Saturday, May 31, 2008

Chip 'n' Dale

The Family has just arrived back from a short vacation in Florida, specifically to DisneyWorld. Whats the difference between Bing Crosby and Walt Disney? Bing sings and Walt Disney.

Son Number One was very excited by the trip, especially when we told him he could meet these two:

"Oh boy", he said (yes, he really does say 'Oh boy'), "I'm going to meet Alvin!"

We managed to explain that these chipmunks were not Alvin, without a significant loss of excitement and indeed, he queued for 30 minutes to get them to sign his book and pose with him.

Now we have returned to find the grounds of our shady pile overrun with real chipmunks.

Have I mentioned our chipmunks before? They started appearing at the end of March when the weather was vernal. There would be one or two of them in the gardenyard on a sunny afternoon. This last week there seem to be dozens. I usually have one run across the drive each day as I come home, I saw three out the window this morning and Rayhound the greyhound was very excited when he went out for a morning sniff and chased a squirrel that lead him to a chipmunk.

According to Wikipedia (and let's face it, if Wikipedia says it then it is true) chipmunks mate in early spring and the young emerge from the burrow after about six weeks. Adding in the 31 day gestation period and these young orange bundles of fun were conceived around the middle of March, so they are indeed young, striking out into the big wide world.

I'm sure they are bad in some terrible way I've not yet discovered, but at the moment I'm just enjoying watching them run around with their tails in the air. It's hard not to smile watching them dance around the yard.

Friday, May 23, 2008


Woman to her husband at the station as she got out of the car...

"Love you Honey! Drive carefully... and safely... et cetera. Bye!"

She actually used the words et cetera while professing her love.

I wonder what Il Capo would say if next time we part I said, "I love you, et cetera."

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Little differences 2

Apples are more expensive than bananas here.

(Standby, I've got dozens more as good as this one.)

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

It's either that or they eat all your flowers

I've written before about the white-tailed deer that are prevalent in Westchester County.. Perhaps part of the reason they are so common may be that in Westchester, hunting deer with firearms is prohibited. This leaves two ways of killing them:

Smear mud on your face, put bits of bracken behind your ears and sit motionless in the woods for six hours before leaping out with your knife when one wanders near.

Cut a stout piece of yew, grab a length of twine and fashion yourself a longbow like one of Sherwood Forest's finest.

Bow hunting appears to be the preferred option. I've even seen adverts from people offering to lurk in your garden yard and dispatch any ruminants that wander past. Gratis!

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Vote for more 'shhhh' signs

America loves to vote. Where I live, I could (were I a citizen) vote for the president, a senator, a congressman, the state Governor, a state senator, a county legislator, the town supervisor and a town council member. Also, the school budget, the library budget and possibly the town police chief as well. I'm sure I've missed a few things.

The library budget is being put to the vote this week. No idea if I'm eligible. I find all this democracy quite refreshing, coming from a country that signs a treaty that not only gives away Government powers, but is self-amending, so additional powers can be removed at a later date without agreement.

The library budget is up, by the way. They want to spend more money on books apparently. Will the people say yes? Well, Potato Potarto will be running a live blog-cast of the vote, with 3D graphs, exit-polls, and expert analysis so you can follow all the drama and excitement of democracy in action.

Not really. I will tell you the result though, ok?

Monday, May 19, 2008

How to get free train travel

I got on my train at Grand Central, yesterday, and waited for it to pull out of the station.

This guy sat next to me, quite wide, solid, head like a bullet, all in denim, jacket and jeans. He was very polite. "Would you mind if I sat there?" Once sitting, he pulled out a blackberry and an ear piece and shut his eyes. Stayed like that for most of the trip. When the conductor/guard came around asking for tickets, this guy pulled out his wallet and opened it, keeping low, near his leg. It showed a photo-id with the word 'POLICE' under the photo. The conductor/guard asked him where he was getting off and then passed by.

Free travel for cops!

I spent the rest of the journey trying to spot his gun.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Little differences

American newspapers never tell you how old people are. When someone is arrested for horse-riding while intoxicated I want to know their age!

Saturday, May 17, 2008

The Doctor is in

The Family are enjoying the current series of 'Doctor Who'. Now, I do get a little fed up with the occasionally overbearing social conscience of the show*, but nevertheless it is a British programme made with wit and flair.

So with this in mind, when we chose a TV service we specifically went for the 200 channel option so we could get BBC America. It turns out this plan wasn't entirely flawless. 'Doctor Who' is on BBC America, but it's last year's seriesseason. If we want to see the current season it's on the SciFi channel, which we also have. Still, I was expecting that BBC America would be full of the sort of programs you associate with the BBC, period mini-series, dramas, documentaries. This is not the case. The BBC would rather sell their decent programs to other US channels, and stuff its own schedule full of lifestyle shows and old comedy. Have a look at the schedule, today there are:

one old episode of That Mitchell & Webb Look
two old episedes of Coupling
two old episodes of an old series of Doctor Who
three episodes of Ramsay's Kitchen Nightmares
four episodes of You Are What You Eat
four episodes of How Clean Is Your House?
four episodes of Bargain Hunt
five episodes of Cash in the Attic
plus the news

So five old comedies and twenty lifestyle "documentaries". Truly a feast of the old and the dreadful. 'You Are What You Eat' isn't even made by the BBC, they must buy it to show on this channel. God knows what an American stumbling upon it must think. I feel quite shameful.

* Examples?
  • The Doctor equating the slavery of the Ood with our third-world textile industry. A man of his near omniscience, surely he's aware that free trade is taking those on subsistence wages into comparative wealth. China's average wage for manufacturing workers has increased 14% every year for the last 10 years. That's a near quadrupling of wages. India's average wage is up 80% over five years and each year's increase has been larger than before.
  • The culmination of the previous series saw a world dictator brought down by having the global population think lovely thoughts about the Doctor. Star Trek would at least have come up with something involving neutrinos.

Friday, May 16, 2008


Dylan at Brit Out of Water talks about Americans and their propensity to sue:
No word sums up America quite as well as ‘litigious’. So conscious am I of the propensity of my fellow citizens to engage the services of a lawyer that I can barely bring myself to go to the toilet at work, for fear that the sound of me relieving myself will cause untold emotional trauma to some unwitting bystander who subsequently sues for $25m.
I wonder if part of the reason people sue so much is that when you have a problem it's so hard to get a response from companies.

A couple of examples.

I ordered a taxi to take me to the airport and back again when I returned. For the homeward trip I was charged 50% more than for the outward. I've emailed and left answer phone messages several times to ask why, and received no response. The one time I got to speak to someone in the correct department, they transferred me to a phone that then hung up.

We had a delivery which meant a truck coming down our drive. The night before strong wind had brought down a phone line. The truck got the line tangled around it and then drove off, pulling a security light off the wall. Several times I've tried to get a response from the company, again, to no avail.

In neither of these situations do I think I necessarily deserve compensation, but I do think I deserve the opportunity to talk to someone in responsibility. No such luck, I'm afraid.

So next time, I'm suing!

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

A typical meal out

We went to the diner for dinner last night. The children love the diner, mainly because there is a model train that circles around a track up over our heads. For small children there are only two types of thing that matter, things to eat and things to do in between eating... to be fair, I think that holds true for me as well. Anyway, having a train that appears and disappears makes waiting for the meal much easier.

Son Number One ordered a cheeseburger. We thought we ordered it from the children's menu, but it was a half-pounder, so it's difficult to be sure. He managed to eat half of it, plus some chipsfrench fries, then spent the rest of the meal laying along the booth seat, groaning quietly. He recovered enough to eat some ice-cream. When he'd had his fill of that, he stirred the rest of it until it was liquid, "I'm making ice-cream stew, Daddy". Next time I looked he was adding salt. I looked away, for this meal he was Il Capo's responsibility. I had Bagpuss to look after.

For 19 month Bagpuss, I thought a side-order of spaghetti bolognaise would be about right. I know, I know, I've been here four months, I should know better by now. It arrived in a nine-inch, heaped bowl. I'm not a big fan of spag bol. In fact, I believe it is a long-running joke of a meal invented by a misanthropic cook. I'm expecting a news story any day now that reads, "Bologna chef admits he invented it to annoy overly clean friends". You take a runny, red, impossible-to-get-out-of-clothes sauce and use it to coat long whippy tendrils of pasta. The result is a perfect example of the lever principle: a small movement of your fork causes the trailing pasta to flick about, flinging tomato sauce far and wide. All this situation really needs for full sauce dispersal is a toddler determined to feed herself. Oh.

Anyway, I tipped enough for the waiter and the cleaning crew - presumably standing just out of sight in plastic aprons and rubber gloves - my theory is if you're going to introduce a place to that kind of dining carnage, make sure you pay them enough that they won't lock the doors the next time you draw up in the car park parking lot.

Friday, May 9, 2008

Paging Calleigh Duquesne

When I checked the traps this morning, one of our drawers looked like a Tarantino film set. Lots of high velocity blood splatter, but no mouse. This is becoming a grim business.

Ne'er cast a clout till August be out

At the doctor's surgery, filling in forms.

Il Capo hands a form to the receptionist, then takes it back saying, "I've done the date wrong. I've done it the British way, I've written 8/5/08."

Receptionist, replied bewildered: "May is the eighth month in England???"

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Death by chocolate

In my rodent war I have moved the family house to DEFCON 2.

For the last five nights The Brain has been messing with my mind. Each morning we have found mouse droppings in one of two places. Each time I have placed the electro-shock trap in one of these places, the next morning the droppings have been at the other one. If it was down to random luck, I should have 97% expectation for him to have wandered past the trap one of those nights. Clearly he thinks he can dance around death with impunity.

He is wrong.

This afternoon, Il Capo drove out to Home Depot and returned with a bag full of mouse traps - traditional, snappy style - and a bar of Hershey's chocolate.

As I write this, there are six spring-loaded, chocolate-baited traps secreted in various cupboards where mouse activity...

Hold on, I just heard a noise from the kitchen...

Well that was fast, I only finished laying the traps 15 minutes ago and I already have a victim. I remember why I bought the electric trap now. An electrocuted animal is much easier to deal with than one that is bleeding, breathing and squeals when you pick it up. I put it out of its misery with a brick.

I've left the other five traps and reset the one that was triggered, though the blood-stains on the chocolate may put any other mice off.

Friday, May 2, 2008

Liberty City

If I was in the UK this would cost me £40. Having sold my XBox 360 before we came out here, if I want it, it will cost me $410.

'snot fair!!!!!!!

Bless You

I have a question.

Why do people bless me when I sneeze, but not when I blow my nose? If anything they should be cursing me when I sneeze and thanking me when I blow my nose as sneezing is just infecting everyone else.

Thursday, May 1, 2008

Speaking American

Son Number One, "I'm starting to speak American"

Il Capo, "Why, what do you say?"

"I say jelly instead of jam...


"...and I say electric stairs instead of escalator..."

"Americans say escalator too."

"Well I say electric stairs."


"And I say 'war-er' instead of water"

"That's not speaking American, that's just not pronouncing your t's, you can speak American and still pronounce all your letters."

"Well why do American's say 'war-er'?"

"Um, well... er... ooh, look at that balloon!"