Tuesday, September 30, 2008

An Electric Lawn Mower?

A few years ago, maybe 4 or 5, I bought an electric lawn mower. Lots of people said "okaaaay, but they don't have enough power to cut thick grass." Being the hardhead I am, I went ahead and bought it. I liked that it would be quiet (it is) and that I didn't have to fool with cans of gasoline and a persnickety lawn mower engine. I worried about the fact that I always wait until the grass is thick and high, so it might not be able to cut it properly with the electric mower.

I've been pleased with it, so I thought you might be pondering one. They do just fine. I took some pictures for the heck of it, just to show how well mine does, if you are thinking of trading in for an electric.

My Black & Deck Electric Mower:

My backyard a few weeks ago, needing a cut:

Cutting through just fine (the grass was damp):

All done!

The cord is never a problem because when I plug it in, I cut away from where I have the cord plugged in so it's always on the cut side of the lawn, seldom in the way. I'd like to try a cordless lawn mower, but this one has lots of good years left in it. It's never given me one bit of trouble.

Never failed to start, never balked at all. Easy.


Thursday, September 25, 2008

Red Spider!

Red Spider Lily, that is. Also called the Equinox Lily, Magic Lily, or Hurricane Lily. Or Lycoris radiata to be precise.

One of the many great things about owning an older home, in my opinion, is that someone may've planted cool things in the yard. The first time early fall rolled around after we moved into this house, and I stepped out the backdoor and these greeted me, I was enchanted with them. Here are some pictures I took a few days ago:

Taken from above.

Our cluster of Lycoris radiata.

Seems like these just pop up overnight. Boom, there they are, all red and bright and slightly Dr. Seuss-looking saying, "Hey, someone planted me here years ago so they could enjoy me." So I do make it a point to stop and admire them in their 2 or 3 weeks of glory and oddity. Thank you, whoever you are, for planting these. This house and its tended yard has been here since 1926 so it could've been long ago.

I've never done a thing but enjoy them each fall when they pop out of the ground, so they must do well here in our climate. They are native to China and Japan, often seen in groups on the ridge of rice fields.

If ingested they are supposed to give you lucid dreams. I wouldn't try that, though.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Blues Fest 2008 at the Durham Bulls Athletic Park

This year the Bull Durham Blues Fest (in its 21st year) was held at the Durham Bulls Athletic Park instead of the old ballpark, the DAP, because of its ongoing renovations. I took some pictures and included them in this blog entry.

First of all, I thought the new (maybe temporary, maybe not) location was a big hit. The stage was set up behind where 2nd base usually sits, and it's a nice big stage too. To preserve the infield, there was a flooring of interlocking 4 x 4 thick plastic squares laid down. They were great for dancing, and for setting up our folding chairs. Durable and neat and clean. Some vendors were out on the field, and some were up on the concourse. People could sit out with folding chairs on the infield, or sit up in the stands if they preferred. Plenty of room to move around, plenty of clean bathrooms, well lighted, well organized, a wonderful time. Kudos to the Hayti Heritage Center who puts on the event each year. Very nicely done!

The gates opened at 5pm and my friends and I were among the first in, and got a sweet spot on the first row. The weather was beautiful, with a cool hint of fall in the air. It even got chilly enough as the night wore on to pull on our jackets.

Friday evening started out with a band from Charlotte, The Contagious Blues Band, and they were very enjoyable. Next up, I really liked the zydeco music that Rosie Ledet performed and folks got up and danced.

Rosie Ledet (on the right)

Hard to sit still when good zydeco is being played.

Clarence Carter came out after Rosie Ledet and he played his hits, including the cheesy but fun "Patches" and ended his set with "Strokin'." Nearly the entire audience was up and dancing at that point. The headliner of the night, Marcia Ball, came on stage next and she was fantastic. Her new album is "Peace Love and Barbeque" -- I need to snag that for a bumpersticker incidentally. She plays the heck out of the keyboards. Phenomenal. At the end, she implored us all to "Please vote!" and that she knew that we in Durham "would do the right thing, you know what I mean!"

Marcia Ball

Saturday night my friends made sure we got front row seats again by sitting on line before the gates the opened. Another sweet fall-like evening and the music started off with Big Road Blues Band who got us revved up for the night. Next up was Bernard Allison.

Bernard Allison

This guy just floored me. He is unbelievably good and when he finishes, you feel like you've witnessed the blues in concentrated form. I could've listened to him all night. Denise LaSalle came out next and she kept everyone thoroughly entertained. Her patter to the audience was for adults only and I was wondering what the people with kids there might've been thinking. The headliner for Saturday night was Taj Mahal and he was worth the wait.

Taj Mahal

He came out and played a hollow-bodied electric guitar first that sounded so sweet to me. Then he stepped over to the keyboard and tore the keys up for a few songs. Next he picked up his banjo and played the blues on the banjo. He said, "One thing I like about North Cacalacky is that I can pull out my banjo to play the blues and people won't head for the doors." I can't say enough about how much I enjoyed his set. He even played my favorite song "Queen Bee." I especially loved "Fishing Blues" (youtube link to Taj singing "Fishing Blues") too.

Another great Bull Durham Blues Fest!


Thursday, September 18, 2008

Pitchers Mound at the DAP today.

I wonder if that piece of equipment can hurl a fastball with its bucket?

Durham Athletic Park 9/18/08.

Renovations ongoing at the Durham Athletic Park.

You can click the picture for a larger version.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Thomas Frank at Quail Ridge Books

We zipped over to Raleigh tonight to Quail Ridge Books to see the author Thomas Frank give a reading from his latest book, The Wrecking Crew. He's the guy who wrote What's The Matter With Kansas among others. The Durham Bull Pen household has several of his books already, so we thought we'd listen to him speak, read some from his latest, and get the books signed. The place was full, people standing the aisles even, to hear him. He's such an incredibly smart and funny guy. Lots of great questions from the crowd too.

He said he had to leave quickly after signing books but didn't say why. He cheerfully signed books and then left in a hurry, thanking everyone for coming.

We drove back to Durham, flipped on the Rachel Maddow Show (loving her new show on MSNBC), and there was Thomas Frank, being interviewed LIVE by Rachel. Funny moment. "Hey, we just saw him!" Guess he was on his way to the local NBC studio so he could be interviewed.

Thomas Frank at Quail Ridge Books

He's writing a column for The Wall Street Journal these days too, called The Tilting Yard, and here's the latest installment: Get Your Class War On.


Saturday, September 13, 2008

Five Points Cafe open (for real real)

When I was downtown this afternoon I noticed Five Points Cafe (at 347 W. Main, beside Toast) was open and customers were enjoying food and beverages inside. This may have happened yesterday or last week or ?? I haven't been keeping close tabs on it, really, but it has opened and closed once or twice in the process of getting really and truly open-as I hope they are now. Going for something easy, I ordered a coffee to go and it was tasty. No Splenda packets yet, but I'm not one to quibble about the little stuff. I had my camera so I asked if I could take a couple of pictures (the lady at the counter was quite nice about the request albeit perplexed), so here you go. I asked for the menu, but was directed to the green chalk board, so I snapped a pic of it (you can double click it to make it large enough to read).

I also met a nice fellow from Democracy Durham inside, so a big shout-out to him!

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

We are "America's Foodiest Small Town "

Or at least "Durham-Chapel Hill" is, according to Bon Appetit :
Imagine a place where foodies not only have a favorite chef, but also a favorite farmer; a place where the distance between the organic farm and the award-winning restaurant is mere miles; a place where a sustainable future is foreseeable. It's all a reality in Durham-Chapel Hill.

The article include recipes, such as North Carolina Peanut Pie and great shout-outs to all our favorite places such as Parker & Otis, Chapel Hill Creamery, Fickle Creek Farm, and much more.

Check it out: America's Foodiest Small Town

Thanks RR!

Monday, September 8, 2008

Sign up for new City Manager's reports online

Looks like Durham's new City Manager Tom Bonfield has heard of the series of tubes called the internetz and will be releasing his reports online.

From this release:
Subscribe to the City Manager's Report
Receive the latest information and important City news via e-mail with the new City Manager's Report. The report from City Manager Thomas J. Bonfield highlights the latest happenings in Durham City Government. To receive this permission-based newsletter, please click {here for information}. The signup and subscription information are managed by iContact.

Looks like a brand new thing to me, but maybe it was happening all along and I wasn't in the loop. I am often not in the various loops.

Things that make us go BOOM! Or not.

Looks like this Wednesday is going to be a big day in the science world. Nerdlingers like me are awaiting the re-enactment of The Big Bang. So hold on to your um, gravity and stuff. It's being done with a 17 mile long atom smasher that's being fired up on Wednesday:
GENEVA - It has been called an Alice in Wonderland investigation into the makeup of the universe - or dangerous tampering with nature that could spell doomsday.

Whatever the case, the most powerful atom-smasher ever built comes online Wednesday, eagerly anticipated by scientists worldwide who have awaited this moment for two decades.

The multibillion-dollar Large Hadron Collider will explore the tiniest particles and come ever closer to re-enacting the big bang, the theory that a colossal explosion created the universe.

The machine at CERN, the European Organization for Nuclear Research, promises scientists a closer look at the makeup of matter, filling in gaps in knowledge or possibly reshaping theories.

Now if you really want a better understanding of what's going on, please do go take a look at the cheesy but catchy music video that the folks at CERN put together:

The article goes on to say:
It will still be about a month before beams traveling in opposite directions are brought together in collisions that some skeptics fear could create micro "black holes" and endanger the planet.

So have a great month!

Friday, September 5, 2008

The "Mindset List" for this year's incoming freshmen

Okay, I know it's a bit gimmicky, but I do still give The Beloit College Mindset List a look each August/September. This time it's for the incoming class of 2012.
Each August for the past 11 years, Beloit College in Beloit, Wis., has released the Beloit College Mindset List. It provides a look at the cultural touchstones that shape the lives of students entering college. It is the creation of Beloit’s Keefer Professor of the Humanities Tom McBride and Public Affairs Director Ron Nief. The List is shared with faculty and with thousands who request it each year as the school year begins, as a reminder of the rapidly changing frame of reference for this new generation.

There's a full list of 60 items at the website, and you can choose prior years too (at the top of that site).
Students entering college for the first time this fall were generally born in 1990.

For these students, Sammy Davis Jr., Jim Henson, Ryan White, Stevie Ray Vaughan and Freddy Krueger have always been dead
Here's a few I plucked out:

4. GPS satellite navigation systems have always been available.

9. Electronic filing of tax returns has always been an option.

18. WWW has never stood for World Wide Wrestling.

22. Clarence Thomas has always sat on the Supreme Court.

28. IBM has never made typewriters.

32. There has always been Pearl Jam.

33. The Tonight Show has always been hosted by Jay Leno and started at 11:35 EST.

44. Caller ID has always been available on phones.

50. They have never known life without Seinfeld references from a show about “nothing.”

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Oh yuck. Centerfest to be in a parking lot again.

I have always loved Centerfest in Durham since moving here. It has consistently been a fun and easy-going time. A real treat. Last year, however, it was crammed into a big asphalt parking lot near the Farmer's Market. The asphalt was steamy hot, the weather was hot, the people were jammed in, and it was miserable--at least for me and the people I was with. After inquiring last year, I understood that it was held there because it wasn't clear that the downtown street improvements would be finished in time. Okay, I was cool with that. But I just looked on the website and it is still going to be held in that parking lot.

So good luck with that. I was looking forward to it being downtown in the neat CCB (See Say Be) Plaza with Major, and up and down Main Street and Chapel Hill Street, showing off our new merchants downtown and our great looking new brickwork and streetlamps and all. Nope. The map for Centerfest is still directiing people to the asphalt parking lot.

Centerfest 2008 will be held September 20 and 21st, according to its website.

Monday, September 1, 2008

A Luna Moth!

A big beautiful Luna Moth came to visit on my front porch for a while. So magical, named after the Roman moon goddess.

The Luna Moth also appears in one of my all-time favorite modern novels, Prodigal Summer, by Barbara Kingsolver. If you haven't read it, I highly recommend it.

Hope you find a bit of magic in your life this week too.