Archive for January, 2009

Out with the old

So America has a new president. Hurrah. I’m am completely thrilled that the whole election circus is over – it feels like it has been going on foooooooreeeeever with the convoluted rounds and debates and campaigning stretching back over a year.

It has been an interesting process, watching but not being involved. Firstly, wow. The most racist country on the planet has a black president. There were a few poignant words highlighting the fact that Obama would most likely not have been served in Washington restaurants as recently as 40 or so years ago. The second astonishing aspect is that, based on radio, TV and people I’ve spoken to , the vast majority have been positive about his appointment (yes even McCain voters).

The inauguration itself was the worst bit – it felt a bit like Diana’s funeral in reverse – an astonishing outpouring of mass euphoria. The second coming couldn’t have generated more optimism and gushingly saccharine news commentary. I mean, to get things in perspective, the country is engaged in a couple of wars and is in the economic toilet. This is not an easy fix. But change has come. Great. The funniest thing about the event was the bizarre parades that made me think of all those facist processions so favoured by the likes of Mussolini…

Still, at least we’re shot of this chimp.

Bush baby

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Beautiful Lake Tahoe


I spent the week between Christmas and New Year in Lake Tahoe with the chap’s family. I have been before but was still taken aback by how stunning the place is.  I want skiing – but switched to snowboarding after a few days (loved it – but struggled with being a beginner again. Falling off the top of lifts, watching closely what slope I’m about to go down, faceplanting in the snow etc). Actually as almost everyone else was a beginner it worked out pretty well being a beginner too. Some of the biggest belly laughs all week were had trying to teach a 3 year old to ski (or at least to proceed down the slope on skis). No pics of me snowboarding just yet – so in the meantime, some beautiful pics of the lake.

Taho 2

Tahoe Sunset

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Sign of the times

Every time I go to the gym I’m confronted with this:

Gym sign

Frankly it has me totally perplexed. I always thought the British were the most prudish nation on the planet. I should know – convent school taught me the art of getting dressed under a towel. I’m not that bad anymore – when I get changed, I take clothes off, I put clothes on. No big deal. My continental European friends make me feel very prudish though – they are quite comfortable wandering around naked. Not in a weird way – but kind of between the bathroom and bedroom sort of thing and not all the time. *urgh that still sounds weird but it isn’t if you know what I mean*.

Anyway – the Americans make the Brits look like the most uninhibited sauna-bound Germans. I mean none of the women on TV are allowed to have boobs – they just have this localised fuzziness a bit like what they do to T shirts with brand names on the BBC. And that’s late at night. That’s strange. And actually rather distracting during the love scenes – how can you get passionate when your whole torso is out of focus?

So considering this, how much modesty and discretion is appropriate? I mean there’s a lot of room for manoeuvre between arriving in the pool in bloomers with a Victorian bathing carriage and striding around butt naked, towel whipping anyone within range.

What does everyone else do? Isn’t that a clue? Sadly not. No one apart from the rather old and gravity challenged seems to actually take off their clothes in the changing room. Maybe you exercise appropriate modesty by making your body go out of focus whilst changing. I think I’ll continue to arrive in my kit, just to be on the safe side.

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Plastic fantastic

I just had the opportunity to try  a really intriguing car – the Tesla. I was passing through California staying in a hotel in Menlo Park. The Tesla showroom was right next door so it would have been rude not to have a closer look.

From driving past – the cars looked quite sexy  – somewhere between the Lotus Elise and the VX220 and a little wider.Plenty of carbon fibre and great bottom hugging seats. They have some pretty impressive stats too – 0-60 in 3.9 seconds. Woof woof.


So here’s the weird thing – they are electric cars – under what looks like the petrol cap is where you plug the extension cable and the back end is pretty much all battery.  They are great to drive – the road hold and handling are excellent (turns out that whilst the Tesla folk are keen to emphasise that the Tesla chassis is not a Lotus chassis – the cars are build in Hethel at the Lotus factory  – so go figure). They aren’t automatic as such but they only have one gear – you put your foot down and it keeps on going and going. That’s really peculiar – it seems wrong that there isn’t a gearbox and it is so strange not hearing a throaty exhaust. It really does sound like a milk float which is slightly disconcerting given the whiplash acceleration.

There was quite a lot of traffic when I drove it – but actually I really liked it. THe range is not bad unless you drive it like a total nutter so it could be workable. But here’s the rub – it costs $100K. That puts it in with the real supercars – you can buy a nice Masa, a 911 Turbo and even quite a lot of Ferrari for that. So why would you buy this? It doesn’t feel like a supercar (in fact the inside is pretty sparsely finished using cheap plastics) and you’d have to be really bought into the whole green thing to even consider. They are still shipping to people who preordered as long as 18 months ago but I think 100k is just too much. For $50Kyou’d place it as an alternative to an Elise, an S2000 or similar. For twice that there isn’t a chance it can compete with the big boys.


Skymall – the best thing about US airlines


The best thing about flying US dometic airlines is the Skymall magazine that you’ll always find tucked in between the sick bag and the safety card of the seat pocket in front of you. This is the most hilarious reading you’ll ever encounter. Clearly the producers have decided that their captive, food, drink and cigarette deprived audience will be queuing up to buy a right load of random rubbish from them.

The selection of products to buy is astonishing – each designed to solve a problem you didn’t know you had…stairs to help old dogs get onto your bed, pretend stones to cover up unsightly taps or metalwork in your garden, breathtakingly tacky ornaments, blankets with sleeves, chocolate fireguards. Ok I made the last one up but see for yourself here.

My favourites are these – an in-home traction device and excercise equipment that turns any sized pool into a training pool. Who knew you needed one?


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Christmas US stylee

Christmas 08 was great for three main reasons:

  1. My Christmas, my rules. So no bloody turkey (it isn’t that I don’t like turkey – just I prefer all other meats). Had beef fillet wrapped in parma ham and porcini instead if you are interested – Jamie Oliver inspired deliciousness.
  2. Because of Thanksgiving the shops don’t start with all the Christmas paraphernalia in October like they do in the UK. I don’t think I heard a single carol before the beginning of December and I haven’t heard Slade once. As a result you aren’t completely fed up with the whole event long before it has started.
  3. Christmas a deux. If you don’t have children to enable you to vicariously enjoy the whole santa thing – then keep it simple. Champagne for breakfast then TWO Bond films. Bliss.

Christmas tree

Something that the whole season of goodwill did highlight is how we really are two very different nations when it comes to food. The chap requested a trifle instead of Christmas pud. No problem I thought. Well it wouldn’t have been if you could buy custard. Or trifle sponges in the culinary cul-de-sac that is Pennsylvania. I managed to make them so trifle-less disaster avoided – thank goodness you can get sherry here.

Getting Parma ham was hard enough. “I’ll have some Parma ham please” I said at the deli counter. “What’s that?” asked the fantastically corpulent chap behind the counter. “Ham from Parma” I helpfully explained. “huh?”. Turns out they call it Prosciutto here – or more accurately prosciut (pronounced like some bad extra in a Goddfellows movie.) Urgh. That just means ham in Italian. Not sure I’ll ever learn the language. Come to think of it, I’m not sure I want to.

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