Thursday, December 21, 2006

More on The Nativity Story

Towards the beginning of December, we went to see The Nativity Story film and I linked to Mark's rolling blog post about it. Well, he's now tidied up his review and it has been published on the SBL Forum website.

Thursday, December 14, 2006

A Guide to Grading Exams

I found this on Mark's blog, who in turn picked it up from Feeble Mindings. It seems like quite a good methodology to me. If I were a teacher/lecturer I'd be able to learn a lot from it, especially the section that deals with the conundrum of when an A+ is or is not appropriate.

Christmas Lights

Christmas lights in North Raleigh
Christmas Lights
One American tradition that, within the last decade or so, has really taken off in the UK is the tradition of decorating one's house with lights. This is especially true where Mark's parents live. Hopefully, I'll have a few good pictures to show you after our visit this Christmas. To whet your appetite, this is a picture of a house in North Raleigh.

National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation lights
National Lampoon's
Christmas Vacation
However, this cannot compare to the famous lights in National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation. I've also embedded a Christmas light show that was on YouTube. It's not new, but it is good and very Christmassy.

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Friday, December 08, 2006

Advent Calendars

Mark writes:

Advent Calendar Cake
I was listening to the Today programme podcast the other day and they mentioned their on-line Advent Calendar. It was the first time I'd heard mention of Advent Calendars this year and I realized that I hadn't seen any here anywhere. I don't remember seeing any last year either. A little bit of googling shows that in fact they do exist in America, and a Google Fight makes "Advent Calendars UK" only a narrow winner over "Advent Calendars USA". Perhaps it is just North Carolina, then, or just this corner of North Carolina, but I've not seen a single one.

So how are we coping without an advent calendar? Happily, recent years have seen the steady rise of on-line advent calendars, and this year there is a bumper crop. Wikipedia's article on the topic now makes "Online Advent Calendar" a separate section. The three I am enjoying this year are:

BBC Radio 4 Today Advent Calendar

Today is the news and politics programme that sets the agenda for the day. Millions wake up to it every day (and some of us in the US go to bed to it every night). This advent calendar provides short sound highlights from the last twelve months of the programme.
Doctor Who Advent Calendar
This appears on the front of the BBC's official Doctor Who website as part of its countdown to the eagerly awaited Christmas special episode called The Runaway Bride.
Mark Kermode Advent Calendar and Quiz
Viola and I have not missed a single Mark Kermode film review podcast in the last year, so it's lots of fun to hear some of his rants on this advent calendar.
Also worth a mention is the BBC Sport Advent Calendar.

And the great thing for those of us on a pre-Christmas diet is that none of the above have yet mastered the technology necessary to release a chocolate when we open each door.

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Doctor Who at Christmas

The Runaway Bride is airing on BBC1 at 7pm on Christmas Day and the countdown has begun (mouse over the website). The Doctor Who advent calendar activates a new link that contains a Doctor Who related snippet for each day of advent. So far, Day 2 contains a very silly "Secret Santa" game that provides a brief distraction. Day 4 is also good -- Song for Ten, which Mark and I really like and which was apparently written especially for that episode. Demand for the song has been great, but it has not been available for purchase until now. The song is included in a Doctor Who soundtrack album that was released in the UK on the 4th of December and is due to be released here on the 13th of February. Here's a video (one of many) that I pulled off YouTube:

In fact, what the heck -- here's another good one:

Last year's Christmas Invasion boasted an average viewing figure (in Britain) of 9.84 million and was the second most watched programme of Christmas Day (Eastenders was top with 10.6 million).

We're all looking forward the this year's Christmas special co-starring Catherine Tate. Let's see if it can top last year's ratings.

To get really excited for Christmas, take a look at this BBC Christmas teaser:

It includes Billie Piper in a dramatisation of Philip Pullman's The Ruby in the Smoke (BBC1, 27th Dec., 8:30pm), which we're also looking forward to.

In addition, there is a New Year's day special of The Sarah Jane Adventures airing on New Years Day (BBC1, 4:50pm). A series is set to follow later in the year.

Also look out for the Ninth Doctor (Christopher Eccleston) in Heroes (currently one of my favourite US programmes).

Here's the BBC1 Christmas schedule. (If you're one of those unlucky people who happen to not be in the UK over the Christmas period, you have my condolences, but hopefully you'll find some almost-as-good entertainment elsewhere.)

Sunday, December 03, 2006

The Nativity Story

Three Wise Men in The Nativity Story
Three Wise Men
Yesterday we went to see The Nativity Story at our local cinema. Immediately it seemed familiar. Although it was faithful to the traditional Christmas story, it included a lot that was very similar to something that I'd seen before, in a documentary that Mark had been interviewed for, entitled The Virgin Mary (Mary the Mother of Jesus in the US).

It was filmed in Matera, Italy and in Ouarzazate, Morocco (Dune Films), both of which are locations that are often used to double-up as The Holy Land. The Virgin Mary was also filmed at Ouarzazate. The Birth of Jesus in The Nativity Story
The Stable Scene
Mark recognised parts of the scenery from when he went out to Ouarzazate to be interviewed for another documentary, St Paul. Around that time, I also had an acquaintance who was German by birth but whose family came from the Ouarzazate area of Morocco and he often visited there. He said that film crews in that area are a familiar sight. It's fairly common for locals to be hired as extras (which one can see in The Nativity Story). Another good source of income for locals is to be paid to get anything vaguely modern out of sight or to not hang their washing out where it would get in the way of the shot setups on the day of filming.

Shohreh Aghdashloo in The Nativity Story
Shohreh Aghdashloo
It starred Keisha Castle-Hughes (The Whale Rider) as Mary and Shohreh Aghdashloo (24) as Elizabeth.

The film has received quite a few bad reviews, but you needn't believe them. I am flummoxed as to what these reviewers want and how a retelling of the nativity story could be done in a way that would satisfy them. Although the film was by no means perfect, I have to admit to have thoroughly enjoyed it from beginning to end and it made me feel extremely Christmassy just in time for the start of Advent. If you haven't yet done so, go and see it. Unless you're a smart-alec reviewer or prone to nit-picking, you'll probably enjoy it.

Here's Mark's take on it.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

How to cope without British TV and Radio: Cricket Supplement Update II

Mark writes:

See previous posts in this series, How to cope without British TV and Radio: Cricket Supplement and How to cope without British TV and Radio: Cricket Supplement Update.

The Ashes Urn
The Ashes
As all British readers will know, the Ashes is here again. "The Ashes" is the name given for any test series involving England and Australia, where "test series" means a series of Test Matches. A "test match" is a five day international cricket match. There was great excitement last time around, when England beat Australia in England in the summer 2005, the first time we had done so since 1987. And the series was thought by many to be one of the best test series ever. Now England are in Australia and Australia are all set to win the Ashes back. With one test down, Australia are already one-nil up. The second test begins on Friday and England are going to have to raise their game if they're to stand a chance.

Watching overseas tests in America presents some serious challenges, greater even than the home tests during the summer, although this time we have not had our lawn dug up or holes put in our roof. To watch this series on TV, you have to have the satellite service DirecTV. There is no other way of doing it. You can't pick it up on Dish Network, nor can you get it on your cable package, even for subscription. So if you don't have DirecTV, your only option is to go for the Broadband coverage on your PC via Willow TV. This costs $99.95 for the whole series. I've been reticent to make the purchase this time, especially as the fourth test and most of the fifth test will be on when we are in the UK for Christmas. Also, the direct streaming is pretty good but it is not brilliant, and for cricket you really do need a good picture. I may still succumb at a later point, especially if England start playing a bit better, but for the time being I am managing without.

So without any TV coverage, how does one cope? One of the most disappointing things is that there is no BBC Test Match Special coverage available to international users. It is only available to UK users. This is a real nuisance. To be honest, I miss TMS so much that I have looked around to find alternative, unofficial means of picking up the Radio 4 LW stream, or the FiveLive SportsExtra stream. Happily, there are ways of doing this if one is prepared to spend a bit of time messing about on the net. Unhappily, the Radio 4 LW stream is not always accessible. When that happens, I can usually get the ABC Australian commentary, which is not at all bad, and features Jonathan Agnew, who is good enough to say the score Aussie style (1 for, 2 for etc.).

One great new innovation this season, though, is the Test Match Special Podcast. This is 17 minutes or so of Jonathan Agnew and Geoffrey Boycott chatting about the day's play. If you are into downloading podcasts, this is a great new thing, and I hope it will appear again next season for the home tests.

Friday, November 24, 2006

Electrics and Electronics

The Sitting Room Setup
The Sitting Room
When one moves overseas, one faces the potentially expensive problem of what to do with one's electrical and electronic possessions. The problem is threefold:

  1. The mains voltage supply in the UK is 230V and in the US it is 120V
  2. The UK current alternates at a frequency of 50Hz, whereas the US frequency is 60Hz
  3. The UK's video colour system is PAL, whereas the US uses NTSC
We were advised by some to sell/give away all our electrical/electronic items and buy new ones in the US. We partly decided to do this, but were reluctant to lose all our electrical possessions. There were some that were fairly new, some that were presents that we did not want to part with and some that we particularly liked. In addition, getting rid of everything and buying everything new was a potentially expensive option.

If you're thinking of moving to the US from the UK, or vice versa, you are bound to be faced with a similar dilemma, so, just in case it helps, here's how we approached the problem:
  1. We took an inventory of all our electrical/electronic devices along with their voltage/wattage.

    For the most part we ignored the frequencies because frequency converters are very expensive and we didn't think that the difference in frequency would adversely affect most of our devices because we were going from 50Hz to 60Hz. If you're moving from the US to the UK, however, you might need to consider this as this may affect some of your decisions.

    Some devices, such as many computers (but not all), are built to accept dual voltages, so only needed plug adapters to work in the US. When using adapters, it is worth bearing in mind that some appliances need to be earthed and one would need an earthed adapter for these.

  2. We decided which devices we really wanted to take. These included the TEAC HiFi system and Emily and Lauren's micro systems that were birthday presents and were quite new.

  3. We decided which devices to give away (such as the washing machine, tumble drier, big TV and vacuum cleaner). We kept one TV and a multi-regional VCR because we have a lot of PAL videos that we wanted to be able to watch in the US, including the "Born in the UK" series of videos that the Everyday Eavesdropper regularly sends us. We also have a PAL PSOne that the children wanted to keep.

  4. Of the items that we decided to keep, we thought generally about which devices are likely to occupy which rooms (e.g. the food processor would obviously go in the kitchen).
The Kitchen's Transformer
The Kitchen
(the transformer is hidden
in a cupboard)
We also kept any extension strips (with rows of UK plug points) to take with us. This was because the plan was to buy a step transformer for each room in which we put UK devices, then plug all the devices for that room into a single transformer via the extension strips. We also had to buy a video converter for the VCR because it turned out that although the VCR was multi-regional in that it could play both UK and US videos, it could only output to a PAL TV. We also found that our TEAC DVD player was not multi-regional and could not be made so using a handset hack, so we would have to spend a fair amount of money to send it off and get it professionally altered. Our solution was to keep the TEAC DVD player boxed and buy a cheap one from Walmart. We then used a handset hack (one types a specific sequence into the remote control to set the region-encoding of the DVD player) to make it play both Region 1 and Region 2 DVDs. (NOTE: To get a handset hack, just google your DVD player's model reference and the words "handset hack".)

We also made sure that the TV we bought had a plug-point for a PC so that we could download or stream UK TV programmes through a laptop computer to the TV. This is much more enjoyable than having to gather around a small computer screen.

We used the wattages that we'd gathered in our inventory to work out the wattage needed for each of the transformers.

As a result, we now have transformers of varying wattages in the kitchen, dining room, sitting room, study and our three bedrooms as well as a number of plug adapters for those appliances that can work on the US voltage. We went for straight-forward transformers rather than the more expensive voltage regulators just to keep costs down, but you might choose to stabilize your voltage with a regulator.

The pictures show a couple of examples.

Here's a few useful links:
Electricity Around the World
Voltage Guide
World Import FAQs
Frequency: 50Hz vs. 60Hz
DVD Compatibility FAQ

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

The Butterfly Flutters By

LaurenI'd like to introduce you to Lauren's new blog, The Butterfly Flutters By.

My philosophy is that the best way to learn is to do. What better way for her to learn about IT than to give it a try? She is already very good (for her age = 9) with MS PowerPoint and Word, IM and email. I introduced her to the basics of HTML and Dreamweaver and she seemed to be doing quite well. Emily started to teach herself HTML at a similar age too. So, when Lauren asked if she could write a blog, I agreed, as long as I have full administrative control.

The blog is administrated by me and I will be checking every post for appropriateness before publication. I will also control any settings and the template. Nevertheless, the content of the blog will be Lauren's (subject to my checks).

You may want to pop in now and again to read her take on life.

Sunday, November 12, 2006

The Fall Find America

Mark writes:

As Viola has mentioned before, one of my favourite bands is The Fall, a band you can't begin to explain or introduce to newcomers except to say that they are unique, bizarre, unpredictable and have been going for almost thirty years. I was sorry to miss them in the USA recently since North Carolina was not on their itinerary. Few in the UK have heard of the Fall, though almost everyone will be familiar with some aspect of their strange repertoire from some means or other, whether because they saw The Silence of the Lambs, which used the song Hip Priest as part of its soundtrack, or whether they are familiar with the Vauxhall Corsa advertisement that has been in cinemas and television for several years. That advert uses the Fall song Touch Sensitive.

Vauxhall Corsa: Touch Sensitive

Even fewer people in the US have heard of The Fall, but now they are heard daily on the TV because Mitsubishi have gone the same way as Vauxhall and have used a Fall track to advertise one of their cars. The track is a relatively recent one, Blindness, from their most recent album (2005), Fall Heads Roll, the first CD I bought when arriving in the US last year. The track is also, sadly, one of those recorded for the last ever of the many Fall Peel Sessions.

Mitsubishi Outlander: Blindness

Heralding the Return of the Everyday Eavesdropper

I'm pleased to announce the return of the Everyday Eavesdropper from a hiatus of nine months. He promises that there are a number of eavesdropping stories that have been gestating over this time. Looking forward to them.

Saturday, November 11, 2006

Preying on a Mantis

A Carolina Mantis
A Carolina Mantis
Mark and I watched the latest episode of Battlestar Galactica, then noticed that we hadn't seen the cats for a while, which is unusual because they usually follow us around the house. Then Mark remembered that just before BSG he'd seen them looking very interested in something, but he hadn't stopped to see what it was that they were interested in.

Click here to watch the videoIt was therefore not for another hour or more that we investigated the matter. What we found, was a female (I think, because it had quite short wings and a rather large abdomen) Carolina Mantis (the state insect of South Carolina). I recognised it immediately as a type of praying mantis that had managed to enter our house (probably while the back door was open). I had never seen one in real-life before (except in entomology departments of zoos), so I wasted no time in grabbing my camera. Unfortunately, the creature had already been chased and terrorised by the cats for about an hour, so it was much the worse for wear.

A Carolina Mantis
A Cat Toy
(A bit the worse for wear)
It's final fate was a fitting end. Hungry female praying mantids have been known to bite the heads off and cannibalise the males during mating. While we were watching our next Friday night programme (Lead Balloon), Memory ran into the sitting room with an abdomen in her mouth. She put it down and tried to get it to move, but was quite disappointed to find that if something loses its head (and, in fact, the rest of the front half of its body) it likely to stop moving and becomes considerably less fun to play with. This is the stage at which Mark unceremoniously put the remainder of the mantis in the bin.

The lesson (if any) to be learnt from this incident is this:

If you're an insect and you want to keep your head -- keep out of the Goodacre house.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

What Katydid

A katydid on a leaf
A Katydid
Click here to watch the video

What Katydid:
She flew into our house when Mark opened the back door the other evening.
What Katydid Next:
She was tortured and eventually eaten by two bored house cats.
Watch the video only if you love the macabre.

Halloween II

I'm a bit late with this post, but nevertheless, here goes:

A house with Halloween decorationsLast year at Halloween we had only recently moved to NC. We decided to go native, so I took Emily and Lauren trick-or-treating, while Mark stayed at home and handed out sweets. This year, Emily decided that she was too old to go around people's homes asking for sweets, so she decided to stay at home and hand out sweets with Mark.

A house with Halloween decorationsI'm not sure that she would have felt too old if she had been out though. It seemed to be the older children and teenagers who had the most mercenary attitudes towards trick-or-treating. They hunted in packs, preferring to demand sweets with friends, unsupervised by adults. Each carried a huge white sack and they would push past any hapless toddler who got between them and their booty. They started early and kept trick-or-treating after the little ones had been taken home to bed.

A house with Halloween decorationsWhile out with Lauren, I also met many a parent who seemed to be one step away from elevating trick-or-treating to a profession. Lauren gave up when her plastic pumpkin-shaped bucket was about half full mainly because she was fed up of having to carry it. The pro-parents carried carrier bags into which they would periodically empty the contents of their children's containers, keeping them lightweight for their children. The pros also made sure that their children wore sensible shoes. Some with very small children also thought to pull little trolleys behind them in which the little ones could sit and be pulled from house to house, so that they only needed to use their little feet to walk up each driveway in their cute little costumes and ask for sweets.

The night was full of goodwill. People wished each other "Happy Halloween" (although I have to admit to finding this a bit bizarre). Those houses with sweets to hand out, at their simplest, would put lighted pumpkins on their doorstep and leave the porch light on. Homes that were dark were bypassed by trick-or-treaters. Some homes went the extra mile and decorated their homes with witches on the lawns, ghosts on the trees, ghoulish lights, pumpkins, cobwebs and even dry ice. Scarecrows made out of old clothes were also common.

A house with Halloween decorationsOften, those who stayed at home handing out sweets also dressed up and some even got into character. One that particularly springs to mind was a house where Darth Vader guarded the steps. Far from being scared, though, the kids seemed to love it. One lady had carefully raked all the leaves on her lawn into a maze. Children who went to her house were given sweets, then encouraged to find their way through the maze.

The next day (and sometimes even that night itself) the Halloween decorations were taken down, although "Fall" decorations sometimes remained. We have now entered the lull before Thanksgiving.

Sunday, November 05, 2006

UK Celebrates a Foiled Terrorist Plot

Remember, Remember the Fifth of November
Gunpowder, Treason and Plot
I see no reason
Why gunpowder treason
Should ever be forgot

A Bonfire
A Bonfire
Normally, every year we celebrate Guy Fawkes with friends, a barbecue and fireworks. This year we are celebrating it with absolutely zilch. Despite having recently had Halloween, it doesn't really make up for missing Guy Fawkes. I have to admit that Mark and I are feeling a bit bereft and homesick. We've had to watch the latest episode of Robin Hood to try and cheer ourselves up.

Carrying on the Dame Julie Theme . . .

... and with the countdown to Christmas having started, who remembers the old Tribe of Toffs tribute?

(NOTE: The music file is .asf, so you may need to download the Voxware RT29 MetaSound (75) codec to be able to listen to it. If you need to, just download the codec and extract it to a temporary folder. Install the codec by right-clicking on the file voxacm.inf and selecting "Install".)

Click here to hear the songChristmas Eve I was feeling sick
Nothing on but the sound of music
But suddenly I could not choose
Between Linda Lusardi and Julie Andrews

Christmas Day bored out of my brain
But there's Julie singing in the mountains
Brown paper packages tied up with string
You are one of my favourite things

Oh yes, oh yes
I'm afraid it's true
Julie Andrews,
We love you

There she is singing Edelweiss
Julie Andrews is extremely nice
See her singing in the Alpine sun
With a guitar and she is dressed like a nun

Oh yes, oh yes
I'm afraid it's true
Julie Andrews,
We love you

She's Mary Poppins with Dick Van Dyke
Flying about or riding a bike
Christmas Day without you would be something quite atrocious

Oh yes, oh yes
I'm afraid it's true
Julie Andrews,
We love you
Festive Frolics From Four Fellows, A Tribe of Toffs

Saturday, November 04, 2006

Julie Andrews, the Original Americanized Emily

Julie Andrews
Julie Andrews
Mark writes:

One of my daily pleasures is listening to the Daily Mayo podcast from BBC Radio FiveLive. I download it each day onto my MP3 player and then play it through the car stereo on the way to work, alongside other BBC podcast favourites like the Today programme, 606: The Football Phone-in, Start the Week and In Our Time. This week's highlight on was, without question, Monday's Daily Mayo featuring an interview with Dame Julie Andrews, whose starring role in The Americanization of Emily (1964) gives Viola's blog its name. Here is the FiveLive blurb:

Dame Julie Andrews has reinvented herself as a writer, co-authoring 15 books with her daughter. Here she talks to Simon Mayo about her latest publication, "A Great American Mousical".
The interview focused mainly on this new book, "A Great American Mousical". Apparently she has written lots of children's books in "The Julie Andrews Collection" and she authors with her daughter. She also talked briefly, of course, about Mary Poppins and The Sound of Music but the parts of the interview that I enjoyed most were those where she reflected on living life as a British citizen in America.

Although she only occasionally returns to the UK for public engagements, she said that she often comes back secretly to see family and friends. When Simon Mayo pointed out how well she had kept her British accent, she added that she had adapted to certain Americanisms for convenience, and one can hear them now in her voice, e.g. I picked up one or two "t"s as "d"s which are very common in the US. I was delighted to hear that she still drinks a lot of tea, and has PG Tips and Marks and Sparks stuff sent over specially. We do something similar, though our British tea of choice is Yorkshire Tea. She brings marmite and marmalade back with her too, also like us, and she said that her husband Blake Edwards could not understand what she saw in the marmite, a common American reaction in our experience too. She said that she loved and missed England, and especially the Spring, but that she found Americans very friendly -- and they love the British. One of the nicest elements in the interview was her explaining that although she lived in America, she did not see it as turning her back on Britain. On the contrary, she saw herself as a representative of Britain.

You should be able to download and listen to the interview again for a several more days.

Sunday, October 29, 2006

Emily's Birthday

Emily riding a horse
Emily Riding
Emily started her Birthday by opening all her cards and presents before school. The rest of the day was taken up with routine activities. After school she went horse riding and did her homework. Then we took her to the Marble Slab Creamery to try and make the day a little more special.

One of Emily's Birthday cakes
One of the Birthday Cakes
At the weekend, she had some friends round for pizza and Birthday cake (fairy cakes (cup cakes), each with a single candle) in front of the TV (Doctor Who) and a sleepover. The next day, they went bowling.Click here to watch the video

Emily carrying her saddle
Getting Ready to Saddle-Up
Mum outside the stables
My Mum at the Stables

Friday, October 27, 2006

A Visit from My Mum

The view from our front porch
The view from our front
porch (taken by my mum)
My mum came to visit us for ten days recently. Mark was working most of the time and the girls were at school, so there were no big day trips to see the sights. Her experience was very much one of everyday living in the Goodacre household. Nevertheless, she didn't give the impression of being bored. Perhaps next time we can show her a bit more of NC.

Day 1
Lauren, Emily and I picked my mum up from the airport, then took her to Bojangles on the way home, so from the outset she was introduced to NC life.

Day 2
We started the hunt for Emily's Birthday present by visiting Target, Walmart and Dick's Sporting Goods. If you're American and reading this, you may wonder why, when she's dragged herself nearly 4,000 miles, I'm dragging her to places like Target instead of showing her the sights. The answer is that:
  1. My mum is very easy going, so she doesn't mind what we do.
  2. Visiting quintessentially American places like Target and Walmart is part of the overall experience, so people who visit from the UK quite like doing this (we particularly like to point out the sale of guns in Walmart and things like "no concealed firearms" signs on doors -- this really freaks the average Brit out).
  3. Whatever we did had to fit into the school day.
  4. Emily's Birthday was drawing nigh and I had to buy her a present.

In the end, we bought her a pair of rollerblades from Dick's.

Day 3
We had lunch at school with Lauren. This is a must for visitors because this too is a very American experience because:
  1. One cannot, in most (if not all) schools in the UK, waltz into the school to have lunch with one's child on any day of the week and without notice.
  2. The school dining hall is full of American children (including Lauren's friends) talking in their little American accents. One also gets to hear Lauren talking to her friends in her American accent. You see, Lauren speaks in a fairly Southern American accent at school, but a Birmingham (UK) accent at home.

We rounded off the day with a lovely curry made by my mum.

Emily riding a horseDay 4: Emily's Birthday
While the girls were at school and Mark was at work, my mum and I went shopping. Emily celebrated her birthday by going horse riding. We rounded the day off with a calorie-intensive trip to the local Marble Slab Creamery (Mmmmm.... fat-ilicious).

Day 5
Today, it was sushi for lunch. In the evening, Emily had some friends over for pizza, cake and a Birthday sleepover.

Day 6
The plan for this day was for Lauren to attend a "cheer clinic" -- a one day cheerleading event held by the local high school to introduce children to cheerleading. Unfortunately, Lauren was ill (she'd been ill for a few days, but had got worse), so couldn't go (this was also $30 down the drain). Emily and her friends went bowling as part of her Birthday celebration. The idea was to drop them off at the bowling alley, then pick them up later. What actually happened was that Mark dropped them off, then sat in the car reading, in the bowling alley car park, until it was time to pick them up. My mum and I stayed at home to look after Lauren.

Day 7: Mum's Birthday
She started the day with the opening of her card and present. We then went to church, then out to Golden Corral for lunch. I know what you're thinking -- "Couldn't you have taken her somewhere nicer than Golden Corral?" Well, we had planned to go to a nice restaurant to treat her, but my mum wanted the full American experience of an all-you-can-eat feeding trough (a phenomenon that is still in its infancy in the UK). She asked if we could go to Golden Corral and after much persuading we relented.

Day 8
Occasionally, I help in Lauren's class at school. This morning was one such occasion, so I had to leave my mum to fend for herself. We spent the afternoon postcard and smoothie shopping.

Day 9
Mark and me by the lakeAs I mentioned before, we've decided to apply for our greencards. Part of the application process involves a medical examination. This morning, we left my mum to fend for herself again while the four of us went for our medical examinations. In the afternoon we went for a walk by the lake. In the evening, Mark's friend Stephen, who happened to be in Raleigh came to see us. We had a lovely chicken carbonara and garlic bread dinner, cooked by Mark and all the requisite wine and liqueurs. Stephen stayed the night, then went home the following morning.

Day 10
Mum enjoying a smoothie in the Bryan Center of Duke UniversityOne cannot come and see us without the obligatory trip to Duke. Mum and Mark in Sarah P. Duke GardensThe trip included a walk through the chapel and smoothies in the Bryan Center while Mark was teaching, followed by lunch in the Divinity School Refectory and a walk through the beautiful Sarah P. Duke Gardens.

Day 11
Lauren relaxing at homeThe last day. Mum didn't get to say goodbye to Lauren before she set off for school because this is the day that Lauren has her Choral Ensemble practice before school. Instead, we had lunch with Lauren so that my mum could have a chance to say goodbye to her. In the afternoon I took my mum to the local Lifeway Christian Store, where she didn't find anything worth buying. Then Mark drove Emily to her horse riding lesson and my mum to the airport before going on to work.

On the bright side, it's not long until Christmas.

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Joe Strummer Spins in His Grave

Here's a fun video about whether or not Tony Blair should step down that was brought to my attention by a friend of Mark's:

Joe Strummer Spins in His Grave

An Update on the Job Situation

Ren asked how my job search was going. I realised that back in November last year I mentioned the plan to get a job:

Before leaving the UK, the plan was to come over to the US on a non-working visa. I would then apply for jobs where the employer could sponsor my upgrade to a working visa.
Trailing Spouse, November 2005

The USCIS only award 65,000 H1B visas a year. A year begins in October and they start accepting applications for a given year at the beginning of the preceding April. As we only moved to the US at the end of September last year, I'd pretty much missed the boat.

I decided to aim for October 2006. With this in mind, I sent out my CV and covering letter to various companies, explaining my situation. I managed to get a company to sponsor me to upgrade my H4 (non-working) visa to an H1B (allows me to work). Unfortunately, the company were badly advised by the attorney that they had hired to guide us through the process. They were advised that we should start the procedure in about June/July 2006 so that I can start working for them in October 2006, so we twiddled our thumbs for a bit, then tried to re-contact the attorney at the start of June, just to find that he would not return our calls. As soon as we realised that something was amiss, we wasted no time in finding another attorney who informed us that applications start being accepted in April, but that all 65,000 H1B visas were fully allocated by the 26th of May.

Now, we are aiming for October 2007 (starting the application process in March, so that the application can be submitted at the beginning of April).

I've added another string to my bow in that we've decided to try applying for greencards. It turns out that I may be able to submit an application for a temporary work permit while my greencard application is being processed. We would have to apply for a greencard eventually anyway, so we may as well do it sooner rather than later.

Sunday, October 22, 2006

We [Don't] Want Your Blood

Nosferatu probably
wouldn't be so fussy
When I was younger, I used to give blood. I lapsed when I got pregnant for Emily because they don't take blood from pregnant women. Several years later, I tried to start giving blood again but they had tightened up the regulations and they no longer wanted my blood because I did not meet all the regulations. One of the new rules was that if one had ever stayed outside the UK for a continuous period of six months or more, one could no longer give blood. As I was born in India and only moved to the UK when I was five years old, I was told that I could not give blood.

Cartoon: Chicken is trying to give blood, but the nurse says: What do you want me to do? Give someone salmonella?
The other week, our local church had a blood drive. My hopes were not high, but I thought that I'd pop along on the rather slim offchance that I might be able to give blood. The regulations here said that if one has visited the UK for longer than three months between 1980 and 1996 one cannot give blood (because of a risk of vCJD).

Ah well, at least I tried. I can now not bother to give blood and not have to feel bad about it either. Let's just hope that my brain is not turning spongiform even as I am writing this.

Here's some links about donating blood in both countries:
UK's National Blood Service
America's Blood Centers

Friday, October 20, 2006

I Don't Exist
LogoThere are:
people with my name
in the U.S.A.

How many have your name?

It also turns out that neither of my daughters exist either. At least it was a nice way to waste a few minutes. If I hadn't got married, though, I would exist. Statistically, there are nine Viola's in the US with my maiden name.

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Move to Beta Blogger

OK, I've decided to take the plunge and ditch my old template in favour of moving over completely to Beta Blogger. As it is a beta, it has a number of issues that need sorting out and a few things that do my head in, but hopefully you won't be too bothered by them.

If there are things about the new site that do your head in, let me know. If I can do something about it I will. Otherwise, our fate is in the hands of the Beta Blogger team.

Here's my previous post on the topic: Beta Blogger

Sunday, October 15, 2006

Health Care Expenditure

This blog post is built on my earlier post on Medical and Dental Insurance in the USA and on the comments that followed.

At about 26%, the US has one of the lowest Overall Tax Burdens in the whole OECD. The UK's is much higher than the US's (about 37%) and is about the same as the OECD average. I was interested in the question of how much the UK and US spend on health care so I thought that a fresh post on the topic was called for.

As you probably know by now, I am a bit of a google addict (a bit like the "Area Man" in this Onion article), so I decided to try and find out a bit more about health care expenditure in the UK and in the US. I took a look at the OECD website to see if I can find any international health care comparisons. I'm not an economist or a statistician, so if I've mis-interpreted anything that I've read, please feel free to enlighten me.

Graph showing percentage GDP spent on health care in UK and USA and percentage that comes from public expenditureAccording to the OECD, the UK government spends nearly double (as percentage of GDP) what the US does on health care. This is pretty much stating the blindingly obvious because the US's health care is mostly privately owned, whereas the UK's is publicly owned. The US's overall expenditure on health is greater than the UK's, even after taking into account their high expenditure on pharmaceuticals. The US expenditure per capita is about three times what it is in the UK (about $2500 in the UK; about $6100 in the US).

One might say that one can see the fruits of the greater expenditure on health care in the US. For those who can afford it, private health care in the US offers better quality of service, access to more up-to-date drugs and treatments, greater empowerment of patients and a lack of waiting lists. I am, however, left wondering how good a net the safety net of Medicare/Medicaid is when people on lower incomes still have to face large bills when they have had medical attention and I doubt that those who rely on Medicare/Medicaid get the same quality of treatment as those who are not.

In Britain, some who can afford it prefer to "go private" to circumvent the queues, so I suppose that although all are equal, some are always going to be more equal than others. However, the NHS was founded on the principle that medical provision should be a human right for all, not a privilege for a few. Even if the average healthy UK tax payer is ploughing more into the health service than they are getting a return for, to those who are on low incomes or are non-tax payers the service is indeed free. I think that this is worth paying a bit more tax for if we need to. Another thing is that if I, as a healthy individual, am to pay for health care that I haven't needed, I would prefer to give the money to a scheme that provides free health care to those who do need it, rather than lining the pockets of an insurance company.

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

England Fiasco

Paul Robinson lets Gary Neville's pass into the England goal
Gary Neville's Pass Goes Past
I don't normally complain and I normally try to keep my blog posts civil. However, I would just like to express my loss of patience with the England football team. First it was 0-0 to Macedonia, then 2-0 to Croatia. Perhaps if Paul Robinson opened his eyes while standing in goal he'd be able to see if a ball happens to be coming in his direction!

These people get paid huge amounts of money. Perhaps they can put me on the England squad. I'd happily be paid a few million pounds to not be able to play football. I'm sure that I would be quite good at providing a lacklustre performance and hoofing the ball into the wrong net.

Year after year, tournament after tournament, good or bad, we get behind our team (after all, they're all we've got). Come Euro 2008 (if we qualify), I'll be singing the songs and flying the flags from my car window, but sometimes I lose patience and have to vent.

Here's a good blog post on the topic: Do I Not Like That

Monday, October 09, 2006

Medical and Dental Insurance

One aspect of US life that is a stark contrast to UK life is the reliance on insurance policies for medical and dental treatment.

When we lived in the UK, our only insurance policies were building & contents insurance and car insurance. We knew that in the US we would have to pay medical and dental insurance, but thought that the cost would be mostly offset by no longer having to pay National Insurance. This turned out to be a false assumption because one has to pay for one's own medical and dental insurance policies as well as paying for Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security.

Doctor Doctor Joke: Patient: Doctor, I feel funny; Doctor: Well, you look ridiculous to me
Medicare/Medicaid is the nearest thing that the US has to the NHS. People pay an amount each month out of their wages (I suppose, a bit like people in the UK pay National Insurance). Medicare is an insurance policy to provide medical care for those over 65 years old and some disabled people. Medicaid is a policy that provides treatment for those who are below the federally-defined poverty level.

As far as treatment is concerned, the UK media has countless nightmare stories about how people are treated on the NHS and I myself have had a few bad experiences. However, I can also say that I have seen a doctor on countless occasions (which here in the US would cost me a $15 excess for each visit) and have had a few operations/stays in hospital without having to part with a penny. If I moved house, I could just sign up at the nearest doctor's surgery.

In short, the NHS provides treatment to anyone regardless of socioeconomic status for free or near-free. Medical and dental provision (including prescribed medicines) for children is always free and most provisions for most adults is also free. Adults who earn above a certain wage have to pay for prescriptions (about £6 or so per prescription). As far as dental charges are concerned, we would visit the dentist twice a year and all I would pay for was £13 to have my teeth checked and polished. The option is available, for those who have the means, to pay for private medical provision, and private medicine does have its advantages. However, this is voluntary. One does not have to subscribe to private medicine just because one is well-off. One can still be treated by the NHS.

Doctor Joke: doctor says to patient: your problems stem from you being too rich, but I think I can help you
When we first arrived in the US, we were handed a 3" thick lever-arch folder that explained the various insurance policy options that were available to us. We were (and to a large extent still are) flummoxed. The folder was mostly gobbledygook -- containing phrases like "...subject to the deductible, covered at 80% of coinsurance of plan allowance...". Translated into our level of understanding, this says "...@!*#$ !@ #$% *$&:^?@!$# etc..." After hours of reading through this tome we were very little wiser, so we just picked a plan and hoped for the best.

It's now a year later and we still don't have a doctor. Our medical insurance only pays out if we have a doctor from their approved list. Upon phoning around the local surgeries in our area that were on the list, we discovered that:

  1. the list is out of date and many of the surgeries on the list do not take patients with our insurance policy and
  2. those doctors that do not fall under (a) have a full quota of patients and are not taking any more on.
My next recourse is to try further afield, and see if we can get a doctor in the Durham area. It's true that for $150 or so extra a month, we can choose any doctor, not just one from a pre-approved list. However, as we've been here a year and haven't needed a doctor, $1,800 a year extra seem like rather a lot to pay.

As far as dentistry is concerned, we had our first visit to a US dentist recently. There were no treatments other than prophylaxis (fissure sealant for the kids' molars (charged per-tooth), polishing, x-rays), yet our bill exceeded our insurance payout by about $750. I dread to think what it would cost

  1. without insurance
  2. if we had to have any actual treatments
In the UK, all children's treatments are free and I've already mentioned the cost of an adult's check-up and polish. Last time I had an X-ray I didn't have to pay, but even if these days there is a small fee, it'd be nothing when compared to the cost here.

When one is living in the UK one can see the NHS's problems. No matter how much public money is ploughed into it, for various reasons it is always hungry for more. It's not until one leaves the UK that one begins to appreciate just how great an ideology and institution the NHS is and how much, despite its problems, it's worth fighting to keep.

Thursday, October 05, 2006


If you like the new NBC series Heroes, you might be interested to know that there's an online graphic novel. Parts 1 and 2 are online at the moment, with more to come. Personally, thus far it is just my cup of tea (which probably means that it will get cancelled after about one and a half series), even though it falls in line with the usual American-TV-casting policy of not employing ugly people.

Wednesday, October 04, 2006


Whichever side of the pond you reside on, you'll still have to deal with bankers. Wherever one goes, one will always find a few bankers. However, not all bankers are the same. There are some differences with banking here, compared to banking in the UK.

  1. Cheques are not "cheques", but "checks". A check must also be "endorsed". This means that in order to cash it, it has to be signed on the back by the person trying to cash it, using the exact name that the check is made out to.

  2. There is no such thing as an arranged overdraft (at least, not as far as we know). In the UK, if one has the foresight to realise ahead of time that one's salary for the month is not going to last the month, one can phone the bank and agree an overdraft limit with them. An overdraft that has not been arranged leads to rapped knuckles, a good telling-off from the bank and penalty fines. In the US, one cannot arrange an overdraft. All overdrafts therefore come with the requisite rapped knuckles, telling-offs and fines.

  3. There is no such thing as a check guarantee card. In the UK, when one writes a cheque, one can present one's cheque guarantee card and the recipient writes the number of the guarantee card on the back of the cheque. If a cheque is presented to the bank with a guarantee number, the bank has to honour that cheque. It is a way of the cheque recipient being able to confidently accept cheques without fear of losing revenue.

  4. The UK does not have drive-through banks. The US has drive through fast-food, drive through pharmacies and even drive through banks. After all, why should customers need to be bothered with things like having to get out of a car?

  5. US monetary notes are all the same size and colour, so it's quite easy to confuse (for example) a $1 bill with a $10. One has to look quite closely at them. In fact, in the UK, we would talk about notes, not bills. One would have a £10 note, not a £10 bill. In addition, if one has a purse (pocket-book) with both US and UK change, one has to look quite closely because a US penny and a UK penny look very similar. A UK 5p coin and a dime (10¢ coin) are also the same colour/shape/size.

  6. Here, in our part of the USA, a handbag is a purse and a purse is a pocket-book.

Thursday, September 28, 2006

Great British Grub

As you know, we popped back across the pond for a month, straddling July and August. Although the US boasts some culinary delights of its own, we were nevertheless hankering after some good ol' British grub that is hard to find here. We used our month in Britain well -- to get a fix for as many of our cravings as possible. Here's Mark's take on it:

One of the real pleasures of returning to the UK over the summer was to taste again all sorts of food and drink that we had been missing while in the USA. In the weeks and months ahead of our summer trip, we would often discuss what British foods we were most looking forward to, making a mental list. Emily would often ask if we could get some McVities Digestives when we were shopping in Kroger (@ $3.00 a packet in the UK import section) and I would always have to say, "Wait till we get to England".

Black Pudding
Black Pudding
There was no question about what I was most looking forward to -- black pudding. You cannot get hold of black pudding in the States for love or money. Actually we once had a bit in an Irish pub in Cary, but that's the only time, and it was not great black pudding. For those who have not tried it, black pudding is a large, thick black sausage, made in part from pig's blood and fat (not terribly kosher). Happily, we found ourselves in the black pudding capital of the world for one week of our stay, when we went on holiday to Bishop's Castle in Shropshire. There was a local black pudding there which was absolutely superb and I think we must have bought four or five during the week we were there. In fact there was a nice (but expensive) family butcher there too that made the best local back bacon one could imagine. It's not possible to get back bacon where we live -- there are shelves and shelves of streaky, some even in odd flavours like maple, but no back bacon in sight. And, of course, there were some first class British sausages, thick, meaty, tasty and not the diddy, salty and fatty things we get here.

Emily did get her digestive biscuits and we all enjoyed some good Cadbury's chocolate (which is available here, but licensed to Hersheys, or imported from England at four times the price). One surprise treat was British squash -- orange squash, blackcurrant squash etc. -- we hadn't realized how much we had missed those. [Explanation for Americans: squash is fruit-flavoured drink concentrates that one dilutes before drinking. We especially missed Robinson's Lemon Barley Water. (Ed.)] I don't think I had realized either just how much I had been missing a good English hand-pulled pint of real ale. One real highlight was sitting outside an old pub called The Tinner's Arms in Zennor during our week in Cornwall, and then in Shropshire to pick up regular pitchers of the locally brewed ales from the local pub in Bishop's Castle.

Steak and Kidney Pie
Steak & Kidney Pie
I should also mention, of course, fish and chips. We had it twice during our month's visit, and each time the key thing -- for us -- was the curry sauce -- tops it off wonderfully. [Although sea-food restaurants around here tend to deep-fry everything -- from white fish to oysters and serve them with some variety or other of fried potato, we craved proper batter and chip-shop style chips (Ed.)] We had a great Chinese takeaway too when in Peterborough, a great Indian takeaway in Shropshire, a nice Indian meal out in Birmingham, where Balti is the local dish, and a great meal at Pizza Express in London with my brother Jonathan on Lauren's birthday. Come to think of it, we also had three pub meals and on all three occasions I had steak and kidney pie, one of my favourite dishes. [In the UK, pie can be almost anything that involves pastry and an oven. Click here to watch the Geico Gecko AdvertThis means that pies can be savoury (eg. steak and gravy) or sweet (eg. apple). Hence the Geico gecko's love of "pie and chips", which translated is savoury pie with fries (Ed.)] And in Cornwall we had a cream tea, which was even more delicious than I had remembered.

On top of these, we had many fantastic meals made for us while touring the country. Viola and I are lucky in both having Mums who are brilliant cooks, and family and friends who are also great cooks. And happily, everyone we know enjoys a glass of wine (or two) as much as we do. It's amazing that we did not put any weight on while in the UK, not least given the huge amount of cheese we consumed too (a new favourite: Haloumi; an old favourite: Blue Dovedale). [Good, reasonably priced cheese is scarce in our part of NC (Ed.)] What is less surprising is that I had some serious indigestion problems while in England!

NC Barbecue, Rice and Hush Puppies
BBQ, Rice & Hush Puppies
I do not, of course, want to suggest that there are not wonderful things to be had here. Now back in America, there are many American treats to enjoy. I love what is called "barbecue", which in North Carolina means a kind of pulled pork [pulled off the bone -- has a shredded texture (Ed.)] in some delicious spices, and not what Brits and Aussies mean by barbecue [Here, barbecue is pulled pork, to grill is to barbecue and broiling is grilling (Ed.)]. Viola recently posted on our growing love of sushi. And it is great that we can get fresh fish and seafood locally. We have a seafood market locally with the extraordinary name "Jezebel's Salty Fare" and on our wedding anniversary, I cooked a dish with some local squid and prawns (the latter always called "shrimp" here, even if enormous). We are also big fans of Bojangles, which is a southern "chicken 'n' biscuit" place, but we can't go there too often because it is very, very fattening.

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

New Favicon

I've added a favicon to the blog, courtesy of I hope you like it.

Sunday, September 24, 2006


Fish and Chips
Fish 'n' Chips
Ask nine out of ten British people (especially in Birmingham) and they will tell you how much they love their curry. Curry has become just as British as fish and chips or roast beef and Yorkshire pudding.

Here in the US (or at least in our part of the US), Indian/Pakistani cuisine does not seem to have taken off to such an extent. What has taken off is Chinese and (understandably, due to the geographical proximity) Mexican cuisine. Eat as much as you like (or can?) Chinese buffets are everywhere. One seems to be pretty much the same as another in decor and dishes. Some also incorporate a Mongolian grill and a sushi bar.

In the UK, love of sushi has started to take off in recent years with it becoming available in supermarkets and with sushi bars opening up in shopping malls. Japanese restaurants are still few and far between, though, and rather expensive.

Here in the US, however, Japanese cuisine seems to be a staple. Many of Emily and Lauren's friends at school love their sushi. When we were living in England, Mark and I loved our sushi but didn't have it very often. Now that we are living in America, Mark and I are now massively into sushi, sashimi, tempura and any Japanese food that we've tried thus far. We haven't tried it on the children yet, but Lauren loves rice and seaweed so it shouldn't be too hard to convert her.

James Bond in You Only Live Twice
James Bond
We even have a favourite Japanese restaurant -- Kuki (where we took Mark's aunt and cousin). Walking into it, one feels like one's walked onto the set of a James Bond film or an episode Dangerman (Secret Agent in the US).

We tend to go at lunchtime. This is because we once went in an evening and found that the prices are a bit steep. Add the cost of babysitting and it really piles up. They do, however, have a very reasonably priced lunch menu and we save on babysitting because the girls are at school.

On entry, a young lad greets us and we choose where we'd like to sit. It's always the same young lad and he always brings us our hot mugs of green tea without even asking us what we'd like (because we always have green tea). He's from South Korea, but has lived in the US for a number of years. Sashimi
While he's bringing our food or topping up our green tea ("Harry hot ups" as Mark's Dad would say), he tells us a bit about South Korea and its culture. He also seems to have a huge passion for football (soccer), so often has a bit of a chat about that too. On our last visit, he and Mark discussed the addition of the South Korean striker, Seol Ki-Hyeon to the Reading squad and the waiter talked about the current state of South Korean football.

They also do the most delicious green tea ice-cream, but unfortunately I seldom have enough appetite for a sweet course.

Thursday, September 21, 2006

A Year in America

Today is our one-year anniversary. We have now been in the USA for an entire year. I didn't start my blog until the November, but Mark documented our move in his blog:

September 20, 2005
Travel diary 1: Leaving Birmingham
September 21, 2005
Travel Diary 2: At London Gatwick
September 22, 2005
Travel Diary 3: Arrival in North Carolina
Travel Diary 4: Waking up in America
September 23, 2005
Travel Diary 5: Finding my Office
September 26, 2005
Travel Diary 6: Supersize Me!
September 28, 2005
Another day, another hotel
Sunday, May 14, 2006
A Brit at Duke: Reflections of an Alien Professor
September 21, 2006
A Year in America
A year ago yesterday we were still in Birmingham (England). The removal men played tetris with all our earthly belongings so that they could fit them into a 20ft container. We gave or threw away anything that was not going with us (including a few items at the last minute because the container was not big enough for everything that we intended to take). Then we bundled ourselves into our hired car (as we no longer had our own car) and our neighbour waved goodbye as we drove to the airport. After a night in the travel lodge, we flew to America; the whole time with a feeling of excitement and adventure, but hoping that we were doing the right thing.

At first, although some things were uphill struggles, others were blessings. We had to move (extended-stay) hotels twice in one week, but then were able to settle on one that we could stay in for the next three weeks. After spending a month in hotels and sleeping on a fold-out couch because the children had the beds, we finally moved into the house that we were intending to buy. This was on the same day that our container arrived, so it could be delivered straight to the house and didn't need to go into storage (one of the blessings).

Here in the US (or at least in NC), when one buys a house, one sets a closing (=completion) date at the beginning of the process, when one makes the offer. If one cannot close on that date, one has to renegotiate a new date and/or can move into the property and pay rent to the sellers until closing. This means that the buyer can move house and the seller is relieved of the burden of having two mortgages to pay.

Our House
Unfortunately our mortgage application had been turned down several times because our international credit check turned out to not be worth the paper it was written on, never mind the amount that we'd paid for it. In addition, our house sale in England hadn't yet completed. By the time we moved into the house (to rent), we had already missed three closing dates. By this stage our sellers were irate and told us that they wanted us to vacate within two days.

That's when we said to one another that we had made a mistake and that perhaps we should cut our losses, rent a property for as long as it takes to organize moving back to England, then return home. We even found a property that was vacant and that we could move into for the interim. But in the end the sellers realized that they didn't have a leg to stand on (after we pointed out to them the wording of the contract), so backed off; the mortgage was underwritten; and cash-flow problems started to resolve themselves.

It doesn't seem that long ago that Mark and I stood in the kitchen of this house deliberating about whether we'd made the wrong decision, but here we are a year later with a house, two cars, good schools for the girls and a job for Mark that he enjoys; and we know that it was the right decision.

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Emily's First (American) Football Match

After school today, Emily went to watch her school's American football team play against another local middle school's team. The photos and video are all courtesy of Emily. The photos are all of the team, but the video is of the cheerleaders (although no matter how many times I watch it, I can't make out what they're saying).

Click here to watch the cheerleaders videoEmily's School's American Football TeamEmily's School's American Football TeamEmily's School's American Football Team