Thursday, October 29, 2009

A typical day in Macha, Zambia

Letter from Mom:
I thought you might be interested to know what a "normal" day is like for us at Macha
Mission Hospital. James and I were here 18 years ago and things have really changed. Macha is much bigger and there are improvements. For example, when we were here before there was drought and famine. It was the worst of times for Macha. The people suffered and there was little food. The government would let the people do something for 4 hrs a day and give them a small amount of mealie meal (like corn meal) for cooking.
These people are still very poor by our standards but there was rain last year and the people have food. Also before we saw only a very few with shoes and those shoes were often made from discarded tires. However, now, not all, but most have shoes. A small percent are wearing stylish clothing and even wigs!!! The bright red wigs are my favorite!
Jobs are being created. Different crops are being planted and harvested. Buildings are being constructed. There is still a lot to be done but also a lot has been done.
The Zambians love cell phones and many have them. They do not have water or electricity in their village huts but they often will have a cell phone. I know that sounds a little strange but they walk everywhere they go and that cell phone is really a huge help.
James gets up early every morning and works in the garden. One of the good things is there is no frost here and we can grow something in the garden most of the year. The nearest supermarket is 40 miles away so the garden is a lifesaver. We are in summer now and the temperature has been 122 degrees F. in the full sun. The good part is there is no humidity and we simply do not do anything in the middle of the day from 1 to 3. We are getting use to it. What we cannot possibly understand is how some of the Zambians have a sweater on!!!
James goes to work every morning and does Out Patient Clinic, works with HIV patients - many which are children, TB patients. James also helps in the operating room and sets many bones and cares for those with burns and so forth. The patients with HIV has risen from 4000 to 5000 seen as outpatients. Sixty per cent of all the patients admitted to the hospital are HIV positive. To say that the work load is heavy is very much an understatement. Some patients are so sick that we simply cannot help them. However, there are also many that we can and do help. We have to focus on the ones we can help.
One prayer request is that a general surgeon would come and stay long term. We really need a general surgeon.
I am teaching Bible at the Christian school and tell Bible stories at the Hospital for the Children, Women and Men's wards. I am just throwing the seed of the gospel out there. The Lord promises it will not return void. Of course, I have to use an interpreter so the entire process is a bit of a challenge. The Bible lessons at the Christian school are done in English and that is an easy do and the children seem to love it. We have a fun time. The kids call it Fabulous Friday. It is hot as blue blazes and the kids are practicing for the Christmas play. At least they are not singing, "I'm dreaming of a white Christmas."
I am also tutoring those in English who need that (of course, they will all have a southern accent!). I also meet each grade class in the library and read to them. So, we are all busy enough. When guest come to Macha, I am one of those doing hospitality such as cooking meals for them. There is a work crew of 16 here now from the States.
Last Sunday there were about 1000 in the BIC church. It was SO crowded that if one person crossed his legs, everyone on that row was obliged to do likewise. Africans do not have the same sense of personal space that we do. And there is always room for one more. The church service is lively and the singing is beautiful. Many walk long distances in great heat to come. No one complains and no one is in a hurry to leave. There recently was a baptismal service and many were added to the church. There was great rejoicing.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Thanksgiving Early

Last week was heavy on the socializing, relative to what I'm used to. A couple of evenings don't merit recording, but on Wednesday we had Barbra over, and she brought her World's Best Pumpkin Pie; I don't like pumpkin pie but this, I like. On Saturday we had dinner with Tara, who offered rosemary chicken and sweet potatoes with a glaze sauce; I managed to resist taking a fourth helping, but it was a struggle.

Monday, October 19, 2009

My Son the Hydronaut, part 2

What happens when you carry out a research project? Well, usually you set up another research project and apply for more funding. Josh was therefore following the academic model when he took a dive class at university and asked for scuba gear. A buoyancy control vest, regulator, and dive computer.
I keep telling myself "It's cheaper than buying him a car" and trying to ignore myself's reply "Only if it's instead of a car rather than in addition to."

Sunday, October 18, 2009


We went to Stark & Legum in Norfolk today to look at some clothes, and it turns out that Bob's Gun Shop, right across the street, was offering a $19.99 deal for first timers who wanted to take a loaner pistol, 50 rounds of 9mm, and two targets. The safety briefing was a lot less comprehensive than at Virginia Beach's A&P Arms--essentially "Have you shot before? Yes? Okay, sign here"--so it was a good thing I already knew what to do. I've been wanting to try a SIG for a while, so I picked up a P226, ran the target out to 10 meters, and started putting holes in paper. It's a nice pistol, although a Glock 17 fits my hand better. Next time I go to A&P, I'll try the .40 version of the Glock.

After leaving the gun shop, we stopped for barbecue sandwiches at Doumar's, original home of the ice cream cone.

I checked out One Second After, by William Fortschen. He's a competent writer rather than a brilliant one, but the situation--an EMP bomb disables, well, pretty much the whole country--is compelling. The idea of suddenly dropping back to the technology of 100 years ago, is not terribly appealing.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Rules for Writing a Novel in 30 Days

Taken from Catherynne Valente's article:
  • Be a Genius. You do not have the luxury of not being a genius–not being a genius is laziness and sloth.
  • Make sure everyone knows what you're doing.
  • Be crazy. Let go of your internal editor.
  • Sacrifice your body. You weren't using it anyway.
  • Don't fail.


Colonel O'Neill: "Something wrong?"
Major Carter: "No. I've just never...blown up a star before."
O'Neill: "Well, they say the first one is always the hardest."
Stargate SG-1, Season 4, Episode 22

Wednesday, October 14, 2009


Effort is only effort when it begins to hurt.
--Jose Ortega y Gasset


We've overhauled the garden boxes, harvesting the last of the chard, carrots (which were quite good but you only get a few of them), tomatoes, peppers, chives, onions, tomatoes, beans, and more tomatoes. The winter plan seems to include broccoli and pansies.
That's "winter" from a Virginia Beach point of view, of course. Probably no snow involved. We will bring the palm tree inside, though.

Music sample

Music from Mechwarrior 2, Cruxshadows, and uillean pipes.

Saturday, October 10, 2009


Diana and I went to Richmond today to meet my sister and pass on three suitcases of supplies for Zambia which Diana hadn't been able to take. After we handed over the drugs and gauze and clothes and such, we had lunch at Famous Dave's -- the Georgia chopped pork barbecue was okay, albeit a bit bland for my taste--and the Science Museum of Virginia. Come to think of it, the museum was also a little bland for my taste, because it's oriented for a grade school level of education. The most interesting part was the kugels--large granite spheres spinning on a film of water. The museum has two of them, representing the Earth and Moon at a scale of about 1 foot : 1000 miles (and the distance between them was to scale--they're in the parking lot). The Moon one weighs about half a ton, but you can easily set it spinning with one finger.
Other interesting exhibits were:
  • the optics and illusions section, bending light and playing with diffraction and mirrors.
  • a list of gene-based characteristics--e.g. "earlobe distinct/attached, ring finger longer/shorter than index, freckles/no freckles"--where you can select your choice for each option and see what percentage of people match your set of answers. Diana matched 36 of 100,000; I matched 12 in 100,000.
  • three ramps, down which you can simultaneously roll three identical balls. The ramps all have the same start height, and the same end height, but the paths are different. The first one is a straight line from start to finish; the second is a steep drop at first, with most of the path nearly level; and the third is a section of a circle ("cycloid") which dips below level of the end point before coming back up. Which path is the fastest to get to the end point? On which ramp does the ball have the most energy at the end point?

"What happened to Global Warming?"

Hopefully, sooner or later they'll figure out what's going on.
My favorite line: "those scientists who are equally passionate about [...] global warming argue that their science is solid."
As if we were really expecting them to say "We're passionately dedicated to this position, but the data is pretty ambiguous and the models are shaky at best."

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Dr Horrible's Sing-Along Blog

If you haven't seen this gem of a supervillain musical, you should read the Master Plan, then watch the show. If you have seen should probably watch it again.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Quiet weekend

"Nothing interesting this weekend." That means:

Buffet lunch Saturday at Nawab Restaurant, including naan bread and lentils, chicken tikka masala, tandoori chicken, tikka chhole, and vegetable pakora. There were a couple of Buddhist monks at the next table, and it was a bit unexpected to see one reach into his robe and pull out a cell phone.

Saturday night was a session of the Stargate role playing campaign run by Tom Barclay. In this session, a creature came back through the gate with a returning SGC team, and the creature's pheromones caused allergic reactions, paranoia, and irritability in most of the people in the base. Some of the people in the base were irritable to begin with, and most of the people were armed, so fighting broke out quickly. I was one of the few who wasn't incapacitated, although I did get to--er, "have to"--shoot a couple of my teammates who were affected. I and one of our scientists tracked down and trapped the creature. With that, my job was done, so while the scientist figured out the problem and the cure, I led a quick expedition to the Planet of Viking Babes. Tough duty, but someone had to do it.

Our pastor is also a lawyer, so we got an object lesson on "My yoke (teaching) is easy." Randy preached while wearing a backpack with law books with thousands of pages on judicial procedure, contracts, property, criminal code, and such. The human law is interpreted and added to and parsed and propagated to the point where no one can possibly obey it; the law that the Anointed One gave us was "Love the Lord; love your neighbor."

This afternoon was kayaking, poking around a cove and annoying the waterfowl. Mallards have quite a steep takeoff angle, which would be impressive except that while the duck is flapping madly, his feet dangle as if he's forgotten what to do with them.

This evening I signed up for NaNoWriMo, National Novel Writing Month. If all goes according to plan, I'll start November with a plot outline and some character sketches, and I'll end with 50,000 words of text. I'll also found one of the best pep talks on the subject that I've seen in quite a while.

And last but not least, I've started painting miniatures again, specifically 1:2400 scale ships from the 1780s. I've thought about also doing zombie ninja pirate sheep for next GZG ECC, but I am, thus far, resisting.

Thursday, October 1, 2009


Coworker, to me: You won't have a midlife crisis.
Me: Because...?
Coworker: You don't have a life.