Saturday, March 05, 2005

English Tea is NOT Sweet Tea Material

As I blogged yesterday, we had four folks over for supper last night. I attempted to make sweet tea using English tea bags (I figured that it was brown tea...). Alas, the result was not kind to the tastebuds. English tea has too much of an herbal kick to be good cold and sweet... so down the drain it went. However, the chili made was great and everyboday had seconds. Nothing like chili on a cold night.

Our guests were Jon and his wife Sue, and Lou and his fiancee Hannah. We had great fun eating, talking, listening to music, and enjoying the guys strumming away on on their guitars (no offense, O.P., but Lou has got you beat). I was struck by how many country/bluegrass songs Lou knows. They both knew lots of American music.... Eagles, R.E.M., John Denver, Pearl Jam... and some I'd never heard of. I was also struck by the fact that Helen slept through the entire thing... a remarkable feat considering the fact that our house is inordinately loud. The guys were particularly entertained by the song "I'm my own grandpa" by Grandpa Jones. I'm encouraging Lou to translate it into Black Country dialect, his native tongue, and make himself famous. After the jam session we enjoyed coffee, hot tea, and biscuits (cookies, of course). I loaned my DVD of UHF to Lou (lest he miss out on one genuine piece of Americana). When they were leaving at around 11:30, it began to snow. By 12:30 there was an inch covering everything. So that makes snow on 10 of the past 14 days... but the talk is that we've seen our last.

We've decided that Yahoo Messenger must be one of the greatest inventions of modern man. Today we chatted with my family, and with Amy and J-Dog P. using the voice chat option. Basically, a free phone call, complete with video.

Oh yeah, I almost forgot... It seems our friendly neighborhood preacher, William F., had some time to construct a little verse mocking my "2nd gear plight". Here it is:

When the hill,
first I saw.
'Twas quite a thrill,
for me and maw.
But baby Helen,
the back seat queen.
Lay fast asleep,
she didn't scream.
As the hill approaches,
I'm gripped in fear
Will I get this bloomin'
thing out of 2nd gear?

Friday, March 04, 2005

Random Thoughts

I entitled this post with a nod to Thomas Sowell, American conservative intellectual, whose best articles, in my opinion, are those which he titles "Random Thoughts".

I only discovered on Tuesday that the Brits make a distinction between practice and practise, with practice being the noun and practise the verb. My discovery came when Mark Goodacre was reading a text from Paul out of an American translation which he had printed on his handouts for everyone. His passage was Galatians 5:21, where Paul writes "I forewarn you, just as I have forewarned you, that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God." Mark's remark was, "Of course, the correct English spells the verb form with an 's' not a 'c'." He did not say this jokingly, nor did anyone laugh, except for me to myself. One side of me admits that it seems reasonable that the English have a right to determine how to spell things in English. The other side takes solace in the fact that, one day in the near future, they will simply adapt to our form (because it is simpler and because we are taking over the place).

Just when I thought the snow was gone for good... yesterday was a sunny day with a high in the mid-40's... quite pleasant. I thought we'd seen the last of the white stuff, until I awoke this morning to find a half-inch or so covering the sidewalk and road. In fact, today was the messiest day I've had on my bike. Because (a) it was still so cold when I left that the sidewalks were covered the entire way, and (b) it rained "freezing rain" the entire time. And for the record, that is 9 of the past 13 days we've had snow.

We're having 4 folks over tonight -- 2 students and 2 significant others. Mary is making chili, and I plan to try my hand at some sweet tea (though I doubt English tea is the right stuff). Lou plays the banjo and John the guitar, so we... um, they... are going to do some jamming. Helen will love it. And I'll introduce them to one of my favorite bluegrass songs by Grandpa Jones, "The Banjo Am the Instrument for Me."

My friend John Hull, one of the most amazing people I've ever met, was elated today to discover that his personal website had over 640 hits in the past month. I wish I could tell you everything about him, but why don't you visit his site (, improve his hit count, and see for yourself. Interestingly, there is a chance that Al Pacino's character in "Scent of a Woman" was loosely based on John!!!

Last night on the way to church, I did manage to find 3rd gear for a while. But, alas, any time I got out of 2nd and had to stop, I struggled to find other gears. Because there always seems to be someone behind me, twice I simply popped it into 2nd and drove on. But it was nice to go 45mph again. I am determined to figure out the riddle of my piece-of-junk car.

For those of you who have seen our fat cat Shelly, she apparently has a British twin, who is much like her except (a) she is thinner, (b) she eats people food, (c) she is nice and (d) she meows with a posh English accent. Here are pics 2, 3, and 4.

I've been reading BK's blog. Many things stand out to me. It seems he rather enjoys living on the fringes of the South after having spent his entire life in the Deep South. I have been reminiscing about driving on rural county roads (mostly prompted by the book I am reading, John Grisham's "The Last Juror") . I can't wait to drive the 90-mile stretch from Columbia, Tennessee to Moulton, Alabama without using the interstate again. My favorite stretches are the rolling hills just north of Pulaski, TN, and when I cross the Tennessee River on highway 101 into Lawrence County, AL, my old stomping grounds. Tennessee is not technically the Deep South, but it can lay claim to the Beverly Hillbillies.

And one last hat tip to Capes for her faithful commenting...

Wednesday, March 02, 2005

Hello 4th Gear

I made a potentially important discovery last night on my way home from the Men's Bible Study at our church. When I started the car, it shifted into neutral, which is not that surprising. It will sometimes do this, and then I usually find that I can shift into 1st. Last night, I was able to get into 1st. What typically follows is that, when I go from 1st to 2nd, it gets stuck in 2nd. But last night I accidentally shifted from 1st to 4th. It took a minute, but I worked up all the way to 45 mph (!!!), but then I had to stop at a red light. I was able to find 1st again, and things were looking good. But when I purposefully went to 2nd it got stuck again and stayed that way all the way home. I'm hopeful that, the next time it slips out of 2nd, I can go from 1st to 3rd to 4th. If I am able to skip 2nd and find all the others, then we can do more driving trips and less bus/train trips to our destinations.

It would be difficult to describe to you some of the things you see on British TV, but Mary and I have come to like two British programs (our favorite shows over here are American ones). Our favorite Britcoms are "Look Around You" and "World Shut Your Mouth".
"Look Around You" is a spoof of a 1979-like technology show whose plot is to predict how things will change in the future. For instance, the last show, on computers, predicted that by the year 1990 there might be as many as 10,000 computers in Britain. Though I hate to do it, I have to refer you to a "new, state-of-the-art" computer game they mentioned called "Diarrhea Dan" (you can play online).
"World Shut Your Mouth" is one of the most ridiculous things I've ever seen. The entire show is snippets of the host and/or his friends do something completely ridiculous to see what onlookers (who are unaware of the fact that they are being filmed) do. Sadly, it hasn't come on lately and I'm afraid that it might have been cancelled.

And, yes, we got about 2 inches of snow this morning. That makes 8 out of the past 11 days it has snowed here. It is warmer now so much has melted, but I think its supposed to keep snowing all day and dip below freezing in the evening.

Monday, February 28, 2005

Though you're tired of reading it...

Yes, we had snow again today. Actually, late last night a dusting came through and it was still plenty cold enough this morning when I got up at 6:30 for around 1/8 of an inch or so on the road, sidewalks, and cars. The temp was in the low 20's for much of the morning... the coldest it has been since I've been here (or maybe riding on the bike just makes it feel that way).

My Gospel of John class was loads of fun today. I penciled in dates for my class members to come and eat some supper with us. We'll have 5 guests on Friday (3 students and 2 significant others), 4 next next Thursday (Thursday week; 2 students and 2 sig oth), 5 the next Friday (1 student, his wife, and 3 kids), and 2 the next Friday (1 student and his wife) when Mary's mom and dad are here.

There is still question as to whether I have to pay council tax, the local tax that pays for many local gov't services (garbage pickup, police, etc). Students don't have to pay, but, of course, I seem to be in that odd third category because we're only her for 6 months. Anyway, it turns out that they lost the first form I sent in showing my student status, so I have to drive 4 miles or so there (in 2nd gear mind you) just to give them the form that they should already have. But it appears that I won't have to pay. BTW, the tax for us would be 9o pounds per month, or around $170v- hence nothing to scoff at.

One more thing... yesterday I was asked to preach on Easter Sunday morning. They don't make a big to-do here on Easter, as most Churches of Christ don't, but still it is an honor, especially since that is when the in-laws will be here. So they come 4000 miles to hear me preach.