Monday, December 11, 2006

Oklahoma Air National Guard

George is from New Jersey. I referred to him once before in this journal … the *Karaoke Hell Yeah* post. Nothing remarkable about George, other than him being a thoroughly nice guy who has made settling into life here easier than it may otherwise have been; except to mention that he is a Karaoke KJ.

Of late, George (The Jersey Devil) and I (Steve the Limey) have been running private parties together. Last night we entertained the Oklahoma Air National Guard at their Christmas Party. The party was held in the Mess Hall on the airbase, just north of here.

These guys … and girls, work hard, and party hard. From the Colonel in the afro wig and flares, to Tammy, the sergeant who organized the bash, all had a great time. And well they should. These young people, some barely out of High School have served tours of duty in Iraq recently, and many are soon to return there.

Quite regardless of the rights and wrongs of the situation in the Middle East, the young airmen and women cheerfully pack up and fly 8000 miles to endure who knows what. Most return home intact. Some don’t. None of them knows when they leave what the future holds, and for a few it will be dire. I guess all of them miss their Moms.

Whatever, they go, they do our dirty work, and they come home again and party … at least on the outside.

I found myself looking around at all the very young, smiling faces, and wondered how many wouldn’t be alive to sing at next year’s party. I hope they all will, but hope doesn’t provide body armour. Hope doesn’t stop the shooting. Hope will not bring these people back to their families. But hope is all I have.

Hope that sense returns.
Hope that sanity prevails.
Hope that the bullets miss … on both sides.
Hope that those who send these troops to fight are wise, and caring.
Very little hope on that last point.

As I looked around the hall, and felt close to the soldiers who just do their jobs as best they can, I didn’t feel any less British; but I did feel just a little more American.

Come back safe, and see you guys next year.

Friday, November 24, 2006

Black Friday revisited

It’s that time of year again ….

Once more, I ventured out into the event known as Black Friday.

Today, I can officially announce the adoption of a new time-zone, WST. This is Walmart Standard Time, and it is precisely two minutes in advance of Central Standard Time.

Happy shopping !

Thursday, November 23, 2006

Email to

Dear Sirs,

Your X-Box promotion was little short of appalling.

No one minds not being one of the 1000 lucky customers. We didn't even expect to win one.

What is unforgivable is your technical inability to even serve the appropriate pages. You should have anticipated the demand, and provided the bandwidth to accommodate the requests.

We are not only unimpressed by this outrageous failure to meet a demand you created, but are reluctant to spend any more of our very hard-earned dollars for any items offered by you.

I am dismayed that it has come to this, after years of happy trading, but we will not be treated in this manner.


Steve Bracken

Monday, November 06, 2006

The Spirit of our Marriage

The Spirit of our Marriage,
Lies not in the Horse and Carriage,
The top-hat and the veil,
Are not the symbols that prevail,
The vows of faith and eternity,
Are not the things that make it work for me,
Children, home and pets,
Make not the bedrock where it sets.
If I plight my troth to thee,
That's the way I choose to be,
The day we wed I had my say,
It was forever, and a day,
The symbols we rely on,
Even the bed we daily lie on,
Make mischief if we feel,
They represent what's true and real,
When we grow old, and days are short,
The vows we took will count for naught,
What matters most is what's inside,
The private parts we seek to hide,
Therein the Spirit of our Marriage lies,
Within our hearts, where it defies
Attempts, thoughts and actions that misconstrue,
It lies in me, and it lies in you.

Steve, 2006

Saturday, September 16, 2006

Boogers and Vomit

We get to spend quite a bit of time in the car. We go to Okmulgee a lot. Less now that Jodie works in Broken Arrow, but all the family are down there, and we visit.

To get to Okmulgee is about a 50 minute car ride. Now car rides are generally ok, air-conditioning, decent stereo and cruise control takes care of that. The highway requires little in the way of steering input, and it’s an altogether easy enough experience.

The one significant fly in and otherwise unsullied ointment, is that we generally have three small children occupying the rear seat, much in the manner that you might expect three large and untrained tigers to manage.

They are, in descending order, Mackenzie (7), Michael (5) and Natalie (3). Natalie appears to have crammed about 30 years worth of learning how to be cute and disgusting at the same time, into 3 years.

So, parents out there, and children old enough to read will understand that car rides are a cross between episodes of frightening rage and threats of child abuse, and periods of serenity. The former when they are awake, and the latter when they are asleep.

Just every now and again you have a journey that is FUN. We had one yesterday.

We had spent about 30 minutes taming the tigers with the aforementioned threats of torture (or *questioning*, if your are reading this and happen to be the US President), when Mackenzie suddenly made *vomiting* noises, and announced that Natalie was eating boogers (bogies, to the English).

This was an interesting turn of events, thought Steve. Gotta be some comic value here. Well …. Nat eating boogers was funny enough, but Mackenzie being disgusted was even better.

“Are they crusty and small, or green and slimy”, I asked, innocently.
“Ugh! I’m going to vomit”, said Mackenzie, following this with “and she still has them, under her tongue!”.

“How many do you have Nat?”, I inquired. The answer came back with a lifting of the offending tongue to show everybody “TWO”.

“I’m feeling really, really sick now”, complained child number one.

“Yeah Steve, and if she is then YOU are cleaning the car!” was the comment Jodie felt obliged, rather unnecessarily, I thought, to make.

“Ten green boogers, hanging on the wall,
Ten green boogers, hanging on the wall,
And if one green booger, should accidentally be eaten,
There’d be nine green boogers, hanging on the wall”.

“Good song Steve”, yelled Michael, who is a boy, so *booger* songs by adults rate pretty highly with him.

“Mom, make him stop. I’m really gonna vomit!”, squeaked the seven year old.

“Ten cups of vomit, standing on the wall” ……………….

Well you know the rest (

Fifteen minutes of rolling around laughing, while trying to drive and avoid the usual crowd of cell phone using, mascara applying and donut eating drivers so often bent on running you off the road, made the journey FUN !!!

No, she never did vomit …….. phew.

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

So, you think you have nothing to hide?

This is going to ramble a bit. It’s also to be published in a few places, and hopefully the ensuing discussion will help me understand the issues raised that strike a chord with folk, and those that don’t.

I just don’t understand many Americans. On the one hand, they claim to be a society of cherished freedoms. Yet, at the same time, appear willing to sacrifice those freedoms at the drop of a hat, anytime someone with even the teensiest amount of positional authority tells them it is necessary.

Some Americans hold the ACLU, for example, in utter disdain yet, in the next breath will describe how they cherish the Constitution and *people fought and died to bring us freedoms, doncha know?*. The irony of this position is lost, and it baffles me.

Currently, the 4th Amendment is under attack. The 4th, for those that don’t know works like this:

The American people effectively have a privacy bill. The Brits don’t, and many want one. It says, paraphrased, that a person shall be free from intrusion into their private affairs, unless a Government agency can show *probable cause*, and that any other searches are *unreasonable* and, therefore, unconstitutional.

Now to most Americans the Constitution is absolute (this can vary a bit depending on Supreme Court decisions), and it the very bedrock upon which this nation is built. Part of my problem is simply that it is a unique document, and I have only 2 year’s experience of it. But absolute it is and, with respect to the 4th, you can’t argue that the Founding Fathers didn’t know what they were doing when they included it, without accepting that if that is the case, they may not have known what they were doing when they wrote the rest of it.

So the 4th can only be interpreted by the Supreme Court, it is, after all, their reason for being.

Why then, are so many prepared to accept so many commonplace *unlawful searches*, that many aren’t even a cause for comment. A particularly good example of this would be Field Sobriety Tests. They are, by any estimation intrusive, and entirely subjective. The only purpose of a FST is to provide a Police Officer with evidence to convict you, and, as such, also breaches the 5th Amendment. You know, the one that gives you an absolute right not to provide evidence that will incriminate you. If the Police wish to determine your blood alcohol levels, then there are entirely OBJECTIVE ways to do this, none of which involves the performing of humiliating circus stunts at the side of the road ….. yet, everyday, thousands of Americans think they have to comply with this ridiculous request, for no better reason, it appears, than they were told they had to! Beside which I never could rub my tummy and pat my head at the same time as walking in a straight line all the while balancing a small child on my nose …. I don’t think that last bit is part of the test but hey! Why not?
I hear the justification for this acceptance of authoritarianism time and again …..

If you have nothing to hide, you have nothing to worry about !!!!

This argument is about as fatally flawed as you can get, on oh so many levels.

The authors of the Constitution knew a thing or two. They knew, for example, that although a system of government is *pure*, the people who run it are not. They knew that they had to provide a guaranteed set of checks on government so one thing they did was to include the 1st Amendment. This enshrines the freedom of the press; surely a group who could be relied upon to expose duplicity and guard the freedoms of the nation ….. Hmmmm …. Well I suspect the intention was good, but in any event, the point remains.

Systems are honest, systems have no ulterior motives, no hidden agendas. The people running them, however, have both, and often are shown to be dishonest too. There is a great deal of power in information … any information no matter how trivial or *non-incriminating* you might think it is. For example. Suppose your grocery bills were generally available for scrutiny. Let’s futher suppose that you went to Walmart and bought nicotine patches, and speculate that Walmart sold that information to the Insurance companies. It’s gonna be tough to prove you weren’t smoking (in contravention to the clauses in your life insurance policy), when you are dead, and they are trying to reduce or deny the payout to your widow.

Another ….. Suppose you suddenly found youself asked to resign from the PTA, or the School Board, and didn’t understand why. Maybe you made some lifestyle choice that, while perfectly legal and unrelated to education, someone used information held by a government agency to force you out. The point here is simple ….. the government shouldn’t have that information unless it specifically addresses an issue that gives *probable cause* in a crime. They one absolutely guaranteed implication of widespread data gathering is that there will be calls for the said data to be shared. The arguments will be couched in terms of *law enforcement*, *war on terrorism* …. Fill in the blanks, there are hundreds. The point of all that is that however *sensible* it appears, indeed if you have nothing to hide, you have nothing to fear, it’s a direct breach of two, count ‘em, amendments to the Constitution.

What if the only thing you have to hide is the fact that, despite years of misery and struggle, your wife or husband is unable to quit smoking. Then your employer fires you, because her/his health records came to light unlawfully or otherwise, and he wished to reduce his company’s health care bill by firing all employees who smoked, or whose family members smoked. It’s quite possible you and your spouse had shared that information with dozens of agencies, some governmental, some not in an attempt to be honest, and get support. Just bit you in the ass, didn’t it?

We are entitled to privacy not because we have anything to hide, but because the Constitution says so, and because the information is ours, not owned by others whose motives and ambitions may be dishonest, manipulative, or simply different to our own.

Why has it suddenly because somehow suspicious, to exercise Constitutional rights? You may think you have nothing to hide, but there is an underlying statement when you make the point to others. Effectively, you are arguing that the illegal intrusions you are prepared to accept because *you have nothing to hide*, somehow comments adversely on those who are rather less willing to share. Often it is even couched the other way around: *Well …. If you have nothing to hide ….*

It’s insidious …. And it should be resisted.

I dunno, maybe I just see it wrong!

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Never a Dull Moment

Mackenzie (to Natalie): *Stop making me do that"

Steve (from bedroom): Mackenzie, I don't think Nat made you do anything"

Mackenzie: "She did! She made me bleed!"

Steve: "Natalie. Quit making your sister bleed"

Natalie: "Ok"

Monday, April 10, 2006

Maximal Stress Test

What a great sounding term!

Unfortunately, the implications are dire, and involve subjecting yourself to wheezing, gasping, aches and muscles that you didn't even know you had shrieking "Enough is enough! Dammit!"

A *Maximal Stress Test* is merely a way to determine the fastest rate your heart can beat. Getting it there is the tricky bit. It's an easy enough process to describe ...... slowly wind your treadmill up to around 5 mph, over about 10 mins, then increase the gradient by 2% every three minutes. At some point (often quite quickly) there will be a pounding in your ears as individual red blood cells remind you that they have given all they can, and are now off on a long vacation .... so quit already.

Hopefully, when this happens, your Heart Rate Monitor will have recorded a figure that computes with those living, and in reasonable shape.

There are a bunch of ways to estimate what your heart should be able to manage. In my case, a 46 year old male, it is in the range 174 to 178, decreasing by about 1 bpm per year. This can be out by up to 15% and as the training zones are 10 to 20% wide, can make quite a difference to the value of the exercise. Running is time-consuming, so ya might as well get the most from each mile.

Long story short ......... 189!

Yup, the Limey has heart :)

Jodie was *officiating* during the test. It was apparant, even to me who was dying out there, that she seemed to be rather more amused than she should have been every time she hit the gradient button.

Course, she still has to do hers, and I have control .....

ps. We went to Dallas to collect the treadmill we bought. This involved crossing the Red River, and that leads me nicely onto a cute little anecdote from my childhood .... coming next.

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Battle Creek

There is a small shop a few miles from here called *Things UK*.

Jodie and I had been planning a visit for a little while now, and Saturday was the day.

There isn’t much to say about the shop its self. It’s a smallish place filled with a variety of imported stuff from Golden Syrup to Black Pudding. Jodie has now seen black pudding, and is even less inclined to try it than when she simply had a description to work with (and she was not very keen even then).

The treacle supply is welcome, and at $5 a tin, less expensive than Pettys (a supermarket in Tulsa).

No. What was interesting was the journey to the shop …..

Leave our neighbourhood, drive a mile and a half east then turn south onto the quaintly named South 145th East Avenue. You have to drive through *Battle Creek*, and various Ridges, etc, before arriving, a few minutes later in Broken Arrow. I half expected to see Commanches riding down the road in front of us. Here, however, it would be more likely to see members of the Creek Nation :)

Wild West indeed !!

Tuesday, January 10, 2006


The 9th of January, and the 19th of July are two days those in my family may go a little quiet.

They are the days, respectively, that Karl, brother, son and father of two was born and, 34 short years later, died.

We miss you bro ... and my heart goes out to all those who loved you.

Rest well.


So you wanna be a SAHM*

*Stay At Home Mom

So Natalie, who has been watching *Stuart Little*, comes into the living room with her pants and knickers around her ankles ...... she kinda hobbles in ....
She is holding toilet paper, and I figure she wants help wiping.

Oh boy does she want help! It is with a sickening realisation that I notice the poop smeared down her leg .... Heaven help me, what has the poor little Tyke done?

What she has done, is poop in her knickers, and then gone into the bathroom to try to clean it up ...... that was sweet, but a mis-judgement, the magnitude of which only a 2-year-old, or a Baptist Minister, is capable.

I follow her into the bathroom. The poop is still mainly contained in her panties, but a significant amount has managed to smear itself on the floor, the wall, and the toilet.

In a flash, we whip off her clothes and stand her under a warm shower, delicately placing the *ruined beyond all hope of salvation* panties, out of her reach.

"Is that your special soap Steve", asks an adorable, cleaner and much nicer smelling Natalie. "Yes dear ... and it got you all clean".

So, she's in a nappy because it's nearly day-sleep time. Panties are in the trash, jeans and top in the wash, and the bathroom cleaned.

All is well.