Monday, June 28, 2010

Music Track

I'm putting a music track suggestion on the blog each week. Perhaps something you might find interesting. It could be anything from Purcell to Lady Gaga.

This week's music track is "Ticking," by Elton John. It was written in 1971 and sad to say it's still relevant today.

You can find it on U-Tube - let me know what you think.

Friday, June 25, 2010

Los Angeles

This past column was about my return to city life recently. It was good to find out that most of my urban skills returned after attracting a few raised middle fingers on the freeway - it seems it is not considered polite to drive at the posted speed limit. The locals really don't like it!

Since I lived down in Los Angeles, I had forgotten how aggressive driving could be. But if you approach it with a spirit of competition, then it can be quite good fun. Of course, I don't actually have a proper job to attend and my appointments are always made with the "between say ten and eleven" proviso, which is strictly a no-no in any commercial life. The result of this is I don't have to rush anywhere - or is that just my age?

But as in all things you have to pay for your fun. In city life you need a lot of W.A.M. And that's not Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart we're talking about - it's Walking Around Money! Boy, I almost wore out my pocket pulling notes and coins out over my five-day dog/baby/house sitting project. To begin with, city life demands you don't actually make coffee, you go to a place that sells it. Now I can't stand Starbucks as it's so slow and I always feel intimidated not knowing the fancy names of what is basically just wet and warm. So while on my sojourn, it was a local 7-11, that provided the morning brew. Plus of course, something inappropriate and sticky to go along with it. I managed to get most of the sugary residue off my face before I arrived back to the house to greet S.W.M.B.O. (She who must be obeyed!)

My other complaint was the noise of the city. It never stops. Also the house we were caring for was very close to a railway line. But about the time we were leaving I was becoming used to it.

I can't say I miss living down there, but I shall quite look forward to a return the next time the house owners feel compelled to drive the four hours to Las Vegas, to give all their hard earned cash to casino owners.
You can access the entire column at

The photo is of a part of downtown LA, where concerts are given. Note the absense of people. They're all working in the surrounding buildings!

Thursday, June 24, 2010


I'm forced to say that one of the great reliefs of moving to the US, has been the absence of soccer. It's a game I've always hated ever since my father made me stand on the rained-soaked terraces to watch Watford receive their regular weekly thrashing in the third division. That was in the days when there were only three divisions to watch.

Of course, not only did I have to endure the spectacle of it, but I had to play the beastly game when I was very young. Like the other 21 poor little wretches I was forced to run around a soggy field kicking a muddy ball in all weathers. Awful!

Now it seems, along with socialism, we in the US are importing this nonsense. Also we have to hear about the goings on in S. Africa with the FIFA World Cup. We even have a team competing in it.

Soccer is a strange anachronism out here. It happens to be a game that is played by a huge number of people. But it doesn't work as a spectator sport. I have some theories as to why. Firstly, the scores are far too small. We like baseball with games decided on a 6-5 or at least 4-3 type score. American Football with its barely concealed violence ends up normally about 17 - 20.

Basketball, which is very popular and played by seven-foot tall black men with an eight foot hoop, means they can just place the ball in the net with barely a hop from their size 17 shoes. But the scores end up being about 100 each side - and there's always a result. None of this draw stuff for us Yanks!

The other problem with soccer is that there are not enough injuries; These allow us to visit the fridge for more beer and snacks. In games out here with few broken bones, we have built in long pauses to cater for the kitchen or bathroom visit. The breaks also mean we can phone our friends to talk about stuff. In football, many of the players, who have just expended massive efforts rushing for an entire five yards, relax on their heated benches and use their cell phones to call their main squeezes to see how they looked.

Now in soccer, you can't do any of this stuff so that is why I think it's not going to work out here. Unless of course, FIFA would expand the goal size or have midget goalkeepers - now that would work.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Turn Down Service

I've spent a lot of my life staying in hotels. Some of them quite luxurious. I've often wondered at some of the arcane services they provide. Many of them instituted by our forefathers. But how much food must you consume, and how many ports or brandies swallowed before you are incapable of turning down your own bed covers? How bloated must you be before you are incapable of pulling off the counterpane and falling unconscious into bed. It's one of the oddest things that happens in a hotel. I don't mind the little chocolate they leave, of course.

Well, my youngest poodle Johnny is obsessed with the turn down service. He can't wait to get into the bedroom and rout about - pillows awry, sheets mussed, and comforter disarranged. We get the full works if we're not watching.

Following his efforts he's always very pleased himself. Last night while S.W.M.B.O. (She who must be obeyed) was out yoga-ing, and I was putting the finishing touches to a particularly good Beef Vindaloo, he came trotting into the kitchen. His bobbed tail was erect and he had a look of total satisfaction on his little black face. Yup, he'd done his job! What is in his little poodle mind? And can he be trained to leave the little chocolate behind?

Monday, June 21, 2010

This week's trip took me aboard a ship. Not the usual massive cruise liner of over 100,000 tons, that I enjoy once a year, but a cargo vessel of 10,750 tons. The U.S.S. Lane Victory is a veteran of three wars; WWII, Korea and finally Vietnam. It was mothballed in 1970, but given a new lease of life by being released in 1988 by President Reagan. It was designated a national monument in 1991. It required a tremendous amount of effort to restore her to full working order.

Walking around the ship you have a great feel for the life that the men on board endured during their voyages moving cargo around the world's oceans. It was not an easy life, and one where the crew must have always been waiting for an explosion from a mine or a torpedo.

The Lane still sails and takes paying enthusiasts out from Los Angeles harbor five times a year for a day's trip.
Next to her berth is the World Cruise Center where the big cruise ships dock. It is hard to make a comparison of the two types of vessels.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Boating Raccoons

We put the boat in the water yesterday. We've had to have a new cover made for it. Two years ago we were out for some lunch. The poodles were happy as they love going on the boat. But they were also very interested in a part of the rear where they spent the trip sniffing - a lot!

When we returned to the dock I happened to lift the rear hatch and an angry raccoon stuck his head up. No doubt he was cross that we hadn't offered him any lunch. He had a lot of "attitude," so I withdrew and did the manly thing. That is report the incident to the dock master and let him deal with it.

Last year on a trip to gas up, another of these little rascals hitched a ride and that meant a repeat - back to the dock and withdraw with as much dignity as possible.  No matter how much I tried to cover the boat, or moor it in the center of the dock, raccoons came aboard. They seemed very fond of my particular boat. They never fouled it or tore it to ribbons which they are quite capable of. They just liked being in it. But then so do we.

Therefore I decided to solve the problem the old-fashioned, American way - throw some money at it. A fine lady, who does all types of canvas work, has made a new tight fitting cover, with snaps every nine inches. We'll hope that this is beyond the capabilities of little rodent fingers.  I do wonder, can Raccoons ever be domesticated?

Monday, June 14, 2010

Gilman Ranch

This week's column was on a place not far from Palm Springs. It's a fine museum of late Victorian life that belonged to a Mr. Gilman. He came out from the East Coast and began to raise cattle here in the late 1880's. The house is now a replica as the original burnt down in the early 1970's. Nonetheless, it gives one a feel for how life was lived by "respectable" people way back when.

I was particularly taken by the stove in the kitchen area. It was a monster of epic proportions, and could switch from wood to coal at the pull of a lever. The recipe book for dishes of the time did not encourage me to try any. Mr Gilman must have enjoyed really bland flavors. The recipe for chicken pot pie consisted of: chicken, water, flour, fat, an onion and some salt and pepper. Not exactly mouth watering!

Saturday, June 12, 2010


Maybe, I'm going through a particularly grumpy period, but I'm becoming increasingly annoyed by the constant noise around me. I'm not talking about the noise of the TV, which I seem to need to be higher and higher to make things out, but the noise while out for a walk for instance.

It seems that contractors have forsaken their quieter tools, like a hammer and screwdriver for bigger and bigger machines to get the job done. We don't even use brooms any more, and prefer those nasty motorized blowers, even if sometimes they are electric.

I live in the comparative quiet of the mountains, but even up here, noise is all around. And of course, the contracting work never ends. It's almost impossible not to detect some worthy artisan buzzing away somewhere. Then there are the dogs. Mine are just as bad. I do however make an effort to stop them from barking in the yard at any and everything that moves. The same cannot be said for neighbors, whose idea of dog ownership is to allow the dog to live unattended and unwalked on their property.

Perhaps it's time for the ear defenders!

Friday, June 11, 2010

The Girl ...

Last night in a fit of insomnia I finished the last of a three book trilogy. I was rather dreading the moment as the series has been nothing but fantastic, and I shall miss the characters that have become part of my reading life.

Stieg Larson wrote three books and delivered all three to the publisher in Sweden. He then tragically died and therefore it is the end of his efforts.

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo was the first of the series and introduced two main characters among a host of others. Lisbeth Salander must surely go down as one of literature's great characters. She is very small, heavily tattooed, pierced and intense. She has few social skills but in her mid-twenties has a command of modern technology that makes her one of the world's most accomplished computer hackers.

In contrast to her is Kalle Blomkvist, who is middle aged, somewhat promiscuous, and the publisher of an up-market news magazine in Stockholm. They pair up in an unlikely team.

The second book, The Girl who Played with Fire, continues the investigations of the pair. Each book is complete in itself, but frankly you should read them in the order they were written as several of the ancillary characters will be confusing in the wrong order.

The Girl who Kicked the Hornets' Nest wraps up the entire plot which is complicated, but entirely believable. But sadly now it's all over and with the untimely loss of such a great writer there will be no more.

A film has been made in Sweden with subtitles, and is available on Amazon in early July. I shall definitely be buying it, if only to see how any actress can portray Lisbeth. There are rumors that Hollywood is to do a version. I can only hope she is not played by some bimbo favorite of the tabloids.

Zip Lining

T.S. June 10, 2010
Somewhat against my better judgment I've been persuaded to write a blog. I plan to base this around my weekly column, Trevor's Travels, and add some thoughts along the way.

This Sunday's column was about the sport/activity of Zip lining. It's a comparatively new idea and for those who don't know about it, you wear a harness, hang on a cable and zip between trees or towers. The length of each run can vary from 150 feet to 1000 feet.

Now I've done this in Costa Rica in a fit of boredom while on a cruise. It was OK, but I had the tendency to swing around and arrive at each destination facing the wrong way.

We have just opened a Zipline course in Big Bear, and it's very well run. The couple who built it and run it are aficionados of the activity and had the tenacity to pursue the various permits to allow people to put themselves in harm's way. I can only imagine the horror of trying to line up the bureaucrats to sign off on the project, not to mention the costs involved.

At least as you swish between the towers - no trees are allowed for the purpose - you can be sure that unless you weigh more than a full grown rogue elephant, you will be safely supported.

I recently had a garage extended. It took 13 inspections by the building department before they signed off on it as being acceptable. Six months later they sent me a letter saying that they were pulling the permit as I hadn't acted on it. My phone conversation included the fact that even though their records didn't show any addition, the tax department was certainly collecting the adjusted revenue from the project. No more was said on the matter.

If you decide to have a go on the Zipline you must set aside about three hours for the safety film, being ferried to and from the site about ten miles away, and have $95 with you. It is quite good fun!

Does anyone have a tale to tell about this sport/activity?