Friday, February 29, 2008

In another year it would be March Madness

But instead the 29th was just Leap Day madness. No, not true madness. Was just a packed day.

Got to get Katherine up for Madras Kids and Jonathon up for tennis so you just get a quick rundown.

8 a.m. - off to school with Rebecca in the car. She had her Home Country presentation. Along with her posters and pictures and paragraphs, Ian taught the kids the basics of American football and I had the kids practice folding the flag. We brought in jell-o beans, the other parents brough mac&cheese. It all ran an hour and 15 minutes.

nearly 10 - Ian and I had taken the morning off ("day" off for me), so we went to Ascendas to Barista for an iced coffee and time to chat.

12 - at the Consulate for some lunch and to check out Rashika, a material/salwar/sari/kurta shop that's right near our house but was selling items in the CLO's office. I have a top being tailored, for pick-up in 2 (ok, 3) weeks.

1 - Errands with Gwen. (See, the neighbor has a name)

2:30 - home for 90mins of quiet

4 - three kids home, HW done

4:30 - Katherine home, some food eaten, some laundry done

5:30 - Katherine returned to school

6:30 - the rest of the family went to the school for the MS and HS yearly Cabaret.

9:30 - home

Happy Leap Day!

I have nothing to say about Leap Day other than this 366 day year is already going by too quickly.

But I did want to mention the results from the Democrats Abroad Primary. Read on...

An e-mail I got on the 24th:
"February 24, 2008
Dear Democrat in India,
Thank you!
Many thanks to all of you who voted, wherever and however you did it! This is the first time that DA's primary has been truly global, with Voting Centers around the world, and with internet voting that even enabled an American in Antarctica to vote. So you have helped make history - and all Democrats know that we can make even greater history in November, when we will elect an absolutely outstanding Democratic candidate to be President of the United States!
Results of the Global Primary
You joined in with over 23,000 Americans in 100 countries around the world to cast votes by mail, fax, Internet and at walk-in voting centers in 33 cities. The results:
Biden 0.1%
Clinton 32.7%
Edwards 0.7%
Kucinich 0.6%
Obama 65.6%
Richardson 0.1%
Uncommitted 0.2%
How did India vote?
The results of the Global Primary in India are as follows:
Biden 0%
Clinton 27.7%
Edwards 0.6%
Kucinich 0.6%
Obama 71.1%
Richardson 0%
Uncommitted 0%
343 Democrats in India cast ballots: 169 by Internet and 174 at our walk-in voting center in Delhi. Of course, many more will have voted by absentee ballot in their home state, rather than in the global primary, so overall participation by Democrats in India was higher still.
Today's Civics Lesson: How many delegates does each candidate get?
The DA delegation to the Democratic National Convention in August will consist of 22 delegates, each with 1/2 a vote for a total of 11 votes. Now put on your thinking cap and stay focused on the VOTE count, not the number of delegates: The worldwide results of the Global Primary determine the allocation of 4.5 pledged Regional Delegate votes at the Democratic National Convention, so the delegate count comes down to Senator Obama winning 3 delegate votes, and Senator Clinton winning 1.5 delegate votes. A further 2.5 pledged At Large votes will be determined at the Democrats Abroad Global Convention in April. In addition, Democrats Abroad holds 4 superdelegate votes.
Now put on your thinking cap again, and let's switch our analysis to actual people on the DA delegation: The 7 pledged votes described above will be carried to the Denver Convention by 14 people who will make up your Democrats Abroad delegation. These 14 delegates will be elected through three Regional Caucuses, and at the April 11-12 Global Convention of Democrats Abroad in Vancouver.
Based on the Asia Pacific Region's share of the total number of votes cast in the Global Primary (16%), our region will elect one pledged Obama delegate. (The Americas will elect one Obama and one Clinton delegate; and the Europe-Middle East-Africa region will elect 4 Obama and 2 Clinton delegates.) At the Global Convention, 5 more delegates will be elected who are not tied to regions but who will be pledged to vote in proportion to the global vote (3 for Obama and 2 for Clinton). The remaining 8 delegates, who are members of Democrats Abroad who serve on the Democratic National Committee, are some of the famous "superdelegates" we've been hearing so much about: they can decide for themselves who they will cast their vote for.
If you do the math, yes, all this adds up to 22 people for 11 votes: 4.5 for Obama, 2.5 for Clinton, and 4 as yet unpledged. Whew."
More can be read about Democrats Abroad, the voting results in various countries and about the next steps to the White House at

Thursday, February 28, 2008

Riding on Air

Tata India says that within a year it will sell a car that runs entirely on compressed air. It's ugly (so far) and looks designed for hobbits, but can be filled from a compressor in 3 minutes, or plugged in for 4 hours to let an onboard compressor do the job.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Vandalur Zoo

I played hookey from work today to chaperone Jonathon's class of 1st graders to the Vandalur Zoo. The entrance has an almost Jurrasic Park feel to it, and the variety of animals was pretty impressive. The grounds themselves were on the surprising side as well, wide areas to walk, clean*, several open areas for animals with moats rather than fences. The fact that the moats were 1/2 empty and the water was a thick, soupy green, well... this is still India.

I don't want to sound negative about the place. For being Here, the park is quite a feat. Some Asian elephants, a hippo or two, albino peacocks, giraffes, Bengal tigers, Sumatran tigers, leopards, baboons, American alligators, aquarium, snake house, butterfly garden, cranes, pelicans, chimpanzees, jackals, a claimed otter (we didn't see it, the glass was so scratched and dirty and the water was just as murky).... the list goes on. The park is large, with electric "trains" available for hire. It would seem that it's only a 30 minute hire though as we scooted passed the white tiger, giraffe and other animals it would have been nice to spend time with. And a lion safari did indeed bring us into the lion enclosure, but the animals were so worn out. Two lions walked along the road in front of us while the driver yelled and banged his hand on his door. Somehow, I was embarrassed. The lions looked so tired. Our safari lasted no more than 10 minutes, the next group started piling in our vehicle before we're even gotten our crew of 6 and 7 year olds out. Yup, still India.

Morning is the only time to go as it's still cool, and the crowds haven't arrived. But when the crowds do arrive, watch out. We had to count heads over and over again to make sure our 16 charges weren't grabbed and photographed and pinched and smacked. Yup, smacked, one poor little girl had her arm whacked as she was walking by and the old guy just laughed and laughed. The teacher and the chaperones often commented that we were the mobile exhibit. That was exactly right.

I haven't decided yet if I want to bring the family. The zoo is an hour away through steady "city" so it's not exactly a pleasant drive. Oh, who am I kidding. There are no pleasant drives. This is India.

P.S. A few photos can be seen over at the Flickr site. Just click here.

*"Clean" by typical India standards. Litter bins were plentiful and the area was swept clean, but everything was still very run-down and grungy. It took two washings with soap before my hands were clean.

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Weekends used to be for relaxation, right?

It's not like I'm doing things I don't want to do. We had a good weekend, but it was busy with the usual.

Friday night was the chocolate party. It was exactly as it sounds, a table covered with a variety of chocolates meant for tasting and comparing and choosing. Milk chocolates on one side, darks on the other, a table with local bits for the kids (yeah, like you've never kept the good stuff for yourself), and a sideboard with cookies, brownies and cake. An assortment of real foods were prepared as well, considered palate cleansers between chocolate courses. Why is it I can snarf a whole mega KitKat but when faced with a table of delectable choices I couldn't manage more than 3 or 4 tastes? Well, the chunk of chocolate cake probably didn't help. I cast my vote for best chocolately goodness and if you know anything about me you know I picked the darkest option available, a 74% cocoa bit of deliciousness.
There was another item at the chocolate party that was not quite as tasty. One of our Consulate folks made cheese from a cheese-making-kit. The effort was good, the result though... it kind of burned. A theoretical cheddar wheel tasted more of a sour swiss without the goodness of swiss. It was edible mixed in the potato chowder though, I'll give it that.
So Saturday came along and Jonathon and I had tennis lessons. We're both getting better. I was told I need an additional lesson each week and I'm going to take that as a good thing. Muscles are aching these days though, with yoga Mondays and Fridays, Jazzercise Tuesdays and Thursdays and tennis on Saturdays there are some mornings I just creak out of bed. The girls were off to Madras Kids so I had time to pull together a discussion for our monthly USA Day, this month's topic of Black History Month. I was going to talk about Brown v. Board of Education and segregation in general, so a timeline/photos/discussion questions later we were ready. The girls got home from learning Wizard of Oz songs and we hopped right back in the car for USA Day. The kids heard about Rosa Parks, Jim Crow laws, segregation (duh), and MLK Jr.
The kids needed some down time, so we took them to the pool for a bit, did the pizza & movie thing, and hit the sack.
This morning, Rebecca and Ian had their tennis lessons. We've agreed to move Rebecca to Wednesday afternoon because she's really cranky not having a single day all week to sleep in. I don't blame her. Even though I'm up by 7:30 on the weekends anyway, it's nice to at least have an option to sleep in sometimes. Church followed, we were late, but all that meant was we didn't have to suffer through the opening song. Yeowch, awful music today. Again. Then catechism. The 10 Commandments continue, we started the story of Exodus and started our own 10 Commandment booklets. In the afternoon I watched "Prince of Egypt" with the boys, really like the music in that movie, and finished Jonathon's giant granny square blanket. On to Nicholas's blanket. I started reading Fight Club. I also managed to toss out my dried-up roses, swept the upstairs porch in anticipation of a new kitty in the house, clean the Senseo coffee pot, put away said coffee pot along with ice cream maker, kill a bazillion ants living in the bottom of Rebecca's lunchbox, reorganize the glasses/mugs cabinet and clear the top of the microwave, went through all of Rebecca's t-shirts to dispose of a bunch. Made lunches for the kids for tomorrow, made dinner for tonight, planned tomorrow's dinner and dessert menu (oh yeah, still need the rest of the week, hmmm)... and I brought up the shirts to iron. No, silly, I haven't actually ironed any yet. There's always tomorrow.

Friday, February 22, 2008

Bug bite

Bug bites are nothing new. Mostly they're a nuisance with itching and potentially hives, though sometimes if the wrong bug gets you you'll end up with Dengue or one of its disease relatives. That's all just living in India. What I don't like are the spider bites and we've got plenty of spiders. I don't mind them as they eat the other annoying insects (and then the geckos eat them) but there are the occasions where they get into beds and take a chomp while we're sleeping. I'm pretty sure that's what got me on my ear. No, scratch that, in my ear. It's not a scratch or a sore, I know this because the pain has not remained localized. What started as just a sore spot has now radiated down to my jaw and up to my temple.

Stupid spider. It would seem we need more geckos.


It's been a semi-busy week. Not much really going on, just with Ian gone to Bangalore the past few days I caught up on some things that had been lingering. No, not the ironing. That's just silly.

But all the lights that were burnt out in the house have been fixed. The wiring issues in the dining room have been tended too and currently there's someone in Katherine's closet figuring out what the deal with her light, or lack of light, is. The curtain that's been in a lump on the floor since we returned a month ago (the cats got their claws into it and yanked it down) has been rehung. The toy room has been cleaned out. I've even jimmied a scrapping corner. Monday the air conditioner in there should be fixed and then the room is usable. I'm working steadily through the pantry. I put together the 10 Commandment booklets we'll be using for catechism over the next few weeks. I've put together the information for discussing segregation and Brown vs. Board of Education for tomorrow's USA Day. Still need to make the timeline for that but it's not like there's too many photos to go with a court case. Segregation though shouldn't be too difficult. The crux of my section will be about the meanings of EQUAL and SAME. It should lead to some interesting discussion. Jonathon's blanket is almost done, then it's on to finishing Nicholas's.

Tonight we're off to a Chocolate Party. Don't know what that's all about, but we're going. And leaving the kids at home.

Oops, I forgot to order more cooking gas. And yes, I still know I need to do the ironing. There's always tomorrow.

Saturday, February 16, 2008

E-mail is on Fire

The e-mail at work has been like lightning, shooting back and forth with links to articles about the State Department. Little of it good of course.

I'm sure that everyone (well, those interested in such things) heard about the internal memo from Manuel Miranda blasting our presence in Baghdad as he says in his assessment that "the State Department and the Foreign Service is not competent to do the job that they have undertaken in Iraq." This guy is a former top Republican congressional aide, and a lawyer who spent a year in Baghdad as Senior Advisor for Legislative Framework in the Iraq Reconstruction Management Office and the Embassy's Rule of Law Committee, and as Director of the Office for Legislative Statecraft in the Political Section. And honestly, I don't disagree entirely with his 9+ page .pdf memo. As Ian said, the Foreign Service was not designed to go out and build democratic governments. We're not lego masters. So putting us in a war zone and saying "Fix It!" probably wasn't the best use of our resources, and once we were in we didn't know exactly what the next step was. It's been a learning process from day one because honestly, it's NOT our job. Of course we take issue with being called incompetent and the number of other unfriendly comments made about our Service by Mr. Miranda, but the overall gist is pretty accurate. All those slots that were so hard to fill last year at Mission Baghdad may not have been so much a sign of fear of death and dying, but instead a fear of failure for a job no one seems to now how to complete.
Of course fear of death and dying is not to be taken lightly. Another note circulated the Consulate this week, from an anonymous evacuee out of N'Djamena, Chad. It read:
"Dear friends
I am sending you this email to let you know that I am fine. We were evacuated on Sunday afternoon and taken to the French military base. Early this morning at 3:00 AM US military base in Germany sent a military plane to come to bring us to Yaounde. We evacuated dependents and children on Friday before the start of the war. They left at 4:00 in the morning and the war started around 9:00. The DOD dispatched 10 navy Seals from Baghdad who arrived just on time. We were all divided into 2 groups. One group with the Ambassador was at the embassy, and the other group was on the US housing compound. We were all put in one room, and the 11 of us were right on the floor. We could hear the fight. One tank stopped right under our wall, and each time it fired, the room vibrated. We could hear bullets flying as well as the rocket propelled grenades. The Seals were on the top of the biggest building on the compound, and they had authorization to open fire if anyone came onto the compound. The fight lasted until 5 PM when everything got quite for the evening prayer. Then it started again till 9:00PM. On Saturday, It started over again. When they moved toward the President Palace, the looting started. We were hearing from the local guards who stayed at our separated residence how one after the other they had to abandon each post because the house was invaded by looters.
After several hours, I heard what I was fearing the most. My guard called to report that " This is the guard over at your residence. They broke through the gate, and they broke the front door." He said that he is going to wait to see if they will leave something that he could bring back to the compound. After 40 minutes, he came back on the radio to announce" Sir, if you are hearing this, I am sorry. They took absolutely everything". After that I told him to come join us on the compound.
Yes, I lost absolutely everything. Everything. And I am not the only one. We all lost everything except our life. God was looking over us. Two houses on the compound got hit by strayed cannon fire. We were hearing those fire all day on Saturday and part of Sunday. When the rebels stopped the fight on Sunday to regroup, that's when the French troops came to the compound in armored trucks that looked like tanks and took us to their military base. The French sent a helicopter to the embassy to airlift our Ambassador, the marines and other who were at the embassy.
I went to Chad with over 2000 Lbs of goods, I left with one bag which contained one pants, 2 sock and 2 shirts. They even took all my figurines and all our Christmas decorations which we have been collecting for many years and were planning to pass them to the children.
Do I regret having gone to Chad? No, not at all. We were doing a very good job and were helping Chadian Children. We were constantly in schools talking to them and helping them whichever way we could. I really loved this job. There was nothing more gratifying to see than a mother cry because we donated school supplies to her child or a Catholic sister cry because we gave her a grant to help her help Chadian abused women. I loved it and will go back if I have the chance. The only thing I will do differently is that I will not spend the fortune I spent to prepare for my life in Chad.
Again we are all fine, and I thank you all for all your prayers. Thanks to those prayers, even though a missile went straight through the Ambassador's office while a group of them were in the office burning classified documents; the missile just went through and just pierced both walls and exploded outside. I cannot explain how that happened, but that was what happened.
Thank you and I love you all"
Evacuations from danger zones are nothing new to Foreign Service personnel. It's estimated that every officer will be evacuated at least once in their career.
Of course some folks still think we all live in the ignorant, high-society Foreign Service of ages ago. The one with the pinky raised afternoon tea parties with slave servants scuttling about. An article from The Weekly Standard by Michael Rubin about "Living in a Dream World" portrays us blinded to the harsh realities of the countries we live in. He cites example after example of our Dream World and how we gloss over the bad parts to delude ourselves into feeling good. Like this snippet:
"Take Mongolia: "Until 2002, embassy staffers lived mainly in a Communist-era apartment block near the chancery affectionately known as 'Faulty Towers.' Today, almost all staff members live in Czech-designed townhouses or apartments in a modern, gated housing compound 15 minutes from the embassy," the political and public affairs officer wrote in a June 2007 feature. Diplomats there, we learn, can even enjoy pizza delivery."
Pizza delivery. Life can't be difficult if there's pizza delivery. Everyone knows that.
Or this bit:
"Certain diplomats evince a strange nostalgia: "Armenia was once considered the Silicon Valley of the Soviet Union, providing advanced avionics for Soviet aircraft and supercomputers," the public affairs officer in Yerevan explained in February 2005. Ah yes, things were great for the Armenians under Soviet rule. Housing for diplomats under communism? Less great."
A touch of sarcasm?
Anyway. The big problem with the article is the source material. The writer takes all his bits from a magazine called "State Magazine." "State Magazine" is, get this, an internal morale magazine for State Department employees. We know what our host countries are like, especially the bad parts. The bad parts get put on CNN. The bad parts get circulated in cables when governments collapse, disease spreads and Officers are evacuated. We actually do get it. "State Magazine" isn't written to go over all that again, it's written by those of us who've lived there and can give a bright spot of two for future bidders. We're not blind, we're dedicated. And even we know that pizza delivery does not a utopia make.
Now, I've already mentioned that there's a proposal to increase the number of Foreign Service hires to help the rest of us out. That's a good thing. I'm liking Rice's thoughts on it too. Like Mr. Miranda said, we're not fully equipped to deal with the changing demands put on us. Rice has come up with a few innovative ideas, written up in TIME article called "Is US Diplomacy Being Shortchanged?" My favorite being this one: "Rice is proposing the creation of a Civilian Response Corps. Similar to the military reserves, the new program would comprise doctors, lawyers, engineers, agricultural experts, police officers and public administrators, led by a team of diplomats, that could deploy with a military unit with 48 hours notice." Now that would be interesting.
So, like I said, a lot flying back and forth and little of it supportive. But we do what we do, and we learn as we go. It's not enough for a lot of people, but it'll have to do.

Friday, February 15, 2008

No Pictures for This One

This evening Ian and I went to Landmark Bookstore. Paul Theroux was in town, in country actually, as a guest of the American Embassy and he was giving talks and seminars about his travels becoming a writer. His thoughts were rambling, I assume a function of being a traveler and writer for 40 years and having way too many bits of information in his head, or perhaps that's a result of such an open-ended topic... his road to becoming a writer. Was it the fact that books have always been part of his life and a love of reading leads to a vivid imagination and a knack for storytelling? Was it more to do with his leaving home, joining the Peace Corps, getting kicked out of the Peace Corps for getting involved with a plot to overthrow the Malawian president, then staying in Africa to teach in Kenya and more adventures beyond that? Or perhaps it was a result of luck finding a mentor, a publisher, a supporter who encouraged him and pushed him on?

Well, obviously, all three. It was interesting to hear him talk and drop names of a number of famous authors, some friends, some not. It was also nice to hear him talk about his family (Louis Theroux, "Weird Weekends," Call of the Weird, and Marcel Theroux, A Stranger in the Earth). But mostly it was fun to hear the tales of his travels and his encouragement to get out of the house and go see something. The world outside our norm. The architecture of humanity.

We have a few of Paul Theroux's books, most notably Dark Star Safari about his trip from Egypt overland to South Africa. Ian says we have Elephanta Suite set right here in India. I really need to check on the bookshelves because I don't recall. And of course I left both of those at home, so I just had to buy The Kingdom by the Sea so I'd have something for him to autograph. Me and my fangirldom. At least I didn't giggle. At least, I don't think I did.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Cholesterol FYI

Yes, I have cholesterol on the brain, both literally and figuratively. So this article from was timely.

Critical Things to Know about Your Cholesterol

This portion was especially interesting:
4. You may need an "inflammation" test.

"The math used to estimate your heart disease risk is a little misleading. If your LDL rises above the danger line of 160 or your HDL drops below 50, the math says you have an elevated risk of a heart attack within 10 years. But that warning may actually underestimate your risks beyond 10 years, Morris says. So when she has a female patient with cholesterol numbers in the intermediate range -- LDL above 130 or HDL under 60 -- she often takes a close look at the woman's whole-body inflammation level.

You can't see this kind of inflammation, but it's actually an independent measure of heart attack risk. You measure it by adding a test for high-sensitivity C-reactive protein (hs-CRP) to the usual cholesterol blood work. CRP, essentially a body chemical, usually rises anytime your body becomes inflamed. And since artery clogging is associated with inflammation, high CRP is viewed as a marker for clogged arteries. That means your C-reactive protein levels may help you and your doctor decide how aggressively you need to control borderline-high-cholesterol levels with drugs, diet, and exercise."

I had the high-sensitive C-reactive protein test and it came back normal. But I thought the explanation was helpful.

60 Things About Me?

Heck, I haven't done one of these things in a while.

60 Things You Possibly Didn't Know About Me
1. What is in the back seat of your car right now?
Not much. We keep our car pretty clean and don't actually drive anywhere, so all that's in the 3rd row are 2 booster seats. Oh, and in the middle row is a mosquito bat, Odomos (insect repellent), Purell and a hairbrush. It would seem there's a theme to our stuff.
2. When was the last time you threw up?
I can't recall if it was here or in Togo. I recall it in Togo clearly. I was so so sick.
3. What's your favorite curse word?
I think it's funny when the kids say "Tartar Sauce!" 10 points to anyone (non-parent) who knows where that comes from.
4. Name 3 people who made you smile today?
Jonathon, Ian, Ms. Whitson (1st grade teacher)
5. What were you doing at 8 am this morning?
Watching the Potomac Primary returns.
6. What were you doing 30 minutes ago?
Putting dinner together to get it in the oven.
7. What will you be doing 3 hours from now?
It's 6:21 now, so at 9:21 I will hopefully be going to bed.
8. Have you ever been to a strip club?
Yup. My parents probably didn't want to know that.
9. What is the last thing you said aloud?
"No, we don't have a big screen TV"
10. What is the best ice cream flavor?
There's a bad flavor? I don't care for cherry too much. Favorite though is chocolate mint.
11. What was the last thing you had to drink?
Water. I'm parched.
12. What are you wearing right now?
Jeans, top, socks. I dressed down to help 1st graders make Valentine's this afternoon.
13. What was the last thing you ate?
jell-o. I'm working our way through our consumables because honestly, the shelf life on this stuff isn't nearly as long as I pretend it is.
14. Have you bought any new clothing items this week?
Nope. We're on a no-buy stint right now. Except for the Netgrocer order going in tomorrow.
15. When was the last time you ran?
The other day, someone forgot something when they were getting on the bus. I actually ran to get it.
16. What's the last sporting event you watched?
18. Who is the last person you emailed?
My mom. I was telling her why Ian is wearing a sarong in one of our travel photos.
19. Ever go camping?
Yes. I hope not to again, unless the kids beg me.
20. Do you have a tan?
No. I avoid the sun at all cost. Skin cancer does that to people.
24. Do you drink your soda from a straw?
25. What did your last IM say?
To me or from me?
26. Are you someone's best friend?
No. I haven't had a best friend since middle school. All the good people already have best friends. Do I sound bitter?
27. What are you doing tomorrow?
Let's see, it's Thursday. I'll go to work, then do 30 min Jazzercise, 30 min yoga, then go to school to pick up the kids.
28. Where is your mom right now?
It's 8 a.m. in VA, so she's pulling into work.
29. Look to your left, what do you see?
Kids watching "Pocahontas"
30. What color is your watch?
31. What do you think of when you think of Australia?
"I want to go!"
32. Would you consider plastic surgery?
Already had it, but for a scar. Actual, voluntary plastic surgery? No.
33. What is your birthstone?
34. Do you go in at a fast food place or just hit thedrive thru?
There are no drive-thrus in Chennai. Um, there aren't many fast food places either.
35.How many kids do you want?
36. Do you have a dog?
Did in Togo, not anymore.
37. Last person you talked to on the phone?
38. Have you met anyone famous?
39. Any plans today?
It's now 8:14 p.m. I got sidetracked with dinner/kids/family. Just sleep is left.
40. How many states have you lived in?
Four. VA, MD, FL, GA. I've spent months at a time in WI, does that count?
41. Ever go to college?
42. Where are you right now?
Chennai, India
43. Biggest annoyance in your life right now?
You don't want to know
44. Last song listened to?
BNL... "If I Had a Million Dollars"
46. Are you allergic to anything?
Who knows. I'm using an inhaler this month to help me breathe so maybe something is developing.
47. Favorite pair of shoes you wear all the time?
48. Are you jealous of anyone?
Oh yeah.
50. Is anyone jealous of you?
Uh, no. And if they are, they shouldn't be. I'm pretty much clueless.
51. What time is it?
52. Do any of your friends have children?
53. Do you eat healthy?
Sure, and I'm trying to do better now.
54. What do you usually do during the day?
What any p/t working mom of four does.
55. Do you hate anyone right now?
Not that I know of. People disappoint me, there are folks I don't care for, but "hate" is such a strong word.
56. Do you use the word 'hello' daily?
Not really. I say Hi to a persons I see, I answer the phone usually knowing who it is.
58. How old will you be turning on your next birthday?
34. Ouch.
59. Have you ever been to Six Flags?
I went to Kings Dominion before it turned into Six Flags Kings Dominion. Does that count?
60. How did you get one of your scars?
I skidded into a base during baseball and got a rock lodged under the skin in one knee. The rock came out, the scar is still there.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Just an FYI

Photos from our trip are just about ready for viewing on Flickr. Will let you know.

I Want


I want one of these. It's shiny.

I don't need one of these. But I still want one.

The Winner of Food&Wine Magazine's Best Food Processors:
Oster 10-Cup 3200 ($90)
An amazing value, it pureed remarkably smoothly and shredded herbs without bruising them. One of the smallest models we tried out. The food bowl is the easiest of those tested to remove from the base

Monday, February 11, 2008

Fun-filled weekend

This weekend was the 2nd annual AISC Charity Fair combined with the "winter" Welcome Back Picnic. It seemed to be better attended than last year and a lot more organized. I imagine each year will get better.

Saturday evening, our neighbors celebrated Chinese New Year with an 11-course Chinese meal cooked entirely by the hostess. As you can imagine, we didn't see much of her as she whizzed in and out of the kitchen. The table was full with a dozen invited guests and much talk and laughter ensued. It was a good group of people and the food wasn't too shabby either. The shrimp toast rocked, the fish was amazing, the prawns cooked to perfection, the beef and chicken were delicious... yeah, the menu didn't skimp on anything. Which reminds me, a thank you note is in order.

Sunday we didn't make it to church. Some of the brilliant people of Chennai decided a marathon should run on Sunday morning down Cathedral Road, you know, right in front of the biggest Catholic church in the city. It's the same people who plan tourist bus stops at 10 a.m. on Sunday morning at the Basilica and let black-socked-open-toe-sandaled people wander through the building snapping photos during Mass. But we did get our dose of church at our first "official" Catechism class where Rebecca and Nicholas learned with our host's son and I took her daugher with Katherine and Jonathon to play a Catechism board game. We had a good time and now I know what to focus on with the kids. Jonathon is going to do a weekly bit on the 10 Commandments and the girls will get involved with the Rosary. Wish me luck, this is hard.

Now this week the kids have IOWA testing all week. Whee.

Friday, February 8, 2008

So, I think I've mentioned the cough I have...

I went to the doctor today. Had my blood taken yesterday (by a home visit tech!) and results were in today, saw the RMO (Regional Medical Doctor) who chastised me for not seeing a Dermatologist over the holiday then asked what my father's HDL cholesterol count was, before giving me a prescription for an inhaler.

It's Medical Clearance time for the whole family anyway, so doing the blood work now which the RMO requested back in November fit right into getting my clearance updated. Usually clearances are done at the end of every tour or typically every 2-3 years. Since we were in Togo for a year then came directly to India for 3 years, we get to do our clearances mid-cycle.
So the blood work came back, everything was pretty normal. I was especially curious about my thyroid since thyroid issues (both hypo- and hyper-) run in my family, but it too was normal. There were only a couple things exceding the norm. One was some test to check the inflammation risk of my arteries, somehow correlating to a higher risk of plaque deposits and future heart issues. The normal cut-off is less than or equal to 1.0. I "scored" a narrow 1.06, and the doc wasn't concerned about it. She's not concerned, I'm not concerned.
The only other thing high on my list was my cholesterol. It was 215 to be exact. I've had high cholesterol for years and years, this was no surprise. But get this, my HDL (the good stuff) was 80, where 60 and up is good. This is where she asked what my dad's HDL count was, because I already know my mom's got a hefty HDL count. Unfortunately my LDL was also high at something like 127, with medical preference being under 100. Her recommendation was 1000mg Omega-3 suppliments. That's easy enough to do.
So the RMO scanned my med clearance form and asked why I'd marked "chest pains/chest pressure." Well ok, the form asks for anything from the past 10 years. About 50 different things were listed. I got to mark off Tropical Disease for Jonathon (Dengue in 2006), a +TB skin test for Katherine (2004), intestinal/stomach disorders for all of us (noted Amoebiasis for Rebecca, also in 2004), eye trouble, ENT trouble (who doesn't sometime in 10 years??), etc etc etc. So yes, I checked chest pain because in the past 10 years there has been some. A couple times a year I pull a muscle somehow and feel like a rib is poking a lung. People look at me strange when I say that, and I realize that's not actually what it is, but that's how it feels. I don't have better words for it. But this time I added to my report this cough that took over on the flight from Chicago to Beijing and hasn't quit since. It's not a steady cough but one that builds up pressure and bursts into a coughing fit. When it gets really bad, it feels like someone is standing on my chest until the fit subsides. And it's not productive, just a dry hacking cough with no other symptoms. The doc listened and said there wasn't any wheezing but she was thinking an inflammation of some sort anyway. So, lucky me, I get to try an inhaler 2x a day for the next month.
So that's my update. How's your day?

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

UAB arrived

Our 5 boxes came yesterday. Five big heavy boxes filled with cat litter and laundry detergent, among other things. And once again I'm reminded how miserable packers in the U.S. are. We only have items break when they've been packed up in America. I mean really, who would pack anything between 35 pound canisters of cat litter? And if you have several items that are square or rectangular, say... boxed items... why would you first put something roundish or lumpy on the bottom of the container so that when the boxed items go in they are all skewed? And why leave clothing in a box (that they were put into to hold them until the packers came) instead of using them as packing material?

Oh, I know it's our fault. We do this every time and assume they know what they're doing and don't step in when something doesn't seem right. No one likes to tell someone else how to do their job (well, not no one, but I sure don't... unless it's one of my kids and these shipping guys did not look anything like one of my kids) and I didn't say a word.

I told Ian in my next life I'm coming back as a packer. A packer that can figure out how to fit things together like a puzzle, not like those cartoons where if a piece doesn't fit they use a hammer to smash it in. Ugh. Mom, that nifty grater you'd been holding on for me... it didn't survive. It was one of the things between the cat litter.

Someone is almost not a Kid anymore.

I'm not talking about me, silly. I'll always feel a little clueless about how an adult should manage day to day life, but for now I'm talking about Katherine. She's 12 today. She has completed 12 years and is heading into her 13th. It sometimes doesn't seem to fit that I'm mom of a 12 years old, but there you have it. She's 12. She didn't come into this world under the best of circumstances, and she's been a challenge ever since, more our fault than her own to be sure, but she's a good kid. And (most days) I'm happy to have her.

Love ya, kiddo.

Couple quick political notes

The article in the Washington Post about State hiring almost 1100 new Foreign Service peoples, one of the first steps towards doubling the size of the Foreign Service over the next decade. That would be great. I wonder if it's true?

And guess what?! We're voting in the first Democrats Abroad Global Primary! Did you know that this year, all us Dem folks living overseas have the ability to place 22+ delegates in Colorado? There's even a New Delhi walk-in voting center for those who missed the 31 Jan cut-off to enroll on-line, and voting centers in 30 other countries too. If you missed the cut-off, register with Democrats Abroad and check to see if you're in one of the countries that has a walk-in center... it might be right near by:

Canada, Colombia, Costa Rica, Dominican Republic, Guatemala, Mexico, Panama

Australia, Cambodia, Hong Kong, India (New Delhi), Indonesia, Japan, Philippines, Thailand

Austria, Belgium, France, Germany, Greece, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Luxembourg, Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, Russia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Turkey, Ukraine, United Kingdom

Monday, February 4, 2008

Spare some good thoughts

We know the RSO (Regional Security Officer for the Embassy) in Chad. I certainly hope his family is already out of country, but being the RSO he'll be one of the last on the ground waiting for all the other Americans to reach safety first. We hope he's fine (no contact, obviously) and that he gets out safely.

Sunday, February 3, 2008

The week finally ended

It was a good week, all in all. We made it through work and school and have enjoyed our weekend.

Katherine got her report card. She was disappointed in herself, as well she should be. All As and Bs still, but of all her grades, one went up (Art), two remained the same and the rest... dropped. I have a feeling she'll take this quarter a little more seriously. No more class clown. It may take a couple weeks to realign herself with her job as a student, but I believe she can do it.
I can't get Flickr up and running, so no photos for general perusal yet. Sorry about that. Some of them turned out pretty good though.
I filled out the school survey form, turned in the Madras Kids forms, handwashed the India Week clothes, unpacked and put away all the clothes that were lingering in an open suitcase. Still an assortment of things to fill in and catch up on, but I'm getting there.
Rebecca had her first couple lessons of afterschool tennis. She doesn't like it as much as her private lessons because it's a group lesson and the other kids don't actually play, but instead play around. I'll sit in on her lesson on Tuesday and hopefully move things along, at least with the instructor. I don't care if the other kids play, in fact it's better if they don't because then Rebecca gets undivided attention and actual practice time. Selfish? Yes, but I'm paying for this class.
Jonathon started tennis with Coach Siva at our court. He had a good first lesson. I nearly croaked with my lesson today, but it feels good to play again.
Still figuring out piano lessons, there's a new teacher in town but Rebecca is being a pill and doesn't want to try her out. I need to get it straightened out soon so that all 4 kids can start in again.
And I'm still trying to coordinate First Communion lessons for the middle 2 kids. That needs to start this week as well.
OK, that's it for now. I feel like I have 10 things I should be doing, but can't figure out what to do first. Maybe I'll just go for a nap.