Thursday, February 28, 2008

A better class of criminal

Westchester County burglary is clearly becoming a task that only the coolest criminals can do. Cheap shabby crooks are being pushed out of the market by stylish guys like this one:

Burglary suspect took limo to crime scene

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Symbols of America

I just saw my first bald eagle.

On the train in this morning, I looked up at the trees after pulling out of the station and there he was looking all large and majestic, as they always seem to in photographs.

Like this.

According to Wikipedia, bald eagles are winter visitors to my area of New York. Now I'm going to find myself carrying a camera to work, to see if I can get a better shot than this one.

Having now seen my first bald eagle, it occurs to me that I've not yet had any apple pie. Any suggestions for other American experiences?

Monday, February 25, 2008

Local news is a lot less boring here

How often do you see a story like this on Look East?

Haverstraw couple being held on bail after fighting while boyfriend clung to roof of car

The bit I find most interesting is this:
Kremer is accused of reaching through the car window while he was clinging to the hood and punching Sperrazza, officials said.
Well wouldn't you? He's clinging to the outside of a car, the driver won't stop and is driving it into other vehicles - what is the officially sanctioned response to finding yourself in this situation, dial 911?


I see there is a follow-up article.

More than you need to know about brawling, car-surfing couple

Just when you thought a story was silly enough, more silliness!

Sperrazza stopped at a Sunoco gas station on Route 202, where she allegedly tried to run Kremer over with the car, Figueroa said.

While at the station, a man asked Sperrazza what was happening and she told him to get in the car, he said.

Sperrazza pulled away from the gas station with the man, leaving Kremer behind, and was stopped by police on Rosman Road. Kremer fled the scene but later turned himself in to police.

So our passer-by is at the petrol station, a car pulls in with a man on the bonnet. Man gets off and the female driver attempts to squash him beneath the wheels. Passer-by watches this and thinks, 'hey, I'll cadge a ride with her - she's feisty!'

How desperately do you need to be looking for a woman before you are happy to hook up with someone who dumps her boy-friends by running them over?

Saturday, February 16, 2008

"They're gonna send me up the river"

The Hudson Line of the Metro North Railroad travels, as you might imagine, right alongside the Hudson River. It's very close, usually just a few feet from the shore. (I know, a river should have a bank not a shore, but when the river is over 3 miles wide, it feels like a very long, thin bay. The locals must agree, as this part of the river is called Haverstraw Bay.)

It's a nice way to travel, watching the few ships and boats, and the geology is interesting with a sheer black-brown cliff-face that stretches for miles on the west side but seems to have no companion on the east.

Another of the features of the line is that it passes right through Sing Sing prison. Sing Sing is named after the town in which it is situated. This proved a little too much for the good people of Sing Sing, (as opposed to the bad people in Sing Sing) so they changed their town's name to Ossining. Anyway, the prison buts up against the river and is divided into two by the train line, with walkways overhead, and watch towers and coils of barbed wire to discourage any attempted commuting. I wonder how many men have lain in their cells dreaming of a plan that involves jumping onto the roof of a passing train to Grand Central.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Things they don't have in the UK #1

Valentine TV adverts for KY jelly.

Monday, February 11, 2008


In England, a cold day is when the puddles are frozen and don't give when you tread on them. Here, you know it was a cold night when the next morning the river is frozen for the 400 yards closest to the bank.

Saturday, February 9, 2008

Attack of the black-eye telescopes

I was in the lift a few days ago - going out to lunch - when a man got on who looked like the victim of a practical joke. He had a large black smear on his forehead, it looked like the sort of stain you might get from wiping your brow after replacing a laser printer toner cartridge. It also made me think of my old comics in which every issue always had a story that included some humourous japes with a black-eye telescope

I stood there looking at this poor unfortunate, about to step out into busy Manhattan not realising he'd smeared toner on himself.

"An American would tell him", I said to myself, "they would say, 'Excuse me, you have a mark' and he would thank them. Because he's in a lift with an Englishman that won't happen."

"If I told him, I would be taking a step towards one of the American traits I find admirable", I thought. Then I did nothing for a bit and we reached the ground floor and went our separate ways.

Five minutes later I saw a woman with a grey cross smeared on her forehead. Then a few minutes later two more people with grey/black blobs. My keen mind began to sense a pattern. By the end of the day I'd counted more than 20 similarly daubed faces.

It turns out that on Ash Wednesday Christians smear ash on their foreheads. I never knew that. Looking back, I can't recall ever noticing anyone do that in the UK. I've never seen it mentioned on British TV or news, it is completely new to me. This suggests either it rarely happens in Britain or I am woefully unobservant. I'm putting it down to the practicing nature of American Christians, compared with their British counterparts. English Christians (and by that I mean the people who when asked what religion they are, respond, "Church of England") mostly see their religion as something inherent within them. Something they were born with, like their pancreas. They don't really know what it's for, they don't think about it more than twice a year, but they know it's inside them somewhere.

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Train Nomads

Although I've yet to get on a train carriage that was full, they are sufficiently full to breach your personal privacy threshold. The layout is three seats, then the aisle, then two seats, like this:

--- --

And they tend to fill up like this:

O-- --
O-- -O
O-O -O

At this point the carriage is 80% full and the three-width seats all have the middle seat empty. No-one has a fellow passenger on both sides. This is the privacy threshold and this is when the train nomads appear. The train pulls out of the station and a few seconds later people starting entering the carriage through the vestibule, passing through and out the other side. At first I thought they were people who had jumped on at the last moment, and were working their way to the empty section, but there are too many of them for that and they pass in both directions. They are The Wanderers. They roam the train looking for a row with two empty seats, preferring their journey within a journey to having to sit between two strangers.

And thanks to them, there are more empty seats.

Sunday, February 3, 2008

Super Bowl - Live Blog!

Giants win!

A great victory for my team, and quite fun too, though I can see the appeal of the Super Bowl party. Sixty minutes of play spread over 215 minutes and even during the sixty there are periods when the clock is running down but the play has not yet restarted. So maybe 170 minutes of waiting between moments of action, lots of time for eating and chatting.

All in all an interesting evening, with just one disappointment - we never got to see the cheer-leaders!

Super Bowl - Live Blog!

Dramatic stuff. First the Patriots take the lead with three minutes left on the clock, then the Giants manage to work the ball all the way down the field until they score to take the lead with 35 seconds left on the clock. In my experience, it's hard to see the Patriots recovering from this.

Super Bowl - Live Blog!

It's getting a bit exciting. Last quarter, and the Giants have just made their way from with 20 yards and... a touchdown! Giants take the lead.

Super Bowl - Live Blog!

Aha! The ten in '2nd & 10' is the number of yards to the yellow line!

Super Bowl - Live Blog!

I think I've had a breakthrough with the 'downs' thing. The downs seem to increment with each throw and splat - I worked that out early, that's not the good bit. There is this yellow line superimposed on the pitch. If they get the ball past the yellow line, the downs reset to 1 again. All I need to understand now is the second number and I'll be all set.

(I'm actually quite enjoying it - I thought I'd wimp out after 40 minutes or so, but so far, so intriguing. No sign of a cheer leader yet, which is a bit of a disappointment.)

Super Bowl - Live Blog!

That's the first 15 minute quarter done in 28 minutes. There is something crucial occurring regarding downs and something. They keep showing '1st and 10' or '3rd and 5'. I feel my understanding will increase if I can work out what that is all about.

I just missed 10 minutes putting my son to bed and I see the score is now 7-3 to the Patriots. I expect I'll see what happened at half time.

Super Bowl - Live Blog!

I can see now why they wear those helmets - heads down and butt into each other.

The Giants have been working forwards, throw and splat, throw and splat. Then the Giants got a field goal to go three nil up. I don't know what a field goal is.

Super Bowl - Live Blog!

We're just having the Star Spangled Banner. This is something that the Americans do so much better than us. The respect of the the players, the military bank and the crowd as their national anthem was sung was clearly visible in their bearing and their faces. Hugely impressive.

Super Bowl - Live Blog!

It's the New York Giants versus the New England Patriots. I've picked up from the newspaper chatter that the Patriots are the favourites, unbeaten all season.

They just interviewed a player who according to the screen graphic has eight and a half sacks. Picking this may up may be more difficult than I hoped.

Super Bowl - Live Blog!

I've decided as a brand new-comer to American life, to watch the Super Bowl and blog it live.

I've never watched American Football before, I have no idea of the rules, but it is an American institution, so let's give it a go and see what it's like. My current understanding of 'football' can be summarised as:

They wear helmets and big shoulder pads and run at each other and have lots of fights. Sometimes they throw a ball around and girls on the sidelines dance about with pom-poms.

Here it comes...


I've been looking at subscription tv, trying to pick a provider. I want something that will give me various children's channels, some serious channels, HBO and the popular stuff like SciFi channel and Comedy Central. I went to two providers, got the list of channels from their 200 channel packages and compared them to see that only about a third of the 200 appear in both lists. Each has 130 channels that the other doesn't. Do they have these channels because they think they are attractive to the consumer, or do they have them because they are cheap. Let's look at some of the names:

Blackbelt TV - This could be really good or really bad
Bridges TV - Films starring Jeff and Lloyd
More Max - Bygraves, Headroom and Power
More Max West - Bygraves in a stetson
Opera Babylon - Intriguing
Party Favorites - Has the foreboding ring of a karaoke channel
Smile of a Child - Glurg!
Free Speech TV - Ranting non-entities
Northern Arizona University - Like the OU, but less accessible
Pentagon Channel - WMD watch
Soap Net - A one stop shop for shit

Saturday, February 2, 2008

Gateway to American Life

Yesterday I received my social security card in the post. This is the gateway to American life. It is a talisman that wards off purchasing disappointment. It is the single-most important item to have when living in the US. If you want a phone, a car, cable tv or a credit-card you will be asked for your social security number - and without one you are considered a 'problem customer' and your application will go into the round filing cabinet.

So with all that in mind I was rather surprised when I opened the envelope to find something that appeared to have been made on an $50 ink-jet printer It is a piece of flimsy card with some simple printing giving your name and number and that's it. No chip, no metal strip, no hologram or watermark - just a card that wouldn't look out of place in a Monopoly set.