Saturday, January 27, 2007

UNC Botanical Gardens

Setting up for the big chess match (no I do not know how a Jawa got on the playing field)

FYI: Gracie won but I helped

Mason Farm Biological Reserve

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Hey, I lived for a while in Jamaica, Queens. If I got lost I wouldn't ask for help either.

Damon Mootoo, visiting Queens, New York, went for a walk & wandered the streets for 5 days.

Sunday, January 21, 2007

That Day Is Done

What to make of George Martin's LOVE?

At it's best it is a loving tribute to his young mates; John, Paul, George and Ringo (Because-"naked" is like listening to The Beatles with brand new ears).

At it's worst (unfortunately most of the time) it sounds like Cirque du Soleil cashing in - hey, they sold out long ago - to the sounds of Stars on 45.

A friendly friend

Hawk in woods

Honey Locust tree

Maple View Farm

Saturday, January 20, 2007

It ight be ready in time for Indiana Jones IV... make that V

Hockey As Salvation

All is right with the world, because I have begun playing hockey again.

Reasons I stayed away:

1. A friend who I played hockey with was murdered; that tended to kill the atmosphere.

2. I "lost" all my equipment (don't ask). Numerous ventures to Play It Again Sports replenished my bag.

3. The more a strayed, the harder it was to come back (you know that story)

The epic struggle for my mortal hockey soul: finally the Lord intervened

Reasons I came back:

1. Because Richard G is right, I would rather play it than watch it.

2. I've carried two sticks around in my car for over a year without playing. The other day my daughter asked, "what's these sticks for?", and I almost forgot.

3. One of the sticks is the one I used in high school over 20 years ago. I picked it up on a recent visit to my parents' place in Canada and have been meaning to use it.

4. The REAL reason I came back? If you have to ask then you've obviously never played.

Friday, January 19, 2007


I will never turn the dial back to NPR or WCHL again because WXDU Durham, 88.7 has restored my faith in the power of a song.

Check out the set list for my morning commute:

Belle & Sebastian Wrapped Up In Books
The Kinks Animal Farm
The Shins Girl Inform Me
The Ant Farmers Never Laugh Again
Clampett Report Lumberjacks
The Beatles Lovely Rita
Depeche Mode Enjoy The Silence
The Dukes of Stratosphear Brainiac's Daughter

Thursday, January 18, 2007

Snow Day

You had to get up early to catch the winter weather along the Bolin Creek trail

Trail Head

No footy prints

Light breaking

Big flakes

The creek

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Stephanie Bennett

It's a tragedy, but I don't think this case should be going to trial

Opening Statements Set for Stephanie Bennett Civil Case
Posted: Jan. 15 10:13 p.m.
Updated: Today at 9:27 a.m.

Raleigh — Opening statements in the civil suit surrounding the rape and slaying of a Raleigh woman are scheduled to begin Tuesday. Carmon Bennett is suing the owners of Bridgeport Apartments, where his daughter, Stephanie Bennett, lived at the time of her death in May 2002. He maintains in the lawsuit that the complex failed to protect his daughter from her killer, alleging that her apartment window failed to lock, that shrubbery around the building was too high and that there was inadequate lighting. Attorneys for the apartment complex have argued that there was nothing that their client could have done to prevent Bennett's death. Drew Planten, the only suspect in the case, was charged with first-degree murder after a three-year investigation. He committed suicide in prison in January 2006 while awaiting trial. A prowler later identified as Planten had been seen near the apartment prior to Stephanie Bennett's death, and Bennett's attorneys said the apartment complex was aware of that.

Monday, January 15, 2007

Rachel Crook

Many know the story of Rachel Crook, who gives her name to the Chapel Hill restaurant, Crook's Corner.

By some accounts she was the daughter of a Confederate general. She came to Chapel Hill in 1930 and studied at UNC. While at school she lived in a tiny house on Ransom Street. She is believed to have opened a produce and fish market in 1943, then the first launderette in town in 1947. At the age of 50 she went back to school to get a graduate degree in Economics. At some point she moved to the sight of Crook's Corner, then a refurbished gas station and sold fish, fabric remnants and laundry services.

On August 29th, 1951 she was murdered, some say on the site of Crook's Corner, but her body was found in a pool of dried blood on a dirt road 4 miles north of town. Police suspected that she knew her attacker because she got into a car. Crook struggled; there was flesh under her fingernails and bits of hair on her clothing. She was beaten beyond recognition.

In 1952 Hobert Lee was arrested, then acquitted of the crime. Lee was an Alamance County construction worker who had previously been convicted of assault on a female. He had fresh scratches on his face and arms, and the tire tracks near Crook's body matched those on his truck. Crook's case is the oldest unsolved murder in Chapel Hill.

Sunday, January 14, 2007


On the heals of MSNBC's bands reunite survey, and Eric Muller's obsession with the subject; I give you the Which Bands Would You Pay Not To Reunite Survey

(what-the-hey, it's Sunday morning, I've got nothin' goin' on)

Click here to take the survey
The Orange Turban?

No, it's a Shell station from the 1930s in Winston Salem.

There's a great piece in Sunday's N&O on Mike Lassiter's new book about old architecture curiosities and masterpieces across the State (included are Chapel Hill's Varsity Theater and Sutton's Drug Store).

Click here for a great photo preview of the book.

More Chips from the Chocolate Factory

Highlights from today's Chapel Hill News:

- A 7 column love-fest for Sheriff Lindy Pendergrass.

- No hagglin' with Mark Jacobson Toyota.

- Sarah Mendel has a green frog in her garden: I thought the photo was from Costa Rica.

- "College students, baby boomers and older people" attended an anti-war rally.

- Durham Academy charges $25 to learn the secrets of "Disney on a Dime"? Here's a website, it's free.

- Some light is shed on Culture Shock, thanks to Dave Hart.

- LocoPops coming to Chapel Hill: Yum.

- Eddy Landreth breaks down Butch Davis' options.

- Press conference this Friday to announce the new Carrboro High School mascot: I'm hoping for "Dancing Homer".

- Classifieds: Mike and Kevin are looking for a "Meat Wrapper". Call "34-0152".

- Van Camp's Baked Beans: 10 for $10 @ Kroger.

Saturday, January 13, 2007

I love Fitch Lumber

A trip this morning to Fitch Lumber in Carrboro for some lightbulbs and spackle.

I love Fitch because it is the spitting image of my grandfather's store, Allore Lumber back in Trenton, Ontario.

If not on principle, people should at least buy local for practical reasons. Any savings from the local big boxes (Lowe's Home Depot) are quickly lost by the fuel costs and time wasted in transit.

Same truck: just write Allore Lumber on the side:

I love the way the bays all have the big numbers on them, my grandfather's had that too:

Note the two black rubber cusions (lower left) to stop the railcars in the yard. Trains used to drop shipments right into the bays, but no more:

What remains of the rail line:

My grandfather was bought out by Beaver lumber in the early eighties. Allore Lumber was later converted to a Home Hardware. But it's nice to have Fitch to bring back the memories.

Friday, January 12, 2007

Trapped between the Scilla and Charybdis of talk radio

It happens every Thursday at the 4:30 rush hour:

On AM... The walking exclamation point, the man who needs a shower curtain just to talk...

Big, Dumb, Ed Schultz

Over on the FM dial... another pointless, frenetic hoser-tale from Kevin Kling.


Freebird is looking pretty good right about now.

Thursday, January 11, 2007

Time to Drop the Puck

Hockey Day in the the U.S.A.

The seventh annual Hockey Day in Canada (HDIC) will be held this Saturday... across the country... ALL DAY.

Americans now have the opportunity to experience some of the event because Time Warner In Demand is (wisely) offering a free week of programming from January 8th to the 14th. (In Demand - Center Ice broadcasts every game of every team, 7 days a week)

If you gorge on hockey for just one day, I encourage you to do so on Saturday. Check out the Canadian line-up:

Montreal @ Ottawa 2:00 pm
Vancouver @ Toronto 7:00 pm
Edmonton @ Calgary 10:00 pm

(if you get bored with the Canucks, switch to the Boston / Rangers match-up)

It's not just the hockey. The broadcasts are sure to have all kinds of goofy presentations going on throughout the day; amateur games, pond hockey tournaments, Don Cherry (ok, so it is just the hockey).

And though nothing can top the thrill of the 2003 Heritage Classic, HDIC promises to be something special.

"It'll never happen again,"

Speaking of thrills, Over at ESPN Doug Risebrough reminisces on the 30th anniversary of a Habs team that went 60-8-12.

Fit To Print?

Let's take a gander at this month's Chapel Hill Magazine:

A profile of land baron / one time slum developerRoger Perry, a look at the Governor's Club, and a guide to area private schools...

Saaayyy, who's idea of Chapel Hill is this?

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Monday, January 08, 2007

Rafael Robb: What is the probability that as the "defendant" you are totally screwed?

Guy murders his wife over the Christmas break. She was going to divorce him and collect a lot of alimony. This happens in tony King of Prussia, Pennsylvania. He tries to stage the scene to look like a break-in and robbery. It takes the police under two weeks to figure out the scheme: He's got a weak alibi, there's broken glass improbably breaking over the body (after the crime), and the wife's body looks like her head's been torn off by a shotgun (it's not, it's just his rage).

Now get this. The guy's an economics professor at U Penn. He teaches a course in Game Theory and his final take home exam is still available online. Take a look at the exam and ask yourself, for a guy so smart, did he ever consider the odds?

Economics 682
Game Theory
Final Take home Exam
Rafael Robb

5. Consider the following signaling game. There are two players, a plaintiff and a defendant. The plaintiff knows ahead of time whether he will win the case if it goes to trial, but the defendant does not. Instead the defendant considers the probability of the plaintiff winning to be 1/3. (Formally, nature chooses whether
the plaintiff wins or losses, and reveals this information to the plaintiffs only. The probability that nature chooses "win" is 1/3 and the defendant knows it is 1/3). All this is common knowledge. If the plaintiff wins his payoff is 3 and the defendant payoff is -4. If the plaintiff losses his payoff is -1 and the defendant's payoff is 0. These payoffs are also common knowledge.

The plaintiff has two possible actions: demand a low settlement amount, m=1, or a high settlement amount m=2. If the defendant accepts a settlement demand of m, the plaintiff's payoff is m and the defendant's payoff is m. If the defendant rejects theplaintiffs demand, the case goes to court.
Van Halen makes it to the Hall of Fame

So the question remains, will Alex and Eddie stop choking on their own bile and finally jam with Diamond Dave?

( I was thinking as head hit the pillow last night what a monster Eruption is, and what a lame piece of crap is Jump)

Chips From The Chocolate Factory

Highlights from yesterday's Chapel Hill News:

- I appreciate the developers map: driving along Homestead yesterday I was wondering what-the-hell was up.

- There are tigers in Chatham county?

- Bobby Schopler: Avoid Owl talons, wear a hat.

- I not sure I quite understand arts brainstorming.

- Who gets the old snowflakes? Can I have them?

- R.I.P. Earth Fare

- LTTE: Kurt Daims calls for 3 - 5% of total budgets to be allocated to staff to pursue an impeachment resolution for George Bush. The funds would come from a reduction in other Town services. Call it $4 million b/w Chapel Hill and Carrboro. Hell, with $4 million why doesn't Daims run for President himself (then explain to local citizens how he just managed to eliminate Carrboro's entire budget for police services).

- Cheddar Broccoli Soup: Buy one get one free at Kroger.

- Chris Richards: Still serving your needs at Edward Jones.

Sunday, January 07, 2007

Bolin Creek Trail

Can anyone tell me what this is? (can for perspective)

This morning on the Bolin Creek trails

What is it about Tigger that brings out the beast in Disney employees?

CNN Highlights:

• New Hampshire man says "Tigger" intentionally hit his son "on or about the head"
• Incident allegedly happened while Tigger and boy posed for photo
• Employee who played Tigger (Michael J. Fedelem) suspended while Disney World investigates
• Another Tigger was accused in 2004 of fondling 13-year-old; found not guilty

Pooh, on the other hand, was a perfect gentleman:

Saturday, January 06, 2007

Our hike through New Hope Creek

Muddy trails

Big rock across from Hogan's Bottom

Creek was running fast after yesterday's rain

Up that hill

Not many birds today

Ten Questions for Dick Gautier

You were a huge influence on me. My brother and sister couldn't wait when we were kids for the next Get Smart show (this was in Montreal). If it was a Hymie episode that was a double bonus. Now I have kids of my own and I am so glad the show is out on DVD so I can pass the influence on to them.

1. Who were your influences when you were coming up in the business?

Jeffrey Dahmer & John Wayne Gacy

2. Do you still do Hymie around the house occasionally?

Only when I've had a stroke

3. If Don Adams were an animal he would be...?

A ferret

4. 99 and Emma Peel in a cage match: who wins?

The cage

86, Hymie and 99

5. What inspires you nowadays?

My own TV shows

6. Is there any current show you'd like to work on?

"Porno in Portugal" with Penelope Cruz

7. What are you up to these days?

Four quarts a day

8. Do you live in Hollywood? How has it changed since the 60s?

Yes. Everything is exactly the same, the trees, the trash. Everything.

9. Death to Reality TV? (yes or no)

I prefer Reality TV to death ... but only slightly.

10. The greatest day of my life was...

The day you Emailed me! ... Now aren't you sorry you asked?

Visit Dick's website at

Friday, January 05, 2007

Fresh Air Indeed

Few comedians who build a wall between themselves and the audience with their characters have the ability to do what Sasha Baron Cohen did last night with Terry Gross:

- open up and let us in on the joke without self destructing.

Imagine Andy Kaufman handling Borat's success.

Poopyland Diaries

I'm thinking of a number. No, it's not my credit score. It's the number of crappy children's programs on PBS Kids.

What-the-hell happened over there in the last five years?

My wife once made the comment that Teletubbies made Barney look like Cicero. Well now Teletubbies is looking like the Dahli Lama compared to what... Boohbah?

Here's a rundown of the crap we've been served of late:

Berenstain Bears (kill them, kill them slowly)
Clifford the Big Red Dog (Clifford the Big Red Idiot)
Caillou (A bald idiot. This is still on?)
Clifford's Puppy Days (Like we needed a prequel)
Curious George (In case you didn't have enough of Clifford)
Dragon Tales (It makes me long for Jay Jay the Jet Plane )
It's a Big Big World (Icky!)

It goes without saying that Curious George was cloned from the Berenstains, which in turn were knocked-off from Clifford.

"Wonder Twin Powers, Activate!"

With all the pandering to children's popular favorites can Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs be far behind? How many adventures can Mike Mulligan get into with his steam shovel? How 'bout a treasury of Eric Carle, Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See? (on your 56" HD, Plasma TV)

Now get this: these shows aren't even made by the same studios (which I thought might explain the redundant, moralizing plots.) Clifford comes from Scholastic Studios, Curious George is a product of Universal Animation Studios, and The Berenstains are the bastard children of Canada's Nelvana sweatshop.

What goes on here? Is the animation world devoid of imagination? Give me your George Shrinks and Zoboomafoo. Where be your Carmen Santiago and Captain Kangaroo?

"We got cancelled."

The smoking gun here is PBS, and there standards for children's programing. Take a look at the series goals from PBS Parents for each program:

Berenstain Bears

To highlight the value of positive family interactions.
To encourage positive social behavior like cooperation and respecting others.


Both Clifford The Big Red Dog and Clifford's Puppy Days emphasize good citizenship and the importance of community. Through the character of Clifford, whose heart is as big as he is, children absorb gentle lessons about acceptance and inclusion.


To help children develop social interaction skills like giving, caring and sharing.
To help children learn about family and friends.


"Hey Mitchell, do you think I could get a better costume? Bear has a cool costume."

When The Berenstains comes on at 7:00 am each morning my 3-year-old cries. My older children crack-wise about how dullard Papa Bear is the anamalia incarnation of Homer Simpson. 7:30 am and here comes Clifford: Big... Red... Dumb Clifford. He makes T-Bone look like a MacArthur candidate. And the three-year-old is still crying. Thankfully we're out the door before 8:00 am, but this leaves the baby with the holocaust that is Curious George (and I could give a rats ass that William Macy narrates the damn thing.)


Please PBS KIDS; between the biweekly pledge drives, can someone do some quality control over in your shop?
Deja Vu All Over Again

Mary Roach is a terrific writer. Her first book Stiff struck just the right tone in offering up little known facts about the death process peppered with humorous anecdotes and insights.

That's why it pains me to admit that her second effort, Spook, is so very, VERY dull.

Spook is a sort of sequel to Stiff. In the book subtitled, Science Tackles The Afterlife, Roach goes after all the crazy ways through the ages that science has grappled with the nature of the human soul. The effort is a whole lot of research with very little in its 295 pages to keep you interested.

I was so determined to make this book work that I put it down for six months when it got boring after the first chapter. Such a fan of Roach ( there is an irresistible twinkle of mischief in her jacket photo that reveals her dark, cynical Canadian soul!), I was convinced that the problem was with me: I would take the book up when I was ready to approach the topic of the afterlife, and appreciate the book's nuance.

Last night I blew off the dust and recommitted myself. Sorry Mary, but there's nothing here. Even you know this topic is boring (for crap sake, you resort to fart jokes on two successive pages!). There is nothing in Spook about Descartes' and Leeuwenhoek's and Le Peyronie's search for the soul that couldn't be found in the briefest of Wikipedia scans. Also, too much emphasis on Western science (I know what the Europeans thought, can we have some insight on what the ancient Persians or Asian culture thought about the soul?).

Spook does light up when Roach spends a chapter on Gary Schwartz, and his work with mediums at the University of Arizona, but by then we are halfway in and too, too late. If you want a great account of Schwartz' work read his book, The Afterlife Experiments: Believer or skeptic; Schwartz will give you a comprehensive look at his medium research where Roach leaves you frustrated and guessing for more answers.


I am all about second chances today. If Spook was an equal disappointment the second time around, the television show Medium was well worth another look.

Let me start by saying Medium has all the components I hate in a television show:

1. It's an hour long drama: nothing bores me more.
2. It's a cop show with a psychic angle: uggh! The only thing worse are CSI shows.
3. It has a side plot of the medium's homelife with three young girls: why would I want to watch MY life on television? I only turn the damn thing on to get away from that train-wreck.
4. It stars one of the Arquettes, Patricia: never a big fan.

But Medium is really good, very watchable. It's based on the experiences of real-life medium Allison Dubois, a would be criminal prosecutor who got sidetracked with the supernatural.

FYI: Dubois is featured - as are other 'superstar' psychics, Laurie Campbell and John Edward - in both Gary Schwartz' The Afterlife Experiments and the Mary Roach book (and I once had a reading by Laurie Campbell - but that's a WHOLE other story we won't get into now).

Sandoval and Arquette - "I see discarnate people"

Why Medium is good:

1. First and foremost, the writing. The stories are good. What's more, our heroes don't live some faux-glam life a la CSI Miami (did you ever see forensic lab techs wearing Prada?). The Dubois' struggle to pay the bills in a shitty looking apartment, and have their hands full with three young daughters, one of whom is also psychic. In fact it is this domestic side of Medium that is the most compelling aspect of the show.

2. Patricia Arquette is good. What's more, she looks like she's eaten a few square meals, not like the typical bone-racks we see on the tube these days.

3. Jake Weber , who plays Dubois' engineer husband, Joe is infinitely watchable.

4. Miguel Sandoval plays the Maricopa County DA. It's your typical tough-guy civil servant role, but Sandoval makes his counterparts (his very good counterparts) like James Woods and Miguel Ferrer, and Courtney B. Vance look like rookies. I would watch Miguel Sandoval read the Maricopa phone directory.

Medium airs Wednesday evenings on NBC


Having some fun over at Orange Politics about qualities the new Chapel Hill Police Chief should have. My suggestion:

“If you want this choice position
Be mindful of Tar Heal tradition
Police Festfall, Pa-rades
No stings, No raids!

Please be tough, but not a bully
Defend our mascot, who is wooly
Don’t get flabby in your gut
Stay away from Duncan Donuts

You’ll work long hours with no cheating
Crowd control at public meetings
Love us like your favorite uncle
And we won’t treat you like a numbscull..."

Thursday, January 04, 2007

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

Chips from the Chocolate Factory

Highlights from today's Chapel Hill News

I like John Derrick's photo in "Your Best Shot". Very THX1138.

Who are the Orange Players?

A ventriloquist show at the library? How very Vaudeville.

Four Roses (no Raspberries) from the editors.

From the Letters: Smith was a class act / Knight a heal (we knew that).

An opinion piece from Neil Pederson.

2 liter Pepsi / 10 for $10 @ Harris Teeter.

Monday, January 01, 2007

Stormtroopers March On Pasadena

Oh my god! The Star Wars films were just part of the Lucas' diabolical plot to take over the world!
And They're Off!

Greg Weston cleverly suggests in yesterday's Ottawa Sun that the first murder of 2007, "... will be a BlackBerry addict who tried to check his email instead of kissing his wife at midnight on New Years. The jury will acquit. "

Funny Greg, but your wrong. The dubious distinction goes to...

The City of Boston!

Yes, just five hours into the new year. It happened in Dorchester, one of five shootings occurring in the early morning hours. Boston had 74 murders in 2006, one shy of the 2005 tally; the most recorded in the city in over ten years.