Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Meatballs, the food not the movie, can be very good

So, last night, just prior to the Riddick &Reynolds Pod Cast, the waitperson at Amedeos Italian Restaurant in Raleigh, where the show is recorded for distribution the next day, asked me for a food order. The selection could have been their solid pizza or the always good lasagna, but this time it was a small Ceasar salad and the Cheesy Meatballs appetizer. The latter was a bowl of three homemade meatballs smothered in Amedeos own marinara sauce and covered with a sizable quantity of mozzarella cheese.

The two dishes were just enough to satisfy the palette and prepare me to discuss my book: 1973-74 Reliving the NC StateWolfpack’s Title Run. The meatballs, with the sauce and cheese, were excellent. The Ceasar was typical and tasty. But while eating the meatballs, thoughts of another meatball experience surfaced. It was a visit to West First Wood Fired in Hendersonville NC where the West First Meatballs pasta dish was absolutely the best ever.

There was not a great deal of fettuccini but just enough to fill a stomach’s desire. Plenty of meatballs garnished the pasta. The sauce with plenty of added cheese was a perfect complement. Asking for the recipe brought a balk from the chef, but some of the ingredients were offered. There’s ground beef and ground pork (do not even think about sausage; use pork). There was cumin and coriander. And there were many other spices. It was the type of dish that will require a follow-up order at West First the next time there, even though there are many excellent selections on the menu.

The interview for Riddick & Reynolds went very well, especially after being satisfied by the salad and meatballs at Amedeos. It’s any interesting show which concentrates in NC State athletics. There’s a small live audience and a knowledgeable host along with some regulars. It’s usually every Monday night starting at 6:30. The visitors usually arrive in time to place an order, enjoying the food and an informative show. If you’re an NC State fan, plan to participate at least once if not more often.
Dictionary.com word of the day

paramnesia (noun) [par-am-nee-zhuh]: the inability to recall the correct meaning of a word

Monday, March 30, 2015

Should use of email and other social media be required for anyone?

Catherine Rampell is an under-40 person who feels everyone should communicate equally, at least if you’re a public employee. An opinion columnist for the Washington Post and a millennial, she obviously prefers instant gratification versus working to get the story. She recently wrote about use of email, or lack thereof, by some United States Senators, and she was snippy about it. Read her column yourself: Offline and out of touch in the Senate.

Rampell started her rant with an eye on Hillary Clinton’s email-gate. Clinton, not wanting to be on the public record, used her own email server to record transactions as Secretary of State, and before the server could be turned over to investigators, the Clintons (Bill helped for sure) wiped it clean, or so they say. Information may remain on the device but the Clintons will take a sledge hammer to it before giving it up and derailing Hillary’s second bid for President with embarrassing correspondence concerning her time as Secretary of State, not to mention other possibilities. This little incident may derail it anyway.

However, as soon as Senators John McCain and Lindsay Graham boasted their non-use of email, as soon as other Senators did the same, Rampell got on her high horse and condemned them for lack of joining her world. It’s an amazing dichotomy that a youngster wants veterans of life to do what she does for her convenience. She thinks the world revolves around email, Twitter, Facebook and all those other ways for communication when face-to-face discussion, written correspondence transmitted by courier or the United States Postal Service, and telephone calls will do.

She may be making a good point but requiring use of email because it’s faster and more convenient to search because it’s a digital record is like requiring the use of a motorized vehicle when walking will get you there with time to spare. Rampell needs to calm down and smell the roses. Concentrate more on what Hillary Clinton has destroyed and not that others prefer a different way of life.
Dictionary.com word of the day
funambulist (noun) [fyoo­-nam-byuh-list]: a tightrope walker

Sunday, March 29, 2015

Luddism or Ludism: One letter makes a huge difference

Catherine Rampell, writing in the Washington Post, used the word “Luddism” when noting that several United States Senators sided with Senator Lindsay Graham and Senator John McCain when the latter two boasted about not using email. The reference was made by the latter two when discussing the current and never-ending Hillary Clinton email scandal.

“Look it up,” was my Mother’s call to arms when anyone in the family asked for the definition of a word. So, after reading “Luddism” in a summary of Rampell’s work in The Week magazine’s March 27th edition, “Luddsim” was entered into a Google search. What came up was the Urban Dictionary reference:  The belief that your aptitude and ‘correctness’ is determined by your decibel, and blame never goes onto the self, always to others. (Example in a sentence: I was going to own up to running into my neighbors mailbox, but Ludism has taught me that the mailbox was simply in my way; therefore it is not my concern nor my problem!)

After reading the definition, and referring once again to that summary of Rampell’s work, the definition didn’t make sense. It was soon realized there was a lost letter in the Google search. Instead of “Luddism,” the search was for “Ludism” with one “d” not a double “d.” A new search for “Luddism” resulted in an Urban Dictionary meaning: Opposition to technical or technological change. (Example in a sentence: "I don't get it, Obama is surgically attached to his BlackBerry, but he denounces the iPad. He caught me off guard by his luddism.)

That made a lot more sense in the article. Luddism comes from the noun “Luddite” which means: a member of any various bands of workers in England (1811-1816) organized to destroy manufacturing, under the belief that its use diminished employment. (NOTE: actually there is not a word “Ludism.” The Urban Dictionary reference was created August 8, 2014 by Jimmyjamesallen, who ever that is. But it was good to use for today’s post.)

A short discussion of Hillary’s email is scheduled for tomorrow.
Dictionary.com word of the day
globular (adjective) [glob-yuh-ler]: globe-shaped; spherical

Saturday, March 28, 2015

Anna’s Sausage Lasagna at Ferraro’s is as tasty as it gets

If you’re ever in Westfield NJ, make it a point to visit Ferraro’s of Westfield, an Italian restaurant, opened in 1969, that has the food and atmosphere that will bring you back for more.  It’s not overly expensive and the portions are more than ample. And, if you’re there for just one meal and have no idea if you’ll return, take a chance on Anna’s Sausage Lasagna. It’s well worth it and as good or better than any other lasagna you'll have.

This dish is typical Italian lasagna with noodles stacked high and a crust of cheese on top. The menu says describes it as Homemade Pasta layered with Mild Sausage, Ricotta and topped with Mozzarella in a Fresh Pork Ragu. Your description will include the “Wow!” It’s that good. It has a creamy texture from the ricotta, a nice chew from the noodles that are cooked perfectly, a spice that’s pure Italian with a sausage flavor, and, my favorite, a slight crunch from the mozzarella that’s obviously been slightly broiled.

For an appetizer, the Calamari Fritti and the Cajun Calamari are excellent choices. The Calamari Fritti is served with a hot and a sweet marinara for dipping; the Cajun Calamari is fried, as the Fritti is, and then sautéed in a balsamic reduction and Cajun spices. Both are good but if you want it spicy, just go with the Calamari Fritti and take a good dip into the hot marinara.

The salads are huge and are offered in half-size but not shown that way on the menu. The smaller version is recommended so you can finish your lasagna or any of the other dinner selections which include plenty of fish and chicken dishes with Italian flare, excellent pizza (we are told) and steaks. And, the wine selection, other bar choices and service are wonderful.
Dictionary.com word of the day
pepper-upper (noun) [pep-er-uhp-er]: something, as a food, beverage, or pill, that provides a temporary period of energy and alertness

Friday, March 27, 2015

Me, Justise, Tyus and Grayson am Duke freshmen, just ask Mike

It warms my heart to know that Mike Krzyzewski, the Duke basketball coach, believes his team has a chance to win the national championship this year. (Exhale!) All is safe in the world. The first season of his five-year plan is working as well as his charm. It’s also warming to know that K cares more for basketball success than about a full academic life for the players he recruits to Duke. Mike has bought into the one and done concept of recruiting players who will play one year and then head to the professionals. In that sense, he’s no better than Kentucky John Calipari, and, in these parts, that seems to be a pretty low compliment.

The primary difference in the two coaches is that the Wildcats coach recruits and signs more one and done players than Krzyzewski and makes no bones about his motives. Calipari is more upfront about winning the national title and less about academics. Krzyzewski loves to give praise to Duke academics while plucking high school seniors for a season and then tossing them to the professionals without regard for a full Duke education which is supposed to be among the best. Maybe Duke has started awarding one-year degrees: BS in Basketball.

Duke is in the Sweet Sixteen, playing Utah Friday night, and has a pretty clear path to meeting Kentucky in the NCAA finals. According to Duke’s cheerleader-in-chief, Laura Keeley of The News & Observer, this year’s team was well thought out, well-planned by Krzyzewski, and its freshmen class members concur, as written by Keeley in a story posted March 25 and updated March 26 on the newspaper’s website. The words are amazing, wordier than what usually appears in this blog, not to mention grammatically incorrect when the players, Duke students of course, are quoted:

As much as this is a one-year window for the Blue Devils – Quinn Cook will graduate, Krzyzewski reiterated Tuesday that Jahlil Okafor is here for one year and Justise Winslow and Tyus Jones could enter the NBA draft, too – it has been a multiple-year process to put this team together. The Blue Devils’ staff recruited no other point guards besides Jones for three years, and Okafor was the other part of that package deal. Jones and Okafor weren’t coming to Duke just for a nine-month vacation. “Me, Justise, Tyus, Grayson (Allen), the freshmen who are coming in here, we had one big dream of winning the national title,” Okafor said. “That’s what led me to come to Duke was the opportunity to win a national title.”

It’s nice to know that “Me had one big dream” of winning a national title, academics be damned. By the way, “Me, Justise, Tyus and Grayson” am freshmen. Should Duke aspire to higher academics and not just recruit one year players to win the NCAA title? Maybe not since it's turning into a basketball factory with the likes of Kentucky, and there's plenty of disdain for that coach and program. So in the name of "who cares if the players are one-and-done projects, Go Wildcats, or any other team that gets in Duke’s path!
Dictionary.com word of the day
cantillate (verb) [kan-tl-eyt]: to chant; intone

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Greek Life: It’s under a microscope and for good reason

There’s a cousin in my family who is a lifer Greek. She thinks that a good Greek life in college is an important part of matriculation. “Where’s your daughter in college?” she asked once. “How’s the Greek system?” Telling her being Greek was not part of our daughter’s college experience was satisfying to me and disappointing to the cousin. “It was an important part of deciding which college our daughters and son attended,” she said. It wasn't for us.

Being part of a fraternity or sorority can be good for certain individuals during college years and then later on, but it doesn’t take being a part of an organization with funny letters to make it so. Living in a general dormitory can be just as rewarding and satisfying as long as the student gets to know the fellow students across the hall or in the next suite or on the next floor, and as long as those friendships reach beyond the college years, or not. Having friends to hang out with and to go to the midnight movies and to enjoy a brew or two or to take road trips with is part of the college experience, and believe me, college is more than about getting the diploma. It’s about getting an education you cannot get at home or in monastery. The best college motto: Do not let your academic work get in the way of your education.

Today, the Greek life is under a microscope like never before and for good reason. Across the nation, there are examples of wrong-doing that, thank goodness, are not being tolerated. Most fraternities and sororities are a continuation of a bunch of one-minded people, those who think their way is the only way and who have preconceived ideas of how life should be. At my alma mater, NC State, where being Greek was Greek to me (though I had two cousins who were brothers at the Jewish fraternity), currently there are several fraternities suspended for drugs, alcohol and hazing. While in the 1970s, the drugs, alcohol and hazing was there but out of sight, today it’s in full view with a “we don’t care attitude” by the members of the Greek organization behind which members hide in the name of tradition. Hidden or in view, wrong is wrong.

Most recently, a fraternity at NC State was suspended because of racially and sexually offensive comments found in a pledge book. This came after racial videos from a fraternity at the University of Oklahoma which magnified the pledge book discovery. Thank goodness NC State Chancellor Randy Woodson and his staff came down quickly and swiftly on the NC State fraternity. At this point, the entire system at State will be reviewed, and best bets are that more wrong-doing will be found. Unfortunately, many Greeks are legacy members and the current students are doing nothing less than what those relatives who came before them did. Just listening to a lifer Greek makes me cringe, especially when they think a good reason for choosing a college is the quality of Greek life. The Greek system may have a lot of good attributes, especially building friendships for life, but the question is: are those friendships full of convictions that society tries to rid each day? If so, disband the entire bunch.
Dictionary.com word of the day
forsooth (adverb) [fawr-sooth]: (now used in derision or to express disbelief) in truth; in fact; indeed

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

March 25, 1974: Marquette falls; Wolfpack reigns over all the land

41 years ago, NC State beat Marquette to win the 1974 NCAA basketball title. The following article appeared in the March 27, 1974 edition of Technician, NC State University student newspaper. Today, it is Chapter 86 of the book, 1973-74 Reliving the NC State Wolfpack's Title Run. 

By Jim Pomeranz
Sports Editor
          GREENSBORO—It was a great ending to a great season. Maybe the defeating of UCLA seemed to be a bigger accomplishment to many observers, but to the State Wolfpack basketball team, winning the national crown in 1974 was the greatest.
          The number one nationally ranked and number one in the NCAA playoffs State Wolfpack defeated Marquette Monday night in Greensboro, 76–64—and what a win!
          “It’s just a great feeling,” explained Tim Stoddard.
          “The UCLA win was a great win,” stated David Thompson, “but the finals is where we wanted to be.”
          Monte Towe said the win had not hit him with as much excitement as maybe other games had, but “tomorrow, I’ll probably go crazy.”
          Tom Burleson, who played his last basketball game in a State uniform or as a college player, for that matter, just reflected on his stay with the Wolfpack.
          “It’s been a lovely four years at NC State,” he said. “It’s hard to believe it’s over.”
          Burleson, Towe, and Thompson, along with Marquette’s Maurice Lucas and UCLA’s Bill Walton, were voted to the all-tournament team for their fabulous two days of play in Greensboro. Thompson was named the tournament’s most valuable player.
          “They’re number one,” commented Marquette coach Al McGuire about State. “They are a great, great ball club. They were dynamite tonight.”
         Even though Thompson received MVP honors, many observers thought the key to the Wolfpack victory was Towe, and McGuire agreed. And toward the end of the game, McGuire even stepped onto the court and gave Towe a handshake of congratulation.
          “You can talk about Thompson and Burleson all you want,” he said, “but that little white kid in the backcourt is the man. I’ve got quick kids (on Marquette), but he blew right by them like he was running in the 100-yard dash in the Olympics.
          “They got us,” he continued. “They’re a better ball club.”
          Towe sparked the Wolfpack with his shots not only from downtown Greensboro, but also from down under the basket. The 5'7" guard tossed in 16 points against the Warriors.
          David Thompson complimented the play of the diminutive guard. “He’s definitely a big help,” said the All-American. “If you’re open, he’ll get you the ball.” Towe and Thompson have combined throughout the year for some of the most exciting alley-oops plays seen.
          “If you give it to him (Towe), he’ll bring it up court,” continued Thompson. “There’s really nothing to worry about.”
          Thompson even stated, jokingly of course, that the toughest player he ever played against was “Monte in practice.”
          “This is something every kid dreams about,” said Towe after the game. “We’ve worked awfully hard this year. It feels great right now.”
          NC STATE: David Thompson 21 points, 7 rebounds; Monte Towe 16 points; Tommy Burleson 14 points, 11 rebounds; Morris Rivers 14 points, 5 assists. Team shooting: FG 26-46, 56.5%.
          MARQUETTE: Maurice Lucas 21 points, 13 rebounds; Maurice Ellis 12 points, 11 rebounds; Marcus Washington 11 points. Team shooting: FG 25-69, 36.2%
Dictionary.com word of the day
dendrochronology (noun) [den-droh-kruh-nol-uh-jee]: the science dealing with the study of the annual rings of trees in determining the dates and chronological order of past events

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Thank you, John Drescher, for your column on Gene Nichol

John Drescher is one of my favorite local newspaper columnists. He’s the Executive Editor of The News & Observer. Nearly each Saturday, he writes a column which is 95% of the time focused on local issues or at the very least local people focused on national issues. Last Saturday, his column was titled, Gene Nichol doesn’t regret column about Gov. Pat McCrory. Glancing at the headline, you might think Drescher was about to offer Nichol another sounding board for his (Nichol’s) disrespectful disdain for law-making authority that goes against his own grain.

Though it took reading the entire column to get to Drescher’s punch line, though readers had to suffer through a rehash of criticism Nichol wrongfully and rudely dished out at Governor McCrory, once the end of the column came into focus, any recent disbelief of something Drescher may have written previously was forgotten (but maybe not forgiven) in favor of cheering, clapping and carrying on in the street. Drescher, in a mild but stern way, was critical of Nichol for being a jerk of the utmost high.

In his own column printed in the newspaper months ago, Nichol, who needs to do something with his hair and overall looks, compared Gov. McCrory to segregationist governors such as George Wallace and Lester Maddox, calling him a “21st century successor” to those and others. Nichol was critical of the new election laws which, among other things, require a voter photo ID to be presented when casting ballots. Nichol may have started his column about Republicans in general but took the step of including the Governor and calling him a racist though the law applies to all races. 

Nichol’s verbiage was a call to arms by Republicans, especially those who have control of the purse strings directly connected to Nichol. It didn’t take long, but soon Nichol was being penalized by the UNC Board of Governors who put to death his Poverty Center think (but no action) tank. Nichol was openly challenging McCrory personally and not just the policy passed by the General Assembly. It's a fair guess, reading Drescher's column, that Nichol has no clue about Gov. McCrory and has probably never had a direct conversation with the Governor. Good for the Governor.

Drescher, thankfully, ended his column with these words: Professors ought to be able to write in The N&O (or anywhere else) without fear of retribution from politicians or their appointees. But they should inform us through research and lead us though debate at a high level that is focused on ideas and aspirations. In that regard, Nichol came up short.

Nichol’s columns have failed in that regard from the very beginning. He has lots of opinions with few facts and can’t take it when his followers are not in power. He is on a high horse and because he thinks so much of himself, he believes other should think of him in the same way, taking what he says is a call to arms against anyone who disagrees. His term of less than three years as President of William & Mary was the shortest tenure of any W&M president since the Civil War. That’s not surprising since his time there was full of strife. He may be his own worse enemy. Read more his few months at William & Mary here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gene_Nichol
Dictionary.com word of the day
furtherance (noun) [fur-th er-uh ns]: the act of furthering; promotion; advancement

Monday, March 23, 2015

March 23, 1974: Wolfpack beats UCLA, 80-77, in 2OT, in NCAA Semis

With 16 of 68 teams remaining in the 2015 NCAA basketball tournament, there are still 15 games to be played before crowning this year's champion. My, how times have changed. On this date in 1974 (41 years ago), the tournament which started with 25 entries was down to four teams—NC State, UCLA, Marquette and Kansas—and just two games. The Saturday semifinals and the Monday finals were played in the Greensboro Coliseum.

First up on Semifinals Saturday, the Warriors defeated the Jayhawks, 64-51. Wolfpack coach Norm Sloan, using the best of coach-speak, said this of that game: “I’m sort of proud of myself for picking Marquette in that regional. I’ve been very impressed with them this year.” Sloan comments came in a press conference after State played and defeated the Bruins in the second semifinal game, knowing Al McGuire and Marquette would be his opponent Monday night. Easy choice of words for Norm.

Bill Walton, UCLA’s dominate center, scored the first two points in the second game Saturday afternoon, but the Wolfpack went up by five in the first 20 minutes only to fall back into a 35-35 tie at the half. In the second period, the Bruins jumped to an early 11-point lead, but the score was tied 65-65 with 48-seconds to go in the game. State held the ball for a final shot but couldn’t convert, sending the contest to overtime in which each team only scored two points pushing the game to a second extra period.

Again, UCLA went ahead quickly, leading by seven with 3:30 on the clock. State called time out. Wolfpack forward Tim Stoddard described what Sloan said in the huddle: “He told us to press them all over the floor and make turnovers. That’s all we could do.” State guard Monte Towe remembers Sloan saying to him, “Make something happen.” Again, easy choice of words for Sloan. In the final minutes, State pressed, created turnovers and outscored the Bruins, 13-3, to win the game, 80-77, and advance to the NCAA title game two days later.

State and UCLA each used only seven players for the 250 minutes. For UCLA, Dave Myers, Keith Wilkes, Walton, Tommy Curtis and Greg Lee played all but 14 minutes. The other two players for the Bruins were Marques Johnson and Andre McCarter. Walton led UCLA with 29 points and 18 rebounds. For NC State, Stoddard, David Thompson, Tommy Burleson, Morris Rivers, and Towe played all but 22 minutes. Phil Spence played 19 minutes; Greg Hawkins played three. Thompson led State with 28 points and 10 rebounds. Burleson had 20 points and 14 rebounds.

Read more about the game and the entire season in 1973-74 Reliving the NC State Wolfpack’s Title Run (CaryTown Press). Available in hardcover (special $10 discount offer through the 2015 NCAA tournament) and in softcover.
Dictionary.com word of the day
nonevent (noun) [non-i-vent]: an occurrence of only superficial interest or content

Sunday, March 22, 2015

Dean Smith and Norm Sloan: like oil and water, no mixing

It’s no secret: Dean Smith didn’t like Norman Sloan. And Sloan didn’t like Smith. The two were like night and day when it came to coaching. Smith created a “system” (whatever that means) at North Carolina in an effort to build a national contender while Sloan lived for the day and won a national title at NC State eight years before Smith reached that pinnacle. By that time, Sloan was two years departed from the Wolfpack so Smith couldn’t gloat on the court face to face with Sloan.

Head to head when Sloan was at State, Smith’s Tar Heels won 25 of 39 games against the Wolfpack. But it was the game of recruiting in the early 1970s that got Smith’s goat. One year, Sloan snatched 7’4” Tommy Burleson away from Carolina and Smith. The next year another North Carolina native, 6’4” David Thompson—who turned out to be the best ever basketball player in the Atlantic Coast Conference—ignored Smith’s pleas to matriculate in Chapel Hill and chose Raleigh and NC State. After losing 14 times in his first 15 games against Smith, Sloan coached his Wolfpack to nine straight wins over Smith’s Tar Heels, winning 1973 aand 1974 CC championships—regular season and tournament—and the NCAA title in 1974.

State may have won two national titles back to back, but the Wolfpack, undefeated in 1973, was on probation that season, much in part because associates of Smith pressed the NCAA to investigate the Wolfpack. Smith didn’t take the losses of Burleson and Thompson cordially. The violations were minor but were made to appear major. Smith was trying to build his program and expected to win the state of North Carolina recruiting wars. He may have beaten State 25 times on the court in 14 seasons, but the two losses, Burleson and Thompson, bugged him.

State’s violations are well know and outlined in Chapter 3 of my book, 1973-74 Reliving the NC State Wolfpack’s Title Run (CaryTown Press). The violations were nowhere close to misgivings of today, but nonetheless, State was found guilty. Smith must have been smiling from ear to ear after hearing of State’s penalty of sitting year, wasting the talents of Burleson and Thompson who he wanted and couldn’t get. Smith and Sloan tolerated each other but did like each other.

From the book: There are some who believe the probation was unnecessary and was the result of Chancellor (John) Caldwell’s insistence, after talking to the head basketball coach and other athletics department personnel, to the NCAA that State did nothing wrong. Many felt that if State’s administrators had admitted guilt, wrists would have been slapped and the Wolfpack would have not faced probation.
Dictionary.com word of the day
gibber (verb) [jib-er, gib-]: to speak inarticulately or meaninglessly

Saturday, March 21, 2015

Was it real or just the remains thereof? It's not a crock!

The headline in Thursday's newspaper said: Prehistoric crocodile discovered in Chatham County. It was just a little misleading. We’ve seen pictures of alligators and crocodiles discovered in backyards as far north as eastern North Carolina. The creatures were captured in photos or in videos crossing highways and other roads, lurking in lakes, ponds and tributaries. We’ve seen alligators and crocodiles captured by wildlife officers and good-old-boys out for a good time.

So, when we read the headline, Prehistoric crocodile discovered in Chatham County, we were anxious to look at photos and watch the videos, but all we received was a depiction—an artist rendering—of a prehistoric crocodile named Carnufex carolinesis (Carolina butcher) by paleontologist Lindsay Zanno, research professor at NC State University who found the dang thing.

It was nine feet long and about 231 million years old. It survived by eating reptiles and mammals and because Chatham County, 231 million years ago, was supposedly at the earth’s equator therefore warm and humid. Wow! Lots of information. Reading the headline, Prehistoric crocodile discovered in Chatham County, made one wonder if the Carolina butcher (also a good nickname for Dan Kane, staff writer for The News & Observer) spoke English to communicate this information to the discoverer.

As it turns out a prehistoric crocodile was NOT discovered in Chatham County; the remains—some bones, a skull, the spine—thereof were. The headline, Prehistoric crocodile discovered in Chatham County and which might had said Remains of prehistoric crocodile discovered in Chatham County, was just interesting enough to lead us into the story though the headline was just a little misleading. It would have been a better story if a live prehistoric crocodile had been found.
Dictionary.com word of the day
mal de mer (noun) [mal duh mer]: French. seasickness

Friday, March 20, 2015

Pizza comes in all shapes, sizes, styles. What’s your favorite?

Pizza is an American phenomenon.  Yeah, yeah, it was invented in Italy, but there’s more pizza served today in the United States than anywhere else. That’s probably because most Americans consider it a fast food, and we are really into fast food. Good pizza requires special treatment when making and baking, and it doesn’t matter if it’s in a brick oven, a standard oven or your oven at home.  So today, a look at four pizzas from one man’s perspective.

Brixx Wood Fired Pizza (chain): This is a thin crust pizza with ample ingredients that seems to take more time compiling onto the dough than to bake it in the oven. There’s lots of flavors, some with typical tomato sauce base and others not. A favorite is the Bronx Bomber with spicy Italian sausage, mozzarella, prosciutto, gorgonzola cheese, tomato sauce and fresh oregano. Ask for it a little more done, and eat it all there. Leftovers are not as good as it is at the restaurant.

Mellow Mushroom (chain): The crust, whole wheat or white, is the best, but the chef has short arms with the ingredients. It’s not thin crust; it’s not overly thick. Nearly all the pizzas are tasty, but not enough stuff on top. Rephrase: There's ample toppings but not enough of any single topping to bring out its flavor. Ask for a side of the tomato sauce for dunking the crust because there are not enough ingredients on the pizza. It’s tasty and good for reheating but not enough stuff on top.

Daniel’s Restaurant (one location, Apex): This really good pizza with a nice crust and just the right quantity of toppings. The absolute best is the Southwest with blackened chicken strips, black beans, tomato, jalapeno, cheddar and mozzarella cheeses, and cilantro on a salsa red sauce. Getting a pizza to go at Daniel’s is worth it but you might ask that it be baked a little longer. Ask for it well-done. Even so, once you get it home, you might want to heat it a little more to crisp the crust so ask that it is not cut into slices.

Papa Murphy’s (chain): This is the best take and bake pizza, though not the greatest pizza. It's convenient. You order, they prepare, you take it home and bake it. Takes about 15 minutes. Ample ingredients. Good for reheating in the toaster oven for lunch or good cold for breakfast. The Herb Chicken Mediterranean is nice with its artisan thin crust, olive oil and garlic, herb chicken, spinach, sun dried tomatoes, feta and zesty herbs.

This is a small selection, just a few of our pizza joints. What’s your favorite pizza; tell us why?
Dictionary.com word of the day
anthesis (noun) [an-thee-sis]: the period or act of expansion in flowers, especially the maturing of the stamens

Thursday, March 19, 2015

The Blistered Pig Smokehouse in Apex: Another culinary treat

At The Blistered Pig Smokehouse in Apex, the motto is we only smoke the good stuff. That slogan has been used for years by individual's all over the world. This aphorism refers to the meats not leafy "veggies." A visit to this relatively new restaurant is well worth it, as far as sampling tasty food. It’s along Salem Street in downtown Apex, the quaint two-to-three block business district of the highest elevation from sea level on the Seaboard railroad thus the name “Apex.”

The Blistered Pig Smokehouse is a back-to-nature sort-of meat eaters destination with pork, beef and chicken that’s been pasture-raised and not produced in the typical meat market of modern agriculture production. A limited amount of meat is smoked each day, and when it’s gone, it’s gone, no more until the next day. (If you’ve ever been to Johnson’s in Siler City for a hamburger, you understand the concept of serving until everything is eaten, cutting off the lights and going home.)

Don’t expect an extensive menu (it's just one page) at The Blistered Pig Smokehouse, but do expect unique and scrumptious selections such as the charred jalapeño pimento spread or the fried chicken livers or the fried oysters or the deviled eggs, four of several appetizers. The lunch/dinner platters offer you a choice of one, two or three meats and two sides. The meats are pork spare ribs, pulled pork, ancho coffee rubbed smoked brisket, rotisserie chicken, or barbeque chicken.

The sides include: Braised Collards in pot liquor, Hoppin’ John “Damn Good” Baked Beans,  Carolina “Red” Slaw, Yeller Slaw, Hand Cut Fries, Sweet Potato Fries, Baby “B” Tater Salad, Elbow Mac and Cheese, Mashed Red Potatoes, Roasted Brussels Sprouts with bacon and onion, and Anson Mills Grits with hoop cheddar cheese. Recommendation from someone who usually doesn’t eat Brussels Sprouts: Order the Roasted Brussels Sprouts! Another recommendation: stay away from the hand cut fries unless you like nubs. These seem to be cut from very short potatoes. Tasty but too short for hand-cut fries. Need to be longer, at least as long as your index finger, not just from the tip of your thumb to its first knuckle.

The sandwich selections are interesting and include the Pulled Smoked Pork Cuban made with pulled pork, smoked ham, dill slices, jalapeño pimento cheese, on grilled ciabatta bread. This Cuban is absolutely scrumptious, probably as good as those made in the movie, Chef. The Pimento Cheese BLT is also good but needs a better effort with the buttermilk bread that’s just toasted, as normal BLTs. Despite the ingredients, the bread was dry and detracted from the ingredients: crisp smoked bacon, basil mayonnaise, butter lettuce, tomato, and jalapeño pimento cheese. Maybe the bread should be grilled for an even better tasting BLT. There are other choices for sandwiches but a return visit will be required to test and report.

Drink alert: All beers are in 12-ounce cans and bottles at about $5.00 each, and that’s no bargain. No draft beer, but lots of craft beers in the cans. The wine selection looked pretty good but also over-priced, serving small pours for the price of a full bottle at your neighborhood grocery store. The pours are so small, it would take five glasses to empty the bottle. Despite the price of drinks and because of the food, a trip to The Blistered Pig Smokehouse in Apex is worth your time.
Dictionary.com word of the day
amain (adverb) [uh-meyn]: with full force

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Tupelo Honey Café: Wonderful experience; excellent food, drink

Moonswine Mary
Have you ever been to Tupelo Honey Café? There are 12 locations, the original located in the central district of Asheville where you’re impressed with the eclectic mix of individuals and the multitude of interesting stores and restaurants, especially restaurants. Asheville is known as Beer City USA, but it has a good reputation for its variety of eateries, Tupelo Honey Café one of the leaders.

A few months ago, along the growing edges of Cameron Village in Raleigh, Tupelo Honey Café found a spot and opened its doors. Since then, it’s been a magnet for people with different appetites. Twice, we tried to secure lunch there and twice, with the wait 45 minutes or more, we ventured across Oberlin Road to enjoy Brixx Wood Fired Pizza, a Charlotte-born restaurant with more than 25 locations. But we were determined to get to Tupelo Honey Café to see if the Raleigh location is as delicious as the original spot in Asheville.

Last Saturday, for brunch, we finally made it. We were not disappointed in the menu selections, the food that arrived and the two types of Bloody Mary’s we enjoyed. Its website says: We believe it’s a magical place with magical food inspired by the magical South. We take our cue from fresh ingredients from our Blue Ridge Mountains and put them at the heart of what we serve. Its website is spot on! Here are menu descriptions of what we took pleasure:
Fried Chicken and Biscuits
  • TUPELO HONEY SCRATCH-MADE BLOODY MARY: We make our delicious Bloody Mary mix in-house. Served in a 10-ounce glass with a lime-salt rim, fresh lemon and pickled okra.
  • MOONSWINE MARY™: Jalapeño-Poblano-infused moonshine and house-made Bloody Mary mix adorned with maple-peppered bacon, pimento cheese-stuffed olives and a bacon-salt rim (16 oz)
  • FRIED CHICKEN AND BISCUITS: All-natural, hormone-free buttermilk fried chicken with crispy TN country ham and fresh basil over two buttermilk biscuits ladled with milk gravy Add One Fried Egg*
  • EGGS BETTY: Two all-natural, medium-poached eggs on a buttermilk biscuit with smoked ham and house-made lemony hollandaise. Served with your choice of SC stone-ground goat cheese grits, home fries or sliced tomatoes.

Dictionary.com word of the day
beamish (adjective) [bee-mish]: bright, cheerful, and optimistic

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

St. Patrick’s Day: Snakes be gone! It's a time to drink more beer!

So, today is St. Patrick’s Day, the time of year when lots of people decide to be someone they aren’t, all in the name of:
  • Weird music
  • Lots of alcohol drinking
  • Corned beef and cabbage
  • More alcohol drinking,
  • Reuben sandwiches
  • Beer and other alcoholic drinks
  • Parades through neighborhoods of people with pail complexions and red hair
  • More drinking
  • Forgotten stories of why it’s St. Patrick’s Day
  • Did we mention alcoholic drinks such as lots of beer
  • Dancing in the streets of New York and Boston more so than in Ireland
  • Green beer
  • Green rivers (see Chicago)
  • Funny hats
  • More drinks
  • Beaded necklaces made of green beads as if the Irish had taken over Mobile or New Orleans and the continued Mardi Gras celebrations
  • Lots of drinking and, after all of that, more drinking!

From History.com, there’s an interactive chart: St. Patrick’s Day by the Numbers which you see at the right. Better yet, for a really good education about St. Patrick’s Day, go to The History of St. Patrick’s Day. There are links to videos, pictures, speeches and the interactive chart! Enjoy your trip; be sure to pour yourself a tall one or two or three to get through it all! Happy St. Patrick’s Day!
Dictionary.com word of the day
brogue (noun) [brohg]: an Irish accent in the pronunciation of English

Monday, March 16, 2015

Why the surprise? The candidates who won were Democratic

Last fall, the day after the election in which the Republicans on the Wake County Commissioners were booted off by the voters who preferred four members of the Democratic Party, the wife of the chief political writer for The News & Observer was surprised at the election results. Christensen wrote that in his Sunday column this week. It’s in the very first paragraph of his column: …my wife noted with surprise that the Wake County Board of Commissioners had switched from Republican to Democratic control.

For someone who is registered with the Democratic Party and who votes on a regular basis, according to the NC Board of Elections website, Christensen’s wife must have been somewhat unsure of the outcome. That’s puzzling considering the newspaper for which her husband analyzes politics had been pounding at the Republicans for months, telling the electorate just how bad they had been. The Democratic backlash was a feather in the cap of the Democratic Party, led by the news and editorial staffs of The N&O.

What’s even more amazing is discovering that Christensen is an unaffiliated voter who since 2005, has only participated in elections four times and each time was in the Cary NC municipal elections. Here’s a columnist who has written about changes in voter identification laws in North Carolina, expressing disagreement and disbelief with the laws the General Assembly passed which some believe will discourage voters and reduce participation. This comes from someone who doesn’t participate in elections except from the sidelines as a reporter and columnist. Voting is a right and should be a duty, and political writers and journalists are no exception. Christensen is a fine fellow and always engaging when bumping into him at a hardware store, but he seems to be a “do as I say not as I do” type of voter.

On the other hand, his wife needs to be a little more believing in the possibilities of the candidates her political party supports and quit being surprised when Democratic candidates knock out Republicans from positions such as County Commissioner. Let’s bet that when the General Assembly is through with changing how Wake County votes for its commissioners and the Republicans win after redistricting of Wake County, she’ll not be surprised one bit. At the same time, journalists need to quit hiding behind the pen and get out of the closet of trying to be neutral when the readership knows differently. Rob Christensen needs to go the polls every election, vote his conviction and then tell us at the beginning or end of his column his choice of candidates. Full disclosure is better than hiding behind a no-vote. His wife might be surprised at his selections.
Dictionary.com word of the day
collywobbles (noun) [kol-ee-wob-uh lz]: a feeling of fear, apprehension, or nervousness

Sunday, March 15, 2015

“Unaffiliated” get to play hide and seek with politics and elections

Take a closer look at registered voters in North Carolina, as of March 7, 2015 there are:
  • 6,323,596 registered voters.
  • 2,629,655 or 41.58% registered with the Democratic Party.
  • 1,932,949 or 30.57% registered with the Republican Party.
  • 25,820 or .41% (less than 1%) registered with the Libertarian Party.
  • 1,735,712 or 27.44% registered “unaffiliated” or no Party.

The “unaffiliated” includes some of the candidates for and some of the current members of the UNC Board of Governors, and many writers, editors and the publisher of The News & Observer. With so many “unaffiliated,” why isn’t there a primary election to nominate an “unaffiliated” to any office: Governor, Senator, Representative, member General Assembly? You get the idea.

Instead of allowing the registered “unaffiliated” to band together, lumping liberals, conservatives, and moderates together in the election process and nominate candidates to oppose Democratic and Republican nominees in the general elections, the “unaffiliated” voters can choose to vote in either the Democratic or the Republican primary or sit out, not participating in the nomination process. Some do sit out and then write about it. Those registered as “unaffiliated” should not be able to participate in the primary elections and be restricted to general election voting only. Participation in non-partisan elections primaries would be okay.

As it is now, “unaffiliated” voters can choose to support a candidate of choice, but they can also select a candidate who if he or she were to win the primary would not stand a chance against the nominee of the other party. For example, if in the 2016 election for North Carolina governor, Pat McCrory has no Republican opposition, the unaffiliated voters who support Governor McCrory could band together and vote in the Democratic primary for a candidate who has little chance to defeat McCrory, possibly keeping someone like populist Attorney General Roy Cooper from gaining the nomination. Then in the general election, that group of unaffiliated voters could vote for McCrory, giving him a landslip win over a hapless Democratic nominee.

While it looks impressive that the Democratic voters hold a wide percentage margin when it comes to voter registration, in the past 10 years the growth of registered voters in the Democratic Party has grown about 1.7% and in the Republican Party about 1%. Registration as “unaffiliated” has increased 40%. The smaller group of Libertarians has grown by 48% (but extremely low real numbers) and has just enough followers to possibly throw a general election into turmoil. 

Maybe, the “unaffiliated” voters should have a primary of sorts with “unaffiliated” candidates. That will not happen as long as the Democratic and Republican parties are in charge of making the voting laws, allowing “unaffiliated” voters to run and hide behind a bogus label yet still take part in party politics. Maybe the "unaffiliated" should be required to sit out primaries and only be allowed to vote in general elections when party affiliation doesn't matter.
Dictionary.com word of the day
knackered (adjective) [nak-erd]: exhausted; very tired

Saturday, March 14, 2015

"Unaffiliated" voter registration seems to be the norm at The N&O

The difficulty in searching for voter registration records is supplying someone's first name. The North Carolina Board of Elections Public Voter Search form, in addition to the last name, requires at least one letter of the person’s first name. Without it, searching takes a lot more effort and is usually supplements with searches of other websites. Other fields such as county and birthday can be used to narrow the search. The search the UNC Board of Governors members and nominees that last few days was so interesting that a search started for various people at The News & Observer seemed to be in order. The results were interesting, to say the least. Perception is not necessarily reality.

Most readers of The N&O probably think registration with the Democratic Party would be the norm, but in reality, most writers (news and editorial) are registered “unaffiliated.” As a registered "unaffiliated," along with voting in general elections, the voter may choose with which party—Republican or Democratic—to vote in primary elections. The NC voter registration website displays voting history including the party with which the unaffiliated voters participated in primary elections. Here’s brief look at some of the better-known personalities at The News & Observer with title, race, gender and voter registration, and primary participation:

  • Orage Quarles, Publisher, black, male, unaffiliated: Voted in a non-partisan primary election in 2014, in the Republican primary in 2012, in a non-partisan primary in 2010, and in the Democratic primary in 2008.
  • John Dresher, Executive Editor, white, male, unaffiliated: Voted in the Republican primaries in 2014, 2012 and 2010, but in the Democratic primaries in 2008 and 2006.
  • Rob Christensen, political columnist, white, male, unaffiliated: Since 2005, he has only voted four times and each time was in the Cary NC municipal elections. It seems he writes about but does not participate in state and national elections, according the the records at the NC Board of Elections.
  • Burgetta Wheeler, Op-Ed Page Editor, white, female, unaffiliated: Voted in the Republican primaries in 2014 and 2012.
  • J. Andrew Curliss, Capitol Editor, white, male, unaffiliated: Voted in non-partisan elections in 2014 and 2012 and twice in Democratic primaries in 2006;

Two interesting search attempts:
  • Daniel S. (Dan) Kane, investigative reporter (UNC Scandal): From photos, Kane appears to be a white male but is not found in the voter registration database, so it appears Kane is not registered to vote and does not participate in elections. How unpatriotic is that?!?!?! Please, Dan, say it ain't so! And, please don't tell us you vote with your pen. That's doesn't count in tabulation, only your frustration. (3-16-2025 FOLLOW-UP: Dan send a note saying: You would have been wise to contact me before posting what you thought was my nonvoting record. Here it is. I trust you will correct this. Done, here, and in the comments section.)
  • Ned Barnett, Editorial Page Editor: Barnett, also from his photos and seeing him in person, appears to be a white male, but searching for his voter registration was tough. Based on his birthday—January 10, 1956 (He’ll join the 60 Club next year!)—the search produced an Edwin Bernard Barnett, Jr. of Raleigh, who is registered with the Democratic Party and has a voting record to back it up. Based on his Democratic leaning/anti-Republican editorial writing, the person found appears to be The N&O's Ned Barnett. Maybe Ned will confirm or deny. Oops, too many choices for him.

Researching voter registration is tricky yet interesting, especially when you find out your perception isn't reality. Click this linkNorth Carolina Board of Elections Public Voter Searchto do your own search! It's interesting that some newspaper writers, reporters, editors and publishers hide from their political preference while others display it in their writing. Why not just register with the party of choice? Might it show a bias? Will it keep advertisers away? Will it decrease circulation? Perception may not be reality, but reality is usually reflected in the subject and tone of their writings. For those in the political closet, maybe it's time to come out.
Dictionary.com word of the day
dysphemism (noun) [dis-fuh-miz-uh m]: the substitution of a harsh, disparaging, or unpleasant expression for a more nuetral one

Friday, March 13, 2015

House UNC BOG nominees similar to Senate: White GOP Males

The nominating process for new members to the UNC Board of Governors continued Thursday when the NC House of Representatives sent forth 15 names, mostly white Republican males. According to voter registration records, among the 15 candidates 12 are registered Republicans, two are registered Democratic, and one is registered as unaffiliated. Under “race," 11 are listed as white, three as black and one “undesignated,” whatever that is. Under gender, 12 are listed as male, two as female and one as “unknown,” whatever that is. 

As it turns out, the “undesignated” race nominee and “unknown” gender nominee are the same person, Raiford Trask III, a real estate developer from Wilmington currently serving on the UNC BOG. Based on his photo on the UNC BOG website, it appears Trask is a white male. If this is wrong, maybe Trask will shed some light on his “undesignated” race and “unknown” gender.
Raiford Trask III
Undesignated Race; Unknown Gender

Those nominated by the House of Representatives include:
  • Republican: six current members—James Holmes, Jr.; Richard F. “Dick” Taylor; David Powers; Mary Ann Maxwell; Trask; and Hari Nath—and Christopher Derrick; Pearl Burns-Floyd; Matthew-Todd Johnson; Philip Byers; Joe Thomas Knott; and, Ed Broyhill.
  • Democratic: Walter Davenport and Dr. Dwight Perry.
  • Unaffiliated: John Alex Mitchell who, in primary balloting in 2010, voted with the Democratic Party,
The members of the Board of Governors whose terms run through June 2017 are similar to those nominated. There are 13 registered Republicans; one registered Democratic, and two registered unaffiliated. In the race category, there are 14 listed as “white” and two listed as “black.” And, there are 14 males and four females.

Those with terms expiring on 2017 are:
  • Republican: Joan Templeton Perry; Roger Aiken; Henry R. Hinton; Rodney E. Hood; W. Marty Koitis, III; Scott Lampe; Steven B. Long; Joan G. McNeill; R. Doyle Parrish; Robert S. Rippy; Harry Leo Smith, Jr.; J. Craig Souza; and, Laura I Wiley.
  • Democratic: Hannah Gage, former Chairman of the BOG who is Emeritus Member.
  • Unaffiliated: W.G. Champion Mitchell, who votes with the Republicans, and Therence O. Pickett, who once voted with the Democratic Party but in the last four primaries has voted on the Republican ballot.

With the pending election of 16 new members chosen from the nominees presented by the North Carolina Senate and House of Representatives, the "cleansing" of the UNC Board of Governors is nearly complete. Unless something drastic changes with the make-up of the General Assembly, the dominance of the white, Republican male on the UNC BOG will continue for years to come. Policy will be dictated more by business than by education and the reputation the UNC System has for building its mission than by reducing spending. By the way, Thomas W. Ross, the current President of the UNC System who was forced to resign earlier than he wished, is a white male, but unfortunately, he’s a staunch member of the Democratic Party.
Dictionary.com word of the day
intenerate (verb) [in-ten-uh-reyt]: to make soft or tender; soften