Paper or

Americans seem to like choice. Even ordering a ham and cheese sandwich can involve decisions about the type of cheese, type of bread, whether to add salt and pepper, and what greens to include.

Many supermarkets offer a choice of carrier bag, the packer at the checkout will ask “Paper or Plastic”. It seems a pointless decision, as neither option is actually environmentally friendly. Nonetheless, I have to make a choice each time I reach the checkout. However, in nearby San Francisco that burden on the indecisive has been removed. The city council has banned the use of plastic carrier bags altogether.

See this link for details on why neither option is the right one.

Published in: on 31 March, 2007 at 16:55  Comments (1)  


I have been playing with the blog’s sidebar. There is now a quick link to recent comments; this was added in response to an increase in comments since the start of the year.

I was experimenting with LAST.FM, a Web2.0/Social Networking tool which analyses the music that you play on the PC or iPod and makes recommendations based on those choices. Part of its service was to list the last x songs played as a widget on the right side of my blog. This would let the world (Or to be accurate that tiny fraction of a sliver of a percentage that reads my blog) know that my music taste is a little odd. However, with my basic WordPress account, it would not work; so the only change is positive. You can easily read  the interesting comments that my blog gets; though I hope you don’t ignore the blog in exhange for the snappy and amsuing comments.

(I have just used Social Networking and Web2.0 in the same sentence; the Valley is getting to me. This is not the same valley that Otana referenced in her recent comment. In LA people talk of the Valley and they mean San Fernando Valley. This is the home of a certain sort of blonde female called “Valley Girl”, whose conversation is peppered with ‘whatever’, ‘totally tubular’, and ‘Like, Oh My God’. They also use ‘like’ an order of magnitude more frequently than a Glaswegian uses the ‘F’ word. In Northern California,“The Valley” is “Silicon Valley”. Silicon Valley is not technically a valley and is not an area from which most of the silicon chips originate; however with the exception of a software company in Seattle, it remains the heart of US technology companies. I may be trying to retain my British nature, but in an area so focused on technology, it is easy to start using words like Social Networking and Web2.0. So, another example of going native.)

(Sorry for the afterword, whose length exceeds the original post; normal subject matter will be resumed with the next post.)

Published in: on 16 March, 2007 at 20:21  Comments (2)  

People Really Do Speak Like That

I did not believe that people really used words like dude except in movies when parodying surfers. Yet, in Southern California I have heard it used on a daily basis with no attempt at irony. Moreover, people from the southern states do say y’all on a fairly frequent basis. I am not someone to believe stereotypes, but sometimes they are hard to avoid.

Published in: on 13 March, 2007 at 7:11  Comments (1)  

Longer Nights

Daylight Savings started this weekend in the US; two weeks before it does back in the UK. Until this year, the US had moved clocks forward at the start of April. This change has required updates to computers that automatically adjust for daylight savings. I have seen a couple of large display clocks today that have failed to be updated.

Actually that opening sentence is not completely accurate; it should have said that it started this weekend for those parts of the US that apply Daylight Savings. Hawaii does not use DST. Arizona, other than those parts of the Navejo nation that lie within the state, also ignore DST. Indiana used to have some counties that did observe DST, while the majority did not, but this was changed in 2006.

Published in: on 12 March, 2007 at 18:34  Leave a Comment  

Paining the Language

There is a habit, which seems worse in the US, of abusing the English language in business. One especially painful habit is that of verbing. Verbing is not a real world, but accurately describes and illustrates the habit of turning a noun or an adjective into a verb.

I heard someone the other day turn the already jargon laden adjective “blue sky” as in “blue sky research” into a verb as in “we blue skyed”. I hope I did not visibly wince.

One of the most commonly examples in the technology world is that the made-up known “Google” has become a verb, “I Googled it” now means to search on the Internet. I have found a memo on the net which turned consensus into a verb; “wouldn’t it be extremely important to get the operations people consensing with the… team” What makes this particularly bad is that the verb agree could have been used with the same meaning.

To be fair verbing has happened in English since at least the time of Shakespeare. However, it seems increasingly common and all to often used when there are plenty of simple words that would confer the meaning more effectively.

The last word on this subject belongs to the cartoon strip Calvin and Hobbs “Verbing weirds the language”

Published in: on 11 March, 2007 at 4:06  Comments (3)  


I had heard about Girl Scout Cookies (Girl Guide Biscuits in UK English) for some time. I had seen movies in which the selling of these cookies was an event and had seen groups of girls outside supermarkets selling their wares. However, I had not actually seen or eaten a Girl Scout cookie until this week.

I had naively assumed that these cookies were baked by the Girl Scouts themselves. This was an incorrect and in hindsight a foolish assumption. The cookies arrive in a box labeled as Girl Scout cookies with a photo of a carefully ethnically missed groups of girls looking upwards as the Stars and Stripes is raised. While not hand-made, they are certainly good cookies.

(This post written in San Francisco airport while waiting for a flight)

Published in: on 8 March, 2007 at 18:05  Comments (1)  

Coffee Culture

I often stop on the way to work to pick up a Cappuccino; the morning coffee stop being a common American practice. Cars sold here all have plenty of places to store cups while traveling; mine manages six receptacles.

Of the five coffee shops that are between home and office I stop at the only outlet of a local coffee roaster. Every morning, I see a group of middle aged men gathered round a couple of tables, chatting and drinking coffee. Staff greet regulars by name. Personal cups and mugs hang behind the bar. In short, this feels like an English country pub, but one in which caffeine and not alcohol is the drug of choice

Published in: on 3 March, 2007 at 7:00  Leave a Comment  

Small earthquake no drinks spilled

I experienced my first earthquake last night. I was at the computer and everything shook slightly, the desk and the screen moving more. I would love to make it sound dramatic, but the effect was so small it did not even pique my curiosity. It was only when my wife called out did you feel that earthquake that I realized what had happened.

It was a 4.2 quake with its epicenter about 35 miles South of our house.

Coverage, including the source of this blog entry’s title can be found at this link

Published in: on 2 March, 2007 at 7:16  Comments (5)