No Jacket Required

Throughout my working career in the UK, I wore a jacket and tie to work. Usually, I went a step further and wore a suit and tie. Since starting my first job in the US in 2007, I have never needed to wear a jacket or tie for work.

A recent change in policy allowed us to wear jeans on Friday; otherwise it is business casual. That means trousers and a collared shirt is expected. It took a while before I did not feel as though something was missing around my neck.

On Monday, this week, the casual approach went a whole lot further. It was start of Spirit Week, a week of themed dress down days. The first day was telecommute/PJ day. The office was full of people in pyjamas, dressing gowns, and slippers. I was in sweat pants, a tee-shirt, and slippers. One of my colleagues had even gone to the extend of using product to sculpt his hair into a carefully arranged facsimile of morning bed-head.

Published in: on 27 August, 2013 at 8:44  Leave a Comment  

Fast Food Proliferation

I have written previous posts on how many Starbucks there are in California. It seems that there must be a state law that you cannot be more than a mile from the closest store.  However, Starbucks is not the most ubiquitous chain of food outlets in the US. It is just third on the list of fast food chains by outlet.

If you add the number of Starbucks stores to the count of the second most common in the US, McDonalds, you get 25,285 locations.  That seems like a large number, until you consider that Subway has 25,549 shops in the US. It has more than the 2nd & 3rd largest combined. 


Published in: on 22 August, 2013 at 6:00  Leave a Comment  

A Gray Afternoon

We had a work meeting at the ballpark on Thursday. A large group had a suite at the Oakland Coliseum; with food and alcohol provided. Since I was driving, I only took advantage of the former.

The game was a 5-0 won for the A’s against the lowly Astros (A’s are 12-3 this year against them). First time I have seen the Astros play in the flesh, and first time this year I have been at game where the A’s won.

If you are wondering about the article title; no we did not have an English overcast Summer day. The weather was warm and cloudless. The A’s starting pitcher was making his home debut and his second major league start. He had a great day, pitching eight scoreless innings, issuing just one walk and giving up four hits.

Published in: on 15 August, 2013 at 17:59  Leave a Comment  

Kentucky Monastery in Texas

On Sunday night I made a couple of cocktails with very similar recipes that tasted markedly different.

Both used lemon juice, which I had squeezed several hours earlier, based on research that lemon juice tastes best if prepared 4-10 hours before hand. Sunday afternoon an opportunity to squeeze the juice in advance.

The first recipe I tried was “Frisco Sour”. Before I go any further, let me make clear for those of my readers outside of Northern California that “Frisco” is not an abbreviation of San Francisco. No local calls The City “Frisco” or “San Fran”. It is always “San Francisco” or just “The City”. In writing, you will see it referred to as “SF”, but I cannot recall that name being used in speech. Frisco is a suburb in the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex, which is geographically and culturally very different from SF.

The “Frisco Sour” recipe is a classic example of a New Orleans Sour, made as follows:

2oz     Rye Whisky
.5oz  Benedictine
.5oz  Lemon Juice

Shaken with ice and strained into a chilled cocktail glass.

The lemon juice acidity was very noticeable, certainly more so than the herbal sweetness of the Benedictine.

The second drink was a Kentucky Monastery, one that I made several months ago. At the time, I substituted Peychaud Bitters, as I had no Cranberry bitters. The recipe is as follows:

1.5oz Bourbon 
.75oz Benedictine 
.5oz   Lemon Juice
3 ds   Cranberry Bitters

Shaken with ice and strained into a chilled cocktail glass.

Although the lemon juice is a higher percentage of the drink overall, the acid taste was lower. It was a more mellow and balanced drink. Had I not made it myself I would have sworn to the presence of grapefruit. Changing Rye to Bourbon, with the increase in Benedictine added to the sweetness.

It is odd, that two so similar drinks should taste so different. I shall need to try the pairing again whilst leaving the base spirit the same in both.

I cannot swear that making the lemon juice in advance had an impact. I shall need to make two drinks side by side with two samples of lemon juice.

Published in: on 13 August, 2013 at 6:00  Leave a Comment  

Taken for a Ride

On Saturday, I went to our local theme park – which is about fifteen minutes from home (Somewhat longer thanks to park traffic on a Saturday in August)

I rode several rides:

Kong: It only reaches 50mph, but with the swinging, swaying, and five inversions it felt faster.


Medusa: My favourite ride of the day. It is somewhat faster at 65mph and has seven inversions.


And the same ride from the ground, that provides some context for the motion

Medusa from the ground

Roar: A more traditional wooden rollercoaster. As I got off the ride, a kid behind me said “I’ve just ridden the largest roller-coaster in the world”. Another boy pointed out that the nearby “Superman” ride was bigger. The kid came back, barely missing a beat, to say “I’ve just ridden the second largest roller-coaster in the world” (For once I was not pedantic and not point out that this ride does not even make top ten of wooden coasters in the world)

Published in: on 11 August, 2013 at 15:34  Leave a Comment  

Headline News

The big sporting news here in US was the banning of various baseball players for involvement with Biogenesis, a supplier of performance enhancing drugs. A dozen or so players were banned for fifty games; with Alexander Rodriguez of Damn Yankees getting a 212 game ban. I checked with a couple of UK friends, the story made no splash back in Blighty. I care more about the inclusion of a key Texas player, Nelson Cruz, in the list of guys who will miss the rest of the season; that can only have a positive impact on the race in the West for the A’s.

If that seems odd to my US readers, I also asked if either of these British UK sports geeks knew about Tim Tebow. Both responded with a “who?”, which is not a question anyone in the US could ask given the endless coverage the QB gets in US media.

Mind you, not one of my US colleagues would know that England retained the Ashes. I doubt most of them even know what the Ashes are.

Published in: on 7 August, 2013 at 6:41  Comments (4)  


My exploration of cocktails has been driven by reading books and websites. I have made drinks based on recipes that I have read; with no way of knowing if they tasted as they should. It would be like learning English from a book – your vocabulary may be good, but you have no way of knowing if your pronunciation is correct.

A few weeks back, I attempted to make a Sazerac, a classic cocktail from New Orleans. It is variation on an Old Fashioned, but spiced up by the addition of Absinthe. This attempt was one of the few cocktails that was disappointing. The flavour was dominated by the anise from the Absinthe. I have so many recipes, that I moved on.

On Saturday, I went to a proper cocktail bar; the excellent Standard Pour in Dallas. I started with their house cocktail; a first-rate Manhattan variation. I thought I would see a proper attempt at a Sazerac. The result was a well balanced drink; with the Rye, the Absinthe, the fruit peel, and the bitters all present and working in harmony.

I shall now revisit the recipe and aim to recreate the taste I experienced.

Published in: on 5 August, 2013 at 4:00  Comments (1)  

Lots of Planets have a Scotland

In the first season of new Who, Rose questions whether the Doctor is really an alien as he has a Northern accent. The Doctor responds that lots of planets have a North. After Sunday’s announcement it would seem that a lot of planets have a Scotland. Peter Capaldi joins David Tenant and Sylvester McCoy as a trio of Scottish actors to play the role.

Published in: on 4 August, 2013 at 11:43  Leave a Comment  

Errors on the Menu

I am staying in a large and fairly expensive chain hotel in Dallas. You would think that someone in corporate would check their room-service menu. I found three errors on a single page.

In the subcategory of single malt: Johnnie Walker Red and Black Label; both of which are blends.

One of the Gin’s listed is Beefeaters; the brand should not finish with an ‘s’.

Most oddly, the cocktails listed include Screwdriver. The ingredients are listed as vodka and Bloody Mary Mix. A Screwdriver should be vodka and orange juice. Vodka and Bloody Mary Mix make a Bloody Mary, oddly enough.

Published in: on 4 August, 2013 at 4:00  Leave a Comment