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.