Thursday, July 31, 2008

A real treat to see John Dee Holman last week

Let me mention again on how wonderful it is for us to have the Warehouse Blues Series. Great blues music. Free. My kind of deal.

Last Friday night I had the pleasure of seeing John Dee Holman at the Warehouse Blues Series at West Village. Andy Coates opened. I'd never seen either of them perform before, but Friday night's weather looked promising--low humidity and a good breeze--and some friends were going, so I went along as well. I'm so glad I did.

Andy Coates did a great job of warming up the crowd for John Dee. I especially liked it when Andy played the National steel and used a glass medicine bottle as a slide. He has a nice strong voice and knows his blues.

I kept noticing John Dee Holman waiting on the sidelines to come up next and I was anticipating hearing him perform. I wasn't wrong in my suspicion that he is the real deal. A local blues--a Piedmont Blues--guy who, at 79, can still put on a show. He had fans in the audience already, and I'm definitely a new fan.

I found some information on his style in this Indy article from a few years ago:
Born and raised in the Piedmont, John Dee Holman is a self-taught musician, and to blues aficionados, the man when it comes to being a living, performing exponent of the Piedmont Blues.

While the Delta Blues went north to become "Chicago Blues" and Texas bluesmen pioneered the West Coast Blues, the northern migration of African Americans from the Carolinas never resulted in any real "New York Blues" movement. For one reason, the Piedmont Blues developed as primarily a guitar-oriented sound--an instantly recognizable picking style played by the likes of Blind Boy Fuller that lent itself to acoustic, rather than electric, guitar (electrified, it's got more of a Lightnin' Hopkins sound). Thought to be derived from African-American banjo picking, this style--using the thumb to pluck out a rhythmic bass line while your fingers pick out a melody--is the blues tradition Holman carries on.

Some of the songs I liked were Chapel Hill Boogie, Give Me Back My Wig, Step It Up And Go, Mojo Hand, and John Henry.

I was too stupid to remember to get one of John Dee's CDs before I left Friday night, but I intend to. I believe I can order it through the MusicMaker site.

Not sure I have the time to go to tomorrow evening's performance, but from 6pm to 8pm, but "Slewfoot and Sons" will perform then.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Unbelievable. Infuriating.

Watch as a NYC cop shoves a cyclist off his bike during a Critical Mass ride (it's a 1 minute 10 sec. clip):

Of course before the video surfaced, the Officer signed a sworn statement that the cyclist intentionally ran his bike into the Officer.

The videotape has raised concerns about police Officer Patrick Pogan's sworn account that the bicyclist deliberately drove into him last Friday evening during a Critical Mass bicycle ride in Times Square, a source said.

After the videotape surfaced, the NYPD took away Pogan's badge and gun, temporarily placing him on desk duty. The Manhattan district attorney also announced that it was investigating the incident, WNBC-TV in New York reported.

I read the story here. Thank goodness someone was filming. It's becoming a frightening necessity I suppose.

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Easiest Corn on the Cob Ever

I suppose chances are you know this already, but I ran across the easiest method for cooking corn on the cob (if you have a microwave) and it worked so well I thought I'd post it. First of all, I didn't want to heat up the kitchen by boiling a big pot of water. Nor did I want to stand over a hot grill, even though grilling an ear of corn makes them crazy tasty.

So here's what I did and it worked perfectly.


Cook fresh corn on the cob in microwave with husks and silk intact. They will cook in their own natural moisture.

Place on paper towel. Turn ears over and rearrange after 1/2 cooking time.

Cooking Timetable:

1 ear - 1 1/2 minutes
2 ears - 3 to 4 minutes
3 ears - 5 to 6 minutes
4 ears - 7 to 8 minutes
6 ears - 8 to 9 minutes.

When ears are hot to the touch, remove and wrap in kitchen towel or foil.

Let stand at least 5 minutes. Remove husks and silk (which is easier than when cold) and serve.

So good!

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Night-blooming Datura

Several years ago, my great-aunt gave me a flower pot with little green plants sprouting. She said when mature, the plants would produce big trumpet flowers that are "sweet-smelling and night-blooming." She didn't know the exact name, but called them "moonflowers." After a little research on the internet, I found out they are actually "datura" and are desert plants, and thus, very drought tolerant. Here's one of mine:

They easily re-seed themselves each year, and require little care. They aren't fazed when I move the "baby plants" where I want them once they sprout up in the spring. Here's where I planted them along my driveway. At night, they open up and they do smell very good:

They have a funny-looking prickly seed head after the flower drops off, and then at the end of the season, the seed head splits open and spits out the seeds (these next 2 photos are from wiki):

According to the American Botanical Council, datura has a long history of being used in religious ceremonies because it is hallucinogenic, but then too, I think it could be very poisonous so don't eat them!

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Live web stream of a nest of baby robins at Duke

They are so cute! I got the stream to open best using the IE browser, which normally I don't use.

Here's the link:

About the birds from the link:

Two weeks ago, three baby robins hatched in a nest on a ledge outside our office window outside the Office of News and Communications at 615 Chapel Drive on the Duke University campus. Watch as the robins grow and prepare to leave the nest.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Cool John Ferguson at The Warehouse Blues series

Caught a couple of sets from Cool John Ferguson last Friday night as part of the The Warehouse Blues Series at the West Village Courtyard downtown. He truly is one cool dude, and that's good, because it was extremely hot that night. A storm was blowing up just as 6 o'clock approached, so Cool John and his appreciative audience were ushered to a non-air conditioned (or it felt like) lobby area inside. Cool John rolled with the punches and played 2 great sets. Despite the sheen of sweat on everyone, people danced, clapped, drank cool beverages, and enjoyed the fact it was Friday and here we we were, enjoying each other and the music. Here's Cool John:

A few of the tunes from Friday night from Cool John were (She's a) Brick House, Stormy Monday, and the Stevie Ray Vaughn song, Pride and Joy. Many thanks to my pal Jack for remembering the names of a few of the songs. I thought they all sounded great, even though the acoustics in the lobby where we were seated left much to be desired. Even in the heat and the closeness of the space, people kicked off their shoes and danced:

A little bit about Cool John Ferguson from his Music Maker site:
He was born on Saint Helena Island off the coast of South Carolina. His mother is of the Gullah people and John grew up with the old ways all around him. His first guitar was a Harmony #1 with a one-coil pick-up, two knobs, and a Marvel amplifier. He still remembers the shape and look of it and the way it made him feel. He learned to play by listening.
You can listen to a few of his songs, including Durham Blues on his MySpace page.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Durham gets 67 new public bike racks

From this Durham City website:

Durham bicycling enthusiasts now have 67 new bike racks to use throughout the city thanks to a recently finished installation as part of Durham's CityRacks Bicycle Parking Program.

All new bicycle racks are located on public property and a new map and list of all rack locations can now be accessed [here.] According to (Dale) McKeel, the City does plan to install additional bicycle racks in the coming year.

To request a specific location for a new rack, or to review the current map and list of all rack locations, see the links [found here] or contact McKeel at (919) 560-4366, extension 284 or via e-mail at

Residents can also stay up-to-date with all bicycling and pedestrian activities by visiting the Durham Bicycle and Pedestrian Advisory Commission Web site at

I've seen lots of bicycles on the road, some increase no doubt due to the price of gas. It's kind of scary how many bicycles are on the road at night around my neighborhood without any lights, or how many people aren't wearing helmets. I am glad to see so many people who've dusted off their bikes and started pedaling, however. The bike rack pictured above can be found at the Durham Farmer's Market.

Meet The Beijing National Stadium.

Also called "The Bird's Nest," and you can see why.

I'm looking forward to watching a bit of the Olympics and I was interested in what the "Olympic Stadium" looks like in Beijing. This is where the Opening and Closing Ceremonies will take place, and other events such as Track and Field competitions.

Here it is:

Under construction, as seen from space.

More about the stadium here and here.

You can see other architectural renderings of the finalists in the worldwide competition for the design at this site.

Friday, July 18, 2008

In the Dog Days of Summer

We are in the midst of the "Dog Days of Summer" which is the period of time in the summer generally from the first part of July until mid-August. In ancient times, this period of time was when the brightest star in the sky, Sirius (also called the "Dog Star"), rose and set with our Sun.

The ancient Romans recognized the "Dog Days" and called them caniculares dies ("days of the dogs") for the Dog Star.

They thought that the rising and setting of the big bright star Sirius with the Sun added to the heat we normally received from the Sun, making it extra hot during this period of time.

The ancient Greeks actually gave the Dog Star the name "Sirius" and for them, the rising of Sirius with the Sun was the sign that annual flooding of the Nile would begin.

Happy Dog Days and at least, unlike the ancients, we have a Locopops around the corner to help get us through the Dog Days.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Heirloom Cherry Tomatoes

Found these heirloom cherry tomatoes (below) at the Wednesday afternoon Durham Farmer's Market. Can't wait to eat 'em! The berries and peaches smell so good in my kitchen right now, and I decided to splurge and buy some Strawberry Chevre and Mediterranean Chevre to try from Elodie Farms.

The good thing too is knowing it all came from local farmers. How cool is that?

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Fairy Rings


If you see a faery ring
In a field of grass,
Very lightly step around,
Tip-toe as you pass,
Last night faeries frolicked there-
And they're sleeping somewhere near.
If you see a tiny faery,
Lying fast asleep
Shut your eyes
And run away,
Do not stay to peek!
Do not tell
Or you'll break a faery spell.

~ William Shakespeare

A block or so away from my house I saw a burgeoning Fairy Ring, but alas no "tiny faery" as Shakespeare suggested I might see. I've always been fascinated by Fairy Rings, so I had to go back and get a better look and maybe a picture or two. Not sure what kind of mushroom this is specificially, however, because many different kinds of mushrooms can populate a Fairy Ring.

It's quite possibly a Scotch Bonnet 'shroom from the looks of it though. Edited to add: Don't ever eat mushrooms unless you are 100% positive what they are--and then double-check that.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Durham Farmer's Market today

As Kevin noted over at his blog Bull City Rising, lots of stuff not to be missed at the Durham Farmer's Market today (and pretty much every Saturday--and Wednesday afternoons too).

Free Yoga on a shady slope:

Great music by The Blue Tailed Skinks:

Chef Ingram of Four Square giving out yummy samples:

Beautiful crafts at The Durham Craft Market:

Walking tour offered by Preservation Durham:

Oh, yeah, and the fantastic local food:

Monday, July 7, 2008

The Carolina Parrot

Imagine seeing these beautiful, bright native parrots flying from tree to tree to in your backyard. You very well could have in Durham and not that terribly long ago.

It was the only parrot species native to the eastern United States, and the last one was killed in the wild in 1904, and the last one died in captivity in 1918. In Audubon's time, the now extinct Carolina Parrot was the only common parrot species in the United States, and he captured its likeness as shown above. And this is what he wrote about it and its food, found here:
Doubtless, kind reader, you will say, while looking at the figures of Parakeets represented in the plate, that I spared not my labour. I never do, so anxious am I to promote your pleasure.

These birds are represented feeding on the plant commonly called the Cockle-bur. It is found much too plentifully in every State west of the Alleghanies, and in still greater profusion as you advance towards the Southern Districts. It grows in every field where the soil is good. The low alluvial lands along the Ohio and Mississippi are all supplied with it. Its growth is so measured that it ripens after the crops of grain are usually secured, and in some rich old fields it grows so exceedingly close, that to make one's way through the patches of it, at this late period, is no pleasant task. The burs stick so thickly to the clothes, as to prevent a person from walking with any kind of ease. The wool of sheep is also much injured by them; the tails and manes of horses are converted into such tangled masses, that the hair has to be cut close off, by which the natural beauty of these valuable animals is impaired. To this day, no useful property has been discovered in the cockle-bur, although in time it may prove as valuable either in medicine or chemistry as many other plants that had long been considered of no importance.

Yes! This native bird feasted on those nasty cockleburs that are the bane of anyone who's hiked through brush or undergrowth in these parts. I used to have to pick them out of the shiny coat of my black labrador retriever, one by prickly one, after we'd taken long walks through the fields and woods.

Sadly, part of what contributed to the Carolina Parrots' extinction is that the flock would often fly back to the spot where one of the flock had been felled by a shot, and where of course more would be shot, as described by Audubon:

Should a person shoot at them, as they go, and wound an individual, its cries are sufficient to bring back the whole flock, when the sportsman may kill as many as he pleases.

I'm so thankful that at least Audubon got to see them, describe and depict them for us so that we can at least imagine what it might've been like to catch a flash of bright yellow, green and red in the trees as we hiked down the Eno River. Still makes me angry that they are gone forever.

Thursday, July 3, 2008

Happy 4th of July.

Or Perth Day, as is the case in the picture below. Not my picture, it was taken by Antti Kemppainen in 2007, and here's a little about it from NASA:

click pic to make it larger