Bras and Beer

Until we moved we were a short walk from a bar in the golf club house. Now there is no bar within walking distance. There are a couple of bars that are fairly close. After work on Friday, I went with some colleagues to Thompson’s Corner. The building has been a bar since 1902 and seems to be famous in the area. When we met some people from the East Bay a couple of months back and said that we came from Fairfield they responded with “The town with the underwear bar.” At the time we had to confess ignorance. Now, I can confirm that Fairfield does indeed have an underwear bar. Thompson’s Corner had a large number of pieces of underwear hanging from the ceiling, mostly bras, but with a wide range of other items mixed in.
I could not in all honesty describe the place as the finest drinking establishment that I have encountered, but my feet did not stick to the floor. The wide range of bottled beer meant that I did not have to drink the stuff on tap which consisted of that yellow, flavourless liquid that is mistaken for beer on this side of the pond.

There were multiple copies of the sign below, I am not sure why the owner felt that this was a message that needed to be communicated so frequently.

Thompsons Corner Sign

There was also an odd sign by the door which stated that you could not drink outside. If you did you would be asked to leave – since offenders would already have let the premises this seemed to be a notice from the school of Joseph Heller.

Other than packets of crisps, nuts, and pork scratchings the bar served no food. This is not unusual, but what I did find surprising was how hungry people dealt with this omission. I would leave the bar and go home or to a restaurant. Here, however people just phone Round-Table pizza and had food delivered to the bar, so there drinking could continue uninterrupted. I cannot imagine that happening in an English pub.

Published in: on 31 March, 2008 at 6:29  Comments (4)  

Going Native

I mentioned in a previous post that a Scotsman was joining my team of programmers. He started on Monday. In the twenty-five years that he has lived in the US, it seems that he has picked up several American habits; he pronounces the last letter of the alphabet as “zee” and the second letter of the Greek alphabet as “Bayter”.

I have no intention of going native in this way and intend to remain British through and through.

On an unrelated note here is a picture of me outside our new house.

Published in: on 29 March, 2008 at 15:18  Comments (2)  

.22 Calibre Drill

The guy who installed our satellite system was not good at tidying up after himself. He left packaging on the floor and the old dish in the garden. However, I suppose I should be grateful that he used a drill to make the necessary holes in the wall, rather than a handgun.

Published in: on 27 March, 2008 at 6:40  Comments (4)  

The Return of the Postbox

After a year of having to go to the end of the street to collect our mail from a rack of mailboxes, our new house comes with its own box. Unlike those in the UK, it is not a slot in the door, but a metal box out front. Hopefully, I shall not forget to check the mail as often as I did with the last arrangement.

One definite advantage of this arrangement is that there is a red metal flag on the side of the box. We can put outgoing mail into our box, raise the flag, and when the mail is delivered, the postman can collect the outgoing mail. This does help explain why publicly accessible mailboxes are so much rarer a sight than in the UK.

Although, we have been in the house less than a week, we are already getting junk mail delivered here. Since most of our bills are handled online, the percentage of useful mail is very low.

Published in: on 26 March, 2008 at 20:50  Comments (2)  

Opening Doors

It is a rare day indeed that I feel my essential geekiness is challenged. Yesterday, however, I had to hang my head in shame as I was out geeked by our estate agent.

When we rented the house that we are now vacating we were given two remote openers for the garage door; one for each car. Now back in the UK, most garage doors require the driver to get out of the car and open them. Here, in the US they are all motor operated and can be opened from within the vehicle.

I was discussing collecting the keys to our new home and expressed disappointment that there was but a single garage door opener. Our estate agent then told me that my car had a built in remote for opening garage doors or gates (if we lived in a gated community). The function is operated by three buttons on the underside of the rear-view mirror. I had noticed these buttons, but never investigated their function.

Obviously, as a super geek, I shall have to use the car’s inbuilt functionality and no longer clip the remote to the sun visor. I shall also have to do something massively geeky to make up for this lapse.

Published in: on 20 March, 2008 at 6:18  Comments (1)  

Loving the Boss

I am not a Bruce Springsteen fan. I am sure I am not alone in finding his singing voice to be that grates. I do recognize, however, that he has many dedicated fans. I am glad that I do not know one as obsessed as Karen Lee Copper, who killed her partner over their differing views of Bruce’s talents. She is quoted as saying “I mean, who the hell doesn’t like Bruce Springsteen, for God’s sake?” I think when asked that question by a knife wielding woman, I might decide that breaching the ninth commandment was justified.

Published in: on 17 March, 2008 at 6:24  Comments (2)  

Different Rooms

Purchasing a house in the US is quite a different experience from that in the UK. There is no solicitor involved, the issues that would be handled by the solicitor are handled by your estate agent. That is another difference, both the buyer and seller have an estate agent. The seller pays the fees of both agents. In addition to handling the legal paperwork, our agent was also busy handling inspections of the property, chasing the seller to ensure they complied with their obligations, and helping with my dealings with assorted mortgage companies. I am a little concerned that we have made a bad impression on our agent, who has put her house up for sale trying to move away as we move into the area.

Houses in California are taxed annually based on a percentage of their sales price, so those people who moved decades ago pay far lower taxes than we will. However, we will pay less than the previous owners who bought the house for more than we have paid. This makes state revenues fall when the house market is in a decline, which is causing problems with California’s budget.

One piece of information that is present on all house listings is the floor area quoted in square feet. This seems to me to more useful than just giving the number of bedrooms as that does indicate if the rooms are decent size or small box-rooms. We saw four bedroom houses that were under 2000 square feet and four bedroom houses that were nearly 3000 square feet. Houses also list the number of bathrooms including slightly puzzling fractional bathrooms. Our newly purchased house has two and a half bathrooms. This means two bathrooms with a bath and shower and a down sizes toilet and sink room.

Houses are generally larger and with more rooms that in the UK. Most houses will have a formal sitting room, dinning room, kitchen, den/family room, and laundry room in addition to the bedrooms and bathrooms. En suite master bedrooms seem to be the norm. We saw houses with work in closets off the master bedroom that were the size of the smallest bedroom in our old UK home. The closet in our new house is not quite that large, but is still spacious. We also have what is called a loft, which is not an attic area, but space upstairs outside of the main bedrooms. We will be using it as a media room. It is a large area, so I have taken advantage of the space by acquiring a 65” HDTV.

Published in: on 16 March, 2008 at 18:31  Leave a Comment  


OK, not at all on topic, but these short animations made me smile.

Published in: on 15 March, 2008 at 18:46  Comments (3)  


Buying a house in the US involves signing a stack of paperwork. The pile of papers is about ten inches tall. I did not sign every sheet, but I lost count of how may I signed and initailed. I am sure that it numbers well over a hundred. A couple of sessions last week took a combined time of two hours. The second session had a notary present, she insisted that I sign and initial with my middle initial, which I never do.

There does seem to an obsession with signing documents in the US. I signed a couple of dozens when buying a car here. The American pastime of litigation is, I am sure, partly to blame. Several of the house forms required me to acknowledge that I would not sue the seller for defects of which they were not aware.

There is even an American slang word for a signature, a Hancock; named in honour of John Hancock who was the first man to sign the Declaration of Independence. With my arm aching from all of this signing, the very English Tony Hancock came to mind. It certainly felt like I had donated an armful of blood.

Published in: on 15 March, 2008 at 18:38  Comments (3)  

PI Day

Today, Friday 14 March, is PI Day here in the US. It is so marked because of the odd habit of writing dates as month/day; thus today’s date is 3/14, the first three digits of PI. The time to celebrate PI day is 1:59, which is the next three digits of PI. It is also the birthday of Albert Einstein

Published in: on 14 March, 2008 at 19:57  Leave a Comment