Saturday, August 25, 2007

I hate Change

This is precisely why I hate change. And upgrades. And "this will make it so much cooler."

It's like when you set about cleaning out a room, or a closet or a drawer in your home. It all gets so much worse before it gets better.

Earlier this week I tried to post an entry on the blog and got a "500 Error." I don't know what that is, I didn't bother looking it up, I just told Ian when he got home and had him deal with it. Call me what you like (Techonology Impaired Ostrich is just fine) but when a computer shows an error, I cave.
Eventually a new message popped up at our Moveable Type page and insisted we upgrade. The download took several tries and eventually we have what I'm typing in now. Only there's now a single author (me) and I can't change anything once I've put it up. And neither can Ian. Talk about pressure. But that's impractical too and will have to be fixed somehow because we have to be able to edit and delete. I don't know why this is the default setting, and it's a reason I hate change... the newer thing never works the way I want right out the gate. It takes a fight and it's not a fight I feel is worth my time when the original program worked just fine.
Enough about that. Just know that if I make a typo or leave out a word or say something stupid, I can't fix it. At least not right away. Go ahead and point it out but it's going to stay for a while anyway.
So why did I want to post earlier this week?
It's been a roughish week at school. And I had my first full week of work. That's a separate post for now. I just wanted to put up some links to news from this week, not the least of which this one from the IHT yesterday:
Bombs Kill Dozens in India, specifically in Hyderabad. Hyderabad is not Chennai, it is about an hour flight away and many folks from the Consulate travel their regularly for work. Our neighbor returned from Hyderabad on Thursday.
All the other actual news from I found interesting is now old, so I won't bother. But here are a few interesting side notes:
Indian Finishing Schools. They don't teach dancing and which spoon to use, but how to dress for an interview and take out the rolling Rs from speech.
Agatha Christie in Pictures. We saw these comic books in our Landmark book stores here in Chennai, back in June. I bought a couple for the kids, each with 3 Christie stories in them.
And lastly, Shawn in Kyiv had a quirky little post on the world's unwillingness to line up and the 7 steps (in no particular order) to dealing with it. Or not.

Saturday, August 18, 2007

Happy Happy Day

Today, my "baby" turned 6. I seriously don't know how that happened.

At the end of school yesterday I brought cupcakes and gingerbread cookies for his classmates and teacher (and I got to read _The Gingerbread Man_ to the kids). It's a tradition and now that there are 3 elementary classes per grade we only bring for a single class. It's great! I'd also brought plenty extra for him to share with whomever he chose: teachers, the principal, random friends. Everyone knew it was his birthday, the huge paper crown notwithstanding.
We brought a friend of Rebecca's home for a sleepover last night. She's a wonderful little girl in 4th grade, new to Chennai as of a couple weeks ago. Her family is slowly settling in, and it was nice to be able to take in their daughter for an evening. The girls had a great time petting the new kitten, making Jonathon's birthday cake, playing and hanging about. Rebecca had her tennis lesson this morning so her friend watched, and piano was canceled so the morning was low key. The girl has three younger brothers, one of then a First Grader too, so later in the morning once Katherine came home from swimming we planned to meet up with the family for a little fun.
It was Jonathon's birthday so the day was about him. He got to play on the Wii first. He invited his friend to go bowling. He was allowed to have mac&cheese and a brownie sundae at Sparky's. He opened plenty of gifts and had chocolate chocolate cake for dinner. (We had lunch late, no one wanted real food for dinner.)
Snow Bowling was packed. I've never seen it like that and hope never to again. I'll stick with school holidays from here on out. All four lanes were full, ours with 6 kids bowling, two other little kids and four adults watching. The lane to the right was overflowing with Korean kids from AISC. At one point I think there were 10 of them. To the left were about 8 Indian kids. And in lane 1 were 4 Americans and an infant, the women in full salwar sets. I could only think... why? For bowling?
So the place was full, hot and for some reason the Korean kids would not keep out of our lane, hanging on the ball return, standing in front of our kids, using the 6 and 8 pounds balls. We yelled at them more than once to stay on their side.
For all the hassle, Snow Bowling is laid back and cheap. Six games for Rs900, no shoe rental because if you think bowling shoes in the States are rank, try them in India. No, they don't let us wear our own shoes, it's barefoot time. With bowling balls. Who knew bowling was a risky sport? Well, we do since way back in Manila Jonathon fractured his thumb once at bowling. Ah, memories. No fractures today, thank goodness, we just had to make our own score sheet. The computers for Lanes 1&2 work, but Lanes 3&4 are on their own. There are plenty of issues with Lane 3 aside from the lack of computer scoring, including the pin lifter machine thingie dropping pins regularly. It made the kids scores much better than normal. I think the lanes are bent too with a definite lean to the left. It's an adventure. I wonder what the offices the floor below think of all the pounding. A bowling alley on the 4th floor, who thought that was a good idea?
Thirsty and worn out from our very long and loud game of 10 pins, we hopped over to Sparky's for lunch. We're not huge fans of going to the restaurant as Ian orders Sparky's food just about every day for lunch and when the kids buy at school it's often Sparky's, but I knew it would totally make Jonathon's day. So we invited the other family out (it's right in their neighborhood) and spent some time in a diner, capped by the crew coming over with a lit brownie sundae and cheering for our guy. It was a great moment.
The afternoon flittered away and the evening was present time. We're a little cruel with our kids, stacking up gifts in the morning and making them wait until after dinner to open. This year he was quite pleased, finally getting to play with the Tamagotchi he picked out this summer, a Transformer from Rebecca that flips to a mini video camera, silly string from his other sister, a Washington DC stuffed animal from his brother, a Spiderman motorcycle from his neighbor friend and a set of titanium junior left-handed golf clubs from mom and dad. No golf balls yet, they're coming, and his gift from grandma and grandpa is on its way too. But it's even better this way, stretching his birthday into the coming week.
This pas Wednesday he was really sick. Friday I noticed he looked tall and lean. I don't know if he grew or if it's a trick with being ill, so it looks like it's time to pull out the tape measure and see if our kid is as big as he looks.
Wish I could stick him in a box and keep him little. Barring that, I'll just remember his happy face on days like today and think that growing up is OK when it's accompanied by such joy.

Friday, August 17, 2007

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Good thoughts

I'm hoping we won't have a repeat of last year's beginning of the school year, but Jonathon is really sick. He's been sick all day with high fevers, bad diarrhea and pain in his stomach. Thank goodness it was a holiday and we could all hang around home, but he and I missed going to see the "Simpsons Movie," and he's going to stay home tomorrow which means missing school and work.

He's miserable, so I really don't mind. Poor little guy.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

News to Me

Amazon has "Subscribe and Save."

It's a program to order items on a 1 month, 2 month, 3 month or 6 month schedule and it applies to daily living sorts of things: bathroom items, baby stuff, snacks and food.

Need your regular fix of Chocolate Vanilla Creme Poptarts but don't want a year supply slowly going stale in your consumables order? Get 12 boxes delivered every 3 months, without thinking about it.

The options are currently limited (one brand of tortilla chips, a handful of cookie options, plenty of Seventh Generation cleaning supplies though), we're debating starting up a regular small order and adding things as the program grows.

The prices are great. And the best part? Free shipping.

Catching Up, oh and Happy 60th Independence Anniversary

We have one kitten in our care. The other one, the cute black and white one, managed to escape through a tiny hole I thought I'd covered completely with a brick. Unfortunately the gap led to a lower roof, and from there a 12 foot drop to the ground. We didn't find the kitten on the overhang so have to assume he jumped. We didn't find him squashed on the ground so have to assume he's either escaped or been eaten. It's frustrating because not only did we have two of the kittens, but two kittens makes company and right now our one kitten is quite understandably miserable, lonely and scared. We catch it regularly in a towel (no one can I say I don't learn my lesson sometimes!) and force it to succumb to petting. Three days and the kitten has completely lost its meowing voice. Poor little thing. I keep trying to ask someone at the Consulate to borrow their cat trap, but a good time never presents itself.

Because you know, I'm a working girl now and the person I need to ask is my boss, a boss above my team boss. I'm pretty low on the totem pole, visa clerks do monotonous grunt work. That's fine with me, I actually enjoyed my first day of fingerprinting. With only 4 hours a day, I carpool in with Ian and our neighbor, complete 3 hours of fingerprinting plus another hour TBD (I haven't learned memos or revocation notices yet), and then I go home. Or like yesterday, I meet up a friend for lunch. Then I go home. And I take a nap, do some housework, figure out dinner for the next day, etc. I'm home when the kids get back from school which is my goal.
When the kids arrive, we unpack lunch boxes, dump the remains from their water bottles, hang up wet swimsuits, do homework, have dinner, make lunches for the next day, fill out any lingering paperwork, put kids to bed, figure out clothes for next day, write list of "Things Not to Forget" and move on.
Today though, today is a break. We're all off for Indian Independence Day. Having combined holidays is a treat, usually either Ian is off or the kids are off. But this morning I'm getting some exercise in and this afternoon we're cramming 11 people in our car (American safety issues? Hah! We're adopting the Indian clown car norm) to see "The Simpson's Movie" at Sathyam. If it had been at Citi Centre we'd drive ourselves, but no one knows how to get to Sathyam. Poor planning on our part, no?
So, it's 9 a.m. and the day is getting going. Nicholas has a bad tummy ache, Jonathon has a bad tummy ache with a fever.
Yup, the school year has started.

Saturday, August 11, 2007

They live!

After tennis, Rebecca saw FMC (Feral Mamam Cat, for those who forgot) wandering around the court. She followed.

And lo... three quite live kittens scampering amidst the drainage ditches. Yay! Kittens - 1, Snake - 0.
We've caught two so far. That was not an easy task in a huge yard. I rather forgot in my excitement to protect myself and grabbed the first kitten bare-handed.
I should have read this first from
"Do not try to capture a feral cat by using your hands. This is a disaster in the making ... If you must handle a feral cat, wear heavy gloves and a long-sleved shirt. Have a carrier ready to put the animal into so that you minimize the stress on both the animal and you. Ferals are more likely to scream and fight than a domestic housecat about going into a pet carrier..."
I've put a call in to the nurse to see if I need any additional rabies vaccinations since I'd had the pre-exposure series last October. I'd also like to know if I should be on any antibiotics for the other random cat spread yuckiness. Still waiting.
The two we caught are on our upstairs enclosed outdoor porch. We'll spend what time we can with them to tame them for another family. We'll still try to catch the other kitten and we dream of catching the mom but we'll need a humane cat trap for that.
This isn't over.
In other news, we found a new church, quite close, an easy drive, one I went to last Fall but ended up at an evening Tamil Mass. A small old Portugese building, complete with simple decoration and a big neon red cross on top.
Too bad they just demolished it to build something newer and presumably bigger. Mass is currenly held in the administrative building. The new building should be done in about, oh, a year.
We're really not having much luck with this.
Also, Katherine got the rest of her school supplies at Landmark. A sketch pad for Art, a couple 2-ring binders, pads of 2-ring paper, and the Indian version of the Trapper Keeper.
And I bought a couple new tops for work. I start Monday.

Thursday, August 9, 2007

Indians Protest Wal-Mart

" "Our culture is not the wasteful consumption that we see in the first world," he said. "This is the country where Gandhi taught people to live on minimum resources. These large retail companies will push us aggressively to consume more and more."

Vandana Shiva, an environmental activist and author, said that traditional small-scale retailing in India was environmentally more efficient than the international operations, which are queuing to enter the market.

"Part of our culture is where we shop - we are holding the protest here to show that this is the India that we value," she said, gesturing towards the labyrinthine network of lanes crowded with hawkers selling slippers, saris, plastic toys and children's clothes, café-owners boiling milky tea or frying potatoes, and men with stalls piled high with fruit.

"Look at the vegetable cart," she added, pointing to a man pulling vegetables behind him on a two-wheel mobile shop unit. "It produces zero emissions, uses no fossil fuels, causes no damage to the environment and brings the produce directly to your doorstep. What could be more efficient than that?" "

What a load of crap. 17 identical little stores selling the same sandals, all in a row, is efficient? Each of them dumping all their waste in the middle of the tiny road, is efficient? And where do you think the vegetable cart gets its vegetables? He doesn't drag that cart all the way from the farm. Smoke-belching, diesel-guzzling tiny trucks deliver them to each litttle delivery stop. Wal-Mart wouldn't put out of business the chai-guys or the vegetable carts, but it would increase quality and purchasing ease while adding economies of scale to a colossal country that has always ignored it and all related efficiencies.
Americans aren't usually in the position of defending Wal-Mart, but geesh.
[Written by Ian]

Tuesday, August 7, 2007

Thanks to Jen D. for the Reusable Bags site, via Spouseview. Plenty of options for reusable grocery bags, lunch bags, totes, and bottles. I was happy to find sports tops for our SIGG bottles.

What really caught my eye was this item, the Basura bag for $24, made in the Philippines from used drink pouches. I have one, bought from the Philippines, though I think I paid about $5 for mine, and it makes a handy swim bag for goggles and soggy towels.

Monday, August 6, 2007

And the angel rejoiced...

Or at least she came home and said "Today was sooooo cool!"

I think Katherine grew two inches on her first day of 6th grade.

Sunday, August 5, 2007

An Assortment of Short Stories

- The last week in Virginia, the kids did afternoon Day Camp. It was a good time for Ian and I to get our consumables done at Trader Joe's, visit Target one last time, and other assorted errands. The kids had fun especially when they ran into Bridgette. Actually, Bridget recognized them first. Katherine was especially thrilled since Bridget is the big sister of Katherine's best friend from our time in Manila. Bridget is spending her summer as a camp counselor between her years at GMU.
- It's no secret about the passport backlog. State Department officers are being "volunteered" left and right out of training and from home leaves, given a week of intensive passport training and are immediately rerouted to Louisiana or New Hampshire to do a month or two drudge work with the backlog. Ian kept his head down when we were in Virginia in July, especially while walking the halls of FSI. We made it back on schedule but the passports have come to the Chennai Consulate anyway. Several folks have been putting in time on the problem. The ACS officer is one of them. On Ian's first day back he went to the office to watch some of the passport work and the very first case caught his attention. "I know that person," he said. In the hundreds, nay, thousands of backlogged passports, what were the odds that the first one he saw (or honestly, any one he saw) would be a familiar face, in fact someone he sang tenor with in my father's church choir in Annandale, Virginia?
- When we returned home, some new neighbors had moved in. The yard had been quiet for 3 weeks, no car driving in and out, the doors locked tight, apparently the gardener didn't do much either. So Feral Mama Cat brought her three little kittens to stay. FMC was quite the hissing machine, but over the past two weeks of regular feeds and a cat carrier home to curl up in with her brood, she chilled quite a bit. The three kittens scampered about with their tails held high and were quite fun to watch. Our plan was to get them used to the box, shut the carrier door on them when they were comfy, set them up on our screened in porch, have them fixed and adopt them out. Two days ago, the kittens were gone. FMC still came by to eat, but we don't see much of her either. We can't figure out where they've gone. But we have an idea.
- Today is church day. Ian drives us, no "staff" is around, it's a nice quiet day. Except when I approached the gate only to see a 5-6' snake leave the tree that's next to the car and slither it's way along the wall. The quiet was broken by screaming, yelling for the guard (who basically ran in and asked what we thought he was going to do about it) and running trying to follow it with continued yelling to get the kids inside the car. The car is parked next to the the kitchen door. The kitchen door area is where the FMC was staying with her kittens.
Three kittens missing and a quite large rat snake (everyone's best guess) is leaving the yard. I keep telling myself it was leaving, it might have just hid in a hole, or a bush or...
Well. You do the figuring. If the kittens don't reappear, that's my story.

Friday, August 3, 2007

And the Answer is...

Visa Window!

And the Question is:
What do four Foreign Service kids play when stuck in a hotel suite while on vacation, even for a few minutes, with a cut out window between the rooms, an appropriately placed desk, lamp and chair, a pad of paper and a pencil?
They set up an interview window, of course. With the finer details of income per week and relatives currently living in America, Katherine issued or denied with abandon, while her sister patiently doled out itineraries and business class tickets to the lucky few (Jonathon in most cases).
Consular officers in the making.

Wednesday, August 1, 2007



I woke up this morning with a headache. It comes from the stupidity of thinking that if I wake in the middle of the night with a headache that I can sleep it off. This never works. I wake up later with a worse headache every single time. I can't figure why it seems like more hassle to use 20 seconds to take something at 3 a.m. than it is to continue to suffer a few hours later. Except perhaps 20 seconds at 3 a.m. feels like an eternity.
The jetlag see-saw continues. I survived all day yesterday after falling asleep somewhere around 5:30 a.m. and getting up at 9:45 a.m. Dance Dance Revolution, sitting by the pool in the rain, and Lego Star Wars got me through the day. Tonight we have a new family arriving so I'm busy with getting their stuff prepared. Mainly just hitting the commissary, we did Amma Naana last night, and checking on the house to make sure there are no holes in the ceiling or rats nesting in cupboards. The basics in India.
School starts on Monday, Katherine is nervous but getting excited. Rebecca doesn't want to go into 4th grade but I think she's secretly excited too. Nicholas is a little hyper about the whole thing. Jonathon is ready but, well, he's Jonathon. There will be a settling in period. Tomorrow is a bus meeting at the Consulate, I'll be at the school but Ian will attend and let me know the schedule. I'm hoping it'll be much like last year, though with Katherine's day 30 minutes longer we'll all be stretching our days out.
I'm off for now. Ian is going to the airport at 11 p.m. so there's a chance (if I'm not hopefully asleep well before then) that I'll put another trip entry up. Maybe.