Thursday, 30 August 2007
1. Emu - A people arriving at a Walmart for work found an emu in the car park which she corralled. Not sure that I would get that close to emu as they can kick and peck.
2. Olde fashioned baseball - one of the rules is that the umpire can ask a member of the public of good standard in the community what the decision is if he didn't see them.
3. Sat-Nav - it reminds me of the journey where a man wanted to go from Liverpool to Southampton without using motorways so it suggested he went through Ireland and France to get there.
There have also been a couple of stories that have irritated or provoked strong feelings.
1. Lee Hughes - Lee Hughes was a footballer who caused a death through drink driving and was imprisoned. He served the sentence and has been released and a number of people are up in arms that he is resuming his career. While I do not condone what he did (and he appeared very remorseful on TV) he has paid back his debt to society (although in mine opinion it should have been longer) he is of far more use to society if he has a job, paying tax and acting as warning to others who might be on the same situation. It is not a cushy role as every away fan will remind him of what he has done and it has also cost him around £900 000 a year in wages as his is now playing for Oldham and not West Brom.
2. Camilla - The fact that Diana's sons invited her to the memorial service means that they would like her to be there. The fact that she declined to divert attention is sensible but a lot of Diana's "friends" appeared aghast that she was invited. Sorry it is not your job to be irritated. It might be difficult to accept but maybe Princes William and Harry can see the effect that Camilla has on Prince Charles happiness, maybe they like her. It would appear that there are far more complex emotions involved than love or hate.
3. Prison strike It is dangerous to ignore the no-strike part of your contract as it sets a precedent where the government might ignore parts of your contract like the bit where they pay you.
Tuesday, 28 August 2007
On Sunday they showed a match from Serie A and the following applies. 1 If you score one goal this is a time to attack not to become defensive. 2. if the opposition have a player sent off then quick passing will expose their numerical disadvantage 3. If you have a player sent off then by being only defensive will cost you. 4. If you score an equaliser you might be able to get a winner rather to stop attacking a team who aren't attacking you. Entertainment this game was not and all my prejudices against Italian football were met.
Monday, 27 August 2007
In the news at the moment are the fires in Greece threatening Olympia. A couple of years ago I got to travel there and while earthquakes have reduced the actual buildings to a series of piles of rocks the sense of history and the museum that goes with it were very impressive and I hope the treasures can be saved. It is made worse by the fact that the fires appear to have been arson.
Friday, 24 August 2007
In Geography the exam is in Yr10 and the Yr11 is putting together a portfolio of work. As long as I accurately assess the portfolio, as I have done for the previous three years. after a lengthy calculation I can work out which grade there work is.
In Leisure and Tourism the exam is at Christmas in Yr11 so the same idea applies. It does take the fun and pressure out of the day however which is slightly disappointing.
The absence of Scott, Lisa and Mel to go to Athena's wedding/ party in Cyprus combined with Aaron, Clare and Tim all being away at the same time has left me with lots of time to myself. The poor weather has excluded things I usually do like going to the coast and even just sitting in the park and reading the paper. This has meant having to come up with some rules to help my sanity. Having at least two decent conversations every day. This has meant collaring people and talking at them such as having an indepth discussion with the Amnesty International person in the street on the change in abortion stance their organisation has adopted. I also have to try something new everyday (today which was sushi which is okay but nothing special), go for a walk somewhere and try not to spend too much. The ability to Internet shop is especially tempting.
The laptop issue is just typical of the support we can expect. I am being to suspect that the people who are there to support the staff are often more help than they are worth. So by taking in all the laptops they were to be PAT tested, have the virus software updated and any problems fixed. Instead it still won't connect to the Internet or the data projector, there is no sticker to say it was PAT tested and there is now a password on it which I don't know so can't logon. The technicians are now on holiday until the first day of term.
The electricity company didn't send a bill, then sent a final demand. I then paid the bill promptly and the other day had a message saying I had 7 days before the debt collectors arrived. After a short phone call I got an apology when they looked in the records and found it had been paid.
Bank holiday weekend this weekend so it must be rain
Saturday, 18 August 2007
England 62 Wales 5
England 15 France 21
Scotland 31 Ireland 21
Japan 69 Asia Barbarians 6
Ireland played Bayonne of France
You need to pick an opportunity where you are going to learn something about the form your players are in. If a player plays well for South Africa against Namibia what does this tell you?
You need to pick a team that will compete as otherwise you put yourself under a lot of pressure. Wales picked a second team against England and got hammered. This means that the match against Argentina is almost a must win but it is a friendly. The players are under pressure in a warm up match!
You need a team who don't want to lose their own players. One of the players for Bayonne broke the cheekbone of Brian O'Driscoll by punching him, putting him out of some of the early matches in the World Cup. The player who threw the punch might well get banned but they are not in the World Cup and might have improved France's chances greatly.
You need to be able to compete, although not necessarily win, without giving away any tactics that you want to use in the world Cup. All the coaches have video technology and will break down your set plays, lines of running in the backs and which players are doing which jobs so you need to practice but not give away all your secret weapons.
The following matches are on in the next couple of weeks sparking all kinds of debate and a litany of injuries to factor in to the debate about who will win the World Cup.
Canada v Portugal
Italy v Japan
Wales v Argentina
France v England
Ireland v Italy
Scotland v South Africa
Wales v France
Firstly jet lag appears to be working backwards. I thought that I would be tired when it was night in the US (roughly 4am to 3pm BST) but instead I am tired in the afternoon and wide awake at midnight (10am to 7pm Central Mountain Time).
Secondly my throat is sore and nose runny (maybe the aeroplane recycling the air and bugs).
Thirdly I have an upset stomach which is very odd as I usually have cast iron digestion. Mel said that this is a side effect of jetlag but I am not sure how this works.
Anyway not looking for sympathy just reporting the facts.
Thursday, 16 August 2007
At AS all was as expected all two student have achieved 300 out of 300. This does not mean that they got full marks but got a high enough percentage to be awarded full points. 480 is an A grade after two years work so they are getting close after one.
It has been interesting to see that a lot of the media attention has been about what to do if you do not get the grades you want. This maybe that the rise in passes was not that great. A couple of years ago we got real good at finding the students how weren't going to pass and suggest that continuing was not a great idea. The other big story is that the percentage of students getting A grade is rising but they never realise the actual number of students as this is probably not a story. Students are realising that getting E grades is not very good and with more modules in January most students leave rather than finishing the course. Thus the percentage of students getting an A goes up as the number of people getting E's and U's goes down. Only the actual number of people passing the exam would reveal this.
Wednesday, 15 August 2007
The trip was amazing and that was mainly due to the fantastic people who were prepared to put up with me, answer my questions, show me their traditions and welcome me into their homes and way of life. Thank you does not really seem enough but your welcome and help was fully appreciated.
Sarah asked me what the best part of the trip was and I couldn't answer because the trip was so varied that no one point stood out more than any other but I thought I would share a few things not already covered.
Funniest moment - well two really both at the Kansas City baseball match. The first occurred when a ball was hit in the stand two or three rows away from us. Most people were on their feet trying to catch except one lady who remained seated. The ball with unerring accuracy picked out her neighbours glass of beer with the ball sitting in the bottom of the glass and the beer like an alcoholic tidal wave reared up and splashed the poor lady from head to toe. The second occurred when the Kansas City mascot was using an CO2 style gun to shoot promotional hot dogs into the stand. He/she/ it thought it would fire one on to the top tier in the stand only to shot it in into a concrete cross beam 6 feet above his head squashing the hot dog flat.
Most embarrassing moment - getting on the subway train in New York to find it empty. As the doors closed I realised it was at the end of the line and going to the depot. In my haste I had got on the train on the wrong side of the platform. Luckily it went back into service 10 minutes later and let me get off.
Worst decision - deciding to walk from the station to the hotel in Philadelphia in 90 degree heat. It felt like three miles uphill.
Guy the mini-celebrity. At the camp meeting service the pastor asked who had travelled the furthest and yes it was me by about 5800 miles. At the end a succession of people introduced themselves and told me their England story which made me feel very welcome and then the pastor in charge told me all about his Doctor Who fascination and the TARDIS door key ring.
Biggest disappointment - American football game. A let down after all the effort that we went to.
Language issues - in a coffee shop I thought I had ordered two coffees but ended up with three. Must be the accent! Secondly was asked if I wanted pickle in a sandwich. I said yes expecting Branston but got a dill pickle.
Strangest apology- Someone apologised for the American Revolution and becoming an independant nation. Interesting to see what would have happened if there had been no Revolution (didn't do Canada, Australia or New Zealand any harm after all).
On a similar topic most vilified man - George III who during my travels was described as evil, tyrannical and cruel. I am not sure that taxation without representation is any of those and with causalities about even at 50,000 for both sides he is hardly a tyrant. It could be noted that Washington DC (and other areas) currently has taxation without representation!
Weirdest thing - Sales Tax. In the UK Sales Tax (VAT) is in the price that the shop put on the goods. Could you please do this so I can get the correct money ready in advance and not hold up the entire line will I try and sort the dimes, nickels and quarters. Being in 8 states didn't help this either as they are all have different rates.
Most over-rated food: Philly cheese steak - cheese on a steak, its ok but not as amazing as they would have you believe. Hoagies, such intriguing but it is a large sandwich on a baguette roll.
Sarah also asked what I was most looking froward to when I returned home and I struggled to come up with an answer. Usually it is home cooking or sleeping in your own bed etc. but I have had times on my own, in a pair and as part of a family. I have eaten out and also had home cooked delicacies (biscuits and gravy most noticeably), the hotel rooms have ranged from dismal to superb with much more comfortable beds than my own. Access to the Internet has meant I have been able to keep up with the UK news and sport (Go Luton Town:2 wins from 2 games.) I saw my family just before I left so had caught up on all the gossip and plans. I had seen a wide variety of scenery from the coast in New York to the rolling mountains of central Missouri. The one missing ingredient has been my friends but with a lot of them away on holiday I am not sure if they are in Norwich. This lead me to think about what I really like about England. If you asked an American which is the best country in the world most by reflex would say the US but I would ask in what context do you mean best. The UK has it good points and it has its faults. I think the answer it is that I know how it works, what the law in a certain circumstance is, what my rights are and what it all means so that I am totally at ease in situations. Being abroad requires constant thought to achieve your goals and targets whether though language, custom or religion differences whereas being at home does not require the same level of thought (in New York it took me a while to realise that I could use the yellow pages in the room to find what I was looking for; in England that would be the first place I would look). And of course the beer in England is a lot better. Maybe I need to go away more often to help me appreciate that fate.
Results day tomorrow for my A Level kiddies. I will let you know how they get on.
It is only the start however and there are two areas which can be improved. Firstly there are many sprinklers and hoses for watering plants which is fine but you need to use them at dusk not in the middle of the day. This means the water does not evaporate but sinks into the soil and is available for the plant roots. It also stops minerals such as calcium being dragged to the surface through capillary action making the soil less fertile.
Secondly the use of polystyrene/ Styrofoam especially in restaurants. In one sit down restaurant the meal was on a polystyrene plate with a plastic cover. It might keep your ice cubes colder than cardboard for a longer period but you are increasing the US reliance on overseas oil which has political as well as economic outcomes and increases landfill.
The baseball was much better than I expected. I had read up on it but did not fully grasp the rules or the statistics surrounding it. It is a lot like watching cricket in that there is a natural flow to the game and while there are frequent breaks none of them are too long or extended. The only issue I had was that a new pitcher would warm up in the bullpen but then also need to warm up on the mound. Why not fully warm up in the bullpen and not stop the flow of the game?The best match we saw was not at the top MLB level but at the next level done (AAA). The game was attended by about 3000 people so it was not busy, the weather was gorgeous but not too hot, for $10 we got seats 5 rows from the front behind the dugout (and could have got closer) so it was good value. The quality was good and there was the same thrill when there was a hit mixed with the fear it was coming straight for you. The stadium had a down at heel but welcoming feel and you could hear the individual comments from the crowd. There was a particularly funny keep him in, take him out, keep him out, take him in routine when the opposing manager was on the mound considering a pitching change. I also think that all outfielders should not be allowed gloves as it makes outfield catches too routine.
The rodeo I have already commented on and the basketball was okay.
Overall be prepared to be marketed at, this could be for individual feats (10 strikeouts and you get a free burger from...), races on the big screen (if the animated boot beats all the other shoes in the race then get 10% of at ...), give aways (todays free T-shirt comes from...) and through sponsorship (the big screen is brought to you by ...). This is partly the fans fault as if they did not participate and buy products the companies would not get the money and not continue to sponsorship. I will continue to boycott sponsors who create poor adverts.
Be prepared to be organised. There are around 90 home games in a season on all days of the week. You are unlikely to get the same fans going to each game so they need to be organised. Due to the distances involved there are rarely many away fans so there is no need to be out chant the home fans. Organising includes telling you when to clap your hands, shout, cheer etc. Having been to many football and rugby games where the fans organise themselves it felt a bit strange.
Hear the National Anthem get murdered. Apart from Kansas City where a 13 year girl outsang everyone else nearly all the attempts to sing the US National Anthem did an effective job of forgetting the words or murdering the tune. I am not sure that Americans need to be reminded what country they are in but could we have a taped singer to protect the eardrums (At the end of the Simpson's movie they sing the Marseilles instead).
Have your concentration broken. There are wandering food vendors, people going to get food, Mexican waves, beachballs in the crowd and interviews over the tannoy. In one baseball game the person sat next to me arrived in the third inning, was getting food in the 6th inning and left after 8. Not sure why he came to the ballpark but watching baseball did not seem to be the reason. Sometimes there are so many distractions that even I forget that there was a game of sport in progress.
In conclusion if you are in the US go and see a rodeo or AAA baseball for the best entertainment and value for money.
Sunday, 12 August 2007
One of the most obvious things especially when the State Fair is in town is the number of pickup trucks which come in every shape and size. It took me a while to figure out what there wasn't there and that was white vans. This also leads to a loss of a whole socio-economic group the white van man as the Sun newspaper points out winning the vote of White Van Man is key to winning the general election and being able to form the government.
The only issues that I have are that indicators can be red and on the back of cars at night they don't stand out and junctions are generally labelled well when you get to them and are easy to use of you know where you are going but not so well labelled as you approach multi lane junctions (intersections) that you are unfamiliar with.
Currently in Nashville, Tennessee and flying to New York tomorrow. I still can't believe Sarah let me talk her in to some of these journeys. I knew that places were far apart but I was naive in just how far apart they were. When I suggested going to a baseball game I did not realise there was also a total of three hours of driving involved. Going to Nashville also was further away than I thought. Yesterday we drove for about 500 miles and although we saw no traffic jams it still took 9 hours. If someone was coming to visit me and suggested a 9 hour drive for a two day visit I would kindly point out it was a 9 hour drive away and that there were a lot of other places to visit.
Again have managed to secure a lovely hotel with pool for a cheap price. I advise you to use expedia to book hotel rooms as they just keep producing top deals.
Saturday, 11 August 2007
The first one that we saw was deciding on Miss Missouri State Fair. In the part we saw each contestant had to explain how a particular topic affected them and agriculture in general whilst wearing a sparkly ballgown. The topic surprised me a little for instance how does BSE affect you and agricultural. The answer ranged for the obviously learnt, plain wrong and surprisingly good. Sarah accurately predicted the winner and she ended up as the overall winner as well. Maybe the decision to wear a bright yellow dress helped as most of the others were in red.
The second was pig racing which was really fun and well done. The couple that run it played along to the stereotype so well it had you wondering if it was real or not. With pigs running such as Lindsay Loham the gags and humour were great and audience participation was encouraged well.
The third was similar to a dressage event except that you would have multiple riders and horses in the ring simultaneously. Sadly in some classes there was only one rider making it look a bit like a dying art. It was interesting to try and pick a winner as the horse walked, trotted and cantered passed and I was usually wrong. Luckily as reported earlier in the blog there was no-one in a class on there own who came second or third.
The final one was a rodeo which was really good. The pace between events usually flowed well and the action did not stop. There was bronco and bull riding, steer wrestling, calf roping, team roping, wagon racing and barrel riding (a race around a course of barrels). There was obviously a lot of skill, strength, balance and bravery required especially for the bull riding which looks mad especially as if you come off quickly there are a steel gates to one side and an angry bull to the other. The wagon racing looked like it was going to be good until one of the competitors tried the equivalent of a hand brake turn and one of the wheels fell off thus ending the race. My favourite was the barrel riding as it was fast and exciting and as times were around 15 seconds it gave you a chance to get into it a bit more whereas wrestling a steer in 5 seconds is a superb piece of rodeo skill it does not give you time to get into it before it is over.
Overall the day was really fun and exciting and I now need to go to the Norfolk Show to compare the experience.
Wednesday, 8 August 2007
Both Sarah and I have arrived safely at her parents close to Sedalia after a long drive. I did not realise it was quite as far as it was and the route that we took circled in and out of the Ozark hills stopping off to see some of the sites such as Elephant Rocks and Johnson Shut-ins. The area is gorgeous and reminded me of a large version of Southern Scotland around Loch Katrin with its wooded slopes, rolling hills and streams and creeks. This was in contrast with the area around Advance which reminded me of Norfolk with flat, agricultural lands and small rural communities. In the end we were on the road from around 8am to 5pm and I felt guilty about asking Sarah to do the amount of driving that we did, I think she became moulded to the shape of the seat. It wouldn't be so bad but we have a longer drive to Nashville on Saturday. I will have to contribute but I am worried about my reactions as this might put us in more danger.
Today I have seen the areas around where Sarah grew up such as her school replete with year book photo and church which is interesting, as well as seeing Sarah with her family. Whenever families get together people seem to revert to their role in the complex family unit. I know that I do. Seeing the way Sarah interacts with her parents and brother and the extent to which they can wind each other up shows they have strong bonds.
That is all for now. The baseball in Kansas City and the Missouri State fair are coming up in the next few days before heading to Nashville.
Monday, 6 August 2007
Sunday, 5 August 2007
I might also have left a couple of door openers disappointed as I just said thank you. Someone also offered to carry my bag but having lugged it around airports and metro stations I wasn't going to pay someone to take it to the lift for me.
Before I came to DC I had read about it being the murder capital of the US and having talked to Marianne (Sarah's cousins wife) who live in DC and she had said that it was difficult to pick a safe area as one block can be safe and the next to it wouldn't be. This was highlighted because between the hotel (on a renovated block) and the metro station there was a derelict block with some buildings boarded up and some being pulled down. Generally in the places I have visited the central areas have undergone gentrification (which is where old houses are renovated, turned into apartments/condominiums and sold for extortionate prices to raise the class of an area and drive away crime) and also have a high police presence so feel safe and I have no problems.
The hotel in Washington was amazing. It mainly deals with business men and people at weekends as the convention centre is one block away but as there were no conventions and it was not a busy weekend so I got a $325 a night room for around $75. It was three rooms with a lounge, room and bathroom. I fell on my feet there. Thank you Expedia.
The only bad thing about the visit to DC was trying to visit the Capitol where both halves of Congress sit. You get a ticket with a time on it and I got mine saying 10am.At 9.50 there was a security alert as someone from a previous tour left a bag unattended and the tours where suspended but the did not stop giving out tickets. After about an hour at 11am the alert was over and there were about ready to start and they made everyone line up with the people with the early tickets at the back. So I would have faced another hour of standing in line in 90 degree heat. I had already had to go back to the hotel once as you are not allowed to take in bottles or creams so the prospect of no water, suncream and standing in line for a second hour made me leave and I went and sat in the Botanical Garden nearby which is a very pleasant and educational place.
Strange things about Washington DC
1. The pedestrian crossings have a count down on them so you know how long it will before the stop light comes up.
2. The bank I went into had a airlock type door where only one person can enter at a time.
3. National Airport is so close that when you are in the monuments remembering past American presidents there is almost the perpetual sound of low flying aircraft.
3. Neo classical pillar deign is used on almost all of the major buildings including White House, Capital building and both Lincoln and Jefferson Monuments. This also extends to the first and second bank in Philadelphia.
4. There is no J street as the j script looked to much like an I (but the I didn't look to much like a 1 or the 0 like a 0??)
5. You can see the change in stone colour on the Washington Monument where they changed during the long gap in its construction.
6. The centre of Washington is over a canal that was originally designed to take the president by barge from the white house to the Capitol
7. The light in the National Archives where they store the American Constitution, Bill of Rights, Declaration of Independence and Magna Carta is 2 footcandles. That is the same as being one foot from 2 candles. Normal sunlight is 110 footcandles. I mean I can use imperial of metric but footcandles. Please!
Am now in Advance and went to church to see Sarah preach on the topic of greed and how living a more simple live would allow us to give to those less fortunate than ourselves which for some one in the middle of a three week vacation (holiday) hit a bit of a chord.
Wednesday, 1 August 2007
All alcohol supplies have to be made from the State Government so it is one of the largest alcohol purchasers in the world. It also takes about three months to order something that they don't stock.
Cars don't have front number (licence) plates so I keep thinking they are new.
A lot of the streets are named after trees usually the species that grew there which is incongruous now that it is all buildings.
Off to Washington DC today staying at the Morrison Clark Hotel, hopefully it will live up to Philadelphia. Not sure what the Internet availability will be like but having a free Internet connection in the room has been very useful .