Saturday, June 04, 2005

But the Spirit of Jesus did not permit them

I'm beginning to understand how Paul felt trying to get to Bythinia (Acts 16:6-7). I blogged long ago about our first failed attempt to go to Stratford upon Avon. Well, today we figured our odds of actually making it were pretty good because we were travelling with a large group from church. The preacher's wife, Helen, was even kind enough to let us borrow her car. All we had to do was follow in the convoy for the roughly 35 mile trip. After having been in the car for 10 minutes (mostly in traffic) I was starting to get familiar with the car... even adjusted the radio. While we were waiting at a redlight, I noticed that the radio was off, and then I noticed that other dashboard lights were not on. I had a feeling that this did not bode well. And it didn't. When the traffic began moving, I let off the clutch and the car died. I tried to recrank... nothing. The battery was dead. In vain I beat upon the steering wheel to honk the horn so that the folks we were following might see our problem. Unfortunately, the battery was dead AND the horn was not located on the steering wheel. Of course, this all happened in the midst of heavy traffic.

After a couple more attempts at starting the car, I got out and Mary jumped in the driver's seat. I pushed the car about 40 yards and, thanks to a helping hand from a nice guy who then let us cut across in front of him, we turned down a side street and Mary coasted into a parking spot. All of this was too much for Helen, who promptly fell asleep.

After a couple of minutes, my mobile phone rang... the preacher, Mike, wondering where we were. I told him our dilemma and he turned around and was with us in less than 10 minutes. We jumped the car off, but made it less than a mile before it died again. The entire convoy was waiting on us. The guy leading the trip, Phillip, decided we should just call it a day and forget Stratford. Instead, we left Helen (the preacher's wife, not the baby) with the car and the rest of us went to the city centre and had lunch at The Big Wok... a huge Chinese buffet... all Phillip's treat. Helen and Mike have AA coverage (same as AAA coverage without the 'American' part), so they rang them up and a guy came out and fixed the car by the time we finished lunch... broken alternator belt. Mike and Helen were kind enough to let us keep the newly fixed car overnight so we can skip the hour long ride on the bus in the morning for church... 10 minutes in the car.

So, it appears Stratford will have to wait until some time later when we come to the UK. And I should mention that I took Mary's parents for a "fly by" of the place in late March, though all they did was buy 2 British army shirts at a flea market and a book from a bookstore. I hope the Spirit has no problems with our intentions to go to Edinburgh on Monday-Tuesday.

I should mention that Mary and I had a delicious meal last night from Martin's Restaurant, an Indian place just a stone's throw from our house. They delivered some Chicken Masala for me and Lamb Dhansak for Mary. Highly recommended.

Here are some pics from today, and a couple from earlier this week:

Folks from church at the Big Wok:
My Photo

Helen, the preacher's daughter Roxanne and yours truly at The Big Wok:
My Photo

Helen trying to stand using the couch:
My Photo

After toting her favorite towel over to me, she grabbed my leg, tried to pull up and said distinctly, "Da da!". Of course, I picked her up. This is a freeze frame of some video:
My Photo

Friday, June 03, 2005

Rain, rain go away

At least until I can get on my bike and ride home. I'm sitting in a university computer lab waiting for a let up right now.

It occurred to me the other day that I committed a classic blogging blunder... misspelling a word. I rarely do much proofreading, so I often find mistakes days later. The most obvious one lately was when I said that Mark Goodace wasn't too discrete with his news of moving to Duke. I should have put "discreet". However, to my credit, discrete is a word, a mathematics one at that (discrete as opposed to continuous). Took many classes in the Department of Discrete Mathematics at Auburn years ago. It changed to the Department of Discrete and Statistical Sciences, and has since merged with the Math Dept (imagine that!).

Well, the sun is out and I hear Helen calling my name.

And, BK, there not your large letters but mine. Looks like you need to brush up on your koine pronouns.

Tuesday, May 31, 2005

I sprang from my bed to see...

Why the kid was crying. Early this morning, around 1:20 am, I climbed out of bed and peeked out the window to see where the crying was coming from. From my angle I couldn't see, but Mary could see some people standing in the street from her vantage point. There were 3 people; 2 men and woman. The woman began to yell at one of the men while the other man stood behind her. She repeatedly pushed the young man in front of her and he appeared to be interested in getting past her to the other guy. The crying child was watching this from an open door across the street where, intermittently, a person (grandmother?) would try to convince the woman (mother) to come inside. I watched this scene for about 2 minutes.

Finally, the guy had had enough of the woman's pushing, so he shoved her down and tackled the other guy. This is when I decided to go downstairs and offer 'help'. I slipped on my shoes and a pullover and made my way outside and down the road. Two men, Africans I surmised from their accents, were trying to pry the first guy, whom we'll refer to henceforth as Instigator, off of the second guy, whom we'll call Slim. The Africans were able to get Instigator away from Slim, but the fun was far from over. I stood back probably 15 feet and marvelled at the fact that I understood almost nothing these people were yelling at each other. I suspect we can blame much of it on the booze and/or drugs which was apparent from the slurred speech of the woman and Instigator. Another reason I couldn't understand them is that, in the heat of the moment, our accents are accentuated (nice pun) at high volumes. Thus, I was unable to surmise why these people were fighting. Throw in the fact that I'd been in REM just 5 minutes before, and its not surprising I was clueless.

All appeared to be well, people dispersing and death grips abating when... Slim decided to say something about Instigator's brother. I thought he said, "Tomorrow your brother will be in the nick.' But again, I'm not sure I understood any of it. Anyway, this set Instigator off (though the woman's further shoves probably helped). I asked the Africans if they knew what was going on, but they were as clueless as I. One said, "He might kill him." I asked them to call the police. I also looked toward the door where the screaming kid was and told the adult there to call the cops.

Whatever it was that Slim said, Insitigator was mad enough to resume the death grip for a minute or so on Slim's head. The woman peeled him away, but that only freed Instigator (drunk and/or high I remind you) to go to a nearby construction skip (dumpster) and grab a long stick, perhaps an old piece of moulding. He approached Slim and, thankfully, only threw the stick at him. The stick missed its target. After a little more shouting, Instigator grabbed another stick and began holding it like a baseball bat. Did I mention that I was backing up by now? Slim made a wise choice and decided to run. The woman was screaming bloody murder by this time. As Insigator took off after Slim, approaching the corner of our block, I was seriously hoping that Slim had the sense to keep running. At the moment that Insigator was about to get out of view, a police car pulled up and stopped in the middle of the road. I saw the officers get out and begin to run. It was obvious that they caught Instigator rather quickly but most of this took place just around the corner. Needless to say, someone had obviously called the cops before I showed up.

Another police car showed up and order was restored. I came back inside and talked the whole thing over with Mary who'd watched it all from our bedroom window. Because there was nothing to do but go back to bed, we did. I was awake at least 2 more hours. Certainly not the first incident I've seen between 'juiced up' people. Mary commented that, if this had happened when we first arrived, she and Helen would have been in a hotel across town.

Monday, May 30, 2005


What's the hottest song in Great Britain at the moment? Would you believe a mobile phone ring tone? Believe it. Back on January 6th of this year, the day after I arrived here, I remember hearing a guy's phone ring with a crazy "ba ding ding ding...", sort of like a chipmunk doing an impression of a minibike. That was not the last time I heard it, and since then it has been put to a beat with some 80's rap music (can't remember the song) and climbed to #1 on the charts. It's known as the crazy frog (mp3 link, see picture below). I don't know if it's popular in America yet. BTW, the original sound seems to have come from this.

Barclay Key is made of soup

Today is Memorial Day in the U.S. (I'll see if I can't scrounge up some charcoal) and a bank holiday here. Schools and universities are out this week here, too, so many, many people here are on vacation (holiday). Because the library is closed and I've read everything I have on my research topic, today will be spent reading Atlantis Found by Clive Cussler. This is my first Cussler book to read, but won't be the last. FWIW, we're going Stratford-upon-Avon with folks from church on June 4, to Edinburgh on June 6-7 via rental car, and back to London June 11 via train. That will probably be the last of our adventures (not counting the flight home, of course). We fly out 3 weeks from today.

If you get a minute, check out Doug Giles advice -- 10 ways to ensure that you are a failure in life. I have linked to his article on the second one. The series begins here. I haven't read this guy's stuff before, and he's a bit wordy for what he says, but his thinking is on this right on target. His 10 ways are:

1. Be a slacker.
2. Blame others.
3. Embrace hopelessness.
4. Follow others mindlessly.
5. Be a wet blanket.
6. Hang out with morons.
7. Be a self obsessed me-monkey.
8. Stand for nothing.
9. Have an “it’s not my job” mentality.
10. Quit when the going gets tough.

It appears articles on the remaining 8 are forthcoming.