Tag Archives: USA

A little less than coruscating….

Managed to contract a rather nasty little cold virus which is proving difficult to dislodge. The effect isn’t that debilitating, but the low level fever and snottiness is just enough to put a crimp in anyone’s day. More of an irritation than a handicap. Fortunately work has eased off from the ‘we want it yesterday’ to more sensible deadlines, so I can relax a little.

While work is slow(er), I’ve been putting a bit more energy into planning our forthcoming six week road trip into the good old US of A. We’ve booked the ferry and first few hotels, got the car booked in for a full service and new set of brake pads and rubber all round, checked our travel insurance and made sure our emergency fund will be there when we need it. We’re feeling fairly relaxed about the prospect. Should be fun.

One interesting but disturbing little snippet has raised its head. Specifically about law enforcement stops. Turns out that some of those guardians of law and disorder are not as honest as they should be. All under the semi-official training and information sharing programs “Black Asphalt”, “Desert Snow” and “420 Group”. Using the umbrella of ‘anti-terrorism’ and ‘war against drugs’ legislation which allows confiscation of assets without a guilty verdict. Often scooping up the property of those never even charged with a crime, or only related to those who were. For my part I shall be driving very carefully. Especially when passing through Oklahoma.

This is where all those RICO statutes and forfeiture without due process laws eventually lead. Someone, somewhere in the system will take advantage and the innocent suffer along with the allegedly guilty. Law of unintended consequences anyone?

Under a buck

Over the past few days the current oil glut, which looks like it’s going to go on for a while, has seen local gas prices plunge to levels we haven’t seen since our first trip through Ontario back in 2003.  See this screen grab below from the Gasbuddy web site this morning.

Gas Price Victoria Jan 2016

I’m almost tempted to fill ‘er up and head up Island just for the simple, inexpensive joy of doing so.  We’re also planning a serious road trip during April and May down into the good old southern US of A down through Washington, Oregon, California, Nevada, Arizona, New Mexico, Texas, Arkansas, Mississippi, Louisiana, Florida, Georgia, the Carolinas, then back via Tennessee, Missouri, Kansas, Colorado, Utah and Idaho before heading for home.

That’s GBP0.48 per litre.  48p. Forty eight pence or GBP2.18 per Imperial Gallon at current exchange rate.  US$0.68 per litre.  Sixty eight cents.  About US$2.57 per US Gallon.  Down in the USA, I’ve seen prices as low as US$1.91, or CAD$2.77 (US Gallon).

Hang on.  Oklahoma City reports US$1.29.  Blood and sand.

From one ‘wassock’ to another

Investors showcase tonight, where people who call themselves ‘financial experts’ will be making a bid to increase our capital. Not that they will, I’ve seen these guys come and go (normally with your cash lining their pockets) over the years, and can’t help but think it’ll be a wasted evening. I’m only going for the freebies. When it comes to signing on the dotted, we Stickers have a limpet like hold on our resources and will no doubt come away from the event slightly bemused and waiting for the cold light of day to help us sort the real from the faecal cow residue.

In the meantime, I made time between coursework, work and cooking to have a look at the fuss over this Trump fellow. He certainly has polarised people hasn’t he? Out of the mouths etcetera.

My goodness, he hasn’t even won a nomination or even a primary, and a bunch of spineless gimps have already got their undergarments all rucked up.  If you believe what’s in most of the left leaning lamestream media, the floppy haired Barbarian is at the gates and we’re all dooomed if he so much as sets an ignorant, stupid foot within ten miles of elected office.  Stefan Molyneux on the other hand, no matter what you think of his sometimes apocryphal style, does one of his excellent dissections of what the lamestream get completely one hundred and eighty degrees from reality.

What the lamestream and their owners are all frightened about are that the Barbarian is complaining about the real barbarians who indulge in such things as, oo lemme see, rape attacks and sexual assaults and celebrating notorious terrorist attacks, which threatens the blatant gerrymandering and vote buying commonplace in the west. The real barbarians are not already inside the gates, but are messing up the living room, hogging the couch and Xbox with their booted feet up on the coffee table demanding more Nachos and playing grab-ass with every comely young female within reach. What’s worse is that these racist, sexist, hostile slimeballs can’t be kicked out because mainstream politicians need their fresh votes. Even worse is that many of the bad guys are second generation. Born and bred. Not simply ‘immigrants’.

As fans of the X-files will attest, the truth is most certainly out there, (but lies are definitely in your head) and as Stefan ably demonstrates, easily found courtesy of the jolly old Interweb. All you have to do is go to the source data, which is far more easily accessed if you’re prepared to do a little digging on your own account.

Like it or not, I’m tempted to believe my a strong suspicion that we’re at a cultural nexus, the kind that brings down civilisations. Such a collapse probably won’t happen in my lifetime (Despite rumours to the contrary – the people in charge have too far to fall), but if we carry on doing the same old thing, ducking the issues, subsidising, importing, pandering to and protecting a hostile culture, perhaps the western way of life and the prosperity it brings will be a fading memory by the end of the century. Some of the more philosophically short sighted out there might be tempted to think that this might be a good thing. I would disagree. Classical civilisation, for all it’s faults produced great art (A lot of which was defaced by zealous early Christians) and great literature (Which also fell victim to zealous early Christians). The arts and sciences fell into disarray for centuries afterwards. Anyone else see the parallel?

Which may be a comfort to our great grandchildren. Or not. Clinton’s the next US President anyway, she’s Wall Street and the lamestreams preferred candidate. Despite his wealth, I think Trump won’t even get a mention, but I wouldn’t be totally displeased if he won. Just to hear the outraged wailing and gnashing of teeth of sore losers.

Gun crime

If you open a newspaper or read an online news aggregator about guns and shootings south of the 49th Parallel you might be forgiven for thinking its Ker-razy down there with people being gunned down on every street corner. Well, pardon me for being a bit sceptical, but I’ve been to the States a few times, and the only guns I saw were on the hips of Police officers and the odd sporting goods store.

We keep on getting told that gun deaths are this and gun crime is that, so I thought I’d have a look at some fairly reliable up to date (2013 / 2014) sources instead of the panties-in-a-bunch hysteria that passes for news nowadays. For the USA, the stats have been culled from the FBI’s resource pages. Never mind about posturing by bought and paid for politicians, let’s see what the cold hard data tells us, as well as taking a gander at 20th century violent crime stats. Like in the UK, the murder rate peaked in 2001 / 02 (9/11 and all that) and has been on the decrease ever since.

The USA for example, is now almost twice as safe per 100,000 from murder as in 1960, for example; 1960 saw 9,110 homicides out of a quoted population of 179,323,175. Now if we do the same exercise for 2014, there were 14,249 homicides (All causes) out of a much higher population of 318,857,056. If you care to examine the data tables, homicide in the USA has become an even more rare event in 2014. That’s despite all the scawy stories that we’re even more dooooomed than last week. Ooo, and it’s so ‘unprecedented’. As for being shot by a Law enforcement official, that’s a gnats bollock more likely, but not much. At least in terms of deaths measured against population. The same seems to be true across the Westernised world. The figures do not lie.

Gun crime? I think the answer is right there in the statistics. Most of the gun murders in the US at least, appear to be in the Southern states. At a first glance, California and Texas look well dodgy, with urbane gun controlled California outdoing those gun-totin concealed carry Texans by a country mile. Yeehaw pardner! I think. What is more telling are the stats referring to homicides by age, sex, and ethnicity.

Handguns do, at least superficially, seem to be the major problem. But the stats make no distinction between legal and non-legal ownership. Which is something I can’t seem to find any information on. Although a cursory reading of the FBI’s 2013 homicide statistics indicate that the majority of gun killings are down to African-American and Hispanic males between 16 and 30 years of age. Which for most people should not come as a massive surprise. So is the answer a blanket ban on anyone from that social grouping under 30 owning a handgun? Which would only take the guns out of the hands of the law-abiding, because, you know those criminals, well they don’t obey things like laws….. Ooo, and wouldn’t that be ‘racial profiling’? So much better that people get killed than a few get racially profiled, eh?

As for ‘gun-free zones’ well they’ve been a great success, haven’t they, accounting for ‘only 13%’ of all ‘mass shootings’? Please note; the FBI defines a mass shooting where ‘four or more people are killed’ and the ‘Everytown’ published research on this topic has been described as ‘highly misleading‘. So if only three got cut down in their prime, or there wasn’t an obvious sign up, sorry chums but it just doesn’t count. Except to all those poor bloody bereaved family members who thought their precious ones were in a ‘safe’ place. Be it an Army base (Contrary to popular opinion, soldiers do not generally go around armed on base), school, temple, public office or even a coffee shop with a home made ‘gun free zone’ poster taped to the door. ‘Gun-Free’ zones are no use at all unless it is impossible for anyone with a firearm (legally held or not) to get in.

Right, so what’s the answer? The Freakonomics team came up with the notion that abortion on demand reduced the number of single parent households and reduced crime overall (With an 18 year lag). Which certainly appears to be the case. Fewer unwanted children with low social expectations and lower self esteem is obviously a good idea. A stable home life with strong role models has always been a key factor in preventing kids from going off the rails. Teaching that violence is not the best first idea when attempting to resolve disputes also has merit, but that’s only going to work if those testosterone charged and frustrated young men who seem to do most of the killing find a better way of burning off all their untapped aggression. Which won’t happen by giving them Macramé and poetry classes, or simply taking the guns off everyone. The killers will only use illegal guns, or resort to knives, and when the knives are taken away, golf clubs, baseball bats, rocks and eventually their bare hands. Okay, so no real answer there……

On the other hand, speaking as someone who, as a young (and sometimes very foolish) man who used to run with the rougher crowd, I feel the answer to gun crime, and homicide in general may be found outside the simple knee-jerk ‘ban it’ mindset. Martial arts clubs (Especially boxing; see this UK parliamentary all party report on it here and this US based example), serious competitive sport, or somewhere a strong physical role model can make an impact or mentor otherwise aimless and rebellious youth. Because young men in particular need robust peer group based self esteem and somewhere to burn off their natural aggression. Which whilst not the complete answer, will help divert their natural violent impulses from manifesting in more destructive ways. Like the intoxicant fuelled gang lifestyles that only add to the violence. Or social isolation, where those lacking the communication skills needed to negotiate their way in the world occasionally boil over or ‘go postal’.

Here in Canada, we generally have lower crime rates because the culture is different and most kids seem to be trained to seek non-violent means of ‘conflict resolution’ from an early age. Here we have an overall homicide rate of 1.45 per 100,000 for 2014, although you can easily double that for Toronto and Montreal. In BC, you’re more likely to get snacked on by a Bear or Cougar than shot, even in the gang enclaves of Abbotsford and around East Hastings in Downtown Vancouver.

It’s rather ironic, but perhaps controlled gladiatorial punch-ups might prove the best short term available answer to violent (and therefore gun) crime? As well as good, intelligence-led policing like that which seems to be working in Manchester, UK. At least until the demographics and culture have time to readjust to a less violent ‘normal’? For example; first time juvenile offenders sent to ‘sweep the gym’ for a year, just to knock the corners off them, rather than do expensive jail time in what have been termed ‘Universities of Crime’ (A.K.A. Prisons)? Maybe some form of legalised ‘fight club’ where the violent can learn that getting hit hurts, so maybe it’s not such a good idea to hit others. Hmm. Co-opt ethnic (or non-ethnic) peer groups into competing rather than killing via subsidised sports facilities. Ex-Military (Preferably combat veterans) would be the ideal recruits for such a long term program. Someone with a few rough edges who can earn and hold the respect of otherwise feral youth. Give them a decent raison d’etre.

You know, it’s such a crazy idea it might just work…….. And no US President would ever have to cry in public, ever again……..

Tough love needed

Every week it seems that some entitled University student or other gets their panties in a bunch about something, whether it’s the racist ‘Rhodesmustfall’ campaign or some sensitive little petal getting all het up about ‘safe spaces’ where they are not able to see or hear anything that might possibly upset them, including people of another gender or ethnicity.   Not that there’s any such thing as a ‘safe space’. I was rather under the impression that Universities are places you go to learn things rather than just kick over apple carts, or is that just me being hopelessly naive?  Maybe the University authorities need to exercise a little tough love and ‘send down’ the odd less than diligent protestalot student once in a while. Rhodes scholar or no. I think ‘no tolerance’ for abuse of any sort (Including against University institutions, employees and faculty members) should be the policy, but that’s just me.

As for safety, should we not be teaching these ‘Childults‘ that there is no such thing as a ‘safe space’ because all risk is relative?  If these people truly want to be safe they’d never consider even crossing a deserted street because who knows what might come along.  They shouldn’t even think about applying for a driving licence or getting into a car because have you seen the UK road death figures lately?

Deaths for 2013
Pedestrians; 398
Cyclists; 109
Motorcyclist / Pillion; 331
Car occupant / driver; 785
Other; 90
Total road deaths; 1,713

Overall UK deaths data sheet here.
The Guardian’s accidental death comparison for 2007 and 2011.

That’s without examining the ROSPA reported approximate UK death toll of 6,000 every year(2002 figures), of people in their own homes. Hold hard a minute! Six thousand people a year, in the UK alone dying in home accidents? Most of which happen in the ironically titled ‘living’ room? That old grim reaper must have a hell of a job keeping his scythe sharp. If you can’t find safety in your own living room, where can you be ‘safe’? You’re ‘safer’ on the pillion of a drunk biker riding at 100mph plus? Who knew? Which isn’t strictly speaking true by the way, but statistically it might seem so. In the comparative period for 2010-2011 there were 636 homicides, 60 of whom were shot. That’s including one mass shooting incident where 12 people were killed. Of the total homicides 232 died from wounds given by a ‘sharp instrument’. Official UK report here.

For comparison, with official sources where available:
2011 US Death Stats Domestic (Unintentional deaths 96,753), Road (32,479), Homicide
2011 Canadian Death Domestic (No comparable figures), Road, Homicide
Now compare those with the rest of the world (Mapped data by worldlifeexpectancy.com)

So much for ‘safe spaces’, eh? By the way, around eight (8) people in the UK die by accident in their own bed every year. That’s twice the death rate of bee, wasp or hornet stings. Blood and sand.

Personally I’m not averse to a modicum of risk taking because you have to die of something. It’s part of the human condition. I will die, as will everyone else currently breathing. Mortality is built into our very DNA. We all have a ‘sell by’ date whether we like it or not. Death is a capricious beast and all we can do is manage our risks because if the statistics teach us anything, they show that there cannot be any such thing as a ‘safe space’. Life isn’t ‘fair’, never has been or will be. All you can do is keep your eyes open, grab a little ‘fairness’ for yourself and have some fun in the meantime. If it’s your time, then that’s that. Who wants to live forever?

North America is more civilised than you think

Made the mistake of reading a clickbait article in the Barclay Brothers Beano this afternoon where an unrepresentative sample of New Yorkers were asked about that particularly English delicacy, Sausage rolls. Astonishment, surprise and dare we even say it, dicombobulation were expressed by those who were told that you cannot purchase Sausage rolls in New York, and thus by imputation, the whole of the USA. Just so some ignorant English people (Who are so stupid they believe everything printed in English newspapers) can giggle at the Yanks’ lack of knowledge of that quintessential savoury, the humble Sausage roll.

The article is, as must be expected from such airheaded space filler, complete balderdash. I have been to New York and seen a wide range of foodstuffs produced for consumption, including, yes, you guessed it, Sausage rolls. Just because Starbucks don’t have them in stock, or the New York Times ‘introduces’ them to the North American diet does not mean they haven’t been available for yonks. For example; Myers of Keswick on Hudson Street, has been making said delicacy in New York for nearly thirty years. Then there’s ‘The Tuck Shop‘ and ‘Parkers‘ in Buffalo, New York. Unlike the much lamented Pie Face eatery that once graced Broadway until 2014, these are still going concerns.

You could recycle said article and say the Belgians are astonished by the mention of English savoury pastries. Or the Germans, Swiss, Italians, French or Danes. But I know quite a few places in Paris and Frankfurt where you can get a form of Bacon sandwich or sausage roll even if it goes under another name, but this does not mean the French or Germans are culinarily ignorant or deprived, merely disdainful about the lower meat content of English sausage.

To conclude; just because there isn’t a Greggs on every bloody corner doesn’t mean the Yanks have never heard of the British taste in Savoury pastries. Here in BC, Thrifty’s and several other grocery store chains do a very nice example, although getting decent flaky pastry over this side of the great divide is a bit hit and miss and they do tend to put more sausage meat in the pastry than the classic English version, but that is no bad thing. On my travels south of the 49th parallel I’ve seen such sundries as Scotch Eggs and Pork Pies on delicatessen displays in Eugene, Oregon and elsewhere. True, Sausage rolls etcetera, are not as widespread in the USA and Canada as the UK, but then we’re not in Clapham any more, Dorothy.

Gay shark jumping

Well isn’t that fun? Jailing a clerk for refusing marriage licenses. The latest episode in the ‘rights for all’ crusade has resulted in an otherwise blameless (if deluded) woman being jailed. Superficially over refusing to issue marriage licenses to a number of the entitled. Who, instead of simply saying “Okay” and going off to Lost Wages for a weekend of excess and a (Still equally legal and binding) wedding by an Elvis Presley impersonator made a big issue of things, instead electing to involve the increasingly ironically named American Civil Liberties Union; and when they couldn’t have the stubborn God-squadder fired or fined, ended up with an elected county official in jail.

Now as I understand it, this particular clerk can still be carborundum in the oil of law administration in her county while banged up, and is being so by refusing to instruct her staff, who are reportedly a little nervous about taking decisions without their bosses approval. A judge can’t issue court documents themselves, nor can the Sheriff. The Judge and Lawyers do the law, the Sheriff and Deputies do the enforcement. Many critical courthouse documents however, are issued by the county clerks office. Which kind of puts everything in a little bit of a procedural quandary. The Judges can give out all the orders they want, but if a key person in the administrative process has been slung in the old hoosgow for refusing to issue a document over a matter of conscience, certain aspects of the administrative process of law in that county can be sabotaged. Especially if unsigned licenses are given out under duress, as is reportedly the case. Will a less sympathetic judge or civil servant refuse to accept those licenses at some future date? They are after all official court documents, and in all western jurisdictions, if the i’s and t’s aren’t properly dotted and crossed, well, there’s a fine howdy-do and no mistake. Some lawyer down the track is going to have a complete field day.

The whole matter is such a comedy of hurt feelings and entitlement that you’d need, as dear old Oscar Wilde once wrote; “A heart of stone not to laugh.” The massive, one size fits all, hammer of Federal law brought down on someone whose only ‘crime’ was one of conscience? Kind of makes a mockery of the whole freedom of conscience principal the good old US of A was founded upon. The whirring noise from the vicinity of Martin Luther Kings tomb is nothing to worry about. Move along now.

North of the 49th Parallel of course it’s a different matter. If two people want to get ‘married’ regardless of sex; fine, no problem. No one bats an eyelid. Well, no-one of a critical nature anyway. No-one has that kind of power, apart from the court itself. In the USA it’s different; they have ‘States Rights‘.

Other clerks in various Kentucky counties are also refusing licenses. Possibly because states law hasn’t (at the time of writing) caught up with Federal and still prohibits the following;
Prohibited and Restricted Marriages: (In Kentucky)
Marriages between persons who are nearer of kin to each other by blood, than second cousins.
Marriages between first cousins.
Marriages with a person mentally incompetent.
Marriages where there is a husband or wife living, from whom the person marrying has not been divorced.
Marriages not solemnized or contracted in the presence of an authorized person or society.
Same sex marriages.
Common law marriages.
Proxy marriages.

I have a distinct feeling this one isn’t over yet. Midden, windmill, incoming!

Still here then?

Well, we’re back. Enjoying a nice cool breezy day or three after the all-encompassing heat of the last seven. Mrs S and I are indulging our new found tastes for things like ‘Moscow Mule‘ cocktails. The ingredients for which are Vodka, lime juice and Ginger beer (Not ale, not enough Ginger). Very quaffable. Mrs S does like Cosmopolitans, but we didn’t have any of the right liqueur (Cointreau) in house, so I had to adapt and improvise with Stolichnaya. On its own, Ginger beer with a shot of Roses lime cordial over ice is very nice, but add Vodka and a generous squeeze of real lime and well, you’ll have to try it for yourself.

The various global crises keep grumbling on. The Greeks constantly wanting more money to pay their old age pensions, then shifting the bills onto someone else continues. The Chinese economic woes. Iran getting nuclear technology so they can build atomic bombs (That’s not going to end well). A surprise medical bill for four thousand Euro’s that should have been paid by our insurance company which has led to several frantic phone calls. Pension paperwork coming at us from all directions. Oh what jolly bloody fun. I’m not even of pensionable age yet, and they’re going to change the rules yet again. Good job I won’t be relying on a pension then. Hey ho. We’re taking it all in our stride.

Well, we’ve had a thoroughly nice time in the USA, apart from a few navigation hiccups on Saturday because our SatNav had a minor nervous breakdown caused by all the roadworks off the I-5 into south Tacoma. We had a wander around the American Car Museum and saw these. American 1930s classics Which cost the equivalent of hundreds of thousands of modern dollars in their day, such were the costs of hand coach building, even during the height of the American depression of the 1920’s and 30’s. Oh yes, and from the triumph of hope over experience department, these examples of Electric vehicles; Electric cars from the 20th century Their modern descendants only possible because of massive subsidies. While electric cars are superficially economical, they will always remain a fringe technology until the fuel / refuel issues can be fully addressed, or failing that, a small molten salt nuclear reactor, hydrogen or other non battery technology becomes practical for personal transport. You can probably hear the sound of my breath not being held from half a world away. Until a long time hence we’re probably stuck with the reliable(ish) Internal Combustion Engine. Seven litre Chevvy CamaroWhich on the plus side, has given us beauties like this Seven litre Chevrolet Camaro. It couldn’t match something like a Porsche on European roads of course, but on North American highways, it has the legs and legroom to just eat up those endless miles.

For those who protest about how much energy those naughty Gringos use, they forget the large distances between towns. You can walk down to the store to get the groceries, but that walk will take a long, long time. They also forget that continental North America is a bloody big place, and therefore tends to suffer from more extremes. Everything is bigger over here. Weather, distances, trees, and also the average fast food restaurant customer. We are talking three hundred pounds and upwards.

Anyway, back home in the more environmentally friendly land of British Columbia, I’ve just been given about twenty pounds of fresh figs which I have to find a use for. Do I make some preserve? Chop a few then soak in Vodka? Make Fig rolls (yum). Put a few out to ripen in my office? Apparently there’s a trick with a dab of Extra Virgin Olive Oil which hastens ripening. See these posts on a gardening forum. Treating figs with motor oil, we have been assured, does not work. At least if you want something vaguely edible afterwards. I may do all these things. There may be a progress report.

Bye for now.

Road trip, day five

On our way again, this time on the northbound leg of our little roadtrip around the northwastern US of A. Highway 101 all the way up to the fleshpots north of Astoria for a meal out and overnight stay before moving on to Tacoma for a couple of evenings, thence back to BC via the Coho ferry.

Restricted viewingIn the previous post, I made mention that the coastline of Southern Oregon is ‘pay-per-view’. As far as accessing most of the beaches is concerned, this is true, as in order to stop, no matter how briefly, in one of the National Parks that line this side of the USA, you need to have purchased a pass. We hadn’t, and seeing as there was no ticket booth at the places we entered, we simply did a 180 and went off in search of ‘beach access’, which we eventually found. Unfortunately the north wind was blowing, whipping the dry sand up into miniature sandscapes up and down the kilometres of beach. This particular stretch of beach looked to be suffering the curse of septic tank runoff from a nearby resort and a sizeable stretch of holiday homes. Which rather took the shine off things. It was either that or hire a dune buggy or ATV, which Mrs S would not be allowed to ride because of her recent injury. So we moved on.

Further north on the 101, there are more places to park to enjoy the huge expanses of yellow sand, the coastal highway squiggling more closely to the shoreline along mile after mile of almost deserted beach. Being a European trained driver, I was happily throwing our little SUV through tight corners which would not disgrace an English country A-road and wondering why there was no-one in my rear view mirror, even though I hadn’t been speeding (Honestly officer – I was being ever so good). Between Florence and Cannon Beach, Oregon (Well worth a stopover. Incredible beach. Try the Warren Inn for lunch) it’s a joy. Especially on such a sunny day as today. Great driving, good food, and the Universe totally failing to go ‘Foom’. The more northerly beaches are also great for kite flying, sunbathing or surfing. Although the wind needs to shift into the West to produce the best Pacific Breakers.

One of the things I’ve also noticed in passing have been visiting political campaigners. No doubt organising support for next years Presidential Elections. No Republicans as yet, but the the ‘Obama Mama’s’ (I think that’s who they are) whose vehicles are graced with a metallic ‘O’ inside the rear window, and a ‘Clintonite’ sporting a Hilary Clinton bumper sticker have been in evidence. No doubt infiltrating local meetings with their forced letterbox smiles and promises. (Never trust someone who smiles ingratiatingly all the time – they’re up to something.) Their vehicles all being late model and fairly new looking. They’re also mostly black, the vehicles that is. Something I found a trifle sinister. Considering the mess the golf pro currently ensconced in the White House has made of things, the thought of another Democrat in the form of a Clinton in the hot seat must make the blood of many Americans (and anyone else on the planet – apart from the more rabid mullahs) run icy cold. I mean, come on; even Sarah Palin would be a better choice for the first woman president of the USA. That’s not an edifying prospect either.

Never mind; as regards meals out, Mrs S and I had a minor culinary epiphany last night. We dined at a very nice seafood place where the fish was not encased in batter or smothered in cheese sauce. Instead of dessert, I voiced the desire for a Martini to round off what was a very pleasant repast. Mrs S concurred and we ordered two fairly dry fancy Martinis off the menu instead of the usual ‘death by chocolate’ so full of caloric energy it could power a Saturn 5 booster into orbit. Which turned out to be a good move. We walked back to our hotel with a lightness of step and sense of mild euphoria, rather than simply feeling weighed down and a little over indulged. Thus we have decided, in future, instead of dessert we’ll have Martinis instead. We’ll also forget wine with out meal, as that would rather be gilding the lily. Which has the dual effect of lowering the bill whilst at the same time making us look like a pair of visiting sophisticates (Snarf). Who knows? Perhaps we’ll start a trend.

On the topic of what to eat here in the Northwestern USA. Coastal eateries do what they call ‘Steamer Clams’ which I think are nicer than Moules Mariniere, which I’m also quite partial to. Try them. If you’re not professionally allergic to seafood, they are a treat. The best places manage to clean these delicacies so thoroughly that there is no detectable sand in them, which can put a crimp in your seafood dining experience.

Last item today; if you do one thing in your life. If you cannot gallop horses through the surf on a deserted Irish beach or run naked along a seemingly endless West Highland strand, screaming your ecstasy for the sheer exhilaration of being alive, hire an SUV and take a drive up and down Long Beach, Washington, USA. As Mrs S and I did this evening before sundown. Just look up how long it is. Go on. Do not under any circumstances take my word or anyone else’s for this. Twenty eight smegging miles. Okay, the beach speed limit is twenty five miles per hour (A beach with a speed limit, my life already), and bits of it are off limits during the Summer months but frankly I don’t care. You can drive further along Padre Island, Texas (One hundred and thirty miles) but it’s going to take a full construction crew with earth movers to eradicate the grin currently planted upon my face.

What can I say, I’m easily pleased.

Road trip, day four, hiatus

Back at the Pacific coast for a forty eight hour pause in the relentless round of road running. Although I will say this; Route 126 from Eugene, Oregon, out to the coast is a delight to drive. The bends are cambered, which in my book adds to the driving experience. I’ve mentally bookmarked it for a motorcycle ride sometime in the next twelve to eighteen months. It’s that good. Over fifty kilometres of lovely swooping right and left handers reminiscent of some great stretches of UK tarmac from my Halcyon riding days. Only there’s way more of it with nicer scenery and less traffic. Oh yes, and it’s currently being freshly resurfaced. Go for a run if you’re in the district in late August, early September.

The only downside of the Pacific coast, at least from what we’ve found in Oregon, is finding that a great deal of it is Pay-per-view. It is also very windy at the moment. Very sunny, but the breeze is stiff enough to thicken gravy. Then there are the jellyfish. Thousands of the little buggers, so barefoot isn’t a very intelligent choice in footwear at the waters edge. Miles and miles of sand though. All the way from California and northbound to Washington. Which the wind blows into metre deep drifts all over the beach. Some of the more mature dunes are as high as a block of condos and a bright yellowy white.

On an even nicer note, Mrs S treated me to a brand new Skagen Titanium wristwatch yesterday, which I wasn’t expecting. She said it was an apology for all the extra aggro I’ve been putting up with over the past few weeks since she broke her arm. Well, I have been more of a body servant, chauffeur, scribe and general factotum than usual. But it is nice to have the extra effort recognised. I like Titanium watches, the metal is light, matches your body temperature so much that you hardly know you’re wearing one. On the other hand it may have been because I was less than my usual decisive self and she wanted me to simply get a move on. She could have said “Bill.” In her meaning voice which would have done just as well.

Anyway. We have beer and Jameson’s in the hotel fridge. Some has even found its way down my willing throat, me havin such a terrible thirst, begorrah, said he, indulging his inner Irishman. I’ve also been introduced to the delights of Double Stuf heads and tails Oreos. Oh, the calories, the calories!

We’re both having a thoroughly splendid time. Hope you are too.