New Year

I was in bed on New Year”s Eve by 10pm, not for the first time as I am not someone who feels the need to see an arbitary day dawn. It was odd therefore to be having a celebratory lunch at a local Chinese restaurant this week to mark the Year of the Ox. There were eight work colleagues with me; all were Chinese or of Chinese ancestary. It was a fun meal and made me wonder about having a rolling set of lunches to mark assorted New Years. A quick Google tells me that the Jewish Mew Year will start in September and the Muslim New Year a week before Christmas; giving me four parties across four months

Published in: on 31 January, 2009 at 14:17  Leave a Comment  

Wearing it On Your Sleeve

I know that companies in the UK now have mission statements and corporate value statements. I was still more than a little surprised to see employees of a company here with the corporate values embroidered on the sleeves of their work-shirts. I also thought the stated “Honesty, Integrity, Seeking Knowledge” more appropriate for a medical centre than the chain of casual dinning restaurants in which I saw it. Red Robin (Who for my UK readers are like TGI Friday)  staff wear polo shirts with this sentiment and the final line “Having Fun” on their sleeves. It seemed very odd and out of context, but then I have always doubted the veracity of mission statements; all companies are really motivated by doing what is best for the executives no matter the high sounding, empty, phrases on their wall. I think that if burger restaurants wish to have slogans of this ilk, they should go for a more honest approach “Do you want fries with that?” or “Delivering your daily fat needs on a single plate?”

Published in: on 26 January, 2009 at 7:33  Comments (2)  

A Very Peculiar Practice

I wanted to watch a TV series from the eighties, but I had forgotten the title. I had no doubt that I could find it easily for there could only be one show that starred Davidson (Doctor Who) and Troughton (Son of an earlier Doctor) and was about a medical practice on a university Campus I added nuns as an extra search term, for I recalled the presence of a pair of yobbish acting nuns at the start of each episode. A Very Peculiar Practice is the shows name. It is no longer available from Amazon on DVD, but I was able to locate it elsewhere. I have been laid up for the last day or so with a bad back, which has made using a mouse tricky, so I started watching it. The first three episodes of the show have reassured me that it was as witty and interesting as I recall.  I have just seen a very young Hugh Grant, in what was one of his first screen appearances.  The downside is that there are just two series of seven episodes each, so this particular pleasure will be short lived.

Published in: on 22 January, 2009 at 7:00  Comments (2)  

The Iced Tea Scrolls

My British reserve used to prevent me from complaining in restaurants and I would certainly never think of requesting a change to the items on the menu. My American wife has slowly opened my eyes to the fact that a menu is not the Ten Commandments; asking a waiter to serve the roasted chicken with the three potato puree from the rib-eye steak is not the same as asking a priest if you can take the “For Six Days you shall” from the  fourth  and combine it with the “covet your neighbours wife” from the tenth. 

Eating places in the US seem happy to accommodate, even at the fast food end of the industry; a request to add onions and pickles to Jack in the Box’s Ultimate Cheeseburger is always accommodated. There is one special request that seems to cross some unspoken line, with almost no restaurant in the state of California able to oblige. Not that waiting staff actually refuse the request or tell us that we have asked for something beyond their ability to deliver; they take the order without comment, but then  without a word deliver the item as they wish and not as requested. My wife likes her iced-tea without lemon and will always ask for it so made, yet at least 8 out of 10 times the drink will arrive with a slice of yellow fruit in it or placed on the lip of the glass. The silent refusal to oblige involves more work than complying, so I am left wondering if we have encountered some bizarre ritual required by a Californian new-age cult. Perhaps there is a eleventh commandment know only to waiting staff; “Thou Shalt add a slice to lemon to beverages made from iced tea.”

Published in: on 21 January, 2009 at 16:32  Comments (4)  


Today, Tuesday 20 January 2009, Barack Obama will be sworn in as the forty-fourth President of the United States. Forty-Two men have held this office previously; Grover Cleveland being the twenty-second and twenty-fourth President as he served two non consecutive terms. Only two presidents since Washington have taken office with such a daunting challenge facing them; Lincoln had to deal with the Southern states breaking up the Union and FDR with the Great Depression. Obama carries with him extraordinarily high levels of expectation  where he to meet those hopes then at the end of his office he would deserve to be mentioned again in the same breath as Lincoln and FDR. My heart wishes for that outcome, my head tells me it is unlikely.

The chance of Obama succeeding in lifting the US and the world from its economic, ecological, and political difficulties is made far harder by the opposition seeing their role as criticism of the man even before he takes office. I am not suggesting that the Republican Party should support the new President blindly; the supine support offered to Bush by the Democrats in the aftermath of 9/11 added to the problems that we all face. I do wish that opposition is focused on the substance of policy and preferably with suggested improvement. I fear that what we will get is more name calling, veiled hints of disloyalty, and knee-jerk opposition to anything that the President suggests. It is, sadly, too much to hope that the modern Republican party can put Country before party.

Published in: on 20 January, 2009 at 7:40  Leave a Comment  


On Sunday, we went to Sonoma for lunch, photography opportunities, and wine tasting. The centre of Sonoma is a large public square surrounded by restaurants, arty shops, and wine tasting places. Much of the square’s buildings date back to the middle of the nineteenth century and it was here that the flag of the California Republic was first raised.

The first couple of wine tasting venues returned little of real note, but my third attempt at Enoteca was altogether more interesting. The Favero Vineyards Sangiovese and Mazanita Creek Old Vine Zinfandel were excellent. In the case of the latter, I could actually detect the chocolate and strawberry jam described in the tasting notes. Both will be on my list when we next look to purchase some quality wines.

I may drink a fair bit of wine, but not enough to supply the corks needed to make something like this:


Published in: on 20 January, 2009 at 7:32  Comments (1)  

Something Fishy

I don’t know if you recall those animated singing fishes which were all the rage a few years back? I remember cringing and wondering why anyone would want to buy one. The reaction of a rather eccentric Texan was:

If one singing, dancing fish can be that annoying, what can you say about two hundred and fifty?

He then proceeded to create a very bizarre art car; The Sashimi Tabernacle Choir

I do thing that crushing an old Volvo into a lump of steel would be a far better outcome for the poor car.

From Geeks Are Sexy

Published in: on 15 January, 2009 at 7:45  Comments (1)  

Be Seeing You (Or Not)

Patrick McGoohan the star of 60s cult classic “The Prisoner” has died in LA at the age of 80.

Published in: on 14 January, 2009 at 11:28  Comments (1)  

Party in my Office

Whilst I was away it seems that others were celebrating in my office. Some of the guests were still there this morning.

Published in: on 13 January, 2009 at 9:05  Leave a Comment  

Birthday in Napa

We drove up to Yountville in Napa Valley for lunch on my birthday. In the UK the best that I could expect from the weather was it for not to rain. Yesterday, it was warm, so much so that not only did I need no jacket, I could have worn a light short sleeved shirt and been comfortable.

I had ate venison in Hurley’s before being driven down the Silverado trail and stopping for tastings at Signorello and Black Stallion. We finished in Napa itself for a dessert of home-made ice cream at Anette’s. All in all an ideal way to spend my birthday.


Published in: on 13 January, 2009 at 7:22  Comments (1)