Business Casual

California is eight hours behind the UK, but when it comes to office attire it is closer to eight hundred years behind.
Here is a picture of three of my coworkers that I took today, to show you what I mean.

Published in: on 31 October, 2007 at 19:37  Comments (1)  

Turns of Phrase

Heard at work today

“You can roll dog shit in powdered sugar, but it doesn’t make it a jelly doughnut.”

I am glad that it was not Friday which is the day that doughnuts get brought to the office

Published in: on 23 October, 2007 at 20:42  Comments (1)  

Boss’s Day

Today, 16 October, is Boss’s Day in the US. This is not a celebration of which I had previously been aware; it certainly does not exist in the UK. I found about it because the people who work for me bought me a card. It is amazing how ones instinctive cynicism about these “Hallmark Holidays” is dispelled when you are the recipient of a thoughtful gesture.

Published in: on 16 October, 2007 at 18:19  Leave a Comment  

San Francisco

I made mention a while back that there was a local restaurant which was proudly boasting that it had been voted second best Mexican in Vacaville two years running. Today, I went to the bridge with the world’s sixth longest suspension span. This would hardly seem to make the bridge of note, but it may well be the most famous suspension bridge on the planet. After ten months living in the Bay Area, I have finally visited San Francisco and went to the Golden Gate Bridge.

Golden Gate

We were with friends from the UK and did several other tourist things, going to Fisherman’s Wharf and visiting Chinatown. We had supper in a Chinese restaurant called the Nanking House which had basic décor, no ambiance, and outstanding food. The service was without frills, but we got everything we asked for; although we did need to request glasses for our beer and coke, which had arrived in bottles and can. We had been shown directly to out table, but when we left there was a long line in the street outside.

San Francisco is a strikingly distinctive city, the hills and architecture are familiar from so many films and television shows. The water that surrounds three sides means that the city centre is compact. Although it has taken us ten months to make our first visit to the city, which at a weekend is less than an hour away, it will be a lot less time before we return.

Trans AmericaTransAmerica

Published in: on 14 October, 2007 at 8:05  Leave a Comment  

Big Numbers

I was giving directions to our house to a British friend the other day. I gave them our house number, which is over 800 and then asked if we were several hundred houses down the street. This reminded me of something that I have now taken for granted; American street numbering is distinctly odd. We live in a cul-de-sac, there are about thirty homes in the street and yet the house numbers are all over 800. Even given the strange starting point, the numbering is eccentric. It is familiar practice to have even numbered houses on one side of the street and even numbered on the other side. However, you would expect our immediate neighbours to have house numbers two less and two greater, but no our neighbours’ numbers are four greater and four less respectively.

Published in: on 13 October, 2007 at 6:55  Leave a Comment  

California Champagne – Accept No Foreign Imitations

In Europe you can only call sparkling white wine Champagne if it is made in a specific part of France. Port only receives the name if made in the area around the Portuguese city of Porto. These limitations do not seem to apply in the US; you can buy both Champagne and Port made right here in California. Nearly every wine tasting that we visited last weekend had their own port.

Published in: on 12 October, 2007 at 21:03  Leave a Comment  

Calistoga, Napa Valley

We live close to Napa Valley, close enough for same Fairfield hotels to call themselves Napa-Fairfield. This is stretching the point somewhat, but is certainly a lot more honest than Ryanair’s attempt to classify Prestwick as a London Airport.

Last weekend my wife and I went away for a couple of days to the spa town of Calistoga at the far end of the valley. The town’s visitor centre describes it as offering “Hot Springs, Cool Wine, and a Warm Welcome”. The town was created as a resort in the late nineteenth century by a gentleman called Sam Brannan. He opened a hotel in 1860 and described it as the “Saratoga of California”; Saratoga being the pre-eminent East Coast spa of the time. The story goes that one night after a few drinks he instead used the phrase the “Calistoga of Sarafornia” and the town had the name it bears to this day.

There is a diner on the town’s main street which uses the second part of this spoonerism and calls itself Sarafornia. We ate breakfast there on Monday and I had a wonderful French toast; whole meal bread soaked in orange brandy batter. It is almost a typical American diner, but its location in Napa Valley leads it to include champagne and assorted champagne cocktails on the menu. Likewise the coffee shops serve wine as well as the expected tea and coffee.

We dinned at a superb restaurant named for the aforementioned founder. It was one of those places in which food, drink, and service were all impeccable. The only defect was that in the bar there was a large screen television and I could see it flickering from the corner of my eye.

There are a multitude of places to dine in the town, but none of them are familiar names as a 1996 city ordinance bans all chain restaurants. So there is not a Starbucks or McDonalds to be seen.

We drove back down the Silverado trail, avoiding the more traveled highway. We stopped at several vineyards including Luna, producers of a superb Sangiovese we had drunk the night before.

Published in: on 10 October, 2007 at 14:57  Leave a Comment  

Halloween Part I

Halloween is a big deal here in the US. On my way to work I pass a shop that opened lat month, it is called Halloween world and sells everything you can imagine for decorating and dressing for the occasion. Last weekend as we drove up through Napa valley we passed a home where the entire front yard was full of zombie statues. Below is a picture of part of a display outside an arcade of shops elsewhere in the area.

Pumpkin Head

In the UK offices are decorated for Christmas, but here it seems Halloween is used as an excuse to cover cubicles in stuff. Garlands of autumn leaves and pumpkins are all over and one of my colleagues made skeletons from large plastic milk containers. One of these ended up at my desk when I made the mistake of leaving my office door open whilst I had a day of vacation.

Lucy The Skeleton

I missed Halloween night last year, as it coincided with a trip back to the UK. I shall report on my first Trick and Treating in a few weeks.

Published in: on 9 October, 2007 at 18:18  Comments (2)  


In the UK I have seen calendars that cover the academic year and those that cover January through December. Today in the mall, I saw five calendars that cover the non-traditional period of January 1 2008 to January 20, 2009. I am also used to seeing calendars that are accurate and at least three of these are not.

The significance of the date is that is inauguration day for the 44th president of the United States. One of these calendars was a countdown to President Bush’s last day in office. The other three were countdown to victory calendars for President McCain, President Giuliani, President Obama, and President Clinton. Clearly, three of these calendars are making predictions that shall not come to pass, in 2009 at any rate.

For those who find calendars to be too low tech there is a website that will sell you a key-chain with an LCD display that counts down to Bush leaving office and will tell you to the second how long remains.

Published in: on 6 October, 2007 at 15:54  Leave a Comment  

Go Forth and Multiply

In the UK 20 x 0.41 = 8.20.

Here in the US 20 x 0.41 = 11; in the UPS store at any rate.

I went to buy a book of stamps, twenty of them at 41c each. For those whose multiplication skills are limited, the price is even printed on the book. Neither the simple arithmetic, nor this clearly marked price prevented the clerk telling me it was $11.00. I queried the price, he confirmed, I left the stamps on the counter and went to the nearby Safeway which charged me $8.20 for the same product.

Except in philately circles, I have never heard of stores charging above face value for stamps.

Published in: on 2 October, 2007 at 19:19  Leave a Comment