Category Archives: Life in the USA

Firm favourite makes a welcome return to the menu at the Sad Bastard Café

By Calvin Palmer

A staple dish at the Sad Bastard Café made a welcome return this evening.  Chilli Con Pollo is a house specialty. It is based on Chilli Con Carne but substitutes chicken for minced beef, or ground beef as the Americans call it.

The café has undergone many changes since its relocation. The wait staff, Brandy, has gone. When I say wait staff, Brandy used to wait at the table looking up at me with those doleful brown eyes waiting for a tidbit or two, which she got at the end of the meal and more often than not before the meal was finished. Brandy is a Chihuahua dog.

Under new quarantine regulations, she could have come with me to the UK but I did not know that I was going to have to extend my stay in the UK to undergo medical treatment. I parted from Brandy with a heavy heart. I still feel sad when I think of her, especially with the knowledge that I prbably will never see her again. I’m filling up.

Desserts have proved something of a challenge. The Publix brand Roadrunner Raspberry Frozen Yoghurt, which was a firm favourite at the café has disappeared. English strawberries have formed one replacement, along with Wall’s classic cornettos. Tonight, another favourite from years gone by was resurrected, Greek yoghurt and Rowse’s Greek honey. The latter proved just as impossible to find in the United States as Roadrunner Raspberry is in the UK.

In this age of the global economy and the Internet, I am surprised British and US supermarkets haven’t linked up to offer a range of foodstuffs and household items from both countries. Why is it Swiffer products, for instance, are the sole preserve of the United States? It does appear as if I may be able to buy the dusters on but will pay a heavy premium.

But it is not all bad news. I did track down tortilla chips and salsa dip at M&S the other week and both products were every bit as good as those on sale in the United States.

But back to the Chilli Con Pollo. I started to cook it as I have done in the past, even to the extent of using Tefal saucepans and frying pans, but as I placed the chicken in the frying pan, something seemed to be missing. I sprinkled some Italian seasoning, a replacement for the Herbs of Provence, but I felt sure something else used to be added at this stage. Pepper sprang to mind so I used the pepper mill to add some. I have struggled to find any cans of ground black pepper. A little paprika was added and yet still something kept nagging at me. What was missing?

It was only when I sat down to eat the meal that it came to me – garlic salt. No wonder the meal tasted a bit bland and ASDA’s hot chilli powder was a poor substitute for McCormick’s hot Mexican-style chilli powder. Perhaps I should get in touch with Brandy and see if she can send me some of the latter.

So life at the Sad Bastard Café goes on after a fashion. It isn’t quite the same but it passes muster. I have also come to realize just how Americanized I have become.  In the months ahead, I am just going to have to use my initiative and improvise to overcome those ingredients and items that are unavailable and in other cases settle for second best. You would think a can of red kidney beans would be the same the world over. Not so, Bush’s dark red kidney beans are far superior to anything I have managed to buy in the UK.

Failing that, I could have a week back in the USA and stock up with all those items that are proving impossible to find in the UK. I wonder what the import duty is on Mexican-style chilli powder?

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Texas Republicans propose a return to days of the Wild West

By Calvin Palmer

The class roll-call at colleges across Texas may soon reverberate with the names of Colt, Glock, Beretta, Walther, Smith and Wesson, if the state’s lawmakers allow guns to be carried on campuses either as concealed weapons or openly brandished.

State Sen. Jeff Wentworth, R-San Antonio, is preparing the campus concealed-carry gun measure to be put before the next session of the State Legislature. He calls it a “safety protection bill” for students and faculty.

“I don’t want to wake up one morning and hear on the news that some madman went on a Texas campus and picked off Texas students like sitting ducks,” Wentworth said. “I’m doing what I can to prevent that from happening in Texas.”

Who says it won’t be some madwoman?  That’s a rather sexist stance and likely to be met with derision by the likes of Sarah Palin and Ann Coulter.

Wouldn’t it be easier to prevent a gunman or gunwoman going on the rampage by simply banning handguns?  Oh, I forgot, Wentworth is a Republican.

A similar move to Wentworth’s was put before the Legislature in 1997 and 1999, when the then-state Rep. Suzanna Hupp, a Republican from Lampasas whose parents were shot and killed in the 1991 Luby’s massacre in Killeen, proposed similar legislation. The bills didn’t pass.

Republican, eh?  Quelle surprise!

Gov. Rick Perry is among those supporting the notion of letting adult students bring handguns on campus if they are licensed to carry them.  You betcha!

Thankfully, Texas is blessed with people who realize that they are living in the 21st Century.  They tend not to be Republicans.

Opponents to such preposterous proposals include gun-control advocates, university officials, campus law enforcement and some lawmakers.

The University of Texas at Austin’s student government overwhelmingly passed this week a resolution supporting their campus gun ban and calling on “elected officials in Texas to oppose attempts to eliminate campus weapons bans.”

“I don’t want to return to a 19th-century Wild West urban atmosphere for Texas,” said state Rep. Lon Burnam, D-Fort Worth. “I oppose both concealed-carry on campus and open-carry, but psychologically open-carry is the worst by far because of the implications it has when you’re walking down the street.”

Rep. Garnet Coleman, D-Houston, said he has not seen the bills but would not be inclined to support guns on campuses.

“I think it’s an issue of safety,” he said. “Will that improve or diminish the safety of students? My gut instinct is most members would say it actually diminishes the safety of faculty and staff. … They didn’t pass it before, and they don’t have as good a chance for passing it now.”

Texas State Rifle Association lobbyist Alice Tripp said the group is “not forwarding the issue.”  And why should it?  Rifles and handguns are like apples and oranges.  A rifle may be used for recreational sport, hunting and skeet shooting.  A handgun has only one purpose — to kill or maim people.

At present, people with handgun permits have to keep their weapons concealed but that is not enough for Ian McCarthy, a 22-year-old online marketing entrepreneur in Austin. Does that mean he sells stuff on eBay?

McCarthy wants to be able to brandish one openly.

“Criminals want an easy target,” he said.  “When they see you can fight back, they’re going to go somewhere else.”
Not necessarily.  They may decide to blow your head clean off just because you have had the temerity to point a gun at them.

His rationale assumes a person has the gun skills of Dirty Harry.  But what happens if the criminal has faster reactions and a steadier hand?  One dead McCarthy.  It is open to debate whether that would be a great loss.

McCarthy is a member of the national pro-gun group, which has raised more than $10,000 online to buy radio and billboard ads across the state and has collected more than 53,000 online Texas signatures in favor of changing the law.
Won’t it look a little suspect when nearly all of those signatures read as either Elmer Fudd or Yosemite Sam?

It’s good to know so many Looney Tunes are alive and well, and living in Texas.

[Based on a report by the Houston Chronicle.] 

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Philly’s bowl full of wings and breasts

By Calvin Palmer

In Philadelphia, Super Bowl Sunday is preceded by Wing Bowl Friday.  For the past 17 years, thousands have turned up to see the annual fast food-eating contest. That is fast food-eating rather than consuming the fare served up by Burger King, Taco Bell or KFC.

A tasty Wingette.  Picture courtesy of AP.

A tasty Wingette. Picture courtesy of AP.

A crowd of 20,000 turned up this morning at the Wachovia Center to witness 23-year-old John Squibb, from Berlin, New Jersey, down 203 chicken wings in 20 minutes.

He beat off a strong challenge by Richard “Not Rich” Razzi, from Schwenksville, Pennsylvania, who came in second by eating 180 wings.

Squibb, known as “Super Squibb,” won a Mini Cooper, a $7,500 diamond ring and crown decorated with miniature chickens. No mention was made of a case of Rolaids.

Professional eaters were not allowed in this year’s Wing Bowl, but organizers say they’ll be back next year.

The contest is sponsored by sports-talk station WIP-AM and its carnival atmosphere features the scantily clad “Wingettes”.

All proceeds go to benefit the Philadelphia Police Department.

[Based on reports by Associated Press, South Jersey News and The News Journal.]

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Bakery refuses to ice birthday cake for little Hitler

By Calvin Palmer

The father who was refused a birthday cake,with the message “Happy Birthday Adolf Hitler,” by a New Jersey supermarket is calling for a little tolerance.
The cake’s decoration was not in honor of the Fuhrer but Heath Campbell’s three-year-old son, Adolf Hitler Campbell.
Campbell, 35, and his wife, Deborah, are upset not only by the decision by ShopRite but also the angry Internet postings that followed an article in a local newspaper about the couple’s anger at the store’s refusal to ice the cake with that message.
“I think people need to take their heads out of the clouds they’ve been in and start focusing on the future and not on the past,” Campbell said in an interview yesterday.
“There’s a new president and he says it’s time for a change,” he said.  “Well, then it’s time for a change.  They need to accept a name.  A name’s a name.  The kid isn’t going to grow up and do what (Hitler) did.”
Deborah Campbell, 25, said she phoned in her order last week to ShopRite in Greenwich.  When she told the bakery department how she wanted her son’s name spelled out, she was referred to a supervisor who denied the request.
A spokeswoman for ShopRite said that it was not the bakery’s department first run in with the Campbells – a similar request was denied two years ago when the shop also refused to daub swastikas on baked goods for the family.
“We reserve the right not to print anything on the cake that we deem to be inappropriate,” Karen Meleta said.  “We considered this request inappropriate.”
The Campbells ultimately got their cake decorated at a Wal-Mart store in Pennsylvania, across the Delaware River.
The birthday party was held Sunday and attended byy 12 people, including several children of mixed race, according to Heath Campbell.
“If we’re so racist, then why would I have them come into my home?” he asked.
The couple’s other two children are named JoyceLynn Aryan Nation Campbell, who turns two in a few months, and Honszlynn Hinler (sic – apparently in tribute to Heinrich Himmler) Jeannie Campbell who will be one in April.
Heath Campbell, sporting a pair of black boots worn by a German soldier during the Second World War, said he named his son after Adolf Hitler because he liked the name and because “no one else in the world would have that name.”
Campbell was surprised by the controversy the dispute had generated. “Other kids get their cake,” he complained.  “I get a hard time.  It’s not fair to my children.  How can a name be offensive?”
He said his ancestors are German and he has lived his entire life in Hunterdon County, New Jersey.  He was raised not to avoid people of other races but not to mix with them socially or romantically.
Campbell said he would try to raise his children differently.  “Say he grows up and hangs out with black people,” he said.  “That’s fine, I don’t really care.  That’s his choice.”
[Based on reports by the Associated Press and The Times.]

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Teenagers beat baby to death and claim they were driving out demons

By Calvin Palmer

Two Texas teenagers are being held in jail on bonds of $2 million after been charged with the murder of a 13-month-old girl.  They claim they were trying to drive out demons and perform an exorcism on the baby.

Blaine Keith Milam, 19, and Jessica Bain Carson, 18, of Henderson, were arrested on Tuesday following the death of Carson’s daughter, Amora Bain Carson.

Emergency services were called on Tuesday morning when the baby was said to be no longer breathing.

Lt. Reynold Humber of Rusk County Sherrif’s Office said when detectives entered the residence they found Amora on the floor of a bedroom and knew immediately it was a homicide.

The baby had been repeatedly hit with a hammer and other objects and there were more than 20 bites on the girl’s body.

The couple came up with various stories as to how the child had suffered the injuries, including a fabricated auto accident, a story of how the child was attacked by the family’s dogs.

Another version had the couple leaving the child unattended and someone else must have gone into the home and harmed the child.  They even said the child beat herself on the head with the hammer.

Humber said: “they had multiple stories they went through before they told us they had beaten the child to death.  It is their version of the truth.”

He said the couple then told deputies the child was possessed and they were trying to rid her of demons.

According to police Milam told them he performed an exorcism of the demons possessing their child.  After Milam killed the child with Carson looking on, the couple “drove to Henderson to pawn some items to pay for an exorcism.”

Authorities said Milam and Carson told detectives they decided to hire a priest after the exorcism went badly.

Humber said there was no information of any clergy being called to the home.

Milam was sentenced in August on a charge of aggravated sexual assault of a child and received a probated sentence.  He has also been arrested on charges of causing a disturbance and assault.

Humber said Carson graduated as an honor student last year and she seemed intelligent.  He added that she had not been in trouble with the police before.

Humber said that the crime was so gruesome that he did not sleep on Tuesday night.

“In my 30 years of law enforcement, I have seen some things but this the worst of all of them,” he said.

It now emerges that Milam should have still been behind bars as part of condition for the second-degree felony criminal solicitation of a child.

Today’s Tyler Morning Telegraph states Milam was sentenced to 180 days in jail as part of the probation conditions agreed upon on August 22.  That sentence, if it had been carried out, would have had Milam behind bars until February 2009.

Those conditions also prohibited him from being around children except his own biological children or siblings.

Officals also confirmed that Milam had failed to register as a sex offender in Rusk County and had not changed his previous address from Longview.

[Based on a report by the Tyler Morning Telegraph.]

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Obama victory means no Christmas lights in Florida

By Calvin Palmer

It was British Foreign Secretary Sir Edward Grey who said just before the outbreak of the First World War: “The lamps are going out all over Europe; we shall not see them lit again in our lifetime.”
It would appear a similar thing is happening in Florida among Republican supporters, according to Craig Eifert, from Jacksonville, in a letter to The Florida Times-Union.
Craig describes himself as a social and fiscal conservative.  I am not sure why he draws back from saying that he is a supporter of the Republican Party. Maybe he feels the Republican Party is too left wing to represent his interests.
But Craig’s letter ends: “Out of respect for true Americans, their beliefs, my country and my Lutheran religion, I will not light the lights on my Christmas tree or house this year or any year in which Barack Obama remains president of my America.”
I suppose in these difficult times, at least Craig will be cutting his electricity bill for the next few weeks.  And he can look forward to reduced electricity bills from JEA for many Christmases to come.
What Craig fails to grasp is that there is no such thing as “true Americans” or Sarah Palin’s “real Americans.”  There are only Americans.  And those Americans, in the years ahead, are more likely to reject the ideology that people like Craig support.
Greed, self-interest, demonization of opponents and intolerance may well appeal to a certain section of the American electorate but it is a section that is likely to be increasingly marginalized in the future.
Educated people, and the American population is becoming increasingly educated, can see through the lies perpetrated by the likes of Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity, Bill O’Reilly, Ann Coulter and Sarah Palin.  The Afro-Americans and Hispanics are not going to fall for their polarizing polemic.
If the Republican Party continues to pander to that section then its appeal is going to be restricted to poor white rural voters.  IIt is unlikely that any future Republican president will be elected on their votes and their votes alone.
And statements by ordinary citizens such as Craig only serve to highlight just how removed they are from mainstream thinking.
It is sad that Craig has fallen for the propaganda, even sadder that The Florida Times-Union should publish this kind of letter but then it, too, has its own agenda on behalf of social and fiscal conservatives.
Whether it is also true that Republican supporter Jack Del Rio, coach of the Jacksonville Jaguars, has instructed his team not to win another NFL game while Barack Obama remains president of America is open to conjecture.
Say it isn’t so, Jack.

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Police find Texas woman alive with maggots eating her flesh

By Calvin Palmer

A 62-year-old woman is recovering in hospital after Texas City police found her barely alive with maggots eating her flesh.
Police went to the house late Friday night after someone called 911 from the house.  They are now searching for the person who made the call.
Capt. Brian Goetschius said a man called on the emergency line and said that his mother had bedsores and needed an ambulance.  The caller also said the back door to the house would be open.  He then hung up.
The officer who responded to the call and entered the house said it was in a deplorable condition with several cats running around inside.  The officer said he was overcome by a stench similar to that of a decaying body.
“He found what he thought was a dead woman on the floor of the living room but then noticed the woman blinked,” said Goetschius. “She was teetering on the brink of death.”
The police report said the floors of the house were covered in fecal matter and a bed in the living room was also soiled.
The woman was named as Linda Sue Sainz, 62, a retired Galveston County Sheriff’s Office dispatcher who rented the home on Pecan Street.
The Emergency Medical Services were called and paramedics found maggots eating her flesh.
Sainz was taken to Mainland Medical Center in Texas City.  Hospital officials said this morning that they could not release the patient’s condition.
Police are now trying to find out who made the 911 call and how Sainz ended up near death.
The man told a police dispatcher, “My mom has laid here and gotten bad sick.  She has open sores and other problems and she needs to get to a hospital.”
Family members told police they had not seen Sainz since January.  Neighbors also said they had not seen her recently.
“I was assuming she moved away because we hadn’t heard from her in a while,” Pascual Valdez said.  “After the hurricane, I spoke with the son and he was just acting, talking as if he was alone by himself.  I didn’t know she was in the house.”
Police Chief Robert Burby said his department contacted Adult Protective Services, which is conducting its own investigation.
He said, ” Cases of elderly neglect are rare but not unheard of.  One is too many.”
[Based on reports by The Daily News and the Houston Chronicle.]

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