Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Bring me to your readers!

I've read the the various reports about last night's discussion about the future renovations at Durham's downtown library -- see Kevin's lengthy but comprehensive account at BCR if you haven't already. I hate that there's a "98% chance" they will just remodel the current structure (with its "good bones") and just wish there was some way to create some amazing structure like Seattle's library (yes, I realize we don't have $160 million sitting around).

Anyhow, that's now what I wanted to talk about. I'd like to talk about why I LOVE the downtown library.

My family and I are what you'd call fairly heavy users of the library. I'm a junkie of the online catalog and I place holds on books all the time. Since 2000 when my younger daughter was born I've gone into the library weekly to pick up books and I started to worry that folks working at the circulation desk would think I was a nut, since they had to write my name on the hold slips that wrapped around the books.

And yet, the ladies (with the occasional male) at the downtown library have always greeted me very pleasantly and it's become a running joke whenever I go in -- instead of a groan and "oh, it's you again" it's "Hey, we've got your books on hold!" with a big smile. Even better, in the last couple of years if they see me as I walk in they've already turned around to pick up the books off the shelves behind them and have them ready before I get to the counter. Now that's service! It also reminds me why I love living in Durham and feeling like I live in a small town.

Since we've moved to North Durham this summer I'm more likely to be found at the (beautiful) North Regional branch with its self-service hold pick-ups, so I don't have the affinity for that location yet. But I still find time to stop by the main branch to at least say hello.

So one big shout out to all the ladies whose names I know by heart: Cleo, Myrtle, Cecilia and especially Sumayyah -- you rock!

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Durham "Bull" goes for Teen Choice Award

Durham resident and anti-tobacco activist Chad Bullock, 19, is up for a Teen Choice Award for his work to reduce smoking. He's one of the nine finalists for the award. Each finalist has been awarded $10,000 and the winner will receive an additional $100,000, all going to their favorite cause. Unfortunately you have to be under 25 to vote, so I'm out, but if you know someone who is pass this info along as voting only lasts a few more days. Here's the link to Chad's video and from there you can click to vote.

I interviewed Chad by e-mail earlier this evening about his efforts:

Why smoking? What got you started?
Tobacco products killed my great grandfather. Tobacco products kill 440,000 people a year in the US. It is sad that this takes place when it can be prevented. In fact, it is the leading cause of preventable deaths. Tobacco products are the only products that when used as intended, it will kill it's user. For many years tobacco companies have been getting away with killing people and I will not just sit and let that happen.

Why [work to eliminate smoking at] the Durham Bulls Athletic Park?
The Durham Bulls park is a large family event and historic part of Durham aka the birthplace of tobacco. Thousands of fans go to these games and many of those fans are children. Second hand smoke is sometimes more harmful than the actual smoke that the smoker takes in. Me and some of my peers got together and conducted hundreds of surveys at the park. The results came back and a majority of the fans, smokers and non-smokers, supported a smoke free park. We presented that to the General Manager George Habel and a few months later, the park was smoke free! Its ironic as it is In the center of Durham's historic tobacco district.

You get $10,000 for your cause from Do Something and possibly $100,000 if you win. What do you plan to do with the money?
Tobacco companies have millions and millions of dollars to spend on whatever they way. This prize money will be a great help in my efforts. I will use all of the prize money on efforts to engage youth across the nation in taking action in their local communities. I have a project called ElectriFYIed Youth Project and we will be present and many key youth events around the country aiming to spark a generation of "electric" leaders.

Are you continuing with your fight against smoking in college? If so, how?
I am currently traveling across the country speaking to teens about the tobacco industry while in college. Its a crazy schedule but a majority of my courses are online. I have an event coming up soon with 4000 advocates that I must train, so it can be very busy at times...I love it.

How do you feel about Durham?
Durham...I like it. Traveling all over, I always have some joy coming back to Durham. Its small and slow sometimes, but overall I believe that it has a lot to offer.

Down by the Little River

I've visited the Little River Regional Park several times over the last month. It's actually in Orange County, about a mile north of the Durham/Orange border, and it's run jointly as a partnership between the two counties. There are two main hiking trails, mountain bike trails and an ADA-friendly loop paved with asphalt. The latter is referred to as an interpretive trail, though I didn't discover anything that needed translation.
The two main trails go down by the Little River itself which is more creek-like than river-like. The south river trail took me about 45 minutes and the ridge/north river loop took about 90 minutes. Both are relatively easy and largely unused -- in three times hiking there I've seen a total of four other people hiking. The trails are well-marked with signs with the glaring exception of one point on the south river loop; because of that J and I ended up walking around for a while on some really nice private paths that border the park which you're really not supposed to do. There are no signs on those paths either, so it took us a while to figure out which way to go to get back on the right trail. (And no way were we going to retrace our steps, though I did have moments of horror imagining getting lost in a park that close to my house.)
There are some nice clean bathrooms there (definitely a plus), a butterfly garden area (that was roped off) and one of those horrible generic plastic and metal climbing structures that any kid in his/her right mind would be bored to tears from after ten minutes. Also, there's a picnic shelter and some open spaces for tossing a Frisbee around.
I've spotted lots of animals there -- deer, turtles, groundhogs (I think) and rabbits. I kept having the feeling when I was hiking that there might be a bear just around the corner, but fortunately never saw one. It's definitely recommended if you're interested in getting lost in the woods (figuratively) for a while.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Become a part of the DAP's history and future


Dear Minor League Baseball Fan,

We’re inviting you to become part of Durham Athletic Park history and help support the renovation of the most revered minor league baseball park in the country.

Renaissance Downtown Durham, Inc. --- the foundation for Downtown Durham, Inc. --- is helping the City of Durham with the renovation by raising money for the brand new seats. Click through to see photographs of the new seats and the sections. Nine of the sections have been set aside for group sales, with the remainder available for individual seat sales.

When you underwrite the cost of a seat you will:

* receive a charitable tax deduction from Renaissance Downtown Durham, Inc.
* have your name on a plaque on that seat
* have your name placed on a large commemorative plaque at the entrance
* receive a free pass to the Durham World Beer Festival, October 4th at the new Durham Bulls Athletic Park (1 free pass for every 2 seats underwritten)

Please take a moment and review this opportunity to become part of history and go to the beer festival for free.

Friends of the DAP

Bill Kalkhof, Rennaissance Downtown Durham, Inc.
Daniel Bradford, World Beer Festival

Monday, July 21, 2008

Parker and Otis

After three visits in the last month I can conclusively say this place rocks. Sure the food was delicious but the outside eating area is just great. Even on a 98 degree day last month it wasn't so bad with the overhead fan whirring. I enjoyed taking photos of the great iron work and other assorted items from the back of Morgan Imports as well. All of the images below link to much bigger versions. Enjoy.

Friday, July 18, 2008

Ken Jennings paints

You may or may not remember trivia guru Ken Jennings who won a bazillion dollars on Jeopardy! a while back. I'm a big fan and read his blog regularly. I'm guessing you don't.

Anyhow, what I wanted to share was his project for painting his young daughter's room. He decided to paint an alphabet border around her room with each letter representing a different character from children's literature. It's taken him more than a year to complete and he posted the letters in groups as he finished them, so here, below, are the photos from his site compiled in one place. Enjoy.

Oh, yes, bonus points if you can name them all.

(The next four are out of order because of the way he grouped them, but they are correct on the wall.)


(from our CSA on Tuesday: tomatoes, Sungold cherry tomatoes, zucchini, squash, poblanos, bell peppers, green beans and an eggplant)

It's a great time to be a member of a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture). The idea is that you as a consumer pay money for a share of the product grown by a farmer. For many CSAs you go with what I call the "pig in a poke" method -- your weekly fee earns you a mystery box of stuff which happened to be harvested that week. We're just not the kind of family to do well with being thrown a random collection of turnips, beets and bok choy, etc. The reason we really like our CSA, Brinkley Farms in Creedmoor, is that we pay a set amount of money up front and then have X$ to spend per week. Each week we're e-mailed out a menu of our choices based on what they have to offer, so we get to control what we buy. We can also bank some of our money for future weeks if we don't want to spend it all that week. Even better is that Brinkley (also unlike many other CSAs) offers meat. They raise animals on the farm and the meat is processed in NC (Acre Station in Pinetown) so we have local meat choices as well as produce. And let me tell you, their sausages are just simply out of this world.

Brinkley also offers choices for where you want to pick up your share, whether on the farm or in Raleigh, Durham or Carrboro. We pick ours up on Tuesdays at Duke Gardens, where there are also 5-6 other vendors selling produce at a mini-farmers market.

So that's why we love our CSA. What's the downside? Well, the cost. It's definitely higher that what we would pay in a grocery store, but we know that. We're willing to pay more because it's grown locally and because we're directly helping a farmer to stay in business. The Brinkleys will then use their money in the community as well. It's not organic but I'd rather have fresh and local over organic shipped from California with the money going to some conglomerate.

You also need to pay attention to the rules. We goofed once last year and just plain forgot to go pick up our share. When I e-mailed to ask what to do I was told that we would just lose that week's share (and in effect $18). Ouch ... but that's the rules they wanted to play by. On the other hand, I was supposed to bring the check last Tuesday to pay for the entire next twelve weeks and forgot, and I was told "don't worry about it, just bring it next week." Definitely not something you'd hear at Whole Foods or the Teeter.

I read about a guy who had a not so good experience with his CSA -- see his post but also read the farmer's reply. By the way, this CSA is Coon Rock Farm, the same folks who will be doing the new Eno Restaurant and Market in Durham. Farming is a difficult venture but it would seem that if you're willing to do a CSA you as the farmer would need to be a little more consistent (or reduce the number of customers).

Where to find a CSA? Here's one list, and a searchable database here. By the way, I originally learned about Brinkley Farms from this post last year from cookingeatingdurham.

Relish those tomatoes

Salmonella update: the CDC said yesterday that those tomatoes we've been warning you about since June 7? Well they're fine, don't you worry about them at all. Of course when you go to the main CDC page about the salmonella Saintpaul outbreak it still says "the accumulated data from all investigations indicate that jalapeƱo peppers caused some illnesses but that they do not explain all illnesses. Raw tomatoes, fresh serrano peppers, and fresh cilantro also remain under investigation."

Wait, what? Tomatoes are safe but they're still under investigation? Is this some sort of Lenny Briscoe/Rey Curtis thing where they release the suspect but still do a stakeout outside his house?

Ah, perhaps this explains it: on Wednesday the agricultural trade association Western Growers (representing AZ and CA) sent a letter to the FDA asking for tomatoes to be publicly cleared. "It is time for the Food and Drug Administration to make a public statement giving consumers the 'all clear' announcement that tomatoes produced in the U.S. are safe to eat," wrote CEO Tom Nassif. "The urgency of the matter and increasing damages to the industry compel immediate action.

Yikes, run for cover, it's a cave in!

And apparently I'm not the only screwball up in arms about this. CNN's Lou Dobbs has called for Bush to be tossed out of office because of this issue:

“You know, I have heard a lot of reasons over the years as to why George W. Bush should be impeached,” Dobbs said. “For them to leave the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in this state, its leadership in this sorry condition and to have no capacity apparently or will to protect the American consumer – that is alone to me sufficient reason to impeach a president who has made this agency possible and has ripped its guts out in its ability to protect the American consumer.”

Um, *this* is where you'd draw the line after more than 7 years of Bush in office? Wow.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Yum O

This just in from Sue Stock's Retailing column in the N&O: Char-Grill is coming to Durham! Construction will start soon on a location in New Hope Commons and should open in the fall. Char-Grill is only located in Raleigh and Cary (as far as I know) so this is a big step for Durham burger lovers. I remember going with my brother in the early '80s to the one on Hillsborough Street when he was at NC State. You'd write your order on a little paper menu, slide it down a chute and wait for your burger to be grilled to perfection. Not sure what their source is for the meat and the only official website that I found didn't mention it (and is geared to potential franchise owners, so apparently they're planning to expand quite a bit).

[It's taken more than 30 years to get a Char-Grill in Durham; will it ever be possible to land a Krispy Kreme franchise? Sigh.]

On a related note, there's an Evos fast-food burger place opening in Chapel Hill's Eastgate Shopping Center next to Trader Joe's. I don't know much about them but they tout their meat as "humanely raised" and their salads as organic, plus the food is supposed to be lower in fat and there are more vegetarian options. According to Sue Stock in the N&O last month they opened yesterday but according to the coupon in this week's Independent they open tomorrow. Grab the coupon to get a free milkshake!

Wednesday, July 9, 2008


Enough of these bad food posts -- here's a good one! The fam and I went to out first Wednesday afternoon outing to the Durham Farmer's Market and got a bunch of stuff, including some delish Sungold cherry tomatoes from Ben at Fickle Creek Farm and some purple peppers from a farmer whose name I forgot.

BUT -- and the key for posting, I got two pints of large juicy blackberries from Lyons Farms. Above and below are my blackberry cobbler photos. Don't you wish you had some right now?

And now the culprit turns to ....

Still following that salmonella story? To recap, it was tomatoes, then maybe jalapenos, and now it could be serrano peppers ('cause nobody can tell them apart, sez the CDC) and maybe cilantro. But a number of pesky infected people are saying that they didn't eat salsa or anything containing jalapenos. CDC food safety chief Dr. Robert Tauxe told The Associated Press that they "are quite sure that neither tomatoes nor jalapenos explain the entire outbreak at this point. ... We're presuming that both of them have caused illness."Added FDA food safety chief Dr. David Acheson: "It's just been a spectacularly complicated and prolonged outbreak." And a spokeswoman adds that for every documented case there could be 30-40 undocumented. Sheesh.

Monday, July 7, 2008

No, what we really meant was

I feel like I'm halfway through a "Law and Order: Criminal Intent" episode. Remember how in the opening segments we were led to believe that tomatoes were the culprits behind the Great Salmonella Thing of 2008? Now -- a few commercial breaks later -- we've abandoned that line of thinking (no doubt after some erudite observations from Goren and wisecracks from Eames) and now the focus is on jalapeƱos. Oh I see. It's always easy to attack those south of the border as suspects, eh? No doubt the tomato growers will be serving some papers for their defamation lawsuit soon.

And now to wait for the end of the show when the real killer is found: tortilla chips? Sour cream? Black beans? Cilantro? I can hardly wait.

Saturday, July 5, 2008

Two thumbs up

The fam headed down to Southpoint Cinemas to see the new American Girl movie, Kit Kittredge: An American Girl. The enthusiastic audience members pictured above (along with Kit) gave it high marks. "It was really, really, really good," said one, with the other chiming in "I loved it!" Seriously, even the adults along for the ride had a great time. The movie takes place during the Great Depression and while it's no documentary it does do a nice job of showing the hardships that families endured. It was sobering to see foreclosure signs on lawns and people's property being carted off - not difficult to make the connection to modern times. It's a movie that all kids would enjoy, I'd think, with happy endings all around. Good reviews over at Rotten Tomatoes as well, currently with a 79% rating.

This is the second movie I've seen in a Durham theater in the past month -- I also saw "Sex and the City" at Northgate's Phoenix theaters a few weeks back. I'm no regular moviegoer (he only two movies I've seen on the big screen since "Knocked Up") so the contrast between the two theaters was significant. At Southpoint it was everything I expected -- cushy seats, comfortable, fancy pre-previews (that almost had me lusting for a new V phone), etc. But Northgate was a mess. The theater felt shoebox-sized with the seats at a sharp angle. When we walked in twenty minutes before starting time all of the lights were off except for one spotlight, aimed at the middle left of the seats. As the commercials played during the preview time there was audio only, leaving us to wonder whether we would have video for the movie (we did). The tackiest part was the signs posted out front -- torn out sheets of notebook paper with something like "no loitering" handwritten on them -- and taped to the entry doors. Not welcoming at all. Anyone else had a better experience at the Phoenix?