Monday, July 28, 2008

Hazy Days

One of the more surprising discoveries of a hiking venture around Boone about a week ago was that the Blue Ridge Mountains really are blue. (The new banner I put on the blog is a picture I took out there, colors unchanged.)

It didn't take me long to figure out why: the South is so damn humid, that's why. By the end of the hike, and on a not-particularly-hot day, it looked like I had taken a jump into a swimming hole (I had not... I wish I could've). At the end I was able to wring out about 1/2 a cup of sweat from my shirt alone. Here's more information about it from the Frequently Asked Questions about the Blue Ridge Parkway on the National Park Services page:
Why is the Blue Ridge "blue"? According to "A Naturalist's Blue Ridge Parkway" by David Catlin, "it can be legitimately claimed that trees put the "blue" in Blue Ridge, for hydrocarbons released into the atmosphere by the forest contribute to the characteristic haze on these mountains and to their distinctive color." The entire Appalachian Chain is extraordinarily diverse and rich in its vegetation, so there is perhaps more "blue" to the Blue Ridge and more "smoky" to the Great Smoky Mountains.

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Come for the Fried Peanuts, Stay for the Boiled

On the way out to hike some trails at South Mountain earlier today, Erik and I passed a place that sold fried peanuts... I'd never heard of such a thing before, so we vowed to stop and pick some up after the hike.

The fried peanuts weren't the greatest thing in the world (they actually tasted better if you ate the shells, if you can believe it), but when we arrived we discovered they had another special Southern treat: boiled peanuts. I bought one bag of fried peanuts and another bag of boiled, and while the fried peanuts are going to be around for awhile, those boiled peanuts were gone in minutes flat. I love those things...

My eagle-eye spots a sign advertising "fried peanuts" from the road... can you catch it?

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

While I was Eating Focaccia and Drinking Iced Americanos...

...Apparently the world was falling down around me. I drove home from the coffee shop and found that half the traffic lights I passed were black and trees were snapped like pretty toothpicks.

A couple shots of the carnage, just before sunset:

Ugly Man Symbol with Magical Powers

A couple days ago I was biking to school and noticed a new symbol lining the side of Reynolda Road. I have traveled the streets of Winston-Salem far and wide but had not seen this strange, vaguely menacing-looking symbol. I can only assume that it is an ancient hieroglyph of some sort. Each looked like a man wearing glasses, or perhaps with two black eyes, with a horribly crooked nose and small pursed lips.

I have not figured out the meaning of these odd symbols that now line Reynolda, but they nonetheless appear to be imbued with special powers. Immediately after seeing these new symbols, I have felt new confidence. Instead of zig-zagging through the neighborhood streets of Winston to get to work, I now bike along these symbols on the busier Reynolda Road, more secure that I will not end up a crush of limbs wrapped around someone's bumper. In turn, I've shaved 5 minutes from my commute. Magic...

Strange hieroglyph sighted on Reynolda Road.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

"Yer jest over there smilin'... what d'you got goin' on?"

After getting close to finishing up my 6+ hour session of touching up my latest 60+ page paper at the coffee shop, some guy looked at me from the next table over and said that, just like that.

I'm starting to love the South.

Triad Taco Quest: Part 1

Time passes, but the quest for tacos remains. I fantasize about that time where I will find myself on a beach along the Pacific coast of Mexico, washing down endless tacos al pastor with cervezas and limes.

Until that time, I am in Winston-Salem, and will have to make due with what I can get.

My taco lust hit a new high this week, and I quickly got to work trying to quell the storm. On Tuesday, I headed to Las Estrellas near the corner of Silas Creek and Peters Creek Parkway to throw down some fish tacos. Not quite Rubio's, I'm afraid. It is always a bad sign when they fail to provide you wedges of lime with your fish tacos. Call me picky.

The next day I took matters into my own hand and hosted a taco party. Taco parties are nice, because by separating all the ingredients and letting guests build the tacos themselves, it becomes easy to satisfy everyone. Vegans can do refried beans, lettuce, and grilled vegetables, or whatever it is that they do, and, of course that leaves double beef portions for me!

But I am not ready to give up on the Triad yet. Word on the streets is that mighty fine tacos can be found for those willing to make the long drive to the Hispanic areas of Waughtown Street. I also received a tip for a hole-in-the-wall taco joint in Greensboro. And as any taco connoisseur knows, a hole-in-a-wall is a very promising place to locate a tasty taco.

More later...

Tuesday, July 15, 2008


I was rummaging through my stuff on Sunday and ran across this cartoon that my sis ("Doodles") snail-mailed me a year ago. Probably took her 15 minutes to make, but I love it! Even if she is basically mocking me.

Monday, July 14, 2008

Today's Food Tip: Chili Chick-Fil-A

I was going to post some drawings my sister sent me for my next entry, but the scanner is down, so I have this instead -- which might be even better.

Genius struck today, and so we ended up with this for lunch:

Chick-Fil-A sandwich topped with generous amounts of chili and Texas Pete Hot Sauce, with a large side of chili.

The drink is an Arnold Palmer -- which is 50% unsweetened ice tea, and 50% lemonade. (I personally like it even less sweet, so I make mine with about a 75/25 ratio.)

I was not sure how it would work, but it was fucking amazing, so now I am trying to spread the Chili Chick-Fil-A love. I would recommend this with a high quality chili, like my 54th Annual Ardmore Chili Cook-Off Award winner.

Other delicious and unusual food ideas while we're at it:

Chicken McNugget with Frostie. It would be ideal if you could get McDonald's Chicken McNuggets to dunk in a Wendy's Frostie, but taking the equivalent food item from either venue is almost as good and shouldn't be avoided. Of course, many people will recognize this as a signature feature of my "Chicken McNuggets Go With Everything" campaign.

Hot Dog in Twinkie. This idea is not mine, but was obtained from Weird Al's movie UHF (here is a recipe from an independent admirer). Of course, I thought it was worth a try, and it was awesome. Or awful. I tried this a couple years ago and can't remember which anymore, which I guess means that you will definitely need to try it yourself. I would recommend a high quality hot dog for this one (something like a Hebrew National).

Coleslaw with Anything. This excellent idea is also not mine, but is something like the motto of Pittsburg, PA. Coleslaw can be added to hot dogs, hamburgers, and most everything else to devastatingly tasty effect. If by chance you are presented with the opportunity to combine coleslaw on top of a cajun chicken sandwich (an opportunity I first encountered at Urbana's bar "The Office") then you win! Because that is a mighty tasty combo my friends.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

A Raki Roads Reunion

My Turkey blog ended a year ago missing a very important post: could it be that our Turkey journey ended with my traveling partner Jennie beginning a romantic relationship with a fine Turkish fellow on the very last day of the trip? It is possible...

Ah, the troubles of blogging about people you know. There is so much I would like to say, and it makes for a very fine story, but for the sake of discretion I won't say too much about her relationship except to say that one year later it is progressing well. Jennie has continued to learn Turkish, and Fatih is now able to understand my Pacific Northwest English much more easily (or whatever accent I have... who knows?). Fatih was also in town when I came to visit D.C., and the couple made an appearance at the Fourth of July party. The three of us were able to catch up on things together for the first time in over a year.

Moments before the epic,
bloody ATATURK Championship.
This was all well and good, but what Fatih failed to anticipate was that while he was continuing to learn English, I have been continuing to delve deeper into the dark arts of tavla (backgammon). And so when we played Round 2 of our Annual Tavla American/Turkish (The "ATATURK") Championship, I was prepared to defend my title, established last year by a dramatic come-from-behind victory at the Istanbul Airport.

I was again able to beat the Turk at his own game, but in defeat Fatih did raise the important point: I had infact learned some of my greatest gambits with the help of an esteemed tavla champion during my journey through the southern coast of Turkey (true!). And that distinguished pedigree, after all, makes me an honorary Turk!

I don't fully understand the logic, but I will accept his gracious offer of Turkish citizenship. After all, the country treated me very well.

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Water Sports

I attended a Fourth of July party in D.C. last Friday, and the guests did much to stay cool through the summer heat (let's forget the fact that it rained much of the day). Here's the prescription:

Step 1: Get a Slip-N-Slide.

Step 2: Set up Slip-N-Slide so that it ends about 3 feet from a hard wooden porch.

Step 3: Make sure to drink several cups from keg before attempting to use Slip-N-Slide.

Step 4: Participants should get a running start, and then launch themselves toward porch headfirst at top speed.

What could be safer! We went to a water park the next day, where we got endlessly whistled at by the life guards for unsafe use of inner-tubes at the Lazy River. I was tempted to explain to the guards that we were professionals. After all, we had just survived hurling ourselves at a porch on a Slip-N-Slide while drunk.

Matt knows: The only way to Slip-N-Slide is Superman-style.

Thursday, July 3, 2008

Guac-Off Home Run!

After winning the 54th Annual Ardmore Chili Cook-Off last weekend (true!), I turned my attention to the First Annual Brookwood Guac-Off. In my grad school days, I had become a bit of a self-styled expert at guacamole, and figured I stood a good shot at taking this competition down. As I drove M.J. and myself over to the competition, however, I received nothing but smack-talk. She even threw down a "Snap!" after a particularly vicious put-down. (Really? Who does that?)

In any case, when the dust settled, I had received second place in the competition. You can see me and Shannon holding up our prestigious prizes after the guacamole competition. Truth be told, if I wasn't voting for my own guac as a matter of principle, I would have voted for hers on taste and merit. But I still have my principles, so I voted for my own. And Shannon taught me a couple good tricks: her main ingredients (beyond the avocado) included tomato, onion, and jalapeƱo (all diced very fine), and some lemon juice. I had these ingredients (though lime instead of lemon), but then made the additional decision to add onion powder, garlic powder, cayenne pepper, salt and pepper to the mix, where Shannon only added a little salt. As a result, her guac was the freshest tasting. I am gradually arriving at the conclusion that garlic and most other spices in guacamole are over-rated... let the ingredients speak for themselves.

Final vote tallies: Shannon received 6 votes, I received 4 votes, a couple other people got 2 votes. How many votes did smack-talker M.J. get? I don't think it would be prudent to say, except to note the interesting fact that before the Moors came around, it was debatable as to whether the number she received was even a number...

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Little bit of weirdo goes a long way

Last summer around this time I went to the Pitchfork Music Festival in Chicago on a ticket I bummed from my friend C.C.B. (you're the best!), and was blindsided by the performance from the very strange Jamie Lidell (this is what I'm talking about...). Jamie brought no band, and so his performance mostly consisted of singing over the top of tracks. The total effect made me think of a very large-scale karaoke rendition of Stevie Wonder songs, but in the end this was forgivable. After all, I don't mind karaoke, and I love the Stevie, and the music was tight (or... whatever it is that the cool people say when music is cool). So I bought his first album Multiply, and proceeded to listen to many of the songs about 60 times (according to iTunes).

Anyway, Jamie Lidell's new album Jim just came out, and it is even better than the first. Jamie has really taken the 70's soul-thing he has going on to the next level, which is great. I have already listened to the first couple tracks about 30 times in the span of the week that I have owned it. And if you are my neighbor, you may have heard me belting out "Another Day" at full volume at two in the morning. For this, I apologize.