Archive for May, 2008


I heard about the ghost tours and had to go – so I convinced a number of people to join me. I was a little concerned that this was going to be another one of my hair brained schemes… but it turned out great.

House of Voodoo

The two hour started at Reverend Zombie’s House of Voodoo and took in a good chunk of New Orleans’ French Quarter. It was actually really pleasant just to wander around, taking in the quaint houses with their stunning balconies. The ghost tour bit was a bonus really. We stopped regularly to hear tales of murder, revenge and mysterious happenings, and to sample the drinks in genuine smugglers bars that maybe over ONE HUNDRED YEARS old. Thinking about it, I can’t remember the details of a single story. This might be due to the tedious conversations of the couple behind me, however I DO remember hearing that New Orleans has a drive through Daquiri stall. Definitely somewhere to visit next time.

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Politicians here are bonkers

Surprisingly I don’t even mean the current drawn out and painful election saga (although that’s another whole story – is it nearly over?) . I want to draw your attention to a brave soul who is completely honest about his sanity: the new mayor of Philadelphia.

Nutter for Mayor

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Mulch love from New Orleans

I made it to New Orleans late on Friday night – so when I woke up on Saturday morning my first thought was: “Why do I say yes to this stuff?”. I’d agreed to participate in a CableCares initiative to support New Orleans schools affected by the hurricane. After much grumbling and lashings of Starbucks (extra shot) I headed over to the Fannie C Williams school where I was to help build a playground. Several years on the teaching was still taking place in portacabins and there was nothing at all for the kids to do outside.

I was allocated the mulch team. That all sounded great until I saw the pile of mulch – it was ENORMOUS. Apparently 280sq feet of the stuff. So after liberal slatherings of suncream I got to work with a shovel. We worked for hours without any apparent dent in the pile – the plan was to fill the whole playground area with 12″ of mulch. This is pretty tough work but the team spirit was great and we kept telling ourselved that it was for the children 😉


I was absolutely amazed how much we managed to achieve. (Look at the video here). While my team shovelled, others put up fantastic payground equipment, made planters, painted etc. I even got a break from shovelling to help paint a cyclepath much to the fascination of the kids. When we left the playground looked AMAZING. The biggest disappointment is that we weren’t allowed to play on it until the concrete had set – boo.  I am really pleased I took part in this initiative to help this deserving area in a small way. That said I may never use mulch ever again.

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From the Cable Show in New Orleans

It has been an insanely crazy week at the Cable Show. I know that doesn’t sound particularly exciting but actually it was cool. The industry has moved on from boxes – now it is all about content. And from a show perspective, the content made for some entertaining exhibits. There was a charming lady who spent the whole time reclined in a giant martini glass, some bull riding and crazy online auctions as well as the various different channels all vying for attention (Discovery got my vote). I’ll share with you some of what I got up to but in the meantime, my all time favourite was this yellow chap.


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Alleged Chocolate

OMG you would NOT BELIEVE what passes for chocolate in these parts. I was really hungry tonight and hadn’t been shopping so I went hunting around the kitchen cupboards. I found a Hershey bar (came from a hotel welcome pack from way back – I wouldn’t have bought the noxious substance). Anyway it says chocolate on the front but that’s a LIE! The stuff is revolting. A brief perusal of the ingredients explains why – there’s no cocoa in there! It probably harks back to the war when they had to make chocolate out of melted down tanks.

Now I know that I’m a bit of a chocolate snob (yes I put my hand up to cooking with no less than 70% cocoa chocs) but this completely takes the biscuit. At best they only use cocoa butter. That’s what I use as moisturiser! although now I come to think of it I think the moisturiser would taste better.

Apparently there’s a chocolate factory you can visit in Hershey Pennsylvania. That’s one place you can be sure I won’t be going. Urgh.

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Speaking of Rome

I’ve been reading a series of books recently that I’ve really enjoyed much to my surprise – the first was left here by my father when he visited. They are all about ancient Rome and the rise of Julius Caesar. Now neither have really held my interest that much before ( all the stories of marauding Romans in Latin textbooks bored the hell out of me when I was 11). Anyway they are by a chap called Conn Iggulden.  A cracking good read.


When in Rome…


The sunshine, the open road, the deafening throb of a Harley Davidson engine – this is clearly the only way to get about in the US. While in California I hired a bike to go cruising around the Napa Valley wine region. Now I’ve always been a bit sniffy about HDs (this one was a 1200 for example – no clue where all that power goes because it isn’t exactly nippy…sit on a 1200 BMW and it’s like a rocket) but there’s something about the gentle chugging, the exhaust note and the leisurly ‘ sat in a bath’ riding style. Also the suspension – carefully honed to support the ample backsides of some of the heaviest bikers I’ve ever seen – is just perfect to wallow through the inevitable giant potholes on the dreadful roads here.

Anyway I’ve completely transformed my idea of biking. Years ago it was all about the speed, now I think it is the best way in the world to take in the surroundings. In the same way that driving around in a convertible car gives you a better, more intimate experience of the surroundings than a car with a roof, touring on a bike puts you another level closer. I guess that means I’m mellowing.

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Pertrolhead Paradise

Just spent the weekend in Petrolhead heaven – at the Infineon racetrack in Sonoma for the Ferrari 430 Challenge. So there were a number of races over a number of days – each affected start positions for the next. The 21 or so bends of racetrack are organised compactly so, from the right vantage point you can see almost all the action.

The best bit for me was that you are able to wander around the pits – talking to drivers and engineers, poking about in the cars etc. With the challenge all the cars are the same production spec but it is amazing to what extent some cars are more equal than others. Spot the enormous cheesy grin :-)

Ferrari 430

Actually it made a very welcome change to spend some time with people who like driving and who don’t think that American cars are acceptable modes of transportation. Bliss.


Mail order trash

Now I don’t spend that much time at home and don’t create masses of rubbish yet I am forever looking to get rid of bags of rubbish. Why? Because I get vast forests worth of restaurant details, local rags and other random stuff through my door on a regular basis. I haven’t even signed up for anything much, it just arrives. Not only do I get all this unsolicited junk through – most of it refers to me a valued customer. Urgh. As soon as one of them sends me a reply paid envelope – I’ll send some back.Door

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Words you don’t get in America…

It’s great – you can ramble incoherently and people think your are just using words they don’t know.

Some that you don’t get here: fortnight, Bollocks, gobsmacked, boffin

Then pavements are sidewalks and roads are pavements, chips are fries and crisps are chips…

Still the hardest thing of all is ordering a glass of water (even harder getting it without a ton of ice) because somehow I can’t say “water” in a way that people understand…