Rampant Consumerism

June 29th, 2006, 10:36 am PST by Greg

One of the things I was eagerly anticipating with the (temporary) move to the U.S. was the possibility of easier online buying. We have all experienced it: “Okay, I’ll just buy that from this web site… my shipping address… crap, they only ship to the U.S.”

Now that I’m here, I can buy all of the things I always wanted. They’ll just ship them straight to me, no problem.

Well, one problem: I can’t remember what any of those things were.

So, an interactive blog entry today. What are those things that are only available in the States that I can’t live without and should get while I’m here?

So far, I bought a spare camera battery from B&H (I could have got it in Canada, though). I thought about getting a chunk of aerogel from United Nuclear, but I’d tire of that quickly. I also bought a box of Cookie Crisp, but I’m not sure if that counts. (It wasn’t everything I was hoping for.)

mmmmm… Southern food

June 26th, 2006, 6:08 am PST by Kat

Greg and I like food. Not in a “we need food in order to live” kinda way. More like we’re foodies. We enjoy trying different kinds of food. So, since we’re in BBQ country, we’ve decided to immerse ourselves in the local BBQ culture. For Greg, this means selectively falling off of the pseudo-veggie wagon every so often. But hey, we’re only here for a couple years, and really, he’s only here for a couple months! We’re taking pictures of all of the interesting places we eat. They’re in the gallery under 2006 – NC Restaurants.

NC BBQ 101
Keith had explained to us that BBQ in North Carolina can be a point of contention. You see, there are two styles of BBQ in NC. The Eastern style, which is vinegar based, and Western style, which is vinegar and tomato sauce based. Chapel Hill is right on the border of the two, but most of the BBQ places here serve Eastern style. BBQ here is pork. Specifically, pulled pork shoulder, or slices of pork shoulder (I think it’s shoulder. Greg or Kelly, feel free to correct me if I’m wrong).
Adam is from Lexington, NC, which is west of here. Lexington is apparently the Western style BBQ capital of NC. It hosts a yearly BBQ festival, and the town with a population of about 25,000 people swells to hold 150,000 people on the weekend of the festival. I’m hoping that I can convince someone to go with me this fall. Anyways, Adam has told me that while there are a few places that serve Western style BBQ around here, they’re not very good, and we should drive west to taste “the best BBQ”.

Country Kitchen
I think Greg has already blogged about this little diner that’s around the corner from our apartment. It’s the little diner that is only open for breakfast and lunch, and is run by an Asian couple who serve “Southern diner food,” i.e., biscuits, grits, greens, fatback (not really sure what that is), fried okra, etc. I think the picture is in the “Tour of Chapel Hill” gallery folder.

Mama Dip’s
The second local place we ate at was Mama Dip’s. It was recommended to us by Ted, a grad student in Biology, and his wife (Andrea? Can’t remember now). They’re from Alberta, and Ted was one of the grad students I had lunch with when I visited last year. Mama Dip’s serves “Southern home cooking”. We’ve gone twice now (haven’t taken a picture yet though) and have had pretty good food. The puller pork was pretty vinegar-y, but still good. It didn’t taste very BBQ-y though. I realized later, that’s probably because it’s not BBQ-ed. I think it’s stewed, or pressure cooked, or something. Interestingly, it actually tasted a lot like Filippino pork adobo, but with a little more vinegar and a little less soy! So, here I was in the South, eating what felt like Filippino home cooking. Greg had chicken and dumplings the first time – also good. The second time I had fried chicken and gravy (chicken is smothered in gravy). Good, but difficult to eat because you can’t pick it up like regular fried chicken – too slippery. For some reason Greg ordered salmon the second time we were there. The hushpuppies (fried cornmeal and onion balls) and fried okra were really good too.

Allen & Son BBQ
This BBQ place was one of the places suggested by Emily from something she had read about the food around Chapel Hill. The decor inside was definitely interesting – sort of a mix between country-kitch and hunting lodge. They had a mounted deer head, a stuffed fox, and all sorts of other things that I don’t remember. We were hoping to take a picture of the inside, but it was too dark and the flash would have gone off. This place was an actual BBQ place. We had the pulled pork plate (with potato salad and coleslaw) and fried catfish plate (with hushpuppies, fries, and coleslaw). The BBQ was really good. Only slightly vinegar-y, but with a nice smokey taste. The potato salad around here has a lot of relish in it, and so is very acidic. We’ll have to remember to not order it anymore if there are other sides available.

The Waffle House
This is part of a chain that serves fried chicken and waffles, hashbrowns that you can add stuff like onions, mushrooms, and peppers to, and other diner food. They all have jukeboxes that have songs about the Waffle House on them. We didn’t actually order waffles at the Waffle House. Greg said it was too late in the day for waffles. I’m not convinced there is actually a time of day for waffles, but whatever. We each had the bacon, egg and cheese plate with hashbrowns. Me on toast, Greg in a wrap. mmmmm… yummy, greasy diner food.
The problem with sampling all of these places is that it’s really fatty food – almost everything with the exception of the BBQ itself is deep fried or greasy. Yummy, but not so good for the waistline or the heart! Have to eat more salads when not sampling the local cuisine!

I faught a rock, and the rock won

June 23rd, 2006, 8:36 am PST by Kat

On Wednesday I was walking to the University Employee Clinic to give them a copy of my immunization records (I need it to get a swipe card for the hospital where I’m learning HPLC). I was walking along in the 90˚C heat, when I came across a gravelly section. No problem, I’ve walked through gravel millions of times in my life. Well, this gravel had some bigger pieces in it. Still, it’s gravel! NOPE! Some of it was gravel, some of it was embedded rock jutting out of the ground, resembling gravel! So, as I saw and stepped over a large-ish piece of “gravel” with my right foot, I must have dragged my left foot a bit too close, and the pointy rock clipped the inside of my pinky toe and wrenched it outwards. If it was gravel, my toe would have probably still been stubbed. But it wasn’t it was a freakin’ rock, a boulder even! So, the inside of my pinky toe was purple and the toe was swollen. Unfortunately, with all the pain and annoyance, I forgot to take a picture. But trust me, it was a very dark purple.

The worst part was that I still had to walk to the clinic and back. So, on my way back, I saw a bus. I figured I should take this bus instead of walking all of the way back (it was probably the distance from Cornerstone to the West Mall complex, and it was stinkin’ hot). So, I get on the bus and ask the guy on it (driver was not there) whether this bus went in the direction I wanted to go. He said yes. The bus took off, and nope, it didn’t. It brought me back to the Clinic, and the closest stop was actually past the clinic! @(#*&(#*%)($^!!! So I trudged back to Biology in the heat, soaked the shirt I was wearing, and that’s when discovered my toe had turned purple and swollen. Crappiness! At least Greg was around, so he drove by and picked me up so I didn’t have to take the bus. Luckily, it’s not broken, just really bruised.

As for science, we caught 5 juveniles yesterday, but none today. We did catch an Eastern Towhee, a female Cardinal, and a bunny (pics posted soon)! Adam actually caught the bunny by running after it and scooping it us in order to move it away from the street and into the woods so it wouldn’t get run over. The bunny was really cute. Loud, but cute!

The Return

June 20th, 2006, 2:20 pm PST by Greg

I haven’t blogged for a while, not having anything to say. Went to a couple of meetings; unpacked some boxes. I have posted some pictures of the new place in the gallery if anybody’s interested.

Today is the return trip to NC. I got up nice and early. Kelly was kind enough to take me to the airport. As usual, I had to connect in Toronto for a flight to Raleigh-Durham.

The flight to Toronto was uneventful. As some of you may know, you go through US customs in the Toronto airport, so you don’t have to at your destination.

In the customs line with an hour and a half to go. No problem.

A half hour in the line. No problem.

“I’m going to visit my wife in Chapel Hill.” “Yes, I work in Vancouver and have a return ticket.” “No, I don’t have the itinerary for the return, or proof of employment.” [My trip back to BC was a return, with the eventual return to Canada on the original ticket. I hadn’t printed it out since it wasn’t part of today’s journey.]

“Step into the back room, sir.” Problem.

An hour and ten minutes in a back room waiting to have the same 30 second conversation with another guy, and give him a business card. Problem.

So, here I sit in the Toronto airport, waiting four hours for the next flight to Raliegh.

Fuck the immigration guy and his short-man complex. Yes, I know why I’m here, asshole. Oh, I should have proof of a return ticket or employment in Canada in the future? I hadn’t thought of that during the last hour while I watched you stand behind the counter and play with yourself! I am forever in your debt.

Open question: how drunk can you be before they won’t let you on a plane?

One further fuck you to the Toronto Airport for carefully not putting any power outlets anywhere near a seat. That must save whole dollars over the course of a year.

Update (12:30am EDT): I’m here.

I found furniture, a beetle and a dollar

June 19th, 2006, 7:46 pm PST by Kat

Today was very strange. It started off with me deciding to go to work late. These days late is 7:45. Craziness! Anyways, I walk out the door of our townhouse, which happens to be by the complex’s recycling containers and one of the dumpsters. There they were… two practically new chairs and a slightly worn large end table. When people move out here and they have “extra” furniture, they leave it “by” the dumpster. So, I got 2 new chairs and an end table! I think the table is read wood too! Yippee! And, I wasn’t even late for the bus after hauling the stuff back in to the apartment.

For the last half week I’ve been working hard trying to catch birds. After all of those early mornings and 13 mosquito bites later (Total bite count: 43; mostly around my ankles because I wore capris one day and forgot the bug spray), we got 3 adult females. For some reason there were tons of birds out, but none were going in the traps! Tomorrow we put 12 potter traps out, and if these damned birds want any seed, they HAVE to go into the traps to get it. Anyways, we put up traps at a new location, and were watching them for a while. We we were looking for the ideal spot, we came across the LARGEST beetle I’ve ever seen! It was like the big slow beetle in The Lion King. I freaked a bit because I thought maybe all of the beetles around here looked like that. No, turns out Adam, who has lived here all his life (well, about an hour west of here) has never seen a beetle like this. Whew! Anyways, there’s a picture in the gallery. On our way back to the lab I found a dollar on the ground! Yippee again!

HPLC is going well. I’ve got peaks, and I know which peaks are which! One of my compounds is missing and so I have to tweak the solutions to pull it out from the “junk” peak that comes out first. That’ll be this week’s HPLC mission. I could have started that today except that when I went in on Sunday to do what I ended up doing today, I found out that the swipe card that the PI gave me didn’t actually work. So, even though I wanted to do HPLC on a sunny Sunday, I couldn’t get onto the floor where the lab is! Oh well!

Oh, and I bussed to the mall on Saturday. Even with the car I don’t feel entirely comfortable driving to the only decent mall here. You need to take the highway to get there. While I can drive on the highway, I don’t like the cloverleaf on- and off-ramps, and the off-ramp from the mall is a cloverleaf. So, I forked over $4 for the bus (all-day pass) and went shopping. I’d forgotten how cheap things are here (in the states) when they go one sale. I got a Pottery Barn silver clock for the office for only $5. It was regularly $30! I definitely felt good after that. And we NEEDED it (have to say that or else Greg will have a fit).

Tropical Depression Alberto is making me depressed!

June 14th, 2006, 6:21 am PST by Kat

I’m currently experiencing my first “tropical depression.” It’s name is Alberto. Like everyone said, if hurricanes or tropical storms/depressions hit “the Triangle” it’s never really bad – just a lot of rain. So, it’s raining. It’s supposed to rain all day long. This means I can’t catch any birds again! Hopefully the birds I have will be okay. On the bright side, literally, Thursday through Sunday are supposed to be extremely hot and sunny. Yay! So I’ll be up at the crack of dawn tomorrow with my traps ready.

Good news, I have HPLC peaks! I ran standards yesterday and they look good – I think. So now it’s just trying to separate them out a bit and make sure I know which peak is which. The bad news is everyone is leaving – the tech is off to his new job tomorrow, and the PI is going on vacation this afternoon. The good news is I think I now know what I’m doing and can probably keep myself busy fiddling with different standards until Monday when the PI gets back. Let’s just hope I don’t totally screw things up!

More good news: I found a bus that goes from school to the one real mall in Durham. Yay!!! So I’m going on Saturday. YAY!!!

Damn you rain!

June 12th, 2006, 7:26 am PST by Kat

For the last two nights there have been severe thunderstorms in the area. Came in to school yesterday, and found two of my juvies dead. I think they may not have known to get out of the rain and got water-logged as the rain here comes in pretty fast and hard (not like the Vancouver mist). Not really sure. They were all eating and drinking, so I don’t think it was that. Keeping a very close eye on the others. It’s supposed to rain all day today, so we can’t go out to catch. We could, but whenever it rains the night before, there never seems to be any birds around, so it’s not really worth it. Hopefully it’ll clear up this afternoon, and we can try catching then.

The starlings are all doing well. Half of them have started molting, so I’ve been “scoring” their progression through molt.

We have one of our quarterly animal care inspections tomorrow, so Adam and I will be cleaning out the starling room today and tomorrow morning. I’ve decided to clean the walls this time, and then hang white plastic garbage bags on the walls afterwards. That way we can just replace them whenever it gets too gross, and we don’t always have to scrub the walls, just the floor. Will try to remember to take pictures of the disgustingness.

I’ve finally uploaded some of the pictures of my feeders/traps and birds to Greg’s gallery. The first two (feeder and potter traps) are not in the correct orientation, but I don’t know how to fix it. Look at them side-ways.

I somehow managed to get a small bug bite on the small of my back sometime yesterday. Not sure how. Anyways, that brings the bite count to 30, I think.

Move Completed

June 9th, 2006, 1:31 pm PST by Greg

I just Swiffered and got the last stuff out of the old place on Pender. I just have to go back and drop off the keys with Scott.

I left the place really clean, if I do say so myself. There’s something satisfying about actually cleaning a place well, in a way that isn’t really possible when there’s stuff in it. He’s going to have to look pretty hard to keep any of my damage deposit.

It turns out that when you’re evicted for “change of use” in BC (which we were), the landlord owes you a month’s rent (for moving expenses, etc.). So, at least I get some money back out of the deal: a month-and-a-half rent, minus whatever damages he finds.

Now, all I have to do is unpack here. I’m increasingly thinking about how much I actually need out of the boxes. I think a lot of it’s staying right where it is.

My world is turning upside-down

June 9th, 2006, 9:26 am PST by Kat

Catching is going well. Not spectacular (not getting 20 birds a day or anything!), but we are getting at least 2 juvies a day. Yea! the birds in the aviary are attracting other birds to come in and visit, so the last 5 birds have been caught in Potter traps (think carrot under box propped up with a stick) that are hanging off of the HOFIs flight cages. We’re now up to 16 birds (8 males and 8 juvies).

On the other hand, HPLC training is not as happy. The guy I’m learning from is not a very good teacher. Yesterday he said “purge the system” and then left. Didn’t explain any of the 50 buttons on the “system” or anything! And, he knows I’ve never done HPLC because he lent me a intro book so I could understand the principles behind it. Yeesh! Luckily he has an ex-tech who set up the system that works down the hall now (until Wednesday). So, he was kind enough to actually “train” me on what buttons to what. Eep! So I have to try to learn everything I can by Wednesday, because the main guy is not so helpful. I guess that’s what happens when you have a tech for 20 years and never do any of the lab work yourself! I’m starting to think the main guy doesn’t actually know how the system works, so can’t teach me anything. We’ll see. At least this isn’t part of my project!

Strange when the “field” portion of my summer is going well, and the “lab” portion is not as good! Weird!

I live on the east coast

June 7th, 2006, 5:49 am PST by Kat

It has finally sunk in. I live on the east coast. I know, you’d think I’d know this by now. I’ve been here for a month now. But, it just sank in yesterday as I was standing around watching my traps with nothing better to do than think about where I was. It was like, “Ph look, Eastern bluebird… Eastern towhee… holy crap! I live on the east coast, and everyone else is on the west coast.” Yes, cute but not so bright! Anyways, I thought I’d share my little epiphany.

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