Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Obamamania. Part 2

If you thought I was making too much of the Obama phenomena, as exemplified by yesterday's blog, and one I wrote even earlier, then perhaps this will convince you.

While sitting down to read last month's Wine Enthusiast magazine, what did I behold on the cover but........

Not only can you add this to the host of magazine covers I featured yesterday, but the article provides some fuel for further reflection. First, click on the image so you can see the subtitles. What we discover is that Obama owns a 1,000 bottle home wine collection in his Hyde Park home. Ironic for a community organizing liberal, whilst this writer consumes wine-by-the-box. I wonder how many of his young, enthusiastic supporters sport 1,000 bottle collections, or even aspire to such lofty goals.

His favorite restaurant? Chicago's Topolobampo, a Mexican-themed diner owned by PBS featured chef Rick Bayless. Not to worry, in this economy, while most of us are downing KFC, its good to know the left-liberal man of the people chooses a Mexican restaurant where the dinner selections alone start at $31, and range as high as $70, excluding the wine.

La Fogota it ain't. In fact, the last time Obama visited, he had the tasting menu, which featured such blue-collar fare as "Creamy parsnip soup with Gunthorp chicken", "Tacos (ah, now that's blue collar, I'm feeling better) with roasted veggies and truffles (uh-oh), doused with tomato broth and paired with a Vouvray wine from the Loire Valley of France". The main course featured those two famous Mexican dishes, Achiote-marinated Main lobster pan roasted in Yucatecan pipian, and that Tijuana favorite, Roasted Rack of Elysian Fields lamb in pear-infused red guajillo chile sauce".

Again some irony here, as this Republican-type banker finds himself ordering the $8.00 Combo #2 from La Fogata, although I do splurge an extra $1.95 for the white cheese dip to compliment the free tomato based salsa.

I can hardly wait for my next issue of Popular Mechanics, where I am sure Obama will be featured on the cover showing us his fully stocked garage and $13,000 laser saw.

Monday, March 30, 2009

Obamamania. Enough Already!

Too much Obama in your life? I agree. Heck, now he's even firing corporate execs!

Of course, there is the ongoing love fest between Chris Mattews of MSNBC's "Hardball, Except for Democrats" and Barak.

It's only a matter of time before there is a Matthews-Obama sleepover, a la Denny Crane and Alan Shore of Boston Legal.

I expected this from the mainstream media, but Obama-worship is now spreading to the entire media.

One of my favorite technology magazines is Wired. I don't argue that technology and politics intersect, but Wired's admiration for Obama is less focused on specific policy issues than the fact that Obama is a cool dude because he uses the Internet and is addicted to his Blackberry. Hence, the headline:

The Wired Presidency

as the writers wonder if He can "reboot the White House". I have a suggestion. Try Ctrl-Alt-Delete and call Bill Gates in the morning.

Business magazines are rightly concerned with politics
and virtually all of them engage in political reporting and editorializing about fiscal and monetary policy. But Fast Company seems fascinated more with the concept of the Leader of the Free World as a brand name, like Kleenex or Pepsi. Obama as a policy-maker, not so much. Obama the Ad Campaign--now that's something to write about, over and over and over.

The first cover story-- " The Brand Called Obama" was disturbing enough, but the newest, featuring the 25-year old co-founder of Facebook, Chris Hughes, describes how this young man single-handedly elected Obama through creating the My.BarakObama.com website. Here folks could social network, plan tea parties, community meetings, and send legal email spam. You even get your own personal account, complete with password.

If this is a good thing, i.e., electing a President on a Facebook template and a catchy "Brand", what does it say about us as a nation? Is the man a leader, or a tag line? "Obama--Change We Need". We'll talk about the details later. And later, we found out it wasn't "change" that we needed, but a trillion dollars or more in additional bailout funds. That's the problem with "brands", they often fail us. "Wouldn't you really rather drive a Buick?". Well, most of us didn't, which is why you can't trust brands or branded politicians. But it might explain why Obama fired Buick's CEO...

Television already has done much to reduce the Presidency to photogenic candidates who explain complex problems in 30 second sound bites. Now all we apparently require is a cool Facebook page and some You Tube videos while the Leader of the Free World gives us "Status Updates" from his Blackberry. What's on your mind, Barak?. "I am thinking about firing the CEO of General Motors and then buying a new 4G Blackberry". Cool. Make sure to Twitter us if you actually do sign a bill without 9,000 earmarks.

But the best is yet to come...

Wine Spectator, a magazine I always turn to for political insight, was not about to be outdone by a bunch of iPhone carrying geeks running social networking sites. Oh no. Because, it was the Pinot Noir crowd that elected Obama, not Facebook addicts.

Unfiltered: Wine Lovers Put President-Elect Barack Obama in Office

Who knew?

But the final straw came in the form of one of my favorite magazines, Cigar Aficionado. A significant portion of the issue was centered upon why Obama should lift the travel and trade embargo against Cuba. Of course, the magazine has a big dog in this fight, since the importation of Cuban cigars to these shores is one of the more egregious foreign policy sins committed by the past nine U.S. presidents.

The magazine dedicated 17 pages of actual policy recommendations regarding normalizing relations, five more pages interviewing Cuban tobacco growers, and 3 pages on where to stay and eat while visiting Havana. The policy article was written by Julia Sweig, a Council on Foreign Relations Fellow, and a policy wonk on Latin America, sitting on the editorial board of the Spanish version of Foreign Affairs.

It would be one thing for a cigar magazine to advocate ending the Cuban embargo, but I don't need them reminding me of the last "eight years of unilateralism and arrogance". That has nothing to do with cigars, nor the fact that this embargo has been maintained by every President since JFK instituted it. Were Johnson, Carter, and Clinton equally arrogant? Not that I agree or disagree with ending the embargo (for the record, I'm all for ending it) but please, just tell me about cigars and $35,000 watches I can't afford to buy, and leave the policy reviews to a magazine, say, called Policy Review, or The American Prospect.

And then point me to a good $5 cigar.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Battle of the Laser Tag Facilities!

I can't count the number of times I've had drinks with friends at a local bar when someone didn't bemoan the fact that there were no Laser Tag facilities on the Outer Banks. How can a place with so much to do not have Laser Tag? It's unthinkable, and I don't even know how one plays the "sport".

Apparently, some local entrepreneurs felt the same loss as my friends, for now we have not only one, but two Laser Tag operations opening this season. Its hard to imagine how the new owners plan to compete. Young folks, it appears are pretty jazzed by the arrivals. Three teenage girls in line with me at Rita's Italian Ice were very much excited about Gearworks, located in South Beach Plaza in Nags Heads. I took that as a sign that we really did need Laser Tag because we all know teenage girls are on the cutting edge of all things cool, if not actually necessary.

The other store is in the former shopping center that housed Ocean's 1/11, right next door to The Pit in Kill Devil Hills.

Destination Fun vs. Gearworks
Get Ready for the Laser Tag Wars---Who Will Win?

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Beach Closures--A Short (Humorous?) History

I was discussing with my good friend Brian the new round of closures affecting area beaches in order to facilitate breeding populations of birds. Brian, who is not only a Professor of History, but the Secretary and Archivist of Manteo Masonic Lodge, reminded me that our current situation is nothing new. As many of you know from the collected works of Dan Brown and Nicolas Cage, Masons possess the most extensive collection of artifacts and archives in the world. We guard these with our very lives.

So, off to the Lodge we went. Through a secret passageway, Brian led me past our Lodge's own ancient artifacts (an old hot dog cooker, a bun warmer, and a non-functioning vacuum cleaner) whereupon he extracted a long clay tube, and withdrew from the cylinder an ancient newspaper. He opened it for me to read. Here is what I saw on the front page, above the papyrus fold...


Jerusalem (Roman Reuters), September 3, 0037.

Negotiations between God and the new Jewish sect commonly referred to as Christians broke down today after members of B'nai B'ird (Sons of the Birds) filed simultaneous court cases with the Sanhedren and the Roman Supreme Tribunal.

The negotiations were centered upon God and the Christians agreeing to a new set of governing rules, currently under the working name "The New Testament".

As part of the negotiations, the Christians had asked that God promise to cease using what is known as Supernatural Weapons of Mass Destruction (SWMD's). The requests sought specifically to ban smiting, turning people into pillars of salt, bringing down entire towns through the use of loud musical instruments, causing worldwide floods as a means of punishment, and the cessation of sending plagues of locust when God was displeased. God agreed to all of the above, but insisted on retaining the power of "smiting" in extreme situations.

It was the issue of the locust that attracted the attention of B'nai B'ird. In the first hearing before the Great Sanhedrin Court, chaired by Nasi (Chief Leader) T. Boils, representatives of the environmental movement protested the elimination of locust plagues, noting that an endemic bird species, the Western Mediterranean Locust Eater had evolved to such an extent the entire species had come to rely upon these plagues as their primary food source. (The attorney for B'nai B'ird who uttered the word "evolved" was summarily smote by God, and the term "adapted" was agreed upon for future use).

Nasi Boils then enjoined God from abandoning the use of locust plagues until all concerned parties could be brought to a Negotiated Regulatory committee where new rules could be agreed upon. He also ruled further than B'nai B'ird had requested, and banned the use of OOV's (Off-road Oxcart Vehicles) by farmers trying to clear the locust hoards from their crops. He demanded that a 'safe zone" be created around any feeding locust infestations, and if the zone was violated, or fencing vandalized, escalating penalties would be imposed, including the stoning of three random farmers for the first offense.

A final agreement is expected in about three years, whereupon the final version of the New Testament will be decided over the course of the next millennium.

In the interim, God filed an appeal with Himself, and will render a decision shortly.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Update On Health Club

I promised you guys I'd let you know my decision of health clubs, referred to earlier in this post. I finally chose to go with the Outer Banks Sports Club. You might think it was the mauve patina that appealed to the metro-sexual in me. Or the superior equipment, smoothie bar, plasma-like TV's, and storage facilities that actually accommodate a suit and tie visit. All of these certainly played into the final decision. Not that I need to store a suit & tie these days, but its nice to know that option exists.

No, what really got me was the way cool locker rooms and showers. I already mentioned the large storage areas (dark wood, no less), big enough to hold all your clothes, a huge gym bag, and two or three geeks, if stuffing geeks into lockers is something you still enjoy. Of course, they don't have doors, so the geeks will escape quickly. And, in that previous post, I was wrong about storing valuables. They have little lockers in the lobby, where you set your own temporary combination, so your wallet and iPod are safe when out of your field of vision. Plus they give you towels to use. I got tired of hauling mine to the old place, and then leaving it in my car until the vehicle smelled like a fungus farm.

The showers...pretty awesome. Nicely tiled floors, and huge private shower stalls (I'd estimate they hold one male and three cheerleaders). And, unlike the old place, they don't smell like, well, a locker room.

Even better, three uber-containers of cleansing liquid occupy each stall. All three are infused with natural botanicals. I mean, how did I ever exist with the plain old soap at the old gym? Think about it--after a hard work out, I emerge with skin that won't dry out, botanically treated hair, and topped off with conditioner that makes my hair shine in the island sun.

In fact, I was so excited I almost took my camera into the shower to show all of you these luxurious bathing facilities. Upon quick reflection, however, I decided that sporting a camera in the male shower and locker rooms was probably a really, really bad idea. I wasn't in the mood for a swirly, or worse, getting my butt kicked.

So, you'll have to use your imagination. Or better yet, join the Outer Banks Sports Club.

Monday, March 23, 2009

The Bridges of Dare County

We have numerous bridges here to connect vehicular traffic to our islands. They are all spectacular, in my opinion--even the old Mann's Harbor bridge and the Alligator River bridge.

But there are hundreds of smaller bridges that move pedestrian traffic from the massive vacation homes to the beaches. Most of these are built to traverse and protect the dune systems, although in hurricanes, they mostly create a mess of debris. I caught this scene at the main beach access in Kill Devil Hills, and was struck what seemed to be a never-ending expanse of these walk ways.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

2005 Langmeil Three Gardens-Barossa Valley

A great blend of Shiraz, Grenache and Mourvèdre, very much in the Rhone tradition. More typically jammy than some of the other Aussie Shiraz-based wines I've had lately--mostly raspberry. Subtle spice and dusty tannins, very silky on the palate. About $20 and well worth it. I think Wine Spectator gave it an 88, but can't find my reference source. I'd rate it at least that. Definite buy.

Crab Cakes So Easy Even A Caveman Can Do It

Face it guys. Most of us are, or think we are, masters of the grill. But when its 40 degrees outside and the wind is blowing a gale, grilling is not much fun, tailgate parties excepted. And many of us know how to throw a roast in the oven, make chowder, steam oysters, or make deer sausage and burgers. But what about a real dinner--something that looks like a gourmet dinner. A presentation for your wife if they've had a bad week, or more importantly, if you golfed all day or came home at 3AM.

I published this in another blog I collaborated on, but wanted to run it again.

I offer a recipe that my sister gave me, which is actually on the back of a package of Old Bay Crab Cake mix.

Click on it to enlarge, and what you see is all you have to do. The hardest part is picking good crab meat. First, you need jumbo lump, not back fin or other choices. In the summer, you can buy it here at many of the local seafood stores, such as Austin's or Billy's, but make sure its real jumbo lump, and try to find out if it has a lot of shell or cartilage. If it does, you'll have to remove those, wash them, and take more time to drain off the water. Ignore the tarter sauce part of the instructions, I can't imagine putting that stuff on a crab cake.

Although expensive, about $30/lb, the "Teeter" and others sell Phillips' (of Baltimore fame) in a 1 lb. tin, which is exactly the amount you need to make four or six cakes. One option if you live, say, in Utah. Local seafood stores are easily $10 less per pound.

Dump the crab meat in a colander, preferably one with a handle so you can gently toss the meat so all of the excess water drains. This is important since there is NO filler in these cakes. Excess water makes them harder to form and maintain that form. Drain them for 15-20 minutes.

While the meat is draining, preheat the oven on BROIL. What for the light to go out. If your oven is slow to achieve temperature, start this process before you drain the crab meat.

Now, open the package of Old Bay Crab Cake mix and dump it in a deep and wide mixing bowl. Add 1/2 cup of mayonnaise. For some reason, I've had bad luck with my favorite mayo, Dukes--the cakes don't seem to hold together well. So I use Hellman's. Stir with a spoon until the mayo and the Old Bay mix is thoroughly blended.

Now add the drained crab meat, and gently dig in with your hands and coat the meat thoroughly with the mixture. It should like this:

Time to form the cakes with your hands. The directions say to make six cakes, but I find these too small and hard to hold together. I usually make four cakes, with comes to a hearty 1/4 lb. per cake. They are about the size of a baseball. Pack 'em tight. When done, put them in a shallow baking pan, cover with foil, spray the foil with Pam, and add a thin sliver of real butter on each one.

Now, once your oven is pre-heated, place these on the center rack for five minutes..no more, no less.

After five minutes, take them out, gently flip them (if you did a good job "packing" them when you formed the cakes, you can actually roll them). Be real careful here...with no filler it's easy to break up the cake. I use the world's smallest spatula to accomplish this delicate operation.

Add another pat of butter to the top of each cake, and broil for five more minutes--no more, no less. You should see each side as you go through the process slightly brown..if a few spots get a little blackened, that's OK. If you see a lot of blackening, take 'em out and flip 'em.

When done, they should look like this...

By now, you've maybe used up 20 minutes prepping, and 10 minutes to broil the cakes. What about the rest of the meal? You can make a salad, which should take about 1 minute if you buy the pre-packaged salads. Also, get two small packages of frozen chopped spinach--the kind in pouches that have "just enough liquid to cook" on the label. That's about a 10 minute microwave operation, so start them when you broil the cakes. Add some frozen Texas sized garlic bread, 5 minutes in a toaster oven, and your done. You can easily get all three parts going at the same time.

When you plate it all, this is what you have. The balsamic you see goes on the spinach--it's awesome! Another idea I picked up from sis.

Any light beer will go with this, but if you want wine, you'll need something that compliments the slightly rich nature of the cakes (from the mayo and the crab meat). A nice Chardonnay; slightly oaky and creamy, will go well. I chose this one, which usually sells under $15.

These taste great, and the whole operation takes about 30 minutes and requires no real kitchen skills. All you need to buy is the mayo, the crab meat, and the Old Bay crab mix and two boxes of frozen spinach. Once you make these, you'll be far more critical of many of the crab cakes served in local restaurants. Too often there is filler in them--bread crumbs, celery, onions, bell peppers-- in order to spread out the crab meat. Just as often, the crab meat is back fin or even other parts of the blue crab--little bits of crab mixed in with all that filler. The Old Bay or other spices makes the cake taste good, but there's really not much crab flavor to the food since there isn't much crab

Try these guys--and impress the wife. Or get out of the doghouse.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Hunter Presgrave Fundraiser

As you might expect, Outer Banker's turned out in force, despite windy and cold weather to support the fundraiser for the family of Hunter Presgrave. The event was staged in Stan White Realty & Construction's parking lot in Nags Head.

The BBQ plate, priced at $5 was absolutely delicious, and I'm very particular about BBQ. Lot's of folks from the business and Rotary community were present; while I was there I spied David Joyner and his wife (Planters Mortgage) and Ken & Angie Brady Daniels (Manteo Furniture and the Outer Banks Chamber of Commerce). In addition to the food, there was a garage sale of sorts under the tent, and a live remote from 95.3 "The Rock".

Blogged with the Flock Browser

Friday, March 20, 2009

Dare County Reccession to End Soon--Here's Why...

In an amazing reversal of fortune, the Dare County Board of Commissioners announced today that the local economy has turned the corner and should begin to rebound shortly.

For the past four years, local economists have puzzled over the sudden onset of the Outer Banks recession. Dare's economic woes began in May, 2005, the last month that real estate inventory and homes under contract were in relative balance. This was two full years before the national recession was confirmed.

However, last week, employees of the Dare County Tax Assessor's Office noticed this home, in Martin's Point, as they began their re-assessment of property values. The home, a box car modular unit was placed on the lot in June, 2005 and is registered to a Thomas Joad IV, and his wife, Petunia of Sharon. An interview with the real estate agent who sold the lot to the Joad's remembered them as "jus' plain reglar folk", although for some reason they appeared "right skeered of livin' anywhar ne'r the crick, so they chose an interior lot on high ground". The local Homeowner's Association often received complaints about the house, as well as the family vehicle, a 1927 Hudson truck containing rattling pots and pans that often woke residents from their slumber.

In a press conference yesterday, Dare County Commissioner Warren Judge outlined on a map the migration of the Joad family, dating back to the Roosevelt Administration. The journey began in Oklahoma, then on to California. The family migrated to the rural South in the 50's and 60's, eventually finding their way to the industrial Rust Belt during the 1970's and 80's. By 1986, Thomas Joad III's several family-owned savings & loans failed, triggering a major nationwide financial crisis. Historians lost track of the family until they were discovered on the Outer Banks this year. As Judge observed, virtually every place the Joad family settled over the course of past seventy years has been plagued by recession, joblessness, and an overall feeling of ennui, desperation, and hopelessness.

Former President Bush, visiting Duck on vacation, also chimed in--recalling the book he read in college, something about "The Really Angry Grapes" he said, that chronicled the early Joad's tragic lives.

While an angry mob formed with the intent of forcing the Joad's to leave their home, the Joad family defused the situation by releasing this statement through their attorney: "We will be leaving these parts soon. Pa is sick and my sister, pregnant and widowed, has been laid off from her job at Five Guys as a fry cook. We hear tell thar is somethin' called "Obama bucks" available in Washington, DC, and we will be movin' thar before the squirrels begin to build thar spring nests".

With the Joad's on the move, expect prosperity to return shortly.

My MOST Important Post Ever

(I copied the below directly from a Facebook posting)

On March 2nd five (5) year old Hunter Presgrave was diagnosed with a Wilms' tumor, a cancerous tumor of the kidneys typically found in children. Hunter's left kidney was affected by the tumor and on March 4th it was removed at CHKD. Hunter's follow up treatments consist of 21 weeks of chemotherapy. Please keep Hunter and his family in your prayers and thoughts.

Hunter is in Kindergarten at Manteo Elem. School. Some of you may know his sister Sarah Presgrave, she is a Junior at Manteo High School.

Please Join Us!
You can help Hunter and the Presgrave Family by joining them on Saturday, March 21st from 11:00 am- 2:00 pm in the Stan White Reality parking lot for a Pig Pickin' Lunch. The cost is $5 per plate with all proceeds going to the "Hunter Presgrave Fund" which has been established by the OBX Bank.

Stan White Reality is around Mile Post 10 and 1/12 in Nags Head.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Refilling Some Empties and New Things

In a previous post I featured some significant commercial vacancies on the beach. Some changes since that post. At the former Reef in Nags Head, a new sign is going up for Ocean's Beachwear. At the vacant two-unit strip center across and just north of Western Sizzlin' (formerly Ocean's 1/11) we hear that a new laser tag operation will occupy part of the space--if true, that means we'll have gone from zero laser tag operations to a pair of new competitors. Who knew laser tag was so popular?

Over at the Reef shopping center just north of the Western Sizzlin', all of the empty units are now open for business. I had a pretty good Italian sub at Quizno's last week and today a cherry water ice at Rita's. I also purchased some "Hot Cajun Mix" at Try My Nuts. Try My Nuts also has stores in Duck and Corolla, but the unit in Avon has been shuttered. This stuff was really good, sort of a party mix without the Chex cereal. Last, but not least, Duck Donuts is also open, but only until 1 PM.

Today's Ocean

Although the picture doesn't truly depict the state of the ocean, we had high surf advisories yesterday and some aftermath today. You can tell if you enlarge the picture that the waves had some height, and all that whitewater in the swash zone usually indicates above normal wave action.

One of the things I love about the ocean here is that in the winter, when traffic noise is minimal, you can hear the sound of the ocean--a loud roar-all over the beach--even in Manteo. Last night, with the house shut tight, my wife asked if a pipe had broke outside, the sound of rushing water was so pervasive. I opened the sliding door so she could remember what the ocean sounds like when there aren't 33,000 cars on the road.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

A Request for Help & A Shameless Plug

First of all, I want to thank everyone who is reading this blog. On many days we get over 100 unique visitors, and at times, subscribers have been as high as 38. I don't think I'll ever make any money at this, but I do find it therapeutic, and I am trying hard to be satirical without being mean. As many have noticed, I have an easier time picking on the left side of the political spectrum.

One of my requests of readers is that if you like a post, please share it. If you click on the title of any post, it will take you to a page of just that one post, where you can copy the web address or url, and send that to your friend. That way they avoid having to sort through the entire blog to find a particular post.

The little green "Share This" icon allows you to send it to any of the "sharing services" like Digg, but at the top of the box is an email/send tab that allows you to easily email that blog to a friend. Its at the bottom of all posts.

Also, I'd LOVE some input on how I should organize the blog. Currently, I am writing on local politics (both serious and humorous), doing some wine and cigar reviews, and also profiling local happenings--new restaurants, stores, and pictures of the beach. Should I continue including all of these under the same blog, or should I split out some of this stuff (like national political satire or wine reviews) and put them in other blogs? My experience has been that the more blogs you operate, the fewer readers you garner on each blog. On the other hand, if someone subscribes because of a funny political post, they drop their subscription when the next visit displays "Today's Ocean" or an article on a coffee shop.

What say you? I love writing for y'all, but want to make it something you wish to visit every day.

And for the record, all of my local features are pro bono--no one pays to be reviewed here.

The comments section is open to anyone--you don't have to register or submit any personal information and I don't know who you are unless you tell me! Just hit "comment" at the end of any post and blast away. It also hides your email address and changes it to something that says "noreply from blogger".

And for the record, the advertisements I added from Google have not paid one penny! It appears to make money there, about 3 zillion people would need to actually click through an ad.

THANKS to all of you.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Obama Revises Bush Military Planning

Trinidad--A potential new invasion target for the U.S.

The Obama Administration announced today a stunning reversal of America's strategic military planning. Having reviewed significant military operations over the past few decades, President Obama discovered a trend he believes will change America's military fortunes. The new doctrine, called "Size Really Does Matter" uncovered what is expected to be a "can't lose" posture for the armed services. Citing the Ronald Reagan/ George H.W.Bush string of victories (3-0 in Grenada, Panama, and defending Kuwait), contrasted with the marginal successes of George W. Bush's two longish wars of indeterminate outcomes; President Obama has significantly changed what was known as George W. Bush's "Top 6 Invasion Targets".

Bush List

1. Iran
2. North Korea
3. CNN
4. Venezuela
5. Syria
6. France

Obama List

1. Fantasy Island
2. Tonga
3. British Columbia
4. Bermuda
5. Trinidad
6. Fox News Headquarters

The new list is populated by smaller-sized potential targets that could easily be dispatched in three or fewer days, with another week or two involved in nation-building as a follow up. Fantasy Island will likely be the first target since it appears their entire Air Defense System consists of one short guy yelling "Zee planes, zee planes". There is some concern about the nation's President, a Mr. Roarke, possessing unknown dark powers, however.

It is hoped that a string of two or three quick victories would put the U.S. in the top seed during the upcoming 2012 Olympic War Games. Our current world ranking is #97, just behind the rebel faction in Sri Lanka.

In order to help repay the massive cost of the eighth round of his Stimulus Package, Obama posted the old invasion plans on eBay for sale to the highest bidder. A heated bidding war for the Venezuela plans between eBay "power buyers" HChavez362 and Exxon127 has erupted.

In a bizarre twist, the Government of France won the bid for their own invasion plans, and after reading them, promptly attacked their own territory and surrendered to themselves in 48 hours.

Obama, who had hinted at meeting with Iran during the election-- actually did so in a State dinner of figs, dates, and O'Doul's non-alcohol beer- and removed Iran from the target list.

President Obama described Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad as a "whimsical radical -- kinda like my buddy Bill Ayers, with the exception that had Ayers bombed Iranian military facilities he would have been beheaded and his entrails fed to feral goats". In exchange for Iran abandoning their nuclear program during Lent next year, Ahmadinejad demanded the American government execute the Jonas Brothers, destroy all extant episodes of Drake & Josh, and requested Obama deliver a gift to President Bush of a 3-day hunting trip with Dick Cheney as a means to bury that old hatchet. It is believed the goals of the first two requests are to keep Iranian children from being corrupted by Western influences. The PBS network agreed with the assessment and offered to replace the banned shows with a new Persian language show entitled "The Wiggles Suicide Bomb the Infidels", which will air until all the Wiggles are expended.

Likewise, a delegation from the AFL-CIO was able to travel to North Korea and obtain the absolute end of that nation's nuclear weapons program in return for giving them South Korea. The Obama Administration noted that the nationalization of South Korean companies LG, Samsung, Daewoo, and Hyudai once North Korea took over would bring jobs back to the U.S. and significantly improve the quality and grammar of product instruction manuals.

Us all unite around happily the improvement of this manuals, and hopeful we are should soon be wishful happenings forthcome understanding operate electronics that ours! Obama, you thanks to you!

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Dare County Shrine Club-Outer Banks Beach Bums Rides in the 2009 Kelly's St. Patrick's Day Parade

We started at 8:30, gathering at the Dare County Shrine Club for some breakfast. Scrambled eggs and link deer sausage, locally harvested. After breakfast ensued the wait--would the rain let up or worsen? Surprisingly, the Roanoke Island contingent, the son's of men who braved 30 ft. waves in wood boats, were not thrilled at the prospect of getting wet. The "beach" contingent, I supposed being used to the beach, and therefore, water, and by extension, wetness, lobbied hard to ride--rain or shine. As the photo's below depict, we did the smart thing and broke out the rides.

As always, the Kelly's St. Patrick's Day Parade was a lot of fun. This year's event was #20--quite a long run. A not-too-well known fact is that Kelly's Parade is the largest St. Paddy's Day parade in the entire State of North Carolina, eclipsing those of much larger metropolitan areas. You can't beat down that OBX spirit.

This picture below is of the group that won best overall, the Counter Culture Garden Girls. These ladies pushed green lawn seeders, which they transformed into percussion instruments and performed marching band maneuvers. Click any image for larger views.

Next we have "Moon" Tillet on his mini-boat, Linda Gayle, the Shrine's famous two-fronted car, which can drive forward, backwards, and sideways, and yours truly in a Palm Tree car, decorated with huge, ugly bare feet.

Next, Jay Hart rides one of our two land-based jet skis.

A mini-train and another small car with feet....

Finally, the kids favorite shows Brian DeFosse riding our land shark, complete with movable jaws, teeth, and fins.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Running of the Leprechaun's & Kelly's St. Patrick's Parade

Leaving my house this morning, I ran into a stream of runners on Villa Dunes Drive heading to the finish of the Inaugural Outer Banks Running Club 8K "Running of the Leprechauns". Outer Bankers always seem to have a good time, and as the pictures above and below will attest, they didn't disappoint. This run is part of the Kelly's St. Patrick's Day celebration, which seems to grow bigger each year.

Tomorrow is the 20th Annual Kelly's St. Paddy's Parade, on the Beach Rd. The weather always seems to conspire against us each year--and in the last few hours the chance of rain has climbed from 40% to 70%, and the projected high temperature has declined from the mid-to-high 50's to the low 50's. But I will be there with the Dare County Shrine Club's "Outer Banks Beach Bums", come rain, wind or cold. Look for a guy with a beard smoking a fine, if not very wet, cigar!

Friday, March 13, 2009

The Pincer Movement Against Men

Have all you married men out there noticed the change occurring in what Dr. Phil calls "relationships". In the old days, couples had good old-fashioned arguments--Ricky vs. Lucy; Ralph Kramden vs. Alice, and Fred battling Wilma.

Lately, instead of getting mad when men say something women deem stupid, they look at us with a kind of pity; like "we" can't help what we do in the same way a puppy doesn't know he's not supposed to wet on the carpet.

I credit this change to media; which is conducting a classic military maneuver known as the "pincer" against males.One side of this pincer is something with which most men are already familiar. It's called Prime Time television. The depiction of men on Prime Time TV is two-fold. All men in sitcoms are insensitive husbands who are barely smart enough to scratch out their names on a sheet a paper. Think of The King of Queens, Everyone Loves Raymond, Terms of Engagement. In contrast, the men on all of the Prime Time dramas are uniformly intelligent, good-looking, and uncorrupted--CSI, CSI Miami, NCIS, The Mentalist, and Eleventh Hour. The key to their apparent success as human beings and men? Each and every one of them are unmarried! Once we become husbands, TV relegates us to something slightly more intelligent than chimpanzees.

The other side of the pincer is daytime television. It is far more insidious. And just because your wife works, remember there are DVR's and TiVo. She can watch this stuff anytime she wants.

It all starts with the so-called morning shows. The typical cast is one or two males surrounded by several females. The men, like Matt Lauer, are polite, well-groomed, and they actually listen to their female on-air colleagues. Worse, during the mandatory cooking feature, they always jump up to help in the kitchen--making souffles and chicken wraps. Our wives believe we should be like that, and one is hard-pressed to imagine the likes of Lauer scratching his privates, ripping off an "air biscuit", belching or blithely acknowledging his wife at home with a series of "uh-huh's". In fact, I bet Lauer knows how to use fabric softener.

By mid-morning, the female hosted talk shows predominate. There's Ellen, Oprah, and The View. Very few "real men" appear as guests on these programs--and if a real man is invited, it's usually a set-up. Remember Tom Selleck and Oprah on guns? Instead, the women are treated to a parade of caring males, usually actors who are busy saving seals, deploring global warming, or feeding the world's hungry. Face it guys--after a day of swinging hammers or pushing paper, nothing we do adds up to the ideal of "husband" or "man" TV creates for our wives. If we go off to golf or fish on Saturday instead of volunteering at the Food Pantry, the worst fears of our women are confirmed.

And, if you want to know why 56% of women voted for Obama, just watch The View one time--where four old, craggy liberal women beat up on one very hot conservative chick. Unfortunately, pitting the intellect of Barbara Walters against Elisabeth Hasselbeck is simply telling the women of the world that conservative and pretty = stupid. Worse, The View has blasted apart the theory that when women engage in a cat-fight, the tearing off of clothes is mandatory.

By mid-afternoon the soap operas are aired. There are two kinds of male behavior on soap operas--evil men who bed every woman they see, and nice married men who only bed 55% of the women with whom they come in contact. If your wife is a tad suspicious, blame the soaps. And of course, even though these people live in very small towns, evidenced by the fact they all eat at the same restaurant and go to the same parties; all of the men either run giant fashion companies, media conglomerates, or perform brain transplants between infidelities.

And one other thing about day-time soaps...none of the men have chest hair. In fact, they all look as though they waded chest deep into a vat of Nair. At one time, young boys worried that the lack of facial or chest hair made them less manly. Now, daytime TV wants all of us to look like those pretty boys from France that adorn the perfume advertisements in women's magazines.

After the soaps comes Dr. Phil, who spends considerable time telling disgruntled women that men are basically helpless, stupid, and unable to change behavior unless we are tricked into it--the same way one tricks a dog into taking a pill by hiding it in a wad of cheese.

So guys, this is why our wives now view us with pity rather than anger. By day, we can't measure up to the Matt Lauer's, nor the do-gooding actors on female talk shows. By mid-afternoon, women are reminded of both our lecherous ways, and our career failings. And by night, all married men are cast as idiots, all single men as geniuses and the objects of our spouses desire, because they are single.

Our salvation? There's always Ghost Whisperer.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Fair Warning

No holiday seems to go without partying, so consider this fair warning for the St. Paddy's Day weekend, which seems to be all about beer.

Coming back from Currituck County today I noticed one of those temporary DOT signs on the roadside at the foot of the Wright Memorial Bridge in Kitty Hawk. The three-part message was simple:



MARCH 13-17

I suppose in addition to increased enforcement by individual police units, we can also expect some of those infamous roadblocks.

There are PLENTY of cabs available in Dare County, especially on the main beaches. I have found them to be fairly quick responders, friendly, and they cover all of the main hot spots. There's no excuse to drive drunk here, especially in the winter, when cabs are even easier to find. Have a good time, drink lots of green beer, and get home safely. Call a cab, use a designated driver, or stay home.

I consider it a public service that the local police authorities give us some warning during festive times of the year. This demonstrates to me that the police are more interested in our safety than writing tickets. Soapbox over.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Runnin' on Empty

We are all aware the Outer Banks is in a deep recession; one that started long before the national economic crisis. And, many think we're not supposed to talk about "it" under the theory that if you ignore bad news, "it" 'will go away. "It" doesn't. Empty space needs to be filled.

(The former site of Dirty Dick's, now vacant since they moved to the former Slammin' Sammy's. A well-know restaurant location here, in the center of the beach).

A not-so-surprising bit of collateral damage from the loss of construction and real estate jobs has been the escalation of vacancies in commercial properties, especially among "support" businesses in those fields. As the economic crisis spread beyond real estate, other businesses have failed. And, there are always those closures that occur even when the economy is booming.

(A two-unit, relatively new strip center formerly housing Oceans 1/11 & a fudge store is now vacant, just across from the new Reef store in KDH)

All of this bad news adds up to potential opportunity for someone, somewhere. Depicted here is a very small your of completely empty commercial structures in Nags Head and Kill Devil Hills. Note that I did not go to Kitty Hawk, am not sure that I captured all of those in Nags Head and KDH, omitted any commercial office space or unsold vacant land in commercial projects, and I excluded strip centers with 50% or less vacancies--of which there are many.

(Fishin' Frenzy, which replaced Nags Head's Hats is now vacant. The owners blame part of their failure on the new ORV rules that went into effect last year.)

There is plenty of space for budding entrepreneurs, even some regional chains such as Andy's Burgers, Chipoltes, Moe's Southwestern and others to open local franchises. Rental rates can be negotiated; many owners and their lenders would probably accept negative cash flow on some of these projects vs. no cash flow at all.

One of the major hurdles to sustaining local "mom and pop" retail operations has been the high rents forced by over-the-top land prices. What used to be a $20 s.f. rental rate might well go for $15 in this climate.

Typically, during a recession, entrepreneurial activity picks up as people lose their regular jobs and are forced to explore new options. Who knows what might go into some of these larger spaces, like the old SeaMark store below. Seasonal flea markets? An indoor mini-mall with food and vendor kiosks? A permanent place to hold boat, home and garden expos, wedding, and home improvement shows?

Although many folks are opposed to what they call "chain" stores, most of these are franchises, locally owned. They provide jobs and inexpensive food for our service workers. Don't like chains? We're ripe for some really good deli's to replace Mrs. T's, a for-real Chinese restaurant, or something affordable like the Gus & George's type restaurants in Va. Beach.

The major problem I see currently lies with the banking industry. Banks have never been keen on very small retailers, nor do they get too excited about franchise operations. In many cases this makes sense, as banks are not venture capitalists. But right now, even good deals where borrowers have the financial resources to provide collateral and security are being turned down. And some banks refuse to recognize the value of their collateral has fallen, risking a total loss instead of some smaller write-down that would allow the owners to cash flow at lower rental rates.

Some of my readers are self-employed, or know people looking for business opportunities. If you know the Outer Banks, you know how many folks come here, especially in the summer. If you've ever pondered opening up a business here on the beach, right now may be the greatest opportunity yet.

(Not sure why Mattress Discounters went under, but the slow down in new construction means fewer new bedroom suites sold, and fewer mattresses. It looks perfect for a new bookstore, perhaps Manteo Booksellers II?)

(This brand new shopping center/residential condo in Nags Head looks completely vacant save for two sold condo units upstairs. I am not sure if the anchor Reef store moved out, but the merchandise is gone. And, four residential condos upstairs, nicely designed, remain unsold).