Vegetables are really not my forte - and cauliflower especially. Though I'm trying to get better, I promise. So when I found a recipe for some cheesy cauliflower patties, I decided to tweak it a bit to see if I could make them even more up my alley.

First, I grabbed a big head of cauliflower and chopped off the florets, and started them boiling in some water, along with a small bit of onion (because I do like onion you know). Then I grabbed some other flavors that I felt would go well in this particular dish: Bell peppers and cheese.

Our youngest has said for years that he wants to make movies. Unfortunately, he doesn't actually do so, but that is a story for another time. This does, however, lead to another discussion - the movie industry. We want to try and get him to think about what it may mean for his future.

Namely, with all things technological changing as fast as they do, it's important to understand that "making movies" may not be just what he thinks it is - and though he doesn't even make movies now, knowing that the opportunities that are presented in the future may be different from those know is equally important.

The first dog I ever had was named Sheri. She was actually a family dog, and we had to put her to sleep when I was pretty young - needless to say, that was quite a few years ago. Then, a few years later, we were lucky enough to get another dog, Ruf-ce-Tuf. That tale is recounted elsewhere, but for those of you who don't know, Ruf was my first real dog.

Even though Sheri was my first, I helped choose Ruf (of course, he helped choose me), I helped name Ruf (though I've since learned that names come to them, and they aren't truly given), and my mom probalby took more care of thim than I did. But he was still my first.

I've seen a few Arena Football games in my time. Truth be known, I've probably seen more Arena Football games than I have seen NFL games (in person, anyway). The first that I recall was the Los Angeles Cobras, who played (someone). I don't even remember the game much, except for the Pauus. You see, the Cobras had a player named Yepi Pauu on their team, and he was Samoan if I remember correctly (sources online say he may have been Tongan). At intermission, his family would come out and lead the cobra dance - unfortunately for the team, the Family Pauu was about the best part of their performance. They folded after one season, 1988. If you search Google for Yepi Pauu, you'll be prompted to change it to Yeti Pauu. Go figure.

It so happens that I also caught at least one game of the Charlotte Rage. While the Rage lasted a whopping five seasons - from 1992 to 1996 - it was during 1996 that I saw the game. So at this point that I'm thinking I'm the death knell for Arena Football teams. And yes, there were others in there. These are just for dramatic effect, because I saw both teams during their final (or only) season. The Rage didn't have the Pauus, so I can't say what brought about their downfall, other than me. But I decided to attend my first indoor football game since that fateful night when I brought down the Rage in 1996. It was to catch the Carolina Speed on Saturday night. The Speed played their first season in 2007, which means we'll have to see if 2008 is their last, now that I've seen a game.

When we were kids, we all collected things. Baseball cards and comic books and action figures. But it wasn't collecting. It was just stuff. Okay, maybe we didn't all collect things. Maybe it was just us boys. Frankly, I think that girls collected things too, it was just different. Being that I wasn't one of them, I don't know what it was. I'd be likely to say dolls and ponies and shoes or something. If you knew the right kind of girls - or perhaps the wrong kinds of girls - then they would have collected boys.

But the point is, at the time, we had those things because we enjoyed them (especially those girls I was talking about). At some point along the line, it all changed. Rather than just having things that we liked to have around so we could use them, take them out and play with them - and at this point I'm going to stop talking about those girls - we became collectors. At least some of us did. Here, I'll also probably need to stop including myself in the analogy, because I don't really consider myself a collector of things. This point is where those treasures became objects that we thought might be worth something to people other than ourselves, and that is when our lives became just a little more jaded.

It's time again for the hot dogs to start flying. Just over a year ago Charlotte hosted a regional qualifier that was pretty well attended by some of the larger names in the Major League Eating circuit. Juliet Lee and Hall "Hoover" Hunt battled it out to the very end, with Hall Hunt edging Juliet by just three-quarters of a HDB (hot dog and bun), setting a North Carolina record and personal best with 28.75 in twelve minutes.

This year, the official time has been dropped to ten minutes, after investigations have determined that the original contests took only ten minutes, rather than the traditional twelve. Why no one looked into it previously is a bit of a mystery, but that's the case, and so ten minutes it is. Chances are good that no one will be matching up with Joey Chestnut, but hey, it's good, clean fun, so who really cares, anyway? The stage was moved from the back side of Concord Mills around to the side, and it seems to have helped - a few more people showed up, even though there was no readio sponsor, and the event didn't seem to get much mention in local media.

Even Tom Sorensen, local sports reporter who wolfed down a monstrous helping of four HDBs last year, decided to cover senior center croquet this year. No telling why. I think he was afraid.

That's right, I said Themed Amusement Park, because that's how they describe themselves. Most similar venues fall into one of two categories - amusement parks, which are often just large collections of games, rides and things to do, and theme parks, typically owned be large media companies, such as Disney or Universal, and can therefore be more practically integrated with the properties that are a part of those companies. Sure, they can have big rides, too, but instead of just roller coasters and thrill rides, they are often themed to coincide with a movie release or even a famous character from the stable of years gone by.

Carowinds is actually something of a crossover (hence the name), in that until recently it was owned by Paramount, which mean that there was a good deal of theming going on. Not on the scale of Disney parks, mind you, but a decent amount, nonetheless. That all changed in early 2006, when it was announced that none other than Cedar Fair Entertainment had acquired Carowinds (and all of the Paramount Parks), meaning that changes were definitely afoot. Still, nothing really changed for the 2006 operating season, and even through 2007, only the Cedar Fair logo was added. But in 2008, changes definitely started showing.

Sometimes you just have to find something to do on a Saturday night. And sometimes there isn't much to do, even in the big city. Or in Charlotte. So we had to look a little deeper. We didn't really want to go out to eat, or go to a movie, or whatever. Then we figured we'd look to the country. Or at least as country as it gets around these parts. We'd go out to Big Lick. Yes, there really is a place called Big Lick. Check it out for yourself at that link.

Anyway, every month or so during the middle months of the year, they hold ATV Drag Races at the Big Lick Festival Park. Yes, there is also a place called Big Lick Festival Park. It's actually a big field out behind Hinson's Auction. If you're going from Charlotte, take Albemarle Road and keep on going. Once you hit Highway 205 (which is way out there), turn right. It's at a little town called Red Cross. Just a couple minutes on your right, you'll see a large brick building. A small gravel road takes you behind the building and into the park. It's not labeled very well, so keep your eyes open.

Of course, now that I mentioned that we hadn't been to see a show for a while, we see a couple of them in a relatively short period of time. After Wicked: The Untold Story of the Witches of Oz left us feeling less wicked and more blah, we decided we needed something a little more peppy.

A few years back - in fact, just after I moved to Charlotte - I had gone uptown to see the traveling version of Schoolhouse Rock Live!. It just so happens that my wife had asked me about it, since she noticed that it was being put on by the Children's Theatre, so we decided to go see it.

Nearly eight years ago, I wrote a message titled simply Goodbye, Old Friend. You may still be able to find the original elsewhere online, but I have also added it here, because I didn't ever want to lose it, so I recreated it here just over three years later so that I would always have a copy.

The gist of the story was that I had to make the decision on whether it was the right time to put our dog to sleep. I grew up with Ruf-ce-Tuf, but I hadn't lived with him for a number of years, so while it was a tough call, in retrospect it wasn't as bad as it might have been in some other situations.

Recently, it was time to make that decision again with another friend - my buddy Ray. Some of you may remember Ray, as I've posted about him before, perhaps most memorably just over three years ago when he got a slick new haircut for the summer and looked like a puppy again. That was a good day. A really good day.

The other night we decided to take in a show. Not just any show, mind you, but a musical. That alone should be a bit of a warning to you. It's not every day that we go see something different, and it's an even stranger occurrence that we check out a musical. The last show we saw was Mamma Mia! when it came to town last year (not reviewed, since we had seen it already), but before that it was likely Tryst nearly two years ago. That's not to say that we don't see shows - they just don't bring ones to Charlotte that we'd like to see all that often.

So we decided that we'd see the touring production of Wicked: The Untold Story of the Witches of Oz. Billed as What Happened Before Dorothy Arrived, that is only partly true - in fact, Dorothy arrives near the end of the show. So if you're expecting a history lesson on Oz, you only get a sampling of that. In reality, you do get a bit of background, and it's well-woven into the tapestry of the earlier tale (which actually takes place after this one), but it's not like it took place years and years before this one. Just be prepared. Other than that, it's not too bad, but make sure you see it at a good venue.