Leftovers

Reading about Elizabeth’s tooth reminded me of information I got from the Unnamed Woman over dinner yesterday.

She took the Older Child to the dentist because a filling had fallen out, whereupon it was discovered that he had a (fortunately painless) abscess under the tooth. The dentist is always quite snooty to the Unnamed Woman and always feels she has to remind the Woman what sort of foods are dentally appropriate for our children. The Unnamed Woman, being rather intelligent and healthy food conscious, never fails to take a bit of offence at this condescension.

Remarkably, the Ms Dentist was subdued. It turns out that the abscess was due to the dentist leaving something behind in Older Child’s mouth at the last appointment. The Unnamed Woman was a little pleased to see to the dentist bumped down a peg.

Prayer Warriors

Older Child: I’m doing “Our Father”.

Younger Child: It was your turn last night. I’m doing “Our Father”.

Me to Older Child: Younger Child is doing “Our Father”. It’s your turn to do “Most Holy Trinity. . .”

Older Child: Younger Child can do “Most Holy Trinity. . .”

Younger Child: I’m not doing “Most Holy Trinty. . .”!

Older Child: But I want to do “Our Father”.

Eventually everyone took their proper turn.

It’s not always easy being Orthodox.

Unmixed Religion and Politics

I was talking to an evangelical Christian woman yesterday and mentioned that I had watched the Vice Presidential debate in the wee hours of Friday morning. She asked who I was supporting in the election. I told her I wanted to vote for Palin and would take McCain since he was part of the ticket.

I could tell from the look on her face that she wasn’t impressed. She asked if I didn’t like Obama. I said that his only policy view of any substance was his support for killing as many babies as possible by removing any federal restrictions on abortion funding. She didn’t say anything, but I could tell she wasn’t impressed.

What a different culture this is. If she had been an American with the same evangelical theology, I would have been shocked that not only was she not supporting the Republican ticket, but that she wasn’t pro-life. It reminded me of the first time I visited the UK and met an evangelical who was a socialist. I had never imagined the possiblity that a person could be both.

Just like Brits are surprised that Americans can mix religion and politics, as an American I still find it surprising that so many Brits can’t. This is a very compartmentalised society. That being said, the compartment containing religion is usually very small, if not being loaned out to some other interest. There seems to be very little awareness that beliefs underpin worldviews which inform actions.

Customer Service

I’m sorry I haven’t posted recently. Between participating in the active conversations going on in the comboxes of recent posts and completely revising my Key Stage 3 schemes of work, there hasn’t been time for anything new. That being said, I have to relate and email exchange I had today at work. One of the lovely children I teach stole my DVD remote. I need a new one. The names have been changed to protect the innocent.

From:Sol
To: parts@companymanufacturingmyDVDplayer
Sent: Monday, September 22, 2008 9:26 AM
Subject: replacement remote

I purchased a DVD player, Model DDVDH1, Serial No. R452007005054A, from Asda in Hooterville, England a few months ago.

I no longer have the remote and would like to know if it is possible to purchase a replacement, either from you or from a supplier of your products in the United Kingdom.

Kind regards

Sol

From: parts@companymanufacturingmyDVDplayerbutusingadifferentemailaddress
Date: 22/09/2008 15:28
To: “Sol” Subj:
Re: replacement remote 

Hello,
We would need to know the model radio you have.
Thank you

From: Sol
Date: 22/09/2008 17:39
To: parts@companymanufacturingmyDVDplayer
Subj: Re: replacement remote

As stated in my previous email, I do not have a radio, I have a DVD player. As I stated, it is Model DDVDH1. Thank you

Diverted

The eye of Hurricane Ike is not longer headed for my home town. It has taken an unexpected turn over the last day and now looks to go ashore about 120 miles up the coast.

Hurricane force winds extend 120 miles from the center, so it is still going to be rather breezy. Flood water from the storm surge shouldn’t reach my parents’ house, but the wind could still do some damage to the woodwork, the roof, the trees, and the fence.  By mid-day Saturday it will have passed over and moved away.

The Older Unnamed Child is all excited about the hurricane in Texas. He was upset that I wouldn’t promise to wake him up throughout the night when a new map is issued about the National Hurricane Center. I promised to record the CBS Evening News, so he can see any report on it.

In the Path of the Storm

Hurricane Ike is gaining strength and it is headed for my hometown. The projected path from the National Hurricane Center might as well have a bull’s-eye on the house where I grew up and spent nearly three weeks this summer. My parents are heading for the hills.

Fortunately my father is not feeling any side effects from chemotherapy, because he has to drive five hours to escape coming storm.

I always feel bad about praying that the storm will go somewhere else. That just means it will make a direct hit on someone else. Barring the dissipation of the storm itself, it is going to slam into the Texas coast somewhere. I just pray that if it hits my hometown, most things are preserved. Whatever survives the storm is my children’s inheritance.

They’re Back

The summer holidays are now well and truly over. After three days getting ready, the kids arrive tomorrow.

It is 37 school days until half term.

Experiencing Death

There was more wailing than at a Arab funeral. The Unnamed Children lost their first pet. Then they lost another. Then another. And another. All in one day.

It all started when the Unnamed Woman decided that Bubbles the goldfish needed friends. Bubbles belongs to the Older Child, who had become a bit selfish with him/her (Bubble’s gender is unknown). He didn’t even like the Younger Child participating in feeding Bubbles. Bubbles was moved downstairs and the Woman and Children bought another goldfish, Mr Mustachio, and some minnows and danios. Mr Mustachio was originally going to be call Monsieur Poisson, but that never caught on. His little black mustache was just too distinctive.

All seemed well until yesterday, when we bought a loach to clean the tank. Within hours, four of our little fish were dead. Then the loach died. Fortunately, the pet store that sold the little fish has a five-day guarrantee. The loach people weren’t so accommodating, which was especially irritating given that the available circumstantial evidence seems to focus on their fish as someone responsible for the death of the others.

The shock of death seemed to have worn off by this morning. When the Children got up, another little fish (I couldn’t tell you which kind, as I can’t really tell the minnows from the danios) was dead on the gravel. They took it matter of factly and the Younger Child declared, “Everyone dies eventually.”

The Unnamed Woman didn’t get any more little fish for now. Instead, she got another goldfish. The person at the pet shop said it was better to keep goldfish with goldfish. So now we have Goldie Lookin Fish.

Instead of the joys of watching the fish swim around in their tank, it is more like deathwatch. Will the last two little fish survive? Will the goldfish prove stronger than whatever killed the others?  The suspense continues.

God-tard

I just gotta share this one.

I was out surfing WordPress for the reaction to the Sarah Palin presumptive nomination. I couldn’t resist leaving a few intelligent comments on liberal blogs. In response, I learned a new word. It was the first time I’ve ever been called a “God-tard“. That has got to be the epitome of a juvenile insult. I don’t think this guy is going to make the debate team when he gets to high school.

I thought I wouldn’t have to deal with pubescent brains until school starts next week. I was enjoying the break.

Facebook and MySpace block under-13s. It’s a shame WordPress doesn’t do the same.

Home Again

Welcome to jet lag. It’s almost 3:00 am here in Merry Ol’ and my body thinks that it is 9:00 pm. So you are thinking, well, it’s not too long til bedtime. That would be true, except that I had two big naps since I got back, due, at least in part, to being awake almost all of 28 hours.

So now’s as good a time as any to describe the journey back.

Read the rest of this entry »

Ancestral Lands

Since I have been visiting my parents, where much of my personal library is located, I have had a chance to read a book that I got many years ago when it was withdrawn from circulation by the Gonzales Public Library, an establishment that was a regular haunt of mine in my college days.

In what has been one of the more popular posts on this blog, I talked about my Uncle George Littlefield. The book I am reading is George Littlefield: Texan by J. Evetts Haley, published in 1943 by the University of Oklahoma Press. At the time I acquired it, I knew that I was related to Uncle George – and he was always referred to as Uncle George Littlefield by my mother’s family – but I hadn’t made the exact genealogical connection. I just knew that he had put my great-grandmother through college.

Since, as you might expect, the first chapter of the biography covers his family background, it has been very interesting to read about my great-great-great-grandparents (his parents) in a real book (not a self-published genealogy-driven tome) with real footnotes referencing a wide range of primary source materials. The book details both real and personal property they possessed, acquired and sold. Through my genealogical research, I knew where some of this land was.

The personal recollections of former slaves continues to confirm my understanding the positive relationship they shared with my family. Because that is relevant to the novel I am intending to write, this has been particularly helpful.

During the years I lived in Gonzales County, I had thought it would be a nice place to settle. River bottom being the most desirable and fertile real estate, I had always wanted to own the land at the confluence of the San Marcos and Guadalupe Rivers. I figured if one river made for good land, two must be so much the better.

Having never read that book I bought from the Gonzales Public Library, I had no idea my great-great-great-grandmother thought the same and not only acquired that land, but also moved there from the original plantation where she had settled with my great-great-great-grandfather located about 15 miles up the Guadalupe.

Were I to someday win the lottery or perhaps become a wildly successful writer – though the lottery win is the more likely of the two – I might yet buy that land.

Updated Update

Results have come back from the CT scan of my father’s lungs. One of the spots that appeared the first time has disappeared and the other has shrunk considerably, so there is a positive diagnosis that it is not cancer. It would appear to have been a small infection of some kind. The biopsy has been cancelled.

We will still be going back to Houston next week to set up his chemo plan for the colon.

Thank you for your prayers.

Update on My Father

I have returned from two days at the world’s top cancer hospital, where my father underwent further tests. Some spots on his lungs have yet to be diagnosed and will require a biopsy next week. His colon cancer, which we found out today was stage 3, will require six months on chemotherapy, but that can’t begin until they figure out what, if anything, is on his lungs, and then prioritise between that, the colon, and the prostate.

I have to say I was very impressed by the hospital. I had no idea that such a huge conglomerate of buildings (not to mention the over 17,000 employees) could be dedicated to the treatment of one disease.

My parents, as always, are incredibly upbeat. Your prayers, as always, are appreciated.

Little Monkeys

Today I went with the Unnamed Woman and the Unnamed Children to Dudley Zoo.

We were offered an annual pass for the price of two visits, but wisely chose the option to see it first on regular admission before having the single visit price refunded in exchange for the annual price. We decided not to take out the annual subscription.

It’s not a bad afternoon out, but not necessarily one that needs to be repeated. They have some of the requisite animals, though the lions and tiger were all asleep, as were pretty much all the cats. Come to think of it, so were the sea lions and the tapirs and the solitary capybara. The meerkats were awake, unless there were more than three of them.

Some enclosures appeared to be entirely empty. For example, we saw nary a prairie dog. Many of the enclosures, whether occupied or not, and other areas are a bit run down.

The petting zoo area had three little goats and a bunny. Oh, and a plastic cow with plastic udders filled with water and a bucket underneath. The younger unnamed child had a natural knack for milking.

If you like little monkeys, then you will get your money’s worth. The place is full of little monkeys. Especially squirrel monkeys. Every area of the park seems to have enclosures for little monkeys. One of them is a walk-through area and the keepers have to shoo the little monkeys away from prams, as they want to jump in the baskets underneath and take anything they can grab.

In other places they are behind wire or behind glass. Behind glass there were some pigmy marmosets. One of them saw a little stuffed puppy that the older unnamed child carries with him. It ignored us and fixated on the puppy, which is about the size of the marmoset. We noticed this and moved the puppy up and down and all around on the glass. When we cocked the head of the puppy, the tiny little monkey did the same. It was hilarious.

The only monkeys that disappointed were the chimps. This was because they were apparently on Prozac. They just sat bored in the middle of their enclosure. It was a very big enclosure with lots of things to climb on and lots of open area to run, but they couldn’t be bothered.

If you want to eat while you are there, I would recommend taking a picnic. The food in the cafeteria leaves a bit to be desired. My jacket potato was okay, but the salad was terrible. I only ate it because I was really hungry. The Unnamed Woman had to wait for her food, because they didn’t have any more potatoes cooked. (I would have waited instead, but she ordered mine first and then found out they only had one.) The older unnamed child also had to wait because they also didn’t have the healthy option children’s selection cooked and ready.

The thing that convinced us to avoid the annual pass was the play area. There were slides and climbing frames and swings, but they were surrounded by dirty sand with cigarette butts scattered throughout. It was typical of the general upkeep.

Summer of Discontent

I suppose it is a good thing that we can’t afford for the unnamed grandchildren to visit their grandparents in America this summer. Since they are dual citizens they are required to enter the United States on their American passports, but upon returning they have to show their British passports. The older unnamed child is still waiting for the renewal of his British passport.

It’s been a long wait. The Unnamed Woman sent everything off to the passport office in plenty of time. She enclosed the required two photographs, taken in a photo booth which advertised that the photos could be used for passports. After the usual bureaucratic delay, we were informed that the photos were unacceptable, so another set would have to provided. They were “too light”, though the bureaucrats didn’t explain what they meant by this description.

The Unnamed Woman took the child to a professional photographer experienced in producing passport photos. This photographer had already produced photos to the more rigorous requirements of the US Passport Agency. Another set were dispatched. After another extended bureaucratic delay, another letter arrived, informing us that once again the photos were unacceptable.

After extended unproductive telephone conversations with the four or five different useless passport office apparatchiks, another set of photos was sent. Then nothing. Why? Because the passport workers went on strike. The result? A backlog of 150,000 applications.

The backlog will take well into August to clear, according to jubilant union officials, smugly pleased with themselves that the general public will feel the maximum impact of their industrial action and that thousands will lose out on their holidays. If they haven’t already bought their travel insurance, then potentially they will have lost all the money they have paid for that holiday, meaning there will be no way to make it up at a later date.

I can understand why passport workers are angry. None are getting better than a below-inflation pay rise – in effect a pay cut. The longest serving staff are getting no pay rise – real or imagined – for the fifth year in a row. It is interesting that the governing party is tied to the trade unions, yet has more trouble appeasing them than the Tories. Because there has been industrial action across this civil service this year, we could be headed for another Winter of Discontent.

The only question is whether Gordon Brown will be around as Prime Minister by that time. His Government is falling apart. A couple of days ago, the third safest Labour seat in Parliament was lost to the Scottish Nationalist Party in a by-election.  His own cabinet ministers are questioning his future and plotting his downfall.

For the first time in years, the Conservative Party is way ahead in the opinion polls. It appears that having finally convinced the country that they are greener and gayer than Labour, so there will be no challenge to the cherished values of the Left, the British population may very well be willing to give them another shot at governing.

Having lost most of my affinity for the Tories, I only want to see them in power to see the Red Rose lot out. I think the Government will run marginally more effectively and we may see a slow down on the road to totalitarianism, but no great change. I doubt they will even get the passport office to function more effectively.

Results

My father has had the results back from his colon cancer surgery. Unfortunately, cancer was found in two of the lymph nodes taken out with most of the right side of his colon. This means chemotherapy.

He is still very upbeat. I’m considering going to the States for part of the summer holidays, though I don’t know that I will be of an particular help.

Your continued prayers are appreciated.

WALL-E is a Waste of Wealth

Until today, the last time I went to the cinema with my children was see Chicken Little. After such a disappointment, I have been leery of spending the money to have more than one adult present. Today I took a chance on WALL-E, the latest Pixar film.

I didn’t think any film could be worse than Chicken Little. Man, was I wrong. WALL-E is awful. Really bad. The first big chunk of the film has no dialogue whatsoever. Later on, after Wall-E hitches a ride on a space ship and see all the morbidly obese people that make up the remnant of humanity, they say a few things. About 2/3 of the way through, I started falling asleep. The Unnamed Woman kept poking me awake, alleging that I was snoring.

How she heard me snoring with all the racket being made by a bunch of 10-year-olds across the aisle, I’ll never know. They saw much less of the film than I did, because most of the time, they were either turned around talking to each other in loud voices or up and running back and forth the concession area.

And an afternoon’s entertainment like this only cost me £7.

School’s Out For Summer

Well, as far as the pupils are concerned.

I have to go back tomorrow for a few hours. I need to make an appearance at least. I can’t actually do anything in my room, because it is being used for a first aid course all day.

Because the Unnamed Woman had to go out of town today, I had to get a ride to school today with a colleague who also lives in Hooterville. Unfortunately, she couldn’t take me all the way home – something I didn’t know until she was about to drop me off on the opposite side of the city. All of a sudden I was stranded some miles from home. It is a good thing I didn’t bring my usual bags with me today and only had my lunch box.

I had to walk for a mile to get to a cashpoint so I could get money for a taxi. I’ve checked the route on Google maps to confirm this. Not bad for a disabled person with significant mobility limitations. It was another 1.7 miles to my house. The taxi cost me £7, about as much as it costs me to commute all the way to work and back each day. It took me nearly an hour from the time I was dropped off until I got home.

Success

My father came through the surgery okay. He is resting comfortably, as they say. At this point the doctors think they got all of the cancer in his colon, but they won’t know for sure until all the lab work comes back.

Prayer Request Updated

I’ve known for some time that my father has prostate cancer. The cancer as not spread and there is a good chance of a full recovery.

However, I learned this afternoon that thanks to the very thorough examinations, blood work, x-rays, CAT scans, and a colonoscopy at one of the top cancer hospitals in the world, it has been discovered that he has colon cancer. It is pathologically unrelated to the prostate cancer. However, it is only because of the one that they caught the other.

He will be undergoing surgery on his colon on Thursday. The doctors are hopeful that they will get it all without the need for chemotherapy. Your prayers are solicited.

UPDATE:

Due to some bleeding, the surgery has been moved up to Tuesday in the early afternoon CDT (early evening BST).

Fix

We are coming into the home stretch. There is one more week of school. At my previous school, apart from Sports Day, this meant working them to the bone up until the last lesson. At my current school, in addition to Sports Day, there are other school activities plus the use of a time-honoured tradition, the I-can’t-be-arsed-to-teach -you-and-you-can’t-be-arsed-to-learn video. Surprising as it may be, this has not severely affected academic results.

For primary schools, it is the last chance to have their school fete and raise a bit of money. At the school where the Unnamed Woman is secretary of the PTA, that was last night. In the pouring rain. Since she is the real mover and shaker on the PTA, she organised almost the whole thing for days upon end. She even bought a load of raffle tickets and put my name on them. Now that was a waste of money. A real waste of money.

Instead of leaving her to do the many other things she was doing, the chairperson of the PTA needed the Unnamed Woman to assist with the draw, by keeping track of who won what, because everything has to be reported to the local government.

I have never ever won anything in a raffle. I still haven’t. When the local celebrity stuck his hand down in the middle of a bunch of folded up tickets – we are talking a huge plastic file storage box – he pulled out mine. The top prize. £100! Only I never saw the ticket. The Unnamed Woman unfolded it, looked horrified and to shouts of “fix” quickly shoved it back into box with the hundreds of other tickets. I don’t know why they were shouting – I was the one who should have been shouting and didn’t even know it until after everything was said and done.

So not only did the Unnamed Woman donated hundreds of hours of time, she also donated the top raffle prize. My £100. I’m not bitter.

Summer Reading

There may still be two weeks of school left, but my summer reading arrived today.

I first became acquainted with Bernard Cornwell when I read his Starbuck Chronicles set in the War Between the States. After a long period of contemplation, I decided to read his Saxon Stories set in the time of Alfred the Great. I have just finished The Last Kingdom and ordered the other three books in the series.

I have also been wanting The Sign of the Cross: The Gesture, the Mystery, the History by Andreas Andrepoulos. I thought I was getting it for Christmas, but that didn’t happen. I should have time to digest it this summer as well, so I bought it at the same time as the Cornwell books.

The only down side is that when I read books, I want to write them. Sadly, six weeks isn’t enough time to do that, too.

Summer

We’re coming into the home stretch of the school year. Three more weeks. All the reports have been written and most of the marking has been done. Now there’s lots of administrative stuff to fill the time, including all of the planning for the new year.

It’s during these long summer days that I’m most jealous of American teachers and their three months off. You can get a lot done in three months. We get six weeks. June would be such a nice month to spend at leisure, reading in the garden, writing a book, or working on an advanced degree.

June is almost over. The longest day of the year has passed, and now we begin to ever-shorter journey to the depths of winter. Yes, it’s all downhill from here.

Post-Apostolic Asceticism

I think the Peter and Paul fast starts tomorrow. I don’t know. I lose track. My menalogion software is on the computer that’s not working so well.

If there is one thing the Orthodox Church likes to do, it is fast. I’m not sure why there is so much fasting. Apparently following fasting rules suited to an ancient Mediterranean culture makes us more spiritual.

The only truly Apostolic fasting is the Wednesday/Friday fast days. Great Lent started as a recommended discipline for catechumens who would be baptised at Pascha, though the very early Church may have fasted for 40 hours in preparation. The Christmas fast could not have preceded the origins of the Christmas feast. The Dormition fast and the Apostles Fast are more recent.

The number of fasting days varies from year to year, depending on the date of Pascha. And early Pascha cuts short the normal time after Theophany and extends the Apostles’ Fast. In 2010, by my rough calculation, there are 195 fasting days. By fasting days, I mean days when meat is not allowed, so I’m including Cheesefare week. For a carnivore such as me, any day without meat is a day of severe asceticism.

This leaves 170 normal, regular, meat and potatoes days. Fasting seems to lose it value if it is actually more of the norm than normal eating. And when a fast and a feast conflict, the fast wins. The feast of the Annunciation is an example of this. This is the true feast of Incarnation, but it is trumped by Great Lent.

Observed more strictly than I am able, Orthodoxy seems like a vegetarian religion with occasional omnivorous moments. If our sacramental theology says that all of creation is sacramental and that everything we eat is sacramental, because we bless it and it is a gift from God, why do we spend so much time not eating it?

Year End

Reports are finally in. There will no doubt be a load of correction that will eventually appear in my tray, due to a combination of typographical errors and disagreements over grammar.

Reports always present that dilemma between being postive and telling the truth. I tend to err in favour of the latter.

There are still a lot of admin things to do before the end of the year. There are Departmenal Development Plans, documents to justify capitation, and the list goes on.

Overall, the year is winding down. Folks just want to finish out the year with as little trouble as possible.