Thursday, January 31, 2008

Lights on?

From my office I can see that the big stadium lights have been burning all day long at the Durham Bulls Athletic Park. Seems wasteful, not to mention annoying-- since I'm running around putting expensive compact fluorescents in all my fixtures at home. If someone knows where the switch is over there, I'll gladly go turn them off for cryin' out loud.

Is there a reason, maybe similar to the reason why the astroturf at Duke has to be watered (even in a drought) that the stadium lights at the DBAP have to be on (even during the daytime)?

Distant and extremely low-res cell phone pics but even so you can see the huge white glare of 2 of the lights on a sunny day:

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Topsail Island recently

It's just a 23 mile strip of sand, a barrier island, off the southeast coast of North Carolina. And like nearly all such places, it's overbuilt and overburdened. But in the winter, when the noisy bars have closed for the season, and tourists are long gone, and even the fishermen have retreated, a nice long walk on the beach can be especially exhilarating. It was deserted, and glorious, and cold. The moon was out and barely visible.

Two things I'd never found before in my previous miles of beachcombing: red coral and a starfish. The coral was brittle and little more red than this picture shows. The starfish was dead and missing a chunk off one of its points.

I also found a natural sea sponge. It was pliable and soft--and gritty with sand.

And I saw some dolphins jumping and playing:

From a shell's point of view:

Monday, January 28, 2008

Cheer on a Durhamite on Jeopardy tonight!

From an email I received:
Durham's local brainiac Andrew Sprouse is on Jeopardy!
Watch Tuesday (1/29) @ 7pm WTVD (ABC) 11.
He'll be sporting the bowtie and plugging local eateries.
Cheer him on!

Cool. Go Andrew!

Sunday, January 27, 2008

Yummy Sushi at Mt. Fuji at Brightleaf Square

Friends and I met at Mt. Fuji at Brightleaf Square for dinner recently. Mainly two of us were having serious sushi cravings, and we all met at Mt. Fuji so we two could feed our sushi habit. As you can see, the plate of sushi was beautiful and I snapped a quick picture before we completely scarfed it down. Tasty and we agreed we could've devoured much more. Next time we will. We ordered the "Christmas Roll" (on the right), the "Spicy Ocean" (middle)--both of those were specials, and the Kani roll (left, with the red fish roe).

The others reported as follows on their meals: the Green Curry with chicken was 'okay,' the Pad See Ew with Tofu got an enthusiastic 'excellent,' and the Spicy Basil (Thai) Shrimp was reportedly 'good.'

That evening just after we got seated, about 50 Duke undergrad students in couples came streaming in wearing formal duds and were seated nearby. It quickly went from being fairly low-key and quiet to practically a party. We put in our orders quickly and got served while they were still marking their paper slips for their sushi choices.

All in all a good night. The sushi was quite tasty and we'll definitely be back for more.

What's your favorite sushi place around here?

Saturday, January 26, 2008

One more Broad Street Cafe evening of great music

Last night we caught live music at Broad Street Cafe once again. I always feel comfortable and relaxed there--like a neighborhood coffee bar ought to feel.

By the time we arrived around 8pm the front half of the place was packed, no tables available, so we picked out a small table in the back and settled in with coffees. People were standing in the middle of the place in order to see better, so we pretty much just listened to Sweet By and By and then Jon Shain. Both sounded in top form. I blogged about Sweet By and By a couple of weeks ago here and I was happy to hear they have their first CD coming out next week. I intend to buy one.

We were interested in hearing the final act of the night, Adrienne Young, as we hadn't seen her before, and we were blown away. I noticed her standing in the back of the place enjoying the end of Shain's set and she was so pretty that I thought maybe she was just another pretty blond with a guitar. WRONG! About the "just another" part anyway. She is immensely talented as a singer and songwriter. Her voice was strong and pleasing--and if she hit a wrong note with it all night, I never heard it. The most compelling thing though is that she's wise beyond her years in the way she writes her lyrics. I hadn't realized the critical acclaim she'd received so far either. We ended up buying all 3 of her CDs. I especially enjoyed the song Plow to the End of the Row.
Couple of snippets of articles here:

Room to Grow makes Nashville Scene's Top 5 of 2007
Top Five Albums From Singer-Songwriters

The Nashville Scene (December 20, 2007)

ROOM TO GROW - Adrienne Young

Metaphors of growth and greenery are appropriate for Young, and not just because she’s donating part of the proceeds of her third album to sustainable agriculture. It’s also about expanding outward and upward from the roots. Here she further refines her already melodic approach to folk-pop and taps into the rawer edge of her supple voice. It’s Young’s first album produced without the help of Will Kimbrough, and she relies a little less on the traditional instrumentation used in the past, but there are still some nice spare moments, like the nostalgic, fiddle-sweetened ballad “River and a Dirt Road.”

Adrienne Young's Activism Keeps Her In Tune
With her twin commitments to rootsy Americana music and the ecology, it's tough to say whether Adrienne Young is a musical activist or an activist musician.

Either designation is fine by Young, a Nashville singer and songwriter who released her third album, "Room To Grow," earlier this year.
Her fiddle player/lead guitar player was intense and very good. A real utility-player. The 3 of them seemed genuinely pleased and surprised when the cries of "one more" "one more" went up after they finished their set. They came back and gave us two more songs to close out the evening.

Once again, an enjoyable evening of great music-making in Durham. Not even 10 minutes from my house either, which is a bonus. And to discover a previously unknown (to me) up-and-coming young songwriter and singer was a particular joy.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

A Good Old Fashioned NC Oyster Steamin'

Hey, this ain't the 42nd Street Oyster Bar, folks. Not even close. But this is what happens in my family:

At least once a year we have a family get-together down at the coast and steam up a bushel or two of fresh NC oysters. Yes, it is a decidedly down-home event at mom & dad's beach place. But we get the oysters locally and they are fresh as can be, with mud still sticking to them. We spray them in batches, spreading them out and turning them over to get the mud off.

Then we fire up the gas burner and pull out the big pots we steam them in. We get out the (very) homemade oyster bar that dad made from scrap plywood. It all happens in and around the storage shed (Mom says no way it happens inside the house), so last weekend it was quite cold. Best time for oysters though.

After that, the steaming begins. We like 'em steamed just long enough to pop open the shells. We have horseradish, cocktail sauce, tabasco sauce, crackers, and cold beer on hand too.

Then mounds and mounds of fresh steamed oysters to liberate from their shells.

I like 'em plain and I like 'em dressed up with all the trimmings. Either way is fine with me.

Some are quite big. All are tasty. The one above with all the trimmings has horseradish, tabasco sauce, and a jalapeno slice. Oh, and the oyster. It was delicious.

And by the way if you go to our NC coast and grab a seafood dinner, make sure that the restaurant is buying from and supporting our local fisherman.

Here's a 2006 article from the N&O about NC oyster that I found interesting:
In Search of NC Oysters

Monday, January 21, 2008

Review/Update for my new supa-dupa showerhead.

Updating my recent blogging about my new ultra-low showerhead with the on-off button, which was here.

It installed quite easily and it works very well. To recap, most low-flows are rated 2.5 gallons per minute flow, but this one is 1.9 gpm. Plus the on-off button makes it easy to stop and start the water while maintaining the temperature. Yes, I am a gadget freak.

Anyway, all I did was unscrew the old one (which was a regular low flow), and screw in the new one. No muss, no fuss, no leaks. Here's me taking off the old one. As an aside, my bathroom really is that orangey-red color:

I cannot tell a difference in the spray. There's plenty of spray and it flows out with appropriate force. The button that temporarily turns off the flow works like a charm. It turns off the flow and when you press it again to turn the flow back on, it is the same warm temperature as when you stopped the flow. So if you've been wanting an on-off button or an even lower-flow showerhead, this one I can vouch for as a satisfied customer. Here it is doing its thing:

Odd what passes for fun and excitement at my house.

Bridge at Pettigrew and Roxboro

This welcomed me back to Durham today after being out of town all weekend. It's always good to come back home.

I'm not subtracting any points for spelling either.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

My Cannellini Vegetable Soup = tasty and easy

At the Durham Bull Pen household we've decided to become more knowledge about cooking with all kinds of dried beans. Instead of popping open a can of beans--which are full of sodium--now we buy and use dried beans (which are usually zero sodium). We especially like the heirloom beans.

You can learn a lot about heirloom dried beans, and even order some for cooking, at Those folks have a neat site there.

Last summer at our favorite open-air market on the way to the mountains, we loved to scoop out bags of all kinds of varieties from the big barrels, like this:

I mean, who could resist beauties like these "yellow eye beans" that we found in one of the barrels--and also found on the ranchogordo site linked above:

Check out ones like "Christmas lima beans" and "goats eye beans."

The somewhat imprecise recipe for the Cannellini Vegetable Soup: in a few tablespoons of olive oil saute' up some diced onion, chopped garlic, diced carrots and celery in the bottom of your soup pot. Once the veggies are slightly soft, add in the cannellini beans (which have soaked overnight in water), some diced tomato, and a 32 oz. container of veggie broth or chicken broth. I added some fresh rosemary from my yard, and some course ground pepper, and a couple of pinches of hot pepper flakes. Let it all simmer for an hour or so. The amount of veggies and spices is up to you really. It's hard to screw this up. Re-use the water the beans soaked in by watering your plants or flushing your toilet (this applies particularly to Durham residents.)

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Excitement! My new showerhead is here already.

Oh yes, of course I already had a low-flow showerhead. But this one is even lower-flowing in terms of GPM (gallons per minute). And this one comes complete with a shut-off switch on it--so my water will stay the same temp while I'm shampooing and lathering up with the flow turned off. Flip the switch back on to rinse off.

I ordered it online and it came in 2 days. It was inexpensive too, imho. Brand name is "Whedon."

Ace Hardware Outlet here.

Saturday, January 12, 2008

Fine day for a bike ride on the ATT

Sunny and cool afternoon in Durham today. Perfect for a trek down the American Tobacco Trail on my bike. Great to see so many other Durhamites out on the trail today too. Walking, cycling, jogging, in-line skating. Everyone friendly with a quick smile and that always makes me feel great--at least as much as coasting downhill, standing upright on my pedals does.

Here are a few pictures from today's ride to share. BTW, I found out I can take pictures while riding without wiping out. At least so far.

I enjoying riding over the bridges.

From the bridge, looking down on a small 'crick' & a plank bridge.

Nice stretch though a stand of mostly pines.

An old barn just off the trail.

Back home at the head of the trail. A pleasing sight to see.

No admission fee, and beautiful, exhilarating, fun, and good for me.

Can't beat that.

Friday, January 11, 2008

Urban Archeology

As I was doing a bit of digging in my back yard, not deep by any means, lo and behold my shovel hit something hard. I was hoping for gold coins or maybe at least an arrowhead but when I dug it out and brushed it off it was a . . . horseshoe. Kind of cool to find a horseshoe in your back yard. Maybe even good luck too.

I'm in Trinity Park, and my house was built around 1925, so I suppose there could've been horses around here not so very, very long ago?

From, here's some info on horseshoe symbolism:
The use of worn-out horseshoes as magically protective amulets -- especially hung above or next to doorways -- originated in Europe, where one can still find them nailed onto houses, barns, and stables from Italy through Germany and up into Britain and Scandinavia. Additionally, wall hangings made in the form of horseshoes are common. In the Middle-East, one finds the terra cotta blue glazed horseshoe plaque. In Turkey small metal or blue glass horseshoes are blended with the protective all seeing eye to form a unique apotropaic charm i call the horseshoe-and-eyes that is believed to ward off the evil eye.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Warming Forces Iditarod to Alter Course

Sometimes it just strikes me and I think, 'Wow, this really is happening.' This news story does just that. I mean, I know it is happening. It kind of smacks me in the face once in a while.

"ANCHORAGE, Alaska (AP) — The modern challenges of global warming and population growth are catching up with the world's most famous sled dog race.

Citing a warming climate and sprawling development, officials with the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race said Wednesday they were implementing permanent logistical changes that in recent years have become the norm for the March event."

AP article here.

Easy to get lost in Shorpy

An amazing depository of old photos, particularly if you are drawn to these kind:

is a blog about old photos and what life a hundred years ago was like: How people looked and what they did for a living, back when not having a job usually meant not eating.

Photography takes an instant out of time,
altering life by holding it still.
~ Dorothea Lange

Wednesday, January 9, 2008

Like "Rocky" but with words instead of fists

Really loved watching "The Great Debaters" at the theater at Northgate recently. (The seats are super-comfy, btw.)

As most know by now, "The Great Debaters" springs from actual events in the early to mid-1930's when the African American debate team from tiny Wiley College in Texas defeated scores of teams from larger schools, and also defeated debate teams from prestigious white universities. What a moving story to bring to the screen, and in support of that sort of film--African American cast, great story, not a blow-'em-all-up--I had to lay my bucks down at the theater and vote with my money. Give me more of that sort of film, please.

The cast was intense and compelling (Forest Whitaker and Denzel Washington among others), the cinematography beautiful, the score powerful, the wardrobe and setting perfect. It was, as all good period films should be, like being put in a time capsule and fired back to 1935. There are some quibbles by reviewers that the movie leans toward being formulaic, but like "Rocky" there is some familiar satisfaction in that. Good guys triumphing! Lord knows I need a little of that considering the last few years in this country. There are some harrowing moments in the film and we get a small but awful taste of what it felt like to be in the cross-hairs of random violence and hate in the Jim Crow South.

One scene that stuck with me was the father (Forest Whitaker) of one of the debaters waiting up late for his teenage son after his son fails to come home at night on time. Take the horrible things that most parents imagine could've happened to their teenagers and then wonder how that would've felt back then under those circumstances.

Below the actual winning Wiley debate team that the movie focuses on, and an article full of the history of the Wiley Debate team here:

Melvin Tolson, center, is the Debate Coach played
by Denzel Washington in the film.

Durham Bull Pen gives "The Great Debaters" 2 horns up.

Tuesday, January 8, 2008

How to calculate your water usage

Of course we've been cutting water usage at our house but I hadn't yet taken the step of calculating exactly how many gallons per day we were using. Putting it in terms of gallons makes it more real to me. The water bill actual shows "units" of usage which is more abstract and frankly not very helpful. ("One unit is equal to one hundred cubic feet (ccf) or 748 gallons of water.")

So I found a couple of useful links from The City of Durham's website that showed me how to calculate my usage:

How to read your water bill & calculate usage from that information.


How to find and read your water meter and calculate usage from that information.

Doing the calculations, it looks like that in my household (2 people) we averaged 33 gallons per person per day for the period of time from 9/12/2007 to 11/10/2007.

We're going to try to get it lower, shooting for the 25 gallons per day that Barry blogged about here.

File Under: Schedenfreude

Bill Kristol's first column for the NYT's has a whoopsie.

Jane Smiley must have a big smiley about this, given her big drop-kick of the NYT to which she has contributed:

Next week, I am really going to miss The New York Times. For years now, I have spent at least part of every morning reading the Times, and I love its variety. In addition, I have had a long and enjoyable writer's relationship with the Times. I've written for the magazine, the Travel Section, the Book Review, and the Op-Ed page (once I wrote in favor of divorce, and they received a gratifying hail of shocked, shocked shocked! letters in response). On the day I heard the first rumor about my Pulitzer Prize, I was working with one of the Book Review editors. In a state of disbelief, I asked her if she had heard anything.

She goes on to tell here why the addition of Kristol was the last straw for her. And does it with great style.

Sunday, January 6, 2008

Great show at Broad Street Cafe last night.

It was a fundraiser for a very worthy cause, First in Families NC.

The show had a little bit for everyone. Peter Holsapple opened the show and played some excellent songs and one of my favorite ones, Amplifier. It has 'black humor,' he says. Back before it all became 'ironic' instead.

Peter Holsapple

Next up was Sweet By and By, a four piece bluegrass group, all young women, playing their original music. Their voices were so sweet and pure and their songs were superb. Really nice stuff. And they were having FUN which was nice to see.

Sweet By and By

The headliner was Peter Lang who played blues and folk guitar. I've *never* seen or heard guitar playing done that well. I kid you not. Defies explanation. I snagged a CD and look forward to enjoying it.

Peter Lang

It was Lang's 60th birthday and there was a bit of a party for him and we all sang Happy Birthday to him. Someone made a huge cake and at the end of the show for those of us still left, we all had a piece of Lang's birthday cake.

Another wonderful night in my sweet town, Durham.

Saturday, January 5, 2008

Kudos to my alma mater, UNC.

After having read the wonderful book by Barbara Kingsolver, Animal Vegetable Miracle, I've become much more aware of the many benefits of eating food grown and produced locally.

I was happy to read the below about UNC a few days ago. Hope it continues to catch on. And if you haven't read Kingsolver's book, you should!

There is more work to be done, but this is a step in the right direction to be sure.

CHAPEL HILL -- A new commitment by UNC officials to purchase more local food for university dining halls could be a boon for local farmers and a boost for those who say local food is better for the environment.

"We have committed to putting together as much local as we possibly can," said Paul Basciano, Dining Services' executive chef, at a recent forum hosted by Fair, Local, Organic Food, a UNC student organization.

Link to full Herald-Sun article.

Find your local food connections here:

Friday, January 4, 2008

These collapsible rain barrels look sensible.

Pop Up Rain Barrel.

Made of flexible, puncture-resistant laminated polyester, this ingenious rain barrel holds up to 45 gallons of water. The wide top zips open for easy dipping, and a mesh screen keeps debris out. Includes pre-installed garden hose thread and cap. Folds to a mere 4" H for easy storage.

  • Wide top zips open for easy dipping
  • Zippered mesh screen keeps debris out

  • I've shopped this site before with satisfaction and no troubles,

    I'm going to get one for sure.

    Wednesday, January 2, 2008

    New Year's Hike at Penny's Bend

    One of my favorite hikes along the Eno River is Penny's Bend. It's about a 45 minute hike and follows along a severe bend in the Eno. It looks like this from the air:

    Here's a couple of pictures from yesterday:

    Happy New Year, Durham!

    Tuesday, January 1, 2008

    Durham's new police chief is quite the diva it seems!

    Isn't Lopez the fellow that promised to be more communicative with the citizens and the press?

    This whole exchange isn't promising, to say the least. And why should the reporter get chewed out by the chief? Seems to me the problem was certainly not with her.

    From Barry Saunders at the N & O:

    After a home invasion that resulted in a police shooting and a death downtown Saturday evening, an N&O reporter spent Sunday vainly trying to reach several department representatives to find out details.

    She called the chief at home as a last resort. Remember now, this was no minor crime, no jaywalking or kids getting a five-fingered discount on a pack of Bubblicious at Wal-Mart. It was a burglary, a police shooting and a death. Downtown.

    One would think the chief would be eager to let citizens know what happened and that his cops responded heroically.

    One would be wrong.

    How wrong? Here's the transcript of our reporter's minute-long conversation with the chief:

    N&O: Hi, may I please speak to Chief Lopez?

    Lopez: This is he.

    N&O: This is Samiha Khanna, reporter for The News & Observer. I'm writing about two incidents that occurred yesterday.

    Lopez: Do you realize it's quarter to 8 o'clock on a Sunday night?

    N&O: Yes, sir, but I've been trying to reach your investigators and [department spokeswoman Kammie Michael] all day --

    Lopez: Kammie gets a day off, too.

    N&O: I understand that, but I was hoping you could confirm that two people have been arrested in connection with the home invasion car crash.

    Lopez: No, I can't.

    N&O: OK, so two people haven't been arrested?

    Lopez: No, I can't confirm that because I'm at home and I haven't been in to work. I'm sure the officers are doing whatever they need to do. Today is my day off.

    N&O: OK.

    Lopez: I'm at home, trying to relax. Calling me at home at 8 o'clock on a Sunday night is not reasonable.

    N&O: It's not reasonable?

    Lopez: No, it's not.

    Hmmm, what to do, what to do?

    Since it's unreasonable to expect Chief J Lo to talk to the media -- and thus Durham citizens -- if crimes occur when he's at home, I must direct this plea toward criminals: Could y'all please be considerate and do your dirty deeds between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m. so we won't have to bug the chief at his crib?

    How embarrassing for him and well, disturbing for us, to hear of this as we are just getting to know our new chief of police.