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Archive for the ‘Around the Triangle’ Category


I’ve added a new page to this site, a version of a Toastmaster’s speech I will be giving in a few weeks. I’ve added a few speeches as pages, just because they are longer pieces, not really appropriate as posts.

The speech, my ninth with Toastmasters, concerns nuclear power, and is based on a fascinating film screened at Durham’s Full Frame Documentary Film Festival this year.  The film, a documentary by noted director Robert Stone, makes a persuasive case that we need to embrace nuclear power.  When I saw this film at Full Frame, the audience reaction in the Q&A session afterwards was quite interesting, and I think the filmed changed some minds.  Maybe it will change your mind.

You can check out the trailer for this film, courtesy of YouTube.  Or check out my speech about it, which doesn’t include a video!

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Quail Ridge Books & Music

Quail Ridge Books & Music,
with owner Nancy Olson
(Photo credit: Independent We Stand)

For Triangle area readers, Raleigh’s Quail Ridge Books is an institution.  For the many fans of the store, it was sad surprise to see the News & Observer‘s cover story today, announcing that the store’s owner, Nancy Olson, is retiring and looking for a buyer.  According to the article, Olson isn’t interested in just cashing out and retiring.  She wants to find a suitable, new owner to keep the store in operation, for the sake of her employees and the community.

Living on the West side of the Triangle, I rarely get to visit this gem of a bookstore.  Nonetheless, I sincerely hope the store finds a new owner that will preserve the reputation and good will Quail Ridge has built up over the years.  As noted in a previous post, the store has an amazing record of success and longevity, in business almost 30 years in the same nondescript location since 1984.  Kudos to Nancy Olson and her staff, and let’s all hope the story will continue.

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I’m sitting at home, on the second day of recovery from a cold.  It is the first chance I’ve had to recap the best, worst, and everything in between of films I saw at Full Frame.  It is impossible to see everything, and naturally there are films that, after seeing the smiling crowds leaving the screenings, I wish I would have seen.  There just isn’t enough time, and I can’t be in two places at once.

Full Frame, and I’m sure other film festivals, have an audience rating system.  Some awards explicitly take the audience reaction into consideration.  But what can you really tell about a movie from an arbitrary and inherently inaccurate system?  Full Frame uses a five-point scale, with audiences tearing a ballot at one of five notches.   But what does that mean?  A movie that is incredibly important, a heavy-hitting work of journalistic documentary, is rated on the same five point scale as a light, short, funny film featuring a quirky story about a quirky artist.   Both films might be fives, as measured subjectively by me and my fellow movie-goers, for very different reasons.  It’s like comparing all your girlfriends or boyfriends; at the time, you loved them all, probably for different reasons.

With that in mind, I offer my completely subjective view of the best film I saw at Full Frame, one that I would strongly recommend that everyone see if they have the opportunity.   The envelope, please…and the winner is…Chasing Ice! 

This film follows the work of James Balog, a very driven nature photographer who created the Extreme Ice Survey (EIS) project, an effort to photographically document the retreat of major glaciers around the world.  Balog was once a climate-change skeptic.  He didn’t know if the the science was right or wrong, but he thought the science was just too complicated to attribute climactic changes to anthropogenic sources.  But, after witnessing the retreat of the glaciers, he realized that climate change was real, and there was undeniable visual proof of it taking place today. No one was recording it.  He felt that most people would only understand the nature of climate change if there was a potent, visual demonstration of the reality of climate change.  The EIS project is his attempt to deliver that visual document of climate change, specifically through time-lapse photography of the retreat of glaciers in Iceland, Greenland, and Alaska.

Read on…

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Carolina Theater

The Carolina Theater, site of the Full Frame Festival

After skipping Full Frame last year, this week I’m thrilled to be attending the 15th annual documentary festival in Durham.   This year, the ticketing procedure was a little bit different, allowing pass holders to select scheduled films prior to the festival.  The  lines at the armory were non-existent, quite a change from years past.  Instead of waiting as clerks printed out tickets, or, worse, standing in line behind as someone dithers over which movies to see, I arrived at the armory, picked up my pass, and 15 chronologically ordered tickets ready to go.  A win for web technology, I’d say.

Of the five films I saw yesterday, two involved the deft craftsmanship of Full Frame tribute honoree Stanley Nelson.  The Black Press, an older film by Nelson, looked at the history of African-American journalism in the U.S., with an emphasis on story.   Nelson also served as producer on the festival’s Opening Night world premiere , Jesse Owens, a film directed by Laurens Grant, a young filmmaker with much promise.

Read on…

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Frozen Quiche? Uh...no thanks.

The dumbest food product ever?

This evening I was wandering through my local supermarket, killing time in the frozen food aisle when I ran across this ridiculous product.  Redi-Quiche, just thaw and pour!   There are a lot of contenders, but this has got to be one of the dumbest food products I have ever seen.

I’ve made quiche before and it really is not that hard to make.  Crack a few eggs, whip with a beater, fold in some cheese, veggies, and spices, pour in a pie crust and bake.  My wife is a purist and makes her own pie crust, but I have no qualms about using a frozen crust, especially the good ones from Whole Foods, Trader Joe’s, or my favorite local store, Weaver Street Market.  Really, this is not rocket surgery here, this is a staple of the clueless freshman year student cooking. True, you can doll up a quiche with fancy cheeses and roasted vegetables, maybe even bits of ham.  But it never gets particularly complicated.

But Redi-Quiche, as one might guess by their nifty spelling of “Redi,” simplifies things even further.   First, I’ll go out on a limb and assume that anyone buying this product is going to buy a ready-made, or “redi-made” if you prefer, pie crust.   With “Redi-Quiche” there are no eggs to crack, and no annoying and messy cuts from grating cheese.  Not that anyone who buys this would turn up their nose at packaged grated cheese, or “Redi-Grated Cheez” as I call it.  No, with “Redi-Quiche” you just thaw and pour.  You still have to turn on the oven, though, and bake it.  That takes some time, but think of all the time you’ll save with “Redi-Quiche.”

Really people, if you want a quiche, take of your pajamas, get off the couch, and make one.  It really isn’t difficult.

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I’ve been using LibraryThing for a while now to track the books I read.  I’ve been interested in meeting others who are interested in books and reading in Carrboro, perhaps to start a book group devoted to non-fiction, so as a recruitment tool, I’ve set up a Carrboro LibraryThing group called Paris of the Piedmont Readers.  If you live in the area, I encourage you to join.  Let’s get reading!

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A good friend of mine, Richard Goldberg, has taught a senior level engineering project class focusing on assistive technology, through UNC’s biomedical engineering department since 1998.  Over the years, his students have changed people’s lives, and I am sure that the student’s lives have been changed by taking this class.  The video below, produced by UNC, demonstrates the effectiveness of a good educator working to bring out the best in students, and the value for society that such interaction can foster.

It is sadly ironic that while UNC students are away for the summer, North Carolina’s Republican led General Assembly has enacted a budget with massive cuts in secondary and post-secondary education.   Government has few responsibilities more important than education, and for North Carolina to walk away from that responsibility is a real tragedy.  We have yet to see how this budget will affect the UNC system, but it already is having an impact on secondary education.  Trying times ahead for the Old North State.

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