How Berkeley Can You Be?

On Sunday I was a spectator at the 13th Annual “How Berkeley Can You Be?” parade. I have seen various parades in the UK and seen the Rose Parade from Pasadena on TV. This was not on the scale of the latter and had a spirit that was distinctly hippy and infused with the sensibilities of the less than conservative population of this famous college town. 


Start of the Parade

Start of the Parade

There was a marching band, but it was a Gay and Lesbian marching band rather than representing a high school or military organization. There were people advertising local businesses, but the businesses were for electric cars and body painting. The latter organization were represented by people wearing knickers, roller-skates, and a lot of body paint. The cheerleaders included both men and women and were collecting money for Aids charities

There were groups of people marching for their political and social beliefs. The first such group were for Obama and Biden, further on we had Revolutionary Communists, and the independent candidate for president  Frank Moore. There was a sign promoting polyamory; I found it somewhat ironic that it was being carried by just one person.

Looking somewhat out of place were a group of Mexican vaqueros (cowboys) They were in full costume on large horses, which pranced down the street impressively. They were exactly the sort of group you expect to see in a parade, but here you felt they should have been “Vaqueros for Legalised Pot”, or “Free Love Vaqueros” 



Towards the end of the parade was a truck with a missile mounted on the back. A man in a McCain mask sad astride the missile, while women with missles worn as strap on dildos sang “All You Need is War”. On the front of the truck was a Palin look alike and a devil holding a Satan/Cheney 2008 poster.

There were a large number of Art Cars; vehicles that have been decorated by their owners. These varied from lurid, slapdash paint-jobs to elaborate decorations. One of the simplest and most effective was a fish scale effect created by sticking overlapping CDs to the body.

CD Covered Car

CD Covered Car



I did my part by wearing sandals, shorts, and a tie-died tee-shirt so that I blended in well with the locals. I have no picture of the ensemble

Published in: on 30 September, 2008 at 7:00  Comments (3)  

A Country of Immigrants

I had lunch with two of my managers and two new hires. Bruce Springsteen was singing “Born in the USA”. All five of us at the table were immigrants to the US. One of the new hires had arrived from Cuba forty-five years ago, the other new hire had arrived from Canada on Wednesday; the other three had arrived between those two dates.  I am not making a point with this post, just a casual observation.

Published in: on 29 September, 2008 at 15:34  Comments (2)  

My Father May Disown Me

We have a couple of friends staying with us. We have known them for seven years; they were Americans living in England. They returned to the US a year or so before I moved out here. I took Friday off work, so that I could have more time with them. We drove up into Napa Valley and had a delightful day in one of the most beautiful places on Earth. I was driving and for various medical reasons none of my three passengers could drink; so we consumed iced tea, water, Arnold Palmers, and Orange Frappes. Not a taste of Bacchus touched our lips. 

When we got home I was relating the delights of our day to my mother-in-law. I described breakfast, lunch, and ice cream at Anette’s in Napa. She responded by saying “You can’t go to Napa and not eat ice-cream can you?”. It was at that point that I felt a chill run down my back, as I realised that to most people a trip to Napa Valley is synonymous with wine. My Dad would be outraged at the thought of going to somewhere that has wine cellars like Blackpool has tourist tack and touching not a drop. 

In my defense, Anette’s  ice cream could fairly claim to be among the world’s finest. I have never tried their homemade chocolates, as I always head for the ice-cream counter, but my wife looked to be a state of bliss as she ate her dark chocolate peanut butter cup.

Published in: on 27 September, 2008 at 7:00  Leave a Comment  

Efficient Food

Why waste time eating three meals a day when a single shake can give you over 100% of your daily nutritional needs in a single glass? Baskin-Robbins sells a large shake with 166% of your daily fat needs, 320% of that extra good saturated fat, 98% of your Cholesterol needs, and 120% of your calcium; helping to strengthen your bones to support your growing stomach. Each shake has 2310 calories, offering a helpful bonus over the basic 2000 calories that a typical adult needs on a daily basis. 


Drink One Per Day

Drink One Per Day



There is obviously no immediate risk of the US slipping from its world leading position in the obesity league.

Published in: on 26 September, 2008 at 7:59  Comments (3)  

Slow News Day

Back in 1861, the text of Lincoln’s inaugural speech was sent across the telegraph wires as far West as Missouri. From Missouri the text was carried on horseback, as the wires stretched no further. A record was set, as the speech was read in Sacramento seven days and seventeen hours after delivery.

I was looking at MeetUps in the local area and was left with the distinct impression that these days news travels from Missouri travels slower. There are five Ron Paul 2008 Meetup Groups in the area. Having a group whose stated purpose is “to help Dr Ron Paul win the Republican nomination” seems odd when John McCain has already accepted the nomination of his party in Missouri.

Published in: on 22 September, 2008 at 7:33  Comments (1)  

Doctor, Doctor

This week so my first visit to a US doctor and dentist. The doctor’s surgery was very much like one in the UK. Despite having the first appointment of the day, I was ushered in after the arranged time. The waiting room and doctor’s surgery were full of posters that make the place a hypochondriacs paradise; offering countless new symptoms and diseases to try. The doctor was, accent aside, an almost perfect replica of an English country GP; well spoken and jovial. The one very noticeable difference was being asked for the $25 copay by the receptionist when I arrived.

The dentist’s office was very smart, the waiting room reminiscent of an upmarket boutique hotel. The dentist’s chair has a built in back massager; very relaxing. In the UK I recall having three of four x-rays taken at a time; here it felt that they were taking one for each tooth. It was odd when the dental technician asked me to smile for the x-ray. Since in the UK I did not have an NHS dentist, I found paying after treatment perfectly normal. With my medical insurance picking up 80% of the cost, the bill seemed more than reasonable.

The title of this post inspired by the news that Simon Pegg will play one of the Thompson Twins in a forthcoming movie.

Published in: on 21 September, 2008 at 20:08  Comments (1)  

Call of the Smoke

There are some pieces of technology that are so well engineered that any geek would wish to own them. Not all of them hail from Apple. This week I found that we alreay one such device, but I had not previously realized the brilliance of our home’s smoke alarm.

If I was designing a mains powered alarm with battery back-up, I would have it flash a bright light to warn they the battery was nearing end of life. It had not occured to me how much better am amplified banshee howl would be appreciated by the residents of the house. Never in a month of Sundays would I think to include an internal timer that ensured the insistent, house shaking sound only starts in the early hours. I would have made the mistake of designing the unit so opening the compartment and removing the battery would silence the unit, as finding new batteries at 1:30am might be tricky; while the actual engineers went with keeping the user interface simple by having just one way of returning silence to the night – rip it from the ceiling.

Published in: on 20 September, 2008 at 13:16  Comments (1)  

I Said Turn Left…. The Other Left.

I have on occasion wondered at the extreme calm exhibited by the GPS in my car. I can ignore its directions, forcing it to recalculate the route and offer new directions. It never raises its voice or shows any signs of exasperation. This post from Ken Levine’s blog captures just what a GPS with attitude would say.

Published in: on 18 September, 2008 at 7:00  Comments (1)  

Award Winning City

The English village in which we used to live had won Best Kept Village on many occasions; although having seen Hot Fuzz I do feel slightly different about those awards. I am glad to see that my new home of Fairfield is also an award winning town as reported in this news article. I know it is only a silver award, but it is something to be proud of that we live in a town that can take care of its shit.

Published in: on 17 September, 2008 at 7:00  Comments (1)  

The Beauty of Gas Stations

My Spanish is limited; I know the words for beer and wine. I had thought that I knew what Bella Vista meant too; I would have sworn it meant beautiful sight. Now, I realize that I was wrong. There is a run down looking motel at the far end of Fairfield, bordered by the freeway, a filling station, and a lorry park. It used to be called the EZ-8, but has just been renamed “Bella Vista”; hence my realization that the correct translation of the Spanish must be “sleazy motel in a bad area”

Published in: on 16 September, 2008 at 7:00  Leave a Comment