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Showing posts from April, 2009

Current Events

According to CNN, Supreme Court Justice David Souter, 69, is retiring after the current court term recesses in June. Justice Souter has served more than 18 years on the Supreme Court.

This will be the first empty seat on the court in 3 years and filling Souter's seat will be President Barack Obama's first Supreme Court appointment. With the Senate and House in Democratic hands, this should be a relatively easy event. One hopes, at least. GOP president's have appointed most of the court, including Souter, so it'll be nice to shift things a bit to the left again.

Despite being appointed to the court by President George H.W. Bush, Justice Souter was a moderate voice on the bench. Conservatives weren't pleased, and speaking of Conservatives...


A second story on CNN involves conservative church goers in the USA. According to the story: "The more often Americans go to church, the more likely they are to support the torture of suspected terrorists, according to a new s…

Money and Bugs

I was glancing over the last issue of Forbes (dated April 27, 2009) before tossing it and thought I'd mention a small article on page 32 titled "Wall Street's Highest Earners."

Lots of empty headed commentators, many of which seem to work for CNN, have been talking about how everyone on Wall Street is losing money. Well, that would be news to the 10 men listed in the Forbes article. #10, David Harding, no doubt was embarrassed by only making $290,000,000 last year but the rest of us would have been pleased as punch by that much moola. And yes, that is 290 MILLION. Number one on the list made almost 10 times more.

James Simons "earned" $2.8 billion (yes, with a B) running the Renaissance Technologies hedge fund. Part of that was from fees (for example, his Medallion Fund charges 44% of profits + 5% of assets) and part was from his equity stake in the fund. That's a pretty decent paycheck in a year that most people lost money. No real surprise that his bigg…

Heroes

Between last night and tonight I watched the last 8 episodes of "Volume 4" of Heroes, aka the second half of Season 3.

While I liked the second half of the season more than the first half (volume 3--what was supposed to have been the second half of Season 2 before the Writer's Strike changed things), I thought the ending sucked on a number of fronts.

The prelude to Volume 5 was interesting but I suspect that it'll be as flawed as the last season was. The themes of Sylar possibly emerging from Nathan (don't ask) and Tracy surviving her deep freeze just aren't much to hang an entire season on. Truth be told, Heroes has never fully delivered on the promise that the first season offered. Even now, the tagline Save the Cheerleader, Save the World still works. Oh well, at least this past season was a lot better than Season 2.


Semi-Spoilers follow:



While the episodes going back to 1961 and the internment camp provide background, as far as I could figure, Noah Bennet&#…

Watch Consumption

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Forbes Magazine publishes a supplement a few times a year called Forbes Life. It can be an interesting read in as far as it is an observation of a lifestyle very few of us will ever experience. We're talking about some seriously conspicuous consumption here.

These are people who plop down thousands for a pair of shoes, hundreds for a couple of pairs of socks to go with the shoes and 20 grand to pop over to the little village in Italy to watch the cobbler put the shoes together in his quaint little shop. Nice, huh?

One of the articles in this issue (April 2009) is about how simple things are back in fashion due to the hard economic times we're enduring. The article suggests taking off those fancy blocky watches and replace them with a more simple enduring look. But while they might be simple, they're not cheap.

Of the 11 watches profiled in the article the cheapest was the watch over there on the left, a Jaeger-Lecoultre Master Ultra Thin with lists at $6,850. Most of the othe…

Back Exercise

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I think I've mentioned once or twice that the back strain I get from time to time is often eased by the motions of kayaking. As a result I decided recently to make a purchase at Amazon.

It's a rowing machine. All the way from Germany. Nice box, huh?

As you can see, it's a Kettler Kadett rower of the Outrigger style. The retail is a little north of $800 and it's usually priced at $619 on Amazon. However a few weeks back it was on sale for $550, so I snapped it up. I hope it helps my back! It sure did thin my wallet out a mite.

The machine is very well rated and I wanted a rower that was both sturdy and functional. I'm not getting it so much for the workout aspect as the rhythm and motion. That's what I hope will help my lower back.

In the picture below you can see most of the parts that were in the box. It was a little intimidating to see at first.


But it all came together without a whole lot of trouble. Not too surprisingly, the instructions leaned heavily toward …

Quiet Saturday

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It was a very quiet Saturday. While we got up early, we didn't seem to get much done before going out to a Mexican restaurant for lunch at 11am. The heat was our excuse---mid to upper 80s all weekend long---but I think basic laziness was the root of the problem.

Here I am later in the day, when it was cooler outside than inside, and Julie and I were out on the deck enjoying the breeze. An awning over our heads to keep that nasty sun off was essential.


Here I am socializing a bit with a local. He didn't talk much and after a while kinda bugged me.


And after taking a number of useless photos, I finally settled in with a book. Damn allergies made my eyes watery though and it was hard to read. *ahhhh-cho*

Honey Butter

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I love sweet things. Particularly things I can pop into my mouth. Honeybutter on bread was a childhood favorite of mine but due to its relative high cost, I didn't get to have it very often. The cavities thing was probably an issue also.

Now that I'm the master of my own fate, I can have honeybutter as much as I want. Cavities be damned! And to limit the expense, I make the honeybutter myself. It's pretty damn easy to make.

You just start with a few sticks of butter. Gotta be butter, I might add. I like margarine more but the damn stuff just won't hold up to the beating. So stick with butter, folks.

Add an equal weight of honey, as seen below, then add an equal weight of confectioners sugar and beat the 3 ingredients together. Add some cinnamon if you feel like it. Ta-dah! Spread it on bread and have yourself a very merry time.


Honey on butter. Yum!


Add sugar and it's even more yummy.


Beat it until it's velvety smooth.


And now you eat it! (sparkles optional)

24 Cookies

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Last night I caught up with Jack Bauer via episodes of 24. I had 4 recorded already and then there was the one that aired last night for a total of 5 shows.

The oatmeal cookies you see on the left were what fueled the start of this television marathon. Julie made them on Sunday but since we had so much other food to eat on hand, we only ate a few cookies while they were still hot and then the cookies just got ignored. As a result, I had around 2 dozen just hanging around.

Not any more. 24 cookies were a perfect eating accompaniment to the 5 episodes of 24. There's a certain symmetry there.

That show is so amazing. At times it seems like there's constantly commercials. It's not that there's more commercials per hour, it's that the show flies by so fast that you're barely aware any time has gone by between commercial breaks. And when you watch multiple episodes at the same time it's like you're watching a really great action movie not just a television show.

Eat your Veggies

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Anyone that reads this blog very much probably knows that I don't like vegetables. Nasty things---they grow in dirt and are often green. *shudder*

But every once in a while I have been lured to the dark side. Witness the exhibit to the left. Veggies that had a quick heating by way of sauteing and then dumped on a plate (see below).

Nothing fancy here but tasty when combined with a nice fat succulent lamb part. Peeled baby carrots, peas and tiny red potatoes. And only one of the three is green so that helped some.

My secret to eating veggies? Put a lot of salt on them and hope for the best. :-)


And this is what we ended up with. Kinda pretty, huh?

Julie did all the cooking for this one. I made lunch so it was her turn to cook. I must admit my meal was a lot easier to prepare. I made grilled sandwiches on the paninni press. Ham along with several types of cheese, butter on the inside and olive oil on the outside.

Hike Today

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I got a lot of sleep last night. Slept from 10pm to 5am. Probably the most sleep I got at one time in at least 6 months. Wonderful.

To celebrate I went on a hike at 8am, when the park in Hillsborough opened up.

Julie went along to keep me safe. That's her standing below. For some reason she didn't want to climb up on the big rock. Girls are weird that way, y'know?

Risotto last night, hiking this morning, and the lawn is all mowed so I don't have to do that for a couple of days more. Life is good! Ahhhh-choo.

Now if I could just get rid of this teary eyed sneezy feeling that is dogging my heels... this is the worst Spring for me since I moved to NC ten years ago. Before that I lived in Atlanta which is Hell on Earth for Spring allergies. Compared to Georgia, North Carolina is heaven!

In a few hours it'll be bruschetta for a light lunch and then lamb shank for dinner. No mint jelly tho---the damn Wal-mart didn't have it. Or at least I couldn't find it.





Risotto Friday

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This Friday it was decided that we would try out a different recipe for Risotto. This one has a more Spring-like feel what with the fresh herbs and veggies...

You can see some of the ingredients over there on the left. What's missing is the rice, which was already in the pot, and the chicken broth which was heating in another pot.

You can see the chicken broth being added to the pot in the picture below. It's not exactly an exciting photo but I was amused to see some stray droplets caught in the flash trying their best to escape the heat.

My conclusion on the risotto? I loved the peas and leeks but Italian ham has never been something I liked. In the future I'll just leave the meat out. Unless it's sausage. I do love Italian sausage. Yum.

Chicken stock being added.

The final ingredients being added to the rice.

On the plate, about to be eaten.

Alaska Week

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Over on Discovery Network it's Alaska Week again. They're rolling out new shows and using the wilds of Alaska to promote them. Some are naturals, like Deadliest Catch and Out of the Wild since both of those shows take place entirely in Alaska.

Others, like Mythbusters and Dirty Jobs, just have one episode that takes place in Alaska.

This is the second season they've done Out of the Wild and the format has changed quite a bit. Now it's a single team of 9 people that are supposed to follow a map 56 miles over around 6 weeks time to their destination. They had a two-day survival class before starting the reality show but little else. Last season the people were broken into small teams, sent to specific locations where partial provisions were cached, and then needed to live off the land for the rest.

The show's not really all that interesting but the footage of the area is breath taking. They use the great camera equipment and the HD broadcast is just amazing. It's wo…

Easter at Half Off

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37 bags of candy, albeit some of them quite small, and one big (and very, very soft) sheep all for just under $30 at a half-off sale. Mmmmm. Nothing like cotton candy flavored lifesavers, y'know?

I do love holidays--or at least their aftermath.

Kill the Wabbit

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This isn't about a Wabbit of the Easter variety, nor a real rabbit either.

It's about Welsh Rarebit. Another creature entirely.

Supposedly the name was coined out of the attitude of superiority that the British felt towards the Welsh. Since the dish is essentially melted cheese on bread, and designed for folk that could not afford meat, at least not everyday, the Brits in their charming way declared that it was what the poor Welsh would claim to be rabbit. Thus Welsh Rarebit. So even if you could not afford animal flesh in your pot, you could feel superior to those wretched Welsh. Or something like that. I'm not a history major, y'know?!


In any case, there's a few ingredients in Rarebit other than the aforementioned bread and cheese, cheddar, by the way. For example, there's also beer of the extra stout type. Guinness, actually. And some dry mustard, flour, water and Worcestershire sauce.


Here's a suggestion: avoid English food! The dry toast alone was better t…

Pilots Beware

I watched 3 new shows this weekend. Two were police dramas and one was a comedy, at least supposedly.

The pilots were for The Unusuals on ABC and on NBC, Southland and Parks and Recreation. All 3 shows have good talent in front of the camera but the writing is iffy. Both cop shows are very similar to one another and their pilot episodes were quite bloated with emotionally laden topics including pedophilia, kidnapping, police corruption, dying of cancer, rich versus poor, killing kids, killing cats (so the show wasn't all bad!) and even number superstition. On both shows, every cop had quirky traits that were showcased right from the get go. It became tiring to watch the writers try to establish individual character so quickly in the large ensemble casts.

Neither show was actually bad, they were just trying too hard.

In contrast, Parks and Recreation, led by Amy Poehler of SNL fame, just sucked. It was a rip off of The Office from start to finish and a very transparent one at that. Ju…

Friday hike in Eno River Park

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I had today off of work so instead of doing something I should be doing, like mowing the lawn before it rains, I went off to Eno River Park and met up with some other folk to go hiking. I even saw a fellow I work with camping there with his son.

This first picture was taken in the latter part of the 5-6 mile hike. It's the Cox Mountain side of the Fews Ford area of Eno River. Spring is definitely started when the green gets this lush. Once the leaves all come in, this part of the trail never gets much sun.


Here's the folk in the group I hiked with chugging up Cox Mountain. It's not a very high mountain, in fact most would call it a hill, but it certainly is steep!


Aren't the turtles cute? Four of them on one small branch and in order of size. How sweet, huh?

I hope to get back to the park in a few weeks to see how much change the leaves coming out will make in my pictures. It's a very pretty park and this next month is the prettiest time of the year there. Late April a…

Candy Galore

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If you read this blog very often you're probably aware that I kinda like candy.

Which is to say I place approximately the same emphasis on candy as I do on oxygen and water. And Butterfingers are one of my favorite types of candy.

Which makes the box there on the right nearly a religious experience for me. 36 FULL SIZE candy bars. Not those shrimpy snack size that I usually get. These are the big boys.


We need a little history here.

First, that's what the lovely dears look like when they're exposed to the light. Wonderful, aren't they?

Anyway, around a week ago Julie came over during the week and we were going to cook dinner together. I was missing a couple of items so we went on a Wal-mart run. I happened to notice, while walking through the candy aisle, that the store was out of Butterfinger bars. No, I didn't make a scene or pass out. No, nothing like that. I was calm. Well, maybe I hyperventilated a little---after all, I only had a few packs left at home.

In any cas…

Cupid and his arrows

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Is that "arrows" or eros? According to Cupid, the new show on ABC, the main character's name varies from modern ones like Trevor Pierce and Ed Ross, to the classical Eros and Roman (romantic?) Cupid. Regardless what names he goes by, television critics don't seem to like him. The old song by Connie Francis comes to mind given how often the word "stupid" is implied in regard to the new ABC show.
Stupid cupid, you're a real mean guy
I'd like to clip your wings so you can't fly
I'm in love and it's a crying shame
And I know that you're the one to blame
There on the left is the star of the show, Cupid himself, Bobby Cannavale. Next to him is the very cute Marguerite Moreau playing the role of a lovelorn reporter, Madelyn, in the pilot episode, who falls for Irish singer Dave, played by Sean Maguire. I really liked all three of these actors but I thought the other series star, Sarah Paulson, fell flat. I didn't like her in Studio 60 on th…

Change can be Good

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You know those ubiquitous before-and-after pictures you see in advertising? Here's another extreme pair of before / after shots...

This first one was taken in December at my parent's house around Christmas time. Kinda dry, is it not?


This picture I took last Sunday when I was in SC for my Mom's birthday. Huge change, huh? And most of it happened in just a couple of weeks in February.

The Army Core of Engineers changed their policies on how much water they let out of the dam plus a few good days of rain did more than half of this. Amazing. They were down something like 22 feet and now they're only 7 feet under full pool. Fifteen feet of water is a whole lot of extra water to play in. Believe me, I hated carrying my kayak an extra quarter mile to get to the water back in November and December when I visited. Through mud, I'll have you know! 


There were a few other changes as well. If you look on the other side of the channel, you can see the people in the house across th…

Birthday in SC

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I went to South Carolina yesterday in the wee hours of the morning 'cause it was my mother's birthday.

This is one of the cards she got. No, I didn't send it. And I took a picture of it 'cause I really liked the way it looked.

I don't think it was even a "real" birthday card 'cause it just said "happy day" but I thought it was the best one anyway. Just something about that enigmatic cow smile, I guess. On the other hand, hoof?, there are a couple of gifts in the picture---one on the cow and another on the ground.

This birthday is a bit of a milestone 'cause it's Mom's 70th. That's getting up there. Given how many aches and pains I have, I don't see much chance of me making it. I doubt I'd be willing to endure that much discomfort (assuming the aches etc keep getting worse, that is).

With the exception of one grandchild that is in the military, all the immediate attended. Mom opened her presents just before dinner. Below,…

Sailboats

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I arrived at my parent's house in SC at 7:45am and an hour later I was on the lake in a kayak. I saw these sailboats gathering at one end of the lake and paddled over to see what was going on. I never did figure it out but it seemed to involved a few dozen sailboats going around a couple of powerboats. And a very loud annoying buzzer that would go off every few minutes. I was quite happy to go to quieter waters after taking a few pictures.

More Risotto

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Chicken Piccata and the risotto from last night. There was no way we were going to toss out the leftovers from last night's dinner--and Julie's suggestion that she could just bring it home with her was resoundly ignored. Instead it was some chicken on the side with Tarheel basketball as an accent as we finished off the wonderful leftovers from Friday. BTW, the Tarheels smoked Villanova despite an uninspired second half. On to the finals and Michigan...

Risotto

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We actually did what we planned and made risotto last night.

To be more honest, Julie did almost all of it. I was just enlisted for small chores that were peripheral to the main endeavor. I did open a bottle of Riesling though and that helped move things along. As you can see to the left, it looked very pretty.

I got home around 45 minutes before Julie arrived. I quickly straightened a few things out in the house, then changed my clothes and pulled the mower out of my shed. I'd not started it up yet and due to lots of rain the lawn was out of control. The half hour before Julie's arrival gave me just enough time to mow down the worst spots.

Since I'm going to SC soon for a day or so--my Mom's 70th birthday--I wanted to get the lawn under control before leaving. I'll cut it shorter when I get back. This was just a get-to-know-one-another mowing.

Back to the risotto: even better than the taste was the fragrance. It smelled wonderful. The mushrooms and sausage combined fo…