The Critic

I attempt to write the occasional amusing post as a Brit living in a strange land. My efforts seem over shadowed by another expat who on a weekly basis posts an audio commentary on video games. If you have any interest in the subject, then he is worth a listen. The  added bonus is that if you take him at his word then your spend will be low as he is unremittingly non positive about the games he reviews, but always funnier than negative.

Added bonus is that his non de plume is from a game that I spent many hours playing with my family. A link to Yahtzee’s page

Published in: on 30 October, 2009 at 19:42  Leave a Comment  


To add to the known health benefits of coffee, red wine, and dark chocolate, the BBC is now reporting that curry can help treat certain types of cancer. Thus we have a healthy diet of coffee, curry, wine, and chocolate…. yay for science or at least an understanding of science based on popular reporting of isolated studies.

And as a bonus here is a story on the dangers of eating lettuce.

Published in: on 28 October, 2009 at 7:00  Comments (1)  

Build It and They Will Come

Planning permission to build an NFL stadium in the City of Industry, an Los Angeles suburb, has been controversially rushed through. The problem is that for the last fifteen years LA has not had an NFL team, since the Raiders and the Rams left in 1994. It seems odd to start planning a stadium without a team, but this is the US, where teams move frequently. There are a list of six teams that are thought likely, including the two former LA teams and the San Diego Chargers.

Published in: on 27 October, 2009 at 6:06  Leave a Comment  

Burned Them Before All Men

Does going door to door begging for candy not sound like a great way to spend Halloween night? How about a book burning and BBQ instead? A church in North Carolina is organizing a burning of bibles and a BBQ. Yes, you read that correctly, they are burning bibles. They hold that all translations other than the King James version are the works of Satan. Since this invalidates my qualification in Religious Education (Grade 1 CSE), which was based on the Good News Version, I cannot comment on the doctrinal nature of this event. However, I am fairly surely that the BBQ will work better with charcoal than with bibles and CDs of Gospel music.

Published in: on 26 October, 2009 at 17:25  Leave a Comment  

Monster Backs Down

The power crazed energy drink form that claimed that a small craft brewery with a beer called Vermonster was impinging on their trademark has backed down. Common sense seems to have prevailed, even to Monster dropping their demand that the brewery pay Monster’s legal costs for launching this crazy claim.


Published in: on 22 October, 2009 at 6:21  Comments (1)  

The Online Advantage

I wrote yesterday that independent bookstores had suffered a loss of business to online retailers like Amazon. Here in the US, Amazon has an advantage that they do not have back in the UK. A mail order business does not have to charge sales-tax on a sale unless the delivery address is in a state in which the business has a physical location. This means that Amazon only charges sales tax in five states. For California residents this means that the local store has to charge 8-10% more. Customers are supposed to declare all such purchases in their end of year tax declaration to the state. However, this provision is not well observed or enforced. Thus localities lose out twice; from diminished tax revenues and from loss of spending to support local business.

Businesses such as Amazon claim that it would be too complex to calculate and remit the correct, which with each county in each state having its own sales tax rate seems reasonable at first glance. However, Amazon run the online store for Target. Target has a presence in nearly every state in the Union, so Amazon charge and remit sales tax from these purchases. The real reason for opposition to a change in the law is that they wish to retain their unfair advantage over local businesses.

Published in: on 20 October, 2009 at 6:42  Leave a Comment  


Independent bookstores have suffered a triple assault from the chain bookshops like Borders, the large everything stores such as Walmart, and the Internet. The result is fewer bookstores run and staffed by people who care about and know books. This blight has affected both the US and the UK.


Why should anyone care about the loss, after all with Amazon you can buy any book you want? The problem is just that; Amazon makes it easy to buy a book that you already know about; perfect for the next book by Charlaine Harris, less ideal for finding the next Charlaine Harris. A bricks and mortar shop allows you to browse and discover books of whose existence you were unaware. Staffed by people who know about books they can suggest books or answer those vague questions about the book whose title and author you forgot, but you heard about it on the radio last week.

I was prompted to write this article by a visit over the weekend to an excellent independent bookstore, The Bookpassage in Marin County. In addition to the advantages listed above, it has a long record of supporting local authors, by providing facilities for them to meet and prominently displaying their books.

The walls of the store display photographs of famous visitors to the store. They included Carter, Al Gore, Hilary Clinton, and Obama. No sign of either Bush, nor the California residents Reagan and Nixon. Who would have thought it in Marin County

Published in: on 19 October, 2009 at 6:44  Comments (1)  

Local Wine

Our wine tasting, or should I say my wine tasting as generally I taste and my wife drives, has in the past been done in Napa and Sonoma Valleys. These are within an a half hour drive of our home, so hardly count as distant. However, there is a wine growing region even closer. Outside the town of Fairfield and within Solano County is the Suisun Valley AVA. It is far smaller and less famous that its neighbours.

Blue Victorian

Yesterday, we went for lunch at a delightful cafe next to the Vezér tasting room. I had a glass of their excellent Verdelho and learnt about another tasting room they have called the Blue Victorian. Since the building looked striking, I thought we could combine an opportunity for my wife to take pictures with a chance for me to taste some local wines. I learnt that the winery’s name is pronounced like the credit card. I tasted a Pinot Grigio and a Sauvignon Blanc, both of which were surprisingly sweet. The reds were more to my taste, the Syrah being a clear favourite. I walked out of there with a bottle of the 2007.

wine 004

Whilst I was sipping the varied wines a group of four entered, three were tasting and one was driving. The driver sat down in an armchair across the room. Within moments, a grey cat had appeared and leapt into his lap.


I think that the local wineries offer opportunities for future visits, they are less crowded and more generous with the tasting.

Published in: on 18 October, 2009 at 10:18  Leave a Comment  

Monsters vs. 1st Amendment

Not content with bullying craft brewers, Monster Energy drinks are taking on the First Amendment of the Constitution by attempting to suppress free speech.

Their evil lawyers are now demanding that an unfavourable review of their drink is taken down on a review site (BevReview)

Published in: on 16 October, 2009 at 6:24  Leave a Comment  


If you Google “America’s Pastime”, the results will focus on Baseball. This is misleading, as from my observations, I am fairly certain that this country’s favourite activity is suing.

I am not sure that there is an upside to this litigate first attitude, but there is one particular aspect that is very troubling; the manner in which large corporations bully smaller ones. I came across a particularly egregious example, where the small company was a craft brewery. Messing with beer is a terrible thing.

A company that makes energy drinks called Monster is suing a Vermont brewery that makes a beer called Vermonster. How how anyone could think that there was confusion between the two is beyond any sane person; only a lawyer could have show such irrationality.  Details of the story from the AP and here at the brewery’s website is a video of the brewery’s owner.

I would say that I am boycotting Monster energy drinks, but since I don’t drink energy drinks, this would be an especially empty gesture.

Published in: on 15 October, 2009 at 6:48  Leave a Comment