Archive for the ‘Charleston’ Category

Hot Winter

I recently switched from paper to electronic notification for my electrical utility, SCE&G,  I was browsing my account history on their website this morning and I found the following to be most interesting for January 2011 vs January 2012.

Year                  2011 2012
Avg Local Temp        43F  52F
# of Days above 70F    1   8
# of Days below 30F   12   2

This January was noticeably warmer than the previous.  What really stands out is how many days have been over 70F (21C) this year versus the last.  Today at lunch when I went to my car, the car’s thermometer read 78F (25C)!!!!  What happened to winter in January???  While it was nice for idle activities, when I went for a walk this afternoon, I broke into a sweat and was rather uncomfortable.  It felt like April!!!

Don’t get me wrong, I am not against warm days with no humidity.  It is just that I like and prefer four seasons.  In Winter I want to be cold, and in summer I want to feel the warm air on my skin, and maybe even break into a sweat!  Experiencing this makes me look forward to each season as it approaches.  And just as I have tired of one season, the next is shortly on its way and I can take refuge in better weather.

Sadly, the Lowcountry of South Carolina has only two seasons.  Warm, and ungodly hot and humid.  I really need a trip to Sweden…

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Autumn in Review

Yesterday was the first day of Winter, and it was quite warm, around 22*C.  I was hoping it would be at least brisk, but it looks like another warm Christmas.  The leaves have finally all fallen, but it is still very green in Charleston.

I was quite busy because from late September to late November because I was regularly exercising. If you do any one thing outside of work, then there goes all of your time for doing anything else.  And December is just busy because it is always that way in December. I hope to get back to exercising regularly though. I didn’t lose a lot of weight, but my clothes fit much better and I generally felt better overall.


The marshland is every where and just goes on and on…


Sometimes a boat is just the best way to get around — riding on the Wando River with a colleague from work


Low clearance


Dusk on the water


Some people live on the water in mansions like this…I cannot even fathom this kind of world.  From what I’ve heard, this home is owned by a surgeon.  Kids, go to medical school.  Period.  No further questions are necessary.


Liam at the Children’s museum mock grocery store — despite the fact be appears to have picked out a lot of bread and fish, he consumes neither on a regular basis.  He is just into rice and miso soup.


At Checkout he experiences the sticker shock due to the food price inflation


Canadian Geese flew to SC in mass numbers and seem to bully the areas the occupy.  I could even walk beside them and they were not the least bit nervous about me–they even seemed a bit confrontational at times


Suspension cables on the Ravenel Bridge — there is a walking lane on this bridge, and it takes about 90 minutes to walk from one side of the bridge and then back.  It is a great workout due to the up/down slopes, and the views of the harbor of Charleston are wonderful on a clear day.


Downtown Charleston from the top of the Ravenel Bridge


The old cigar factory, which is now poised to be renovated and turned into modern urban living spaces


Port of Charleston – there is a lot of political fighting at the local and state level about competing with the Port of Savannah in Savannah, GA.  The Savannah river is going to be dredged further to allow ships with a deeper draft to enter the Port of Savannah.


The Bibimbap (비빔밥) at RiceB — they also offer a hot stone bowl type as well, which I was more familiar with because it is how it is often served in Japanese-style Korean restaurants.  Perfectly prepared, and oh so delicious!


The Bulgogi (불고기) bento box at RiceB — the beef, broccoli with sesame flavoring, seasoned tofu, daigaku imo (Japanese University Potatoes, or candied sweet potatoes), and rice topped with a sesame flavored sauce.  Home-style Kimchee also comes on the side which is quite refreshing.  Delicious!


My favorite plant in Charleston, yet I don’t know its name.  I just know that from late October to mid-November, this beautiful pink hue is everywhere!


High tide!


Seriously, high-tide!


After fixing Liam’s anpan-man piano, Liam enjoys playing along while giving his “Hi!” hand signal


Sedrin Beer (雪津啤酒) – I had to try it when I saw it in the Asian Market.  It is a very watered down beer, resembling Taiwan Beer or cheap Japanese Happoshu (fake beer)


“Inebriate American heart totally” — I think all of the China phobes and pundits misunderstand China’s plans.  China won’t attack the USA with its military, it is just going to get all of the Americans drunk

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Calm before the storm


It is August in Charleston, so that means that every afternoon we experience rain showers and grey skies.  It only makes the humidity worse and more unbearable.  Sometimes the sun is out and the sky is blue, yet the rain still falls upon us.  Thankfully, August will be over soon and though the autumn weather will not come until November, at least I can look forward to better weather. I’m tired of living in a pool of sweat…

August has been a busy month–we have three birthdays that fall in the same month.  As such, I recently visited the shopping mall after a long hiatus, and my son and I found something rather interesting…


….an “enSpire” machine.  It projects images onto the floor, and you can interact with the what is projected.  I won’t bother explaining, pictures should do the job, for example…


an action scene, when my son stomps on the orange flowers, they move around on the project surface.  Kids seem to enjoy chasing the flowers all over the projected surface.  After all, if they stomp on the floor in their apartments, their parents and neighbors tend to get rather upset!


When my son walks on the projected water, there are ripples and small waves.  While children in the shopping mall seem to enjoy playing on these projects, I have yet to figure out how they can make a profit on this.  They had several different projections, and then they also had an add for AT&T Mobility that would show up every few minutes.  I seriously doubt parents are paying much attention to the ads, and I’m sure the kids are more focused on kicking things around the surface than they are about what mobile phone service provider their parents use.  Between Google, Facebook, and this, I’m just rather disappointed that everything someone creates ends up being used for advertising.

Memory Lane

As my son and I were walking through the mall, we passed the pretzel chain that I used to work for when I was in my final year of high school as a shift supervisor.  Since we hadn’t had lunch and Liam was getting hungry, I purchased a basic pretzel which my son thoroughly enjoyed—like father like son.  I was shocked with the price, however.  In 1999 when I was working at this pretzel shop, a basic pretzel went for $1.86 before tax.  I remember the owner telling me that of the $1.86, it only cost them $0.11 in raw materials to make the pretzel.  The rest was for wages, electricity/water, rent in the shopping mall, and then pure profit.  I was surprised, however, to see that in 2011 the price for the same pretzel was $2.89.  In a decade has the dollar inflated that much?  Perhaps the raw materials cost is up due to transportation and distribution costs…due to oil?  Still, what a price hike!  Speaking of gas, I remember that gas used to be $0.99 a gallon in 1999.  Now it is $0.99 a litre!


This past weekend I decided I’d make my own pretzels from the recipe my brother gave me a few years back.  Using the recipe and my pretzel rolling skills gained from working in a shopping mall pretzel shop, I must say I’m proud of the results.  The color came out better this time, and I think I did a fair job on the pretzel rolling.

Thankfully hurricane Irene decided to skip Charleston and go straight for the outer banks of North Carolina.  We had some heavy rain and wind this morning, but the rain has passed and we largely have slightly strong winds now.  The humidity seems to have been sucked out to sea with Irene, and the air this evening was largely present, especially with the breeze.  I always love the calm before the storm.

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Cypress Gardens

Cypress Gardens in Berkeley County, South Carolina is one of the lesser known treasures of the Charleston area.  Cypress Gardens used to be a rice plantation, but it was converted into man-made swamp by flooding the old paddies and letting nature do its thing.  The park has walking trails, boat tours on the swamp, and a Southern style garden that all of the Southern belles love to use for their wedding photographs and ceremonies.  The swamp is home to alligators, various birds, and of course various species of snakes too.  Do be careful on the walking trail, make sure to watch where you step, as the venomous snakes are also regularly seen and heard.

I highly recommend the boat tour on the swamp, where a knowledgeable guide paddles you through the swamp and explains the wildlife habitat, the ecosystem, and the history of the swamp.  Pictures will follow, but I thought it was interesting to note that the site used to be a rice plantation.  South Carolina used to be one of the major rice producing regions of the world too.  I asked the guide why the plantations failed, and he explained that while South Carolina used to grow some of the best rice in the world, eventually growing rice in South Carolina was no longer competitive in the rice markets and the cultivators had to give up.  The end of slavery also had a large part to play, I suspect.  The Rice Museum in Georgetown, SC (about an hour north of Charleston) might be worth the trip, if you can tolerate the post-industrial failure that overwhelms you in Georgetown.

Back to Cypress Gardens though.


The water looks black, but it is crystal clear–the tour guide stuck the oar in the water and I could see it clearly.  The leaves fall from the trees, and as they decay at the bottom of the water, they release an oil that makes turns the leaves dark and creates the illusion that the water is dark.  In fact, it is just the bottom that is dark.  The water is not deep either, with the water level at thigh-level (around two feet) in most places.




During the revolutionary war with Great Britain, Francis Marion, otherwise known as “the Swampfox“, lead his militia men through swamp land like this all over Eastern South Carolina.  By moving through the swamps he was able to use a gurilla-style warfare that seriously disrupted the British Army.  Just imagine trying to tread through such swamp land searching for the man and his unit.


Alligators often rest near these trees in the hot summer, and thus the guide bumped the boat into the trees to try to stir up an alligator.  During winter, he said the alligators sink to the bottom of the swamp and hibernate at the bottom of the swamp.  Another good reason not to go for a walk in a swamp!



The swamp land is beautiful, yet eerie, especially when the sun is hidden by the clouds or closer to dusk.

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Signs of modern life


Office building in Charlotte, NC – I like the glass window walls, and would love to see the view from the top


CATS (Charlotte Area Transit System) blue line that runs from Pineville into “Uptown” Charlotte.  I understand there have been some trouble with this above ground rail system, but I certainly hope they can continue with the project and improve it.  More cities need to take on projects like this.  Though the returns might not be immediate, with proper planning and the foresight to look beyond election cycles, more cities can provide better public transit systems.

A great place to start is by improving the bus systems–four dirty buses a day just will not cut it.  After all, do we all really like sitting on those parking lots called the interstate highway system around our cities in the mornings and evenings?


I always thought this would make a good cover photo for a math or engineering textbook – the bottom of the Arthur Ravenel Jr. Bridge in Charleston SC


The Arthur Ravenel Jr. Bridge is the longest cable-stayed bridge in the Eastern USA.  To the left of the photo is the Port of Charleston.


Chinatown in Yokohama, Japan

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White hot summer

The eastern USA is in a heat wave right now, and I can tell you what is reported on the news is true.  I went to take the trash out yesterday.  I walked down one flight of stairs, walked 30-feet to my car, drove the car to the trash dump, and then drove back and came in the house.  My clothes were drenched with sweat from this little journey.

The air is muggy and you skin feels like its choking as you step out of your front door.  The sun beats on you with relentless power, just doing its best to break you down.  The buzzards have started to hang around, perhaps an omen of what is to come if you stay outside for too long?

It’s a white hot summer, a white hot Venusian heat.  Life is impossible without a tall glass of ice cold tea.  Iced beer helps too.  Just lay under the fan, don’t move except to sip your drink.  If this is not familiar to you, I recommend you read George Orwell’s Burmese Days to get a better description of what the heat is like.

I am surviving…eight more weeks and then it should at least subdue a bit.  Every year, usually in January, I start to look forward to the warm evening air.  And like an idiot, I forget that to enjoy warm evenings, you suffer in much worse ways.  The gods are punishing me, and will never let me escape from humidity.  If only I could get to Vancouver…or Stockholm…


Leaving from work these Canadian Geese and their chicks blindly crossed the road without looking for cars. The geese are getting as bad as the yuppies these days! The chicks were cute though trying to waddle over the road…


My wife snapped this one at Magnolia Gardens over in West Ashely.  Even the alligators do not sunbathe long in this heat.


The heat may be killing me, but the vegetation and gardens are loving the heat and humidity.  My basil is going strong again this summer…some of it died out during the intense heat and drought in June, but I still have a few stalks growing tall.  I’ll make a beautiful paste sauce with this at the end of the summer.


I am attempting jalapeno peppers this year…they are actually doing the best with the summer heat. My cilantro, once again, did not survive long.  I am not sure the peppers will make it though…they’re supposed to get to almost a meter in height, but no in late June they are still just a few inches tall.  I don’t know if they can grow in this type of pot actually…


Sunsets are also nice in Charleston, they’re pink almost every night in the warm seasons


My wife got an even better shot…looking at it you could almost forget you’re in Charleston…like somewhere in Thailand or Malaysia

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IMG_0396 a video by Watson&Holmes on Flickr.

I have always been fascinated by the movement of water, all the way back to my first job at 15 years of age as a lifeguard at a swimming pool. At closing time, when no one was in the pool, it just sat there still. Motionless. Like glass.

I took this short clip at the public pier on the Wando River. Just look at all of that motion and chaos!  How can mankind ever think it can control anything?

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