Showing posts from May, 2008

Indian Proverb

"Only mad dogs and Englishmen go out in the noonday sun"

I hate turning on my A/C before the start of June but I was very tempted today. Since it was going to rain in the evening I felt I had to do some mowing done this afternoon. The grass was pretty long since we've had a lot of rain in the past couple of weeks--and my lawn really appreciates the damn stuff.

As for me, after being outside in the heat for over an hour I really wanted something more than just a ceiling fan--but I settled for a cool shower. It hit 90 today and it is supposed to stay in the mid 80s to low 90s for the next 5-7 days. It looks like my electric bill for June is going to spike a bit. *sigh*

What do you think of that dog above? Lee and I saw her at Eno River last week. She's pretty old but still fetches sticks like a puppy. Her owner seemed quite proud of her energy level. Personally I thought she looked a little insane, but that makes her perfect for the Indian quote. I guess my mowing in th…

Food and Chemistry

I want to play with my food. Lately I've been reading about using industrial chemical techniques at home. Here's a link to an interesting article on just that topic.

The article is written by Louisa Chu, who is a chef and food writer. She's on PBS's Gourmet's Diary of a Foodie as well as Movable Feast.

The point of the chemical exercise is to encapsulate liquids. All that is required to do that is to add sodium alginate (from seaweed) to the liquid then drop small quantities of the mixture into a dilute solution of calcium chloride. The reaction of the two chemicals forms a skin with the liquid inside. The example on the page above, and the picture to the left, used ice tea but you can use pretty much any liquid.

Avant garde restaurants use this technique to add liquids to a plate in "dry" form so they can have intense flavors without the problems that liquids like sauces can present.

There's something very amusing about the idea of rolling balls of ice …

The Andromeda Strain

The tagline for The Andromeda Strain is It's a bad day to be human but it should read It's a bad day to be a viewer.

I'm talking about that 2-part miniseries on A&E this week based on the 1969 book by Michael Crichton. It's gotten some pretty decent reviews but I thought it was only barely watchable. It started off horribly. In the first minute or so of the movie we had two teens necking in the back of a truck, then an apparent meteorite streaked within a few yards of them, striking the ground within walking distance of their truck. They leaned over the hole in the desert where it struck--digging a hole only a foot or so deep, by the way--and soon lifted it onto the bed of their truck and brought it back to town.

See any technical problems there? After getting off to a rocky start the middle of the 4 hour movie is pretty good, if you can excuse some of the worst animatronic animals I've ever witnessed, but the movie quality lapses again near the end.

There were so…

Too cute to last

The adorable Larissa Kelly of El Cerrito, CA lost today on Jeopardy. She managed to hold on for 6 days and win $222,597. Not too shabby.

Larissa tended to be a cowboy when it came to Daily Doubles and while in the past it catapaulted her scores above her fellow players, in this game the strategy just didn't work. Both times she got Daily Doubles Larissa bet big ($4k in the Jeopardy round and $8k in the Double Jeopardy round) and lost both times. The first time was really sad. The question was so obvious:

It's a member of the lowest rank of the French Legion of Honor: Just ask Maurice

How could you get that wrong??? Of course my love for the movie Gigi might be why I thought it was so easy. Well, no more recording Jeopardy. :-(

Nasty Departure

Lee left a few hours ago for home. My place seems far too empty now. :-(

Here's a picture from our Saturday trip to Duke University. That's the Duke Chapel in the background. The campus has a Gothic theme and while it can be heavy handed at times, the theme does look nice on the chapel. Somehow churches and Gothic just seem to go together.

Lee's leaving is the reason for "departure" in my post title, the "nasty" refers to a movie we watched on Sunday. We'd just finished brunch (french toast style biscuits, maple sausage + grilled onions and egg scramble, and juice in case you're curious) and sat down to watch a movie. Neither of us had seen the third movie in the Pirates of the Caribbean franchise so we decided to give it a look.

It was sooooo boring. We kept stopping it and looking at one another in amazement. How could a 250 million dollar Summer action blockbuster be so damn slow and boring? We never finished. I think we made it to around the…


Here's three pictures I took at Sarah Duke Garden yesterday. The first is a picture of a family of ducks that were sheltering behind a cluster of iris plants. Very sweet and rated G.

But for some reason, when I look at pictures of iris blooms close up--I get a very different impression. Maybe it's just me, but they look quite naughty.

Now, while not as extreme as those Georgia Okeefe paintings could be, they definitely give me an impression of... something else entirely.

If you ever saw that Pink Floyd movie "The Wall", thematically based on the album of the same name, you know what I mean. *whew* That was a movie with some extreme imagery.

Adding to the theme of the iris petals was all the matrimony in the air.

There were at least 3 weddings going on while we were at Duke--maybe more. The Chapel had one happening while we there, and it looked like the security guard was piling up folk from another wedding scheduled later, and there were several groups down in the garden…

Saturday in RTP

Lee and I stayed busy today. While we got off to a late start--don't ask--once we got in motion we managed to take a hike in Eno River Park, wandered the lovely Sarah Duke Garden at Duke University, and had a tasty and somewhat fattening repast at Bullocks, a Durham institution.

These turtles were near a waterfall at Eno River. They don't seem to see eye-to-eye. It was funny to see them perched on that log like that, butt to butt (do turtles really have butts?).

That one on the left is balanced on its belly with all 4 feet just moving away. I think it was dreaming about swimming. What a silly turtle.

Just a few hundred feet down the trail from the turtles was that fellow below. He didn't seem to mind resting on my finger at all. It was kinda weird 'cause usually snakes don't like being held at first, but then settle down. This guy took to it right from the get go and really didn't seem to want to leave when I put him down. He was kinda cute too. Lee almost adopted…

Weekend plans

Lee is prying herself away from her clowder of cats and is coming to visit me this weekend. She's supposed to arrive around noon--an hour from now--and I hope to scoot out of work around 2pm. By the time I get home she'll have had a chance to take a nap and recover from that nasty drive.

I've got a couple of ribeyes for dinner tonight and during the course of the weekend we hope to visit the botanical gardens at Duke University, maybe the one at UNC, and hit a few restauants so she doesnt get tired of my cooking. Maybe we'll go to the State Zoo if her foot is up to the challenge. Lee had foot surgery a few months ago and is still getting her strength back. Hmmm. Grill some burgers on the back deck and maybe we'll see that new Indiana Jones movie too.

Any suggestions of things to do? Nothing ribald, mind you.


I recorded Jeopardy today for the first time in quite a while.

I just happened to watch yesterday when a first time winner easily dominated the game, defeating Mary Kay Schmidt of Wisconsin Rapids and Ameet Shukla.

Now I'd like to say that I recorded today's episode due to an admiration of intellectual prowess but the truth is that the winner, Larissa Kelly of El Cerrito, Calif, is just so damn cute. And smart. She smoked them in today's show also. Both days she had over double the dollar total of the other two contestants making final jeopardy a moot point.

You can take a look at game one at this site. Game two is there also. I've already set up my DVR to record on Thursday and Friday. Who knows? She might turn into another Ken Jennings and equal (or surpass) his record of 74 wins. It could happen. LOL


Usually a person stops growing in their late teens but for some odd reason that doesn't seem to be the case for me.

Yesterday when I was at the doctor's office they measured me at 72.5 inches in height. Now it's true that I've been growing outward for a number of years but I have never been measured over 6 feet before. I mentioned that and the nurse remeasured and got the same result.

Huh. Somehow in the ten years since my last doctor's visit I'd gained half an inch in height.

What does this have to do with tires floating in the water? Good question. I can't think of a connection. I guess I just liked the picture. The tires are there to dampen out waves so that the sailboats don't get banged up. The sailboats are out of sight behind where I was floating so all you can see are the tires and an island. Sorry!

The downside of the measurements is the weight gain. In the past 10 years I've gained 35 pounds! I'm now at 217.

And according to the doctor I…

Hiking on Saturday

I went on a hike yesterday afternoon.

I was accompanied by Julie and her daughter. That's them over on the left while crossing a hanging bridge. I'll tell you, that type of bridge sure does bounce a lot!

It was a nice hike though a bit short since 10 year olds don't like to go as far as adults do. They drink a lot of water too.

I managed to salvage several souvenirs from the trip. Two of them I found last night, and the third tick wasn't discovered until I got back from making a brief run into the lab this morning.

The two last night were pretty big and easy to see--adult ticks--but that one today was a very little stinker, nymph stage I guess, and I didn't find that one until it was nice and full of my blood. Damn arachnids! Now my legs are so itchy that it's quite annoying.

The picture below is a friend we found on the way back. While we didn't stay and visit long it was nice to meet her. She didn't seem to share my sentiments tho and just scurried off in…

Birthday Present

A few days ago I blogged about how I don't like receiving presents. And used Lee's rather prettily wrapped present as a prime example.

Well, I have to admit she did come through. I had expected that she was giving me an 11x14 framed photograph from her recent journey to Egypt--instead what she gave me was a painting.

And she managed to fulfill the criteria that I like in presents. It didn't cost her anything, she knew that I'd like it, and it was easily available. The reason she knew that I'd like it was that I gave it to her for her birthday something like 12 or 13 years ago. And I suspect it's more of a loan than a gift since she likes it as much as I do.

I know that the picture below doesn't convey the emotional impact that the real painting does, but at least you can see what it looks like. Click on it to see it a little bigger to get some detail. It's rather bleak and has this aura of starkness that just grabs at my very bones. Weird. I bought it at …

20 Years for Drew

Here's a news story off of CNN. I originally learned about Megan Meier's death via CBS' 60 Minutes. Their segment was poignant and after watching it I was struck by how much Lori Drew deserved criminal prosecution--and how unlikely it was that she'd ever be penalized for her evil behavior.

I'm happy to be proved wrong in that assumption. Even if she never serves time--and she could face as much as 20 years of prison--at least this case being prosecuted. Most of the cyber crime being investigated is financial, porn or sexual predators. It's good to know that being hounded to your death is also considered to be a crime.

A Missouri mom was indicted Thursday for her alleged role in the death of a teen who killed herself over a failed Internet romance that turned out to be a hoax.

Megan Meier, 13, hanged herself in her bedroom after being targeted in a MySpace hoax.

A federal indictment accuses Lori Drew, 49, of O'Fallon, Missouri, of using the social networking Web…

Climate Change

Lots of people are concerned about global warming. From what I can tell, it's like they think that humans are to blame and that the planet wouldn't change if we would just go back to living in caves or something like that.

Here's where I work, courtesy of Google Maps. Just in case you were curious.

Back to the main program:
But that's not how it works. The climate is always changing. Before humans evolved, the climate changed, after we're gone it'll still be changing. Admittedly we humans are making things a lot more interesting with all the CO2 and methane we're cranking out. But in the long run no species lasts forever. Humans (as in Homo sapian) have only been around for 200,000 years and the future for us looks dim. If you're really worried about the planet, take comfort in that thought. Soon humans will have passed by the wayside and the Earth will go on it's merry way undisturbed--and the climate will still be changing.

Now if you prefer to worry …


I've received two presents this week.

Isn't that a pretty present? Such lovely wrapping paper. Lee gave me this when I saw her at my parent's house this past weekend.

I'm a strong believer in that statement it's the thought that counts.

People who know me realize I frequently say I don't like to receive presents. And by this I mean: I don't like to receive presents. This isn't code, y'know?

Y'see, the usual interpretation of that maxim above is that if a person buys you something it means that they're thinking of you, and regardless of what the gift is--it's a symbol of their thinking of you and that's what makes it special.

I don't think that way. My thoughts on this more follow the course of: if the gift-giver knows me well then they should pick a gift I like, if they can't do that then they don't really know me and I should no longer have anything to do with them.

I'm not claiming this is a well thought out thesis. It&#…

Jung typing

Me. INTJ? Who would have believed it? (pretty much everyone I know)

You want to know yours? Here's the place to go for a simple free version of the test.


Is this good enough reason to get up a little before dawn and go paddling a little ways?

There must be some kind of fishing tournament going on. There were fishing boats all over the place. I took this picture early Saturday morning just as the sun was about to move above the tree line. Right now it's 4am on Sunday and it's pouring rain plus thunder. Not looking good for being out on the lake. :-(

Happy Mother's Day to all you moms out there.

Beware of Shoals

You have to be wary of signs.

Sometimes they warn you of very real dangers, other times they're just there to cover someones butt--legally speaking.

And then there's the times when a sign is just out of date. That's the case here.

That cylinder under the crow--it's hard to tell but there's a nest under the crow as well--warns boaters of there being a shoal here.

No Friggin' Kidding???

It's like 18 feet above the water--the shoal itself is around 500 feet long. How could you miss it???

Here's a picture of it from further back. The spit of land really is quite long and wide.

The sign usually has a more important role. It just looks funny now.

The water here in the Carolinas is quite low due to several years of drought. The lake level is down something like 16 feet as a result. Normally there's just a little bit of land above the water, right at the very base of that buoy.

At this point though, it's not a shoal, nor even an island. This spit of land is dry…

Clay awash

I took this picture early this morning while kayaking.

I like the layered effect that appears due to the close nature of the clay in the foreground and the islands and bridge in the background.

The day started all stormy looking but by 9am was bright and sunny. I had to return to base 'cause I had no sun block on -- it didn't seem necessary. In fact I had a wind shirt clipped on the back of my boat so I could don it once the rain started coming down.

Turned out that I never needed the shirt. My timing in returning was good tho--my dad wanted to move the dock somewhat and I got back just in time to help with that chore. After that? I relaxed on the porch with Road Kill, a 1999 Tim Dorsey novel and watched the birds flirt with one another in the trees.

Bad Hair Day

I took my kayak out for a 2 hour spin when I got to SC this morning. It was good to get the kinks out of my back from the 4 hour drive.

While paddling, I saw this fellow. For some reason there were a lot of herons out today. Typically I'll see no more than 4 in a day. Today I saw over 15. It was weird. They were everywhere.

This one stood out due to his interesting plumage. He's got long feathers, almost quill-like, emerging out from the back of his head, the base of his neck, and on either side of his back near the wings. Kinda freaky looking.

Of the herons I took pictures of (5 of them) this is the only one that had plumage like this. Herons are kinda shy and fly away when approached closely. So I don't know if the other birds looked like this. I took this picture at 12X so details appear in my pictures that weren't visible to my eye. Maybe tomorrow I'll see him again.

Smells nice but...

4-hydroxy-3-methoxybenzaldehyde is typically created by refining petroleum though originally it was distilled from coniferin (the crystals you occasionally see on pine trees) in Germany around 1875. That awful sounding chemical compound is vanillin, the major ingredient in vanilla.

While some vanilla is still harvested from Vanilla beans, mostly in Madagascar which supplies 60% of the worlds crop of Vanilla, it's such a labor intensive and lengthy process most vanilla is chemically synthesized. The complication is that there's 216 different chemicals in vanilla.

Why am I telling you all this? It so happens that this is the focus in a chapter of a book that I'm currently reading. Twinkie, Deconstructed by Steve Ettlinger. The book details just exactly what goes into making a Hostess Twinkie and where those ingredients come from and how they're made. It's a very interesting book--particularly if you're curious about how much chemistry is being used in the food busi…

Primary Day

There's a reason to celebrate today here in North Carolina. It's Primary Day!

I didn't get up early enough to vote this morning but I'm happy anyway. Why, you ask. Well, it's actually simple. This marks, if not the end, at least a dramatic lessening of political commercials on TV. They get very annoying after a while!

In other political thoughts, this past Sunday, on CBS's 60 Minutes, there was a segment on people who were falsely convicted in Texas. The focus was on Dallas District Attorney Henry Wade who was a top prosecutor for more than 30 years.

It was the late Henry Wade, a Texas legend, who ran the district attorney's office from 1951 to 1987. He was famous for prosecuting Jack Ruby in the murder of Lee Harvey Oswald as well as being the defendant in "Roe v. Wade."

In the program it was made quite clear that as a DA, Wade often went the extra mile in getting his convictions. That extra mile apparently included fabricating evidence, not complyin…


Just when you think you've seen everything---actually I don't think that but it's what everyone says at times like this---something new just appears in front of you.

In this case it's a pregnant bird. Yeah, I know. Eggs and all that. But look at the belly on this chippie. If it's not preggers, what in bloody 'ell is going on?

By the way, that's not rhetorical. I really do want to know what's going on. I feel quite confused this weekend and some clarity--even if coming from left field--would be nice. So feel free to contribute whatever witticisms you can. And is it true that you don't need a good arm if you're in left field?

Speaking of left field, Barry Bonds has been rather quiet of late. You'd think someone would pick him up even if just to use as a DH. I can't really believe he's being austracized (and what does steroids have to do with Austria anyway? Oh! Arnold. Duh--I should have known that one).

Midnight Rendezvous

I had a meeting in the wee hours of the night, arranged, delayed, and rearranged at the last minute. Midnight at a Waffle House.

While it does sound vaguely sordid it was actually on the up and up. My middle nephew graduated from some Coast Guard thingy yesterday and his family was driving back to Georgia to spend a week together before he moves on to his next post. Since their drive would be close to me at one point, I arranged to meet them for a few minutes. They were delayed quite a bit in DC traffic--we had originally planned on having dinner together at 8pm.

Since they still had 6 hours to drive, the rendezvous was far too short.

It was funny seeing my nephew with such short hair. It was only a short time ago that he was considering being a model--and actually won an award for some photos he modeled for in LA--and he was quite fussy about his hair. That's him over there on the left. Before his head was shaved.

After they left to continue their journey, I went in to the Waffle Hou…


I'm being a weenie today. My lower back was bothering me quite a bit at work yesterday and since it's not improved overnight I just Emailed in sick. I do have to do some computer work this morning on some graphic files but my chair here at home is one Hell of a lot better for my back than the one at work.

I finished reading a book late last night by Douglas Preston titled Blasphemy and enjoyed it quite a bit. I don't think I'd have ended it quite the way that he did---I prefer endings where the guy does get the girl---but I liked this novel better than his last book Tyrannosaur Canyon, and that one made it to the NY Times Bestseller list.

Blasphemy is a January 2008 release and it has Wyman Ford, a minor character in Tyrannosaur Canyon, as the protagonist. He's employed by the science adviser to the President, on a hush-hush basis, to investigate why a big money research project is behind schedule. He soon finds out that the real reason he's hired is that the sec…