Showing posts from August, 2006


We've had a lot of rain the past few days here in eastern NC. Just yesterday the area absorbed 4" and that's before Hurricane Ernesto even got into the picture. The hurricane is supposed to deliver another 4-6" by the time it's out of the area on Friday afternoon.

Since there's been no rain for around 10 days prior to this, I guess the rain is a good thing but why can't it do one day at a time instead of this 4 or 5 days of solid rain? Well, at least my lawn will start growing again.

Toby and Marketing

A long time ago, back when I lived in Georgia, I earned an MBA. My favorite classes were the marketing ones. Even now there's few things I appreciate more than a good marketing campaign. The reason I bring this up is that I just recently became aware that the Save Toby website was sold to I'd not advise anyone to go to --due to the pop-ups-- unless you're really bored!

I was first aware of Save Toby about 18 months ago at which time it'd already been up for about 6 months. I thought it was quite inventive and hilarious though supposedly some people found it objectionable. I guess they must have thought the fellow was serious--which shows how much of sense of humor those folk had. Of course another issue is how some people get up in arms about how you can't kill a rabbit then they go out and eat a hamburger. LOL But I digress....

As a marketing effort it was great. The site was mentioned in many online resources and even on national newscasts for…

Guilty Pleasure Movies

There's a movie playing recently on the Oxygen Channel that I really like. The TV selection thingy gives it 1.5 stars which is pretty bad and most people I've talked to don't like it but 10 Things I Hate about You has always moved me. Awwww.

I first saw it 6 years ago soon after I moved here to NC. The apartment complex I moved into had a free community movie night once a week and they provided a movie (DVD) in their entertainment center (small movie screen plus theatre style seating!) along with popcorn and soda.

Well, one week it was 10 Things I hate about You, a teen romantic comedy style movie that I'd normally avoid--but it was free and I wasn't doing anything. So I went. And oddly enough I was quite taken with the movie.

Sure, it's got all the standard cliches, but for some reason they worked for me in this movie. Maybe it's Julia Stiles who's cute as the dickens in this movie playing the alienated teen in a very bitchy way (that's her to the l…

butterflies and bugs

I took these pictures after I got home from work today.

This one I call "just bugs" to differentiate it from the butterfly pictures below.

Sure, it's a good picture of the two bugs but, well, they're just not pretty. Look at 'em! They're just bugs.

Now here's a lovely butterfly in action. Just sucking up that nectar and posing for the shot. It knows that it's beautiful. It wants the camera to come up close and make it famous. Or something like that.

Unfortunately it wasn't so thrilled with the flash and after I took a few pictures it started to avoid me. I got two good pictures of the butterfly and both were accidents. The one below was when it was trying to get away from me and I pivoted and just shot a picture hoping to get it in the frame. It worked, I think. The second shot I'll put over on my nature pictures page. It was an accidental shot as well.

damn computers

I was writing a long post about Wal-mart and CFLs (compact fluorescent light bulbs) and damn Firefox collapsed and ate my post. The world--and especially computers--is evil.

a bug and a cat

I don't have any pets and that's fine with me but I do like to take pictures of critters. So, I put out some food and have places to hide for some wild things like rabbits.

Apparently Sam here, a neighbor's cat, is very aware of this.

I keep a pile of brush outside for the rabbits to hide in and birds to alight on. Sam seems to be viewing it as a one-stop grocery store of sorts.

He's a very pretty cat and quite smart. He's gotten one rabbit that I'm aware of this Summer and quite a few birds. One of the best hunters I've watched--and while I feel some sympathy for the rabbits, there's always more rabbits. They breed like rabbits, y'know?

This here is a critter on a much smaller scale. He's perched on my mixer.

I like the delicate lace-like structure of the wings. You can see how small the bug is by the relative size of my mixer speed dial beneath him or the grains of flour you can see in the background on the side of the mixer. I guess I should clean…

Books and DVDs

I just finished the book Heat by Bill Buford and I started Break no Bones by Kathy Reichs.

Heat was very good but a little odd at times and disorganized--especially at the beginning. Buford would be quoting himself at times then shift to quoting someone else without any transition and often would have a large time shift involved as well. This tendency went away as the book went on but the time shift aspect never completely went away; Buford just got better at letting the reader know when the place and time had changed.

Heat is on the best sellers list and it's an unusual book for that list. Heat is about Buford's experience doing prep work and eventually cooking in Mario Batali's 3-star NYC restaurant Babbo. Buford is a journalist with the NY Times and this book is also about Buford's quest to become an authentic cook, perhaps chef, and to aid in this transformation he traveled many times to Italy and occasionally England to work under people that trained Batali when he …

Kathy Reichs

I'm just starting the new book (Break no Bones) by Kathy Reichs today. I finished Heat last night and it's time to move on, y'know?

Reichs has been writing fiction for 9 years now based on her professional experience as a forensic anthropologist. She works in Charlotte NC and Montreal (Quebec) Canada. The recent TV show Bones is based on her books.

This is the first book she's had published since the tv series started on FOX and I'm curious to see how it's written. Reichs has always had a very dark tone to her writing and I wonder if that'll change now.

western religion and popular movies

I was listening to the song Everything's Alright from Jesus Christ Superstar last night--several times, in fact--and it got me to thinking about recent movies.

Christ imagery has always been popular in movies on one level or another. The self sacrifice theme is just too strong and emotional a feeling to ignore. Recently however there's been two movies that have really worked the theme hard. Both Spiderman 2 and Superman Returns have repeated images of Christ-like poses as well as strong Christian themes running through each of the movies. How can you watch Spiderman, his arms extended across the subway car, trying to save 20 or so passengers, and not think crucifixion?

The reason that Everything's Alright had me thinking about this was because that song explores two sides of Western religion. On the one hand you have Judas' lament about how Jesus should do everything he could right now ("People who are hungry, people who are starving--they matter more than your feet…

water, water everywhere

Water covers over 71% of the Earth's surface and coincidently that's about the percentage of the human body that is comprised of water as well.

Water also is a very good solvent, exists in all 3 states on the surface of the planet, is very polar with a 104.45 degree angle between its hydrogens, and has almost the highest specific heat capacity of any known chemical. Amazing stuff, huh? Add that to the weird freezing point anomaly and you have the reason life exists on this planet. Neat, huh?

Anyway, the reason I'm mentioning this is to acknowledge that water is great stuff. However some folk think a little too highly of it. The whole "the average person needs to drink eight glasses of water per day to avoid being dehydrated" idea is a real crock of poo-poo. So is avoiding soda due to it being a diuretic or foolish stats like 75% of Americans are chronically dehydrated. Folks, it's just not true!

The average person retains about half to two-thirds the amount of …

a new buddy

I hope you, my treasured guest, don't mind pictures of insects 'cause just below is a big picture of my newest bug friend. He was waiting outside my back door on Friday when I returned home from work and I just couldn't resist taking several pictures of him. I'm using the one below for my computer desktop for a while. I love the little hairs on his chin. So cute!

I got a few pictures also of this other bug but I don't know what kind it is. It looks a bit like a dragonfly but doesn't act like one. Any ideas? I like how you can see all 6 "arms" in that picture on the right. It was a windy day and the guy was really having to hold on tight.

bad bowels

Yeaah, I know. What an icky title.

This past Tuesday I had a colonoscopy. I've had symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) for over 20 years though at first I thought it was Giardia lamblia, an intestinal parasite that at the time had recently spread to the Adirondack Mountain watershed where I did a lot of hiking and camping. At the time my symptons first arose, when I was 23, Giardia was very uncommon in the US but now it's the most common intestinal parasite found here.

Of course that's all a moot point since my symptoms never went away so the cause wasn't infectious. Nor was it medical--which was the point of the colonoscopy, to rule out any medical abnormalities--which leaves IBS which is actually more a group of symptoms than what is typically thought of as a disease.

The actual procedure was quite quick as you can see by the write up to the left. From the insertion (ouch!) to removal of the scope, only 7 minutes had gone by. I must admit it seemed longer to me b…

pain in the bootie

This is the second time this week I've had a pain in the bootie. The first was Tuesday and now again on Thursday.

This time my boss caused the pain to be felt. Well, actually the real responsibility lies with UNC. They have virtually no parking on campus so there's free parking lots several miles from campus and free bus service for anyone who wants it. So far it sounds nice. However when the kids aren't in session--and for those of us that don't teach, it's hard to keep track of when classes are in session--the bus schedule gets truncated. That is, the late night buses don't run.

So, back to my boss. She kept me until after 8pm with all these "just one more thing" requests. She's got a presentation to do over the weekend and had waited until the last minute to get in the data to me that she wanted graphics on--and since she was in surgery today that meant that she wasn't able to give desired changes to me until after 4pm.

And then--just when sh…

Blogger is having issues

Notice a lack of posts lately?

I tried to convert over to the Blogger Beta and a year of posts is kinda-gone. They can still be accessed in the edit mode but they don't show up after being published. This new post might not either. Blogger sucks. Anyone going to the normal Utenzi blog will only see posts up to March 28, 2006.

UPDATE: I changed the address on my posting to Utenzi2 and that published fine but anything to Utenzi, my normal address, just won't work. Weird.

Hell's Kitchen

The final 2 hour episode was on Monday night, at least here in the US, but I didn't want to post about it too soon since some readers might not have seen it yet.

If you've not seen it and want to be surprised--STOP READING!

Like I mentioned a few days ago, I really liked the story arc this season. Because Chef Ramsay is such a dick I didn't watch the entire season last year but I'm glad I stuck it out this time. The show is quite impressive in that it shows how much improvement these people make in the course of one season--at least some of them improve.

This last episode pitted the two final contestants, Heather and Virginia, against one another using the eliminated contestants as their cooks. It was quickly apparent that there was a very good reason some of those people had been eliminated! Of course that's part of what made it a very good elimination battle as well as good theatre. Since the point of the show is to select an executive chef, skills at delegation, le…

clear for ten years

Today for the first time in around 10 years I went to a doctor for a medical visit. I've put it off for a long, long time but a former co-worker finally shamed me into it. As a result I drank 4 liters--which is around 135 ounces--of weak cellulose solution last night and today at noon I showed up at the clinic.

Of course medicine being what it is today, I didn't actually get examined until 2:05 pm! And the exam only took 7 minutes--at least that's what it says on my form. Believe me, it seemed longer than that to me! In case you're curious--everything seems to be fine.

The best thing about it is that now I have a great picture for HNT this week. The worst thing? Well, the way I feel right now actually--but I'm told the discomfort goes away pretty quickly so as soon as I get home from work I should be feeling better.

Pippin News Flash

That damn cat is back. I knew things were too good to be true.

Anyway, Pippin showed up on Renee's doorstep around 8pm, thinner than usual and ravenous. Her kids think that someone saw the posters we had put up and dropped Pippin off at the house. I don't think that's the case though. His being hungry and not fed doesn't fit into that scenario.

My belief, you ask? Well... let's just say that apparently the aliens are once again sampling lifeforms from Earth. I am just glad that apparently they're putting us back once they're done with whatever tests they do.

Aliens or not, it's weird that he was gone for 6 days then returns in fine shape except for being thin and hungry. Welcome back, Bad Penny. Some of us missed you.


No news so far on the Pippin front. Renee and I put up posters around the neighborhood yesterday so we're hoping that this morning, as families make their way to and from chuch, someone will see Pip's picture on a poster and call us with some information.

This past Friday I did some training. The research biz is all about learning, y'know?

In this case, since we're starting to do so many tumor sections, my boss decided to buy her own microtome and have me do the sectioning myself. This was partly due to cost but more due to not having to wait when Pathology was backed up with orders.

To the left you can see the hands and microtome of the Pathology tech that usually does our sectioning. She let me watch and get some pointers so I could do it myself next time.

She's very good and I'll be a lot slower at the sectioning, but since we often have to wait 2 weeks or more for large orders in the end it's well worth doing it in-house (that means me doing it LOL).
The pre…

where did he go?

My girlfriend just got back from a week at a conference in Kansas City. I picked her up at the airport late last night and brought her home. Unfortunately her son, who was housesitting, had some bad news. One of her cats, Pippin who I often call "Bad Penny", has been missing for 5 days.

So if you happen to see a orange and white domestic short hair, answering (ha!) to the name Pippin, and looking like the picture on the left just bring him back home. I know my girlfriend will appreciate it--even if I have mixed feelings about the critter.

As you can tell, he likes books so maybe he's hanging around a library or school. We checked the two local animal shelters but no cats matching his description at either. A lot of orange and white shorthairs though--a popular type of cat, I guess.

Since he's very friendly I suspect he's been adopted by some family in the nearby neighborhood, but if so, he's not likely to be out of circulation for long. He hates to stay inside f…

restaurants, books, and Hell's Kitchen

I don't know what I'll do for next week's edition of Half-Naked Thursday. Women have so many interesting parts that HNT is a natural for them. Men, on the other hand, tend to have mostly hairy or lumpy parts--sometimes both in the same place!--and who wants to look at hairy and lumpy?

Today I ordered 3 books from Amazon and they all follow the theme I established with the book I mentioned two days ago by Ruth Reichl.

The first is The Perfectionist: Life and Death in Haute Cuisine, by Rudolph Chelminski. This book is about the famous French chef Bernard Loiseau who took his own life 3 years ago. He was proprietor of La Ca'te d'Or in the provincial Burgundy town of Saulieu, a 3-star restaurant according to Michelin. Loiseau was quite famous in France and his death caused quite a stir. The author was a friend of Loiseau for decades and the book is supposed to be quite good at setting up the mileau of international cuisine and the pressures and pleasures of that life. (o…

sunburn and HNT

I took this picture a few days back to demonstrate the sunburn that I'd gotten but it really doesn't show up. So, I'm using the pic for half naked thursday instead.

I look a little grim due to my not liking taking my own picture. Or maybe it was having to stretch my arm out like that. Or maybe it's that Grinch that stole Christmas thing with the heart too small by 2 or 3 sizes. Who knows? Anyway, don't piss me off or I'll give you this look. :-p

If you didn't read the post a few days back, I'd gone out in my kayak expecting to just be out for 15-20 minutes so I didn't bother with sunscreen and then ended up being out for over 3 hours. As a result I had a lot of sunburn on my shoulders and upper arms--parts that are normally covered when I'm out mowing my lawn. The other unexposed parts were covered with the lifevest while I was kayaking which is why my chest is so pale.

Next week I'll try to get my girlfriend to volunteer her chest for a pict…

fuel mileage and food critics

Over the weekend I read a book by Ruth Reichl. She's the editor of Gourmet and she used to be the food critic for the New York Times. The book, Garlic and Sapphires, is about her tenure as a food critic and the antics she needed to go through to ensure she didn't get special treatment while reviewing a restaurant.

Her main tactic was to adopt a costume with a demeanor to match it--and this book describes the inspiration for those costumes as well as how they affected her and her experiences at the restaurants. After each rendition of the background, Reichl goes on to excerpt her NY Times restaurant reviews so the reader can see how things came out. She also includes her own recipes for a number of the dishes that she discusses in the book--there's two recipes that I intend to try out.

This is a very interesting tale and while I think she might have embellished here and there, I really liked the book. I recommend this book to anyone interested in food, restaurants, or the wa…

hairy balls

back in NC again...
I drove back to NC--the second time I've driven my car!--last night. Departed from my parents' house at 6:10pm and arrived back home at 9:58pm. Rain almost all the way, sometimes in hard squalls. The car handled it a lot better than my truck ever did. I kept finding myself wondering why we were going so slow, then looking down to see the needle a bit above 80mph. Oops! Until I get used to the car I'm going to have to use the cruise control quite a bit just to keep myself out of trouble. After driving that old truck for so long, it's impossible for me to gauge how fast the car is going just from the road feel. Nice!

Here's one of the hairy balls referred to in my post title. Odd looking thing, isn't it? Not that the "other" type of hairy ball looks normal either... peculiar fruit, no matter how you think about it.

friends or not?

Geese. Sure, they look cute and all that. Friendly too--within reason...and that's their definition of reason, not ours! But you always have to remember that geese are birds and birds shit on our brand new cars. Birds are evil, remember? So doesn't that mean that geese are probably evil also?

Well, as you can see to the left, I encountered a half dozen of the wheezing birds while kayaking late on Sunday morning. They seemed quite curious about me and my big blue log. At first their examination was quite cordial--but later developments signaled a change in our potential relationship.

It seems that the geese were starting to think of my kayak as food. Since I was probably next on the menu I decided to scoot while the getting was good. I have no aspirations to becoming bird food. No siree.

As you might be able to tell, it was raining lightly while I was out on the kayak. Some people--my parents, for example--would say it was crazy to go out in the rain but I figure you frequently ge…

weekend water and a heron

Here's a picture of a heron I took yesterday when I was out on a kayak. I had only intended on going out for a few minutes but the trip ended up taking a little over 3 hours.

The downside of the extended but unintended length of the trip was that I'd not bothered to put on sunscreen. Needless to say (but I'll say it anyway), I got a nice little sunburn from that trip!

The temperature was up there, around 92f, but there was a strong breeze which kept me cool so it felt great out on the water. As a result, I just kept going and going--it was a long time before I got thirsty enough to turn back.

I mentioned communing amongst sailboats yesterday, so here's a picture I took when I was in that marina. It was quite early in the morning, and on a weekday, so there was nobody there at all--except me. So I just floated about letting the slight current move me about amongst the piers.

This picture is taken at a bend in the inlet between the two main sections of the marina. It's t…

paddling on Friday

I left the dock at 6:30am when it was still dark but the false dawn was soon to start.

25 minutes or so later I was at the edge of this island and took the picture of the sky taking on the red tones of the oncoming day. I love how silky the water looks on days like this when there's no wind to be found.

This area of SC hasn't had nearly as much rain as usual and as a result the water levels of the lake are quite a ways under their usual level. I've taken pictures of this part of the island before and typically the water covers all of this section. I suppose technically I can't even call this an island because the other side now joins the mainland and forced me to go the long way around the "island" to get out into the main part of the lake.

I'll post pictures later that illustrate just how low the water levels are.

Here's a picture taken only about 100 yards from the one above, but 2 hours later when I was returning from my paddle yesterday.

During the 2 …

poodles and birds

Birds suck. I HATE birds. They're nasty, dirty, peevish critters that should never ever be allowed near a new car.

If I ever see that damn flying reptile I'll, I'll--I don't know what--but it'll be a VERY BAD THING!

Nasty Birds.

I'm in South Carolina now, I arrived at 6:30am. I love the way the car drove--comparing it to the truck I was driving is well, no-comparison. I wasn't able to use the cruise control because I didn't know where it was. I received my car at 10pm, after dark, and drove down here at 3am, so I'd not seen the inside of the car in daylight yet! Now that I can see things, I'll have to do some orienting. This morning I learned how to use the stereo--I did turn the light on inside the car for a few mintues before departing NC so that I could use a MP3 encoded CD for the drive down here. I really, really like the stereo!

Here's a picture for Belinda over at Ninja Poodles. It's a picture of my parent's minature poodle, KC…

it's a car

Yes, I now have a new car. They didn't have what I wanted in stock in Durham so they had to go fetch one from Charlotte, a little over 2 hours away, so I wasn't able to pick it up until a little after 9pm. They loaned me a car from off the lot so I went home around 5pm, after filling out all the paperwork and cleaning out my truck. I live 35 minutes away from the dealership so I had 3.5 hours to wait until I could pick it up.

That's me below next to the car. This was just before Michael, the salesman, locked up the dealership and went with me to a gas station to give the car a complimentary fill-up. We finished up at 10pm and then I went home. I like the way the car handles and the feel of the car. It's got a stiff suspension and tight steering, both of which I like. I also test drove a Santa Fe but didn't like it at all. Had a luxury car feel to the ride and I like to feel every bump in the road. I hate feeling isolated from the pavement.

2006 Hyundai Elantra GT. 5…

nissan to hyundai

I have a truck. It's a little over 7 years old now and I can't say I ever liked it during the entire span. But it's very handy to have. Until now.

For the past few weeks it's been giving me trouble. I had it serviced at my local mechanic's shop twice in July and right now I don't trust it enough to drive to SC (about 600 miles round trip). As a result, today I'm either trading it in on a new car (most likely something affordable like a Hyundai Elantra--around $15k) if I can get a good price on one, or going to a Nissan Dealership and paying a fortune for repairing the damn truck.

The problem with the truck seems to be that the engine is running at too low a temperature and I suspect that the dealership will be able to diagnose the problem a lot better than my local mechanic. Oddly enough, even though the diagnostics indicate that the engine is running cool--my gas milage is still quite good. Usually milage suffers bad when the engine isn't hot enough--s…

more of the same

The past two days have seen me not sleeping--some kinda allergy thing going on--and working long hours (at least long for me) so I've not made an entry here. My boss is giving Grand Rounds tomorrow and I've been creating graphics derived from our experimental results for her Powerpoint presentation the past few days. It's all very pretty. :-)

Tomorrow she's giving the presentation so I have to be there. I don't normally attend Grand Rounds since I just do the experimental side, not the clinical side, and the fact that it begins at 7am might enter into the equation also. I have to make the 6:30am bus in order to get there in time and I really, really don't like getting up at 5am! Really, really don't!

I've got half of Wednesday off as well as the rest of the week and next Monday, maybe Tuesday. I'm going to SC to visit with my parents. My aunt and uncle are going to be there and I only get to see them once every few years. Some other family members …