Saturday, March 12, 2005

Getting lazy

I blogged a few days ago that I planned to do a half-marathon in Milton Keynes in March. Well, today is the day, but I'm not on my way. There are 2 major reasons for this. (1) Around two weeks ago I discovered that our church is having a Men's Day today, and I felt like I needed to be there. (2) There is no easy way to get to Milton Keynes. By "easy" I mean trip on a bus/train that would take less than 1 1/2 hours and cost less than 20 pounds roundtrip. So I'm off to the Men's Day in a few minutes. We expect men from all over the UK to be there.

I appreciate comments from my friends Lisa and Milan in the metro-D.C. area. Doesn't Milan think its cool that we've been to Milan? And, to Lisa, I expect my readers to be cultured enough to have seen one of the greatest artistic works of the aughts (00's), Napoleon Dynamite, and to recognize the fact that the picture to the right serves only to represent my supremely cultured taste. And I plan to rotate other stupid pictures in, too.

I started this post at around 8am this morning but had to leave to make it to the Men's Day on my bike. Arriving home just a few minutes ago, I discovered (a) my daughter has learned to ooze around the entire room on her belly and back, performing a series of flips, flops, and slides that can't really be called "crawling", (b) three other people have commented on my previous blog and (c) the preacher at Men's Day was Scottish and just as hard to understand as our normal preacher.

Now we're off to the High Street to buy turkey meat, a shirt for Mary, and a thank you card... the usual Saturday afternoon stuff.

I plan to blog about our supper guests last Thursday night later today.

Friday, March 11, 2005

Comments anyone?

I finally changed the setting so that a potential commenter will not have to register. Don't know why I didn't notice how to do this before.

A moment of silence

Shall we all bow our heads and remember the £170 car that is no more. It is in a better place now... out of my sight and into the junkyard (scrap yard). This is how its demise came about:

On Wednesday afternoon we decided to take a little trip into Wales just to say we'd been there. I bought £9 worth of gas and managed to find third gear as we departed. Shifting from third to fourth was easy, but finding first was impossible. So anytime we came to a stop I faced a dilemma - pop it into second and take off rather quickly (knowing it was remain stuck in second for an indeterminable amount of time) or leave it in third and take off very slowly, riding the clutch hard until I reached 20mph or so. I discovered that leaving it in third was not that bad, so that is where it remained. We opted to go south and west to get to Wales, not the most direct route, but one that avoided the major highways (in case we got stuck in second again!). We drove about 15 miles to a town called Kidderminster and decided that the car was doing fine. Thus, we were ready to do the next 40 miles or so into Wales. On occasion, I'd have to stop while the car was pointing up hill which made it difficult to start off in third, but the little car managed it alright. However, Mary and I did notice a not-so-comforting burning smell whenever we had to do this. I figured it was the clutch and that it had plenty of miles left in it. Oops.

We got about 10 miles outside of Kidderminster (we went 60mph for a while!) and started up a hill. The countryside around was fantastic. About half-way up the hill, I pushed the clutch in to shift down, and the clutch went in.... way in... all the way to the floorboard. I made a split second decision to turn into a long driveway and stop, knowing starting again would be impossible. Mary and I looked at each other wondering aloud, "What are we going to do now?". Thankfully, it was the warmest day we'd had in a long time. I got out of the car and walked toward a nice, large estate on this huge farm. The driveway was about 1/4 mile long. It took a minute, but I found the owner. To make an already-too-long story shorter, after a few calls on his cell phone and two hours of waiting a tow truck showed up. The farmer's name was Ron, and he was incredibly nice to us, letting Mary and Helen stay in the house until the tow truck came. Helen even got to see color TV for the first time since leaving the states.

The guy who drove the truck was really nice, too. He'd been all over Tennessee, Alabama, and Georgia back in 1996. His parents are huge Elvis fans (there are an inordinate number of those here, BTW) so they had to see Graceland. Anyway, he dropped us off at the Kidderminster train station and took our car to the scrap yard. We all agreed that the car was not worth fixing. It cost £90 to have the thing towed, and £8 for two train tickets back home. If I'd spent that money plus the £170... I'd of still had a piece-of-junk car. However, I must admit that I had this warm feeling as we boarded the train. I'll never see that car again. It will frustrate me no more. We will have to take the bus to church again, but only twice before we return to the states for a while. When Mary's parents come, we'll rent a car and use it for transportation.

So we've only been half-way to Wales.

I do apologize for those of you who took great delight in laughing at me because of my car. You'll have to find some other stupid decision I've made to mock.

In other news, BK is stirring up trouble in North Alabama again, and the Auburn men actually won a post-season basketball game. Why is it that we dominate Tennessee teams so?

And one more thing about Elvis... his greatest hits CD was released here in January, and Love Me Tender went to #1 here, making him the first artist to ever have a #1 hit for 100 weeks in the UK. So, Elvis is bigger than the Beatles, even in England!!

Tuesday, March 08, 2005

Imagine my surprise

When I checked my most recent blog and already had 6 comments. Of course, they were from 2 people, but hey.... 6 is 6. Now, to address them:

BK is a turnip for forgetting White Sauce... that is enough.

Again, let the record show that I didn't claim that BK left out Nesmith's hamburgers altogether, just that he (quote) "didn't give it proper recognition". I emphasize proper. A sidenote at the end of #10 is not proper. I thought PhD students were supposed to read more carefully.

And could it be that I was the one that misinterpreted BK? Did someone else suggest he disliked Alabama? Was it Bobby B.? I must know if BK was only pulling my leg.

Props to Capes for the spellcheck. Now check out this map of American dialects... only somewhat accurate.

Blog War!!! I was miscontrued!! BK must recant!!

Ok, its not that serious, but one of my best friends (the Brits would say "mates", but it sounds a little too weird to most American ears... pity, because it conveys what I mean better than "friend") whose initials are BK interpreted a previous blog of mine as stating that he "disliked" Alabama. Let the record show that my exact wording was "It seems he rather enjoys living on the fringes of the South after having spent his entire life in the Deep South." I chose my words carefully then, and even contemplated elaborating on what I meant. I'm actually glad that he misunderstood my comments because (a) it allows me to ramble on about what it means to be an Alabamian and (b) the misunderstanding an enjoyable top 10 list from BK on the beauties of Lawrence County. So let me explain...

I have never understood BK to dislike or despise Alabama. What I do suspect is that one of the reasons he enjoys living in Gainesville, FL is the fact that it is on the "fringes" of the South. Alabama is 100% pure-dee (never actually had to spell that before) Southern, which means it has both the good and bad elements of the South's history. Politics in Alabama can be particularly frustrating, so I can see why it might be nice to live close but not too close. For this reason, I postulated vis-a-vis (the PhD thing is going to my head) BK's feelings about his homeplace. Having lived "away" in Southern Middle Tennessee for a while, I can relate a little. Of course, BK's other excuse was his hope that he'd get better football and basketball from UF than UA. In fact, one could argue that BK's arrival in Gainesville prompted the mediocrity we've seen from UF of late. Hmmmm..........?

I remember reading a good book called "North Toward Home" by Willie Morris, a Mississippian. At one point, he admitted that, while he was in graduate school "up north", when someone asked him where he was from (noticing his Southern accent), he'd say "North Carolina," simply because it didn't have the same stigma (in his mind) that Mississippi has. I am not suggesting that this is what BK thinks, but I ackowledge that I sometimes wear a chip on my shoulder when it comes to Alabama. It is the place that the entire country views as "backward" (and sometimes for good reason), but I'd rather hear criticism of my home state from other Alabamians instead of outsiders, and certainly not Northerners. One could argue that my adopted state and soon-to-be home, Tennessee, is practically Alabama made over, but there are definite differences. In fact, I'll go as far as to say that Tennessee is only 98.2% Southern. Ouch!! Besides, corn don't grow up on Old Rocky Top.

I know...blah, blah, blah. Enough of my waxing on the finer points of being from Alabama. On to MY top 10 list about Lawrence County (with some overlap with BK):

10. Tennessee River (see BK's #4)
9. Southern accent. I can't tell you how many times I've heard my in-laws bemoan the fact that "we are loosing our Southern accent". And in many places, that is true. But not Lawrence County, AL. I reference Ross Nelson's use of the word "yeller".
8. The flat "I". This might be a subset of #8, and will be difficult to explain in type. But Lawrence Countians are foremost among North Alabamians in their use of the flat, versus dip-thonged, "i". Most Americans pronounce the letter "i" as a dipthong (two vowel sounds together) and it comes out like "ah-ee". If you are from Lawrence County, you don't ever say it that way (though props must go to the Lauderdale County girls Lindsay and Sonya). In LC, "i" is one flat "i". Most country music songs prefer this form. Having married into a family of Middle Tennesseeans, I know that most Southerners use both forms. They pronounce the "i" in "night" different than the "i" in "five". Its obvious that I've thought way too much about this, huh? Anyway, I love to hear the consistent flat "i". For Moultonites reading this, this flat "i" is not easily adopted by newcomers. I reference Ross Nelson's dad, Ken, who did most of his growing up in LC, but still has a touch of South Alabama in him and thus says "light" and "white" different than his son, daughter, and wife.
7. The "finger" wave (not the "one finger salute"). In LC it is customary to acknowledge the presence of an oncoming driver when approaching, but there is no need for a full wave (unless you know the person well). Just raise the pointer finger off of the steering wheel. In some places, they apparently learn it early.
6. Moulton Automotive. BK like the car washes, I like the car fixes. One of the few places where you can trust the mechanic to fix the problem and charge a reasonable price. And a place where I am "the Strickland boy" still.
5. Nesmith's hamburgers. C'mon BK... didn't give it proper recognition. Shame. Shame. A side note that, in N Alabama, you're never far from good barbeque (barbecued pork for you outsiders) and that fine concotion known as WHITE SAUCE (use the flat "i" please). And, by the way, Nesmith's is another place where I am still "the Strickland boy".
4. The variety of terrain. Cotton country, mountains, hills... we've got it all.
3. Jesse Owens Run and Music in the Park. BK listed the festivities in general, but single out the 10k which I've run more than any other (and plan to henceforth... except for '05 of course). Music in the Park is a newer tradition where local bands entertain for free. Its incredibly pleasant on a nice summer night.
2. The small-townness of Moulton. Its not just that everybody knows everybody, but there are alot of good, caring people there. The best evidence is when a loved one dies. Having attended an inordinate number of funerals for a man my age, I've seen how communities react to losing one of their own. I like how Moulton cares... especially with food.
1. I have to concur with BK... Bankhead National Forest. Good for hiking, fishing, camping, hunting, and running... and I've spent a decent amount of time doing all of these things and some others. I left canoeing out on purpose...

I left out anything about lax traffic laws, but I will mention that, when Mary was in labor and we left the house we ran a red light directly in front of a policeman who was so entertained with his conversation that he didn't even bother to see if we had an excuse.

Now I am blogged out.

Monday, March 07, 2005

And the wind will whisper your name to me...

I came across this site the other day, Skinny's Wav Page, which has many of my favorite songs. I think this is legal because the wav files are low quality and not desirable for burning to a CD or MP3 player. However, if one turns his head away from the computer, he gets a little feeling that he's listening to an old one-speaker radio. I can't figure out a method to Skinny's madness in selecting artists, but he seems to prefer older stuff (90's or earlier), and the "greatest hits" of most artists. When I started blogging a few minutes ago, I was listening to John Denver's "For Baby, for Bobbie"... and morning bells will chime.

I just listened to a fascinating program on the BBC 4 website on "Gnosticism", an entity that can be elusive in definition. The interviewees were Tim Freek (sp.?), Michael Green, and Mark Goodacre. Wait...I'm on Hank Williams Sr. now... and as I wonder where you are, I'm so lonesome I could cry... The irony is that I covered Gnosticism and the Gospel of John in my GoJ class this morning. The new interest in gnostic documents like the Gospel of Thomas is, in my opinion, a prelude to a coming swell (in certain circles) of disdain for all things "orthodox" in Christianity. Popularized by flimsy stuff like The DaVinci Code, more and more people will assume that the record we have in the biblical gospels is just that of the "establishment", aka the early Catholic church, bent on maintaining power and crushing resistance, so that any version of Christianity from the first few hundreds years of the church is "valid.' Not that this is that new of a notion, but the opinion seems to be gaining steam. Anyway, you'll hear some hint of the potential for this in the BBC piece, and I think you'll also hear a solid rebuttal from Michael and Mark
... now its the Stanley Brothers ...There's an old holler tree down the road here from me...

We ate out for the first time since being here. I know, we've been here for over 2 months, but the desire to keep a control on the budget and Mary's ability to cook have left us reluctant to eat out much. Anyway, we had a good "English" meal. I ate "Cottage Pie" (though mine didn't look that good), and Mary had the traditional "Fish & Chips". Both were enjoyable, and Helen loved the high chair and the onlookers from nearby tables.

And lets close with....
Tennessee, Tennessee, a thousand miles from here...." (Homer & Jethro)