Chapter 2: Mensa, Russia, Space

Tim, I don't know how much spare time you have, but you might enjoy reading and/or posting to  It is U.S. based, but we have posters from all over the world.  The talk is occasionally rude, but never unstimulating, and I think you would really contribute to it.  And it certainly would be a nice change of subject.  We might even get you fixed up with a new female one day.
On the new female front I been having some amusing correspondences with some women I met by signing up to  Only trouble as far as a relationship is concerned is that most of the women who respond are older than me, and I have some trouble with that emotionally after watching Lyudmila go from being taken for 25 at age 40 to looking about 70 at age 48.  One respondent was a 28 year old Russian though, to go to the other extreme.  Patience, these things take time.
I've just been composing a reply to a po-faced lady from One-and-only who finds my sense of humour insulting.  She shouldn't have posted a humorous ad, if she can't stand the heat she should stay out of the kitchen!  This is sooo relaxing after that.
I've been posting to it longer than I've been posting to the breast cancer support group.  You don't actually have to be (or admit to being) a member of Mensa to post.  Sometimes it's laugh-out-loud funny.
I'll give it a try.  I have a friend in Mensa, and I sometimes used to go to their parties, but mostly I found them a pain in the arse.  I suppose rather unworldly might be a suitable description.  But that was decades ago, and perhaps an unrepresentative sample.
Oh, I entirely find them a pain in the arse.  I joined Mensa on the strength of my SAT scores, when I was a junior in high school.  I was a ferocious snob then (like I'm not now?) and thought it was some kind of secret society. I went to *one* meeting and never went again.  David, my significant other, is in Mensa and just loooooooves to tell people that.  (shame, shame, mortification)  With him, I have been to a couple of meetings.  I loathed every minute.  Grown people sitting around complaining about how stupid other people are and how difficult it is for the brilliant to deal with them do not amuse me.  BUT the newsgroup is wonderful.  There's no such thing as being off topic, and there's no trolling.
And that from an acknowledged expert on pains in the arse!  :-) You betcha.
The worst part is the shape of the truncated tail of the IQ distribution.  Most of them are sitting up against the flat bit and still feel so superior about it.
Your problem is you are clearly well up the pointy end and bear the same relationship to them as they do to the bulge they cut themselves off from.
Well, wherever they're sitting, I believe it is rude to go on and on about how smart one is.  It's just plain bragging.  I ventured this opinion to one who had been doing it and received a lofty, "Well, it's not bragging if it's true!"  Well, yes, it is.  The waitress in the restaurant where we're having the Mensa meeting does not need to know how smart you are, I assure you.  (Though I admire the adroit way you managed to slip that information into your drink order.)
Yes I had a look.  Outlook Express is still closing.  It takes an awful long time to do anything once I open a big NG.  This one reads in at nearly 10k messages, and it is full of holes.  It will take a long time to peruse it. 
There its closed now.  It'll take even longer to open.  And I can't leave it open because of a hardware problem.  Maybe I should fix that, but its all time and money.
Is there an FAQ in there somewhere? 
They don't post one.  I think it may be in the Mensa website.  I've never seen one.  I don't think you really need one; just chime in when you feel like it, and be polite.  Here's a clue:  Wyde Wing is a nut.  Don't respond angrily to him.  It's a waste of time.
You could probably make that a general statement about Usenet etiquette.
I adhere to my grandmother's words of good sense.  Don't write anything that you wouldn't want read out loud at your funeral, and don't allow anyone to take pictures of you that you would be ashamed to have on the cover of the Ladies' Home Journal.  She was also the ladylike creature who told me that if I kept my bowels open and my mouth shut I'd never come to any trouble in the world.
Makes you slimmer too.
I think the holes have stopped now, so maybe it will make more sense in the future.  If not I'll just have to go back to the BBBB's. 
Maybe I ought to use a different newsreader.  When I get around to it I've got a Linux setup, but I'm short a few bits and a lot of time to make it into a firewall.  I can't run Linux as my desktop OS because a) I can't port all my old MS Works documents to StarOffice, (or anything else if they have drawings in), and b) I have to write Windoze software as part of my job.  I suppose I could go *buy* a Windoze based reader, but it goes against the grain.
Oh, yeah.  I hate Outlook Express.  As you can tell, I use Yahoo for e-mail and I use for my newsgroups.  Newsreader is not free, but it's inexpensive and saves me having to download all those huge files.
I wish I could find a net-based e-mail provider that didn't append advertising to one's messages.  I'd be willing to pay for that.

Omigod, sometimes we change peoples lives!  I noticed Rachel Kirk say this the other day:
On the fun side I've taken up roller-blading, parascending and have just
booked a holiday to Dubai. It was one of the discussions we were having here
about maxing out credit cards that did it!!!!!!!!!
OK I know I wouldn't be doing this if I didn't think it helped people and I know the readers greatly outnumber the participants, but that sort of made it real for me.  It's one thing bullshitting irresponsibly into write-only space in the vague hope that someone might find it useful.  Its something else when people come back and say "I read what you said and I did this."  I suppose anyone who writes in public must get this feeling sometime.
It made me think, one day someone is going to make a remark like that in a suicide note.  Am I sure I could live with that?  Well yes actually I am, but I hadn't thought about it for a while.  I guess it goes with the turf of talking about terminal illnesses as tends to be my area (apart from sheep).
I hope any messing about you do with sheep is in a mutually consenting way.  :)
Yesterday I spent half the afternoon online when I should have been working.  OK, call it a day off, I'm sure I deserve one after last week, but I'll have to get back to work now.
Bad bad boy.
Look I only talk about sheep, no hands-on stuff.  Yeah, yeah, you men are all talk.  I knew it.  :)
But I have got a book of sheep jokes somewhere.  Trouble was I had to ask a sheep farmer to explain most of them. 
Like: Farmer proudly displays "Sheep in a bottle".  Straight guy asks "How did you do it".  Farmer replies "It was a piece of cake".  Apparently sheep are notorious for getting into the most awkward places attempting to retrieve a stray piece of sheep-cake.
The funniest was a herd of ewes, and a ram with an ink pad on its belly (which marks the ewes he has serviced).  Most of the ewes have marks on their backs.  The farmer is looking puzzled at one with marks all over its chest and face.

I just discovered that Cutler-Hammer, for whom I now work, monitors computer usage.  Do you know anything about that?  I mean, I assume that The Monitor can tell if I've gone to to check my e-mail, but can The Monitor tell what is in my e-mail?
Well, its quite *possible* to make a monitor which records all traffic.  However it is unlikely that they would want to, or would take the time to read it unless they suspected espionage.  Also it slows the machine down quite a bit.  Quite likely they just record what tasks you have active and what sort of volumes of traffic are passing.  They can always look on your disk for 'deleted' copies of your mails if they need to know. Their primary interest is to check that you are spending your time working, not playing Quake. 
If your use of your office computer to collect your personal email is legitimate and accepted practice, eg on a lunch break, then asking whether it is secure would be a legitimate question.  You could say you are worried about medical info or something.
If not, can't you hold it till you get home?  Checking may be OK but sitting at your desk composing replies or posts to ngs probably would be frowned upon.  You only just got the job, you don't want to screw it up already.
Oh, absolutely.  I actually have no problem with having my computer usage at work monitored.  I don't have any problem with not making personal telephone calls at work, either.  I'm just being trained by a very busy woman.  I receive five minutes of training, go and perform the task that I've been trained in, and then sit and wait for 45 minutes for her to have another spot of time to train me in something else.  Fortunately, we had a little talk yesterday and she told me I was welcome to read... she just warned me about the computer in case I wanted to surf in down time.  

I enjoyed reading Lyudmila's story about meeting Yuri Gagarin (  I had a similar experience.  In the summer of 1971 or 1972 we went to the Big Island of Hawaii to visit my aunt and uncle and see the volcanoes.  We stayed at a wonderful hotel called the Volcano House.  (It has gone sadly downhill recently.  If you are ever planning on visiting there, I can tell you where you should REALLY stay.)  Anyway, we ate breakfast in the Volcano House dining room every morning and then went on various day trips.
My mind boggles at the idea of Volcano House going downhill.  Not a lava flow I trust, just an economic one!
It used to be private, but the state took it over to be the official hotel for Volcanoes National Park and traditional state apathy took over.  Now if you go, stay at Kilauea Lodge in Volcano Village.  Very very nice and the food is out of this world.  You probably wouldn't be charmed much by fireplaces in the rooms, but I assure you they're highly unusual in Hawaii.
You'd be charmed by my fireplaces.  I have 3 big marble ones.
Well, I'd probably be charmed by them if they had ferns living in them or something.  I have a skivvy's mentality.  I am always tidying something up, and the thing about fireplaces is that they need to be cleaned after use.  Yuck.
Logs.  Sometimes I think I'll put in a gas imitation 'coal-fire', I've had one stashed away somewhere, for the last 10 years, but I never get around to it.
No fires sadly though, except the one we had in the kitchen last year when Lyudmila forgot about the chip pan.  I wrote an article about that,
With reference to two stories in the above article
"The Hottest Curry in Town"
> A few weeks later Lyudmila decided to make a curry. 
Bully for her.  The one tragedy of my life that kept me from a renovated cottage in Richmond:  I don't like Indian food.  I like everything else, but (sigh) not Indian food.  It depresses me immensely.  I like Yorkshire.
Do they not have any other food in Richmond?  I was born in (south) Yorkshire for what it is worth.
I don't remember, and the last time I was through it was 1983.  I 'spect it has changed a bit.
>Natasha had a friend staying to tea,
What a wonderful experience for the friend!
> Turn off the gas main, and electricity while I am at it.
Yay for Tim, the grown-up!
My, how thrilling.

Well it got us a nice kitchen and bathroom.
Wow, that must have been one heck of a fire.  And on top of everything else!  What an exciting (as in not pleasantly exciting) year you had last year.
"Look before you Leap"
You're lucky this didn't happen in the U.S.  He would have sued you, and he would have won, as your yard and garden constitute an "attractive nuisance."  That's one of the reasons I talked David into not buying the very cool house in Bellevue he originally found when planning to move up here.  It had a bomb shelter in the back yard, and I faintingly imagined the children of the neighborhood breaking into it to snog, etc., and possibly getting locked in and dying down there.  (sniff.  It was very nice.)
You mean if some guy throws himself off a cliff he can then go and sue the owner of the cliff?!  What is an attractive nuisance (apart from my Natasha).
An American legal concept.  You must have an eight-foot fence around your swimming pool, because neighborhood children might sneak into it and drown.  Then their parents can sue you.  The pool is the attractive nuisance.
I can understand kids sneaking into a swimming pool, but sneaking to a cliff to jump off it sounds a bit far fetched.  WHy not sneak onto the roof of your house and jump off?  This guy crossed a flowerbed and jumped a wall, in the dark, while pissed, without looking what was on the other side.  These walls are a a normal hazard in the area, this is hill country, most walls are 'earth retaining' and have a long drop on one side.  In the US do all earth retaining walls have to be extended to 8' high just in case some arsehole decides it might make a nice short cut home from the pub?  It would be nice to think you can get totally ratfaced and still be sure that if you encounter any hazards on the way home at least you can sue.  What if you fall down and bang your head on the road.  That sort of 'nanny state' surely belongs under socialism, not in the land of the free.
One morning there was a bunch of men sitting by themselves, laughing very loudly.  Even at the age of eight, I was interested in men laughing loudly, and I casually slunk past their table several times.  They FINALLY took notice of me.  It turned out that they were astronauts!  NASA sent each class of astronauts heading to the moon to the Volcano House to learn how to walk in volcanic ash, as there were several locations which were identical in topography to the moon.  (Except for having an atmosphere.)
My brother and I were very excited and spent the rest of the day spying on them as they tramped around in their suits.
I never got their names.  I don't think that class of astronauts ever actually made it to the moon.  It still is an exciting memory from my childhood, though.
Gosh, I think it is so sad that a) here it is 2000 and we don't have colonies on Mars yet and b) I have absolutely no aptitude for anything that would get me on a space flight.  Moan.
That must have been fun.  We met one of the Russians from the Mir space station last year, he came around UK doing talks to schools, the Principal of the local further education college ( for ages 15-17) has Russian interests and used Lyudmila for interpretation work etc. sometimes.  So we got invited to the talk and met the speakers afterwards.
Wow.  Remember a couple of years ago when Mir was orbiting in a very low position or something?  In Hawaii, around 8:00 p.m., you could look straight up and see it whiz through the air.  It just thrilled the heck out of me. I know, I know, I've seen satellites before; it's just that was the first time I had seen something in space with the naked eye that had *people* in it.  It was also cool because it moved so fast, not like a satellite or a plane.
As for colonies on Mars, I think we'd need another world war to do that.  I think the moon shot was using up surplus energy generated for WW2. 
Wow.  What an interesting and original thought.  I'm not being sarcastic; I had never thought of it that way before. I don't think it's original.
It was never really economically justifiable, and was probably long before its proper time.  We do have a rustbucket old space station and quite well developed exploitation of the economic possibilities of earth-orbit technology.  Not quite what most of the sci-fi writers had in mind I admit, but 2001 was never representative of what technology is really like. 
Sniff.  Sic semper gloria mundi.  I was so shocked when the Concorde crashed and even more shocked to realize how clunky and old-fashioned it is.
Air accidents are a special, somewhat ghoulish, interest of mine.  My job is figuring out what has gone wrong with machines, and I can't help applying the skills to highly public incidents like that.  A couple of years ago we spent New Year with an aero engineer who used to have an airstrip on his farm.  Ok that's common in the States, but it's serious wierdo stuff here.  Anyway we got to discussing the military transport that had just crashed in Irkutsk.  The reports had been saying it might be a computer fault.  Three engines had failed at about 5 second intervals after take-off.  I said no way is that a computer problem, the events cluster after rotation and rotation isn't an engine-system event.  I'd said its got to be fuel, trash in the tanks or something to affect all the engines like that and to be controlled by the aircraft's attitude.  Well I almost got it, it had been filled with summer-grade fuel (in winter in IRKUTSK where they laid railway lines across lake Baikal every winter!) and the filters had blocked with ice crystals.  I then got a long lecture about the design of jet fuel pumps and how 'ours' would survive that sort of treatment.
My, how interesting.  (I hope, for your sake.)
I loved the idea of the future, (you know, the one with air cars and floating cities and jump jets and etc.)  and am quite disgruntled to find that 2000 feels just like 1972, only with PDAs and the Internet.
When I was at college I could never get over the difference between the Physics department and the Electrical Engineering department (I did a combined degree).  In Physics all the equipment was or looked fairly new, neatly packaged and plugged together in racks as needed (like 2001).  In Engineering similar equipment was battered, had its covers off and strewn around or lost, and bits of wire soldered into the works as it had been modified for successive tasks (more like the real world).  I (as an undergrad) once got told off by a technician for working with my feet resting on a mass spectrometer.  "Do you know what that is you've got your feet on?" "Mass spec. I'm not hurting it." "Do you know what they cost?" "Couple of thousand." "Huh."  Unpleasant little sod wasn't I.
Naah.  You were an EE.  My dad is also one.  I recognize the breed.
Hmm, there is something there, in the BC repartee isn't Charon is a former engineer too?
I think so.
We also sat through a repeat in Russian language for the benefit of a group of visiting Chernobyl kids.  (At any time in any town here you will find about a dozen Ukranian or Belarus kids on Chernobyl 'respite' visits.).
Do they glow? she asked politely.  Not in normal room lighting.
I always wonder about such visits. Does it really do them good, or does it expose them to a standard of living that then makes them envious and miserable when they get home?
What it does is get them a square meal every day for a week or two, which must help quite a lot, considering the general standard of living in that area.  When you talk to them they seem very happy to be able to come, and see it like a holiday.  You don't get envious and miserable because you can't live in Disneyland all the time.  Do you?  Maybe some do. 
I have a complicated feeling when I leave a place I've visited and realize that life is going on without me.  Did you ever see "Local Hero"?  It's my favorite movie.  It brilliantly displays this complicated, sad feeling.
Afraid not.  I'll watch out for it.
I recommend it.  It's by the same guy who did "Gregory's Girl."  Yes, I am stuck in the '80s.
I'm sure some get that way when they're older, and (females at least) probably wind up advertising on and such places for some guy to carry them off to a land where the streets are paved with gold.
D'you mean the U.K.?  Ha.  Snort, etc.  I nearly married a guy from Leeds.  I *know* what those streets are paved with.

Yes, I've been to Leeds and stepped in it.  The Former Soviets don't know that though.  It's one of the first things I tell them when they write to me.
I feel terrible for poor Russia.  They have such great potential, why can't they get it together?  My own morbid and disgusting interest is epidemiology, and I am *furious* about the drug-resistant TB strain floating around Russia now. 
I figured a while ago that Russia has too many people for its infrastructure and it is soon going to reduce its population.  The most likely method is by epidemics starting in the cities.  I don't mean this is a deliberate action on anyone's part, just a population dynamic.
Hmm.  Well, Stalin's purges didn't seem to do it. 
I'm sure they helped.  Someone there asked me where I thought it would all end.  I thought about it and came to the following conclusions.
The basic problem is the central government made life in the cities attractive to agricultural workers, while making life on collective farms most unattractive. 
As has happened all over the world... see Manila.  (Bleccch.) So there was a long term drift of population away from the land and into the cities, and a total lack of investment in agriculture, resulting in the country eventually not growing enough food to feed its people.  For a while they 'sold off the family silver', but eventually the system collapsed and poverty followed.
So now they have large hungry cities, a collapsed agricultural system, and no capital to invest in putting things right.  Also an almost totally corrupt system of government which has no interest in governing the people, only of creaming off wealth for itself like a feudal king.
So there is no prospect of supporting the overpopulated cities, and insufficient food to keep them healthy.  There is also a shortage of medical and health resources and a lack of investment in the infrastructure.  In the two months I was in St Petersburg in '92 I forded the same burst water main every day, by the time I left it had washed away half the road.
This seems to me like a formula for epidemic.
Yes, but it still strikes me as sad.
It certainly is, especially when it is people you know that are going to suffer, or are suffering. It isn't just a news item.  I wish I could think of anything I could do about it, but the forces involved are enormous.  I don't see any political intervention could set it aside from its present course.  I was watching the career of Alexandr Lebed with interest. He is a real politician, not just self interested.  His star is eclipsed now, but he was fighting on an anti-corruption position, and if he could have got to Moscow things might have been different.  If he didn't have enough momentum to do it, then I don't know who could have.  We planned to print 'Lebed for Tsar' teeshirts.

A couple of years ago this wistful American guy who was trying to establish his family's place in the pre-revolutionary Russian aristocracy got in touch with me through another newsgroup.  I'm not sure what this would have accomplished.  I don't ever see the Youssopovs mentioned in "Time" magazine as among the In crowd in Moscow in 2000.  I am thrilled that my great- and great-great- grandparents left.  

I know a Lyubov Youssopova in Sverdlosk.  She's a wealthy fashion designer who breeds chow-chows.
God, we're probably very very distant cousins of some kind.

 I've been out working all day, a long drive again.  Driving home, I found I was looking forward to getting home to your letter.
It's good that I wrote back, then, she said complacently.

I was ridiculously happy today.  I did my job well, and on the way home from work I stopped at the library.  The library is very nice, and I walked out with my customary thirty pounds of books, and ordered everything I've been dying to read for the last six months.  Now, finally, I can stop wasting my money with Amazon.

I wish I had time for 30lb of books.  I have to restrict myself to one a week or else I never get anything done.  It's all too easy do go into housewife mode, deal with children, cook and clean and feel good about it, then wonder when I'm going to have time do some work and earn some money to pay for it all.  Easy until irate customers start getting on the phone.
That's why I don't get weepy over my kidless state anymore.  I am a very good aunt; I would be a terrible mother.  I have learned from sad experience that you can't change a diaper and read at the same time.  Nor can you read while giving a toddler a bath.  It is great to finally be old enough to accept the fact that I'm not meant to be a mommy... and even cherish it.  Apologies to your dear Lyudmila, but I don't know how I would have gotten through breast cancer with a child. 
Sometimes I worry that I read too much, as opposed to actually experiencing things.  Then I remind myself that I have experienced a few interesting things in real life, and thing that one can experience and then write a book about often tend to be hot, uncomfortable, and infested with bugs, and I am content to sit in my comfy chair and read about the big, wide (hot, buggy) world.

I am immensely depressed.  I just watched a TV special about Jennifer Patterson.  I look JUST like her when she was young.  (Except my hair is not longer black.)  Oh, heavens, I am about to stop eating.  Stand back while I go for a run.
I don't watch much TV.  I didn't even have one until I got married.
I don't, normally, but I am getting over two years on Midway with *no* TV.  I am ODing a tad.  I will get over it, though, and go back to my normal presentation of frowning into a book.
Who is Jennifer Patterson?
The black-haired fat lady of the Two Fat Ladies.  British food-TV-type people.
Oh that Jennifer Patterson!  Didn't connect at all.  Yes, I have seen her a few times, think she's terrific.  Do you ride a motorcycle combination too? 
Nope.  Never ridden a motorcycle in my life.  I come from a long line of trauma physicians... the urge has never hit me.
She has a wonderful up-yours attitude.  When the series was new there was a write-up in the 'Radio Times' about them.  I recall it described them sitting in deckchairs on the film set, and their response to the call to food was said to be "Greyhound like, in speed if not figure." or something like that. 
I always say of myself: "She arose from the table with stealth and approached the refrigerator with the speed and deadly grace of a great jungle cat."
I once had a motor bike like hers, although I never had a sidecar on that one.  It was wonderful around town compared to the 'fast' bikes most of my friends had because the centre of gravity was so low (like on a Harley) so it was very stable at low speeds.  Once a dog tried to run under my front wheel (maybe I should have sued?) when I was doing little more than walking pace and I drove around it, I actually outmanoeuvred the bastard.  You could stop, turn and set off again without losing balance.  It blew its head gasket about 20 miles from home once because it was old I was carrying a pillion passenger.  We parked it in a pub car park and cut a new gasket for it out of a sheet of aluminium plate and rode it home.  Later I bought an old Velocette, a real vintage machine (well, 'post vintage thoroughbred' or PVT to be precise).  That is a 500cc high compression single cylinder, a real leg-breaker to start.  I once bit my tongue when it backfired.  (? Yes my foot came back up so fast my knee hit my chin!  I couldn't do that voluntarily naked, never mind wearing a full heavy waxed-cotton suit)  For a holiday I shipped it to New York and rode it across Canada for a month or so.  When I got rich, I gave up bikes and drove an MG-B for years and years until I had children.  (I didn't stay rich though, I always had better things to do than that).
I hope you only hunt fridges during the open season. I would hate to think of one of your strength, grace and beauty and size taking advantage of these poor little defenceless creatures! 
Pfui; I am a force of nature, not confined by your petty human laws.  I take fridges when the killing spirit rises in me, regardless of the time or season.
I'll report you to Charon!
Sometimes you should chase something a bit bigger and faster for exercise, like an ice-cream van.
(I think, if memory serves, that the open season on fridges is 0630-0700 and 1800-1900 daily except during Lent)
Ice-cream vans are no challenge.  My people believe that their spirits lead them to self-sacrificial behavior; they *want* to be caught.
A fridge is the ultimate prey.  It may look as though it's squatting numbly in the grass, waiting for death, but it is actually wily.  A nice piece of leftover chicken may be concealed behind a boring-looking jug of orange juice.  You never know what you'll find.
That's not my experience, I find that they display themselves temptingly until you are about 100 yards away, then they run just far enough that you cannot catch them before they move again.  Maybe the ones I chased had young nearby and were leading me away from the nest.
I am confused about the song of the ice-cream truck, though.  Is it a mating song, a territorial song, or a danger/distress call?
It's a mating call, but they *are* fiercely territorial. The four wheeled ones are all female. 
The males of the species are quite different, small and grubby. This is always the way.  You often see them clustered around a stationary female. Ditto ditto.  Immature males have two legs, the mature ones have two wheels.  You occasionally see one in the process of metamorphosing, with small wheels growing on the end of its legs. 
(Tim, An expert on immature males) And here I thought I was.
How are they related to milk floats?  I assume they are at least same genus.
I've never seen milk float.  Are you sure it was *milk*.
When I was last in Albion, the milkman had a little three-wheeled vehicle from which he delivered milk.  Both in Chelmsford and Leeds, his vehicle was called a "milk float."
Do I remember wrong?
No you remember perfectly well.  Milk is delivered in most urban areas by these small electric trucks.  However note the lack of an article, it was not a typo.
Oh.  (lumberingly changing gears)  I get it.  Sorry. 
My reply was, as usual, facetious.  I had a couple of friends over for Sunday dinner and we had been at the wine.  They had come over to use my Internet facilities for him to research a job application.  He is a male nurse and was applying for an interesting position in what might be described as a "Geriatric Outward-Bound" scheme, taking 80-year-olds abseiling and on similar activities.  He has been a geriatric nurse for most of his life (he is about 50) and spends most of the rest of his time on outdoor pursuits, so he sounds like the ideal candidate.  He also does clog-dancing, but perhaps we should draw a veil over that.
I thought that was a phenomenon limited to Appalachia.  And here you are the nation that gave us Shakespeare and Absolutely Fabulous.
This is one of many ancient English customs, Morris Dancing, Maypoles etc. which are reputed to have pre-Christian roots, and to be fertility oriented.  Although what dressing up in silly clothes and dancing in the street while consuming large quantities of ale does for a man's fertility I shudder to think.  I think we could probably summon up an occasional Irish folk band that he plays percussion in too, but I never quite understood where the Irish was in that group of Geordies and Mancunians.  Their fiddler is married to one of my ex's.  They do a wonderful Ceilidh.
It was a very medical day: while they were here, Steve, an orthopaedic surgeon, called to collect his two boys who were playing with Natasha, and so I got buried in an exchange of Health Service anecdotes for a while.
Yes, it's torture while it's happening, but it does make good conversation later.  Like many other life events.

Has Natasha seen "Chicken Run" yet?  If not, I recommend it.
It's a very Yorkshire thing, although there are a few trekkie jokes at the end.
The pie machine is wonderful, really *industrial*.  I felt like I could get up and fix it.
The trip was on the spur of the moment prompted by a feature on a cereal packet and me finding we actually had family time uncommitted at an appropriate time of day.  She loved it, and we then explored their website, downloaded the necessary Shockwave stuff and she has been playing "Escape the Pie Machine" ever since.
The grand finale with the scissors and the cleaver (and the star-trek references) was a complete hoot.  Fortunately we went to an early evening show and the cinema was almost empty, so I did not offend anyone by rolling around several seats laughing. 
I've met a lot of machine operators like Mr Tweedy: "What sort of pies?" "Apple!".  (I've always wanted to introduce one to one of those Mensa people who need to feel superior.  Neither would notice that the other was laughing at him)
You were at a comedy; how could anyone be offended?  I howled.  I knew I was in for a good time when I noticed that Ginger lived in hut 17, and when, in solitary, she was tossing the ball against the wall a la Steve McQueen.  It was truly, truly great.
If they had been in the next seat they might well have been offended at being rolled on.
Oh, heavens, such stuffy persons shouldn't be at the movie.

I think the rats were my favorites -- that and the Scottish chicken, whose name I forget.  "Thrust!"  I adored the swing song they danced to.  I was mad at David because I got kind of dancy on the way out of the theater as the credits were rolling, and he wouldn't play.  What a party-pooper.
Yes I loved the rats working their buts off for all the eggs the cockerel could lay!
The Scottish chicken was called 'Mac'.  I giggled at the bit where she says 'Hen' (for a 2nd person familiar) in the Glasgow vernacular in a phrase something like "So what do you think, Hen?" and there is a short pause as everyone looks at her. 
Yes, and at one point someone called the old rooster a sausage... I was confused.  The Aussies on Midway called me a poor little sausage when I was pathetic.  I thought it was a term of endearment.
Well, I think it is.  I don't remember that bit, but calling someone 'a silly sausage' would be friendly criticism.  Then again in Yorkshire calling someone a 'daft bugger' is a critical endearment in the same way, but could be an insult elsewhere.  I suspect it was meant to mean "You're wrong but I like you anyway."
They are now sending me weekly episodes of the Chicken Run interactive cartoon by email, because I signed up for it on the website.  Hmm.. not as funny as the real thing.  Ginger walks around the bottom of your desktop trying to hide behind folders or to escape.  In the first episode she builds a catapult out of bits of desktop furniture like the start button and the recycle bin.
That's it.  I'm going to download some stuff.
I was pleased that Ginger was played by Julie Sawalha.  I haven't seen her in anything but re-runs of "Absolutely Fabulous" on Comedy Central, but I really liked her in that.  I'm always happy when actors I like can make a living acting.

I like my job, but I must remember to bring lunch.  I keep forgetting, and as a result I am falling over sideways with starvation when it's time to go home.  I just found an Asian grocery store on the way to work, though, and I can get a pork bun.  That will be a nice lunch.  MUST STOP ON WAY TO WORK TOMORROW.
I have driven very small cars all my life.  I am currently driving my boyfriend's huge pickup truck with a camper back and HATE it.  I can't see out the rear-view mirror.  He says, "Well, plenty of trucks don't have a rear-view mirror; they just have side mirrors.  Get used to it."  I don't care.  I am still scared and I can't wait until I can afford my own (very small) car.  He has an elderly Toyota MR-2 that goes like a bat out of hell when it works, and it is small enough, but as much as I hate driving big trucks, I hate having my car not start even more, so I drive the
Oh well that's lady drivers.  I drive a 3.5 ton van, converted to a 5-seater so it can be multifunction, a family car, a 'mobile workshop' or a basic camper.  I don't really mean that about lady drivers, A woman from 'One-and-Only' contacted me because also uses a van the same way (but only a 2-tonner, more ladylike?), and a couple of the Mums at Natasha's school use minibuses to ferry their broods.
Good.  Because when I was doing outreach to homeless people I drove a Chevy Astro van, which I also loathed, but I *could* drive it.  I could even parallel park it, which is another thing I hate doing.
My other problem is my lead foot.  I love driving fast, and the truck is not terribly zippy.
I resent the canard about lady drivers.  I have never had a speeding ticket or (knock wood) an accident.  And I have driven a LOT, including in Manila, the U.K., and southern California.

I love lady drivers.  I love anyone who does the driving instead of me.
This afternoon I actually travelled a mile in the back seat of someone else's car! (more later)

One strange thing, My van is an ordinary 'panel van' with an extra window on each side, and extra seats for two.  A minibus is the same frame with one more windows on each side and more seats still.  So why should my van have a 10mph lower legal speed limit?  Last year I got a ticket for doing 60 on a rural 2-lane A-road.  I was just keeping up with the traffic.  Cars and minibuses are allowed 60, but 'vehicles constructed for the carriage of goods' are only allowed 50. 
It's class warfare. - Red Catharine (There are no such distinctions on any other class of road.) The police read 'constructed' as meaning the manufacturers original construction, not what the vehicle is actually used or modified for.   They haven't yet come up with a radar that can count the windows though, so the automatic cameras can't trap that one, it has to be a 'human' policeman (if there is such a thing).

Oh yes, Mum had her lumpectomy yesterday.  Everything seems OK, no real worries.  We should get the analysis next week.  Still seems to have been a small slow tumour, promptly treated, so should be OK.  She is cheerful and expecting to go home tomorrow.  Maybe I'm in denial, but after Lyudmila I can't get terribly worked up about it.  She's 75 and disgustingly healthy.  Her mother lived to 92, she played bridge and she lived on her own, cooked for herself and gardened and everything until the end.
I can certainly understand. My mom is always getting huhu about some health thing, and it's hard for me to get excited about her disease of the week.