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Apr 29, 2008

Sonja Kramers -- In Memoriam


Sad news for people and dogs.  My friend Sonja Kramers died unexpectedly last weekend in Asheville.

Only the week before, she'd celebrated the 2nd birthday of her Happy Tails Country Club for Dogs.

Sonja and I grew up together in Asheville, as churchmates, schoolmates and family friends. In fact, it was thirty years ago this month that we walked down the aisle as flower girl and ring bearer at my aunt and uncle's wedding.  A photo of the two of us from that day hung on our family pictures wall for many years until we moved, and it was always fun to see Sonja as one of our only "Anglo" kin on display.

I'll try to write more about Sonja and her folks soon.  The four of them were like a second family to me, and they gave me many gifts of fun, experience and perspective that shaped my life more than I probably realize.

But for now I'll tell you this about Sonja's good example: if more people quit their corporate jobs that they didn't truly love and followed their dreams to open a successful cage-free dog kennel (or whatever else they'd really like to do), the world would be a much better place.  Sonja took a big risk to do something she believed in and was passionate about -- and something great happened as a result.

Link to Sonja Kramers article in the Asheville Citizen-Times.

Link to Obituary and Guest Book at Groce Funeral Home.

Link to A Short List of Virtues -- thoughts on Sonja's way of living.

Services and additional information from Groce Funeral Home : Funeral Saturday, May 3, 11 a.m., St. Barnabas Catholic Church in Arden; interment 2 p.m. at Riverside Cemetery in Asheville. A second celebration of her life is scheduled for 8:00 p.m. Sunday at her business, Happy Tails Country Club on Cane Creek Road.

In lieu of flowers, memorials may be made to the Sonja Kramers Fund to benefit Young Life, c/o Matt Sloan, 199-A Elkwood Avenue, Asheville, NC 28804.


photo: Citizen-Times

11:33 AM in News | Permalink | Comments (10)

Obama in Chapel Hill


Click to increase crowd size.

When was the last time you saw this many people in one place without some team throwing a ball back and forth?

Frank DeFord once said that sports arenas are our new temples.  It's nice to see them used for something more substantive.  Not that I think political rallies are substantive.  But the reason they exist surely is.

Cheesy music.  Long and rambling prayers with bad audio.  Mediocre speeches by locals and congressmen.  All leading up to a candidate saying things you've already heard...  Is this any way to spend 3 hours?  Not for those reasons, alone.

But to look around and see -- under one roof -- 15,000 neighbors whose lives are profoundly tied to your own.  To consider with the crowd how much the world will change for 6 billion other people, depending on how you and your fellow Americans vote in the fall.  And to re-commit yourself to taking your American Citizenship seriously: every day between now and November 4, and every day after...  For those things, the gathering is surely worth the time.

12:50 AM in Editorial | Permalink | Comments (0)

Apr 28, 2008

New York City and Other Big Things


The City will test you.  You can't live there without changing or adapting, and it's a bad idea to try to ignore its power.  The City will mold you or else it will crush you.

-- Jesse W., paraphrased, from a chat at Pinky's this winter.  I'm sorry I don't have an exact quote, because it was very nicely stated. I tried writing it down immediately but I didn't remember it and Jesse couldn't re-create it, either.  Darn.  But you get the idea.  Jesse has been in New York City for a couple of years.  He is thoughtful and good and will not be crushed.


photo yoinked from the BBC Blast - Art Showcase. Caption: Photo taken by Craig (age 15) from Wales. "I love American Culture, and New York represents this. I took a picture, and graphically enhanced it, to make it vibrant, and exciting."

07:36 PM in Quotables | Permalink | Comments (0)

Back Up Your Files -- PSA

Just a friendly reminder to keep your files backed up.

My regular machine is having open heart surgery this week -- fixing some corrupt files, and getting a new hard drive.  My regular fix-it guy, Paul Rosenberg of Love Your Computer, says that catastrophic hardware failure is the biggest reason his customers keep him in business. (I thought it would be ignorance and laziness, but I was wrong.)

In any case, I'm glad I've been backing up nearly everything lately.  I'm not systematic about backups as I should be.  But I am paranoid.  That'll get you part way.

Writing to you from my happy little loaner computer.  I love Love Your Computer.

06:09 PM in Editorial | Permalink | Comments (3)

Apr 26, 2008

Lawsuit Waiting to Happen


At your local discount club, a Playstation 3 set up for your free trial pleasure. 

No harm in that, except for some clever person set the thing up on top of a pallet that really doesn't have room.

Note how the back legs of the folding chair rest right at the edge. 

If this kid knew how to do things jusssst right, he could parlay his Playstation talents into a college-tuition-sized lawsuit.  But how many kids do you know who can crack their skulls just enough to score 200,000 points (at one dollar per point) without doing permanent brain damage?

I enjoyed my try at the rock star game.  But Neil Peart I'm not. 

10:53 PM in Misc.Blog 2007 | Permalink | Comments (0)

To Remember

Don't let your sense of freedom be dictated by your circumstances.

(You know what I mean.)

09:00 PM in Misc.Blog 2007 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Apr 24, 2008

Archer Pelican Endorsement


I voted yesterday at the Hillsborough Public Library, steps away from where the "Gosh it seems strange that he can seem so irrelevant" former president Bill Clinton spoke in the afternoon.

04:32 PM in Editorial | Permalink | Comments (15)

Apr 22, 2008

William Least Heat Moon on Seeing in Travel

Blue_highways In one chapter of Blue Highways,* William Least Heat Moon picks up a hitch-hiker who persuades him to take a different route.

She looked at me absently and said, "Hmmm," her curiosity easily satisfied.  "If you took me on to Green Bay you could get the ferry across Lake Michigan.  You wouldn't have to drive through Chicago.  Please?"

I agreed to it although now I would be across Wisconsin without really seeing Wisconsin.  Later, as we drove along state 29 through the moraine country of dairy farms and fine old barns, across the Embarrass River, it occurred to me that I had seen something of Wisconsin.  What I hadn't seen was the Wisconsin of my blue highway preconceptions.  Little is so satisfying to the traveler as realizing he missed seeing what he assumed to be in a place before he went.


*apparently my favorite book. See another quote here at the Archer Pelican.  See interviews with William Least Heat Moon here from Powell's and here from Salon.  I'm planning a long US road trip in July and August, and might do some pre-trip reading here at BlueHighways.org.

11:51 PM in Quotables, Traveling | Permalink | Comments (0)

A New York Panhandler and a Durham Biochemist

"At first glance, he looks like a Barney’s-outfitted Wall Streeter scooting among the traffic in Queensboro Plaza in Long Island City. At least until you realize that the man wearing the suit and tie has a crumpled cardboard cup in his hand is proffering it to drivers either entering or leaving the bridge.

"That’s no exec. That’s Baker Howard, who calls himself the best-dressed panhandler in New York...

"He said his daughter is a biochemist in [Durham] North Carolina and his son works in Los Angeles but that, “I ask for nothing from my children.”"

From Hey Buddy, Can You Spare Some Cuff Links? by Corey Kilgannon in the New York Times City Room blog, 22 April.

The article just says "North Carolina" but on the video, Howard says "Durham, North Carolina."  The article also mentions that Howard is homeless despite holding both bachelor's and master's degrees. 

If you know his daughter, you might tell her about the article. 

And if you'd like to help the homeless in Durham, consider a gift to Urban Ministries of Durham, which needs $10,000 from new donors in April to earn a $25,000 matching grant.  Give online via Network for Good's Urban Ministries of Durham Page.

06:00 PM in News, Urban Ministries of Durham | Permalink | Comments (0)

Apr 21, 2008

How to Get There from Here


People have wondered.

It's easier than many think.

Here's an FAQ from me to you.

10:41 PM in Mexico, Traveling | Permalink

Akashi Sushi and the Food Gulley of Durham


The Mercury Rising roll at Akashi Japanese Restaurant.  In case the phone pic isn't clear, that's two different lumps of orange/red fishiness on top.  The first layer is (very) spicy tuna.  The second is tobiko (flying fish roe).

Akashi is famed for its almost everything half price almost all the time menu.*  It's also famed for its very long menu (including a Wolfpack roll).  I can't believe I hadn't visited before this weekend. 

Quality impressions?  Hmmm... I'd give my first meal a B-.  The Spider Roll (behind the Mercury Rising) was the least inspired I've ever eaten.  But I'll try it again if someone else wants to go. [Update: I had lunch with my pal Adam last week, and we both gave our meals a solid B+ at a great BOGO price.]

Speaking of fame, Akashi is in the ought-to-be-famed Food Gulley** at 2223 Highway 54 E., one block east of Indigestion Intersection (aka intersection of Highways 55 and 54 at the edge of RTP).  The Food Gulley is cool.  It has a taqueria/carniceria, Sal's Pizza, Montas Latin dance club***, Akashi, and Bombay Grille. I have no idea how their lunchtime customers find a place to park.****


*I'm not kidding about the half-price stuff.  Everyone tells me it's always half price all the time.  If you're worried it won't be whenever you go, click here for Akashi's Citysearch listing, then scroll to the instant offer coupon.

**Food Gulley.  I made that up and if you've been, you'll know what I mean.  Below street grade, it's easy to miss if you don't know where you're looking -- so drive slowly and pay attention.  It's just east of the railroad track. While I didn't make up "Indigestion Intersection", I'm surprised to see that it doesn't seem to have currency outside of RTP.

***Hey, has Montas changed names?  I seem to recall different signage on Friday.  Amusement: one of the club's security guards had locked himself out and was knocking on the window to regain admittance.

****One time in that parking lot, I was surprised when one of the landscapers looked up and said, "Hey, Phil.  Howgozit?"  It was my friend Paula whom I'd last seen in Chicago four years earlier.  Her ex-boyfriend story is here.

01:10 AM in Destination Durham, Food, Reviews, Words | Permalink | Comments (7)

Little India in Cary, and Udupi Vegetarian


Above, one of the dinner platters at all-vegetarian Udupi Cafe in Cary.  For $18, you can order one of their three big sampler meals -- more than enough food for two people.  The platter, above, came after a plate of fried foods (see below), which came after a bowl of rich vegetable soup.*


I'm no connoisseur of South Indian food, but I can say I enjoyed everything at Udupi.  In particular, I liked the eggplant and coconut items I'd never tried before.  I'd be happy to visit Udupi again, but for my next Indian meal in Cary, I'd also be happy to try something different. 

Fortunately for Cary people, there are many options.

Apart from Udupi, the neighboring Chatham Square at 740 E. Chatham St.** has a half-dozen Indian restaurants and/or stores (Mithai Indian Desserts!), plus a few other interesting spots (Bingo, anyone?).  Fiona Morgan has nice notes in Cary -- the Charm of a fast-growing Southern Town (Independent Weekly, June 2007).


*Sorry I didn't snap photos of the menu.  I assumed that Udupi would have all that stuff on the web.  No such luck.

**Udupi is at 590 E. Chatham St., Cary NC, which is sort of next door to Chatham Square at 740 E. Chatham.  Don't ask me how the Cary numbering system can get you from the 700 block of a street to the 500 block in less than 50 feet.  Just look for the brick building with "Pizza & Wings" and "Hair Designers" facing the street, and that's where you'll find Udupi.  Oh, and shame on any of us who reflexively think "no culture and no diversity" when we think about Cary.

12:22 AM in Food, Reviews, Triangulations | Permalink | Comments (1)

Apr 18, 2008

Job Opening - Development Director at Urban Ministries of Durham


Urban Ministries of Durham seeks an
Exceptional Development Director. 
Our current budget is just over $1MM. 
Our goals are even bigger.
That’s why we need someone great.

The Opportunity

Homelessness. Hunger. Substance Abuse. Poverty. We confront these challenges every day. Can you help us fuel our efforts – as we work to improve the lives of our brothers and sisters in need?

Our work isn’t easy. Every day, we provide shelter to ~110 people, and serve more than ~500 meals. We have a substance abuse recovery program that opens the door to great successes, but that takes immense effort. Our food pantry and clothing closet serve ,more than 450 people every month. And much more work needs to be done.

In the words of one of our Board members, “we could double our spending and still use every penny on the essentials.”

We know that the money is out there. We just need to help people decide that they want to put it to work through Urban Ministries of Durham.

The Ideal Candidate

What are we looking for in our next Development Director?  Here are the essentials:

Compassion – You believe in the dignity of each person. You work in a way that respects and increases the dignity of our clients, donors, volunteers, and staff.

Commitment to Results – You set goals you believe in, and you find a way to meet them.  You create good outcomes even when the path is not easy.

Leadership – For corporate and individual gifts, you lead by example and by teaching. Sometimes you make the Ask. Other times, you help the executive director (or a board member, or another volunteer) make the best Ask they can. With your leadership, the team gets stronger every year.

Organization and Follow-through - You are a self-starter who sets and implements solid work-plans. For annual giving and for foundation or government grants, you work with your team of volunteers and colleagues to create professional and timely requests that turn into reliable funding streams. And you make sure we deliver the very best “Thank You”.

Strength and Spirit – you make principled decisions based on shared organizational values.   You inspire confidence among donors and colleagues.

Why Work with Urban Ministries of Durham?

Here are some reasons we might be the right place for you to do your good work:

• Urban Ministries of Durham (UMD) has a strong reputation built on nearly 25 years of service. Our programs improve every year.

• We partner closely with City and County government, religious organizations, and the private sector. We are a faith-based organization whose services are primarily secular.

• We have a diverse set of funding sources. Individuals, congregations, corporations, government grants, and foundation grants fuel our work. We are not over-reliant on any one funder, and many of our funders have supported us over many years.

• While it won’t be easy to meet and grow our budget every year, we know it can be done. Durham has the resources we need to rebuild lives and to strengthen our community. We have some great development volunteers who are ready to receive your quality guidance.

• Durham is a vibrant and growing community. Our downtown neighborhood is in the midst of incredible new development and urban renewal.

Much more about us is online at www.umdurham.org

Professional Qualifications

We recognize that successful development directors come in different shapes and sizes, and that they come from different paths. That said, we have a list of likely characteristics:

Proven success in several of the following:
• Fundraising for $1MM+ budgets
• Annual Fund campaigns
• Major Gift campaigns (with responsibility for some fraction of Asks)
• Foundation and government grant writing
• Corporate giving requests.

Proven competence with several of the following:
• Leading and teaching other development committee staff and volunteers
• Database management (Sage Fundraising 50, MS Access)
• Public relations and marketing
• Event planning

Candidates with strong connections within the Durham community are particularly encouraged to apply.

To Apply

Please send resume and letter of interest no later than May 20 to:
   UMD Search Committee
   c/o Phil Marsosudiro
   UMD.search + gmail + com

03:53 PM in Destination Durham, News, Urban Ministries of Durham | Permalink | Comments (0)

Apr 17, 2008

Job Ads -- Durham Morning Herald, 1 Apr 1947


I've long wondered how Asians/Asian-Americans got on in the Jim Crow South, but I've not had much luck searching the internet, and I've only now started scanning through old Durham newspaper indexes and issues.

The Durham Morning Herald hardbound index that spans ~1930 to ~1960 offers nil for these index terms: Japanese, Oriental, Asian and Chinese.  If there were any Asians in Durham back then, you wouldn't know it from the index.


I did see some interesting headlines on black/white relations in the 1 April 1947 edition ("Durham committee on Negro affairs again seeking to put a representative on the city board of education"), so I picked up that microfiche reel for a read.

Wandering elsewhere in that edition, I spotted this set of classified ads with the interesting gender/race specifics. (Question: are today's employers looking for much different?). 

Only later did I notice the dishwasher job at an "Oriental restaurant" at 118 E. Parrish St.  I wonder what it was like? Endangered Durham has a blog about the block it was on: 100 E. Parrish St. block (south).

12:52 AM in Destination Durham, History | Permalink | Comments (4)

Apr 15, 2008

Five Points Cafe is Open!


I had a nice lunch there with Claire from The Crone Report.*

And I asked the owner, Steven Matherly, what he'd like us to share with you:

  • We're open!
  • Breakfast opens at 7, and deli sandwiches and the like for lunch ($7 or $7.50 for a nice-sized sandwich, fancy chips plus a fountain drink.)
  • The plan for evenings: "downtown Durham's dessert destination."  Current desserts are provided by "The Cake Lady", Mrs. Lott (see pics below), who rents kitchen space at the Cafe, and also from Sweet Jane's and Guglhopf.
  • In Phases 2 and 3, the cafe will add international dry goods (chick peas, arborio rice, etc. etc.), fresh vegetables, staples like milk and such, soon followed by sliced deli meats, fresh fish on ice, and eventually...
  • ...Wine with a focus on affordable bottles, with many from South America.

Best of luck to Steven on his expansion into what I hope he'll eventually call "Five Points Cafe & Market" or some other name that suggests shopping and not just eating.  Downtown Durham would love such a spot.  A small, sustainable version of what Fowler's had hoped to be.  A place for downtown residents and workers to pick up their evening's dinner groceries.  You know, like they were living in a "City".

Here's a pic of Mrs. Lott (in hat) and other friendly folks:


Among her offers at the Cafe: pound cake, sweet potato pie, and a coconut cake of some kind.  Below, ~1/3rd of a serving her very dense and not-to-sweet bread pudding.  A monster-sized slab** goes for $2.85, which is a bargain for the amount of food and flavor you'll get.


Five Points Cafe
347 W. Main St.
Durham NC 27701


* DurhamFood of CookingEatingDurham came in just after we did, but was gracious enough to let me call blog dibs on "we were there first!"  (I'm sure he could have gotten to his computer faster than I, had he wanted to.)  And Claire was double-gracious enough to let me blog first -- extra nice since she picked up the tab. 

Related: I never knew that I had a competitive personality until ~10 years ago when a few people pointed it out.  Damn.  Oh well.  But since it's out now, I'll say it:  "We win, we win, we win!" 

02:57 PM in Destination Durham, Food, News, Reviews | Permalink | Comments (3)

Apr 13, 2008

Home Field Advantage


Oh, sure, the Colorado Rockies get some home field advantage from playing at altitude, in thin air they're used to practicing in.

But they've got nothing on St. Matthew's Episcopal in Hillsborough for church league B-ball.

10:57 PM in Seen, Triangulations | Permalink | Comments (1)

Apr 10, 2008

Taqueria El Paraiso (Durham)


Yesterday's lunch.  In the foreground: a pair of gorditas.  Farther back: an "open-face burrito".

By accident this week, I'm continuing a tour of restaurants mentioned in Gourmet Magazine's "Carolina Cocina" article.*  Years ago, I used to eat frequently at this Alston Ave. -- before it was named El Paraiso, I think.  In any case, I'm happy to have returned.

Four random notes on the restaurant and food:

El Paraiso's salsa verde is reason enough to go there.  It's served in a squirt bottle, and here are the essential ingredients, as told to me (in no particular order) by the cocinera:

  • avocado
  • garlic
  • onion
  • cilantro
  • tomatillo
  • jalapeño
  • salt

The salsa roja is also plenty yummy:

Gorditas have been described as "the pita bread of Mexico".  But yummier.  Made like a very thick, moderately greasy tortilla, the outside has a little crunch, and the inside is soft.  Most often, the gordita is split open from one side, stuffed with something yummy, then topped with a bit of lettuce and tomato, a splash of media crema, and a sprinkling of what I'm guessing is grated queso fresco.  El Paraiso's variation is to pile everything on top of the gordita instead of inside.  The nice thing about this method is that you know from the beginning that you can use a fork.**

Gringos are Welcome at El Paraiso.  At 12:30 this afternoon, there were three parties in the restaurant.  One pair of white businessmen with a laptop out.  One big table of white young professionals (or maybe grad students) in their late twenties.  And me plus my (white -- you guessed it) client.  I'm used to being the only non-white person in a place.  But not in East Durham. This was a happy moment.***

El Paraiso is on Alston Ave. between E. Main St. and Angier Ave.  This is an interesting and appealing neighborhood that has been written about several times at Endangered Durham.  I can't decide which of Endangered Durham's blogs to send you to, so I'll pick two: Alston Avenue Update (a pause on the road widening) and Commonwealth/Asbury/United Methodist Church

The folks at Uplift East Durham also write about this neighborhood that they live and work in.  I enjoyed my frequent drives through here back in 2005 when I was taking care of a friend who lived out on East Angier.  It's easy to imagine the area's healthier past, and a hoped-for good future.

ALSO: Chowhound's co-founder Jim Leff has many praising words and pictures of El Paraiso in this blog: North America Dispatch #18: Great 'Cue with Bob Garner, Two Pillars of Mexican Cooking, and a Deafening Honduran Pool Hall.


**Click for a scan of the Carolina Cocina article (.pdf 2MB)

**I had my first great gorditas in Mérida, Mexico.  After I apologized for using so many napkins, the cook said, "Yucatecan food is messy."  El Paraiso is run by folks from Oaxaca, where my gringo lunchmate has traveled.  His Spanish is better than mine.  While asking for the salsa recipes, I kept trying to verify the absence of some expected ingredients, "...y no vinagre? no limón?"  He said that better choices would be "nada de vinagre? nada de limón?" or even "...sin vinagre? sin limón?"  I will try to remember for next time.

***Back in 2001, my Rhode Island friend Sheila accepted an senior executive job at Duke, and I took her to dinner here on one of her first nights in Durham.  As we seated ourselves, she said, "my colleagues are taking me to dinner tomorrow and they asked where we'd be going tonight -- just to make sure they didn't pick the same restaurant.  I don't think they needed to worry."

12:35 AM in Food, Mexico, Recipes, Reviews | Permalink | Comments (0)

Apr 09, 2008

Urban Ministries of Durham Breakfast

Monday breakfast at Urban Ministries of Durham -- oatmeal, scrambled eggs, half a ham-and-cheese sandwich on whole grain bread, half a carrot/bran/something muffin, and a mug of coffee.

Urban Ministries of Durham provides free meals daily -- breakfast, lunch, and dinner -- to anyone who comes by.  No money.  No prayers.  No required participation in anything.* 

A new lead cook has just come on board, and the whole team is working to improve both appeal and nutrition, starting with breakfast.  Breakfast really is the most important meal of the day for many UMD diners.  By my estimate, UMD serves ~125 people each morning.  And I'd guess that at least 1/4 are going off to some kind of work (construction, janitorial, whatever-they-can-get) right afterward.  Increase the fraction if you include "parenting" in the work category.

Where does the food come from?  Breakfast and lunch "groceries" come from many sources that do gleaning, collecting, or donating.  One of my favorite sources is the Interfaith Food Shuttle whose refrigerator trucks collect banquet and restaurant leftovers from places like the Durham Convention Center run by Marriott.  UMD has a longtime relationship with Whole Foods (baked goods are a high volume donation)** .  And of course  there are congregational and neighborhood food drives, the Food Bank of Central and Eastern North Carolina, and the USDA. 

In recent years, demand for meals has grown modestly or remained steady.  However, it's getting harder to keep the food supply coming into UMD's kitchen.  I'm not sure of the exact reasons, but if I had to guess, it would be a combination of: a slower economy that makes for less "excess" at banquets and restaurants, higher gas and food costs impeding donors, etc.  Upping the quality standard won't make it any easier to have an ample supply of what's needed.


*Though it's not quite "no questions asked" because they request your name and birthday as a way of tracking service stats.   I guess there isn't really a "free lunch" in this world.  But if you're concerned about privacy, you could always give a fake name and birthday.  If you wanted to pay a favor for the usage stats data gathering, you could also be so kind as to always give the same fake name and birthday.

**Challenge/conundrum/irony:  Whole Foods donates lots of high-nutrition baked goods like the ones you see on the near tray.  But a lot of UMD's diners don't necessary like whole grains, nuts, bran, etc. in their bread.  They prefer and are used to plain white bread.  And a lot of UMD's diners don't have great teeth, either.  So... how does one serve?

11:24 PM in Food, Reviews, Urban Ministries of Durham | Permalink | Comments (1)

Apr 07, 2008

Rockin' the Stove with Chef Shirlé Hale-Koslowski


When high quality comes along in blogland, I just have to share:

Rockin' the Stove -- Vegetarian and Vegan Cooking, Rockin’ The Stove with Chef Shirlé, vegetarian and vegan recipes, cooking show, songs about food and handmade crafts for the kitchen.

Above, a pic from her post:  Buying Organic Eggs for Easter?…Then What About The Dye? Easier and more fun than I would have thought.  Click it and see.

You may know Shirlé her band Gerty, or from her Four Corners Cuisine* personal chef service.  Or maybe you just know her because she and her husband David are cool.  In any case, I'm glad you know her now.


*from "a square meal and so much more".  Not from Saturday night's tragic ballgame.  And hey, what's this -- four posts (three on food related) in 24 hours at the Archer Pelican?  There must be something in the water (that has been pouring for the last two weeks)...

11:23 AM in Food, Links of Note | Permalink | Comments (1)

Apr 06, 2008

N&O Coverage of Durham -- My Comment and the N&O Editor's Response

I recently sent a frustrated comment to the News & Observer regarding their seeming "Most everything in Durham is crime" coverage.  See below for my comment, and for the reply from the N&O's Durham editor, Rob Waters (who graciously gave me permission to publish his response).

My comment (27 March, 8:45 p.m.):

Subj: Is there nothing else to report about in Durham?

12 out of 15 articles in today's N&O "Durham" link are about crime (see below)*. I'm not denying that most of the 12 are in some form newsworthy. But is there nothing else happening in Durham that might be MORE newsworthy than at least half of these? Would your readers not find it interesting or useful to read about more things than an 80% roster of crime-related happenings?

I'm a Hillsborough resident who spends a lot of time in Durham. And I'm finding the N&O less and less useful at telling me about what might be happening in my second city.

News & Observer Durham Editor Rob Waters's response (28 Mar, 10:30 a.m.):

From: rwaters [mailto:rwaters@newsobserv...

Sent: Friday, March 28, 2008 10:23 AM
To: phil@marsosudi....
Cc: metroeds; Eric Frederick
Subject: Re: Contact Newsroom: Is there nothing else to report about in Durham?

Mr. Marsosudiro,

We report plenty of news other than crime in Durham, but sometimes our Web site makes it seem otherwise.

The snapshot you provided was from early last evening, before we posted our stories that are in today's print edition. Below is a snapshot from this morning, that contains a bit more of a mix.

As the day progresses, our Web site is programmed to list the most recent postings first. Some of them are fairly trivial, and more than a few of them are simply announcements from the city or county government or the Durham PD — information these public entities would like to have out there — and we're just passing it along. A lot of days, the posting of these minor news items (many of which are about crime) has the effect of displacing some of our more comprehensively reported stories. It's an imperfect system, and we're continually trying to tweak it to make it more useful.

The other thing you should know if you're interested in news from Durham is that much of our news-gathering energy is focused on the weekly Durham News, which comes out Saturday and is distributed free to about 70,000 households in Durham County (but not to Hillsborough). You can find that online by poking around the regular N&O site for awhile, or you can go to it directly here:
A fresh weekly batch of stories (none of them about crime) will be posted there early tomorrow morning.

Our Durham staff also maintains a blog. We have busy days and slow days, but generally we post a dozen or more times a week here:

Thanks for writing,

Rob Waters
Durham editor, The News & Observer
Editor, The Durham News
Durham, NC
919 956-2431

Durham police report 'suspicious death'
Durham police this morning are investigating "a suspicious death" of a man at Bay Creek Apartments, 1309 Hudson Ave.
Updated: Mar. 28, 2008 7:26 AM | Full story

Durham police get new deputy chief
Triangle Briefs: A new deputy chief will be among 24 Durham Police Department employees promoted at a ceremony tonight.
Updated: Mar. 28, 2008 3:21 AM | Full story

Schools might ask for more
School officials could ask county commissioners for a $7.4 million increase in their local budget for next year, according to a draft proposal that debuted at a school board meeting Thursday.
Updated: Mar. 28, 2008 3:21 AM | Full story

Teen with a record gunned down on Durham street
John Fitzpatrick Jr. saw Sean Kali Buwe as more than just a defendant he represented in court. He wanted to help change the 18-year-old for the better.
Updated: Mar. 28, 2008 3:21 AM | Full story

Used adult bikes wanted
They will be sent to Costa Rica.
Updated: Mar. 28, 2008 3:21 AM | Full story

Durham police wrap up internal cases
Internal investigations into the actions of three Durham police officers, including one who shot and killed a teenager, have been completed, but the public may never know whether the department thought the officers acted appropriately.
Updated: Mar. 28, 2008 3:21 AM | Full story

Durham police chided for marijuana case
A prosecutor has tossed out marijuana trafficking charges against a Duke University student, prompting criticism from a defense lawyer that police are doing their business backward.
Updated: Mar. 27, 2008 5:28 AM | Full story

County is collecting hygiene items
Triangle Briefs:Several county agencies and volunteers are leading a drive to gather donations of personal hygiene supplies for middle schoolers.
Updated: Mar. 28, 2008 7:37 AM | Full story
Suspect in break-in surrenders to police

Triangle Briefs: A man wanted in connection with a break-in at a home on North Roxboro Street on March 12 turned himself in to authorities Wednesday.
Updated: Mar. 27, 2008 2:24 AM | Full story

Durham sets session on probation
Failure to keep up with two now accused of murder prompts crime Cabinet meeting.
Updated: Mar. 27, 2008 2:24 AM | Full story
Man fatally shot on Durham sidewalk

Durham police officers are investigating a homicide after a man was found fatally wounded on a sidewalk Wednesday night.
Updated: Mar. 27, 2008 2:23 AM | Full story
3 shootings, 3 deaths, 3 autopsies

Triangle Briefs: Recently released autopsy reports detail how three men who died late last year were killed, including one who died from police bullets.
Updated: Mar. 26, 2008 3:02 AM | Full story

Man collapsed, died after fight
Frank Carver Jr. of Durham was talking with police after the affray when he fell ill.
Updated: Mar. 25, 2008 2:44 AM | Full story

First there's 'smoke,' then ATM is swiped
Triangle Briefs: A tall man apparently led a Durham motel clerk astray with a false report of smoke in the building, then wheeled the motel's ATM into his waiting pickup truck, police said.
Updated: Mar. 25, 2008 2:43 AM | Full story

Durham trial opens window on police work, gangs
A murder trial set to begin today in Durham offers a glimpse into how young people can be drawn into gang life in this city.
Updated: Mar. 24, 2008 8:22 AM | Full story

Stories from The Durham News:

Downtown boom bypassing civic center
City debates spending $6 million on upgrades.

Mold-free building wows crowd
Adolescents surged through the doors of Durham School of the Arts in February to see new building.

Prayer vigil scheduled for slain Duke grad student
Abhijit Mahato was fatally shot Jan. 18.

Pitch made for city-funded neighborhood liaison
Advocate would cut through bureaucracy, some claim, but others say it's unnecessary.
More stories...
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2008 Summer Options - Durham/Orange County
For School-Age Children and Teens


*here was the previous evening's list that I was complaining about:

Durham police chided for marijuana case
A prosecutor has tossed out marijuana trafficking charges against a Duke University student, prompting criticism from a defense lawyer that police are doing their business backward.
Updated: Mar. 27, 2008 5:28 AM | Full story

County is collecting hygiene items
Triangle Briefs: Several county agencies and volunteers are leading a drive to gather donations of personal hygiene supplies for middle schoolers.
Updated: Mar. 27, 2008 4:52 PM | Full story
Suspect in break-in surrenders to police

Triangle Briefs: A man wanted in connection with a break-in at a home on North Roxboro Street on March 12 turned himself in to authorities Wednesday.
Updated: Mar. 27, 2008 2:24 AM | Full story

Durham sets session on probation
Failure to keep up with two now accused of murder prompts crime Cabinet meeting.
Updated: Mar. 27, 2008 2:24 AM | Full story

Man fatally shot on Durham sidewalk
Durham police officers are investigating a homicide after a man was found fatally wounded on a sidewalk Wednesday night.
Updated: Mar. 27, 2008 2:23 AM | Full story

3 shootings, 3 deaths, 3 autopsies
Triangle Briefs: Recently released autopsy reports detail how three men who died late last year were killed, including one who died from police bullets.
Updated: Mar. 26, 2008 3:02 AM | Full story

Man collapsed, died after fight
Frank Carver Jr. of Durham was talking with police after the affray when he fell ill.
Updated: Mar. 25, 2008 2:44 AM | Full story
First there's 'smoke,' then ATM is swiped

Triangle Briefs: A tall man apparently led a Durham motel clerk astray with a false report of smoke in the building, then wheeled the motel's ATM into his waiting pickup truck, police said.
Updated: Mar. 25, 2008 2:43 AM | Full story

Durham trial opens window on police work, gangs
A murder trial set to begin today in Durham offers a glimpse into how young people can be drawn into gang life in this city.
Updated: Mar. 24, 2008 8:22 AM | Full story

Boy's death in pool is ruled an accident
Triangle Briefs:The death of a 6-year-old boy in an abandoned pool near Durham has been ruled an accident.
Updated: Mar. 20, 2008 2:42 AM | Full story

Autopsy shows man riddled with bullets
Victim attacked in car on N.C. 98.
Updated: Mar. 20, 2008 2:42 AM | Full story

Durham convict is granted a new trial
Triangle Briefs: The N.C. Court of Appeals granted a new trial Tuesday to a Durham man convicted of assault because a prosecutor failed to provide adequate explanations for dismissing potential jurors who were African-American.
Updated: Mar. 20, 2008 2:42 AM | Full story

Gubernatorial forum set at Duke
Triangle Briefs: Duke University will host a forum from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. Tuesday for gubernatorial candidates on "The Future of Water in North Carolina."
Updated: Mar. 20, 2008 2:42 AM | Full story

Suspects sought in trailer break-in
Triangle Briefs: Investigators are looking for the people who entered a business parking lot at 5420 Chapel Hill Road about 11:30 p.m. Feb. 12, broke into a trailer, stole about $6,000 worth of tools and fled in a white Ford F-250 crew-cab truck.
Updated: Mar. 19, 2008 2:42 AM | Full story

Suspect who fled police is sought
Triangle Briefs: Police are trying to locate Walter Chavis IV, who is wanted on weapons and drug charges.
Updated: Mar. 19, 2008 2:42 AM | Full story

09:59 PM in Destination Durham, Editorial, News | Permalink | Comments (7)

Sunday Brunch and Mimosas at Dale's Indian Cuisine


To imagine a spiritual connection between India and the Traditional South, consider bhindi masala -- okra with fried onions and tomatoes, served with rice.  And to put some on your plate, try the weekend brunch at Dale's Indian Cuisine on Ninth St. north in Durham.* 

It's only $12.85 for the ~12-entree buffet including the make-your-own mimosa cart pictured below (don't worry about the empty bucket -- more sparkling wine is coming).

My goodness, such a treat.  Especially when they stack the cart with pint glasses because they've run out of clean champagne flutes, so they stack the cart with pint glasses.  Also note the tray of pappadam on the bottom shelf.



*Dale's Indian Cuisine has three locations -- Durham, RTP, and Greenville.  Pics above from:

811 Ninth St. (corner of Ninth and Green)
Durham NC 27704
phone: (919) 286-1760
Open 7 days -- weekend brunches start at noon.

BTW: fellow diners mentioned great Indian places in Cary, including Shree Udupi Cafe, a Southern Indian restaurant that specializes in vegetarian food.  I haven't been but would appreciate links to any independent reviews.  Good vegetarian food is a gift.

Shout out to M and her son who sweetly treated me to a Dale's dinner just before I left town in January.  And shout out to J whose Full Frame visit to Durham prompted today's brunch.

06:32 PM in Food, Reviews | Permalink | Comments (3)

Crab Enchiladas at Fiesta Grill (Carrboro) of the Gourmet Magazine Mention


Today's special at the Fiesta Grill -- crab enchiladas.  A generous portion for only $10.95.  Not pictured, the also-generous tostada de ceviche for $2.95 (available Saturdays and Sundays).

As you may know, the Baja-rooted Fiesta Grill was one of six local Latino restaurants featured in Gourmet Magazine's "Carolina Cocina" article last September*. 

I've always been happy to go there for the rich and freshly made everything.  To be honest, I've never been blown away by the food -- but I've almost always been pleased. Perhaps as importantly, they have the longest menu I've seen of any local Latino restaurant**, so I never get bored with the choices.

They also have the friendliest staff ever.  Need something to tweak your meal?  They're quick to provide extra cilantro, their alternate salsa (rich flavor without much extra heat), more limes, or a bottle of hot sauce.***

Come warm weather, treat yourself to country drive with lunch or dinner at the Fiesta Grill in west-of-Carrboro followed by dessert at Maple View Farm.  If you don't mind a messy meal, you can even take your to-go order for eating at the Maple View Farm picnic tables.



*Click for a scan of the Carolina Cocina article (.pdf 2MB)

**including eight vegetarian choices. Want proof?

***Fiesta Grill uses the well-known Tapatio sauce from Guadalajara. Did you know that Northgate Mall in Durham used to have a store that just sold hot sauces and related products?  That was ~1993.  Sadly, it didn't last long.

The fellow whom I think is the owner: his jawline and voice remind me of Marlon Brandon as the Godfather -- but in a nice, friendly way.

Essential ingredient atop the enchiladas: the half-cream aka media crema. Cans of the Nestle brand should be available almost anywhere with Latino groceries.


01:27 AM in Food, Mexico, Reviews, Triangulations | Permalink | Comments (2)

Apr 05, 2008

Id, Ego, and Super-Wal-Mart


"...will be asked to provide proof of age by showing proper id."

Hmm..  My Wiki-informed understanding* of the "id" is that it's the pleasure-principle, gimme now part of your self that is pretty much all you've got when you're a kid.  Not very adult like at all.  So is this Wal-Mart thing a trick question?  Don't ask me to explain why "40" is in "quotes".


*"wiki-standing"?  Sorry, Ms. P.

01:55 AM in Seen | Permalink | Comments (2)

Apr 04, 2008

Cleveland-Holloway Is the Heart of Durham!

View Larger Map

It charms me that if you Google "Durham NC", the top link is a Google Map with the arrow smack dab in the Cleveland-Holloway neighborhood. [Less charming: I can't figure out how to get the embedded Google Map to show the closeup and the arrow, but if you click on "View Larger Map" just above this paragraph, you'll get what I mean.]

In case the Cleveland-Holloway neighborhood blog isn't on your reader, click on over to see great pix of last month's neighborhood cleanup.  Here's a teaser:


12:00 AM in Destination Durham | Permalink | Comments (1)

Apr 03, 2008

Serendipity, Quakers, Birthdays

Ceylanbellin_2 Serendipity rarely walks into a noisy room.

-- Me, ~1984.

My friend Stephen C. turned 40 on Easter, and his wife organized a "guys weekend" in the Blue Ridge Mountains to mark the birthday.  Back in high school and college, it was our occasional habit to write letters to each other, and I remember scribbling this down in one such note to him.  I seem to recall that it was inspired by a group writing project that wasn't starting smoothly.

This evening, I recalled this thought while sitting in a mid-week Quaker meeting for silent worship.  The "coincidence" occurs to me just now: Stephen was my first Quaker friend.


Nickel prizes to those who get the meaning of the illustration.

01:03 AM in Misc.Blog 2007 | Permalink | Comments (1)