Above the Parapet

After four years of blogging pseudonymously, I have come back to my real name. Now that I am no longer a school teacher, hopefully I will not have to fend off abusive comments and denial of service attacks.

I considered clearing out the archive, but I have left the old posts up because I think there some worthwhile things to read. I’m sure there are a few clunkers in there somewhere and a bit of radicalism that may have since mellowed in my middle age. I might go in later and clean things up, but maybe not.

I hope to blog about things are productive for the various ventures, professional paths, avocational interests and spiritual walk I pursue, some of which are looming on the horizon as I enter into a very big new phase of life.

Rain, Rain, Go Away

There is really only one news story today. The Shire is surrounded by disaster areas. While we are not as badly affected here, Worcestershire and Gloucestershire have seen the worst flooding in at least 150 years – and it’s getting worse. The River Severn hasn’t just breached its banks. In places it is five or six times wider than it was last week.

Over 150,000 of homes are without water because the water treatment plant has been flooded. An electrical substation has been shut down, cutting off power to 43,000 homes. The military has been called in stop another substation from flooding, as it would cut off as many as a further 500,000 homes.

The eastern part of the the Shire has been similarly affected, with a pumping station flooded and water cut off since midday yesterday. There is more water coming down the Wye and the rain continues. The worst affected may be the soft fruit farmers, with the polytunnels flooded it could ruin the late summer crops. Parts of Hooterville that have never flooded in living memory have been covered with water. Even though we live much closer to the river, we have not been affected so far.

Apologies

Checking my stats tonight, I saw that I had referrals to this site from stantonythegreat.org.uk. I thought this a bit strange, since I don’t have a link on that site. Then I realised that through all my messing around with my domain name, I had messed up that site, which is set up to reside in my old hosting account.

The site has been moved to new hosting and the links have been fixed. My apologies to anyone who might have though the views on this blog represent in any way the views of the Herefordshire Orthodox Fellowship of St Antony the Great.

No Forwarding Address

I seem to have a lot of emails that have just disappeared into the ether between the earth and the moon (a location frequently referenced by my Evidence professor in law school).

I bought some genuine web hosting a couple of days ago (not for this blog, but for some other stuff) and decided to point my holford.org.uk domain at it to restore the old HolfordWeb site. Bad move. When I changed name servers, I lost the MX records where the domain is hosted here. This is bad because the web hosting can’t provide mail service just by me changing name servers on a domain.

So I brought the domain back over and pointed it back to this blog (go ahead, try it) and confirmed all of the mail forwarding. Now sending test emails they don’t kick back as errors, but neither do they forward through. I tried to ring my domain host, but they have been shut for two days because of the flooding, as they are located next to the River Severn.

So I’m stuck in email limbo. The only good thing is that I have been getting a lot less spam.

New Bed

The entire day today has been spent getting and constructing Aidan’s new bed. Mrs H had been wanting to get him one with the bed on the top bunk and a sofa and desk underneath. The going price is about £800, which is just a little out of our budget range.

That’s why eBay is such a great thing. We got one several years old, but in perfect condition, for 10% of the cost of a new one. We did have to hire a moving van to get it up here, but that’s why grandfathers are such a good thing.

Before we even drove down to pick it up in just outside Grampy’s town, the children were buzzing with excitement. Once we got it home it was impossible keeping them out of the room while we put it together. As soon as it was finished they were all over it. They wouldn’t even eat their dinner because it was too exciting. It wasn’t even ordinary dinner – they abandoned pizza and garlic bread and pop.

If you thought there was any chance the Abby wouldn’t be staying in Aidan’s room, you’d be wrong. Even if we tried to make her stay in her bed, she would stay up as long as it took to successful sneak in there, impervious to hell, high water, and any sort of punishment. There are some battles not worth fighting.

We freecycled Aidan’s old bed and it has ended up with the same family who took Bubby off of our hands.  We got a thorough report on how she is doing. She is much happier than she was having to stay in the hutch. She has the run of a small fully enclosed garden.

Stick a Fork in Me, I’m Done

The summer holidays are finally here! Not that you would know from the November weather.

Rather than usual end of school wind down with wine and leaving speeches, the day ended rather abruptly. We have had torrential rain all day and flooding, so the school shut early and all staff living in affected area were encouraged to make themselves scarce.  That included me.

Some pupils went out of their way to let me know how glad they were to see me leave. Fortunately a few actually let me know they were sad to see me go.

Next year it will be a new school with new responsibilities.

Radio

This week I have been showing most of my classes the same film. Under normal circumstance we don’t just show videos in RE – despite the reputation of the subject in some circles. And theoretically we shouldn’t show them in the last week of the year, as this detracts from the work ’em to the last minute ethic.

I was originally just going to show it to my Year 10s, but I realised that it has a message that all of my year groups could use and with only one lesson left to leave one message in their heads, I chose to show them Radio with Cuba Gooding, Jr. and Ed Harris. I wanted them to realise that they have the chance to make a difference to the world around them. They need to see a positive example of how the way we treat others can change us as well as them. And they can see that even someone who society might otherwise reject can make an impact on the world around them in a positive way.

Unfortunately I wasn’t surprised to learn that many of them cannot even sit and watch a movie without being unbelievably disruptive.  I had to abandon it altogether with one group because I couldn’t even get it started. Because it is longer than the lesson period, I offered to show it at lunch for anyone who wanted to finish it. I had some top set Year 9s take up that offer, but no others.

That doesn’t mean I’ve changed my view of the potential of the film. I’m trying to work it into my schemes of work in my new school. I think it deserves to be shown over two or more lessons, with opportunity for feedback and analysis.

If you are familiar with the film, you might be interesting in the page about James “Radio” Kennedy on the T. L. Hanna High School website, or the official site of Radio and Coach Harold Jones.

Information Superhighway Robbery

It’s rip-off Britain once again.

The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development has compared UK broadband with service available elsewhere in the world. In terms of low cost, we are 19th out of the 30 richest nations in terms of what we pay to our providers. The average British price is £14.50 per month. Not surprisingly it is less than £8 per month in the States, just over £8 in France, and apparently averages a mere £5.40 in Sweden (the my Swedish resident namesake will have to confirm this).

Again, not surprisingly, we are getting less for our money. Our 8Mbs maximum speed is apparently the internet equivalent of molasses. And were that we all got 8Mbs! I’m paying for 8 but tend to get a bit under 2. I should be getting 5.5 (because after they sell you 8 they tell you to only really expect 5.5), but thanks to line noise at the exchange box, it ain’t happening. BT seem to have no motivation whatsoever in cleaning up the noise, as this would probably mean spending money.

In Japan, they get 100Mbs. In case you haven’t done the math, that’s a bit over 50 times what I’m actually getting.

I’m not saying I’ve haven’t made progress. I started with a 1200 baud modem on a 8088 machine in 1989. Things have changed a lot since I got on the actual Internet with a 14.4 on a 486 in 1993. Nonetheless, the world is passing me by.

Historical History

As we left the local library and museum today, we stopped at the new Oxfam bookshop. Until recently, Oxfam had a few used books for sale in their main shop. The selected is now expanded, but still quite limited.

Nonetheless, I have a hard time passing up a used bookstore, especially if I haven’t visited it before. I saw several things that interested me. One I couldn’t pass up. For £3.99 I picked up a copy of The Life and Martyrdom of Saint Thomas Becket, Archbishop of Canterbury. It is 632 pages, in almost perfect condition and was published in 1885. It’s not a reprint. It came off the press when William Gladstone was Prime Minister and Queen Victoria still had 16 years left on the throne.

I don’t know when I shall read it cover-to-cover, but it is nonetheless a jewel on the bookshelf and no doubt a useful Church history resource.

Family History

It’s not the summer holidays yet, but Mrs H got a hold of information about all the things in the local area to do with kids for free. Today is archaeology day at the museum.

The kids got to dig through a sandbox looking for artefacts. They found bones and pottery shards and even a Roman coin. Abby then smoothed all the sand level and even, which had less to do with archaeology and more with the tidying up gene she didn’t inherent from me.

After the dig, we all made Roman wax tablets using Roman handwriting. They didn’t have wax, so we used plasticine instead.

Aidan wrote his name:

roman-tablets-003.jpg

I wrote in Latin. Can you read it?

roman-tablets-002.jpg

There were displays there about archaeological sites around the Shire. I noticed that they didn’t have anything up about the Rotherwas Ribbon. I suppose it’s best not to let the kids know about that. Don’t want to get their hopes up that they will ever see it, of course.

Likewise, I suppose they wouldn’t understand a display that said, “Here’s the dig at a site that was around 2,000 years before the Romans. Now, here’s what it will look like when it is covered over by a road.”

My Masculinity Isn’t Threatened

Visiting my cousin’s blog I was tricked into taking the Star Trek personality test. However, I’m man enough to admit that it showed:

You are Uhura

“You are a good communicator with a pleasant soft-spoken voice.
Also a talented singer.”

I was 10 percentage points off of my childhood hero Captain Kirk, but sadly I was just as likely to be one of those red shirt extras in a landing party that invariably get killed.

Click here to take the “Which Star Trek Character Are You?” quiz…

The Future of Britain

“She doesn’t get detentions,” then with a sneer, “She’s a boffin.”

“When you grow up (assuming you do), do you know who you will be working for? Boffins.”

“I don’t plan on working.”

“Okay, let me rephrase. Do you know who is going to pay taxes to support you while you sit on the couch and watch Trisha?”

“Don’t care.”

Contempt

There are a lot of thankless jobs out there. Many people contribute to society being a better place and never receive any recognition.  However, when it comes to secondary education, I’m hardpressed to think of another profession where the people benefitting from it hold it in such contempt.

All public facing jobs endure a certain amount of abuse. There are plenty of anti-social nasty people out there. This society has bred more than it’s fair share. Police, for example, get a lot of grief from the criminal element, but then that’s not who they are serving, but rather from whom they are protecting others.

NHS staff deal with a lot of nasties, but they now have statutory protection. Abuse a nurse and you can find yourself without treatment. However, even then, they rarely face an entire waiting room of 30 patients showing open contempt and refusing to be treated when called. Nor do they daily face a constant stream of patients who are so disruptive that others can’t receive treatment.

 The Government has left teachers powerless. If someone refuses to leave a room, they cannot be grabbed by the arm and forced out. If someone tries to leave a room where they are supposed to stay, their exit path cannot be blocked.

How can the Government be surprised that crime figures continue to climb (while trying to manipulate the numbers to show that they haven’t) when they have created an environment where children are a law unto themselves? Is it any surprise that more than 50% of Anti-Social Behaviour Orders are violated?

No More Money for Nothing

Record companies are not happy these days. CD sales are slumping. It is predicted that this will be the worst year in nearly three decades. Of course artists and record company executives will still make lots and lots of money. Obscene amounts of money. Just less obscene amounts.

Legal digital downloads are much less lucrative than CDs, especially because customers can download just the tracks they want. Band and artists can’t put out two or three really good tracks on a CD and expect to get the full whack for it.

And what’s got to really irritate the grey suits that are used to running the industry? Not listeners who file share, but bands who don’t need them any more. They have to wonder how many more bands like Arctic Monkeys are out there. We are in the midst of a serious paradigm shift.

And I didn’t mean to leave out file sharing altogether. Record companies weren’t so worried when file sharing was making a cassette copy of your vinyl, or even your CD, for a friend. Really, that’s all that’s happening now. The only difference is that people have a lot of friends, with the means to share with all of them, and they are completely unbounded by geography.

I think the record companies are eventually going to completely lose out on the file sharing argument. I’m not saying they have a valid position in intellectual property law, but what we have is a new way of thinking about intellectual property due to the realities of the information age.

It’s a bit like why am I going to buy Encarta when I can use (and even participate in) Wikipedia? Or newspaper websites that have tried to charge for the news – still trying to live in the age of the cover price. Most of the time, I can find someone else with the story for free. The Times recently revamped their website and tried to put the newspaper edition with all the stories behind a subscription. When I went to have a look just now to see how much a subscription to that edition is, I discovered that it is free again, even though they haven’t publicised this and you have to know which link to click on (BTW, it is the “Our Papers” link on the right-hand side of the top row of the menu).

Record companies executives are just going to have to come up with other ways of making money that are viable in the current marketplace. Otherwise, they are going to have to put up with less stratospheric salaries.

Summer Saturday

It was starting to look a lot like there would be no summer in Britain this year. The last time I was out on a bright and sunny Saturday, I was watching parachutists jump onto the fields outside Sainte-Mère-Église at the beginning of June.

I enjoy going to the city centre on sunny summer Saturdays. We used to always eat sandwiches out in front of Marks and Spencer until Subway arrived and then that became a tradition for awhile. Today we ate at Subway again.

In WH Smith I found the sequel to the book I’m reading. I almost bought it since I haven’t been able to find it at Tesco, but I decided to look on Amazon. I can get the hardcover for £5.15 (including postage) or the paperback for £5.14. That’s nearly £2 cheaper than in the store and I don’t have to go back into town to get it.

After we got back from visiting friends in a nearby village, and the kids had their dinner, bath, and were off to bed, I sat outside in the waning sunlight to read more of my book. I looked up from time to time to see over the river to the cathedral, where the scaffolding has finally been removed. The newly cleaned spires on the four corners of the tower glowed in the evening light. Groups of teenagers sat on the playing fields and a dad was kicking the ball around with a couple of boys who would be too old for that sort of thing too soon.

There are worse places in the world.

I tried not to look at the chain linked fencing that cuts across the ancient meadow, blocking off a large portion occupied on the weekdays by workmen as they prepare to destroy the beauty with unnecessary flood defences. But Asda gave them money build concrete walls and huge earthen mounds to push the water downstream into the houses that have never flooded before and that’s what they are going to do. This is probably the last summer I’ll have the view that came with my mortgage.

Summer or not, being Britain after sunset, the chill in the air got me before the light faded. I found my bookmark and put Northern Virginia in the summer of 1862 on hold. Now that I’ve made a cheesecake (from a box, of course) and I’m waiting for that to set, I’ll get back to the story.

I’ll pick up from the line: “I’ll stay sober, sir, I promise,” for he had a whore to bury and general to see.

One day I’ll write stuff like that.

More on Rotherwas

Apologies to anyone who commented on or linked to yesterday’s post about the Rotherwas Ribbon. It was rather hastily deleted rather than edited, as my tagline says, I don’t change things nisi sponsa dissentit.

I can still update things and whilst not mentioning some sensitive things, there is more information in the public domain. As usual we find the local council talking out of both sides of their mouth.

They had announced that there would be special viewing today of the heretofore secret location, but it would limited to 200 people. This was in the local paper which comes out on the Thursday, but which we didn’t get until Friday. By then all the tickets were gone.

Despite news of the Rotherwas Ribbon even reaching my parents’ local newspaper, they have tried to keep this extraordinary discovery very low key. They have been determined not to let this stand in the way of the Rotherwas relief road, a £12 million spur to the local industrial estate that has been built against the wishes of, and without any funding from, central government. The council are already being sued in the High Court because they are building through one of the villages.

Our local paper carried the full front page headline “Rotherwas find as old as Stonehenge – but . . . The road will go on”. The county archaeologist, who clearly knows who writes his cheque supported the covering it over with sand and a membrane before the tarmac is poured and hundreds of heavy goods vehicles drive over it daily for the foreseeable future. The person who just days ago said this was an extraordinary find unique in all of Europe modified his views saying, “We live on a crowded island, with and extraordinarily rich and lengthy history and the landscape is littered with these remains, but we cannot move everything around to avoid them.”

English Heritage, who advise the Government on scheduling monuments, are to view the site Monday. I have no doubt the local council will be with them every step of the way, lobbying against it.

Last night, the Council issued a press release indicating that due to public pressure they will be allowing for more viewings, to be booked through a special hotline number that will be announced next week. They are still determined, however, to “preserve” it in such a way that nobody alive today will be able to see it again.

It is true that the Rotherwas Ribbon might not have been discovered but for the relief road construction. However, the Council have have been just a little disingenuous about the value of their “preservation” plan: “In many ways we’re lucky to discover this before the bulldozers moved in – it was not far below the surface and had we not uncovered it as part of the archaeological work associated with the new access road, the strong possibility is that at least part of it might have been destroyed through ongoing farming practices.” The farming practices have been ongoing for just about all of the several thousand years this thing has previously been covered.

What is also clear now is that the original 60 metres uncovered is only an indeterminate portion of the overall serpent. At least 75 metres has been uncovered extending beyond the original roadway area and there is no indication of where it might end on either side.

There is now a website for the local campaign to properly save the this ancient landmark.

Stringing Me Up

I stopped by a local music store this afternoon to purchase a guitar pick. It took the idea of Rip-off Britain to another level. A single Dunlop Tortex .60mm cost 80p ($1.60).

I’m sure there has been some inflation of plectrum prices since I left the States. The last price I remember paying for an identical pick was 45¢. May they are as much as 80¢ now and it is just another example of prices being the same figure in dollars as they are in pounds.

A set of 12-string strings starts at about £13 ($26). I found a set of Martin strings from an eBay shop in the States for $9.69 (£4.85) including international first class postage. The best price I found for the same thing from a British eBay shop was £7.70 ($15.40).

I looked at guitar prices and again I haven’t been in the market for a guitar for a long time, but I can’t imagine that some of the guitars I looked at were anywhere comparable to the price for the same instrument in the States. I played a Freshman cutaway six-string that had good action and an okay sound for £400. Surely this wasn’t an $800 guitar in the States. I would have said maybe $400, even though the body of it felt a bit plastic. Freshman assures me that it wasn’t, even though their guitars are made by cheap Southeast Asian labour and shipped to Scotland.

Music appears to be an expensive habit in this country.

Soon and Very Soon

Just two weeks left.

That’s 30 lessons plus any covers.

More Monkey Sex

I mentioned a few days ago that I hadn’t actually seen the Sea-Monkeys® engaged in reproductive behaviour. Things have changed.

They are going at it night and day. It’s almost embarrassing looking into the tank. I was thinking that the monkeys had grown phenomenally over just a couple of days. In fact, I was looking two monkeys.

I’m still not convinced that these are lasting family relationships as advertised:

seamonkeys.jpg

Of the Making of Books

The first difficult aspect of writing a novel seems to be picking which “how to write a novel” book or books to buy. I had seen one at Waterstones and went back to refresh my memory of the title so I could look for it on Amazon. That was the easy part.

Once I got on Amazon, I found there were loads of others. All of them are claiming, of course, to be the best book on the subject. This, of course, undermined my faith in the first book, which was based entirely on the fact that I had seen it first.

It also caused my fragile confidence to waver anyhow, because if there are enough people to buy all of the “how to write a novel” books, there are an awful lot of people trying to do the same thing I’m doing. And chances are, I’m not better at it than they are. After all, the scramble for readership due to the Malthusian nature of the blogosphere is evidence of this.

Every time I go into a large bookstore I realise just how many books are on the market at any given time. These are the lucky ones – the ones that are not languishing manuscripts in the bottom of drawers or computer files in no need of a printer, or even half-formed ideas in somebody’s head. Most of the time they are not the ones that have been repeatedly returned with a rejection slip.

So I think why bother? After all, my mother thinks I should write short stories and my wife wonders why I’m not sending off more magazine articles. But then I’m not sure there’s any money in the former and it takes ages to the latter published for a very small sum in return. Sadly it seems no different than the music business. Everybody wants a break and so few are talented or lucky enough to get it.

It reminds me of the monthly “Jesus Jam Night” at the Sonshine Inn, the Christian coffee house where I used to be on staff. People would get up on stage all evening. Some were mediocre, some were worse. Many of them did Christian karaoke, using backing tracks to sing somebody else’s song, but not nearly as good. Occasionally a real talent would come along, but they were rare enough that even some of the mediocrity would get picked up for the regular rotation of artists and bands playing the coffee house. I’m evidence of that.

I was going to get back to researching my book, but in my head I’m still playing with some chord changes in my new worship song. Off I go – jack of all trades, master of none.

Adding to the Rotation

My two new Delirious? CDs got here today. I got their most recent studio release The Mission Bell (2005) and King of Fools (1998), the first release the produced under their current name. (Before then they were part-time musicians called The Cutting Edge Band, because they were the worship band for a youth outreach called Cutting Edge.) They are best known in the US market for the 1995 worship song “I Could Sing of Your Love Forever”.

Having been very impressed with World Service (2003), I was hoping I would not be let down. Both CDs are very good. More depressingly excellent musicianship. I’m currently listening to the radio chart singles off of King of Fools. I listened to the whole thing, unaware of which tracks had made the UK single chart. Now I’m going back to see if they stand out among the others, because the whole album is impressive.

I don’t buy new music very often. I tend to play the same CDs in the car. Until I got World Service, for months I have rotated between The Best Worship Songs… Ever, Geoff Moore Greatest Hits, and Rich Mullins Songs. I don’t often find new music that’s worth buying. I will probably end up getting just about the entire Delirious? back catalogue.

Sea-Monkey® Update

They are no longer nearly microscopic. The Artemia nyos in the little tank on the kitchen windowsill can be seen from across the room. Some of them may be as long as the nail on my little finger. They are hard to measure accurately, as they aren’t particularly keen to tread water.

The monkeys are no doubt thriving due the care and attention of Mrs H. She has supplied prescribed amounts of Mating Power, Growth Food, and Plasma III.

I have stopped to watch them for long enough to see if they engage in any sort of social or family activities.  I still haven’t seen any baseball games or picnics. The Mating Powder and the emergence of significant numbers of additional tiny monkeys would seem to indicate that the primary social and/or family activity is monkey sex, though I can’t claim to have actually observed this myself.  Admittedly it isn’t something I’ve been trying to observe, so perhaps it is happening right in front of me and I am unaware. But then there are long period of time when the room is dark and no one is watching.

Past My Mediocre Prime

I’ve been getting my guitar out for a few minutes over the last couple of day, limbering up the fingers for no particularly good reason. I had thought about taking it into school for the last week and maybe playing for some of my lessons. This worked well in one previous school, but given some of the groups I have right now, I sense the strong possibility of more than one Matthew 7:6 experience.

So I’ve just sat on the bed and played a few old tunes. I haven’t written anything new in years and years. After I was in Texas, I thought I would try to come up with a new worship number to send off to friends in Gonzales and to anyone else who might want it, but nothing has happened yet.

So I just strum away gently, mostly because I don’t even own a pick at the moment. Twenty years ago I wouldn’t have imagined the time when I was plectrum-free. But then I never would have imagine I would be where I am now.

For some reason, I browsed into the site of one the Christian music festivals happening around the UK this summer. They have links to the scheduled artists. I started at the bottom of the page and worked my way up. I clicked on one acoustic artist and listened to some of the stuff on her website. I was not impressed and thought maybe I’m not as bad as I always imagine (and usually confirm when I listen to old tapes) if she’s playing at that festival. Then I listened to a few more artists and bands and sure enough, I’m pretty crap by comparison.

Sometimes I think that if I could surround myself with some decent musicians, it might make some fairly decent songs sound fairly decent again. After all, I play some of my tunes and I can still hear The ad hoc Band in my head. I hear the drums and the lead guitar fills, rather than (or at least on top of) some sloppy rhythm work that reveals most of my 27 years of playing have been wasted.

But most of the time I think my day has passed and music is a young man’s game.

“And that is that. The end.”

So ended Tony Blair’s political career. Those were the last words he said in public as Prime Minister, at the close of Question Time.

Thanks to the ingenuity of the technical wizard at school, I was able to see the end of PMQs and the Blair’s trip to Buckingham Palace during lunch time. With a TV possibly built by John Logie Baird himself and a spoon as an antenna stuck into the back of the VCR, he tuned in BBC2.

With all my excoriating of TB, I have to say that I still almost teared up as tributes were paid to him from other parties, especially from normally very dour Ian Paisley. There is something about the high moments in the drama of politics that is emotive.

I think Tony is going to a job for which he is well suited. All sides have praised him for his work in pulling together the agreements in Northern Ireland. Anyone who could bring Ian Paisley to the same table with Sinn Fein has to be commended for it. He may be able to make significant progress in the Middle East.

Why They’re Not Called Grammar Schools Anymore

Today I was teaching about prejudice and discrimination. I tried to get the class to understand the meaning of the word “prejudice”. I asked them what “pre-” meant. No idea. I asked them what a prefix is. No idea.

Did I mention that this is Year 10 and it isn’t a bottom set?

Leaving the topic for a moment, I probed further. I asked if anyone knew what a suffix is. After a long pause, a girl piped up, “Isn’t that a place, like a county or something?” One boy in the class at least knew more geography that he did grammar: “That’s Sussex, you idiot!”

Bush, Britain, and Values Clarification

I was at a social event recently and everything was going along swimmingly until someone said to me, “Do you like George Bush?” I realised at the time this was meant to be phrased, “Of course you don’t like George Bush, do you?” Nonetheless, I said, “Yes, I suppose so.”

If there is anything that a random gathering of British people do not want to hear, it is that someone might, in some way, or for any reason, support Bush. The only other whole sentence I managed to utter was, “Just like any other President, his administration has policies with which I agree and those with which I disagree.” Otherwise, any time I started to get more than one word out, I was shouted down.

When someone said, “What about the war in Iraq?” I said, “What about it?” When they said, “Where were the weapons of mass destruction?” I didn’t get a chance to say, “I suppose they all got used up on the Iranians and Kurds.” After all, there was no question that Saddam had used them in the past. Not that I care about WMD or their role in the overthrown of Saddam’s regime.

After all, if after the swift war victory, all sides had said, “Thank you very much. We’ll set up a civilised government from here,” it would have been hailed a success and no one would have cared whether or not there were WMD. It would have been like war is supposed to be – superior armies fly over and subdue the enemy with precision bombing, then armies walk in. If there are any casualties, they do not happen to us.

It’s not that I would have been any less attacked or ostracised for supporting Bush. He is a Republican and talks openly about God. He isn’t slick as Clinton, nor does he share the same personal values. Brits still presume to know better about the American presidency than Americans.

When it come to American presidential politics, the only thing I pay attention to less than Brits is opinion polls and their approval ratings. After all, whether it’s a 88% approval or 28% approval or 7% disapproval or 66% disapproval, it’s still the same president. It’s the people who are changeable.

Throughout four or eight years, the course of human events brings what it may. Some things are handled better than others. Throughout it all, an administration represents certain values and principles. In this sense, perhaps Brits have a better vantage point. The repugnance with which they treat Bush has little to do with day-to-day policy decisions. Britain also represents certain values and principles which have little in common with Bush or most people in the red states that elected him.

If in terms of values I have to choose between Bush and Britain, I have to go with Bush every time.

Nothing to be Proud Of

As I was looking for something on Wikipedia today, I discovered that it is Autistic Pride Day. It is a day set aside to celebrate “neurodiversity”. Give me a break.

I’m sorry, but this can go in the bin with all the other “Pride” days. Why on earth is “neurodiversity” something to be proud of?

I have nothing against those on the autistic spectrum, if there is such a thing. I know there are even some kids who do have a wiring malfunction in their brain and are not just riding the cultural autism wave because they have been allowed to not behave in social situations and this is a way to explain away their sociopathy.

There certainly is neurodiversity. Everyone is wired a bit different. Big deal. Some people are wired so differently that they can’t function in normal society. That’s just the way they are. Inasmuch as they are disadvantaged, then we have a moral responsibility to take care of them. They shouldn’t be looked down upon. That’s just the way they are.

It’s just like I’m a cripple. I’m missing part of a leg. Normally people have two full-length legs with a foot on the end of each. Thanks to a very slippery road and my unfortunate placement between a stationary vehicle and one spinning out of control, I don’t. I can’t do some things now. I have pain a lot of the time. And I’m a strong advocate for increased access for the physically disabled. But I don’t there should be a “Mobility Impaired Pride Day”. I don’t there there should be some sort of special colour or ribbon or symbol.

Autistic Pride Day is the brainchild of Aspies for Freedom (AFF), a group of people with Asperger’s Syndrome – considered by some doctors and researchers to be a condition on the autistic spectrum, though how to classify it is a matter of some controversy.  AFF want autism to be given special minority status – thus joining the burgeoning number of other minorities (so many that I’m not sure there is a majority left). If anyone can achieve this it would be AFF, because once they set their mind on something. . .

(That was so un-PC. Maybe it will generate some comments. You know what they say, any blog traffic is good blog traffic. BTW, any AS readers can respond with something about cripples.) 

Just because you shouldn’t be ashamed of something does not mean it is something to be proud of. You are who you are. You play from the hand you’ve been dealt. “Pride” days do nothing for promoting diversity or incorporating differently-abled people into mainstream society. 

Eight Things About Me

I was tagged by the young fogey:

Here are the rules…

1. Each player starts with eight random facts/habits about themselves.
2. People who are tagged need to write their own blog about their eight things and post these rules.
3. At the end of your blog, you need to choose eight people to get tagged and list their names.
4. Don’t forget to leave them a comment telling them they’re tagged, and to read your blog.

1. I did not live in a house with a television from 1976 to 1986. My knowledge of TV trivia covering this period is understandably sparse.

2. I have owned or been the keeper of more Nissan cars than any other make. Since 1983 I have had six Nissans, two Fords, one Suzuki, and one Vauxhall.

3. I was born on a Sunday evening in the last year of the baby boom. The moon was a slight waxing crescent.

4. I have owned six guitars. I have been playing for 27 years.

5. At the age of 16 I expressed my teen angst by writing a large collection of poems in which my friends were named with characters from Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar.

6. I once shot two deer at the same time with an open sight (i.e., no scope). One was shot while they were grazing; the other while they were on the run. Both were does.

7. I have never shot a bird in flight, though I once shot a chickadee out of a tree with a BB gun.

8. I constantly consider what I would have for my last meal if I was about to be executed, and whether I would regret my choice or eat my food in a less than ideal order.

My eight tags: Michael, Elizabeth, Philippa, Deb, Mary-Leah, Margi, Grumpy Teacher, and Dcn Steve.

Devolving Sea-Monkeys®

I looked at the ant farm on the window sill above the sink in kitchen and the blue goo had turned a bit yellow. The top of the goo looked a bit moldy. There was a distinct lack of Proverbs 30:25 activity.

The ants have died. Apparently this is old news. Mrs H said it happened ages ago.

But now we have Sea-Monkeys®. Again, that they have hatched is apparently old news, even though I only found out about it last night. I’m not sure why I’m not being apprised of all the life and death happening around our house.

Sea-Monkeys® are evidence against the theory of evolution. When I was young, Sea-Monkeys® could do amazing things. They went on picnics and played baseball games, had loving family relationship and I don’t remember what all else. They may still be called “The Amazing Live Sea-Monkeys®“, but current owners no longer make such claims.

Sea-Monkeys® now just swim about. I’ve seen for myself. Of course they are really, really small so I had to look with a magnifying glass, but as best I can tell, there were no recreational activities going on, unless you consider swimming a recreational activity.

The developers used to also claim that Sea-Monkeys® were not shrimp, but apparently they have devolved. They are now merely a species of brine shrimp.

I will keep an eye on them and let you know if they start doing any amazing things.

The Living and the Dead

While researching my book last night, I was going through biographical information on soldiers who served with Terry’s Texas Rangers (the 8th Texas Cavalry) during the Recent Unpleasantness. I was looking at information about some of my relatives who served in the same Company E as some of the men (including the Lieutenant) killed at Sinking Cane.

I didn’t find anything new until I switched over to a rather famous uncle who served in another company rising from 2nd Sergeant to Captain in less than a year (he later given a battlefield promotion to Major for gallantry after being severely wounded). There was a link noting that he was the first cousin of some soldiers I’d never heard of. This meant there was a pretty good chance they were related to me as well. They served in Company E. Thus I found more family members to integrate into my story.

With their entries in the website was a link to a family researcher. It was someone with whom I was already acquainted because they go to a church where I used to be the worship leader. Turns out, entirely unbeknowst to either of us, this acquaintance is also a cousin.

That’s one of the things I love about this research – you just never know what you are going to discover. Everywhere I look I seem to turn up relatives, living or dead.