Archive for February, 2010

Public Radio’s week long donation drives

I’ve said before that I like the choice and variety of US music radio stations, however I have been increasingly listening to National Public Radio (the closest we have here to Radio 4). It is on in my car much of the time and I play it at home. (Talk radio is no good for a radio alarm though – that’s set to loud rock). In any case it really is a source of interesting and thought provoking content. Its business model is unusual – it describes itself as “a privately supported, not-for-profit membership organization”. That essentially means that it is funded by donations.

Actually I couldn’t care less how it is funded MOST of the time but one week every quarter they run fundraising drives which are INCREDIBLY annoying. During that week all that great programming is greatly reduced and replaced with the DJs and reporters asking for money. For a whole week!

All those experienced radio reporters are reduced to talking about how fantastic the content is and drumming up more donations – so after every piece there’s a section along the lines of:

DJ 1: “Well I had no idea that there were so many things you could do with paper doilies/ people’s bogies/ old copies of Newsweek….that highly informative interview has completely changed my life.”

DJ 2 “Yes it is only on NPR that you get that depth of reporting into these valuable subjects. Now everyone can have friends as they have something interesting to talk about. Please give us more money or we’ll all be out of jobs.”

About as subtle as a poke in the eye and more annoying.

Now they talk about a combined audience of 26.4 million listeners across all the NPR stations. That’s a lot by my count – and many of them broken down into some useful niches. So how about a bit of advertising to reduce the pain each time around? Please?

I bet you are wondering – did I donate? Not during the fundraising drive but I like what they do so I’ll give them some cash another time. I’ll just hope they get on the advertising bandwagon pronto.

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The house project

We’re having work done on the house! It is going to be fabulous but right now it is really rather disruptive  – we realised that staying put was not an option so we’re watching the progress from a flat up the road.

We’re going to end up with some good sized rooms and two bathrooms that you could swing a cat in (sooo exciting). I’ve been asked a few times for info, so I’ve just added a page above with pictures – under House Renovation. What do you think?

The house is currently in pieces and the whole project is looking quite daunting. I don’t like seeing the place in such disarray. It seems like there’s a long way to go before it is a home again. That said, the builders are working fast in between snow storms so we’ll hopefully be back in before we know it.

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The Amazing Calistoga geyser….NOT

My current favourite tourist attraction in the Napa Valley is Calistoga’s “Old Faithful” geyser, which features for miles around on giant roadside hoardings where it is billed as being “AMAZING”.

It isn’t amazing of course and it isn’t even particularly faithful anymore, going off multiple unscheduled times an hour.  I do think it is cool that superheated water gets shot out of the Earth on a regular basis – but I’ve seen the Yellowstone Old Faithful (which actually IS amazing) and this really doesn’t compete. What I like about it that it is in total denial. It just hasn’t come to terms with the fact that it is a faded attraction – a bit like many dying British seaside resorts, they keep going because no one told them not to bother anymore. The Calistoga geyser used to be Something once upon a time during the late 1800s when it was discovered. People used the volcanic mud as a cure for all manner of ailments and came from far and wide to the area. Since then it has become a bit of an also ran – and locals drilling geo-thermal boreholes for their heating systems seem to have knocked it off kilter a bit.

Richard and Anya being AMAZED

Richard and Anya being AMAZED

What makes this place really special for me is that inexplicably, in the next field to the geyser there are a selection of llamas, four horned sheep, and my personal favourite, Tennessee fainting goats. The latter are afflicted with an unfortunate genetic mutation that makes them stiffen up and fall over if they are alarmed in any way. They were used in Tennessee to prevent sheep from getting eaten by coyotes until they were almost extinct (funny that). In any case there were several of them in a pen. Disappointingly they were all lying down and not getting scared and falling over at all. Sadly I’ve had to rely on youtube to see them in action. It is completely hilarious though. You know you want to have a look. Go on.

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Return to Napa

Last weekend we made it back to California to visit the bikes which have been languishing in storage in Oakland since we rescued them from Denver some time before Christmas. Actually we were thrilled to find that they were still there as Oakland isn’t the most salubrious place…

Arriving Friday evening we had time for a very tasty dinner before falling into bed back at the hotel – which was a very pleasant if wildly over decorated affair – with more marble clad elements in the lobby than is normally seen outside the Las Vegas strip.

After near Olympic levels of Saturday morning kerfuffling we picked up the bikes and headed North towards Napa – actually an easy enough trip of about an hour. California is one of the few states that allow motorbikes to filter in between traffic and we made good time while many cars and trucks were held up by the aftermath of an inevitable prang or two. Actually most of the drivers couldn’t have been more helpful , moving out of the way as we picked our way through the traffic.

I’ll admit that taking a motorbike to a wine region doesn’t sound like the most sensible option. You’ll be pleased to hear that we chose scenery over tasting as bikes really are the most wonderful way to experience a place using all your senses. We did wash down a rather good deli picnic lunch with a glass of cheeky red however.

Enjoying a cheeky red

Enjoying a cheeky red

Napa in January is stunning in a different way to the warmer months. The vines are dormant – with row after row of stumpy twisted trunks visible as opposed to the usual abundance of vines and grapes (they look like those mandrake root creatures in Harry Potter in fact) but the rolling scenery is breathtaking and the soft colours are no less beautiful than the usual verdant green. I particularly enjoyed our early Sunday morning ride up the Silverado Trail past mile after mile of vineyards where the morning mist was still just hugging the ground. I could have lingered for hours and would love to have stopped for pictures but time constraints and the fact that it was bloody freezing pushed us on.

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Biscuits and gravy – but not as you know them

This doesn’t sound like the tastiest option on a breakfast menu and I can assure you that it isn’t. Also, to make matters worse it doesn’t appear to consist of either biscuits OR gravy as you might know them. The biscuit is effectively a raisin-less scone and the gravy is a beige opaque slime that I think is be based on some sort of béchamel. Sometimes it has chunks in it which may or may not be some sort of sausage meat. Separately bad and together truly awful. It doesn’t even look like something you’d want to put in your mouth.


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