Chapter 7: Christmas, Bush.

Switching gears, with a great grinding noise:  And what is the Jackson Family doing for Christmas?  What is Santa Claus bringing Natasha?
Thereby hangs a tale.  I so far managed to escape or at least defer the pressures to do something.  We are staying at home, just us, and not driving anywhere or entertaining anyone.  By unanimous agreement.  Yay.  It's been a rough year, and it sounds as though you can use a quiet
My parents are for once not really fit to drive, and are concerned about exposure to infection travelling long distances by public transport. 
Is the plague afoot in Albion?  Oh, I'm sorry, I forgot about your mum's BC.  Is she in chemo now?
No she's out of treatment (just tamoxifen) but recently recovered from mastectomy.  Dad had some virus which hit him badly and he became anaemic. Suspicion of bleeding in the gut somewhere.  He has been recovering slowly for some months, but it is extremely slow and any sort of infection sets him right back again.  He is 85, so I suppose he can't really complain.
There was a suggestion that we go there, but it got complicated and I felt it was too much pressure with the busiest time of year for business and no child minder and Christmas shopping etc and straight on into travelling hundreds of miles.  So I said we'd go sometime later, not for Christmas Day.
Later on there is New Year, when I am expected to go to somewhere in Devon to celebrate my sister wedding. She is 48 and got married in October but deferred the celebration to New Year's eve.  Its a full day's driving each way and best part of £100 worth of diesel so I'm not over keen on that either, but I haven't actually said I won't go yet, I am still prevaricating.  I might have felt better about it if I thought she was taking it seriously and had the ceremony at least in the same month as the party, or if I had ever met any of her social group. 
Is it her first marriage?  Because I can see skipping one in a series. 
First and only.  She has been very much a loner most of her life.
I like her and get on well with her, but she has always kept her social life strictly apart from family affairs.  I'd rather spend 3 days sleeping.Ultimately more rewarding, I'm sure.
I even gave up on sending Christmas cards, on the last day for posting I did actually get some time off from running around customers and considered sending some last minute cards, but decided to take the time to send some late invoices instead. Definitely more rewarding!
Natasha has (sad) a Pokemon 'workshop' CD which is basically printer based projects, posters and t-shirts and what have you, a 'colouring by numbers' and a video.  She is very keen on drawing and art and wants to learn how to draw properly.  I hunted around the local shops but could find no books to teach the basics of art to young people.  They are either moronic 'squeeze paint onto paper and fold it in half' or aimed at the amateur adult, rather dry with lots of words and not many pictures, tell rather than show. 
Do you have the "Klutz" series for kids in England?  Hey, Natasha is half-Russian... couldn't she get Epiphany presents? 
Being half Russian allows four celebrations at least - Soviets did not recognise Christmas so they celebrated New Year.  The Orthodox church celebrated New Year 11 days later, on the old calender.   If they have enough vodka they celebrate both.  Some Russian, Ukrainian etc immigrants here cheat and both Christmasses as well.
I would be happy to see what we have here.  There is a wonderful chain of stores here called Zany Brainy that stocks the most fabulous educational (and very fun) toys imaginable.  I wish they had been around when I was a child.
Interesting.  We don't have Zany Brainy and I haven't seen the Klutz series. We have things like Toys-R-Us, but only in the big city. 
I think Zany Brainy was started as a reaction to Toys'R'Us.  If you would like, I love shopping for kids. I would be happy to send you descriptions of what is available, and then you could mail order it from them or I could send it or something.  I have lots of spare time.
Maybe.  Do they have any online catalog or anything?  We have to be careful about buying imported (eg US) stuff because of compatibility and language and so on.  For Natasha's birthday I bought her an airbrush which works by blowing across felt-tip pens.  It was a US import, and of course the felt-tips available here don't fit the holder, and we can't get spares. Sometime I'll get around to making an adaptor, but its a pain.
I've tried trading with e-correspondents on NGs before, and the banks charge a fortune for transferring small amounts of money.  It's only really practicable by credit card.
Well, yeah.  I would find the article, get your approval on it, have the store hold it and you could send them by phone or fax your credit card number.  Then either I or they could ship it.
The shops around here are a bit limited.  Most people round here tend toward the attitude "Working in the mill was good enough for me so its good enough for my kids." They can't get it into their heads that the mills have all closed down, and anyway it's a crazy attitude which destroys their kids potential.  What local bookshops we had have closed down since Amazon started up, they were up against the wall already.
Boy, what will happen if Amazon folds?  They only turned a profit in their last quarter.  Business buzz is that they're going to scale back A LOT and only offer books.  We'll see.
Well if they do it would probably be a good thing but wouldn't affect this problem.  I'm sure its not just Amazon, but that helped.  For some time the book business has been splitting into dumbed-down bookshops which are glorified magazine racks and just stock bestsellers and kids' encyclopedias, on the one hand, and large 'real' bookshops that try to stock everything, on the other.  Small serious bookshops lose their mass-market sales to the mag-racks and can't compete with the big shops on range, so they are confined to selling a limited range of low-volume stuff to local customers who don't have internet, and it just doesn't show enough profit.  Our local bookshop subsidised a passable range of books with stationery, art supplies and toys, but didn't do any of them well, and even local toyshops have died out through trade lost to the big out-of-town stores like ToysRUs.  (The reversed R really confuses the Russians)
I'm sure if I go into the big shops in Manchester I'll find something but I haven't had time for that. 
And you are writing this on Christmas Eve, so it's a little late even if you had time.
Yes - I didn't mean for a Christmas present I meant for general education.
This isn't really something I can do with Amazon, it really needs a hands-on approach.  Maybe one of the relatives (or Cindy) found something, tomorrow will tell.
It seems a bit silly, first I buy presents and cards for Natasha and Artyom, then I buy a present for Artyom from Natasha because she's spent all her pocket money before thinking about it, then I realise that Artyom's nocturnal lifestyle means that the shops are never open when he is awake, so I have to buy a present for Natasha from Artyom.  Is that Christmas spirit or just commercial pressure?
Have a good Christmas yourself

It's both, and it's inescapable.  Last year on Midway was the only non-commercial Christmas I have ever had in my entire life.  I was being very controlled and aloof to it all until last Monday, when I went insane in IKEA.  I tell you, my darling two-and-a-half-year-old niece absolutely needs a toddler-sized armchair, end table and lamp.  And my four-year-old-nephew's life would not be the same without a tent that turns his bed into a race car.
It's much more fun to shop for children, I must say.  I'm glad my sister and brother had them.
Have the Christmas you want!

Well, it's all over. 
I hope that everyone was suitably delighted with their presents and has calmed down today.
Yes I think so.  We went to see my parents yesterday, which went off OK too. I was trying to cop out of all that driving but I didn't get away with it.
You can read of my triumphant Christmas dinner on the newsgroup.  I am going to spend most of today napping.
I did read it and I don't blame you.  Well done.
I have a small dilemma. David gave me an engagement ring for Christmas.  I haven't decided if I'm going to marry him or not, but that's not the real problem; the real problem is that the ring is hideous and not at all to my taste.  How would you, a guy, suggest I handle this?  Is there a way to do it without hurting his feelings?  When I was married before, my fiancé took me shopping for the engagement ring, because he wanted to make sure I wouldn't mind wearing it for a long time.  I thought that's how everyone did it.  When David first started making let's get married noises, I said I didn't want an engagement ring, and really was not into wedding rings, either. Oh, heck.
Oh dear, so much for the calculations.  How does that affect the insurance situation?  It would make it better.  You aren't seriously saying that you were about to dump the guy as soon as you could afford to, but now he produced a tacky but undoubtedly expensive ring you are having second thoughts and perhaps you'll spend the rest of your life with him after all? Or maybe you didn't quite mean the things you said before.... .
I'm really torn.  On one hand, I'm not all that fond of him and I'm homesick for Hawaii.  On the other hand, he is good to me, it would be better for me, insurance-wise, if I were married, and it would mean more security for me.
If he is hurting your feelings then it is tough if you reflect it back on him.  You going to marry him and live with him just to spare his feelings?
I don't think there is an easy way, if he has set himself on a collision course with you then you are either going to evade or collide.  There only metastable state is you running away just fast enough that he can't quite catch you, and that is seriously unsustainable.  Newton's mechanics work quite well in describing these dynamics.  Powering into a collision course increases the energy of the system but moving into a stable closer orbit actually requires a reduction in energy.  If the collision is slow enough friction absorbs the energy.  It isn't much fun but its stable - that happens quite a lot.  If the collision is quick then it is elastic, recoil occurs and no energy is lost.  This results in the two bodies moving further apart, possibly on an open (parabolic) path, ie they don't come back
together again.  The Newtonian way of making a relationship work is to concentrate on achieving stability and losing relative velocity, and to avoid the temptation to try to minimise distance, which actually only in reduces stability.

Maybe you should talk to your doctor about it to get an idea of that side of the balance. They do have confidentiality don't they.
I am planning on doing that.  I see him to discuss the results of my bone scan on January 8. I am also trying to find a counselor who will see me or a few brief sessions to get my head screwed back on.
We're off to Oregon to visit David's sister.  Back on Tuesday.

I needed some cheering up this weekend and she happened to be in the line of fire. I had some more amusing correspondence with her on email at the same time.  Total lack of SOH.  I think if you combine the nationality with the beliefs there can't be much of it left.  (What me, politically correct?)
Also got a 'private' Spam from a BC survivor Tupperware lady in the states quoting one of my ng posts.  Good grief!  Me, buy Tupperware!  When I get a Chinese takeaway it comes in a lovely resealable lightweight freezer/microwave container.  I've collected dozens of them, they don't last forever but they are free and do maybe a dozen uses.
So did I.  What a crumb bum.  I sent it to SpamCop as a complaint.  I thought that was low.
I adore Tupperware, and I have a lot of it, but I don't need any more.  You can buy it at a Tupperware shop in the mall in the U.S., so you don't have to go to any of those horrible parties.
You may e-mail me at any time if you need cheering up... I check my e-mail at least twice a day.  However, I won't be checking the 25th through the 29th.

I just wasted 15 minutes filling in one of those interminable consumer survey questionnaires.
I'll say.  Why are they so long?  Why are they so irresistible?
I don't know, but it was virtually a duplicate of one I got a couple of
weeks ago.  Different agency but several of the same 'sponsor specific'
questions.  WHat makes me do them.  I'm noit sure of that either.  I'd like
to believe that I was not being seduced by the small chance of winning the
£1000 incentive lottery. 
Ha. Usually I think it is when I am trying to sort out
which job to do first it appeals as something I can complete quickly and
remove from the list.  For some odd reason the fact that I don't have to do
it at all seems to get bypassed.
When I licked the free-post envelope the adhesive tasted startlingly of strawberries. Wow.  We don't get that here. What a wonderful delivery system for the molecule of your choice.
Imagine the scenario - a terrorist organisation, say animal rights, decides to move on from torching scientists' cars
(and houses in new housing developments) and makes up a mailshot with a reply incentive, like a competition or something, complete with reply-paid envelope.  It's entirely elievable.  A couple of years ago I used a reply envelope whose adhesive was peppery and burned my tongue.  I was paranoid for days.
Then add a little bioweapon to the adhesive. Something like a
virus which will take a while to take effect so the deaths are disconnected from the mailshot, at least for long enough that they all get licked. Wow.
Wasn't there something like that in a book (sounds like one of Michael Crichton's ideas?), sending bio-contaminated used dollar bills as an anonymous donation to charities, to get them well distributed and start an epidemic.
It sounds vaguely familiar, but I may be thinking of a poisoned envelope in a mystery novel.
Maybe I should invest in an automated envelope licker.  But I always use self-seal envelopes in my business.

I like self-seal envelopes, but they jam in my printer.
I find I can get them through if I feed them manually and give them a push at the critical stage.  These are quite heavy 100gsm 'posh' envelopes.  I use an Epson Stylus Color 600.  I have generally found over the years that the ability of printers to handle this stuff has declined.  My first inkjet, a Stylus 800 (mono) was better and also had some nice features like it only took a few seconds to start up, it had a pause button so I could shut it up if the phone rang, and a real power switch that would turn it off.  'Soft' power switches are all very well, but there is no emergency-stop - if the software crashes you can't switch off except by pulling the power cord. Also I could use it as a network printer.  All versions of the print despooler since then terminate once they have printed one document from a remote computer.
I have noticed that, she said with gritted teeth.
We have a nice HP desktop laser printer, and it is a prima donna about envelopes.  It maketh me crazy.
I also like self-seal stamps, but not enough to use them all the time.  I like big, pretty, gorgeous stamps, and the self-stick stamps are always small and government-issue-looking.  If the adhesive is expensive, I'd gladly pay an extra penny or two for big, pretty, gorgeous, self-stick stamps.
Now we don't have self-stick postage stamps.  Aren't they insecure - easy to peel off?
No.  In fact, for someone like me who is obsessive about putting the stamp on the envelope *just so*, the lick-'em kind are far more forgiving.  You can shift those a millimeter left when they're still wet, but the self-stick ones stick to stay the minute they kiss the paper.

Sigh.  What an awful day today, and I am just incredibly distressed about Bush and his actions upon taking office.  Cutting off funding to non-governmental relief organizations that provide abortions overseas just made me gibber with rage.  And the fact that they are now trying to delay approval on RU-486 just made orange light come out of the top of my head while I was gibbering.  Shriek.
I heard about the abortion thing and can't imagine that is going to make him many friends.  What is RU-486?
Mifepristone.  It is an anti-progestin drug.  To induce an abortion, you take one of those pills, and a couple of days later you take another pill, misoprostol, and then you have a miscarriage.  It is designed to induce spontaneous abortion in women up to five weeks pregnant.
It's funny.  I have been very political since around the age of twelve, and the thousands of stiff letters I have written to various elected officials over the years are probably reposing in my FBI file, along with my arrest record and pictures of me at various rallies.
(Ha HA!  That peppery-tasting envelope was a governmental assassination plot!  It gave me cancer!!!!!  I'm gonna sue!!!!!!)
I am a lot angrier about this Bush thing than I have been about many other issues I've gotten exercised about over the years; and yet now I don't care.  I can't bestir myself.  I made some pressure-cooker noises when I was reading the paper, and ranted on it on my other newsgroup a bit, and I feel I've done my part.  I feel as though I'm letting the team down.
I wonder.  Would I trade reduced abortion rights for government price controls on prescription drugs?  Why am I torturing myself?  I've never contemplated getting, or even thought I would need to or could have an abortion.  It's just really important to me that it remains legal. 
Do you have anti-abortion loonies in the UK?  I never read about them.  If so, are they all hyper-Christian?  And are pro-abortion-rights people humorless, largely lesbian, and bulky, as they are here?
We do have a vociferous anti-abortion lobby, but it is clearly a minority. We don't have nearly as many hyper-Christians as you do, that seems to be an American thing.  Yeah.  It's something to do with the availablility of doubleknit polyester clothing and clip-on ties, I think. Remember we deported all our religious nuts to America - they thought  they were escaping persecution, but it amounts to the same thing)  They tend to get laughed at here.  Most people here are pro-abortion.  I don't know but I would sort of assume that activists would be mostly attractive young ladies of lesser means - the sort most likely to get unwanted pregnancies.  Most I see on the media are medical professionals, or professional medical educators.  What has it got to do with lesbians?  How come they need abortions?  They generally don't, but they are seriously into women's rights.  The anti-abortionists stole a march by calling themselves pro-life (yeah like the pro-apple-pie lobby), but now the pro's are called 'pro-choice' to even things up a bit.

I'm kind of depressed today, because on top of everything else, David is worried about my mother snooping around the house when she's here and asked me to move the contents of a bin he has under the bed into the garage.  Well, of course, I had to look in the bin.  It was filled with porn.  I don't have an objection to porn per se, but this was pretty vile.  It also featured some stuff about teen beauties.  All of that stuff was clearly labeled that the models in it are over 18, but it still made me feel icky about the guy who wants to marry me.  Now I'm wondering if he is a secret child molester.  Should I talk about it with him?  You're a guy.  What do you think?  I'm pretty sure he didn't mean "move it and rifle it," but at the same time, how could he think I would not look in it?
Sorry to go on and on.  Emotional day for me.
I look at porn sometimes.  Usually online.  It's not much substitute for the real thing, but when it's all you can get... I find that to see something nice you always have to browse through a lot of rubbish.
I would not like to think that anyone would judge my taste by what passes across my screen.  At least 95% of the images are of no interest at all.  I think there is some sort of credibility gap between the producers and the readers.
There may be.  If you can get hold of Talk magazine, Martin Amis has a
very interesting and somewhat heartbreaking piece in there about people
who make pornography. 
Not enough market research probably, or maybe I am just not typical.  Maybe you just haven't gotten the survey yet.  :)  Most sites seem to think that their readers would find a gynecological examining room their idea of heaven. 
And it probably would be, for the first couple of days.
To look at it as a woman, one finds oneself turning a wide pink blotch sideways and saying, "Oh, look, it looks like she's had some venereal warts removed."  I'm such a spoilsport. 
For me its about as exciting as a mortuary.  For example so many pictures just show body parts, and I turn off if I can't see her eyes.  My imagination has to relate to a person.  Otherwise inflatable dolls would be a lot more popular.
The teen thing is another issue.  There seems to be a perceived demand for the youngest possible girls.  I don't know why, I find them disturbingly close to being like my daughter, and see them as children, not sex objects. I find thirty-somethings much sexier.
Yes, Tim, but we have established that you are an unusually perfect man.  
What I mean is that what you describe sounds like a random sample of what is pushed, not a personal selection, so may well not reflect his taste or needs.
I sincerely hope not, because it was mostly an act which I, a liberal, experienced, fun-loving person born in 1963, Will Not Do.  And I mean absolutely never.  I don't care how fabulous a fantasy it is.
I wouldn't take it personally. 
Oh, I don't.  I accept the fact that men find something in porn that women don't.  I was just overreacting to the Teen Dream stuff, looking at a picture of my three-year-old niece Hannah, the Cutest Girl in the World, and thinking He Will NEVER Meet Her.
He may well have been alone for some time before meeting you, He was. and he may well feel insecure about his relationship (with some reason from your previous messages) and feel the need for a backup.  As to whether you should talk about it, I would tread carefully. If you can discuss it without getting emotionally involved, and if he can without getting defensive then that would be great, and you could come to a better understanding of each other.  However there is quite a lot of risk that it wouldn't work

Ah, yes.  But sadly, he is Mr. Defensive, and I am Ms. Has Worked With (abused, downtrodden) Sex Workers For Too Long, and never the twain shall meet.  I think discretion may be the better part of valor here.  Thank you for helping me clarify my thinking.

Ah, so much to do today, and I have of course left it to the last minute.  I still don't know what time I'm supposed to show up tomorrow for 4:00 p.m. surgery.  I need to clean the house, do laundry, iron (all vanity items having to do with my mother coming on Sunday), buy and freeze several pounds of Porterhouse steaks, (also for my mother, as she lives on them) gift wrap my birthday present to my almost-stepdaughter (who is six years younger than I, and one of my best friends) and get all my living
will/do not resuscitate paperwork together.
You know I have lymphedema in my left arm?  Here is what I do when I go into the hospital and I'm afraid some well-meaning nurse's aide will try to do a BP check on my left arm when I'm sedated or something.  I take a large indelible felt-tip marker and write on said arm in 1" high letters, armpit to wrist, LYMPHEDEMA NO STICKS NO BP. It lasts for about four days of sponge baths.  I get a lot of laughs and funny looks but I've never had my puffy arm worsened in the hospital.  I've also had a lot of other lympedematous people look at it and say, "Wow!  What a great idea."  I are slick.  (doing little Superbowl-endzone-self-congratulatory dance)  

Changing the subject, with a great grinding and clashing of gears:
I don't know if the culture will translate well, but if you need to take Natasha to a movie you could do worse than "The Emperor's New Groove." The moral message is soft-pedaled much more than in most Disney movies.  It is wildly funny, at least for Americans, and in that subset is wildly funny both for kids and for parents.  Lots of topical AS WELL as nose-picking humor.  What more could one want?  And the animation is divine.  YMMV.

We saw the trailer when we went to see 102 Dalmatians (which I thought was crap but N liked.  I suppose it doesn't have the multi-level appeal of the original.) 
I didn't even like the original live action one.  I am a cartoon fan.  And worse yet, I read the book first.  Sigh. Next they'll be making a movie out of Mr. Popper's Penguins.  Or the Noel Streatfield "Shoe" books.  Which I insist you get for N, as she will shortly grow into them.
I'll have a look for the Streatfield books, I don't know of them
It looked pretty funny, and there is something about llamas....
There is a scene when the llama is unconscious, and he is so limp.  The drawing is just hilarious.  I can't explain why a limp and floppy llama is amusing, but it is.
The one-L lama, he's a priest.
The two-L llama, he's a beast.
And I'll bet you a silk pajama
There isn't any three-L lllama.
                    --Ogden Nash
Our child-minder has them at the bottom of her garden - I think her neighbour farms them. 
I llove llamas and would love to have one as a pet.  Failing that, some goats.  Deodorized goats.  I am really a sick puppy - I even like camels a lot.
Camels are kind of nice.  We had a 'last holiday' for Lyudmila (Lludmila?) in the Canary Isles, which included a camel ride.  They really are quite remarkable beasts, and quite intelligent too.  Natasha loved it.  Each camel had an adult-sized seat on each side, and a kiddie-sized seat on top.  The top seat was pretty high up and a shaky ride.  None of the kids on the ride would go up there except Natasha, so she looked like the princess of the caravan.
We got it on video.  I showed the video to a male friend, and at one point he referred to a woman in the picture "What a lard bucket!  Oh shit!, I'm sorry, its Lyudmila."  Tamoxifen had caused her to put on quite a bit of weight and she looked rather bloated then.
It is due out here in the UK backwaters 16 Feb.
I'm from Hawaii.  I'm used to having movies get to me six months after everyone else.  And the cool ones don't get to us at all.  I am in heaven here in Seattle with my 500 channels of cable TV.  The two channels that I watch are the Sundance Channel and the Independent Film Channel.  I have been catching up on everything that I've read about for the past ten years but haven't seen. 
Do you like the blues?  If you do, I highly, highly recommend a documentary called "Genghis Blues."  It's killer interesting.  And a lot of it is subtitled Russian, so you can practice.
Re blues, I once had a blues phase in my student days.  I'm not sure now, but that certainly sounds interesting.  The Mongol horde always had a certain appeal.
"Genghis Blues" is about a blind San Francisco blues performer named Paul Pena, who happens to hear a demonstration of a vocal technique called throatsinging on shortwave radio in the '70s.  It was done on Russian radio by an member of a nomadic tribe from Tuva, a teensy little country between Mongolia and Russia.  One of the autonomous regions, don't you know.  Anyway, this throatsinging is how these guys produce as many as four tones at one time from their vocal cords.  He falls in love with it, teaches himself how to do it, teaches himself Tuvan and some Russian, and goes to Tuva in the '90s to meet these people himself.  It is a fabulously interesting and touching piece of documentary moviemaking.
I am a documentary freak.  It is my goal, one year, to have seen all the Academy-Award-nominated documentaries before the Academy Awards show.  Somehow I don't know if that's possible... not becasue I'm being morbid and afraid of dying too soon, but because I don't live in New York or Los
Oh, well, I who am about to die (or worse, wake up after anesthesia) salute you.  Talk to you next week.
Salute returned.  May the knife be gentle.

Newspaper clipping read out on a BBC satirical radio program, and heard while driving up the M1:

"The Papal Nuncio is to give a talk in Cardiff to reassure the clergy and layity following recent media stories about sexual misdeeds of senior church officers.  Afterwards he will meet with a group of nuns and lay people."
I laughed so much I couldn't see the car in front for tears in my eyes.
Bwahahahahaha.  And was this read in the fruity BBC style?
Back at home.  Haven't killed my mother yet.
Oh yes, this show actually employs a genuine BBC Radio 4 newsreader to read the newspaper clippings.  It is usually a man, but one week they had particular joy because there was a story about a guy who tried to gatecrash
his ex-wife's wedding arriving by parachute dressed as a penis.  (Sadly he was blown off course and his ensuing embarrassment made the story).  One show regular said it was worth doing that one gag just to hear the newsreader Charlotte Green, a very proper young lady, say "penis".
One wishes she had said, "male member."
Ah but remember she is quoting from a newspaper cutting.  I am sure there would be an outcry if it were known she altered the words.  Besides she appeared to be amused by the situation and probably colluded.  It wouldn't really be a satirical show if there were no element of rule breaking.
It is my favorite media show.  It is on Radio 4 and called The News Quiz, and has the general format of a panel game, where four comics/satirists answer questions from the week's news set by the chairman. 
We have a very similar show called "Rewind."  I really like it.  It is so funny that sometimes, as I sit all alone in my kitchen listening to it, I laugh out loud.  
Why is radio so much more satisfying than TV?  I absorb the news much better when I listen to it on the radio.  Maybe ads really do interfere with retention.
I don't think so, I don't see much difference between the BBC and commercial TV. 
Yes, even our "Public TV," which used never to have commercials on it, now has what look suspiciously like commercials at the beginning of every show when they are talking about who sponsored the show.
I think it has to do with being able to do something else at the same time.  I listen while driving or cooking, and I think mindless occupation of the hands aids concentration.
I think so, too.  I have a weird little sweing project that I work on.  I feel like Mme. DeFarge, constantly worrying over this little scrap of cloth.  Heh heh.
Of course that is largly just a framework for satirical gags, and if a panellist doesn't know the answer then often he just does a different gag instead.  That part is unrehearsed.  Interspersed among the jokes are these accidentally humerous newspaper clippings sent in by listeners.  There is a vague pretence that these are actually collected by the individual panellists, and they make a round of the game, but in fact they are sent to the program, and the text is read by the newsreader, the panellist just announces the source.
There was a television spin-off called Have I Got News for You a few years ago which is also very successful.  It runs for about half the year, avoiding the 'silly season' when it appears, there is no news.  I like that too, but you can't beat radio.  I was heartbroken when the original presenter of the radio show, Barry Took, retired after god knows how many years.  I think I had listened to him since my teens - he used to write for The Goons.  I thought he would go on for ever.  Brian Perkins has been the regular newsreader for as long as I can remember too, he must have been on holiday when Ms. Green was doing it.
They also quoted the rather old one about a Scottish police patrol whose handheld speed radar suddenly indicated an unfeasibly large number then ceased working.  It turned out that they had inadvertently radared an RAF Tornado bomber on a low flying exercise.  A complaint was duly sent to the RAF, who's reply was that the Tornado's defence system had interpreted the speed radar as a hostile missile aiming radar and had automatically sent out a jamming signal.  It had also automatically armed an air-to-ground missile ready to take out the aggressor!
They sure know how to show the traffic police who's boss!

Oh GOD am I cold.  It's 67.3 F in the house and I am wracked with chills.  No fever.  I think this is the anemia that they made me take the blood transfusions for yesterday. 
Very likely, not surprised, it goes with the turf.  The trauma probably has something to do with it too.  Keep wrapped up.  Keep moving.  Eat well, even if it doesn't taste nice.
Well, it turned out I had a fever anyway.  Duh!  I was heartily miserable last night (the surgeon has me on Coumadin to prevent against blood clots, so I can't take anything like aspirin or ibuprofen to reduce the fever) but joy has come again in the morning and I am better.  
You will be happy to know that I made a funny in the hospital when they gave me the first dose of Coumadin.  Coumadin (Warfarin), is, in case you call it something different in the UK, rat poison.  It kills rats by inducing internal bleeding (and keeps post-surgical  orthopedic cases from throwing a clot).  So when the very funny nurse came in to give me my first pill, I took it and then did a long, slow, twitchy impersonation of a dying rat.  I then had to repeat that for the general approbation of the rest of the nursing staff on the floor.  I am secretly relieved to find out that it didn't kill me, ergo I must not be a rat.
Going to drink water ALL DAY today, if it kills me.

Very nice.  My friend John of the bowel cancer is on Warfarin after getting DVT as a complication.  He is doing OK and is now halfway through radiation, ahead of schedule, and makes it to the local pub occasionally.  Guess he isn't a rat either.
I may, indeed, be a rat, or at least have ratlike characteristics.  I basically started melting down yesterday, and spent way too much time at the hospital.  BUT they took me off the Warfarin, which I was instinctively sure was my problem.  Ha!