February 29, 2004

February 29, a British tradition. 

This is the first February 29 to come around since I started writing London Chimes.

Speaking with my dear wife this week she had not heard of a certain English tradition that allowed women to ask men to marry them on February 29. So I have done a little research and found the following;

The following, not written by me, explains all...

Thirty days hath September,
April, June and November;
All the rest have thirty-one,
Excepting February alone
Which hath but twenty-eight, in fine,
Till leap year gives it twenty-nine.
- old saying

Our everyday calendar is an artificial medium that has been juggled with through the centuries in an effort to make it more accurate and more useful. The time it takes for the earth to rotate is 365 ¼ days but the calendar year is 365 days, hence once every four years to balance this, we have a leap year and an extra day, February 29th.

Because such years are rarer than normal years, they have become lucky omens. Indeed the 29th February itself is an especially important day. Anything started on this day is sure of success.
Certainly February 29th in the leap year of 1504 was very successful for one Christopher Columbus.

The famous explorer had been marooned for several months on the small island of Jamaica. Though the island natives had initially offered food and provisions, Columbus' arrogant and overbearing attitude had so annoyed the natives that they stopped this altogether.

Facing starvation Columbus came up with an inspired plan. Consulting a shipboard almanac and finding that a lunar eclipse was due, he called together the native chiefs and announced to them that God would punish them if they did not supply his crew with food. And as an omen of God’s intent to punish them, there would be a sign in the sky: God would darken the Moon.

Right on cue, the lunar eclipse started. Columbus dramatically disappeared into his cabin as the natives began to panic and begged him to restore the Moon. After more than an hour, Columbus emerged from his cabin and announced that God was prepared to withdraw his punishment if the natives agreed to supply him and his crew with everything they needed. The native chiefs immediately agreed, and within minutes the Moon started emerging from shadow, leaving the natives in awe of Columbus’ power. Columbus continued to receive food and supplies until he was rescued in June 1504.

For women, February 29th can also be a very successful day as once every four years on the 29th February they have the “right” to propose to a man.
In Scotland, however, to ensure success, they should also wear a red petticoat under their dress - and make sure that it is partly visible to the man when they propose.

For those wishing to take advantage of this ancient tradition, 29th February 2004 is your day!

I cannot testify to the accuracy of the Columbus story, but certainly growing up in London, February 29th used to be a big deal for ladies who had been in long relationships where the gentleman was more backward than coming forward with a proposal.

Feedback always invited, please email me.

February 24, 2004

A little room with a view. 

I do not take any credit from the following story written by Written by By Jennifer Carlile a reporter with MSNBC

LONDON - Visitors to Britain will find a new stop on London’s site-seeing route this spring: a usable public toilet enclosed in one-way mirrored glass situated on a sidewalk near the River Thames. The contemporary art exhibit, which allows the user to see out while passers-by cannot peep in, toys with the concepts of privacy and voyeurism.

“I think there’d be a twinge of not believing that people outside couldn’t see you,” said Jeff Boloten, as he peered into the glass cube to see the metal prison toilet and its transparent walls. The exhibit, entitled "Don’t Miss A Sec," is on display at a construction site across the road from Tate Britain, the national gallery of British art from 1500 to the present. As museum-goers inquisitively press their noses to the reflective glass, and construction workers mill about, it isn't difficult to see why people would feel uneasy about using the glass outhouse. "Playing with the idea of the most private bodily function and having to sit on a street corner is just bizarre,” said Boloten, who works at the Tate Britain. “The construction site makes it interesting because portable toilets are at construction sites all the time, but, the Tate Britain’s a respected institution; the juxtaposition makes it more unique,” he said.

Far from testing the viewers’ levels of embarrassment versus exhibitionism, the artist, Italian-born Monica Bonvicini, conceived of the idea while watching people at art openings. Amid the gossip and pageantry, nobody wanted to leave the room for fear of missing a key entrance or comment. The "Don’t Miss A Sec" exhibit -- which was unveiled in December -- reflects peoples’ reluctance to leave the spectacle, and allows the art-goer to remain in the action, even while on the toilet. While some viewers meditate on the exhibit’s psychological and cultural implications others revert to telling potty jokes. British dailies and art commentaries have also had fun with the subject: “Loo with a view” and “Bathroom humor in London” have been among the headlines.

The use of the sterile prison toilet and sink unit stems from the fact that the site once housed the Millbank Penitentiary, where prisoners were held before being transported to Australia in the 1800s. The prison's architect Jeremy Bentham had hoped to create a Panoptican, or all-seeing, surveillance system for the penitentiary. His design envisioned a cylindrical central tower, from where a guard could see all the prisoners in their cells, which radiated out from the tower, without being seen himself.
Bentham believed that the knowledge that they were being watched would prevent prisoners from being disobedient, and that they would come to internalize the watchful eye and be able to act as their own guards if they were eventually released. Although Bentham’s Panoptican was never realized, 21st century surveillance systems, like closed circuit television (CCTV), have taken on a similar role. "Don’t Miss a Sec" turns the tables by taking the all-seeing power away from the camera and giving it to the person on the toilet, while letting them remain invisible to the world.
But peoples' fears of being seen with their pants down still hold strong.
In 2000, a pair of self-proclaimed performance artists caused an uproar when they relieved themselves on artist Marcel Duchamp's 1917 sculpture of a urinal, on display at London's Tate Modern gallery. But, even with full permission to defecate on Bonvicini's work of art, Britons and tourists alike tend to shy away from the challenge. Considering that four-man outdoor urinals are a frequent site in the U.K. capital, some may question the need for nerves. And in some cultures using the toilet is not considered a private matter at all. In fact, it was common for ancient Greek aristocrats to discuss political and business affairs while attending to their own "personal business" in communal bathrooms.

Whatever one's take on toilet etiquette, visitors "Don't Miss A Sec" while viewing, or using, this exhibit.

Feedback always invited, please email me.

Marriage - "the most fundamental institution of civilisation". 

From "The Independent"

President George Bush yesterday backed a constitutional amendment to ban gay marriage - a move clearly designed to appeal to his conservative supporters and divide the Democrats as he campaigns for re-election.

Speaking from the Roosevelt room of the White House, Mr Bush said an amendment was necessary in order to protect "the most fundamental institution of civilisation". He said that judges across the country were threatening to redefine marriage by permitting gay couples to marry.

"After more than two centuries of American jurisprudence and millennia of human experience, a few judges and local authorities are presuming to change the most fundamental institution of civilisation," Mr Bush said.

I have heard accusations that this latest move is politically motivated. Hogwash. We stand at the tip of a slippery slope, the moral highground is in danger of slipping from underneath us if the dangerous activities by some elected officials continues to undermine the definition of marriage.

This time, this year we have a President who will hold a moral line, not for votes, but because it IS the right thing that must be done.

The world looks to America and the recent civil same sex marriages are illegal and are deeply insulting to the most fundemental institution not only in America but in civilization.

I beleive in the marriage of one man to one woman, in sickness and health, for richer for poorer.

As one who never thought I would find the right person and for them to agree to marry me, I hold the institution of marriage very close to my heart.

To hear this afternoon for an amendement to be passed banning same sex marriages needs 75% agreement from all the states and that the passing of such an amendement can take YEARS, is totally abhorrant and disgusting to me.

This is not a matter of politicial correctness, neither will I accept any charge of personally being homophobic as this is not warranted. Recently some individuals have crossed a line, not only entering a grey area but have broken the law.

I feel no malice for same sex couple who wish to live together, but such a relationship does not, should not and will not constitute as marriage in any definition including common-law marriage.

In the last couple of weeks we have been taken a short distance down this slippery slope. Please Mr. President throw us all a rope and pull us back, and ensure those elected officials that have taken this course of action are duly prosecuted to the full extent of the law.

Feedback always invited, please email me.

February 19, 2004

US Presidential Election, a perspective from this Brit. 

With months to go before the US Presidential election date, unlike the last election battle in 2000, I have actually been in the US in the early months and have already formed an opinion and offer a prediction should future events play out as I expect.

Making a prediction in writing this far off some might call a bold statement, others may consider it foolish, but I want to write this down and post in a my lock box called London Chimes. (Do you remember Al Gore's lock-box four years ago?).

Democrat presidential hopefuls.
a) Kerry
b) Edwards
c) A. N. Other?

The November election will again be a close result.

Regardless of who the Democrats put up against President George W Bush, stanch Democrat supporters will always vote democrat. The example I have used with friends is that the democrats could put up Miss Piggy as a presidential candidate and the party faithful will vote for a latex muppet.

On the other side of the fence, stanch republicans will continue to vote for President Bush. given the closeness of the 2000 election this election will actually be decided by a relatively small number of voters, as I predict a 50/50 distribution of the final votes with a deviation of +/- 4%.

The present incumbant of the office of President of the United States, will win the next election. Unless there is another serious terror attack in the USA. Given the resources placed into Homeland Security, a serious terror attack on home soil will seriously harm the election hopes of George Bush. On the flip-side, the capture of Bin Laden will only bolster his hopes and help his campagin.

Either way it will - again, be a close and interesting presidential election.

That stated, its posted in my lock box and we will review this again in November.

Feedback always invited, please email me.

February 08, 2004

Kids should ask the darndest questions. 

Many occassions I have written about my passion and love for the work that I do for the Multiple Sclerosis Association of America. I do this unashamedly and proud to be part of a great organization who have a mission to help those challenged daily with multiple sclerosis and their carepartners.

Yesterday I attended at the New Jersey State Aquarium in Camden, the first MSAA family conferences titled "Kids should ask the darndest questions about MS."

Right from the start, it was made clear that this event was about families and that MS does not effect one person, it effects a whole family, including the kids.

The panel who relayed their stories and offered answers from the group, included a ten year old boy (Keith Jr) and his Dad (Keith) who was challenged by MS, and two teenagers, one a college student with her parents her Mom challenged with MS and another student who Dad passed shortly after his Mom was diagnosed with MS at the age of ten.

Moderated by a concellor and a member of the MSAA Health Advisory Council the other "kids" who attended benefited from sharing stories and asking the most direct of questions.

Question and topics included, is it normal to be angry and dealing with anger, depression, do the kids get cut any slack because a parent has MS, how do you get MS, and the most direct question of all from an eight-year-old, will my Mom die from MS? Once the "kids" in the audience realized they were not alone in living with a parent who was challenged with multiple sclerosis, they soon all wanted to ask queestions to the "adults" on the panel or to the other "kids". The hour and a half given to the discussion could have easily continued longer.

At the end of the event, I had the opportunity to speak with a couple of families in the audience and to the representative of the pharmaceutical company who had kindly provided a restricted grant for this event.

As the meeting broke-up and the families headed out for a tour of the aquarium I headed home realizing moved by what I had witnessed and motivated (not than any was needed) to why I do what I do professionally.

Feedback always invited, please email me.

February 06, 2004

Where are all the adopting Dads? 

The following is a posting added to the Yahoo Adopting Parents from China APC boards tonight and also to The Red Thread blog page.

The subject is where are the Dad's who are adopting from China and why do the rarely chime in on the subject matter posted on APC.

This is my tonge in cheek response.

Good evening to Kurt and all the guys on APC who lurk quietly and read these posts.

The question has been raised "Where R the Dads?" in the APC and similar message boards. As one of the above "lurkers" and occassional (very occassional) contributors, I have decided to chime in on this topic.

My dear wife (DW) Taney is a frequent contributor to APC and established my access to APC and Paperchase groups. Both I have to add are excellent, testiment to the great people who are at one stage or another in the process of bringing a member of their family home.

As thrilled as I am to be a Dad-to-be, my personal email account is deluged each day with the many emails on great topics. I would like to say that I have the time to read them all, but hey-you-know, the small matter of working hours and commuting actually prevents me from reading more than a handful of topics that grab my attention or have my attention grabbed by DW telling me of the latest must-read, must respond subject in the evenings.

Kurt, in your original email you wrote:

While walking back to the office from the post office yesterday afternoon, I passed one of our many shops that sells kids clothes and things.  From window shopping, to stopping in the doorway and finally asking the big question, "Do you sell baby clothes?" I found myself being ushered by the owner to a corner of the shop.  50% Off All Clearance Items.  Wow, nirvana.  Paydirt,  The holy grail.  Geez, I'm in this shop with a bunch of women, and here I am kneeling down to pull out some small dresses - Hawaiian print (having lived in the islands for more than six years, I prefer the spirit of Aloha) - and then the owner begins firing off a bunch of questions, with the first being, "What size is she?"  "I have no idea," and feeling a bit stupid over that answer I clarified that we were adopting out of China.  That's when the conversation got heated!

DW and I are in the paperchasing stage we expect to be DTC in June or July 2004, and have our first homestudy meeting next week on Friday the 13th. Yet in the lead-up to the holiday season last year we were prompted by family members to register for gifts that we would need eventually.

As a Brit married to an American, the whole concept of registering for anything is to put it mildly an alien experience. I may have well as been a Mars Rover walking for the first time into Baby's R Us and being handed that gun thing. Good-grief, couldn't they have given me a pad and pen? But this is all computerized and as many readers on APC will know Baby's R Us are slowly being dragged into an adoption-friendly age. Again thanks to APC we were warned in advance that registering with them more than nine months ahead threw their computer into error mode. Resulting in me facing off with the store manager and accusing the company of discrimination. (I totally digress).

My first visit to Baby's R Us with Taney was like landing on Mars. "Do we really need most of this stuff?" And confronted with a wall of bottles, liners and other feeding related implements I asked the dumb question, "how do we know which ones to register for?" If there is one thing I have learned is that I have much to learn!

Half-way through our four-hour visit to register in Baby's R Us we "arrived" in the area for car-seats and strollers. Safe-ground I thought. - Wrong! Even the simplest strollers I could not fathom how to collapse and reading the small print on the sizes and weights for each car seat simply made me dizzy. DW and I agreed that if we could not work out how to unfold / fold a stroller in thirty seconds, then we would find a different model that would meet our needs.
As if I was not brain-fazed enough, we drove to our local Zaney Brainy and registered for the other stuff we could not find in Baby's R Us.

Christmas Day was great, we ended up with the stroller we wanted (McLaren Triumph - its made in the UK), the Eddie Bower car seat we selected, and a ton of other smaller items including bedding. My birthday was last week, add to the list the high-chair, bottles, liners and a Baby Einstein musical toy.

Before the guys reading this think I am a complete woose, hey I also got a bottle of liquor from one of my sister-in-laws.

To be serious for a moment, bringing my daughter home is the single most important thing in my life today, even with the daily distractions of my family, my work and my friends. Originally I was the reluctant spouce, not so much avoiding the subject of adoption, but unable to commit to the concept of adopting. That was about a year ago. My taking the time to sit and read and understand as much as possible about adopting helped me catch up with my wife on the subject and fully commit to this.

Heading off to the baby stores is not as an alien experience that it once was, (but I have yet to walk in alone) so who knows. Its all that other stuff sitting on our registry that confuses the heck out of me. I guess we need it all, and more besides.

The whole adoption journey is a real adventure for me, at least that is how I see it, and to be honest how I approach life in general, as an adventure. I enjoy the opportunity of taking the road-less-travelled, and if my path takes me from Britain to America to find my wife and to China to find my daughter then it is to be.

Another contributor to APC recently mentioned if there are any adoption bloggers out there. Please visit www.theredthread.blogspot.com which I have set up to record the Friend Family adoption story.

I thank you for the opportunity to write this posting this evening, and wish everyone a great weekend.

Malcolm (41)
DW - Taney (29.5)
DTC expected June/July 2004.

Feedback always invited, please email me.

February 01, 2004

On turning 41. 

The concept of aging has caught up with me, or perhaps caught me out as I celebrate my birthday today.

I had made it known to my family that this year I really wanted a quiet celebration, last year the big four-oh, that also coincided with Chinese new year was marked with a big family chinese meal at a local restaurant. The year before I was at Disney in Orlando and truly was a magical birthday beyond compare. Moreso that I was in Orlando on business and that my birthday just happened to coincide. Taney flew down to celebrate with me and quite by chance my thirty-nineth was one of the most memorable birthdays of all.

So we fast forward to 2004.

These are the truths that are self-evident.

* This is probably the last birthday I am celebrating without being a Dad as our adoption plans should be finalized by this time next year. In all honesty I wish that there were three of us this year and not just two.
* I am officially in the mire of "forties" never to be a thirty-something again. I personally feel far younger and to be labelled by some as middle-aged frankly offends me, despite this being the truth.
* A recent photograph taken for my new INS green card (that arrived on Saturday) offers one ray of hope. The older I get the more distinquished I seem to become. The Sean Connery syndrome some might call it. Perhaps it has something to do with my Scottish heritage!

On the subject of photo's I remembered that I have a photograph of my dad taken around his 41st Birthday in my collection here in the USA. I actually have it in front of me as I type this posting.

June 6 1977, was not only my Dad's birthday but was Queen Elizabeth's Silver Jubilee. As Londoners we were not in London, but at a holiday park called Sandy Bay to the east of Exmouth in Devon. With beautiful sandy beaches, red sandstone cliffs, and a great fish and chip shop at the top of the ramps leading down to the beach. My Dad was 41, I was 14 when I took the photo. Also in the picture was my Gran (god bless her) and my brother Kevin then eleven.

The question of interest here is what do I look like today, looking at a photograph of my Mum & Dad at the same age? The mere fact that I have a photograph for comparison is strange enough, oddly given the number of photos I took as a child there are precious few of my Mum & Dad, and those few I very precious to me.

My face is much rounder, I look somewhat heavier and it is difficult to ascertain if I have more or less hair than my Dad at the same age. Despite the earlier photo being taken in a British summer, I seem to have a little more color on my skin from a Pennsylvanian January.

Thinking back to this particular holiday/vacation in 1977, one of those that I have fond memories of, I think of the fact that my parents had been parents for fourteen years when I took that photo. I am just starting out of the journey of parenthood, this truth completely floors me when I think about it.

My fortieth year has been inspiring and astounding both personally and professionally. The saying that life starts at 40 could based on my experiences in one year be very true.

I finish this posting with a final truth.

In my twenties I thought I knew the answers to everything.
In my thirties I realized that there was a whole wide world out there for the taking, and realized that I needed to broaden my horizons.
In my forties as I have broadend my horizons and relocated to the US from the UK, have learned how to live in a new culture, a new way of life and after coping with infertility am expanding my horizons further to China. I realise that for everything I have learned, and everything I continue to learn and stretch myself further daily, the more I realize there is still so much more I have to learn (and how narrow-minded I was twenty years ago).

Feedback always invited, please email me.

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