Archive for the ‘Miscellany’ Category


Sunday, June 19th, 2011

Right now, the team is working on the inaugural edition of the Almanac of Information, which will be published later this fall.
In the meantime, we’ve transported all of the old blog articles and various postings archived through the years to the Almanac’s new Journal section. The Regular Journal of the Almanac of Information will feature regular postings, including Items of Interest and Current Events.
In the next month we’ll be providing information on how to subscribe to the annual print publication.
Certain portions of Ross’s Almanac of Information may be posted on this site from time to time. The links will be noted below and announced in the Regular Journal.


Kirk M. Ross
Chapel Hill, NC

The origins of Cackalacky

Friday, May 21st, 2010

Here’s a wonderful story from last spring’s Carrboro Commons on the origins of the word Cackalacky. It’s one of those slang words that has spanned at least a couple of generations, maybe more.
Kudos to UNC journalism student Elizabeth Jensen for gathering the lore.

He said a lot of people have asked him where the name comes from, so he’s done his own research. He’s found a few foods and terms that sound remarkably similar to Cackalacky.

These include “kalacky,” an Eastern European sweet pastry filled with nuts, jam and fruit; “cock-a-leekie,” a traditional Scottish soup; and “chakalaka,” a spicy African relish.

White brackted sedge

Sunday, May 9th, 2010


Valley of the time zones

Sunday, March 14th, 2010

The latest they can figure, as of February 2010

This year, with a long winter and a slow to start spring, we’re really feeling the new(ish) sped up timing of daylight savings. You may or may not be dragging this morning. (interesting wiki entry on the legislation here)

This is the third year since the new mid-March start time. Being a native of one of the states that until recently rebelled against daylight savings time, I can tell you that it remains a complicated mess in places on the time zone dividing lines. The time zones aren’t so smooth, running in jagged, jumpy lines through the states. They follow geography — often political and economic geography as well as terrain.

Border counties along time zones tend to follow the time zone of where the jobs are. In Indiana, Cincinnati pulls some counties to Eastern, while Chicago pulls others to Central. In southern Indiana, you can still read one linguistic adaptation in the local papers’ references to ‘fast time and ‘slow time’ — as in, “the game will be held at Riverside Park at 6:40 p.m., fast time. (The state’s long convoluted history with DSL here) and here.

time zones circa 1967-77

DSL has always seemed folly, though I understand the benefits of having a little more light in the evening. A judge friend once explained that in Indiana, the drive-in movie lobby held sway over the legislature during a crucial period and it stuck. We are tool making animals. Time is a tool and bendable to popular will, sorta.

As for big benefits, there’s good reason to suspect that claims it saves a serious amount of energy. The main argument is that it moves the human cycle later in the day and into an zone where power is cheaper. It’s more peak load demand management than pure savings.

Most likely it’s a wash at best, in part because it does increase activity. The economic bump from it is measurable, especially in the going-out-and-doing-things sectors.

In that way, moving up the forward springing is acting as a stimulus. Since we kind of need that right now, I’m willing to pass up my semi-annual railing against that which is against nature. Besides, there’s a book that already does a pretty swell job.

Fast time or slow time, spring is coming on and we’ll see plenty of daylight soon on both sides of what we currently define as a day. Get back to me when they start altering that.

Era Divider

Sunday, March 14th, 2010

This entry marks the official era divider marking which posts were pulled from the original Cape Fear Mercury site. That site, which devolved into almost exclusively tracking major weather events, went on hiatus in 2009. There are quite a few of the CFM posts saved and you’re welcome to peruse them.

Slave cemetery

Sunday, November 11th, 2007


Spent a little while in a slave cemetery not far from where I live.
A sad place for all kinds of reasons with sunken depressions and stones in a row.
As I wandered around and photographed the stones, had a Blind Lemon Jefferson song running through my head.

See That My Grave Is Swept Clean

Well there’s one kind of flavor I’ll ask for you
Well there’s one kind of flavor I’ll ask for you
There’s just one kind of flavor I’ll ask for you
You can see that my grave is kept clean

And there’s two white horses following me
And there’s two white horses following me
I got two white horses following me
Waiting on my burying ground

Did you ever hear that coffin sound
Did you ever hear that coffin sound
Did you ever hear that coffin sound
Means another poor boy is under the ground

Did you ever hear them church bells toll
Did you ever hear them church bells toll
Did you ever hear them church bells toll
Means another poor boy is dead and gone

And my heart stopped beating and my hands turned cold
And my heart stopped beating and my hands turned cold
And my heart stopped beating and my hands turned cold
And I believe what the father told

And there’s one last flavor I’ll ask for you
And there’s one last flavor I’ll ask for you
And just one last flavor I’ll ask for you
You can see that my grave is kept clean

If I wasn't stuck at home I'd be . . .

Saturday, June 24th, 2006

Watching the trout race at Great the Smoky Mountain Trout Festival in wonderful Maggie Valley.
We’ve got quite a trout heritage here in the Old North State and some fine remaining streams. But those TVA and Ohio Valley smokestacks keep cranking out the acid rain-causing hydrocarbons and people keep building right up on the buffers. Then there’s the problem with non-native crayfish and, of course, logging.
So give it up for the trout and the people who love ‘em—they’re having to put up a hell of a fight.

Saturday Evening Nature Blogging

Saturday, June 17th, 2006

These photos are from a recent visit to the Cape Lookout National Seashore. They were taken along the path behind the park ranger station at the tip of Harkers. Worth a visit—especially at low tide when you can really see the salt marsh bottom from a walkway that extends a couple of hundred feet into the marsh and sound. Lots of nice rotting logs and driftwood if you like that kind of stuff.

Cape Lookout 1




Co draan

Tuesday, June 13th, 2006

CharO’s Tommy points us to recent fun with mapping and surveys on the never-ending question of what people call their sodie-pops. While soda is the winner, many North Carolinians, the research notes, prefer the term “drink.” Some suggest it is pronounced “drank,” but my experience is that often the k is dropped. I have also rarely found it used without the word “cold” in front of it (pronounced “co” as in co-pilot). I grew up in the midwest pop region, but stopped using the term in the early 1970s after moving to Florida where “coke” was a generic term. A few years of playing in rock bands with native Chapel Hillians and I use the term “co draan” even when I don’t want to. Lovely map of it all.

Here’s the county by county breakdown (more…)

High Tide on the Sound Side

Thursday, June 8th, 2006

Here’s the article in the Indy that came out of the trips Down East.


High tide on the sound side

Waterfront property. No zoning or impact fees. Low taxes. Must sell. It’s not hard to understand why the Inner Banks are booming. How they’ll grow is harder to figure.

By Kirk Ross

You don’t have to tell Carolyn Mason there’s a land rush Down East. She lives in Bettie, near the bridge to Harkers Island and not far from an area that’s seeing a surge in subdivisions along what was once a dynamic coastline of creek channels, shellfish beds and spartina grass.

“Things have shocked all of us,” she says. “We know that growth happens, but they’re putting houses where we’d never dream of putting something–we’re talking wetlands, mud flats.”

More than that, she says, the pressure to sell off what has been family-owned waterfront for several generations threatens something even more rare. (more…)