"North Carolina" Archives

August 14, 2008
The short version

I'm busy, due in no small part to a change in employment status. (This change, I might add, is a Good Thing.)

Mycah seems to be OK now. Her appetite isn't quite up to her usual standards, but she seems otherwise fine.

My lawn, on the other hand, is pretty much dead, despite the bits of rain we've been getting. Maybe I should go out and water it in the wee small hours every morning before I go to bed.

Posted by Russ at 04:54 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)
March 27, 2008
We will deal with your rebel friends soon enough

I feel a great disturbance in the Force, as if millions of voices cried out in terror and were suddenly silenced. I fear something terrible is happening near by.

Yeah, this would explain it.

Posted by Russ at 11:56 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
March 15, 2008

It could be an interesting night here, as the storm system that landed a tornado in Atlanta makes its way northeast.

I hope I don't lose power; I'm working tonight and have major must-do geek tasks on my calendar.

Posted by Russ at 04:43 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)
January 19, 2008
Winter Arrives

It's been cloudy and drizzly all day. The air temperature has dropped, and now it's snowing.

It has snowed at least once, most winters since I came here to the Raleigh area in 2000. Oddly, I don't remember if we had any snow last year.

I doubt much of this will stick, but it's nice to see. Especially since I don't have to go out of the house.

Posted by Russ at 03:45 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
December 27, 2006

Those of you who don't reside here in North Carolina may not realize it, but there's more to culture than merely agriculture in the South.

Case in point: the exhibition Monet in Normandy, running through the 14th of January at the North Carolina Museum of Art.

While my mother was visiting last month, we took the opportunity to see the exhibition. Admittedly, it is not something I would have done on my own, without a wee bit of goading from Mom, but I'm very glad I went.

Claude Monet is one of the world's best-loved artists. His images of Normandy — its poppy fields, poplars, haystacks, Rouen Cathedral facade and, above all, its extraordinary coast — are regarded by art historians as revolutionary. The Normandy paintings embody a new vision, a fresh way of seeing, that assured Monet a place among the giants of art.

The exhibition features 50 paintings Monet produced along the Normandy coast of France.

For those of you here in the Raleigh area, I highly recommend spending an afternoon at the museum.

Posted by Russ at 10:40 AM
October 06, 2006
Civic Pride

Most people like to see a big to-do made about their home towns.

But, not like this:

Apex Plant Fire, Explosions Lead To Evacuations

POSTED: 10:47 pm EDT October 5, 2006
UPDATED: 1:20 am EDT October 6, 2006

APEX, N.C. -- Town officials declared a state of emergency early Friday and evacuated about half of the town after a cloud containing chlorine gas spewed from a volatile industrial fire.

Apex Town Manager Bruce Radford said a leak at the EQ North Carolina plant on Investment Boulevard sent several large plumes of chlorine gas into the air around 9 p.m. A large fire broke out at the plant afterward, with multiple explosions heard nearby.

"This is the worst possible hazardous materials incident you could have," Radford said.

Swell. Just damn superb.

I heard about this while driving home from work in a brief snippet on the radio, before the station returned to the NC State "Wolfpack" football post-game coverage. Great programming decision, guys.

I called my brother in California, and asked him to go to Google News. While I drove, he read the news to me over the phone, and I realized that — whew — my home is as far from the incident as it can be while still within the town of Apex. The prevailing winds work in my favor.

I see now on the local news that there's an evacuation center at an elementary school that's a mile closer to the site of the incident than I am. If there was any hazard here, that school wouldn't be used as a shelter.

But I have friends who live in the area affected by the evacuation order. I hope they're OK. I hope they know they can knock on my door if they need to do so.

I still don't know who won the State game.

Update, 4:30am: Yeah, pride. I've had the local news on most of the time. People are behaving well, there's a minimum of complaining, many evacuees are bringing their own supplies... people are acting like adults.

Best of all, I haven't heard of any injuries. Let's hope it stays that way.

Posted by Russ at 01:42 AM | Comments (1)
November 02, 2005
For the Record

I'd just like to take this opportunity to note: my neighborhood is great, but it's made so entirely by the people in it. I am fortunate to be surrounded by such a terrific set of neighbors.

I'm so glad I left San Jose.

Posted by Russ at 12:23 PM | Comments (2)
October 06, 2005
D'oh - a Deer

There are downsides to working the hours I do, as the guy who keeps the Internet running in the evenings and nights, but I knew most of those downsides going in.

Driving home during the wee hours of the morning, I expected that the biggest hazard I would face would be the occasional drunk driver. So far I haven't noticed even one that was obviously out of control; most nights on my 17-mile drive home I see fewer than a dozen other vehicles on the road at "oh-drunk-thirty."

The one I threat hadn't anticipated, though, was... well, read on:

Deer-vehicle crashes mount

Auto collisions with deer are a year-round problem. But the peak season is starting

By JIM NESBITT, Staff Writer

William Burgess had a close encounter of the antlered kind on an after-midnight drive to his Knightdale home in February.

His shiny black 2004 Nissan Xterra plowed into a big, white-tailed buck that suddenly leaped into his lane. The force of the collision popped both air bags and crushed the car's front grille, fender, headlights, radiator and hood to the tune of more than $8,000 in damage.

After the crash, at 1:30 a.m. on U.S. 64, Burgess, a veteran Wake County sheriff's deputy, felt stunned and lucky to be alive.

"I never saw that deer," said Burgess, 37. "I was literally riding down the road, and my air bags popped -- BOOM! I hit it smack dab in the middle. When I got my wits about me, I was just breathing a sigh of relief."

Almost every night on my drive home, I see deer. I usually see just one deer at a time, but I've also seen groups as large as seven or eight adults and youngsters. Most of the time, all I see is a deer butt as the critter scurries away from the road into the woods, but on occasion I see them standing by the side of the road, looking as if they are waiting to cross.

Twice so far, I've had to slow down to let them finish crossing the road. I have not yet needed to take evasive action or stand on my brakes, but I have a feeling it's only a matter of time. Consequently, I drive slower than is perhaps necessary, with a much greater degree of attention paid to the road and roadsides than if I were making the same drive during daylight hours.

I don't want to hit a deer, ever... and not just because of the vehicle damage that would result. I don't know what percentage of deer hit by cars are killed instantly, but it can't be all of them.

What does a person do with a suffering, dying animal? I can think of only one right answer, and I don't like it, but the merciful thing would have to be done nevertheless. It's a good thing I travel equipped for just such contingencies, if you take my meaning — I just hope I never have to do it.

Posted by Russ at 05:24 PM | Comments (3)
July 28, 2005
Chances Are...

I might as well unplug everything in the house right now.

The temperature has dropped 25° in the last hour, and do you see that big red spot on the radar?

It's coming to get me.

On the plus side, it's moving through the area pretty quickly.

Posted by Russ at 10:09 PM
June 15, 2005

Today is something of a milestone for me. It was five years ago today that I arrived in North Carolina, after having pulled up stakes and left California.

Relocating long-distance was nothing particularly new for me. I'd gone to college in the Midwest, and I'd been stationed in Texas and New England — not to mention in Korea. But those moves were necessary; I had to go to college, and I had to go where Uncle Sam sent me.

However, coming to North Carolina was a purely voluntary decision. Indeed, it was the answer to a few "problems" I had: I wanted out of San Jose, and I wanted to buy a house.

With my employment situation at that time, I had several different places to which I could move. Chelmsford, MA was out of the question, what with the "Taxachussetts" reputation and the vast surplus of Kennedy sycophants. I narrowed my choices to Austin, Texas and Raleigh, NC and spent no small amount of time debating the decision with myself.

I'd been stationed in Texas; combined with my relo-research, I was roughly familiar with things there. But I had never laid eyes on any part of North Carolina. While I was torn with indecision, Fate intervened, and I was sent on a business trip to visit the company offices in Raleigh. It was love at, if not first sight, then first week's stay. My mind was made up.

Less than a month later, I had to make a second trip to the Raleigh office. I decided to see what I could do about finding an apartment during my brief stay. I wasn't overly optimistic about my chances, but my perspective on apartment hunting had been warped by my four years in San Jose.

In San Jose in the late '90s, apartment hunting usually consisted of the following series of actions:

  • Wake up Sunday morning at 4am, shower, shave, get dressed (business casual preferred.)
  • Go outside to wait for the Sunday paper to arrive.
  • While waiting, warm up the car.
  • As soon as the paper is in hand, discard all but the "apartments for rent" section of the paper.
  • Drive like a maniac to the first/best address spotted in the ads.
  • Queue up behind the 50 people who got there before you to fill out an application.
  • Repeat weekly until new apartment found and leased.
  • Auction off a) arm, b) leg, or c) rights to firstborn child to cover the rent expenses.

The rental market in the Raleigh area, to my great relief, was nothing quite as cutthroat as that in the Bay Area. I had an afternoon free during my trip, and in two hours I had found a good place and had a signed lease in hand. I could afford to pay for the apartment standing empty while I wrapped up my affairs in San Jose.

Less than a month later, I had checked out of my apartment in San Jose, hired a mover for the big stuff, packed the small stuff into my SUV, and hit the road.

On June 15th, 2000 I arrived in Raleigh. And, in an odd coincidence sure to make the reader think of pregnancy, nine months later I moved into my very own built-for-me house, where I still happily reside.

I'm a native Californian, third generation, born and bred. But unless something particularly unusual happens, I'll never live there again. North Carolina is now home.

Posted by Russ at 01:02 PM | Comments (7)
April 15, 2005
Heavy Metal

An observant reader may have gathered from a couple of past entries here that I'm something of a battleship aficionado. The reader would be correct.

Nothing says "are you ready to surrender yet?" like an American battleship showing up on your coastline, ready to begin lobbing 2000-pound shells. Saddam's army learned that lesson in 1991, with whole units surrendering at the sight of the unmanned aerial vehicles used by the battleships for target spotting and fire correction/adjustment. They knew what kind of hell would otherwise have been unleashed on them.

Fandom aside, though, I had thought the day of the battleships' utility in war was over. I assumed that other weapon systems were adequate to the tasks for which the battleship was well-suited. As a stodgy old traditionalist, I hoped the battlewagons could still be useful, but I was not convinced that it could be so.

Oliver North says otherwise:

Sometimes, as I tell my grandchildren, older is better. In the case of the two battlewagons, older is not only superior, it's also a lot less expensive.
I believe him.

Below the fold, another photo from my recent visit to the USS North Carolina.

The aft turret:

Click for larger

Posted by Russ at 01:00 PM | Comments (3)
March 28, 2005
Cabin Fever Successfully Averted

BB-55, the USS North Carolina...

BB-55 Turrets 1 & 2
[Click to view large image - 1024x680, 600KB]

[More photos to follow.]

Can you say "behemoth?" I knew you could.

'Twas a beautiful day in Wilmington, where the "Showboat" is permanently moored. It rained until I got there, was sunny and breezy while I was there, and began raining in earnest when I got back to my SUV for the drive home. Excellent timing on my part, if I do say so myself.

I think I can now return for a while to my hermit-like ways. I'll have to get out again when baseball season starts, of course, but in the meantime I've had my recommended quarterly allowance of sun and fresh air.

[Just kidding, Mom.]

While touring the ship, I had a remarkable encounter, the details of which I will relate tomorrow.

If the technical details of battleship design really float your boat (sorry about that...) then I haven't seen anything better than Norman Friedman's work, U.S. Battleships: An Illustrated Design History, which really gets into the specifics of how our battlewagons were conceived, designed and built.

The book begins in the pre-Dreadnought era, covering ships such as the infamous USS Maine, continuing with the first true battleship in the US Navy, the USS Indiana (BB-1) of 1895, and carries on through to the USS Iowa (BB-61) and the sister ships of her class, USS New Jersey, USS Missouri and USS Wisconsin.

As a History Guy (I think that's an official title...) I found it particularly interesting to see how the 1922 Washington Treaty, which limited the numbers and sizes of battleships, influenced ship design in the interwar period.

[USS North Carolina was designed and built just as Japan began ignoring the Washington Treaty, making her the first of the U.S. WW2-era "fast battleships" to mount the deadly 16" guns, but among the last to have artificial limits constraining her overall size.]

Copiously illustrated, this book is a must-have for serious students of U.S. naval history.

Posted by Russ at 09:19 PM | Comments (1)
More Power!

I haven't treated myself to something enjoyable in rather a long time, so today I'm off to see the battleship USS North Carolina.

I'm a sucker for power tools, and a battleship is just about the biggest power tool ever devised.

[Insert Tim Allen grunting noises here.]

Posted by Russ at 09:35 AM | Comments (2)
January 12, 2005
Home Defense

I'm not often overwhelmed with glee when some miscreant meets his demise at the hands of an armed homeowner. It's sad that someone could throw away his life so stupidly.

This isn't quite Texas, but it's good to know that here in North Carolina, one can defend oneself with lethal force and not automatically be presumed by Law Enforcement to be the villain, as would happen in many jurisdictions in this country — or indeed in many countries in, say, Europe.

No Charges For Homeowner Who Shot Burglary Suspect

WILSON, N.C. -- A Wilson man who allegedly shot and killed a suspected burglar at his house Tuesday morning will not face charges in the shooting death, authorities said.

. . .

The home's resident, Gene Watson, told police that he had shot the man after he had broken into Watson's home.

The article also notes:

Watson is known in Wilson for his work as Cocoa the Clown.

Jokes seem rather inappropriate, for some reason.

Posted by Russ at 08:56 PM | Comments (3)
December 20, 2004


Something is so wrong about this... this is North Carolina, after all.

North Carolina. In the South. Isn't it supposed to be temperate, or mild, or something?

At least it's above zero. And there's no snow or ice — knock wood.

But a white Christmas might be nice... as long as the snow melts by the next day

[Yes, yes, I know - we get this sort of thing every year. That doesn't mean I have to like it, though.]

[Well, maybe a little.]

Posted by Russ at 01:34 PM | Comments (2)
November 15, 2004
Monday, Bloody Monday II

North Carolina is a wonderful place to live. Today in the mail, I received a "Notice of Individual Income Tax Assessment" from the N.C. Dept. of Revenue for unpaid taxes from 1999.

One slight hitch, though. I moved here in 2000.

There isn't a big enough capital "F" to spell the kind of fun I'm going to have with this.

Posted by Russ at 02:08 PM | Comments (1)
August 13, 2004
Local Pipebomb Update

The only thing being said about our local idiot is that his pipe bombs were not powerful.

It sounds more and more like he was just a dumb kid with an explosives fixation... but I sure hope the FBI and/or police are going through his computer harddrive with a fine-tooth comb.

Posted by Russ at 09:33 PM

As a prelude to hurricane Charley's arrival, we had a tornado warning about an hour ago. The severe thunderstorm warning we're under right now seems like a relief by comparison.

The Emergency Broadcast System said a twister had touched down about 8 miles from here. The rain was pounding as heavily as I've ever seen it — I could barely see the woods at the end of the street here — but it wasn't too windy.

This weekend is going to suck. It won't be anywhere near as bad here as the folks in Florida are having it, but that's just a question of degree. The "suck/no-suck" toggle is definitely flipped to "suck."

Posted by Russ at 07:55 PM
August 11, 2004
Local Terrorism, Part 2

Following up on the teen pipebomb maker mentioned yesterday.

Parents: Teen Accused Of Having Pipe Bombs Is Model Student

Of course he is.

"He is a good kid. He is inventive. He is assertive. He is curious. He's a honor roll student," he said. "He had no intention of ever setting one of those things off. I think he was just curious to see if he could do it."

Great. So tell us Dad, why was he driving around with these objects of his curiosity in the back of the car?

Later in the article:

"He was really nice, really outgoing. Just kind of stood out. He had a bunch of friends, but he kept to himself sometimes," student Holly Goodwin said.

The good Lord knows, if I ever did something foolish enough to end up on the news, my own neighbors would probably describe me as "a quiet guy — keeps mostly to himself, but he seems pretty nice."

Heck, why not just label me a psychopath now and be done with it?

Students said they were happy the authorities acted when they did.

"After the Columbine thing, everyone is going to be concerned about school violence. It is really surprising, coming from a small town like Apex," student Curtis Driver said.

"It's scary to think about that," student Melissa Williams said. "He could have brought them to school. Anything could have happened."

Exactly. Anything could have happened. We don't yet know what the kid had in mind; given that he's a minor, we might not ever know, except through the filter of his legal surrogates. [IANAL; in juvenile cases, are prosecutors allowed to talk to the public?]

He's apparently not a stupid kid... but at the very minimum, he is a fool. OK, maybe I'm being a bit harsh on the kid. I suspect he probably just has a teenage-boy fixation on blowing stuff up — we all have incidents of extreme foolishness in our past, after all — but my suspicions aren't exactly the final word on this.

I just wonder: if the kid hadn't been caught when he was, would we instead be seeing news reports like this one?

Posted by Russ at 03:46 PM
August 10, 2004
Local Terrorism

The big news around here:

Pipe Bomb Find Leads To Dozens Of Charges Against Fuquay-Varina Teen

Egads. Fuquay-Varina is only two towns away from here.

FUQUAY-VARINA, N.C. -- The search for a vehicle involved in a hit-and-run incident turned up something far more disturbing Monday. Police say a teenager involved in the accident had more than a dozen pipe bombs.

Now, a major investigation is under way that spans from Apex to Cary to Fuquay-Varina and involves the FBI and the Raleigh Bomb Squad.

Cary police are handling the investigation because it all started with a hit-and-run at 12:34 p.m. at Waverly Place in Cary.

Cary, Apex, and Fuquay-Varina are all in the western/southwestern suburbs of Raleigh. As I think I've noted in the past, I live in Apex.

In a parking lot next to the Bright Horizons Family Solutions day-care center, the hit-and-run suspect quickly became a serious threat.

The driver, 17-year-old Jarrett Brown, was pulled over by an Apex police officer who noticed something unusual in the back seat of the car.

"He spotted what appeared to be some type of explosive device," said Capt. Dave Wulff of the Cary Police Department.

Note that it was an alert police officer that spotted this. Kudos to that officer, but let's face it: it was a matter of luck. If the kid hadn't been stupid, he might not have been caught.

Inside the vehicle, the officer found six pipe bombs that were all less than 6 inches long.

That is when officers ordered Jennie Sykes to evacuate her day-care center.

"A lot of children were in the building, about 75 to 80 children, so it was a big responsibility to get them across the street," said Jennie Sykes of Bright Horizons Family Solutions.

The Raleigh Bomb Squad wrapped the explosives in blankets, put them in their bomb disposal unit and hauled them away.

The investigation led officers to the teen's home on Poplar Ridge Road in Fuquay-Varina. Inside, they found 12 more pipe bombs.

"We do have chemicals that we're concerned about," said Chief Jerry Phillips of the Fuquay-Varina Police Department.

As a precaution, police evacuated eight residences in the cul-de-sac.

Brown, a rising senior at Apex High School, is charged with 24 counts of possessing weapons of mass destruction and a hit-and-run charge.

The Fuquay-Varina police chief says Brown's parents did not seem to know about the chemicals in their son's room.

"I spoke to them briefly and they came across as good people." Phillips said. "I don't know, you don't know what your children do sometimes. You hope they don't get into trouble, but sometimes they do."

Brown is scheduled to make his first appearance Tuesday.

I don't know what this guy had going on in his head. Maybe he was going to do some creative fishing at Jordan Lake just a few miles west of here. Maybe he simply shared the fascination many teenage boys have with blowing things up.

Or maybe he had a score to settle. Was he bullied in school? Was he affiliated with eco-terrorists? It's too soon to know anything yet.

In a post-Columbine, post-9/11 world, no one with half a brain in their head is going to fiddle around with illegal home-made explosives just for fun. This guy is either exceptionally stupid (unlikely, since it takes a certain amount of brainpower to build pipebombs without killing yourself) or had a motive to use the aforementioned pipebombs.

Odds are, this kid is going down. Hard.

Posted by Russ at 03:37 PM
July 20, 2004
I, Voter

Today was the North Carolina primary election, delayed for two months due to a nasty redistricting battle.

In the time between completing my previous post and beginning this, I was able to complete the voting process: verify the polling location on the Wake County website, find my keys, drive to the polling place, check in, vote, drive to the quicki-mart for my vice a pack of smokes, drive home, and explain the whole thing to the Parental Unit.

As I strolled into the polling place — the local elementary school — I noticed the rather low turnout, but all the people ahead of me were in the line for surnames beginning with letters M thru Z, so I was able to walk to the head of the line.

The nice little old lady behind the table asked my name and address, looked me up, asked my party affiliation (this was a primary election; here in NC, one apparently doesn't get to vote in other party's primaries — that's the way things should be), had me sign a paper (apparently to verify that I was indeed present) and proceed to the next table to pick up my ballot.

The fellow at the next table took and examined my signed form, handed me a ballot, and directed me to a booth, where I made the appropriate marks on the ballot.

From there, I took my ballot to the reader machine and inserted it. It made a series of self-satisfied whirring and clicking noises, followed by a smug sigh, which I took to mean that my votes had been tabulated, since upon hearing that noise yet another nice lady fairly leapt to my side and handed me the traditional "Be nice to me, I voted" sticker, which I obligingly fixed to my shirt before making my way out of the building and back to my truck.

As during elections in the past, not once was I ever asked to prove that I was who I claimed to be in order to vote. No request to see a voter registration card, no demand for a driver license or ID of any kind.

That's just wrong.

Posted by Russ at 07:10 PM | Comments (1)
May 26, 2004
Don't know why / There's no sun up in the sky

Via the WeatherBug:

655 PM EDT WED MAY 26 2004





I have one friend who might like this. Me... I'd settle for ordinary rain.

Posted by Russ at 08:15 PM
May 07, 2004
Game Face

Steve H. of Hog on Ice and Val Prieto of Babalu Blog are having a smoke-off. Steve will be smoking a duck; I think Val is doing a chicken.

I'm torn as to who I should throw my support to. I mean, I have conversed with Steve on several occasions, whereas I've never done so with Val. So Steve gets points for acquaintanceship.

But Steve fallaciously insists his electric smoker will outperform Val's charcoal smoker. Oh, sure, the finished products of the two smokers will likely be nearly indistinguishable, taste-wise. Steve, however, omits the "soul factor" from his calulations.

Smoking is more than just putting a hunk of meat into a warm smoke-filled enclosure until it reaches the peak of tenderness and tastiness. Smoking is a labor of love - tending the fire, keeping the temperature on the sweet-spot, adding the smoke-producing wood chunks. It demands periodic attention throughout the day, and when you've finished, you have a work of art that the people you're feeding know is the result of your expert ministrations.

It shows them that you care enough to smoke the very best.


Plus, of course, during the intervals between smoker-tending sessions you can drink beer. Make sure you have at least a twelve-pack handy.

If you're using an electric smoker, you might as well just oven-roast the meat and add Liquid Smoke when you're done.

Sorry, Steve - I have to go with Val on this one.

Posted by Russ at 10:26 PM | Comments (8)
May 04, 2004

If there's one sound I hate to hear, it's the screech of the Emergency Broadcast System.

OK, there's one sound that I'll presume is worse: that of an oncoming tornado. I've never heard one, and I hope never to hear one, but I can only assume that it's far far worse than the EBS noise.

We had a Tornado Warning yesterday. Fortunately for me, the tornado touched down about 12 miles from here. Thankfully, I've not heard that anyone was hurt. All we had right here was a thundersorm.

Thunderstorms are not an uncommon weather phenomenon here in NC. But short of a hurricane, none of the weather I've seen here compares to the seasonal monsoon storms I saw during three summers in Korea.

In June of 1990, our platoon of MI troopers had been tasked to go to the field with one of the armor battalions from the 2nd Infantry Division to monitor their communications, making sure they weren't using bad radio procedure. We were to report security lapses in an effort to improve the tankers' security.

So, SGT Rick, SPC Dave and I piled our gear in our HMMWV and headed to the field site that had been chosen for us, one of several hilltops overlooking the tankers' exercise area.

In hindsight, a hilltop might not have been the wisest location.

We arrived and proceeded to do the usual things MI troops do in the field -- we set up the radios, the portable radio mast antenna, and our individual shelters. The radios were easy, since they were mounted in the HMMWV. All we had to do was set up the OE-254 antenna mast -- about 50 feet away from the truck -- and hook up the RF cables. Piece of cake.

In hindsight, a 40-foot-tall mast antenna might not have been the wisest thing to set up.

As the afternoon wore on, the wind picked up and clouds began to roll in. We began to worry that the wind might knock down the mast, so we double-checked the guy-wires; we also paid attention to our shelters (basically, ponchos strung between trees and staked to the ground.) The wind continued to increase, and our shelters gave up.

In hindsight, ponchos were probably a bad idea.

We could see that rain was coming, so we loaded our personal gear back into the HMMWV. Darkness fell quickly as thick black clouds rolled in. Then the rain began. The three of us piled into the HMMWV as the deluge began.

In the BBC TV series "Blackadder II," the character Captain Redbeard Rum (played delightfully by Tom Baker of Dr. Who fame) says of the Cape of Good Hope, "the rain beats down so hard it makes your head bleed." I can only assume that the writer had been to Korea. You've heard all the folksy expressions describing how hard it may be raining? Cows peeing on flat rocks, and so on? Well, none of those expressions do justice to the monsoon rain. It was as if God Himself had decided we were a fire that needed to be put out.

The ragtop on our HMMWV began to leak. The wind was blowing rainwater into the truck through the gaps around the doors. The three of us were soaked to the skin, along with all our gear.

All this time our mission had continued. There was no thought of abandoning the site, of packing up and driving down off the hill. Of course, the fact that the "road" (more accurately, "goat trail") we had driven up had washed out may have contributed to our decision to stay put. We were wet, but still mission-capable.

Then the lightning came.

It began off in the distance, maybe a couple miles or so away. It came closer -- much closer. Then realization dawned on us: we had an antenna up on a mast on top of a hill, with cables running into our thoroughly soaked vehicle. And the "flash [wait] bang" time was getting shorter and shorter.

Realizing the situation, SGT Rick called in to our commander with a final "we're going off the air" message. The rain beating on the roof of the truck and the nearly uninterrupted BOOM of thunder made speaking on the radio -- or face to face -- nearly impossible. The moment he signed off, we disconnected all the antenna cables from the radios and threw them out of the vehicle and removed the whip antenna from the back of the truck. We were now wet and miserable, with no commo, a leaking vehicle, squatting on the HMMWV seats to keep our butts as dry as possible.

Not a minute after we disconnected the radios and antennas, the lightning found us. What had earlier been "flash [wait...] boom" became "flash[pause]BOOM!!!" then "flashBANG!!! fl..BANG!!! BANG!!!" There was a flash of lightning and a simultaneous peal of thunder every few seconds. Our antenna mast, still upright despite the wind, was struck over and over.

In hindsight, the antenna mast acting as a lightning rod probably saved us.

This continued for what seemed like hours. It seemed that way because it was hours, about 4 hours, lightning striking all around the vehicle as the three of us squatted on the seats, praying that the next "fl..BANG" wouldn't be the one that fried us where we sat. [We had come to the conclusion that sheltering in a rain-filled ditch was not likely to be any safer than staying in the vehicle. And in the vehicle, we avoided the chance of drowning.]

Finally the lightning moved off, though the rain continued. None of the three of us slept very well - or at all -- that night. I don't really remember.

The storm moved out of the area, and the morning dawned clear and sunny. We reestablished contact with our commander, and were ordered off the hill. Out of communications and at the center of the storm as we had been, people had worried about us. Driving down the hill, we came across our platoon sergeant, who had been unable to get his HMMWV up the hill. The road goat path that had been washed out was barely navigable by daylight -- it would indeed have been impossible in the dark during a pounding rainstorm. It later turned out that we were the only team that hadn't been able to get off its assigned hill.

In hindsight, it was good training.

I figure everyone needs one or two nights like that during their lifetimes.

Posted by Russ at 12:21 AM | Comments (3)
April 20, 2004
Mulching Complete

No heatstroke, barfing, falling over, or other bad things happened today. I'll take that as a good sign.

I don't know how much eight cubic yards of dry mulch might weigh... and I didn't figure it out today. Due to the rain here last week, I had wet mulch -- not soaking wet, but nowhere near dry, either. I figure the total weight was in the neighborhood of two tons.

Whew. That's the most physical labor I've done since I hurt my back in January. It's good to be strong again. The results, I think, are worth the labor:


I wish I'd thought to take a "before" picture for comparison. Sadly, no... but it looked something like this.

Posted by Russ at 07:12 PM | Comments (2)
Mulch Master

I've been putting it off far too long, but the yardwork has to be done sometime. I think I can take a day out to deal with this:


That started out as eight cubic yards of mulch -- I think I moved one yard before I thought to take a picture.

Yep, that's a snow shovel you see there. Like Alton Brown, I love a multi-tasker.

Now if I can just get through the day without being heat-stricken, falling over, throwing up, or roaching my back again, I'll be set... and the backyard will look better than it ever has.

Posted by Russ at 11:30 AM | Comments (1)
February 27, 2004
Emerson, Boozer

It's been many years since my typical alcohol consumption has been more than a beer or two every month or two. I've often gone months without cracking open a cold one. I just don't feel a need to indulge. Yes, I used to do the typical "go out once or twice a week with the guys" thing, but I got most of it out of my system before I hit my thirties.

Just because I don't drink much doesn't mean I've lost my ability to enjoy a good drink. Nothing could be further from the truth. Special occasions often call for a gin & tonic, for instance.

Other occasions (or no occasion at all) call for the angels' own beverage of choice, uisge beatha, the water of life: single malt scotch whisky. And now, thanks to The Thirsty Traveller, I've found my own little corner of Nirvana: the Scotch Malt Whisky Society (and, of course, its U.S. chapter.)

Now, North Carolina has a lot of rules and laws about alcohol carried over from Prohibition days. Here, for instance, the only place to buy anything stronger than wine is at a state-operated store. Oddly, while you can buy Everclear at the "ABC Store," you can't get potent varieties of beer anywhere in the state. If you want to special-order a particular libation they don't normally carry, you have to order an entire case. I presume there are other states with similar laws and operations.

One of the services of the Society is a sort of "bottle of the month club." The world's finest scotch whiskies, at full cask strength (the stuff you buy in the stores is diluted before bottling), picked by experts and delivered to the Society member. I can't wait to join.

Sadly, one of the rules here in NC is that mail-order liquor must be shipped to one of the state stores for pickup, rather than directly to the buyer's address. On second thought, maybe that's a good thing. I couldn't drink a whole bottle every month.

But right now I think I hear a glass of Glen Garioch calling my name.

Posted by Russ at 11:46 PM | Comments (1)
February 01, 2004

Bloody typical.

Carolina Hurricanes make it to the Stanley Cup - lose.

Carolina Panthers make it to the Super Bowl - lose.

Good thing we don't have a Major League Baseball team here. I don't think I could take seeing them lose the World Series. I'll stick with the triple-A Durham Bulls.

Posted by Russ at 10:46 PM | Comments (2)
January 25, 2004
Blustery Day IV

P.M. update: The temperature has dropped to 20°, maybe lower. Sleet, yes; freezing rain, no.

Still have electricity, of course (knock wood....)

I wonder what meteorological joys tomorrow will bring?

Posted by Russ at 09:44 PM | Comments (1)
Blustery Day III

3:00pm -- The snow has stopped at about 2", but the weather people keep calling for freezing rain or sleet.

Having grown up in southern California, I never had to deal with snow or ice in the winter, but college in Illinois and Michigan and Army service in Korea quickly taught me what I needed to know to deal with the cold. It isn't that hard.

I figured when I moved to North Carolina that people would be at least a little used to the idea of cold winter weather. I mean, it's snowed at least once each winter for the last four years... you'd think the weather people wouldn't start hyperventilating at the thought of a little precipitation.

Posted by Russ at 03:10 PM
Blustery Day II

12:00 noon: So far, no rain or sleet. Snow, maybe half an inch -- not much, but it just started.

Posted by Russ at 12:00 PM
Blustery Day

Having been a bit laid up due to the back injury, I haven't spent much time in front of the computer(s) doing my regular reading, and consequently I've had little to say.

Sorry about that. Maybe I should try to shift the laptop into the bedroom.

Last winter, we had an ice storm that took out hundreds of trees, and electricity in the Raleigh area was out for as long as a week in some places. My neighbors and I were lucky -- only a few trees down, and the power was up & running within 18 hours

This year, so far, we've been lucky, winter-weather-wise. Until today:


It shows snow for Raleigh, but the local weather folks are saying it's actually going to be sleet & freezing rain.

Oh, bother.

Posted by Russ at 10:19 AM
January 09, 2004
Winter Wonderland

The view from my back deck today.

I love it. Maybe it's because I've not lived in many places where it snows, but I find myself always enamored of fresh snowfall.


(Click photo to view larger image.)

Posted by Russ at 02:30 PM
November 27, 2003
Duck Consumed

I'm no master chef like Steve, but I have to say it: I do a mean smoked duck.

Turkey? Feh.

Posted by Russ at 08:01 PM | Comments (3)
Duckward, ho!

Oh, yeah, baby.

Duck in smoker

The duck has launched.

Posted by Russ at 10:23 AM
November 26, 2003
Last Masterpiece of the Year

Thanksgiving dinner. Mmmmm.... Mom makes the best T-Day meal ever made by anyone.

[Emerson's Second Law: "Mom" can be claimed to be the best cook in the world by anyone and everyone; everyone making such a claim is correct; there is no logical contradiction in the existence of more than one "best cook."]

It's a great meal, but I'm not there. So what do you do when you live alone in North Carolina and your family is on the other coast?

Yep, that's right. You break out the smoker.

A turkey would be too much, so I didn't get one. A duck, on the other hand... hmm... a duck would be just about right.

Heh. The duck is well on its way to being thawed.

Tomorrow is going to be a grand and glorious day.

Posted by Russ at 08:05 PM
October 23, 2003
Without Representation

I am so glad we in North Carolina have a principled voice-of-the-people senator in our own John Edwards. I'm glad to see him taking a stand on pay raises for the Senate.

Oh, wait. He didn't.

This shouldn't be a surprise, given his track record.

Would someone be so good as to tell me how, exactly, taxation with representation is any better than the same without?

Posted by Russ at 05:29 PM | Comments (2)
September 21, 2003
Buried Treasure

How to put closure to last week? Something to tie together a hurricane and pirates...?

Heh. I found it.

While preparing for what I assumed to be the inevitable long-term power outage, I made plenty of ice (empty 2-liter Diet Coke bottles are darn handy) and transferred the contents of the indoor freezer to the chest-type freezer in the garage (yes, that freezer. Trust me - it's better now.)

I really wanted to save as much as I could, even though what was in the freezer was of no particularly great value - frozen veggies, various sausages, chicken breasts....


Buried deep in the back of the freezer... a pack of filet mignon. Four of them, which I'd cut myself from a whole beef loin bought on the cheap, back around March.

Beautiful, tender, savory filets. 2-inch thick filets, perfectly preserved. Can you guess what I'll be having for dinner tonight?

Thanks, Isabel.

Buried treasure.

Posted by Russ at 10:02 AM | Comments (2)
September 20, 2003
In case you weren't sure...

Post-hurricane leaf/twig/branch cleanup is not recommended for people with back problems.

Especially not tall people with back problems. Those twigs and branches on the ground are a long way down.

Where are all the enterprising teenagers looking to make a buck? I'll pay! I'll pay!

Posted by Russ at 12:22 PM | Comments (1)
September 19, 2003
Don't say it

With regard to Isabel...

If I hear the expression "dodged a bullet" one more time, just one more time....

I'm tempted to call in the Cliché Police.

Posted by Russ at 08:17 AM | Comments (2)
September 18, 2003

Taking into account the relative fragility of the power here in Apex, I'm rather amazed that the power has stayed on as long as it has today. Usually, a baby deer sneezing in the woods is sufficient to knock our power out for a few minutes, but this storm has thus far only caused a few flickers in the power.

Knock wood.

My employers basically told us to work from home today if at all possible. It's been possible. But it's been really tough concentrating on analyzing this verkakte spreadsheet when, every minute, I hear something impacting the side of my house.

Posted by Russ at 06:49 PM
Conspiracy Theories

Michele notes of hurricane Isabel:

It is the one big story in the news that has no dividing line, no conspiracy theories attached to it, no political undertones.
Indeed, where are the conspiracies? What kind of a self-respecting Axis has no underhanded dealings, no secrets, no conspiracies? It's a fair question.

Hey, Michele, just a heads-up for you - the Axis is developing WMD.

Last night I made chili out of some perishables from my refrigerator. The effects should be lethal.

Posted by Russ at 08:29 AM | Comments (2)
September 17, 2003
An Exclusive Club

Meryl has compiled a roster of bloggers in the path of our oncoming hurricane: the Axis of Isabel. I rather wish I didn't qualify for membership in this club.

Likely, many or most of North State blogs qualify, to one degree or another.

Posted by Russ at 11:03 AM | Comments (1)
September 16, 2003
FrankJ says: Know Thy Enemy

FrankJ has hurricane tips for us.

Posted by Russ at 12:17 PM
Isabel's a-comin'

As much as I love Hurricanes and like Hurricanes, I'm not a particular fan of hurricanes.

We had monsoons every year in Korea, which are pretty much the same thing... but I didn't actually own the barracks or tents I lived in at the time. Home ownership adds a new element to the whole "inclement weather" thing.

Isabel. Dang.

Food? Check. Water? Check. Candles and matches? Check, check. Truck gassed up? Check.

Chainsaw? Dang.... Battery-operated radio? Dang....

Looks like I have a little shopping to do.

Posted by Russ at 08:13 AM
August 21, 2003
The sporting life

Tuesday was a great day.

My visiting brother and I took my 12-year-old nephew fishing on Jordan Lake - off a dock, since I have no boat. The crappie were biting, and the boy managed to land one, as well as a catfish. My brother got a crappie. I got bupkus - about ten bites, but nothing took the bait... well, the lure, actually.

Having productively spent the morning lakeside (time spent fishing is not about catching fish) it was determined that it was time to teach the boy to shoot.

Now, those of you who make Kim du Toit a daily read might be saying to yourself "12? You waited until he was 12? Are you nuts?" And you'd have a point. Heck, I first learned when I was six or seven. But two facts mitigate: 1) he's my nephew, not my son, and 2) the boy lives in the land of loons California - 'nuff said.

So Tuesday we headed to the Wake County Firearms Education and Training Center. A more impressive facility I have never seen - not even (or perhaps, especially) while I was in the Army. Three of the indoor bays are available for public use (after completion of a 2-hour training class and passing a test) (I aced it, thankyouverymuch), with one bay reserved for police training. Two of the "civilian" bays are 50 meters; one is a full 100 meters.

100 meters. Indoors.

Jealous yet?

Anything up to .50 caliber rifle can be fired in there. The only shortcoming is that there is no target retrieval system. You have to walk downrange to change targets, but the Range Safety Officers (always on duty) are well trained, and have loudspeakers, colored lights, and a siren to make plain the "hot" or "cold" status of any of the bays.

So we showed up, signed in, bought a couple targets, and headed to the firing line. It was a slow night, the place was almost deserted - we had a 50-meter bay to ourselves. I then proceeded to instruct the lad in the essentials of safety.

Always keep the weapon pointed in a safe direction.
"A safe direction" being downrange towards the backstop (and not at the ceiling or floor).
Always keep the weapon unloaded until ready to use.
Pretty straightforward.
Always keep your finger off the trigger until you are ready to fire.
Also clear and to the point.
Never handle a firearm when someone is downrange.
Not only did I impress it upon the lad to not handle a firearm when I was downrange changing targets, I made sure he was way against the back wall while I was doing so. I think he realized I was utterly serious.

There are, of course, other ways of expressing the safety principles above. But the point is clear: safety first, last and always.

With a target set at 25 meters, we proceeded with the Henry U.S. Survival .22 - a weapon I had purchased to spite Michael Moore [scroll down] and because I was deficient in the .22 department. After I showed him how to take up a proper position, how to get a good sight picture, how to control his breathing, how to load and clear the weapon, etc. With me on him like ugly on Helen Thomas, the lad took his first shot ever.

9 o'clock, on the edge of the black. Loading the Henry magazine one round at a time (to try to teach him to make that one shot count) the lad proceeded to fill the upper left quadrant of the target with little holes. Not bad for his very first time out - but more importantly, he learned to be safe. Being an almost teen, you might expect a boy to be rather rebellious - not my nephew. He actually checked with me before each step of the whole process. I was pretty proud of him.

I managed a 1.5" group at 25 meters over iron sights. I can do better. Then just for fun I broke out my M1 Carbine and put 50 rounds through it. 1-inch vertical 4-inch horizontal groups... I can definitely do better than that.

What an amazingly great day.

Posted by Russ at 10:05 PM | Comments (4)
July 25, 2003
Honor, Hubris, A/C

This article on honor (or honour, as our cousins spell it) both hits and misses a number of points.

Yes, I have a few nits to pick. Not many.

America, it seems, remains culturally divided along the Mason–Dixon line, and the crucial difference now, as at the time of the American Civil War, is honour.
I think the difference isn't the Mason Dixon line, though that plays a related role. I think the difference in modern America (and, for that matter, in other countries) is not division into North and South, but division between big city and small town and the differing values found in each.

It's now time, boys and girls, to take a little trip down the rat-hole of amateur demography...

Now, I may be talking through my hat here; I'm doing this without actual research and without a net; I'm no anthropologist, demographer, or statistician. This is off-the-cuff, nearly extemporaneous.

If the Mason-Dixon line plays any part in the aforementioned big/little city/town calculation, it is because north of the Mason-Dixon line a larger slice of the population lives in large cities; south of the line, there is a greater likelihood of living in a smaller town. The South has historically had a much smaller population than the North, and a lower population density. In 1860, there were about 20 million in the North; there were only 9 million people in what would become the Confederacy, of whom about 3 million cannot be said to have been in the South by choice (yes, I mean slaves).

Right through to today, the South is less densely populated than the North, though it is catching up to a certain extent. Why? My guess: air conditioning.


I don't think the South would have begun its "boom" were it not for the ready availability of inexpensive air conditioning. The stereotypical "slow lazy southern town" portrayed in "To Kill A Mockingbird" or "Mayberry RFD" is closer to being true than not. After all, who really wants to exert themselves when it's 93° out and 98% humidity? Not this ol' boy, that's fer darn sure.

But the big/little dichotomy is not just a North/South phenomenon. Most of the American West is sparsely populated. Even that most populous of states, California, has a lot of wide open territory scattered with small towns. With the majority of the population concentrated in Los Angeles, San Diego, and the San Francisco Bay area, there's a lot of land left over.

And in general, the small-town values in most of the West echo those of the South. Heck, I was born and raised in California - my hometown had about 8,000 residents, and within an hour's drive, the largest city was under 100,000. [Don't you dare call me a yankee.]

But what, exactly, does all this have to do with honor?

It's simple, I think. There is one characteristic available to the residents of large cities that is generally unavailable in smaller towns, and this trait affects personal behavior in countless ways: Anonymity.

When you are in the position of being known in your community (not famous, just known) you are more likely to behave in ways that we might describe as honorable. You'll be more polite when you know (even unconsciously) that your Mother will hear about your rudeness.

If you back away from a challenge...

In the modern era, honour is generally considered obsolete. As Guy Crouchback notes in Evelyn Waugh’s novel Officers and Gentlemen, it is a ‘thing that changes. I mean, 150 years ago we would have had to fight if challenged. Now we’d laugh.’
Or in other words, behave cowardly. Do so in a small town and you know your Father, brother, and buddies will hear about it - and on such behavior are local reputations founded. Growing up in such an environment develops characteristics in a person that will not often change.

Take the discussion to the big city - or, for that matter, to the Internet. The anonymity afforded there allows the individual to get away with behavior that would be frowned upon or simply not tolerated in a smaller community.

If none of your acquaintances knows you are a cad, you can behave in pretty much any despicable way you want. Threatened by a bully, by a mugger? Run away - no one who knows you will ever know about your cowardice. Want to troll or deface a website? No one will ever find out the vandal was you. Probably.

In summary, your personal honor - or lack thereof - both builds on and affects your personal behavior.

Paul Robinson's article makes a number of points that might tend to offend an honorable person's sense of, um, honor. It's not until we are halfway through the article that we read

The kind of honour I am referring to here is not the gentility of men such as Robert E. Lee.
Well, gee, thanks for clearing that up, Paul. I suppose I could write another screed on the differences between gentility and honor. Suffice it to say that honor usually requires a degree of gentility of behavior; gentility on its own does not guarantee honor.

Robinson, a former officer in the UK and Canada, does pack quite a few good points into the article, but that's not to say that I agree fully with everything therein. At one point he says of Jacksonians

They see the pursuit of national honour as the prime purpose of policy.
I think not. Self-preservation (by utterly defeating our mortal foes) is the prime purpose of policy.

Indeed, I think Robinson really goes off the track in his conclusion where, attempting to draw a parallel between the antebellum South and the current state of the country, he says:

As the ancient Greeks knew, the pursuit of honour often leads people to attack others, to drive them down, in order to inflate themselves. The Greeks called such behaviour hubris, and believed that hubris inevitably resulted in disaster. It certainly did for the Confederacy..
Having spent the majority of the article attempting to draw parallels - some accurate - between the Old South and the current United States, Robinson tries to suggest, not altogether subtly, that the US is "attacking others to drive them down, to inflate [our]selves." And will ultimately defeat ourselves thereby.

This is both factually and analytically incorrect. A glance at a dictionary will correct his definition of "hubris." He could begin here or here.

To suggest, however, that what the US is engaged in is "attacking others to drive them down, to inflate ourselves" is a mistake of the greatest magnitude, particularly for a former military officer.

Overwhelming manpower and force of arms applied by the Union defeated the Confederacy, not any supposed sin of national pride.

But perhaps Robinson fails to recall that bright, clear September morning less than two years ago?

On that day, we as a nation were attacked by men whose purpose was to drive us down, to inflate themselves. And so far, they have mostly been destroyed, root and branch.

Hubris, indeed.

(Article found via Betsy)

Posted by Russ at 12:19 AM | Comments (3)
July 16, 2003
He just doesn't get it

Beaker disses all of North Carolina.

Doesn't he know that we all focused our lives on it? Doesn't he?!?!?

OK, perhaps not. Not all of us, maybe.

Not anyone I know, actually. Certainly not me.

Ummm... Clay who?

Posted by Russ at 08:17 PM
July 13, 2003

War once again rages across the South.

That's right - the Barbecue Wars are being fought at Adam's site, A Single Guy in the South (as if he were the only one. Heh.)

Regardless of the Texan or two who insist that beef can be barbecue, Adam is absolutely correct: barbecue is Pork, no ifs, ands, or buts*... as any North State Blogger could tell you.

After last weekend's success, I am so tempted to break out the cooker again, and photo-blog it. Trouble is, I need a group to which to feed the results - there's no way I can dispose of a whole batch of barbecue by myself.

Anyway, follow the link above and give those Texans what-for.

* unless, of course, you mean a Boston Butt.

Posted by Russ at 09:02 PM | Comments (7)
July 09, 2003
Slight chance

"Slight chance of thunderstorms during the late afternoon and early evening." That's what they said on the 24-hour local weather channel. I never had a 24-hour local weather channel before I moved here... pretty neat.

I'd been running a sprinkler on the front lawn today, so I knew we were in trouble (because finally breaking down and watering the lawn is sure to make it rain). I went out, turned off the water, coiled up the hose and went back inside to my air-conditioned splendor.

Not five minutes later, 100% of the SEVERE thunderstorm whipped through my neighborhood out on the western edge of Wake County.

Thunder. Lightning. Wind so heavy it would require Stephen Hawking to do the meteorological calculations. Then the rain.

In the middle of it all came a loud *-pop-* followed by a crash.

Oh great, I thought, now I have a hole in my roof. Well, fortunately the big branch from a maple tree 20 feet from the house bounced or was blown off the roof before it could do damage. Most of it ended up on my deck (the smoker is safe, you'll be glad to know); almost none of it is still on the roof (the usual twigs); some of it made it all the way over to the other side of the house - that's how windy it was.

Now the 24-hour local news (not weather) channel says it's been upgraded to a severe thunderstorm watch until 10pm. Gee, thanks guys.

Posted by Russ at 07:20 PM
June 04, 2003
North State Blogs

Someone's gone and done it....

North State Blogs

We're gonna have to get together for barbecue.

UPDATE: Linkage -- glad to be aboard!

Posted by Russ at 07:14 PM | Comments (4)
May 09, 2003

California, my native state, used to be a great place; it really was "The Golden State."

The schools were among the best in the country. Every cop was Joe Friday. Two cars in every garage and a swimming pool in every backyard. We gave Ronald Reagan two terms as governor, then gave him to the nation.

California was where everyone wanted to be; indeed, the population has nearly tripled in my lifetime. It's almost as if someone had picked up the entire country at the east coast and shook it - but only the debris slid down to the west coast.

By the time I kicked the California dust from my shoes in 2000, the state had gone completely and, I fear, irrevocably down the toilet.

Still, when I left California to relocate to North Carolina I knew there would be things I'd rather not have left behind, despite all the things I don't miss one iota.

I don't miss the explosive growth of ill-governed big cities. I don't miss the crowding or the crime. I don't miss paying more for rent than most Americans pay for their mortgages. I especially do not miss the moronic PC crowd running the state into the ground, the exceedingly moronic city governments doing even worse to what used to be such great cities, and the criminally stupid bureaucrats driving the schools at top speed on a highway to educational oblivion. I don't miss the corrupt politicians like Willie Brown and Grey Davis. I don't miss paying taxes so lawbreakers can get freebies from the state.

Now, I have come to love North Carolina; there is nothing I can think of [family crises excepted] that could persuade me to move back to the People's Republic. I love the fact that there are four discernible seasons here every year. Even as late as November, the landscape here is just so green - a novelty for one such as I raised in perpetually drought-stricken California, where brown hills are the norm from April to January.

The culture here is far more polite, far more respectful. Children raised here typically address their elders (when permitted to speak at all) as "Sir" or "Ma'am," not by their first names (a habit I consider to be particularly rude.) Neighborhood block parties happen every year, and you know all your neighbors' names - and they all know yours.

Mmmm.... Pig pickin' and other barbecue.

Still, there are particular things I miss about California. Yes, I miss having the beach within a stone's throw and the mountains half a day's drive away. I miss the really amazingly excellent Mexican food - and even the not-quite-so-good Mexican food. I miss having a computer store within ten minute's travel from any place in the state. But I can live with the loss of all those.

What I miss most - unquestionably, unalterably, undeniably - is being close to my family. I miss seeing my nieces and nephew growing up - too, too fast. I even, on occasion, miss my brother and sister (but I suspect that's a symptom of temporary insanity on my part.) I feel badly that they are all stuck there, and I almost feel bad that I have been lucky enough to escape.

With Mother's Day coming up any minute now, I am reminded of how much I miss seeing Mom as often as I used to. Steve over at Little Tiny Lies misses his Mom, too. (Read all about it.) But I am lucky - I have a mother to miss, to try to be a good son to.

If I could only get her to leave California.

Love ya, Mom.

Posted by Russ at 12:52 AM | Comments (4)