Premier Inn hotel in London


We have a few days in London on our way back to the U.S. for the summer.   Pepper picked our hotel and did pretty well…  this is a picture out of our hotel room window.   Last night we went out for dinner and then just returned to the hotel and went to sleep early (for this time zone)  We are headed out soon to get breakfast and then get into full into tourist mode!

My two favorite songs about grammar

I don’t teach English. And that’s a good thing. See? I just started a sentence with “and” which is probably breaking a rule. For a few years I refused to capitalize “I” unless it was writing for work because it seemed too self-important. Pet peeves aside, for more than a decade I have resisted succumbing to text speak. I make mistakes — I think almost everyone does. But I love these two songs about grammar.

Our summer plans for 2015

This summer I will spend 57 hours and 40 minutes on airplanes in flight.  That will be broken into 15 different flight segments on six different airlines.  Those flights will land in 12 different airports.  I’ll fly 24,762 miles which is just a hundred miles less than the Earth’s circumference.

It is a lot to go through but worth seeing family and friends.  …plus we’ll get to eat some of our favorite foods.

Our family won’t be together the whole summer though.  Jacob and I will spend at least a few days in London, Seattle, Anchorage, Petersburg, Rochester, and Boalsburg, Pennsylvania.  Pepper will hit all of those plus add Sitka, Juneau, and Ketchikan doing a girl’s trip with Brooke.  Jordan will miss time in Alaska but will go to eastern Washington to spend time with his dad and also go to Canada to go to a volleyball camp and spend time with a classmate.

Of course, we’re trying to do this on a budget while still getting to enjoy the travel a little.  But just our flights have run over $9,000.   Fortunately our school pays for a return ticket to our “home of record” for each of us every summer and this year that came to just a bit over $8,000.

Keeping organized is important when a trip has over a dozen flights, rental cars, hotels, and other details.  I use Tripit to aggregate my plans into one place which is handy during travel, but for planning I use a spreadsheet in Google Drive.





Happy Mother’s Day


For Mother’s Day we had a breakfast that I made…  though I make it most weekends.   Jordan gave his mom a card and Jacob had a nice list of things he likes about his mom.   I had flowers on the table and we all went to lunch at Kipling’s.   Jacob even gave mom a little massage!   Don’t worry,  Jordan didn’t make that face all day.  Pepper drank this big Choco-Pepto looking drink…


Happy Mother’s Day!

Teaching Sex Ed


I have a great teaching partner.   Holly and I were born 10 years and a day apart.   We grew up maybe 40 miles from each other.   We met in India and are the High School PE department.  We sit three feet from each other and have such a similar philosophy to getting kids active and healthy that it seems impossible that one of us was an outgoing popular jock (her) and the other an introverted wall flower.   But we have found this incredible middle ground and it works.

This picture was taken after I came to work with 100 condoms (in the cute bag that Brooke gave me and Holly is holding) and we had the shared goal of teaching kids from around the world the importance of safety once sexually active.   Instead of the bananas we used relay batons.   Oh, to have heard students answer their parent’s question about what they learned in school that day!

Jacob went into the pharmacy with me when I bought the stack of condoms.


He asked…  “Pa,  are you sick?”

I laughed.   I told him I wasn’t but was buying these so that kids learned how to not get sick and so that they didn’t have babies when they were too young.

The next day,  just before this photo was taken,  Jacob helped un-box and separate the condoms and put them in the bag.   He loves to help his dad.  At one point,  noting the picture on the boxes, he said that they were for girls so they didn’t have babies.   I chucked as I corrected him — they were actually for boys.   He said “Boys can’t have a baby!”

Oh son…  we will continue this conversation later.

Habitat for Humanity work

A few months ago, Jordan and I spent part of a Saturday with a group of other students from the school to participate in a work party for Habitat for Humanity.  Our school was assigned to help with a home that was largely finished.  They mostly needed help with moving bricks.Habitat for Humanity Tamil Nadu


So we moved bricks — something like a thousand of them.  Some we moved to the roof for construction of the parapet wall, others were moved behind the building for later use.

The bricks were so rough, that after a few hours of handling them I actually had already developed holes in the thumb and finger pads of the gloves they gave to us.

It was a hot day (I doubt I would say otherwise much here) and we had to keep up with our water consumption.

We spent more time in the bus than we did actually working, but it was good to put some sweat and labor into a worthy project.  We learned that the recipients of the Habitat build work have to provide their own sweat-equity into the project.  They also will repay the organization — that the home materials are not free, but the loan conditions are those that a non-profit issues and not those of a bank set on profits has.


My April stats from my work email account

This is a word cloud using the most common words from my April emails.

I just installed this Chrome app that scrapes through my email.  (Don’t worry, it has some great reviews from some significant media sources so I’m not too concerned about privacy issues). It told me interesting statistics for the month of April such as:

  • I received 516 emails of which 65% were directly addressed to me (not to a mailing list).
  • I send, and receive a gradually increasing number of messages on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday, but that declines quickly Thursday, Friday, and Saturday.  See the chart below. (I suspect that travel for the meet a few weeks ago hit that significantly.)
  • 56% of my email came from outside of the school’s domain.  (I’ve been emailing operators for our Discover India trips quite a bit.)
  • I reply to 21% of my messages within 5 minutes, another 21% withing 15 minutes, and another 22% of messages in less than an hour.  That’s 64% of my messages that I respond to sent within an hour of receipt.
  • About 70% of my email messages have less than 10 words!

weeklytraffic april

Mitten isn’t well

For a few weeks, Mitten has been getting more and more sick. At first she was vomiting a bit, then more, and then we noticed she had stopped eating and was becoming very lethargic. Opportunities to take her to the vet just didn’t seem to come up. When I finally did take her she barely complained about being put in her carrier and also meowed little while in the car. She clearly wasn’t feeling well.

The vet immediately gave her a subcutaneous fluid injection for a few minutes, drew some blood, sedated her and did an EKG. He then had an assistant walk me and the cat to a diagnostic center for the blood tests and to have a couple of xrays done.

The next day (yesterday) he called me and told me to pick up the blood test results and come to the clinic. A colleague of his had studied the xrays and confirmed a concern about a light spot on the image in her kidneys. That along with the blood work showing high BUN (blood urea nitrogen), creatinine levels, and white blood cell count makes him suspect kidney stones and renal failure. He suggested she continue the subcutaneous IV fluids and trying to shift to a renal diet – mostly low protein. Then after a week we will have the blood work done again and see if levels have decreased. All of this cost me about $100 USD.

This is neat — the vet does house calls. Many days it will not be easy for us to get mitten to the clinic. So having her get her treatment won’t be quite as difficult on us. We won’t have to build everyone’s schedule about Mitten’s treatments. (Jordan can still go to the mall and watch a movie with his friends while I go help out with a swim meet at the school and the vet and assistant can stop by the house while Pepper is there or even during school days as long as our driver has returned home.

I have to say, the availability of medical care – even for our cats seems to be quite good. Sure, the clinic that I took her to was tiny, perhaps not nearly as clean as an American vet clinic, and was crowded with people coming and going with their pets. But blood work, xrays, EKG, and an IV for $100? The house calls for her treatment won’t be cheap… but it is available and will still be relatively affordable. Now, finding renal diet cat food here might be another story!


Let’s play “Find the Microchip” and “Find the Kidney Stone” kids!

Ryan McFarland's travel, thoughts, projects and more.