Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Jim's Quote of the Week!
No.1 in a very occasional series.

Announcer on Sci-Fi Channel's Extreme Championship Wrestling describing how a competitor fell to the canvas:

"Oh my God, that was like the damn Lindenburg going down."

We had our class Halloween party at school yesterday. The kids were adorable. Just thought I'd share their cuteness with you.This table features Captain Jack Sparrow (David), Red Power Ranger (Bryce), construction worker (Kyle), Jessica from Lazytown (Mya), and Cinderella (Morgan).

This table features Dora the Explorer (Josie), another Red Power Ranger (Ryan), an Asian Princess (Maggie), Superman (Carson), Spiderman (Marco), and Woody from Toy Story (Zak).

And the cutest of all . . .Zakariah (from my class) and his little brother, Ezekiel (Zeke) as Buzz and Woody. Awwwwwwwww!

Friday, October 27, 2006

In the dark times
Will there be singing?
Yes, there will be singing
About the dark times.

- Bertholt Brecht

Wednesday, October 18, 2006


Hello everyone! Hope you're all doing okay.

For those of you who don't know, on Tuesday 17th October Amy and I had to be in Chicago, the Windy City (more damp on this occasion) to attend an interview with the USCIS regarding my Adjustment of Status from "Legal Alien with Permission to Work" to "Conditional Permanent Resident" And, for those to whom that sounds like Eastern European rap, I thought I'd explain the progression - but later.

The day started with a bang. Amy picked me up from work at noon, and we went straight to the bank in Tremont to draw the necessary funds for our trip. Unfortunately, we ran over a nail in the parking lot and blew our left rear tire. Oops! After we were annoyed, we were immensely grateful that it had happened in Tremont, not halfway to Chicago, and went right to Conoco where they mended it. Phew! So, as I said, the day started with a bang. Like, an actual bang. D'you see? Like, the tire actually went "bang". Oh me...

We decided before we went that rather than try and drive into downtown Chicago we would stay in a Super 8 in Naperville/Aurora Monday night, and catch the Metra commuter express train from Aurora to downtown Chicago in the morning. We had stayed in this particular Super 8 before, and with the exception of a non-functioning pool, we thought we remembered it being a fairly okay place to stay. Indeed, everything looked fine until, after being there for 1/2 hour or so, we went down to the car to get our swimsuits, and were confronted by a group of guys assembled in the lobby, all of well above average height and weight, and one woman with them who looked to be directing them in some sort of operation rather than, say, waiting for more towels. I spotted the woman had a walkie-talkie and told Amy I thought they might be cops, both because of that, and for the following reasons:

1. To see one 350 pound, six-foot-seven-tall guy in a hotel lobby is unusual. To see two is surprising. To see four together is cop-like.

2. There was a woman with them, and she didn't look as if she was about to remove any clothing whatsoever (thus negating the stag-night theory.)

3. CLINCHER: There was a man in body armor coming towards the hotel.

Amy and I about-faced in the same way that Maddie does when you call her and she spots the bottle of dog-shampoo in your hand, and headed back into the hotel. The guys were still there, and the desk-clerk looked on with the kind of expression you see on people who... well, on people whose hotel is being raided by cops. As we made for the lift one guy broke away and followed us to the lift. As I said, he was of a certain build that is described best by saying that it causes, in most men of normal height and weight, an overwhelming compulsion to offer to shine that person's shoes. As we waited for the lift, he turned to us and asked if we'd been staying here long, and told us that it was okay, that they were "just arresting people". We nodded, and said "Ahh..." and then Amy asked if we were safe. He gave a sort of half-shrug, and a "Hmm..." then replied "So long as you don't pull out a gun, otherwise we'll shoot you," to which we both nodded and said "Ahh..." again - this time with just a little added vibrato. When we arrived on our floor we were slightly perturbed to see the door opposite our room open, and as we passed it to go back into ours we heard the words "Did you get it all?" and "You want the rubber gloves?" These snatches of conversation was more than enough encouragement to first call the Super 8 customer service line where we received absolutely no help or assistance whatsoever, then pack up our stuff and move to another hotel.

After stopping at a Hallmark to get directions from a lovely lady who described herself as a "people person" which meant she liked to talk very much indeed, and an equally sweet old Asian lady who drew us a slightly confusing map and told us of a hotel where we could stay two-weeks for $100.00 (wow! - no thanks though!) we arrived at the hotel of our choice, an Extended Stay America, which was not only a much nicer room (see photo below) cheap ($71.50) quiet (shhh... listen...) but also absolutely spotless. So in the event, we felt that - for us, if not for those being arrested - the police raid was a blessing, as we settled down for our evening.

Anyway, I promised I would explain; after eight months of interviews, medical tests, and paperwork in England, when I came over and Amy and I got married I had to apply for my EAD (Employment Authorization Document - not a Green Card!) and concurrently, for Adjustment of Status, which 'adjusts' me from Legal Alien to Lawful Permanent Resident. This required sending a 50-some page packet of 'evidence' to show we were married, how much we earned, that I had never been arrested for anything, that we were living together as a couple, that we earned above the government poverty guideline... etc. Well, after the USCIS decide your application looks solid, they call you and your spouse to an interview, which was why we were in Chicago. If the interview stage is successful, they then grant you Conditional Permanent Resident status for two-years - conditional because during that time any criminal convictions, or change in your eligibility for AOS (in my case, if Amy and I were dis-married) leads to withdrawal of P.R. status, and directions to the nearest airport if you're lucky. Alternatively, after two years of being good, and still eligible, you apply to have the "Conditional"
part lifted, after which your status is adjusted again to that of Permanent Resident, which is when you obtain the "Green Card" of legend, although it is not called that anymore and is not green. This lasts for ten years, can be renewed indefinitely, and is the same as citizenship except that you cannot vote, and cannot apply for certain government jobs only available to citizens - President, for example. However, if like me you consider it slightly odd, if not disrespectful to live permanently in a country and not want to become a citizen you can apply, after three years of Permanent Residency, to become just that. And that, folks, is that.

So... we awoke at 7:00am, both quite nervous, and after finding (quite easily) the station and (with great difficulty) a parking space, we boarded the Metra at 8:15am. After a speedy train ride we arrived in Chicago at just before 9:00am, and as we began the short walk from the station to the USCIS offices the traffic, and moreover its behavior, made us immediately grateful that we had decided to take the train and not drive in. At about 9:30am we arrived at the offices with our huge bag full of evidence - photos, letters, our book about Brian, and proof of our address to name but a few of the items - which we had been told they would want to see. We were very nervous indeed!

Inside we had to first pass through X-Ray machines, where our only problem was two bottles of Coke which we were told ordered by the incredibly scary security staff to "put outside" and a pair of scissors which upon reflection may have been a slight mistake to pack. We weren't the only ones - outside on a grass verge before we went in I saw a pocket knife and mentioned it to Amy. And I thought we were silly with our scissors...

Anyway, I went outside and put them on the sidewalk, then went back in, and we found the second floor and waited.

We had heard various things about how tough the AOS interview could be, but our interviewer spent most of his time shuffling papers, and having me swear under oath to the effect that I have never persecuted anybody, and have never been a drug user, a Communist, member of the Nazi party, or big fat liar, which I was clearly only too happy to do. After only about ten minutes he closed our file, said that everything looked "great" with our paperwork, and that the only reason he wouldn't be able to approve me there and then was because they were still waiting for the results of a name-check request from the FBI to be added to my case. We asked how long it could take, and he said sometimes it can take weeks, and that we "didn't want to know the other end of the scale." (We later found out this means between 18 months, even two years for some cases...) We were slightly irritated that none of the evidence we had stayed up two nights in a row to prepare - and in the case of photos and copies of documents spent money on - was even looked at, but it was a bit like being irritated having gone to the doctor and being told you were healthy, and didn't last long. We left feeling very happy and relieved, a little teeny bit of anti-climax, but mostly hungry and excited to have a couple of hours to pootle around in Chicago, which, as you can see by the pics below, we did!

Because there are quite a few, blogger didn't seem to want to let me upload these directly to the blog, so instead I used www.dropshots.com. If you click on any of the photos below it'll take you to the site where you can view all the photos. There are comments underneath each picture and you can select the either from here, or using the thumbnails on the right side of the dropshots screen.


Maddie was very pleased to see us when we got home, and when she asked how it had gone, we replied that it had been a really fun, and successful trip.

Take care, everyone!

Thursday, October 12, 2006


Ok, so Jim and I thought I might have shingles again, despite the fact that what is on my back is in PERFECT circles. I went to the doctor, and she had no idea what it was. She said she'd never seen anything like it. However, it wasn't shingles or ringworm, and she doesn't think it's contagious. She gave me some cream for it and said to come back if it didn't get better in the next few days (or changed in appearance). Well, it WAS two circles, but now it's looking like three! It's so weird, I just had to post a picture. Sorry if you're squeamish, but . . .seriously. Have you ever seen anything like that? I also had a fever along with the "rash" or "burn" on my back.

Sunday, October 08, 2006

Holy crap!!

Okay, a little bit of an overreaction, but still! *

Remember my post about desalination? Oh, come now, you must. Anyway, I sort of did some more investigative work and found this:


Apparently, these are not always as efficient as the product manufacturer claims (naturally) but the principle is absolutely scientifically sound, it being: the clear vinyl dome sits suspended above the seawater. The sun shining down on the dome causes the seawater beneath to evaporate. In the evaporation process the salt from the seawater, which is too heavy to rise with the evaporating water droplets, is left behind and the fresh water begins to collect on the inside of the dome. The shape of the dome then encourages the desalinated condensation to run down its sides and into a collection tray around its perimeter, and splosh! Fresh water! Although I can't help wondering to what degree the water is actually "salt-free", and whether very small salt particles could carried with the evaporating water...

So, how, now, to make this happen using only objects that might conceivably have survived a shipwreck, or plane crash?

Ow, my mind.

* A desalination in-joke there, especially for the desalination crowd.

Thursday, October 05, 2006

Eureka College to stage ‘The Taming of the Shrew’

The Shakespearean comedy “The Taming of the Shrew” will be staged by the Eureka College theater department at 7:30 p.m. Oct. 26-28 and Nov. 1-4 and at 2 p.m. Oct. 29 in Pritchard Theatre on the campus.

“The play is all about love,” said director Holly Rocke. “As Petruchio woos the feisty Katherine, we’re introduced to a host of other characters whose antics rival the modern-day ‘Desperate Housewives’ television show.” The audience will be delighted with the characters’ quick-witted repartee, nutty ideas and physical comedy, Rocke said.

Playing the feuding lovers Petruchio and Katherine are Alex Klimkewicz of Kewanee and Jessica Whitington of Oakwood. Cast in other main roles are Sara Joy Boeke of Rockford as Katherine’s sister Bianca and Eric Santman of Spring Valley, Christel Elsen of Naperville and Jordan Jesse of Varna as Bianca’s three suitors.

Rounding out the cast are Patrick Williams of Park Ridge; Aaron Ruder of Metamora; Laura Walsh of Bloomington; Tracey Cappetta of Homewood; Jason Hasty of Hanna City; Karisa Fluegel of Roscoe; Stephanie Papesh of Chicago; Aymee Joslin of Loves Park; Katie Dwyer of Naperville; Casey Meyer of Oregon; Jonathan Yeagle of Farmer City; Erin Tuch-Krause of Buffalo Grove; Kerri Hinman of Tremont; Shalea Otto of Chillicothe; Emily Collard of Mundelein; Kelly Beaty of Hoopeston; Matthew Lathrop of Mt. Carmel; and Matthew Vander Vennet and Rebecca Somogyi, both of Peoria.

Stephanie Arnold of Bardstown, Ky., is the stage manager. Lighting and technical design are by Robert Fulton of Bloomington. Costume design is by Linda Schuerman of Danvers.
Tickets are $7 for adults and $5 for students and senior citizens. Reservations should be made by phoning (309) 467-6363.
For those who don't know, Kerri was my former speech and drama student, and she's in her first play at my alma mater! :)
What a Difference a Day Makes
It's 62 degrees right now. And tonight it's supposed to be down to 40. What up with that?

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Hey all!

Wow! Multiple postings in one day! This is Jim here, to add my two-penneth-worth-eth. Amy forgot to mention a couple things. Firstly, it was HOT TODAY - the very definition of an Indian summer. Here is a snapshot from weather.com of the temperature at 5:00pm this evening:

Waughh! 92 degrees! In October! Yeeearggh! As you can see, Amy came up with a plan for keeping cool:

The crosswind created by the two opposing fans is refreshing, and vicious. In fact, on the left of the picture, just out of shot, is a small hole that Sammy made as he passed through the wall at 112mph. It was this event that led us to believe that maybe the 'medium' setting would be more comfortable for us. Sammy's fine btw, with the exception of his whiskers which, judging by his persistent cough, he appears to have swallowed.

Our walk was really lovely btw - we went to what we call "The Trail" between Pekin and Tremont. We walked through the woods, lay down in a clearing, and speculated on the types of various trees. We took Maddie too, and let her run free. She had a great time sniffing and rolling about in the dust and didn't even think about pulling her old prison-break routine. :)

Also, we got something in the mail today that was a sad, but also kind of lovely surprise. Here it is:

As you can see, it's Brian's social security number, and card. We're going to put it in his memory book. The only bit that got me was the signature line, never to be signed. But it was also a really nice reminder of Brian's real-ness, his existence in somewhere other than our hearts and memories.

Anyway, dinner is cooking. Hope everyone is very well indeed both here in IL, over in England, and anywhere else this might be being read from. Take care!

P.S. - oops! I forgot to mention a couple things too. First, the nature walk was Amy's idea. I've been going on for ages about how we should go back there for a walk, and she drove me there as a surprise. Don't worry, she got some Jim-smooching in return. Secondly, I was supposed to be making dinner tonight, but I took so long here blogging that Amy went ahead and has made it herself. She'll get another Jim-smooch for that too. :)

Sammy the Musical Cat

We went out and took a nature walk this afternoon, and when we got back home, we discovered that someone had been into Jim's multi-track music equipment. Here's a picture of the culprit:

He's quite talented, and obviously, all the hard work wore him out.

Saved from Extinction

Remember my green thumb desires? Well . . .I am so proud of myself! First, I must start by saying this: if any of you ever get potted plants or flowers from a florist, do not leave them potted the way they came. We got several, and they were all put together for presentation, not preservation. It's obviously not uncommon, since they were all from different places. These flowers and plants immediately started dying, one by one. I was really heartbroken about it, because not only do they represent the love and compassion of our friends and family, but they are also a living reminder of our son. So I decided to try to somehow save them. Some of them were honestly nothing but a couple of stray stems with roots. I bought pots and potting soil and plant food and a watering can . . .and I am so excited to say that they are getting healthier every day!
This plant was all dead--see the flowers that are all brown and dried at the top? That's how the entire thing looked. But now you can see the red flowers coming back!
The ivy was down to just a few stray strands surviving . . .but as you can see, it's growing like crazy now. I am particularly proud of this one, as I have never had any luck with ivy (my Eureka ivy died not long after graduation).

These two are doing very well, and I really like the pots I found for them.

Sunday, October 01, 2006

A Different Child

A different child.
People notice there’s a special glow around you.
You grow surrounded by love, never doubting you are wanted;
Only look at the pride and joy in your mother and father’s eyes.
But if sometimes between the smiles there’s a trace of tears,
One day you’ll understand.
You’ll understand there was once another child
A different child who was in their hopes and dreams.
That child will never outgrow the baby clothes
That child will never keep them up at night
In fact, that child will never be any trouble at all.
Except sometimes, in a silent moment,
When your mother and father miss so much
That different child.
May hope and love wrap you warmly and may you learn the lesson forever
How infinitely precious, how infinitely fragile is this life on earth.
And one day, as a young man or woman
You may see another mother’s tears, another father’s silent grief
Then you, and you alone will understand and offer the greatest comfort.
When all hope seems lost, you will tell them with great compassion,
“I know how you feel. I’m only here because my mother tried again.”