Showing posts from May, 2009

New Toy

I bought a new toy on Amazon a few weeks ago.

This is what it looks like. Pretty, eh?

I have a lot of shrubs around my house and a bunch of small trees that need trimming. Up to now I've just trimmed them every so often and left the trimmed branches in a pile around my shed. Not very pretty and a rodent attractant so I finally decided to spend the money to remedy the situation.

One of the reasons that I'd delayed is that I thought that the inexpensive electric shredders could only do leaves. They mostly use nylon fish line to do their work and that wouldn't do anything to branches. But I recently discovered that there's an inexpensive ($160 - 300) alternative to gas powered chipper / shredders ($600 and up)---and so I ordered one pronto!

At $207 delivered, this beauty is well worth the money---assuming it works. The reviews on Amazon are fairly positive so I'm hoping for the best.

This is what the sweet little thing looked like all splayed out on my living room floor th…

Rabbits and flowers

For my first demonstration, now you see the pretty flower...

...and now you don't. I'm a magic bunny. And I don't need no flamin' top hat either!

Now watch me do it sideways, folks. It's all in the paws. Quicker than the eye, y'know? Don't try this at home.

Blisters at Occoneechee

Let's start this post off on the right foot, well, actually the left foot as it turns out...

It might not be pretty, but that is my left foot up there. What's left of it, anyway.

I received some blisters during a hike on Wednesday evening at Occoneechee Park. My own fault, of course. I broke several of the cardinal rules of hiking that day. I wore shoes that I'd never had on before, they were also not for walking trails, and they didn't fit very well. Given all that, it's not surprising that I got blisters.

This is taken from the observation post on top of a cliff overlooking the quarry at Occoneechee. Pretty view. Much nicer looking than my disfigured foot.

Several of the other members of my hiking group are seen here descending a steep hill with the sun shining behind them. Being back lit like that can be very dramatic!

Here we are descending yet another hill. This place is full of them. They might not be very high but there's just so many short climbs...

And this …

Froggie Door Decoration

This little guy was visiting with me over the weekend. I labeled the picture since it's not easy to see him until you're close up. These pictures were taken on Saturday while BBQing up some burgers.

While you'd not guess it from his size, that little guy really could make himself heard. It was a very horny frog. It would even belt out an occasional crooning note or two while we were standing right there. I'm sure in its tiny little froggie brain it was thinking "big critters nearby---must be quiet" but then it couldn't help itself.

Of course once we went back in the house he would really let loose. The decibel impact was amazing. That frog could really belt out those notes. I'm not saying he sounded good, mind you, but he sure did have volume.

Above is a close up of the fellow while he was squeezed into the trim alongside my door. He must have climbed up the Masonite siding of the house and then used the door trim like he would have a tree branch. How im…


Two weeks ago I talked about some staining I was doing but never showed a picture from the final rinse. Here's one of the slides that I didn't use in my presentation.

That post also talked about an injury to my hand and that's still bothering me a little. Fortunately it's almost healed. I hate it when boo-boos last several weeks. Usually I heal faster. On the other hand, I seem to have found a new problem. I might be having issues with mitral valve prolapse. It sure does make taking my morning pulse a lot more interesting.


That nap yesterday was very nice. However it gave me a bit too much energy at the wrong time. I stayed up until 7am! And Julie was awake most of that time also. In fact, at 3am we made cookies.

This is Julie chopping up some bittersweet chocolate. It had a strong "chocolaty" smell but all in all I prefer milk chocolate. She did assure me that milk chocolate was not ideal for baking but I still wanted to give it a shot. She said "no."

That's the wet ingredients in the bowl above and below you can see the oatmeal and chocolate added into the mixture. It's starting to look pretty good, y'know?

And below are the finished cookies. They weren't quite as good as we were hoping but still tasted fine. The liquor that we were sipping was surprisingly tasty too. A very low alcohol content combined with a high sugar content added up just fine to me. No need for butterscotch cookies when you have a little of this liquid around.

And this is Julie scolding me for tryi…

Risotto Friday

Today was a killer. My boss was making a lot of demands on my time. Since I'd not gotten to sleep until nearly 5am I really wasn't on top of my game. In fact I was friggin' useless.

First thing this morning I took some notes on a cartoon-style illustration that my boss wanted of a chemical pathway. She kinda described what she needed and my poor frazzled brain did the interpreting. I don't have a lot of hope for the results but I won't start on that until Sunday. Anyway, that's for a grant she'll be turning in at the end of next week. Then I took pictures of several groups of slides that I'd worked on during the week. I was using a great new microscope that the imaging lab bought this month but it still takes a lot of time to get good photos. By the time I finished them it was nearly 1pm and my brain was crashing.

Somehow I made it to 4:30pm by doing a lot of errands that required walking to different buildings on campus. If I hadn't done so much wa…

Meet the Parents

Like I mentioned yesterday, tonight was "meet the parents" night for me. It's been a while since I've had to do this. My last few relationships have been remarkably relative free. But no longer---Julie's parents have a house just a few miles from hers, her sister lives right around the corner from them and one of Julie's brothers is just a half hour away in Wake Forest. Eeeek.

That's the start of a bean dip that Julie put together after work for the family gathering. Three of the attendees had recent birthdays and one of the brothers, the one living in CA, was married 3 months ago. Lots of reason for some celebrating, eh?

This is a cat. I don't approve of the species but do admit they often are photogenic. We promptly grilled him up after this picture was taken. Only evil animals were harmed in the making of this post. We promise!

The name was Tifa, aka Cream. RIP. (btw, I didn't detect even a hint of cream taste---just goes to show, don't be…

DVDs, Pepsi and mayhem

I picked up 3 DVDs at the library at work today. I had a step that took 45 unattended minutes to complete so I used that time to walk over to the library and back. These are the movies I ended up with:

In the Electric Mist
You Don't Mess Around with the Zohan
Bangkok Dangerous
Two of the movies are based on books that I've read so it'll be interesting to see how good a job they do. The third movie isn't intended for people that can read so it'd be useless to base it on a book, eh?

After work I went walking around an old NASCAR track that dated back to the 1940s. There were 8 of us on the walk. It was interesting to see pictures of the old dirt tracks they used back then. Quite narrow compared to the racetracks now--I doubt more than 2 cars could have been side by side before paint would be rubbed off amidst the sound of screeching metal.

An update to the glowing review I gave last week regarding the natural sugar Pepsi. I've changed my mind. Give me back the high fru…

Spending and Northern Exposure

Weird weather so far this May. We've broken century old heat records more than once this month but we've also had a number of unusually cold days and overnight lows approaching the 30s on several occasions. And a lot of rain. It's been quite a roller coaster so far.

My job has been reflecting that up and down pattern. My lab published an article today in Cancer Research and we should be writing up our next one around the end of the month. If we submit it in June it might see print before the end of the year. On the downside, my position doesn't look like it's going to be funded for next year so unless we get some last minute money I might be hitting the streets in July. But that's the way it goes in academic research. The money is never guaranteed, that's why we refer to grant supported jobs as being reliant on "soft money".

And I unfortunately seem to be in a Amazon mode and keep buying things on there. Yesterday I bought a relatively inexpensive e…

Grills and Weather

The weather forecasts for this weekend seemed nearly universal in their declarations for rain.

And while the weather had a lot of very dark patches today, they were shuffled in with lovely blue skies and moderate temperatures with low humidity. And oddly enough, not a drop of rain despite the oft threatening skies. Odd, huh?

As a result we were able to enjoy burgers on the grill outside in the wonderful weather. I hope they're wrong about tomorrow too. It's forecast with a 70% chance of rain.

The one nice thing about rain would be washing away all this pollen. This has been a horrible year for allergies and cleaning up the air with a good rain storm would probably help a lot. *ahhh-cho*

Behind the Camera

I don't have many pictures of myself outdoors because usually it's me holding the camera.

The hike this past Tuesday was an exception to that 'cause Jay, one of the other hikers in the group, also was taking pictures.

This picture here was one that I took as 4 members of the group started climbing a set of rock steps.

As you can see in the picture below, as I was taking the picture there on the left, Jay, in turn, was taking a picture of me taking the picture. A few minutes later we were at the top of the quarry and Jay took a picture of me looking down into the gravel pit.

Jay's pretty sneaky. I was never aware that he was taking any pictures of me. The first I knew was when he posted them online today at the hiking website.

New topic. What do you think of how they're closing out the season on some of these TV shows? I was a little surprised at the ending of House but was really surprised at what led up to that point. I was fooled by the sex twist, that's for sure…

Staining Flesh and Slides

It's been a while since I posted anything from work so here's a few pictures I took today.

This first one is the "staining flesh" part of the title. I tripped on a rubber mat that had come up from the floor. I didn't hit the floor. Fortunately I broke my fall using my hand on a bench top, however there was a centrifuge key there and it poked into my hand pretty hard when my weight came down on it.

It didn't break my skin, but as you can see, there's already a black and blue mark forming from blood under the surface of the skin. It's also quite sore, swollen, and hard to the touch. It's going to be fun using it tomorrow!

On to "staining slides" which is a much better topic than staining flesh. *ouch*

This first picture is of 20 breast tumor slides (8 from mice and 12 from women) being boiled in citra buffer. This process brings antigens to the surface of the cells on the slide. That allows for better staining since the antibody-antigen comple…

Hiking after Work

After work today I went on a 6pm hike at Occoneechee Mt in Hillsborough, NC.

I love this first picture. The light is amazing and the leaves have a quality... that's just hard to describe. I wish I could get shots like this more often.

This second shot is similar to ones I've taken before, at this park as well as many others. I just love the effect of small green plants taking over trees.

And here's a similar theme though carried out in the midst of Eno River this time. Still, a tree laying down with little green cousins living on it. And to be honest here, I did tweak the greens a bit in Photoshop. I couldn't help myself---it was just too dull without the extra oomph!

Pepsi Throwback

On Saturday while picking up some weekend food at Food Lion I purchased a 12-pack of Pepsi Throwback.

In case you've missed the 70's Soul Train themed commercials that have been running the past month, Throwback is a temporary formulation of Pepsi (and Mountain Dew) that uses regular sugar instead of HFCS (high fructose corn syrup).

I've never been a fan of the high government subsidies of corn production so any move towards limiting the use of corn products is good news to me. Manufacturers use HFCS because it's cheap, and it's cheap because the government (ie taxpayers) keeps the price of corn artificially low with subsidies to the farming community, especially large agricultural giants like ConAgra and ADM.

Ever since reading about the environmental and physiological problems associated with the use of HFCS in Michael Pollan's bookThe Omnivore's Dilemma I've wanted to limit my dietary intake of the stuff. But alas, my love of soda hasn't been easy t…

Mother's Day in the Garden

I called my Mom and wished her a Happy Mother's Day a little after 8am. I knew she and Dad were driving to Atlanta that morning and I didn't want to miss them. My brother has a new puppy and my parents were driving over to Georgia to go see the critter. I hear it's quite cute but I've not seen any pictures yet.

Here at home, Mom's Day was spent putting Julie to work. That's her back over there on the left, slaving away in front of my porch. I've let that area really go wild and we spent part of the day taming it a little. Below you can see a picture of Julie standing triumphant behind some piles of trimmed limbs that are nearly as big as she is.

Having electricity back today was very nice. The weather was still on the cool side so we didn't need the A/C but working out in the sun was quite warm. Even at 68f you work up a sweat. We even managed to work up sufficient thirst to drink our last 2 Smirnoff Passion Fruit malt beverages. *ugh* We picked up a 6…

Stormy Again

This is becoming a theme here. Bad weather.

Today started off sunny and very warm. Julie and I went to Chapel Hill early in the morning to avoid the heat. We went there to recycle my empty bottles and cans to get them out of the way and also to pick up some hamburger and veggies for grilling. Good thing, 'cause it hit 80f by around 9:30am.

I normally like to wait until June to turn on my A/C but this year I'm making an exception. In a slight plot twist, unbeknownst to us, temperature relief was on its way. Around 5pm the wind picked up and quite quickly wind gusts were tossing boxes and garbage cans around the neighborhood. My next door neighbor lost two of her Bradford Pear trees. And then the sound of thunder approached as the rain and lightning hit---and the power went out. And Duke Power didn't restore the juice for nearly 5 hours. As a result, we used the grill for dinner and ate out on the deck.

By that time the sky had cleared up quite a bit as you can see in this pic…

Funnel Cloud

Here's a story from the Burlington NC newspaper, The Times, regarding the storms here yesterday:

Meteorologists verify 2 twisters
May 7, 2009 - 8:34 AM
The Associated Press

It's possible multiple funnel clouds twirled in the sky over Alamance, Wake, Johnston, Wilson and Nash counties Tuesday during the chaotic storms that struck the area, but there may have been just two tornadoes that actually touched down and did any damage.

That was the conclusion of a team of National Weather Service experts who drove to areas where damage was reported Wednesday, then compared what they saw with radar images and other data.

A likely explanation for the deluge of tornado reports was that several were sightings of, or damage from, the same twister, said Darin Figurskey, a meteorologist in the weather service's Raleigh office.

One of the tornado tracks the survey team followed was about seven miles long.

That twister started in Johnston County, touching down near the intersection of N.C. 96 and N…

Stormy Weather

We had some bad weather pass through Eastern NC today. Lots of really bad winds and rain just west of me, around Winston-Salem, even some reports of tornadoes.

Where I am we only got some sporadic rain but what seemed to be a big funnel cloud passed just behind my house, as you can see below. Since the wind never got all that bad, I guess it was just a temporary downdraft that pushed upper level clouds down near the ground but it looked scary.

The picture above was taken just about 2 minutes before the picture below, I lightened up the foreground a bit so you could see my backyard in the first picture. The second picture is more like what it really looked like. Yet within 5 minutes it all blew far enough to my east so that I couldn't see it anymore. The clouds loosened up a little while it was moving but it didn't blow apart. I don't know if that's good or bad, but like I said above---it was never all that windy where I was. I've had a few tornadoes pass near me whil…

House Call

I've been barraged lately by Email ads for Mother's Day gifts. ProFlowers is the worst culprit. They've been sending me at least 2 Emails a day for the past few days and a couple a week for the month leading up to now. *whew*

And in a weak moment I eventually succumbed and bought this.

16 pink tulips and 16 blue iris in a clear glass vase. Kinda pretty if you like that sorta thing. I wonder if Judy ever used Internet florists? She's rather hooked into the local shops due to working in the industry for a few decades. Before that she was a cytotechnologist, if I recall correctly. Anyway, pink and purple are colors that my Mom likes so hopefully she'll forgive me not making a house call this coming Sunday. I can't get out of work on either Friday or Monday and I hate driving that far for just a day or so. And besides, my parents are going to be in Atlanta on Sunday anyway so it'd be a very short visit.

And speaking of House calls, what do you think of recent de…


Just in case you've not seen a beef shank before, that's what it looks like. At least a slice of one. The bone cross section is the femur, the rest is just a study in anatomy. And as Alton Brown is wont to say, that leg is Good Eats!

Below is the first day's progress on the painting of the deck. Unfortunately the week ahead has a lot of rain forecast. When the second half of the painting will occur is hard to predict. Only the weatherman knows for sure. Ha! And eventually I'll have to put on a second coat. Maybe 2 weekends from now.

The Next Project

This first picture is of Beef Shank and Sausage Ragù which we had for dinner tonight. It was okay but the strong taste of the Ragù was diluted by the pasta. It was still good, of course, but not as outstanding as we had expected. I really liked the sparkling wine we had with it though!

This next picture is my upcoming project. I need to repaint my deck and since I had "red barn" colored paint leftover from when I painted my shed, I decided to use it on my deck. You can see the new and old colors in the picture below. I did a small segment today to see how the color would look, tomorrow I'll paint the deck floorboards and toprails 'cause they get the most weathering. Julie might help. During the rest of the week I'll do all the detail work on the rails and such. Wheee!