Tuesday, October 26, 2004

blogging service suspended due to self-inflicted brain implosion - back soon.

Friday, October 22, 2004

testing times
Last night we were given not one, not two, but three tests in my practical biology class. I hope I did okay. It’s strange, but because there is definitely a right answer and a wrong answer and it really is possible to get 100 per cent, I’m getting much more stressed about my homework/tests than I ever did in English or History classes. I wrote up my answers for chemistry and maths – in fact I typed them up – and then I agonised about handing them in last night or whether to spend another day checking the answers.
It’s interesting that my feelings about chemistry and biology haven’t changed a jot since 'A' Level. I love, love, love chemistry, but often it could be written in ancient Greek for all that I can understand it. When the lecturer is talking I get so enthused by all the information and I’m such an eager beaver and I really think that I’m absorbing every tiny scrap of information and then the class gets asked a question and I realise that actually I haven’t assimilated any of this and will have to do some major reading when I get home. I get home; I open my books and – like the character out of the Fast Show – say, “In’t chemistry brilliant! It tells you about atoms and bonds and molecules and EVERYTHING. Chemistry is brrriiiillliiiiiaaaannnnt!” Then, after I’ve been reading for half an hour or so, I realise that I have absolutely no idea what any of it means. In contrast, I often find biology a bit dull, but it’s similar enough to arts subjects to stick much better in my poor brain.
Oh! This morning I had a 1:1 session with Frankie. He gave me a boxer’s workout! Complete with skipping; doing strange hop, skip and jump combos; weights; spinning and sparring! I nearly died – it was fabulous!

Thursday, October 21, 2004

you do the math
Sorry, this is going to be a post of whinging - I'll try and make it short. I've spent hours, days this week and last working on a 'briefing book' for a Microsoft VIP to take on his tour of Africa. It started off with background information on all the journalists that might be covering his trip - collating, formatting and standardising pages and pages of information and past articles culled from Google (which later got reduced to a paragraph on each journo). Then, for the last two days I've been formatting and editing the beast (and let me tell you Word is shite for formatting). Now here's where the whinging comes in - any editor/designer will tell you - "give me the doc when it's finished" - I've been adding in content from feck knows where (a good deal came from the CIA), formatting, trying to edit as I go, getting pinged with IM and email with new additions. Then, THEN... at 6pm... Half the fecking content gets cut! So let's add up the hours - 8 today, 5 yesterday, 2 on Monday, 9 last week = 24 hours @ a billing rate of approx 180 USD per hour (I'm guessing, it may well be higher) and then consider that I'm the lowest billing member of a team of four people working on this. All these pages that Mr VIP will never read...and we all work like lunatics - why?
So, then, after a day of that and some nasty inter-office politics with the US team to boot, I come home and write up my chemistry and maths homework. Equations, fractions and molecular structures. Frankly, I'm ready to cry!

Tuesday, October 19, 2004

thought experiment
It occurred to me this morning that if I was a character in a Richard Curtis movie I’d already be in countdown mode, since all his films seem to reach their happy conclusion at Christmas. Let’s think about this some more...
I’m not your typical Richard Curtis character – for a start I’m not posh enough, I don’t have a public school education* or landed parents. But then again I’m not ‘salt of the earth’ enough either, I’m no Martine McCutcheon. And, although Badger Mansions is in central London, it is simply not big enough to serve as a Curtis interior. To star in this movie I’ll need to be shot outside – wandering around Regent’s Park – and wrapped up in a scarf to stop my common tongue from running away from the script.
So, let’s forget all that character stuff and move on to plot. Oh dear, oh deary dear. I’m already married! Richard is not one to mince his words is he? As the script might have me say, ‘Buggering, bloody, bollocks – fuckity fuck, fuck!’ Now, if I was a few years older and TA was shagging the secretary, if one of us was about to die of a terrible illness, or if I was incredibly beautiful and TA’s best friend had an enormous crush on me we might be in with a chance, but I fear my starring role is about to be cut to just a few lines.
There’s a month and a bit until Christmas. This year, in a break from tradition, TA and I will be staying in London rather than going to the Isle of Wight to be looked after by my parents. TA’s best friend and his wife are coming to visit. They will be using Badger Mansions as a base while they travel around Europe during November and then spend Christmas week with us. So Christmas will have pleasingly Antipodean flavour, albeit one on a restricted diet since TA’s friend suffers from Crohn’s disease.
To be honest I’m a bit worried about creating joy for all of us. While I can see the romantic possibilities of holing up with my nearest and dearest, we’re on a tight budget and many of the things I take for granted – a real tree, decorations, family, a well-stocked drinks cabinet – won’t be there. I’ve spent Christmas away from the Isle before and I’ve been in charge of catering before – but never both at the same time. Also, the usual staples – television, eating, drinking – are not available to us. I turned to TA a day or two ago and suggested we buy some playing cards and stock up on board games, since there won’t be enough people to play a really blinding game of consequences or charades. I fear I’m regressing from Richard Curtis into Enid Blyton. Despite all my failings as a main character and the dodgy scenery, I want to script a Richard Curtis fairytale Christmas. Any ideas?

* US readers: in the UK public schools are the really posh private schools – Eton, Harrow, Roedean, Gordonstoun and the like.

Monday, October 18, 2004

turn over a new leaf - take one from my book
I'm ashamed of you, really I am. I give you the opportunity to vote and nearly all of you go for the selfish option (boots), some of you go for the decadent option (dinner), a few of you spoil your ballot papers (charity) and a couple of individuals try to vote twice. I could not believe it: not one of you chose the self-improving option (books for college). I'm afraid the UB has ceased to be a democracy, if it ever was. Yesterday I bought four books for college, the prize money covered less than half the bill, but was certainly better than no prize money at all.
I've been feeling poorly the last few days and spent most of the weekend in bed. 'Poorly' is one of my favourite British English words. In fact, the best ever scene in Neighbours featured Helen Daniels explaining to a young aussie whippersnapper that when his friend, the comedy British ragamuffin (copyright Dickens), spoke of his granny being poorly it meant she was ill, not poverty stricken.

Thursday, October 14, 2004

vote
Yesterday I won 50 pounds at work for being the twentieth person to complete an online survey. This is great, but now I can't decide how to spend my windfall. Please help me. Use the comments box to vote for one of the following:
  1. taking TA and housemate C to the movies
  2. taking TA out to dinner
  3. buying books for college
  4. buying a pair of boots
I am the badger, goo goo g’joob
Keynote: Bold self expression and reliance, keeper of stories

The badger is a giant of the weasel family. Those with this totem should study the weasel as well. The badger is grey, black and buff, with a white stripe from the nose to the back of its head. This in itself is very symbolic of how open it is, the keeper of much light and knowledge of other animals and the Earth.
The badger may look fat, but it is muscular and powerful. Its outer skin is loose, so it is difficult for bites from other animals to injure it. Its own jaws are exceedingly strong. The jaws are symbols of powerful self expression. This ties the badger to the mysteries of the ‘word’ – particularly the magic of storytelling.
I would ask you to remember only this one thing,” said Badger. “The stories people tell have a way of taking care of them. If stories come to you, care for them. And learn to give them away where they are needed. Sometimes a person needs a story more than food to stay alive. That is why we put these stories in each other’s memory. This is how people care for themselves.”
The badger is a remarkable digger. Fast and quick, it can dig beneath surfaces rapidly…This ties badgers to all earth spirits and gnomes of lore. It also hints at the ability tosee beneath the surface of all things and people. It lives in an underground complex of burrows called “earths” [UK: setts]. It has several living chambers, along with latrine and storage chambers. These earths hint at the stories beneath the outer, the inner places and homes of the outer world.
The badger is active both day and night. It is a carnivorous animal, living primarily on rodents such as rabbits…and squirrels and other underground dwellers…because of this it can be thought of as the keeper of the stories of other animals.
It is basically an unsociable animal. It does not “relate” well to others – even its own kind. This might be why stories are its symbolic means of communication. It is often easier for those with badger medicine to relate through stories than have to do it directly.
The young badgers, usually two or three, are born in May or June. The family always separates in the fall, when the young and the father move to find their own homes. Sometimes the father will help with raising the young, but as a whole badgers are loners and solitary. They are comfortable within themselves and very self-reliant. They can teach this or help those with this totem to teach it to others.
[...]
Because the badger is such a powerful digger it has knowledge of things beneath the earth. This includes minerals, roots and other plants and herbs. This also makes the badger a dynamic healer. Sometimes the badger is overly aggressive, but the technique is usually effective. Badger can teach the long-forgotten knowledge of roots and their mystical and healing powers.
The badger is bold and ferocious, and it never surrenders. If a badger has come into your life you should do some examination. Are you or those around you digging deep enough? It may indicate a need to get beneath the surface. It may reflect a time of great connection to the earth and its animal spirits. It may be telling you to draw upon the stories that intrigued you and held you fast during childhood. They may be symbolic of things going on or about to go on in your current life. Whenever badger shows up, there will be opportunities to develop self-expression and reliance. It speaks of a time to begin a new story about your life.
Crow and Weasel by Barry Lopez

See what happens when I tell my mother about finding a badger?

Wednesday, October 13, 2004

congestion, constipation
I haven’t done long hours in a car on the motorway since I was a child holidaying with my family or driving up to university in Lancaster with my then boyfriend, Jamie. I had imagined romantically that the long hours spent on the road up to and home from Carlisle would be spent in happy conversation, listening to music and basking in the warm glow that only a mini-break can provide. Obviously, I have spent long, long hours travelling with TA before: plane journeys to Australia, a trip to Penrith on the train. And I have spent time navigating for TA while he drives before, once in Australia and a couple of times when we have moved. So I realised that TA gets fractious when he travels and stressed when he drives, however, nothing had prepared me for the grim realities of our road trip – a pleasure jaunt it was not.
First off, the roads were horrible – the M6 was bumper to bumper from Birmingham to Preston (on the trip home we were virtually stationary for hours between Oxford and home) and the radio didn’t work so we were stuck in traffic without any distractions. TA’s first observation of the M6 held true for the entire journey: “it’s just one long line of disappointment.” Second, TA is a bit of a softie when it comes to driving (understandable, since he drives about once a year) and required frequent stops – when Jamie and I used to drive up to Lancaster he’d not stop unless he absolutely had to, we’d burn up the M6 listening to Terry Pratchett books on tape and get there in less than six hours – so I was a bit surprised by this need for breaks.
At our frequent stops there was nothing to do except eat and avail ourselves of the facilities. The facilities were, predictably, a bit grim…but the food was unbelievably ghastly. I’d never eaten at a motorway services before – since with Jamie we’d never stopped and when travelling en famille my mother had always packed a picnic, which would be eaten in a field or the car a few miles away from the motorway. I think over the course of the weekend we had four meals on the road. The last dinner (at Oxford: if you ever need to stop there, don’t) was beyond my powers of description. TA had some ‘award-winning’ sausages. The menu didn’t say what the award was for, quite possibly they won the ‘least digestible and most revolting’ award. By all accounts a rat on a stick would have been more palatable. I had been fooled by the food on display into choosing a one-pot pie and chips combo. La! The pie was an optical illusion. The greasy skinned troglodyte unfortunate who was trapped behind the serving counter (I believe that his feet were chained, certainly he moved very slowly, and his name badge could well have said ‘Igor’) shuffled to a cupboard. Out came an empty pot into which he ladled dark brown lumpy goo. He then lurched over to another cupboard with a pair of tongs. A pastry – I use the term loosely – lid was perched on top of the sludge. Despite every fibre of my body screaming “No!” I took a bite of the pastry. It tasted as though it had been deep-fat fried in oil extruded from adolescents with acne. Vile. The brown sludge was marginally more edible and I even managed to identify some of the vegetable components, but the variety of meat eluded me. Finally, although the chips were golden, upon eating them it became apparent that they were raw.

Monday, October 11, 2004

road trip
TA and I got up at 6am on Friday. We packed and got all the items we were delivering to my parents - PC, PC peripherals, monitor, printer, mobile phone handset and charger, bubble bath - up together and had some breakfast. At 9.10am TA went to pick up the hire car while I waited with all our baggage in Badger Mansions' foyer. At 10am I rang my parents to tell them that we would be later than expected and probably wouldn't make it to Newbury by 10.30am. At 10.30am TA returned. At 11am, after a nervous start and a couple of wrong turns, we were heading out of London. Woo-hoo, I was Thelma to TA's Louise: we were young, we were wild, we were free, we were glad to be alive, we were stuck in traffic on the M45.
At this point I discovered that neither of us had printed out my parents' directions to the rendezvous point, in fact I could barely remember the name of the drop off point. Luckily, TA remembered the word 'Chieveley' and I had housemate C's road atlas on my lap. We were on our way to the Chieveley Services!
At midday I called my parents - 'We're nearly there!' I said. As we pulled into the carpark my phone vibrated - yes they were looking for us. We parked and walked slowly towards each other - like a hostage swap or, as TA bleakly observed, two divorced parents handing over the children. Computer and other assorted goodies were swapped for a box of chocolates and three jars of jam. Then four hungry adults braved the dark world of motorway services food.
TBC....
(Thank you to Mom Moose for blogsitting - everything's been tidied and polished in my absence!)

Sunday, October 10, 2004

Realizing that it's morning already in England and the Badger family will be coming home soon, and in hopes she'll feel she got her money's worth out of me in her absence -- and also having promised something a little lighter than the direction those other posts seem to have taken, here for your reading enjoyment is a report I provided for friends a few years ago following our annual post-Thanksgiving family tree-chopping expedition.

World History Made in Cupertino!

Rarely in the normal course of life do you experience an event which you feel safe in saying has never happened before, ever, in the history of the entire world -- probably not even in anyone's wildest dreams (and I for one have been known to concoct some doozies in that realm!)

However, I feel quite safe in saying that no one has *ever* selected a Christmas tree, in quite the manner we did this past weekend!

A bit of background...

Our family tradition is to pack up the poultry sandwiches, as many strong and able-bodied young turks as possible and head for the hills the day after Thanksgiving in search of...The Big Tree.

Typically there is much good-natured grousing involved, especially on drippy foggy mornings when, rousted out of bed by the cheerful sound of the doorbell, certain family members mutter direly wishful predictions about being "rained out". Once underway, however, the inevitable friendly bickering as to essential qualities of The Perfect Tree begins -- must be huge, must be "fluffy", must *not* be "shorn" looking. Certain individuals feel that circumference and overall weight should be considered as well as proximity to downhill vehicular access, but that's never happened so...

This year the search party was large enough to split into three teams, with the plan being that when potential trees were spotted, one team member would remain stationed as Guardian of The Tree while the Runner was dispatched to collect the other teams and lead them in to review the selection. (An aside: By default, I am always a Guard, since "running", in my case would likely involve tripping, falling, screaming, and generally embarrassing the rest of the troops) -- (Another aside: embarrassing the troops is something I have assiduously tried to avoid ever since the year That Other Woman was spotted wearing reindeer antlers ((identical to a pair I also own but happened not to have worn that day)) and *braying* cheerfully to her family as they cringed their way through the woods -- a long story for some earlier unwritten narrative)

Where were we...

By coincidence, this year all three teams located, secured and dispatched runners to alert the others to High Potential Trees at far flung corners of The Many-Acred Tree Farm. This necessitated a complex and highly-orchestrated rotation of the troops for the Comparative Tree Viewing process (we always operate on a consensus system with Mom's Opinion, of course, carrying triple weight in the final decision making process, but since Mom's Opinion, is strategically formed by a subtle evaluation of Everyone Else's Opinion, it is crucial for the Final Decision to take place in the presence of all parties). In short, there was a lot of running around, much shouting, and excellent exercise.

Finally, although it was a *really* tough decision, The Tree was selected. This only took place, however, after a sub-group went off to re-view The Backup Tree since there were some complexities involved of which we had not been aware during the first round. (Did the pinecones growing abundantly atop The Backup Tree sufficiently offset its "too shorn" appearance to a degree that would put it in first place now that we realized that the more natural and wider though shorter tree was actually a bit "prickly"?) (You can see why this often becomes an all-day affair)

By the time we all re-convened at the "This is It" tree, however, some Unforeseen Developments had taken place. An Other Family was there!

It seems that the beer can, which appeared to have been carelessly tossed into the branches of TheTree, and which we had removed and deposited with our own trash back at the car, was not just a random act of litter (never mind that we had noticed eleven other trees with beer cans similarly adorning their branches) it was (they claimed) their Mark!

"But, we posted a Guard!"

"But, our Mark was there first!"

"Beer can? What beer can??? Anybody see a beer can around here?? "

Seems they were not proponents of The Guard System -- their Malt Marker System trains troops to stay together, evaluate trees in unison, mark prospects until the beer runs out and then go back for the best one.

Hmm...

"Wait, Honey" (said the wife of The Other Family) "Wasn't this the one with The Dead Mouse?" (after twelve beers and a lot of tree-marking, no one else seemed quite sure)

"Dead mouse?" said those of us from The Backup Tree re-viewing sub-party.

"Gee" said one of our female Guards. "Would that possibly be the dead mouse over there that Someone found in the tree and threw at me while the rest of you were gone?"

Close inspection produced agreement by all concerned that this indeed was The Dead Mouse. Priority rights were thus established (although they agreed wholeheartedly that the Guard system was more compelling than the Beer Can Marker system) disappointment was swallowed, and we prepared to return to The Backup Tree (fearing that since it had now been left unguarded it would have fallen into other hands resulting in ((gasp!)) Treelessness for The Troops, and here it is past noon already!)

Our distress was obvious even through their alcohol-induced haze, and it was clear that these folks were in fact Nice People. Hurried conversation was heard among them. "What if...no, I really want this tree!...but they..."

Just as we were about to leave, someone suggested doing "rock paper scissors" for it.

"Or, we could flip a coin?"

"Well, OK...sure"

"Waidaminute" said Eldest Son. "Why don't we flip the mouse?!"

(!)

"Ok, your family stand over there, our family stands here. What's your family name? Hi, Nice to meet you! So if it lands with the head pointing toward your family you get the tree. If the head's pointing toward our family, we get the tree, OK?"

"Fair enough!"

(Flip. Splat.)

It was close, but by about five degrees the mouse head pointed toward The Other Family. Cheers and groans erupted on either side, hands were shaken,we prepared to retire gracefully, and my Beloved Husband (who was seriously hoping to Get This Over With!) broke out a beer to drown his sorrows.

A beer?

"They have beer???" (said one guy from The OtherFamily) "Let's reconsider this, folks. You know, we could let you have this tree, for say...a couple of those beers!"

"Hey, how about if I throw in a few turkey sandwiches and some homemade brownies?"

"Sold!"

And so it happened that we became the proud bearers of a shorter than usual (which means that we didn't have to cut more than a few additional inches off the thing to get it in the house) nicely shaped, not too heavy, fluffy looking though deceptively prickly tree, which I am absolutely certain is the first tree in the history of the world to have been selected by means of the flip of a dead mouse and the barter of beer & brownies!

And now, Dear Readers, it's time for me to return you to your regularly scheduled program. Ms. Badger, I had a fabulous time playing here while you were gone! Hope we didn't do too much damage to the furniture, and that you and your own Beloved had a truly wonderful weekend.

Hugs all around,

Mommoose
Surrogate Badger back by unexpectedly popular demand with…

Stranger Danger – Part 3

The memory triggered by Anita’s comment on that last post, is still clear in my mind, even a decade or more after it happened. I had just joined the very long pre-Christmas holiday line at the Post Office when a young woman, bearing babe in arms, came in behind me. She was struggling with the baby and a package, so I offered to hold the package for her, and we naturally started talking about the beauty and wonder of her child. The little one was squirmy, and the line was slow, and finally the young mother commented that if she had realized it would be so long, she would have brought in the baby’s stroller and “stuff” to keep her occupied. Ever-so-hesitantly, mindful of course that no one it their right mind would take me up on such an offer, I suggested that if she would like me to hold both the baby and her place in line while she went out to her car, I would be more than happy to do so. With no apparent hesitation whatsoever, she handed her daughter to me, and left! To this day, I can still recall the incredible flood of emotions that swept over me. The first thing I noticed was an instant up-welling of maternal feelings, the likes of which I had not experienced for years. I swear, if she’d started to fuss, I would have lactated on the spot! Holding a baby under any circumstances just does powerful things to any mother’s memory modules, and mine were no exception. Simultaneously, I observed that the man who had come into the line behind us now seemed rather unsavory. I turned away immediately, putting my body between him and the baby, but he moved around to the side and started cooing over her and admiring her, “too closely” in my protective opinion. What was that mother thinking?! She’d been gone so long already. What if she never came back??!! What would I do if the guy tried to actually *touch* the baby???!!! Folks (and this is the part that I remember to this day with crystal clarity) there was not a doubt in my mind that I would willingly have laid down my life to protect that child! Even with children and a family of my own to think about, I would not have hesitated for a second to do whatever it might take to preserve that little life. It was the clearest demonstration I’ve ever had of the instinct to protect the young of the species. I was already well-acquainted with the “Mother Lion” reaction when my own children were being threatened, but this child belonged to a complete and total stranger. Absolutely amazing. Fortunately, that instinct was not put to the test, because at that moment the mom, with stroller, returned, and all was well. I marveled to her (something just barely short of chiding as I recall) that she had been so willing to leave her precious infant, even for such a public moment, in the arms of a stranger, to which she replied “But, I knew I could trust you!”. How? How did she know that? Was the neon sign that says “Trustworthy Woman” turned on and flashing above my forehead? And how did Our Badger know that I was to be trusted with her blog baby for this extended “loan”? Not fishing for accolades here, folks, honest. Just trying to underscore my point that trust goes a long way in the world. I know, I know…there are plenty of circumstances where you should *never* trust a stranger, and of course you have to be selective and street-smart and all that good stuff. But gosh, aren’t we all a little better off going through life expecting the best from people, rather than anticipating that the worst might happen at any moment? Ok, this is getting too saccharine even for my tolerant taste. But those who actually know me will understand the heartfelt conviction behind these words, and I guess it’s served me well for quite a few years now. I’m not about to go over to the dark side any time soon.

Here’s to the cockeyed optimists of the world!
Guest blogger Mommoose here again with...

Stranger Danger – Part Two

Terrifying my own children was actually the polar opposite of the values we consciously tried to impart to them when they were young. Rather than warning them about potential dangers lurking around every corner of life, we tried to give them the sense that life is a full-on adventure, where exciting discoveries are just around the bend. Of course, every good adventure is fraught with some degree of peril (a fact of life my death-defying older son continues to point out to me on a frighteningly regular basis) but for the most part, life’s a blast, and the people we meet along the way are really pretty cool. We taught our kids when they were on the verge of occasional independence, that if ever they were in a situation where they were afraid, or felt uncomfortable for any reason, they could safely go up to any passing stranger and ask for help. We taught them to be keen observers of people’s apparent personality, and we sometimes played “who would you ask” when we were on streets or in shopping malls, pointing out that if available, other families with kids would be most likely to respond to a child in need. We taught them to be wary and alert if an unknown adult ever approached them for any reason, but never to worry about initiating the approach to an adult they chose to trust. Trust seemed a far more precious commodity than fear, and hopefully one that would be more frequently employed by them in later years. Seeking the good in people, rather than the bad. Confidence, coupled with pragmatism. That’s what my little boys were made of!

Other than the aforementioned playground incident, I’m not aware that either son ever had reason to utilize those “stranger danger” teachings. Which goes to show, we must have been at least a bit right about the balance of good and evil in the world. Not that you’d necessarily know it from reading the newspapers. But on a stroll down the street? You betcha!

Our Badger has paid me a profound compliment -- she’s left me with the key to her blog home, and the trust that I will not abuse the privilege and will treat it with care. Something one might do for a friend, of course, but, we’ve never met. Does that make us strangers? Not by my definition. I’ve never met the young man in Shanghai who feels like a true son to me. I’ve never met the woman in New Hampshire whose daughter loves to read, but if she lived just down my street we’d be fast friends. I’ve never met the new mother in North Carolina, or the young woman in St. Louis whose babies sure could use an extra grandma some days. I’ve never met the doctor who put my older son’s face back together after a distant mountain biking accident, to whom I owe far more than my everlasting gratitude. I’ve never met the dear friend in Chicago who is close to the very top of my list of special people. And I’ve never met the family in Japan who hosted our younger son during his ‘round the world study-abroad adventure, and who treated him like one of their own. Until they ring our doorbell, I haven’t met the friends to whom our older son gives directions to our house in case they need a bed for the night or some cookies, or just a hug when they pass by in this direction. Until we rang their doorbell, we hadn’t met the families in New Zealand who gave us beds and hugs (and cookies!) when we stayed with them as part of our globalfreeloaders adventure.

Stranger danger? Not so much. But friends I haven’t met yet? Oh yeah!

I’ll be back tomorrow with something a little lighter that I think you might enjoy. In the meantime, if anyone besides my far-away friend Louise is really out there, give me some practice with the comments thing, OK? I’ve never fooled around with this before, but since UB’s avowed intent was to try and get me hooked… Sly creatures, those badgers, eh? But friendly!

Saturday, October 09, 2004

Hi Badger Readers! Incredibly-honored blog-sitter Mom Moose, here, weighing in on the topic of …

Stranger Danger

That’s what they call the program some schools around here run when kids are at an impressionable age and need to be taught to fear adults who are not their parents. Interesting concept.

Of course, I’d be the first to want my kids to know how to react when someone unknown to them approaches with malicious intent. In fact, my younger son actually passed, with flying colors, an inadvertent mom-administered pop quiz on that very subject. You folks across the pond know how we celebrate Halloween here in the colonies, right? Kids dress up in costumes, and go “trick or treating” by ringing (strangers!) doorbells and begging for candy treats. Well, when our youngest was maybe around age 9, his school had a pre-Halloween festival day where the kids all got to wear their costumes to parade around the school followed by games and such on the playground afterwards. Great excitement! All of the teachers, and many of the parents, dressed up for fun as well, but on that particular day, I had conflicting plans, so had told him, regretfully, that I couldn’t come. At the last minute, however, I decided I didn’t want to miss out after all, but, what to wear?! Some hasty scrounging produced an old black trench coat (Hah! A London Fog, it was! J) , husband’s baseball shoes from his days as a high school athlete (don’t ask why we still have those, let alone how I could instantly lay hands on them), and an abandoned “old geezer guy” full-head mask, left-over from older brother’s costume the year before. Perfect! I’d be dressed as, what, a homeless guy? What the heck, no one would know who I was anyway.

So, totally camouflaged, I wandered onto the playground full of kids, spotted my own, and came up behind him while he was playing with a friend. Crouching somewhat crookedly so as to appear a bit more decrepit, in my deepest, gruffest, most un-mom-like voice I grunted “Hey…kid!”

He turned to look. No recognition.

(Deeper still, and stepping menacingly closer) “Hey Kid…I’m talking to you!”

To his everlasting credit, my beloved son *instantly* backed away, grabbed his friend, and ran straight toward the nearest teacher!

Needless to say, I was completely chagrinned to have alarmed him so, but *SO* proud of his reaction! Once he figured out it was me (immediately ripping the mask off and calling his name reassuringly did the trick) he was wildly impressed with the disguise.

He asked me to put it back on so he could take me over to show me to the Principal (Hmm…what do you guys call the person in charge of a public school who would be the equivalent of a Headmaster?). Relieved that he didn’t seem to be psychologically scarred for life, I was pleased to oblige, and we headed over to see Mr. Fisk.

“Hey, Mr. Fisk. Guess who this is! It’s my Mom!! She came dressed as a child molester!!!”

(to be continued...)

Friday, October 08, 2004

excelling at practical biology
The course title for tonight’s class is practical biology, but they should be done under the trades description act. It turns out that the class is going to be mainly working with excel – as if I don’t do that all day already. Grr.
So, the more exciting news is that I have invited a blog sitter! There may or may not be some guerrilla badger action here over the next few days. I’m very excited about this! Play nice children and please don’t scare the babysitter.

Wednesday, October 06, 2004

the right chemistry
Class started last night and was brilliant, just brilliant. Tuesday nights are just chemistry and Thursdays are practical biology (oo-er). Last night was a whistlestop tour of how chemists learnt about elements and atoms and then a bit about electrons and bonding. I could feel a few electrons firing in my brain as it awoke from its workaday slumbers and was shocked into action. I came home really hyper about it - long may my enthusiasm last!
The downside is that thanks to the vageries of our respective timetables, TA and I are going to hardly see each other during term time: he teaches late on Wednesday and I'm out Tuesday and Thursday. We'll have to start leaving each other notes!
We're off to Carlisle on Friday - via Newbury, don't ask - so things might be a bit derelict here at the UB for the next few days. I'd advertise for blog sitters, but the place is such a shambles I'd be ashamed to let anyone in.

Tuesday, October 05, 2004

squirrels, stopwatches and something else
It's all go on the creative front. Last night I put the nearly finishing touches on the top-secret craft project. I also gave TA his birthday card - it's his birthday today, but since we're both out until late tonight we had his birthday dinner last night instead. I made TA's card myself with the help of Shrub's photographic genius. It is A4 sized (A3 folded in half), made out of white card and prominently features a gorgeous photo of a red squirrel stealing nuts from a bird feeder. On the front it says: Happy Birthday, TA [squirrel pic] Have a GREAT day... Then on the inside: ...But don't go nuts! He loved it and I haven't stopped chuckling yet, I'm just so pleased with how it turned out.
I also created my first ever animated gif today. I once watched TA make one for me, but have never attempted it myself. I took a picture of a stopwatch and, after a few hours(!) of trial and error, managed to get a reasonably smooth animation of the second hand going round using layers in Photoshop and then exporting them into Image Ready. I then inserted the gif into a PowerPoint presentation that will be used for internal training purposes. Nice to have the opportunity to play and learn something new without the pressure of imminent deadlines.
Oh! And TA mentioned this morning that he thinks one of his TM Lewin shirts is ready to give up its life for my quilt... Watch this space!

Monday, October 04, 2004

blessings
Last Friday at around 7am I was walking to the gym. For some reason I didn’t take my normal route, but instead decided to walk via Lamb’s Conduit Street. If I take this route I pass a mini recycling centre – mobile phone batteries, newspaper, printer cartridges, glass, plastic, it’s quite impressive. One of the bins is for used clothing. As I walked past, out of the corner of my eye, I thought I saw a pigeon standing on the bin watching me. Everyone knows how much I loathe pigeons, but something made me look back at this pigeon prince of darkness. The corners of my eyes had deceived me, it wasn’t a pigeon. It was a little plush badger. Imagine my surprise. A talking burning bush wouldn’t have been more amazing to me. I actually stopped dead in my tracks. My heart raced. My palms prickled with sweat. I debated with myself: this little plush badger belongs to someone; it didn’t just apparate for me…but wait, maybe it did appear just for me – who could possibly love it more? He who dares, Rodders, he who dares
The little plush badger accompanied me to the gym – he stood guard in my locker while I sweated with Frankie. The little plush badger made Friday a ‘bring your favourite fetish to work day’ at my desk. The little plush badger now keeps a watchful eye on proceedings and calms visitors to my cube – those anxious and weighed down with care find that stroking my little plush badger is the perfect antidote. The little plush badger is my friend.