So hot you could cook a Kat

July 14th, 2006, 12:50 pm PDT by Kat

As I sit here eating a bowl of less-than-tasty teriyaki chicken from the cafeteria, I’m noticing that I am sitting in a small pool of sweat. I’ve marvelled lately about this phenomenon. Everytime I go outside for more than a minute and then come back inside (or even stand in the shade), I’m soaked. But I don’t really sweat while I’m walking around outside. Just right after I come inside. Now, this is not a “glowing” type of sweat. It’s a pour-out-of-your-pores-in-streams, no, -rivers kind of sweat. It’s pretty gross and a little annoying because I have to walk outside and come back inside about 10 times a day. I think I have to bring a towel to school.

I’m not used to being this kind of hot. I grew up in Los Angeles’ San Fernando Valley, which was often the hottest part of LA, so I’m not afraid of the heat. But that was dry heat. The humidity is killing me. When I leave the house before 7, the humidity is already stifling. I think it’s the humidity that’s preventing me from sweating while I’m out in the sun, and then once I get into the shade (most recently, the covered part of our aviary) or inside where there’s air conditioning, something like condensation occurs and all of the sweat comes out all at once. People who have grown up in humid places – is this normal, or do I have a sweat gland problem that I should see someone about?

Parental Visit

July 9th, 2006, 8:02 pm PDT by Greg

My parents were in town for this (artificially-long) weekend. That was nice, with the usual stress of a parental visit: they are nice people that I’m glad I don’t live with anymore. But, I don’t want to talk about that…

On Saturday, we went to Greensboro. We went to Stamey’s BBQ for lunch. Kat and I are now officially proponents of the western-North-Carolina-style BBQ. After lunch, we went, somewhat randomly, to a local museum. My parents were very alarmed that the museum wasn’t in the AAA Guide—they also marvelled that there was a hotel near their’s that wasn’t in the Guide.

The museum primarily commemorated some battle in the Revolutionary War. Here’s what I learned about that battle:

The Americans outnumbered the British. The Americans were led by a brilliant tactician who arranged the troops in three lines. The British broke through the first line. The British broke through the second line. The third line was made up of the most experienced and skilled fighters. They bravely retreated and lived to fight another day (except the ones that died before they retreated, presumably).

So, the British technically won, and captured the courthouse, or whatever. But they suffered heavy casulaties and some had to go back towards the coast for supplies. Pussies.

There are, like, three local museums to this battle. They named the town after the brilliant tactician who lost despite having greater numbers and the home-field advantage. Sigh.

That aside, the highlight of the museum was probably the coolest exhibit I have ever seen. It was a collection of US Bicentenial (1976) memorabilia that this museum took because nobody else wanted it. The brilliant part was that the descriptions of the “artifacts” were openly mocking of the cultural significance of the pieces. I snapped some pictures of the descriptions to give you an idea.

I talked to the guy working there. He said he has to fight with the manager to continue the exhibit as-is: “You can’t write that!” “Don’t worry, nobody reads them.” “So, why do we have this exhibit?” “For me!”

Bottom line: when you’re in Greensboro, go to the “Colonial Heritage Center”.

Rampant Consumerism

June 29th, 2006, 10:36 am PDT 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 PDT 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!

The Return

June 20th, 2006, 2:20 pm PDT 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 blogged too soon…

May 27th, 2006, 3:48 pm PDT by Kat

I’m NOT the owner of a 1996 Corolla. I am the owner of nothing. The car didn’t pass the state inspection (I guess Greg’s dad was right). Although, I’m a little fuzzy on how it got a good inspection for the mechanic we took it to. We saw the list that the state inspection goes through and it didn’t seem all that complicated, and I thought it covered all of those. Anyways, in the end, we went to Raleigh again and didn’t come back with a car of our own.
Bah! Have $$! Why won’t somebody let us buy their decent yet somewhat cheap car?!?!?!

We ended up going to the local Toyota dealership to look at their used cars, but they were all over $10,000, which is too much for a “car I only want for when I’m in NC.” The sales guy also mentioned that for only $3000-4000 more we could get a new Corolla. But I don’t want a new car!!! I’m planning on transporting birds in this car. Not good for new upholstry. I think Greg’s sold on trying to get a newer used car for around $8000-10000, but I’m not totally convinced yet. We’ll see.
We did go to the state farmer’s market. It’s a permanent fixture with dedicated buildings open every day but Sunday. Took some pictures.

Tired now. I give up. This place is too difficult!

Biking around Chapel Hill

May 17th, 2006, 5:53 pm PDT by Greg

We spent a little more time today making traps. I did manage to finally take a ride around Carrboro and Chapel Hill with our digital camera.

Rather that writing about it, I have captioned the pictures in our gallery, and I’ll point you to that.

One other story from today: At one point during the tour, I was waiting to walk across an intersection and there was a crazy-looking, toothless old guy standing there too. “Great,” I though, “he looks like the kind of guy that will start up a crazy conversation for no reason”. I was bracing myself for something like “All the chipmunks are plotting against the Mormons, you know.”

Just then a young, well-groomed guy carrying groceries walked over. Apropos of nothing, he said something like “Not everybody could carry these groceries, good thing I’m such manly man. Dang, you know it.” He had like three bags. He went the other way across the intersection.

Toothless and I looked at each other, smiled, and shrugged. Just goes to show, you never can tell.


May 15th, 2006, 12:11 am PDT by Greg

I have posted some initial pictures in my gallery:

  • Our first days in NC. The pictures there are around the UNC campus; playing bocce at Keith and Sabrina’s; the area in front of our new apartment.
  • Kat’s science pictures. These are around the lab and her new bird room. As you can see, starlings are literally full of shit.
  • The Carrboro Farmer’s Market. We went on Saturday. I didn’t get a lot of pictures, since we were more focused on the market than the pictures.

The market happens every Wed and Sat. We bought a half pound cake from a wonderfully jolly old woman. Ended up telling her our life-story for some reason. She seemed interested.

“I just finished my PhD.” “Oooh, no, you di-int!”… “We moved from Vancouver.” “G’on… my lord!”

And ooh lordy [look, I’m integrating], could that woman make a pound cake! I think it’s probably the softer flour used around these parts. It was soft and dense at the same time. Great flavour. It had a lemon glaze that really didn’t add anything because the cake was so nice.

Now I made myself hungry. I hope she’s there on Wednesday, but I think the Wednesday markets are only farmers.

Google Earth Tour

May 12th, 2006, 9:03 pm PDT by Greg

Now that I have Internet, I spent some time working on this. You need Google Earth for it. It’s basically a tour of where we’ve been for the last week and a half.

Download the Google Earth tour of our NC world.

Open this file in Google Earth. To take the tour, double-click on each placemark in-order. Make sure you double-click the blue link for each placemark: this will check the placemark (so you see the label and marker), and fly to it (so you see it in the map window).

Rainy Sunday Morning

May 7th, 2006, 9:57 am PDT by Kat

It’s Sunday

It’s cool and raining.

We were up at 7:30 to eat waffles.

The stores here don’t open until noon on Sundays, and it turns out only 2 busses in Chapel Hill run on Sundays.

I guess this means I really do have to get a bike. Eep!

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