Far Away

On the day before Halloween I found out that i was going to work on October 31 as a Disney character. I had decided several weeks back to complement a colleague who was going as Princess Leia, by dressing as Luke Skywalker.


Yesterday, the news broke that Disney had paid $4,000m for Lucasfilm and the assorted other Lucas firms. The announcement was also made that Episode VII will arrive in 2015. There is a new hope that when Disney strikes back the result will be better than the three prequels.

Published in: on 31 October, 2012 at 20:25  Leave a Comment  

Credit Where its Due

On Sunday we went out to Vacaville for lunch. When it came time to pay, I could not find my main credit card. I have a second card, so we were not forced to do the dishes.

I then tried to think where I could have lost the card. I had worked on Saturday and spent the evening at home. On Friday, my wife had paid for lunch as I had to rush back to the office. The last time I had used the card was on Thursday. The card might be at home, but we decided to stop and ask at the Thursday restaurant on the way home.

I went in and the owner asked MasterCard or Visa, which seemed an odd question until he opened the cash-register and pulled out two cards – one of which was mine. I guess I am not the only person to leave their credit card behind. I am grateful that the card was found, otherwise I would have spent much of Sunday afternoon updating card details on assorted websites.

Published in: on 30 October, 2012 at 20:22  Leave a Comment  

Wait for Spring

The baseball season ended on Sunday. The Giants won the World Series in a four game sweep of the Detroit Tigers. For the second time in three seasons, San Francisco have won the world series.

I am reminded at this time of a quote from one of the game’s great players, Roger Hornsby:

People ask me what I do in winter when there’s no baseball. I’ll tell you what I do. I stare out the window and wait for spring.

Published in: on 29 October, 2012 at 20:14  Leave a Comment  

Digging Up The Road

Much of this blog has reported on differences between the US and the UK. There are those things that are just the same. Public works fail to co-ordinate here just as much as they do back in Britain.

A couple of weeks ago crews were busy repainting all of the traffic lights in the area. They had barely finished, before another group started digging up the road at the same junctions; raising dust all over the freshly painted lights.

Published in: on 21 October, 2012 at 9:59  Leave a Comment  

Broken Heart

The game that is designed to “Break Your Heart” has done so. After the unexpected clinching of the American League West, the A’s went into a best of five series against the Tigers. The first two games were in Detroit and both went the way of the home team.

Facing elimination, the A’s returned to Oakland on Tuesday. I was fortunate enough to have a ticket for the game. In front of a very loud capacity crowd, the A’s won 2-0 with some excellent defense including a home-run stealing catch from Coco Crisp. 

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On Wednesday, the A’s struggled and found themselves 3-1down going into the ninth and final inning. As I jumped around and shouted loudly, they scored three runs to win the game and tie the series. I think the vociferous support of the crowd probably had more influence on the team’s come from behind performance than my yelling. 

The decisive fifth game was against the Tiger’s ace pitcher; Justin Verlander. He pitched an awesome game and with a terrible seventh inning, the A’s fell to a 6-0 defeat. Their post-season had ended. Hopes of glory that had beyond the wildest dreams early in the season had grown, then slipped away after those first two loses, returned after those battling wins, and were now finally dashed.

Despite the defeat, the crowd stayed loud and cheered the team. The A’s came out to salute the fans. The triumphant Tigers tipped their caps, in a classy gesture. An amazing season had ended, but on a far more positive note that any had imagined.

Published in: on 13 October, 2012 at 14:41  Leave a Comment  

Tahoe Brew

We stopped at a pub called The Brewery at Lake Tahoe; a name that says it all. It brews its own beer. I tried their Porter and Brown Ale; the former was superb, the latter more than passable. Both were proof that American beer can be much more than the big US breweries offer.

Unfortunately, both served from the curse of beer served here; they were too cold. Both Porters and Brown Ales have flavor that is not helped by being served icy. Low temperatures might be fine If your beer starts with as little flour as Coors. (Marketed as “The Most Refreshing Beer”, because even advertisers lack the dishonesty needed to hype its flavor, or lack thereof ) For beers with complex malts and hops for your palate to savour, a low temperature lessens the impact of that delight.

Americans have rediscovered how or brew good beer, now they need to learn again how to serve it cool and not chilled.

Published in: on 8 October, 2012 at 21:09  Leave a Comment  

The Power of a Brand

This morning we ventured out in search of coffee. We parked and headed to Starbucks, which was in the carpark. There was a long line inside, which snaked round to fill the store. Even my need for morning coffee was not enough to justify the wait. We crossed the street and walked down an alley to another coffee shop. There was one patron sat at a table, whilst another collected his order. We had no wait.

Is it the name recognition, or an unwillingness to walk that left the herd waiting in line for their morning Joe. Whatever, the reason it helped us start our morning well.


Published in: on 7 October, 2012 at 19:48  Leave a Comment  

The Drunk and the Brit

My wife and I are at Lake Tahoe for our wedding anniversary. We drove up from our home this morning, arriving in time for an early lunch. A late lunchtime beer and snack meant that we had no need to eat until relatively late. We had dinner reservations for tomorrow, so tonight a less formal venue appealed. We found a highly rated BBQ serving bar.

The notice inside in the door instructed as to wait to be seated. The bar was right inside the door and the barman told us he would be with us in a minute. He rushed off into a back room, presumably to check on other guests. We waited; we were not in a rush. Then one of the bar patrons, who had either been there for a whole, or consumed drinks at an alarming rate, pointed us to the menus and indicated a booth across the room. We followed his advice. He then wandered over and was about to take a drinks order. At this point the actual bartender arrived and intervened.

He took our drinks order and a few minutes later came back to order our food. In the midst of our order I used some British turn off phrase. He laughed and said “Damn Brits”, before asking where in England I was from. I told him I was born in London, but brought up in Suffolk. He said he was from Isleworth (West London). He had moved from the UK twenty years ago from Hounlsow.

Must have been a hard choice; Hounslow or the middle of the Sierra Nevada mountains by the sapphire beauty of Lake Tahoe.

Published in: on 6 October, 2012 at 19:32  Leave a Comment  

Breaking Your Heart Part Three

Supporting a team involves hope being dashed time and time again.

Today was the final day of the regular season in baseball. The season that started in April with all teams level with zero wins concluded with each team having played one-hundred and sixty-two games. On Friday the play-offs start. Six teams enter the main post-season, four more play a single elimination game to make eight teams in the main post-season. 

Anyone who reads this blog will know that I have fallen for the Oakland A’s – The Gold and Green. Last year we finished second bottom of the American League West and never came close to making the post season playoffs. During the off-season, the team lost their home-run leader and traded three All-Star Pitchers. The trades brought in prospects and a reduced payroll.

These moves left  the A’s  with the second lowest payroll in baseball – whilst competing in a division with the Rangers (2010 and 2011 American League Champions)  and an Angels team who had spent big in the off-season;  including the 2011 World Series Most Valuable Player, Albert Pujols. The pundits predicted a last or next to last finish in the American League West, with 70 wins being the expected total. A dismal couple of opening months and a nine game losing streak left them thirteen games adrift of the Rangers. What little hope that we had was lost in the harsh reality of defeat.

July happened and the A’s surged. The team won eighteen of twenty two games and they were in the race to make one of  the wildcard spots and a do or die game on Friday October 5 to play a division winner in the post-season. 

The A’s would try to compete with the Angels whilst fielding nine players whose total salary was less than one player on the Angels starting team. They would compete against the Damn Yankees, whose payroll is about ten times of that of the Gold and Green.

At the end of July I posted my emerging hope that Oakland would grab a wild-card spot.

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Today those hopes were dashed.

Today, the A’s played their last game of the allotted one-hundred and sixty-two. In a game that reflected this year’s amazing roller coaster, the A’s had a third inning that left them 5-1 down against a Texas offense that is the best in baseball. The final score 12-5.

Great Oakland hitting, poor Texas pitching, and a fielding error of which I would be ashamed game the A’s a victory. The Rangers were swept, having led the Division for all of the season, they lost the AL West on the final day to the Oakland A’s. A team who most predicted would finish, at best, in the penultimate slot had won. A team full of future prospects had seen the future arrive way sooner than anyone dared think possible.

There is no wild-card for the A’s, because they are Division Champions. The A’s do not face a sudden do or die elimination on Friday, but start a best of five against the Tigers on Saturday.


If the 2002 season spawned an Aaron Sorkin penned movie starring Brad Pitt, what should this so much more impressive achievement bring? In that year General Manager, Beane found a way of replacing several key players in a winning team. This year he built a team from scratch, whilst cutting the payroll.

It is said that believing in superstition is bad luck; so I wonder if I should ignore the fact that  I saw them win twice on seven visits, despite winning 61% of home games across the season. 


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Despite the euphoria I feel, I know that defeat and heart-break lies somewhere in this post-season. For baseball is a game designed to break your heart. Yet, it captures that heart and your mind as it does. Football may be the beautiful game, but baseball is the perfect game.

Published in: on 3 October, 2012 at 20:09  Leave a Comment