Showing posts from October, 2006

shiny blue bottles

The original owners of my house had installed a 12" fluorescent light beneath a corner cabinet. It was functional but didn't give off all that much light. Since the light bulb recently burned out, I decided to take this opportunity of increase my lighting.

As it turns out, a new light fixture--and one that's 50% bigger!--is only a dollar more than just replacing that old bulb. Score!

So I bought a new fixture with bulb ($7) and put it in. As a result of the new bulb which provides a whiter light and is a lot bigger and that this fixture has a clear panel not a frosted one, there's many times as much light in that corner now.

Since I like pretty colors and almost anything that reflects light--my magpie nature, I'm afraid--as soon as I saw the corner all lit up I moved my knives and mixer (they're pretty shiny too) over so that I could put some pretty blue wine bottles right under the light. I love how they glow!

If you look at the large version of the picture you&#…

halloween wallpaper

Here's two wallpapers I made last year. Since the first one is for Halloween I thought I might as well put it up again, though I admit it's a little late.

Halloween Wallpaper

Egyptian Wallpaper


It's the end of October and that means all sorts of things. Daylight Savings Time so now we'll be commuting home in the dark, colder weather with frosty mornings though it's getting up to 75f today, Halloween and lots of candy, and NaNoWriMo starts up in a couple of days.

I think the thing I like most about this time of year is the clearance sales on Halloween candy on November First. Don't expect me at work early 'cause I always check out at least one store's candy area. Sometimes two or three stores! My favorite for these sales is Smarties but there's lots of others I'll buy.

I think the biggest quantity I ever got was 6 years ago when the stores near me had really too much inventory and the post-Halloween markdown was 80%. I picked up something like 60 pounds of candy that year. Oddly enough I was able to make my way through it in 6 months. Sugar is wonderful!

I usually get between 25 - 50 kids each year as trick-or-treaters, almost all being driven aro…

more pics from Duke Forest

On Saturday I went hiking in Duke Forest, staying near a stream after walking in from the road. When you first get to the stream you're on top of a large cluster of rocks that form a small cliff. The following pictures were taken from on top of those rocks looking down at the stream.

These two pictures illustrate how the feel of a picture can be shifted according to where you focus.

In the first picture I focused on the scenery below, along the stream.

In the picture below, I focused on the rock I was leaning against so that the background scenery would be out of focus and darker (since the rock was in the sun and a more reflective surface). What do you think of the difference in emotional overtones that each picture gives off?

Here's a picture of those rocks from down at stream level, just a little upstream of the location I had snapped the pictures of up above. You can see how the sun was still lighting up the rocks at the top but most of the rest of the scenery was getting less…

saturday in the woods

Saturday started a little late since I didn't want to get out of bed in the morning but after slicing up some veggies--celery, carrots, bell pepper and onions--and braising some stew beef I tossed them into my crockpot and then headed out to do some easy hiking in Duke Forest.

This picture here is a good illustration of the pithy comment "that's just water under the dam" 'cause you can see the water doing just that. Going under the dam right beneath my feet. As you can probably guess, this isn't a very big structure but it still holds back a fair amount of water.

The picture below is a half mile or so downstream of the dam. Today was an amazingly pretty day to be out in the woods in this area--as you can tell in that picture. It was windy out in the open but just breezy in the woods and the temperature was around 62f with a lot of sun. Lovely. The Fall colors are muted but they were never all that strong this year. In the NC mountains they had a good display, b…

The Blue Ridge Parkway

Super-Scenic Motorway is a book by Anne Mitchell Whisnant that was released this month from the University of NC Press. It's a history of the Blue Ridge Parkway. But not the normal history you typically hear: a public works project developed in the 1930s to help combat the unemployment of the Great Depression. While that is true, it's also implies a clean positive process that is quite sanitized.

I bring this up because Eminent Domain is one of my pet peeves. Eminent domain is a power that governments wield to acquire real estate for the completion of public projects such as roads, such as was the case with the Blue Ridge Highway, although sometimes eminent domain is used to facilitate the transfer of property from individuals to commercial developers. You can read about that sort of thing in this CBS 60 Minutes article about the abuses of eminent domain.

In 1991 when Whisnant first began to do research into the formation of the Blue Ridge Highway she was a graduate student at U…

notes and errata

I don't like high utility bills. As a result I love the months between hot weather and cold weather. Unfortunately that period of time is never long enough so I have to help it along a bit. I do this by waiting just a little extra time before turning on my heat or A/C. Right now I'm trying to resist starting to use the heat until after Halloween. Unfortunately it's been a bit chilly the past few days and nights so it's not been above 59f in here for 4 days. And it's supposed to be in the low 30s the next two nights. Brrrr! I'll make it tonight but tomorrow night my resolve might falter a bit.

Of course the whole thing is silly and I know it. Even in the worst of the Winter I only spend about $2 a day on heat. I can certainly spare that one or two days this October--but I get stubborn. LOL Taurus, y'know?I did my grocery shopping after work Monday at Food Lion. Spend $50. Eeeek! But I did score 13 bags of candy so I'm set for a while. Hershey candy was 2…

government in action

Can you legislate morality? No, of course not. On the other hand, the many lessons of the past aren't enough to stop the executive and legislative branches of the US government when they think they have an easy and costless soundbite / photo-op.

Case in point? Bush's recent bill-signing ceremony in which he signed into law an anti-online gambling provision. It was tucked into the Port Security Bill that was signed on Friday October 13. Congress had approved the bill 2 weeks before. The Internet gambling provision handles the awkward task of enforcing gambling bans by prohibiting players from using credit cards, checks and electronic fund transfers to settle their online wagers.

Anyone that doesn't believe governmental action can have broad reaching effects need only check on the status of International gambling stocks. Several of them have already declared insolvency and most of the others are trading on the pink sheets in the US (and equivalent exchanges in foreign markets)…

Autumn Still Life

This is a picture taken of the dying remains of plants on a birdfeeder in my backyard just off of my deck. I took it this past Thursday after engaging in what might have been the last mowing session of the year. Yeah!

I like the fuzzy softness of the plant in the foreground as balanced by the harsh grains of the lumber in the background and angularity of the wood and leaves. The balance of the different tones of brown emphasize the changing of the seasons.

feral cat attack

While out photographing nature in all its glory this weekend I was accosted by a wild animal. Feral cat, to be more exact. This fearsome critter reared up and tried to peel the flesh off of my very bones. Fortunately there was too much protective fat and I was able to make my escape while that ferocious feline licked my toothsome well-marbled flesh off of his claws.

Later on, having learned my lesson, I stuck to well groomed domestic kitties. Here's one now that is daintily having lunch. Note the darling tongue. A sure sign of a happy and well fed cat. Not one that will attack your leg for no reason at all--this type of cat makes the best photographic subject. I'll leave those wild ones to the people at National Geographic.

After his repast, our furry friend posed for a few pictures on the deck railing. Isn't he precious?

time for more bugs

It's time to look in on my backyard which is a haven for Ladybugs, like the one below...

My house is situated in a small subdivision in the middle of nowhere. This area is mostly small farms and cow pastures. In fact my house is in what used to be a pasture. I've let one small area of my backyard grow out and the wild flowers and native grasses in these pictures is the result.

In this picture we're looking under the dress of a ladybug. Their topside is so pretty you rarely see pictures of their naughty region. So-- being a cad-- I took just such a picture!

Here's one of a ladybug with a friend. The other bug looks a lot different. I wonder if her parents approve of this?
Maybe a spider or something mean and nasty like that next time...

Internet Explorer 7

Well, Microsoft has finally released IE7. I've downloaded the software this morning and am still trying it out. How many of you think you'll take the plunge? Here's a link to a download site in case you want to try it: IE7

IE 7, which has was announced in February 2005 by chairman Bill Gates, has been touted by the company as a significant update in the areas of security and usability. The interface has been streamlined and tabs have been added to compete with rivals such as Mozilla's Firefox and Opera's flagship browser. On the security front, IE 7 adds anti-phishing defenses as well as additional features to control ActiveX controls, which historically have been a pain point for Microsoft's browser.
My initial impression of the new IE browser is positive and since Firefox has been pissing me off a lot lately I'll make the switch at work. I have a new laptop here that I bought just 6 months ago and so it's up to date. My computer at home however is over…

innocence lost

An attractive young woman went missing in the early morning hours of October 7th. This is something that happens with unfortunate frequency but because of the location this story caught my attention.

Michelle Gardner-Quinn, 21, of Arlington VA was a student at University of Vermont in Burlington, VT. In the grand scheme of things, if you live near Washington DC and go to school in northern Vermont you'd certainly expect bad things to happen near home in DC, not at school in Vermont. Vermont is a land of dairy farms and quaint bed & breakfast inns. You expect to see cows and Ben & Jerry ice cream not a sex criminal.

I grew up in upstate NY and Burlington was the closest city--if you can call a place with under 40,000 people a city--with an airport and college so there were often reasons to undertake the two hour drive to visit. I would go there to pick up relatives that flew in to visit, I took my GREs at UVM, at one time after school I was hoping to get a job there. It is a …

frost warning

I hate cold weather!

So having frost this morning for the first time this Fall wasn't pleasant to see. No, not at all. Sure, compared to Prego's pictures of a snow filled Buffalo a few days ago this is nothing--but this is happening to ME! Brrrrrr.

The picture above was taken around 7:30am and shows the early light of dawn slowly warming the grass in my backyard. My knees weren't happy bending down that far in the cold. The picture below is of some Lamb's Ear that I have in a side garden. It doesn't like cold either and I suspect it'll all turn brown later today.

Cold, cold go away. Come back some other day--or better yet, stay in Buffalo!

forest and bottom round

Above is a picture I took on Saturday morning of a pond in Duke Forest. I went hiking there for an hour or so. It was a cool day but the sun was so intense that it felt a good 10 degrees warmer than it was. The thermometer was reading 52--but that was hard to believe.

Below you see a picture of my dinner just before I put it in a marinade Friday evening. I didn't end up putting it into the slow cooker until 8am on Saturday. I had it in there until 5:30pm whereupon it was quite tender and delicious when accompinied by some horseradish, well cooked carrots, celery, and onion. Mashed potatoes and applesauce were also present. Yum.

weekend gameplan

The weather, for the second week in a row, is going to be very cold just for the two day weekend. Back to warm weather afterwards. As a result I'm thinking of working over the stove and oven during those cold days and nights.

Bottom round is on sale this week at Food Lion for $1.99/lb so I'm going to buy a roast. I don't usually work with beef since I like chicken and pork a lot more but what the Hell. Bottom round is a fairly hardy muscle since it's one of the major movement muscles in the cow's butt so it's going to be on the tough side. I'll either braise it or more likely use my slow cooker to make sure all the connective tissue gets nice and tender. If I go with the slow cooker, it'll probably take around 10 hours to cook.

The gameplan on the meat is to buy it after work today. Toss it in a marinade (probably just lemon juice and a dash of wine vinegar for acidity, and some teriyaki sauce for flavor) Friday morning and then around 1am I'll sear …

wind turbines

Home wind turbines turn fashionable in Britain

A mere breath of a breeze disturbs the quiet of autumn in south London and the wind turbine on the gable of Donnachadh McCarthy's home turns lazily.The morning sun casts shadows from solar panels onto the walls of the house and filters through the windows into his living room."I'm in surplus. I am now providing money to the grid," he said with a grin, gesturing at a red light winking on the wall that marks the progress of his domestic power station."I have exported 20 percent more electricity than I've imported this year ... the average carbon footprint is 8.5 (metric) tons in the EU, whereas mine is less than half a ton."McCarthy has long tried to stay at the forefront of British green power generation.

When I first bought my house 3 years ago I looked into buying a wind turbine but it was way too expensive at that time. Over $10,000 for something big enough to do any good and with an additional cost for a p…

Michael Pollan

Right now I'm very slowly reading a book by Michael Pollan, The Omnivore's Dilemma. I became aware of this book due to an excerpt from it that was published in Smithsonian a few months ago which aroused my interest.

The reason I mention this is that Michael Pollan is going to give a lecture here at UNC on Wednesday October 11th. Since several of the people that read my blog are here in NC I thought I'd mention the lecture in case anyone else wants to go hear Pollan talk. He's also going to be at a dinner gig Tuesday night but that's $100 a plate and my blood runs cold when I hear prices like that! Have I ever mentioned that I'm cheap?

In any case, his lecture at UNC on Wednesday night (7pm) is free though there's only limited seating since it's being held in a planetarium and those things tend to be smaller than the typical lecture hall. I expect to go but since I hate crowds I also suspect I'll back out at the last minute. Just me being me.

So far the…

knives: newest toy

I have a problem. I freely admit this. 18 years ago I bought my first house. Fortuitively there was a department store going out of business at the same time so I was able to buy most of the stuff I needed for the house at 65% - 80% off. This included an inexpensive set of silverware. Soon after my parents bought me a nice set of Cutco Knives as a housewarming gift.

That's how things stood for 17 years. Those knives and a pretty but inexpensive set of silverware. Then came Amazon's Friday Sale. And my fascination with shiny metal objects found its nest.

Last year I bought another set of knives, Sabatier this time-- but ones made in China, not the high quality French ones. And soon after I replaced my old silverware set with even prettier ones--and fairly nice ones this time. And now, a year later, I bought even more knives. Cuisinart this time-- a little nicer and also prettier than the Sabatier. That's them over to the left. Below, you can see the knives arrayed on my cutt…


This weekend I'm on holiday. An allergen-free holiday, to be exact. The past 3 weekends I've been exposed to this horrific allergen that has totally stuffed up my head immediately on exposure. It's been like being hit in the face with a frying pan. Cast iron! It's really freaky how fast my sinuses closed up and my head felt like a balloon. And talk about pain!

The thing is, while that immediate response takes about a day to go away--my sinuses don't open up all the way for a while. So for the next 3 days, I'm fine as long as I'm vertical but as soon as I lay down the sinuses fill up again and along comes nasty sinus headaches--so only a short sleep period before I'm woken. It's not until Thursday that I start feeling good and then I get exposed a few days later.

The allergen is hiding in the hair of a certain person I know so avoiding it this weekend is forcing me to make a huge sacrifice. Maybe I could just ask her to shave her head...

Onto Television…

500th Post

This is my 500th post on this blog. It took me about 18 months to get this far. To commemorate the occasion I'll finally post one of those "100 things about me" lists. In a week or two I'll post these on a seperate page and post a link to it in my sidebar.

1. I was born in upstate NY
2. I wanted to work in bio-research ever since I took biology in HS
3. I didn't learn to ride a bike until I was 8
4. I've never broken a bone in my bod, but it's not for lack of trying!
5. there's been dozens of sprained ankles tho
6. my brother once cut my throat open but missed anything vital
7. that's my largest scar but I have dozens of small ones from cycling mishaps
8. my favorite sport is kayaking now
9. my favorite colors are gray and blue
10. in line with that, my favorite artwork is usually blue monochromes in oil
11. next up would be charcoal landscapes and still lifes
12. I have IBS and it's very annoying
13. I only have one sibling and he's a year and a half …

second chances

It's 1am here and I've watched a few of the tv shows that I've recorded. I was quite surprised that I liked the second episode of Heroes (NBC) a lot more than the first episode. The pacing was faster though I did feel that nearly a third of the show was a rehash of what had happened in the first show. I guess they didn't want to chance losing any audience members that hadn't see the first show. Frankly, having the first show summed up that way made it much better. It was way too slow and drawn out before--this should have been the first episode and use that debut show later in the season once you've already hooked the audience.

I'm still mulling over Elizabethtown. Tara, a youthful and lovely Canadian blogger, mentioned a few plot issues with Elizabethtown. Well, I tend to notice those things--here and there--and Elizabethtown was full of whoppers. Crowe is more about feelings and lovely but 2-dimensional portraits of women, he's not about attention to p…

of round churches and railroad tracks

There's just something about a round church that makes you want to come back--or to never leave. Maybe it's just because it's so damn hard to find the exit when the place is round. Or at least has 16 sides. Who knows?

After watching The Amazing Race tonight I decided to watch a movie I had on DVD. It's due back at the library today so it was now or never (well, I can take it out again but it's often checked out so I'd have to wait a while--I was trying to be dramatic here so stop interrupting with clarifications) for watching Elizabethtown.

I can't quite say that I liked Elizabethtown but it was very interesting. Quite a cast and a lot of talent behind the camera as well. It's almost 3am now so I'll write a review of it later on today when I get into my PCR runs. There's a lot of open time once I get the machine humming along.

11am Review

Elizabethtown is an odd movie that rambles about a bit. To me it seems to be addressing life changing moments. W…

60 Minutes and the blues

This is my #496 post. Almost to 500 but not anything very interesting going on right now. I picked up a large pork loin on Friday (4.68 pounds!) and roasted that on Saturday. Didn't do any hiking or mowing--the things I was supposed to do this weekend. Even though the weather was just perfect, I had no interest in getting anything done. Do you ever feel like that?

I got some great pictures of the moon tonight. The humidity had dropped enough so that the pictures came out quite crisp. That was about all I did in terms of pictures. Not at all like 2 weeks ago when I took nearly 400 pictures at the zoo.

I'm going off to watch The Amazing Race in a second. I watched 60 Minutes and part of Men in Trees already. The 60 Minutes segment on depression was fairly interesting though a surgical solution like that sounds awful expensive. I think the projections of several billion in revenue for Medtronic as a result of this surgery might be pie-in-the-sky. Whoever made that forecast defini…