also misogynistic and was created by someone who claimed to be an Obama supporter.

It's my hypothesis that racism is largely deemed unacceptable in "polite society", but sexism is frequently overlooked or tacitly encouraged. So, I thought I'd undertake a little empirical research. I decided to look at the pervasiveness of sexism and racism on one of the more popular customized t-shirt sites - CafePress. This site relies on user generated content printed on CafePress supplied t-shirts, bumper stickers, mugs, bags...and so on. Here are the shocking results - sexism directed toward political candidates is A-OK and widespread; racism is not.

My assumptions and study design are below the main findings.

Total offense count:
Racism: 1
Faith bias: 9
Gender bias: 43 - maybe 44
Age/disability bias: 3

Honorable mention - perhaps one slogan with sexual preference bias.

The offense counts of the designs which came up as I searched against each politician's name. Interestingly, for both Clinton and Palin all of the offensive designs were directed at them (with one exception). For male candidates, offensive designs were often directed at others.

Barack Obama
Offense count:
Racism: 1
Faith bias: 0
Gender bias: 1 - maybe 2
Age/disability bias: 0

A surprisingly offense-light zone. Only one possible racist association - Barack Obama's head photoshopped onto a gangsta-rappa type with the slogan "Barack's gonna knock you out." I wasn't clear if this was pro or anti Obama, but I felt it played to negative racial stereotypes.

Bro's before ho's (sic) was the slogan with a clear gender bias.

There was also a t-shirt that said "Barack with your cock out". I'm pretty sure it's pro-Obama. It think it means the person is an enthusiastic supporter. I count this as the only maybe on the Gender Bias category.

Fullscreen capture 25092008 132225

John McCain

Offense count:
Racism: 0
Faith bias: 6
Gender bias: 5
Age/disability bias: 1

Half of the offensive material was linking Obama to radical Islam - mostly making a play on words between Obama and Osama (typical example)

There were a couple of references too Sarah Palin's sexual attractiveness and Hillary Clinton's lack of same. More under their own entries.

There was one instance of a visual pun that was a reference to John McCain's age and possible infirmity John Mc(and a picture of a cane).

Fullscreen capture 25092008 132319

Joe Biden

Offense count:
Racism: 0
Faith bias: 3
Gender bias: 0
Age/disability bias: 2

I flipped through pages and pages before I found anything particularly offensive here. There were a couple of instances of designs showing Joe Biden in a wheelchair urging him to stand up (a reference to a gaffe he made inviting a political ally in a wheelchair to stand).

Two references to McCain's fitness - "It's 3pm and John McCain is napping."
Three links to Osama Bin Laden, two of them rather tortured visual puns linking Obama and Osama and Biden and Bin Laden.

Fullscreen capture 25092008 132250

Sarah Palin

Offense count:
Racism: 0
Faith bias: 0
Gender bias: 10
Age/disability bias: 0

Almost all of the offensive material here was about Sarah Palin's fuckability, reducing her to a "hot" object of desire - often with a gun (examples here and here). There were several references to wanting to be Sarah Palin's intern.

I didn't count designs that included the slogan "Drill, baby, drill." or any images of a pitbull with lipstick, or "Hero and Hottie" - though I probably should have included instances of the latter. I tended to limit it to the most graphic images or descriptions.

There were two instances of "VP Palin - I'd drill that".

I'm not entirely sure, but I think a lot of this offensive material was ostensibly pro-Palin.

Fullscreen capture 25092008 132339

Hillary Clinton

Offense count:
Racism: 0
Faith bias: 0
Gender bias: 28
Age/disability bias: 0

If the gender bias about Sarah Palin was about her attractiveness, most of the references to Hillary Clinton were the opposite. The predominant messages were that she's ugly, undesirable and a bitch. Like Lewinsky '08, vote for the woman who's willing to do the job or Even Bill doesn't want her.

There were many instances of "Life's a bitch, so don't vote for one" or similar. Similarly, I counted several instances of "Just Vote for the Bitch," which I counted and "Bitches get things done," which I didn't. It's a fine line to draw, but that's where I drew it.

There was one pro-Hillary slogan which was sexist toward men (and women) - which I did count - Chicks before Dicks. Probably a counter to Bros before Hos.

Fullscreen capture 25092008 132404

Study design
I searched under five names Barack Obama, John McCain, Hillary Clinton, Joe Biden, and Sarah Palin to look for any type of negative "ism" in designs available on the site. Most of the designs were available on a variety of items, but some were only t-shirts or only bumper stickers. I didn't count these differently. For each politician, I looked at 15 pages of possible designs - with 30 designs appearing per page - a total of 450 designs each. I counted similar or practically identical designs as separate instances if they had a different design identification number.

I found negative gender, age, and religious bias - but only possibly one instance of negative race bias. I judged negative bias as distasteful or offensive use of racial, faith, age or disability, or sexist stereotypes used to attack (and in some cases putatively support) a particular candidate. Negative bias is based entirely my judgement - a serious flaw in this little study, but I tried to be as objective as possible.

I also found lots of positive gender and race bias - i.e. it's a good thing to vote for Barack Obama because he's black (a small number of these) or vote for Hillary Clinton or Sarah Palin because they are women (lots of these). I didn't count those. I also didn't count instances where the political slogans were an obvious twist on negative sterotypes (e.g. the slogan that said Some Guy/Palin '08).

I also found a number of "vaguely sexist" references - such as Obama Girl or Chicks for Obama or McCain Girl. I didn't count these. Similarly, there were usages of the urban slang "homeboy", but these appeared to be without racial bias and were I felt supported both the Republicans (McCain is my homeboy, Sarah is my home girl) and Obama is my homeboy. These weren't counted.

UPDATE: For a bonus round including political headlines, check out Tennessee Guerilla Women.
Sarah Palin Sexism Watch
16 Sexist Sarah Palin T shirts that will probably piss you off.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Parts is parts

Wow. Is this the kind of political discourse we want? Not cool.

Egalia reports the use of this ad on "progressive blogs" at Tennessee Guerilla Women.

I've said it before and I'll say it again. There is much about Sarah Palin's position that I disagree with. So much so that I will not be voting for McCain-Palin. But I respect that she is an accomplished and talented politician just as I acknowledge the many formidable male politicians with whom I strongly disagree.

And it makes me sick that she's attacked in this way, because this isn't really about her, it's only vaguely about her politics - this is about her gender. This is saying that any woman is fair game for sexist attacks. As we've seen. This is the kind of nasty politics that aims to keep women from positions of power from the White House to the school board.

This is so distasteful that I'd have suspected that it was a Republican plant if I hadn't lived through the primary season.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Gordon Brown is going down

Gordon Brown, the British Prime Minister, is enjoying personal approval ratings that would make George Bush snicker with comparative glee. I'd bet a higher percentage of the UK population has the clap than think Gordo is doing a good job.

In British political life, you don't wait every four years to have a convention. No, they have one every year. I guess that's the benefit of having a small country. All the big parties do it. And the leader of the party has to give a big speech, and one of those leaders will be the Prime Minister.

And you know what, they don't broadcast the speeches prime time. Mostly because the speeches aren't given in prime time. They happen in the day. Sure, you can catch it on tv, but it interrupts a cookery show or some show where you go through your house and sell off your valuable goods to finance a trip the Gran Canaria or some such. And frankly, most people are at work while these are going on.

Like me. I was at work when Gordon Brown gave his big headline speech today. This was the speech that was supposed to save his political career. This was make or break time. Pundits were saying that he needed to have "an Obama moment" to turn around his political fate.

On tv tonight, many of those pundits were reporting that he'd done it. Or at least, that he'd given a great speech. The speech of his life, blah, blah, blah. And then they'd interview some Labour party goon, some former press under-secretary in the Blair government, or some Broonite loyalist and they said "Wow, what a great speech. He showed what a leader he was." Blah, blah, blah.

Several channels flipped through and all we could hear were people talking about how great his speech was and offering insight. But no clips of the speech. "Show us some of the damn speech," said the Vol-in-Law. We wanted to bask in Gordon's brilliance, too.

Finally, the ViL had sense enough to turn to the Parliament channel. It's a little like I remember C-SPAN, except they rarely seem to show sub-committee meetings live. In fact, they always seem to have happened months in the past. Not sure what that's about. But they were showing Gordon Brown's speech just as we flipped to it. In fact, I think we caught most of it.

Obama moment, my arse. Barack Obama is an incredibly gifted public speaker. Even when he's talking shite it sounds pretty good. Gordon Brown, not so much. Not even close. Not even in the same solar system. Not even when Gordon Brown is talking sense.

But Gordon Brown wasn't talking sense. He made some sneering jabs at the Conservative Party. I'm not sure this is the time to do this. He made some sneering jabs at the "novices" who want to take over from him. He said some really lame stuff about the economy and how the Tories would end all regulation of the financial markets. Gordon Brown wanted to make us believe that he's the right man to handle the economic chaos, but instead he sounded like the pompous bloke at the pub who tries to make himself look smarter by distorting other people's points. And he did it not very well.

No wonder they couldn't show any clips of the speech. It would have showed just how full of it the political reporters are.

Monday, September 22, 2008

The Vols and breakin' the law

Well, what a disappointment that was. After the Tennessee Volunteers performance against UAB last week, I can't say I expected a different outcome. But for the Vols to actually do rather well in the game against Florida and yet fail to close (as they say in sales speak) again and again was a painful experience in proximity only counts in horseshoes and hand grenades (and maybe that lawn game boules.)

As I explained to the Vol-in-Law during the first half if you looked at all the statistics, except for the scoring stastics, the Vols actually did more than Florida.

"Except for the score?" questioned the Vol-in-Law. "No one looks at that."

Thanks for your support, hon.


We had to dress Buddy in some UT pyjamas that were way, way too small. Being a wiry fellow, I was able to close most of the buttons, but the long sleeved, full length pants only came to the elbow and the knee. I was going to take a picture to show you, but he managed to have a poo-splosion in the morning before I could get the camera out. Ooooh, it was a bad one. I think it was perhaps a dirty protest at Fulmer's special teams strategy.


Ouch: you know things are bad when someone asks for the coach's head on a platter on their baby shower wish list.


I listened to the game again. Video was free to air on CBS Internet tv as it was their SEC game of the week, but when I did all the signing up and clicking and so forth I got a disappointing message "Content not available for viewing outside the US." Now, what's the point of that? I mean it's the Internet. It was, I believe, actually shown on CBS. If I lived in the US, I could have watched it on tv.

I know that techie hackers and so on use mirroring or spoofing sites to make it appear they're accessing content from someplace they physically are not. Does anyone know how you do that? I mean should Tennessee actually feature in a game of the week again anytime soon, how would I go about that? Answers on a post card, please.

Friday, September 19, 2008

Buddy encounters a squirrel, and two new toys

At Richmond Park last Sunday, Buddy had an encounter with the beggar squirrels that inhabit the restaurant area. They've learned to lose a little fear in exchange for tasty treats. Buddy was enchanted with the quarter-tame critters.

My photos came out not so good, most of them. I need to improve on the whole action shot thing. But I pulled them together with a little lame video clip and voila 84 seconds of something not quite so bad.

I used two new things (new to me) to do this.

1. Picasa 3. I'm a big fan of Picasa photo editing software. It's not the best, but it's quick and easy to use - there's no faster cropping I've found and everything feels pretty intuitive. This latest version has a few new tricks, like retouching and lets you pull a movie together (as above) pretty quickly. It's still kinda crashy though and even though it seemed like I could upload directly to YouTube, I couldn't get that to work and had to upload from the YouTube interface.

2. YouTube now has soundtrack! You can "swap audio" from a list of tunes. I don't know if it's copyright free or what the deal is, but presumably that's YouTube's lookout. I added the soundtrack you can hear above. The list isn't huge and I couldn't quite time transitions as I might have liked. But hey, it removes the frisson of fear that some record company's solicitor might pop a demand for £1500 for violating their intellectual property rights.

Update: oops, I failed to mention the most important thing about Picasa - it's free.
Further update: my old pal is back online and blogging and says it's talk like a pirate day which is NOT an invitation for me to talk about copyright violations and internet piracy - which is what I did, totally unintentionally.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

black eyed

black eyed , originally uploaded by London looks.

From the borders at the Inner Temple gardens, which hosted an RHS flower show last week.

I've been working within walking distance of this place for years, and I had no idea it was there.

There gardens were lovely, mixed borders, mainly - but some beautiful shade borders and lovely old trees, too.

The event itself was pretty fantastic - kinda like a very, very small version of the Chelsea flower show. There was a champagne bar (which I passed on) and an all female steel band. Because nothing says traditional English gardening like steel drums.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Sharia in the UK

According to a Times article yesterday:

ISLAMIC law has been officially adopted in Britain, with sharia courts given powers to rule on Muslim civil cases.

The government has quietly sanctioned the powers for sharia judges to rule on cases ranging from divorce and financial disputes to those involving domestic violence.

Rulings issued by a network of five sharia courts are enforceable with the full power of the judicial system, through the county courts or High Court.

Previously, the rulings of sharia courts in Britain could not be enforced, and depended on voluntary compliance among Muslims.

It has now emerged that sharia courts with these powers have been set up in London, Birmingham, Bradford and Manchester with the network’s headquarters in Nuneaton, Warwickshire. Two more courts are being planned for Glasgow and Edinburgh.

On the one hand, I'm all for alternative dispute resolution - I guess. On the other hand, this really creeps me out. As a woman, I have to say, sharia pretty much sucks for us.

The courts have been established through rules on arbitration, so it's basically binding arbitration, but all parties must agree to it before entering the court. Then the ruling becomes enforceable. This keeps people from venue shopping and dragging things out indefinitely. If you go to a sharia court over a contested will, the male sibling will receive twice as much as the female sibling. I know that and so would any Muslim litigant. I wouldn't go to a sharia court to settle an inheritance dispute (sorry Vol Bro), but I do know a Muslim woman who probably would have and all she wanted was what sharia "entitled" her to when her brother wanted to take a lot more than his already larger share. In most senses, I really don't have a problem with this.

But these courts are deciding all kinds of matters including charges of domestic violence. Ummm, yeah - the victim and the perpetrator are on equal footing there, aren't they? It turns out that in the domestic violence cases the men have been ordered to undergo anger management courses. How enlightened. And the women have dropped the charges. Fancy that.

They invented gun-powder AND pasta, ya know

Grim after grim economic reports on the tv, and the Vol-in-Law reckons that the decline of Western hegemony will happen after not this, but some very similar economic fuckus-upus.

After yet another gloomy forecast on the news at dinner, he declared:

"I, for one, welcome our new Chinese Overlords."

Monday, September 15, 2008

Political commentary

Following a request for more political blogging, so what follows is my stream-of-conciousness blatherings on the Presidential election.

Blecchhhh..... that's how I feel about this whole election cycle. Just blecchhhh....

You see, as I've said all along, I'd rather eat a razor blade than vote for McCain - go ahead put razor blade in the search box - you'll see McCain next to it almost every time (well, half the time - there's also one post about Halloween candy and razor blades and one in which I reproduce in its entirety and without license the Ballad of William Bloat)

And I've been a lifelong Democratic voter and some time member of the Democratic party. I'm currently a member, that's why I get all those emails from Obama asking me for $5 (or more). But I'm just not feeling the love this time. Still, I find it hard to blog against the Democratic nominee. Even though I want to. So I'm kinda just avoiding the subject.

For the first time in my life, I'm seriously thinking about just not voting. I haven't requested my ballot yet. I probably will - just so I can frame it, un-marked. It is an historic election after all. And you people who do vote - what kind of souvenir will you have. Heck, in most states with electronic voting you won't even get a paper receipt.

I just can't understand how both parties could have produced such crap candidates. But, then again, in 2004 both parties produced crap candidates.

I've decided that the best outcome is for a meteor to land on the Presidential debates. A meteor would be good. Although there'd no doubt be some conspiracy theories to follow, a meteor wouldn't be anybody's fault and we'd get to have a do-over.

I had thought I might vote for Cynthia McKinney, even though she's running on a Green Party ticket. The Vol-in-Law told me "You can't vote Green, that'll just encourage them." But I find her positions on 9/11 pretty repugnant, and a deal breaker for me.

Is John Jay Hooker on the Tennessee ballot for President this time? If he is, he's got my vote.

On the radio

I wasn't able to listen to the UT-UCLA game. It being a Monday night - or really early, early, early Tuesday morning here on a week day. I tired enough as it is - and at work, you know they like me to work.

But on Saturday, I was able to tune in to the Vols on Internet radio.

And I guess like any Tennessee fan, I wasn't really thinking about that game. I was thinking about the next game. Will this be enough against Florida? Ehhhh....unlikely.

University of Alabama Birmingham was there to be our punching bag, but instead we just slapped 'em around a little. Sure a win's good, it's better than a mark in the L column.

I never thought the Vols would lose, but I was unsure about one thing. The new Internet listening service.

Last year, there was radio broadcast from UTSports.com -owned by the University, but this year it's on another site - the All Access College Sports Broadband Channel. Probably something to do with the gajillion dollar communications deal UT signed this year. The site is not great. Sure it looks slick, but it's hard to navigate, it has weird disappearing menus and you can't just click on a game to listen, you have to tick a teeny-tiny unintuitive box to add it to your "play list". My playlist? Whatever, I just want to listen to the game. Worst of all, occasionally I'd get a voiceover saying "The event you have selected is not yet broadcast, please check your playlist..." or some such rubbish. And I'd have to go and reload the game - listening to the mandatory ad before I could return to game coverage.

There also doesn't appear to be any way to turn off the game tracker, which means that even though I can listen to old games which is very useful when the games are on too late for me, there doesn't appear to be any way to avoid the score. I like to listen to the games as if live. A big old final score kinda ruins it for me. I've complained about this directly.

Finally, I'd like to grumble about the Vol Network feed itself. The way it works is advertising is sold by the Vol Network - that's fine. I actually kinda like hearing those ads. In East Tennessee, problems with termites? Lookie, lookie, lookie her comes Cookie - Cooks pest control. And go to Food City for that limited edition Tennessee ice cream that Mayfield Dairy makes. Show your Volunteer spirit by recyling! And so on...

But when it cuts to the slots that local affiliates have sold...there's no sound. There's just an eery, ominous silence that brings a panic to my chest and makes me think that the broadcast has cut out. I'd actually rather listen to some ads - maybe some international company like Gillette or Coke or the International Herald Tribune could buy across all Internet broadcast NCAA sports - I guess the legalities would be too difficult. Or maybe it could be non-stop repeating choruses of Rocky Top or warnings about parking restrictions at UT or snippets from Chemistry 101 lectures or anything - really anything.

Anyway, rant over - Go Vols, next week I suspect I'll have more to complain about than 30 seconds of dead air.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Soft landings at the Temple of Doom

Buddy is a climber. The swings are so last month now. He's not interested in playing on something unless it's likely to cause his parental attendant a spell of nerves.

jumping off?

Today at the playground, I watched a mother compare her little fellow with Buddy. She said "He's an adventurous one." I replied "He sure is." She asked me how old he was and when I said fifteen months she said "He's the Indiana Jones of the baby world."

Monday, September 08, 2008

Critter tv

So Buddy is finally noticing the television, which is great, because I always planned to use the mesmerising effect of the tube as a key part of my parenting strategy. He's not so hot keen on the cartoons just yet, he likes to watch mammals and occasionally fish.

In my search for some critter tv, I was hunting through the documentary area of the satellite menu. Insects? No. Bears, yes. Animals cops in Detroit? Sometimes. He likes it so long as there's an underfed Rottweiler or a mangy pit bull or some scraggly kittens, but his attention wanes as soon as a Michigan animal welfare officer comes on the screen. And when his attention wanes, he starts banging the brass curtain pull against the window or shoving the remote down the radiator or pulling books off the bookshelf.

Crocodiles. No, apparently reptiles aren't that interesting either. But I had to stop and watch the Crocodile Hunter guy for a moment. Steve Irwin and his chirpy Australianness and his love of animals that I wouldn't touch with a stick. He was picking up snakey looking lizard things in a burnt out landscape, it must have been filmed during Australia's long drought and bush fires and he was trying to rescue the things. He was a clearly distressed by their plight.

"And you know what really tears my heart out?" he said to the camera.
"A sting ray?" I replied to the tv.

Thursday, September 04, 2008

McCain's speech

Since I didn't give up any sleep to listen to the Vol's season opener, there's no way in hidey-ho that I'm going to stay up to watch John McCain's speech tonight. So, I thought I'd dig up what I wrote about him almost two years ago when he gave a speech to the British Conservative Party Conference in 2006.

John McCain, if I ever thought he was a presidential contender - after what I saw, I certainly don't think so now. He looked old and frail and rheumy and said things like "you'll see more of the future than I will." The Vol-in-Law [and I] discussed this and could only come to the conclusion that McCain must now know that he will never be President.

How times change.

Tuesday, September 02, 2008

Taking personal responsibility

Whose fault is it that the Vols lost last night? Was it an incoherent offensive strategy? Was it Foster's fumble or Lincoln's missed kicks? The opposing QB's growing confidence throughout the game. No. I have to accept personal responsibility.

Last year, following astute observation followed by scientific-like experiments, we discovered that if Buddy was wearing orange, preferably UT licensed gear, the Vols would do well. If, following, a spill, a spit up, or poo-splosion, Buddy had to have the orange removed - the Vols would falter. Several times we scrambled to find new orange to place on the sleeping child, and the Vols rallied. (This apparently only worked in regular season games, not in the SEC Championship game).

What was Buddy wearing last night? Navy blue.

To the entire Vol Nation, I offer my profound apologies.

Trouble is, as an infant he had a ton of UT stuff. Now, he has but one sweatshirt and it's getting kinda snug. The critter keeps growing. At least there's two weeks (almost) between now and the next game. Time to rescue the season. We know what must be done.

I'm looking for a change I can believe in
Looking forward to a victorious season

Monday, September 01, 2008

Sleep or the Vols?

Eegads - an 8pm kickoff? On a Monday? That it means it starts at 1am here. I'm sleep deprived already. I have two really important meetings tomorrow. To top it all off, at the beginning of each season there's the whole new challenge of trying to find out exactly where I can listen to live or archived games or maybe even watch.

And I've got to admit, I haven't quite figured it out yet. Why do they got to change it every year? Last year it was the easiest and simplest yet - I even had a saved link where I could listen to the games without ever seeing the score if they were on too late. This year, I'm all confused.

I'm moaning. I know. Tonight, it has to be sleep - whatever little I may be able to procure.

Go Vols

Nothing personal

In the UK, there's a system whereby you can get tax relief on your income spent on childcare. It's actually worth a fair bit of money, which is good because child care here is incredibly expensive. But like everything New Labour does, the process is complicated. I have to "surrender" my income to some third party private sector company and fill out forms and blah, blah, blah.

Since I'm top rate tax payer, it makes sense for me to surrender the maximum amount I'm allowed under current regulations. I was trying to sort it out today and the person in the customer service centre told me that if the allowance was raised in the next budget, I would automatically have an increased amount taken from my paycheck (which is a good thing).

I said "They probably won't raise it, Gordon Brown* hates me."
Call centre woman: "It's not you, Gordon Brown hates everyone."

*Gordon Brown - current UK Prime Minister formerly Chancellor of the Exchequer (financial supremo). He's not supposed to be in charge of the Budget and Government finances anymore, but everyone knows the current chancellor Alistair Darling is Gordon's muppet.

Sunday, August 31, 2008

Ways of making you talk

I can now say that I think sleep deprivation is torture. I can attest that I would talk. But it would just be incoherent, grumpy blathering.

Buddy slept better as a newborn.

Update: on the upside, this may mean I get to listen live to Tennessee's first football game. Though I'm not sure if that's wise on a workday.

Friday, August 29, 2008

What a VP pick

I was amazed that John McCain picked Sarah Palin as his running mate. What a crafty old fox. Despite the fact that I probably disagree with her on many issues, what I'm reading about her so far impresses me.

What impresses me most is how she took on her own state GOP to expose corruption and incompetence in Republican ranks. I love good governance. Her biggest scandals in her Governorship appear to be related to trying to get her brother-in-law fired. He was a State Trooper who threatened to kill her father and drank beer in the patrol car. Not such great qualities in a law officer. And she tried to keep a state run dairy open at a loss. Why are politicians such suckers for the farmers?

She's clearly a tough woman and a go-getter. We probably wouldn't have been friends in high school (if we'd been contemporaries), but she's the kind of person I'd be proud to serve with on a local committee. She'd get things done. But then she'd talk about teaching Creationism in science class or restricting access to safe and legal abortions - and I kinda have to draw the line there.

Her pro-gun stance is hardly surprising for someone from Alaska. I think they need their guns up there. They have some big and dangerous varmints in those parts, I hear.

Drilling in the Alaskan Wildlife Reserve? She's for it. I couldn't give a stuff. Really. I don't care.


Sarah Palin, not somebody I'd vote for, but frankly I think this is the good old kick in the teeth that the DNC deserves. Too much sexist bullshit this election cycle. Let the Republicans show they can rise above it. (If they can.)

I think it's great there's a woman in the VP slot. We do represent over half the voting electorate, so it seems only reasonable that we should have a fourth of the top slots on offer. Oh - and that would be two women total in over 200 years of major party campaigning.

Now we'll see how fair and balanced the media are. Will Sarah Palin have to suffer the same treatment as Hillary Clinton? On the left there will be the accusations that she's a sellout for women (the same slurs Margaret Thatcher endured). I've never bought into that. Just because someone doesn't fit your ideal of what a woman leader should be like doesn't mean she isn't a polticiian who isn't true to herself and her ideals. You don't like her ideals, don't vote for her. But don't say she's less of woman.

On the Right there'll be questions about whether she should be running for office while she has small children. Blechhh. I've already heard those comments (all from men that I saw) dripping into Fox News feedback. I'm sure her husband is a capable man and can look after things.

Just leave the cat alone

Occasionally people land on my site from the search "How do I induce a cat's labor?"

Don't. Just don't.

The email I didn't get

I've been watching the Democratic convention from afar, hearing the summary coverage the morning after on the BBC. I've heard a lot about some bitterness and I've heard a lot about Hillary Clinton didn't go far enough in her speech* to outline the fine qualities of Barack Obama. Oh please....what does she have to do? She gave a pretty solid endorsement, I'd say - but I guess it's never enough. She didn't jump high enough in her cheerleading?

I'm still a member of the Democratic Party, so I still get the emails. After Michelle Obama's speech I got an enthusiastic email from Barack Obama saying how great it was. I got another this morning after his speech asking for money.

But I didn't get an email thanking Hillary for her speech or thanking Bill for his rousing endorsement. Dumb. Dumb. Dumb. It's little things like that which could make a big difference for disaffected Democratic voters like me. I almost emailed back suggesting that he do so. I've been waiting for those small gestures of genuine appreciation and understanding of Hillary Clinton supporters, but if I'd been holding my breath I'd be blue by now.

It particularly rankled after I'd had an email a little while ago from Howard Dean about how we must all fight back against the smears in The Obama Nation book by that kook Jerome Corsi. I never got an email about the sexism and misogyny surrounding Hillary Clinton's campaign. Yes, I know that it was during the primary - but a little balanced email about keeping the fight clean....I don't know.

All along, I've been wanting something, anything to persuade me to vote for Barack Obama. I have never not voted for the Democratic nominee in a presidential election since I turned 18. (Well, I did miss one - but I meant to vote. It's not easy to vote from overseas.) After all, I think McCain is a dangerous entity. I think he's unstable and I think he will be bad for America.

But I just feel that Barack Obama has never asked for my vote. (McCain has - but he won't get it.) And each time I've expressed reservations about Obama on this blog, I've been met with critcisms of Hillary Clinton from enthusiastic Obama supporters. (Hey y'all, remember that old adage about honey and vinegar.) I've never bought into the call for amorphous change. What change? I just want good governance, a steady hand, sound economic policies and a serious attempt to deal with the healthcare mess. What I don't want is to be insulted or belittled or taken for granted, and I don't want that for my candidate I supported either. And I surely don't want a candidate from the so-called Left who says that too many people work for the insurance industries to attempt a major overhaul of the healthcare system. What kind of change is that? A lot of people worked for the kerosene lamp industry, too - but we still made the switch to light bulbs.

This convention hasn't changed my mind, I'm sad to say. I'm trying to summon the enthusiasm to request my absentee ballot so I can vote down ticket - or maybe hoping (with baited breath) that Barack Obama will do something to make me want to vote for him.


Didn't y'all just love Senator Clinton's orange suit though? If I hadn't already admired her policies, her fight, and her leadership abilities I'd probably have voted for her just for the orange pantsuit. (I know in national politics - for women - they can't often wear the same thing twice and I think people will remember the orange suit - so Hillary - can I have it? And if I can't have it, could you give it Pat Head Summitt for her joint appearances with Bruce Pearl?)