More Bank Holidays Thoughts

One aspect of US Holidays that is depressingly familiar is roads full of people driving their own accommodation. In the UK, this would normally consist of cars or 4x4s dragging caravans. Here in the US, the norm is for the vehicle to be a motor-home, an RV, in local parlance. The size of so many US roads combined with lower petrol prices means that these vehicles can be 40 feet in length.

Yesterday, I did actually see the reverse of the UK norm, with an RV towing a car.

I have never understood the appeal of motor-home/caravan accommodation. You are limited to somewhere that you can reach by driving, there is a high upfront cost, and you cause annoyance and frustration to other drivers caught behind you. If God had meant for us to camp he would never have given us Holiday Inn.

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Published in: on 29 May, 2007 at 17:18  Comments (2)  

Bank Holiday Weather

Memorial Day is clearly not like a real UK Bank Holiday. Bank Holiday’s are grey and overcast at best and pouring rain is the norm. Here, however it is 28oC and bright sunshine. Back in Slough it is under 10oC and raining.

So any of my readers who feel jealous that I live in California should appreciate the sacrifices I make; such as losing the real Bank Holiday experience.

Published in: on 28 May, 2007 at 10:24  Leave a Comment  

All you can Eat

It is estimated that within five years, 40% of adult Americans will be obese. What is causing this to happen on such a scale?

Can one lay some of the blame on the portion sizes here in the US?

McDonalds offers ‘A Hugo’ size drink for 69c. The drink is 42oz , which is 1.2l or 2.2 pints. If the drink is Coca-Cola, this is 534 Calories or about 20% of recommended daily calorie intake for a middle age man. To make this worse, the TV advertising campaign is emphasizing that this drink is available at drive-thru, so you do not even to walk across the car-park and up to the counter to order this drink. To be fair, the chain of convenience stores, 7-11 offers a Super Big Gulp which is a full 44 ounces.

The LA Dodgers have now started offering seats in the less popular part of the ground that are all you can eat, so from ninety minutes before the game starts until the seventh inning you can stuff your face with hot-dogs, soda, and nachos drenched in cheese.

Published in: on 26 May, 2007 at 16:43  Comments (1)  

Memorial Day

This is my first long weekend in the US since I started working. It coincides with the UK’s Spring Bank Holiday. Here in the US, however, holidays have more purpose than Spring Bank Holidays and Summer Bank Holidays. Monday is Memorial Day; a day to honour day those who have died in military service. In observance it seems an opportunity for the big DIY chain (Home Depot) to step up their sales, for the airports to be jammed, and for big movies to open.

This year the weekend sees two anniversaries; Friday was the 30th anniversary of the premiere of the first (or fourth) Star Wars movie. Monday is the 70th anniversary of one of the area’s most famous icons; the Golden Gate bridge.

Published in: on 26 May, 2007 at 8:42  Leave a Comment  

Pledge of Allegiance

One side benefit of having been out of the US on my recent was that I had missed several days of the KQED Pledge Drive. KQED is a radio station, part of the US network of Public Radio (NPR) which receive about one-third of their income from on-air pledge drives. The drives take over regular programming for 2-3 weeks and replace them with constant begging for funds. These drives are quarterly, so this the second one I have endured since moving to Northern California.

I listen to KQED on the way to and from work as it gives me a better quality world news that I can obtain from TV or music focused radio. A few months ago even CNN was focusing on the death of a stripper on the day that the two Palestinian factions agreed on a truce. In content NPR is reminiscent of BBC Radio Four, even down to a US version of “The News Quiz”.

Before moving to the US, I had believed that NPR and the TV channels of PBS were broadcast with adverts. In fact NPR does claim to be noncommercial on its website. However, the shows are underwritten by companies who have brief statements about themselves read on air; “This segment brought to you by Allstate Insurance, you are in good hands”. These occupy less airtime and are less intrusive than adverts on commercial radio, but do seem to negate the concept of noncommercial broadcasting.

Published in: on 21 May, 2007 at 13:56  Leave a Comment  

Will it Play In Peoria

Peoria is a city in Illinois in the US Midwest. It has a reputation for being dull, perhaps reinforced by the question “Will it play in Peoria?” The city is supposed to be so typical of middle America that it is used as a test market for products, political campaigns, and entertainers. It was to Peoria that my first US visit occurred. It is not a city that has the beauty, character, or vibrancy of so many others that I since been too. However, it is a far better introduction to the US than the UK town I visited last week with a colleague. It was his first trip to the UK and we spent four nights in Milton Keynes. This is an incredibly untypical UK town – it did exist until the 1960s and is the only town in the country to use a grid style road layout.

Peoria has more history; Lincoln spoke there in a set of debates for his Senate race.
Peoria has more attractive buildings
Peoria has a better range of places to eat and drink.

On the bright side my colleague did get to try real beer, a curry, proper fish and chips and get a little confused by cricket high-lights.

Published in: on 19 May, 2007 at 20:37  Leave a Comment  

Diamonds are for this Sunday

It is US mothering Sunday this weekend. It is a much more significant event here than in the UK. Traditionally, mothers are taken out for lunch; so restaurants have special events organized for Sunday and unless you want to get fast food there is little chance of a table for lunch and you will undoubtedly pay more than on an ordinary weekend.

What has astonished me is that even with the little TV that I watch here (Heroes, Bill Maher, and morning news shows) that we have had weeks of adverts plugging the idea that diamond jewelry is the only thing appropriate for Mothers’ Day gifts. They come across as a real attempt to lay guilt on anyone who just provides flowers, lunch, a card, or a phonecall.

Published in: on 12 May, 2007 at 8:40  Comments (1)  

Cinco de Maio

Saturday was Cinco de Maio; a minor Mexican holiday that is a major event here in the US. It celebrates a Mexican military victory over the French. It has become an excuse here in the US to eat Mexican food and drink Tequila and beer. The grocery stores have been full of displays of Mexican products and flags in the run up to the day.

It feels a bit like St Patrick’s Day, another celebration that is more significant here than in the old country and which is marked by consumption of booze. Personally, I don’t see why people need an excuse.

On a side note, I am currently managing changes to a computer system to make it suitable for use in the UK. There has been some muttering about how annoying it is that the UK uses the “wrong date format”; putting the day before the month. The name of this celebration emphasizes my point that the US is out of step with the rest of the world; Cinco de Maio puts the day before the month.

Published in: on 6 May, 2007 at 8:38  Leave a Comment  

State of Confusion

Texas Toast is a type of garlic bread. The bread is sliced thick and buttered on both sides. I bought a box of it so that I could have it when I have pasta. (You may be able to tell from this that I am not a strict adherent to the late Dr Atkins’ believe on avoiding carbs) The toast was “New York Brand”, made in Ohio and claiming to be the original Texas Toast.

Maybe it is because I am Brit, but I find difficult to grasp how an Ohio made, New York branded product could be the original Texas Toast

Published in: on 2 May, 2007 at 20:15  Leave a Comment