Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Plastic Bags and Booze...

To follow this blog post fully, you will need to visit Bob Muller's blog here and follow the threads he copied from his Facebook discussions.

I didn't want to address the plastic bag issue per se, because it annoys me. I find it typical of the way government tries to fix things. Ban it, tax it, or subsidize its competition. If that fails, nationalize it. In fact, if passed en masse, Wal-Mart, K-Mart and all the rest would be saved from having to make that thorny decision alone. Being Kyoto friendly is risky; on average, any company adopting a good environmental policy (like discarding cheap plastic in favor of paper) is incurring more expense, and by extension, a potential decrease in the bottom line. But hey, if Uncle Sam, or some guy in Raleigh makes everyone Kyoto friendly, there is no competitive advantage, and no risk that such a course might prove unprofitable.

So, I was surprised to find a local business owner quoted on the above-linked blog supporting not only this bag banning law, but cheering the demise of smoking in North Carolina restaurants and bars in 2010. Comments like this from business people, even folks I very much admire, such as the one mentioned on the blog, are why I no longer sympathize when business leaders whine about government intervention in any form.

Smoking, like plastic bags, is an issue over which restaurant and bar owners agonize. If they ban the practice in their establishments, they risk losing clients to those competitors who allow smoking. While on the surface they might oppose the government dictating what goes on within the confines of a private establishment, in reality, once a law is passed, the majority heave a sigh of relief. Once everyone is on the same non-smoking playing field, there exists one less competitive decision to make.

I know, I know. Some of you are going to tell me that second hand smoke kills more people than are mauled by polar bears, and therefore constitutes a public health hazard. And, we already allow the government to inspect places that serve food, so what's another level of intrusion? But (and, again, I greatly respect and like this person), we're talking about an establishment that is, after 8PM, a bar. Serving alcohol. In the long run, which "drug" causes more health and social problems in America, tobacco or alcohol? How many people, leaving a restaurant are involved in fatal car accidents after smoking ten Marlboro's?

There is always a tip-off that a government intervention is "bad" when the big corporations--the one's that love to stomp on the mom and pop stores--start siding with the government. Was there any coincidence that Wal-Mart today scolded "employers" for not offering health insurance to all employees? Hell no. If they have to do it in order to keep the New York Times off their back, so should the Ben Franklin's. Force enough small competitors to offer health insurance and in the end, you have no competitors.

The same occurred with smoking bans on airlines. The big carriers pushed for an all or nothing rule; that way, Southwest and Jet Blue couldn't offer an enticement that the big guys were under pressure from their unions to eliminate.

When the smoking ban was debated in Virginia, the same pattern emerged. The Outback's, Applebee's and Friday's lined up behind the ban. As large companies, they hear complaints from many clients about smoking, and they are more likely to be under the media microscope. But, if they ban smoking, they lose clients to smaller, locally owned restaurants that appeal to a clientele willing to put up with cigarette smoke. As a result, a broad smoking ban removes one of the last remaining advantages a locally owned restaurant or bar might be able to offer versus the national chain store.

I know this a long post, but I find it disconcerting that "we" accept these interventions into the private sector without so much as a whimper. Governments ban plastic bags, chain stores, drive-thru restaurants, "formula" stores, trans fats, smoking, signage, outside displays, indoor lighting, parking lot lighting, and the number of parking spaces per employee and projected customer.

I wonder how the local restaurant owner, supportive of the smoking ban, would react if MADD or a newly emergent Prohibition movement were to take aim at draft beer and spirits instead of cigarettes and cigars; then succeed in convincing a legislature that these drugs posed a major health hazard and should be banned except for home consumption.

Something tells me he might think differently!

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Breaking News: All Married Male Elected Politicians Admit to Affairs

In a surprise announcement coming on the heels of revelations by John Edwards, David Patterson, John Ensign, Mark Sanford and numerous others, every married male currently serving as an elected official in the United States admitted to extra-marital affairs this afternoon.

The several thousand elected males made the joint announcement in Washington, DC. The bipartisan group apologized to their spouses, children, parents, constituencies, spiritual advisers, and reporters from The National Enquirer, many of whom will now be laid off due to the coming dearth of salacious and tawdry political news. While many Americans were not surprised at the announcement, friends and family of Joe Wilkins, Pennsylvania District 71 Soil & Septic Commissioner expressed shock and dismay.

The men hoped that by making the announcement, the news media would now move on to more pressing matters and focus their attention on the financial crisis, the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and the problem of plastic grocery bags on the Outer Banks.

When surveyed by Fox News, 64% of the elected officials admitted to a one-night stand, 35% to longer-term affairs, and 1%, including Sen. Byrd of W.Va. could not remember having an affair "but didn't want to be left out". All of them stated categorically that there was "no fooling around" during the time their spouses were suffering from Swine Flu, Flesh-Easting Bacteria, or age spots.

Also, the rationale for the affairs were sharply divided along party lines. Nearly all Democrats claimed their mistresses were "really hot" or "had back", while Republicans complained the women were "foul temptresses". Family value Republicans unanimously stated "the Devil made me do it" and sought refuge in local churches.

Elected female politicians responded angrily. Sen. Barbara Boxer stated "Once again we are witness to the gender bias prevalent in this country. While male politicians are bedding young women from Nevada to Argentina, there is no equivalent booty-call demand by young men for older elected females". President Obama promised to remedy the situation... eventually. In the interim, Obama suggested elected women use the Eloit Spitzer method of paying cash for their dalliances as a way to stimulate the economy.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Rogallo Festival

Ironically, on the same day John Harris was awarded the Nags Head Lightkeeper Award, his company, Kitty Hawk Kites, was sponsoring the annual Francis Rogallo F Rogallo, a Stanford engineering graduate is credited, along with his wife Gertrude with inventing and patenting the self-inflating flexible wing, the precursor to modern-day Hang Gliders. This year, Kitty Hawk Kites sponsored the 27th Annual Rogallo Kite Fesitval on June 13 and 14.

On the way home from the Nags Head "birthday celebration", I snapped some quick photos of the early action. By late in the day, Jockey's Ridge was awash with kites, but alas, I was trapped at home doing actual homework! You will want to click on each photo for a full-screen picture.

The Flying Cow is a daily inhabitant of the Kitty Hawk Sports watchtower, across from Jockey's Ridge, and is by now, a landmark. But don't overlook the explosion of color on the entire store site...

Here, in the parking lot, a father gives what I suspect was his son's first instruction in the art of kite-flying...

And now the lad takes off running, attempting to make critical airspeed for liftoff. He didn't quite make it, but I don't think he minded!

And, next door neighbor, Ralph Buxton's Kitty Hawk Sports provides another splash of color with his kayak (for rent) display. If you think the Outer Bank's is just about the beach, you're missing out on some serious fun!

Happy Birthday Nags Head

Much belated, due to the fact that grad school courses at 52 years old are much harder than grad school classes at 23 years old. I apologize for the dearth of posts...

So, on June 13th, the day before Nags Head official 48th birthday as a duly organized municipality under North Carolina law, Nags Head celebrated their birthday. On the second floor of the Nags Head Town Complex, a small celebration took place on the outside deck.

Each year, the Citizens Advisory Committee, of which I am Vice-Chairman, chooses three award recipients. The first is the "Lightkeeper Award", which recognizes an individual who has contributed to the betterment of the Town of Nags Head. The second is the Old Nags Head Style Architectural Award", which recognizes new homes and remodeled homes that reflect the old "Nags Head Style" residential architecture...the type you see in our Historic District on the ocean front area. The final award is the "Community Appearance Award", a more broadly defined category that incorporates not only architecture, but landscape, signage, and the manner in which the building blends into its surroundings and is awarded to commercial structures.

After opening remarks by Mayor Renee Cahoon, celebrated local artist Glenn Eure of the Ghost Fleet Gallery introduced and announced the winner of the Lightkeeper award. Glen is one of my dearest friends, a longtime Rotarian, he and I took to one another immediately, and I love him and his wife, Pat as I would any family member. Mushiness aside, Glenn introduced the winner of this year's Lightkeeper Award, John Harris, founder and owner of Kitty Hawk Kites.

Harris has put Nags Head, in particular, Jockey's Ridge on the map with his dedication to all things natural...Hang Gliding, Kiteboarding, Kiting, Parasailing and other wind-borne activities. Harris is the latest in a long line of recipients, which include our first mayor, Carl Nunnemaker, a later mayor, Don Byran, and restauranteur Mike Kelley.

Harris accepted the award with grace, but impressed me by the fact he used the opportunithy to make a pitch for a focus on restoring and saving our beaches. As all local's know, beach nourishment is an emotional issue and one many people are afraid to broach in public. Kudo's to John Harris for his courage and resolve.

Next up was John Ratzenberger, another close friend and Chairman of the Nags Head Citizens Advisory Commission. He awarded the "Old Style Nags Head Architecture Award" to the Rascoe family, for their oceanfront home at 3801 South Virginia Dare Trail.

The award was all the more interesting since their son, Peter, pictured in the middle of this picture, was a member of the Nags Head Citizen's Advisory Committee and led the charge for this award. In addition, he was active in the origins and maintenance of the Edenton Historical District.

The Community Appearance Award went to the Oasis Suites on the "causeway" at 7721 S Virginia Dare Trail.

Random photos..here is Interim Town Manager Cliff Ogburn and Deputy Town Clerk Michelle Gray enjoying the festivities. Both of these folks are among the best public servants you will find anywhere in any town.

From left to right, Mike & Willo Kelley, J.P. Rascoe, Peter Rascoe, "Budgie" Sadler, and Mrs. J.P. Rascoe...

Next, John Ratzenberger, CAC Chairman, Glenn Eure (past Lightkeeper Award winner), Mrs. Don Byran and Mayor Don Bryan (another past Lightkeeper Award winner) and former Mayor Bob Muller trying out his new digitial video recorder, the results of which can be seen here.

And finally, two of my favorite people...former Mayor Bob Muller and current Mayor Renee Cahoon, who between the two of them have...er.... a lot of public service as elected officials!

Saturday, June 13, 2009

The Front Porch Coffee & The Girl Who Keeps Me Awake All Morning

Nearly every morning of the business week I begin my day at the Front Porch Cafe in Nags Head with a large cup of coffee. This singular event provides enough energy to propel me through the lunch hour without falling asleep at my desk. On many days, driving past the Nags Head store one notices the peculiar scent of coffee being roasted. And that is how the Front Porch rolls...they source only green Arabica coffee beans from all over the world, roast them at the Nags Head location, and turn them into delightful blends or single bean brews. You can buy the product "to go", or by the bag either ground or with whole-roasted beans.

My wife and I toured a coffee plantation in Queensland, Australia back in 2007. In 2008, Paul Manning, the owner/founder of the Front Porch came to our Rotary club and explained the various aspects of coffee; from sourcing the beans, the differences in flavors, roasting, and other aspects of making good coffee. In addition, he introduced many of us to the concept of Fair Trade and sustainable/environmental growth practices that directly benefit the coffee farmers in what are relatively poor countries, as well as the overall environment.

To me, the blending and crafting of coffee was a lot like wine making. The roaster has to balance complexities such as bitterness, acidity, strong and mild flavors, the characteristics of each type of bean, the length of time the beans are roasted, and how long they are left to evolve after roasting. Not only must she (and yes, I'm getting there) create different varieties of coffee that taste good, each specialty house blend needs to deliver the same consistent flavor over time. The "Ashley's Indonesian Blend" should taste the same on Monday as it does on Friday, and in 2009 as it did in 2008.

Enter Ashley Barnes, a 30 year old surfer, culinary school graduate, and the roaster/blender behind the great tasting Front Porch Coffee. Ashley hails from Key West, Florida, which right off the bat makes her a typical Outer Banks resident. She is a passionate surfer, and has traveled the world chasing waves as well as coffee plantations.

Ashley came to the Outer Banks 6.5 years ago, after graduating from Johnson & Wales in Norfolk, Virginia wih a degree in Culinary Arts. She left Key West in 2000. Before landing a part-time job with the Front Porch in 2003, she worked as a chef at the Blue Point Bar & Grill in Duck, NC. She is now te full-time roaster/blender at the Front Porch.

From my perspective, those people in the fields of wine making, chocolate, high-end tobacco for cigars, and coffee require a super-sensitive palate and a knowledge of how flavors combine. All of the aforementioned products contain both single and blended raw materials. If using a single source (for example, all Columbian beans), Ashley still has to know the characteristics of that bean-how long to roast it, proper temperature, whether it needs to cure overnight--all to bring out the best attributes of the bean.

With blending, there is much more skill involved as she has to balance the differences in the beans and determine not only how to roast each component, but also the correct ratio for the blend. Ashley modestly admitted her Johnson & Wales education provided her the basic knowledge of flavors and scents and how they intermingle; but she would not admit that it takes a special talent and educated palate to do her job correctly. I disagree. It has to be difficult to blend several different and competing flavors, acidity and other attributes of the beans to create a smooth-tasting, balanced end product.

Here is a picture of the 15 kilo Diedrich Roaster used by the Front Porch. Its a hot, dirty job. It also takes some physicial strength (check out that muscle definition on Ashley's upper arm). You will often see Ashley hefting 50 lb bags of raw beans or toting heavy 5 gallon buckets, two at a time. Its not a job for the faint-hearted.

Before roasting, Ashley checks out each bag. One thing I learned from her is that the beans in any bag are not uniform in size. At first glance, this might not seem problematic, but a smaller bean is going to roast much faster than a larger bean, resulting a final product that would not be consistent. So, she has to sort them to some extent as well as check for other issues (for example, mold if the bags somehow got wet on their journey to the Outer Banks).

Each bean has two hulls, and in the process of roasting, the hulls will crack at different times and fall into a bin under the roaster. The beans are subjected to dry heat, which means that any foreign objects in the roast, such as a stray piece of burlap do not catch fire or burn and can be removed when the cooling process is complete.

Once the roaster is loaded with raw beans, Ashley inserts a plug (see above), much like a bung on a wine barrel. This closes the heat source. A series of levers and other assorted parts allow her to manipulate the temperature and the roasting technique. Each of the dozen or so beans they use from Indonesia, Kenya, Yemen, Ethiopia, Costa Rica, Brazil, Panama, Mexico, Guatemala, El Salvador, India, etc, etc, etc, require different roasting times, temperatures and techniques.

When the roasting is done, Ashley releases the beans into this hopper, where a combination of air flow and an aerator that literally swirls the beans helps them cool down.

Due to the limitations of my camera, the beans aren't actually moved as fast as the motion here indicates, what you see at the bottom right is the actual speed (and look) of the process. And man, it smells every bit as good as it looks!

At this juncture, Ashley may allow the beans to cure overnight. On some beans, this allows oils released in the roasting to rise to the surface of the bean, creating an oily texture that is very similar to the oily texture on dark Maduro cigar wrappers. On French roast, as well as Italian Espresso, dark, oily beans are what is used.

The end result is the 30-something varieties of coffee produced by the Front Porch.

Let me add one more aspect to this operation. Ashley and Paul have both traveled to many of the plantations from which they source their coffee. They work through organizations such as the Rainforest Alliance to insure several attributes of the end product; the farmer is compensated directly by the buyer and there is no "middle-man" cut. This is the Fair Trade aspect, and greatly raises the income received by the grower.

The Rainforest Alliance also requires the farmer use techniques, such as shade canopies utilizing native trees that not only help produce better coffee, but provides habitat for tropical species of birds and other animals--many of which migrate to the U.S. in the summer and are a vital part of our eco-system. Finally, since these farms are typically family owned, the Alliance brings in "teachers" to instruct the farmers how to eat better and provide healthy diets for themselves and their children. Malnutrition is a major issue in these countries, and more money flowing into the family from Fair Trade pricing doesn't automatically translate into educated growers. I learned all of this from interviewing Ashley, and it makes me even more motivated to buy my coffee here. It is certainly a concern of the Front Porch owners and staff, they believe in what they are doing in these underdeveloped countries and should be justifiably proud. One can have profits without exploitation.

When you take into consideration all of what goes into a cup of Front Porch coffee; the Fair Trade pricing, the skill in blending and roasting required of Ashley, and the benefits to the world economy and eco-system, a $2 cup of Java seems well worth the price. And, if that is not enough to convince you, the taste should!

I wrote this post for several reasons. The first is to demonstrate how locals are creating jobs and wealth as part of the New Economy. The Front Porch now has three locations, and ships coffee via internet and phone orders. A skilled job has been created--Ashley Barnes and her roasting is nothing short of having a winemaker in our presence. And the store has attracted both locals and visitors--the type of healthy balance we need to sustain a vibrant economy year round.

And finally, I think its important to showcase the very unique and intelligent individuals who are making the Outer Banks a better place to live. Next time you are in the Nags Head store and you see this young girl hauling a huge burlap bag, you'll know something about your neighbor!

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Dare Day

[Click on all images for full screen views]

Shhh! Am I supposed to keep this event a secret, or should I let our visitors in on this not-so-well known event? I am talking about Dare Day, which usually takes place on the first Saturday in June along the Manteo waterfront.

When I first moved here, I was told it was a locals celebration, a last hurrah for the locals before the annual invasion of tourists. It usually coincides with the timing of the free Lost Colony preview for locals.

Dare Day is like many small town celebrations; a lot of fun, a little corny, and designed for family entertainment. There is no beer or alcohol for sale, but some folks discreetly carry a drink in a cup, and many celebrate from their boats--which are docked all over the waterfront area.

There a numerous food vendors with everything from fried shrimp and trout, burgers, dogs, sausage of all varieties, fresh lemonade, ice cream, pretzels and funnel cakes. Local and regional bands alternate at the grandstand. Vendors sell all manner of crafts, many of them very high quality. And the music--local, regional, even national acts; gospel, country, rock, and Beach Music bands. The vendors line several streets, which are closed to traffic, one parking lot, and along the grass on the marina boardwalk.

Street scene

One of my Masonic/Shrine buddies, Chris East, operates this homemade train ride for the kids. He's not pictured, but another lodge and Shrine Brother, Jay Hart took a ride and enjoyed a fresh lemonade...

While a few blocks away from the main event, the Dare County Shrine Club set up at the Manteo Masonic Lodge for a fundraiser to benefit the Lodge's building fund. This get up, built by Mr. Mann cooked three types of fish (Spanish mackerel, Speckled Trout, and Flounder), hush puppies, and a side of baked beans, homemade coleslaw, and sweet tea--all for $7.

The Lost Colony brings cast members and others, including these folks in era costumes, and a juggler that kept the kids entranced.

I never caught the name of this band, but they combined Southern rock, driving country music, and something that I am sure was Def Leppard...

And the headline act was the for-real B.J. Thomas (Eyes of a New York Woman, Raindrops Keep Falling on My Head). Not my style of music, but I can vouch that his voice sounds exactly as it did thirty-five years ago...

You could watch all the music from the grandstand.

The Full Moon Cafe, situated right on the main drag, Queen Elizabeth Street, serves awesome lunch and dinners with a menu of regular comfort food and eclectic world-style offerings. They have a decent wine list, and a super selection of NC and VA micro-brews, which can be enjoyed from the small bar. The staff knows their beer and wine, and will let you sample a brew before committing to a pint. My little entourage stayed for more than one.

This guy made homemade ice cream in three flavors powered by this John Deere engine that could churn three separate batches of the cold stuff simultaneously

And last, but not least, Dare Day always includes folks jumping into Shallowbag Bay for a swim, sometimes leaping from the high point of the bridge connecting Manteo to Ice Plant Island.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Today's Ocean

From South Nags Head. Calm seas and a private fishing boat in very, very close.

Friday, June 5, 2009

Diary Found, "Lost Colony" Mystery Unraveled!

Female Colonist Claims:
"Men Asketh Not For Directions"

In a stunning discovery, local historian Aleister Bede has uncovered a diary which definitively resolves the mystery of the Lost Colony.

The diary, kept by colonist Rose Payne reveals not only the fate of the colony, but provides surprising insights into the life of the colony’s citizens. For example, why did the colonists leave Roanoke Island? The answer is revealed:

"The leader of the uncivilized, yet scantily clad and well-developed Savages asked us to move the colony. The tribe's Croatan Area Management Authority (CAMA) deemed our meager settlement too close to the point where the tide ebbs and flows twice in twenty-four hours, and we were thus in violation of their customs". (this, the fifteenth day of November, 1587 A.D.).

The next entry:

"The males are most stubborn and refuse to heed the Heathen, uncivilized, yet scantily clad and well-proportioned Savages. Their chief, whom I have named "He Who Endureth Far Longer Than My Ex-Husband", and has been named "Fabio" by that strumpet Eleanor Dare, suggested we move to the long, skinny island to the east. We cannot frame to pronounce the savage name for the island, which we simplify as OBX. (the twenty-first day of November, 1587).

Apparently, Miss Payne insisted to George Howe and Ananias Dare that the colony follow the advice of the “Heathen yet remarkably well-structured Savages with Endless Endurance and skin of Bronze” and perhaps move to the oceanfront, where they could construct an inn and tavern to serve Spanish and French raiders who frequented the coast. The men agreed and suggested they build the hotels directly on the beach for better visibility.

Additonal insight into the relations among the adult female colonists is revealed by this entry from Miss Payne on November 25, 1587:

“I felt it my Christian duty to inform Ananias Dare that he invoke the Dunking Maternal Application test (DMA) given that his wife, that strumpet Eleanor, was oft times in the company of men much filled with drink during the cross-ocean journey. I have my own doubts as to the paternity of newborn Virginia Dare.”

Much debate apparently ensued between the male and female colonists over the exact location of the “OBX” island and the best way to get there. At one point, the diary reveals Rose pleading with George Howe “You must go to the Hades-bound yet Adonis-like specimen of a male the Savages call the Chief and get proper directions to our new location”. Howe tells her he is not in need of directions, having spied the way upon their arrival.

When Rose Payne reminds Howe he was drunk the night of their arrival and in the company of “that strumpet, Eleanor Dare”, White rebukes her and ignores her pleadings. The next day, he gathers the colony into small boats and sets out for the coastal island.

The diary, which Bede ironically found in Plymouth while lost on a deer hunting excursion, indicates the colonists traveled west, rather than east. Many were consumed by alligators on their way to Columbia (where they loaded up at the local Savage trading post on alligator hot dogs upon reaching the other side of the river), and some were eaten by bears before they stumbled into Plymouth. The remaining colonists died after dining at a French outpost known as Bojangles' Cajun Quail, apparently from salmonella. The last entry in Miss Payne’s diary indicates she alone survived, converted to Heathenism, and took up with a Savage possessed of “long hair, beads of shell material, and thighs the size of small hillocks”

It appears at no time on their westward journey did the males "asketh for directions" and other journal entries indicate the men soon tired of frequent "chamber pot" breaks requested by the ladies, leading to further divisiveness and dissent.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Note to My Political Party--Stuff I Don't Care About

Yesterday, while watching Fox News and listening to radio talk shows, I was overwhelmed by coverage of Barak Obama's date night in NYC with his wife, and the attendant cost. Even some of the mainstream media picked up the story. That prompted a cascade of other thoughts about the GOP (and their media supporters) I've been meaning to get off my chest. So here goes:

1) Your legitimate political differences with Obama are what you should focus on; not stupid issues like the cost of a date with Michelle. All this does is make you look small in thought and deed.

2) Gay Marriage: Get over it. Polls might show about half the country is against the concept, (depending upon how the question is worded), but polls don't ask if most Americans think it would be the end of the world if it were allowed. We are the party of less government, not more. If you oppose gay marriage based upon your personal religious or moral beliefs, that's fine. Just don't turn your personal beliefs into political action that discriminates. I've had gay friends for over 30 years, and I suspect I have more gay friends I don't even know are gay. I like 'em, I associate with 'em, and if they choose to marry--more power to them. Maybe they'll get as lucky as I am and have a partner that supports them and puts up with them!

3) Roe v Wade: Too divisive. If you're going to criticize judicial appointments, do so on the basis of strict vs. loose interpretation of the Constitution. Our Founding Father's disagreed on the subject, so its legitimate political fodder. But this constant reference to Roe v Wade when conservatives talk about SCOTUS is too narrowly focused. And just because liberals have their own "litmus" tests doesn't mean we have to.

4) The Environment: Don't agree global warming is man made? Fine. I have my own doubts. But, the water is becoming polluted, the globe appears to be going through a heating phase, and oil is not infinite.
The market isn't perfect; it just allocates resources better than the government and corrects mistakes quicker and more efficiently. But, the market is capable of overfishing, overgrazing, and overdeveloping. And, you can support common sense areas like recycling, alternative energy, and conservation of food resources without endorsing the Al Gore method of endless government subsidy. Those behaviors are good behaviors, so concentrate on saying so, and point out the economic costs of subsidizing these rather and push hard for voluntary compliance.

5) Offer alternatives, not criticism. Yep, the liberals do the same thing at times. But you guys take the cake. While controlling the entire government we got record deficits, more government, and at least one hard-to-justify war. Then, in your dying days you bailed out the same free enterprise system our party swears to support. That is NOT why I voted for y'all! And now, you criticize the continuing bailouts and budget while offering nothing in return. Let's see a GOP financial crisis plan--one with actual policies, procedures, and proposals.

How about a GOP budget? Not one that just takes the Democrat's budget and makes it insignificantly smaller, but one that was built from the bottom up.

6) Devise a GOP war plan for Iraq and Afghanistan. I'm tiring of hearing we have to stay there now, because if we pull out, we'll lose. We made the mess in both countries, and by we, I mean the GOP led the charge. And spent the billions of dollars. Now tell me how you define victory, and if you can't, get the heck out of there. I'm not saying I am against either war, but I am saying you did a poor job of planning, and you continue to tolerate the same situation with no idea of how to bring it to a close.

7) Rush is right (wing). When he says something smart, back him up. When he goes off the reservation, correct him, but don't do so in a manner that makes Nancy Pelosi smirk. If you pander to the left side of the media, you aren't going to score points with them, and you confuse your own base. Be intellectual and polite. We don't all have to agree just because we're in the same party. Rush can be wrong, just as that Keith dude on MSNBC is wrong, almost every night. But turning on your own is pathetic. And embarrassing.

Monday, June 1, 2009

Outer Bank Daredevils--A New Season

Dunkin Donuts booth...

The Outer Banks Daredevils, our college summer league team (a member of the Coastal Plains League) is back for another great season. Since the move from Manteo a few years ago to Kill Devil Hills, attendance has skyrocketed and this is a great place for locals to mingle. In the parking lot, I've also noticed a number of out of state plates, which means our summer visitors are discovering the fun.

What is summer college baseball? Its a hybrid. The teams are for-profit entities, but the players all come from NCAA college teams, and are thus not compensated in any way for their play. Coaches are actual college coaches, and the umpires are NCAA certified. The difference between this form of baseball and college? Wooden bats. Major league scouts get to see how well these guys can hit without the aid of metal bats, and the players get their first real experience swinging lumber in competition.

In my opinion, the quality of play is on par with Single A Minor League, and some famous names have come through the Coastal Plains League...think Varitek, Youkilis, and I suppose some NY Yankees.

Fat Boyz...

For old timer's like me, the league has revived some of the famous names from the old Western Carolina League, Carolina League, and even older Class D leagues from the 50's. Thus, you'll see the revival of the Peninsula Gray's (from Hampton, VA), the Wilson Tobs, Fayetteville Generals, and the High Point-Thomasville Hi-Toms.

There are about 11 of these leagues scattered across the nation, and for $5 admission and $4 for a for-real grilled burger, its well worth the admission price. Between inning games entertain, there are booths for the kids to play, and local vendors from Dunkin' Donuts to Rita's Italian Ice to Fat Boyz Ice Cream and Lemonade (freshly squeezed and made on the spot).

The pictures throughout give some flavor to the event. Typical attendance for a home game is about 800, and there are only 29 chances to see them at home from May to July.

And..no beer or alcohol is served here, so its a true family entertainment venue.

Austin's Seafood-Nags Head

Wanted some shrimp today. In the winter, we have to buy shrimp from the grocery stores, but for most of the year, our local seafood stores are open and supply fresh local fish, and some exotic fish (like wild salmon when in season) from elsewhere. NC local shrimp season is not open yet, but these came from SC or GA--two lbs of beautiful large shrimp. Can't get THIS from Harris-Teeter or Food Lion! We steam 'em at home and add either Old Bay or Emeril's Essence, and Champion Cocktail Sauce (from VA, and the best pre-made cocktail sauce in the world).

Nags Head Produce Update

From the horse's mouth, so to speak...in reality its either Bo or Anna. This is cut and paste from Facebook

Here'this weeks line-up: baby yellow squash, zuchini,baby beets, cucumbers,collards,and cabbage (all farm fresh from edenton); home cooked, home cooked (no salt),and redskin peanuts; frosted pecans, pecan pralines, and peanut squares from Newsom's peanuts; Okra, snaps, tomatoes, corn; and mangoes, pineapple, and georgia peaches from Raleigh farmers market, (the snaps are farm fresh from chowan county); these should be in on Wednesday morning. egg plant, baking potatoes, local strawbs, watermelon, lopes and tomatillos (some local, some imports): wed or thursday. Thursday: Mackay's Ferry home-made peanut butter, smooth and crunchy. make your lists, and spread the word!We are getting limited quantities of the fruits and some of the veggies so call ahead if you want us to hold some for you. 252-441-9154

NC Department of Revenue-A Double Standard?

Let me start by categorically stating that this post is in no way intended to diminish the work done by field agents and others whose job it is to enforce submission of NC sales, wage, and income taxes. Their job is necessary and in many cases, thankless.

Rather, my gripe is with the larger concept of "the state", and how often double standards apply. For example, the state legislature has the power to encourage or discourage tort cases in the legal system, yet is exempt in most cases from being sued by citizens.

And now, with the current NC budget crisis, the State is delaying tax refunds as they wait for other taxes to be remitted-- to cover the cost of the refunds. Put the shoe on the other foot. To my knowledge, there are automatic penalties and interest assessed to individuals and businesses who not remit their state taxes in a timely manner. I do not believe the NC Dept. of Revenue offers a payment plan for business entities in arrears, as does the IRS, and getting interest and penalties waived is no easy matter.

On the other hand, the State seems perfectly content with delaying the money due its citizens; and we are not being paid interest or penalties while the government holds on to our money. Having worked in an industry where a garnishment from the Dept. of Revenue can wipe out an account in a matter of seconds, this seems grossly unfair. In short, a business or an individual having "cash flow" problems through poor management of their finances would not be afforded the same opportunity to get back on track as the State has utilized to cover their own misspending and financial ineptitude.

One might argue that people who over withhold are not subject to special treatment, but we all know given the complexity of the tax code, there is no way for an individual or a business to withhold the exact amount they owe in taxes over the course of the year. Underpayment can trigger penalties, so most individuals play it safe and over contribute.

When government blatantly creates a double-standard in their behavior, one wonders why the citizenry is so docile and takes such behavior in stride. Certainly, there should be more anger, hopefully expressed at the polls next election than we are witnessing today.

Radio Dial Changes

For visitors this year, some changes to the local radio dial. Cap-San, which owns four stations that serve the area moved their ESPN Radio format from their 92.3 channel (which covered northern Dare and not much more) to their 97.1 FM slot, dropping the country format on that channel (WYND). While 97.1 has a larger signal footprint than 92.3, its directed more to the NC mainland and Hatteras Island, so picking up ESPN on portable radios and inside the office might pose a problem in Northern Dare and anywhere in Currituck.

Their classic rock format, formerly on 104.9 exclusively, is now simulcast on 92.3. This should greatly improve the coverage of "Classic Hits" in northern Dare, as the 104.9 tower was over in Hertford and had a hard time putting a good signal onto the beach. Although a softer rock format than East Carolina Radio's "95.3 The Rock", this should provide some competition in that genre here in Dare County.

CapSan has retained the adult alternative format on 99.1 "The Sound".

Of course, we listen to Beach 104, at 104.1 on the dial for the BEST coverage of local events, concerts, fishing, weather, and charitable/community concerns.