Dependable Erection

Monday, April 30, 2007

That's exciting . . .

Well, maybe not for you, but as someone who's spent the last fifteen or twenty years of my professional career evaluating/processing/correcting color for the commercial printing trades, this is a big deal.

Xerox Scientist Creates 'Color Language' Making Color Matching as Easy as Describing a Color

"You shouldn't have to be a color expert to make the sky a deeper blue or add a bit of yellow to a sunset."

Anyone familiar with a box of crayons can describe the color "carnation pink" but how many people can make that color appear "correctly" on a document or on a computer display?

Xerox Corporation scientists are developing a new technology to make adjusting colors in a document as easy as simply describing the color. Users can type "make the sky a deeper blue" or give a voice command "make the background carnation pink" and the software does the work. The invention, still in the research stage, creates "color language" by translating human descriptions of color into the precise numerical codes that machines use to print color documents.

"Today, especially in the office environment, there are many non-experts who know how they would like color to appear but have no idea how to manipulate the color to get what they want," said Geoffrey Woolfe, principal scientist in the Xerox Innovation Group. "You shouldn't have to be a color expert to make the sky a deeper blue or add a bit of yellow to a sunset."

Printing tradespeople have spent the last century plus removing the subjective element from color description and reproduction. (What the hell does "carnation pink" mean, anyway? Any 5 varieties of pink carnations can have 5 different hues, or saturation values, or luminance values.) The whole problem has been that one person's "pine green" is another person's "forest green." That's why Pantone Matching System guidebooks are so frickin' expensive – they give us the tools to describe hunders or thousands of exact shades using objective language.

Color reproduction has gotten cheap and ubiquitous, but only marginally easier to reproduce correctly, over the past 40 or 50 years. Pick up any glossy magazine, such as LOOK, Sports Illustrated, or Playboy, from the late 1960s and compare it to today's equivalent. It's astonishing just how much black and white imagery was still being used in mass market publications as recently as 35 years ago. Helioklischograph scanners, first introduced in the early 1970s and followed in short order by digital scanners, proprietary digital retouching systems like the Scitex and Hell Chromacom, and more recently near universal software apps like Photoshop Elements, high quality digital cameras for under 800 bucks from Canon, Nikon, and others, and extremely good photo quality printers from Epson and HP, have all created a world in which nearly everyone with an interest in making color images can afford to do so.

Although still in the early research stage, Woolfe's invention could be applied in many different ways. Add voice commands to the technology, and one could literally "tell" a computer to "punch up the purple" in a bouquet of flowers. Or office printers could be commanded to print colors a certain way ("when printing green, make it more of a teal green"). It also would have many uses in digital printing - making it easier for print providers to communicate with their customers.

Punch up the purple? The problem is that the gamuts (that is, the total range of colors which a device is physically capable of creating) of existing color printers do not match either the gamuts of color monitors, nor of the real world. Most color reproduction is based on the CMYK (Cyan, Magenta, Yellow, BlacK) model. Once you gotten all the cyan and magenta in and all the yellow an dblack out, there's no more punch for the purple in the tool box, regardless of how close or far away your print is from what you see on the monitor or in your head.

I can only say i'm glad that i'm far enough along in my career that i'll be done before this technology becomes widespread. Oh, and as a matter of full disclosure, i do own a few shares in Xerox. So i hope the software is a huge success.

Continue reading That's exciting . . .

Speaking of speeders

The N&O is working on a piece on speeding in the Triangle. The focus would appear to be on how speeding tickets are actually prosecuted by the state. It's hard to tell from the limited context whether they're going to be looking for regional variations, effects of racial profiling, number of speeding tickets that are bargained down to non-points violations, etc.

The comments sure are interesting, though, and many seem to reinforce my theory that drivers believe that being behind the wheel and having the need to be in other places than wwhere they currently are, somehow gives them a privilege to ignore the surrounding world. Changing that culture is, in my mind, key to fundamentally altering our automobile-centric environment.

In many more than the obvious ways.

Continue reading Speaking of speeders

Sunday, April 29, 2007

TV party tonight!

I'm told that WTVD, channel 11, is supposed to be broadcasting the Durham Pace Car program story i mentioned earlier in the week, tonight at 11 pm. Nothing that i can find on the website confirms this, but i'll try to stay up as late as i can and watch.

Cause nothing is real until you see it on TV.

WTVD is on channel 6 on Time-Warner cable system in Durham.

UPDATE - OK, so WTVD, the ABC affiliate, just ran their story on the PACE car program.

first reactions: It would have been nice if they had identified Cora Cole-McFadden as a Durham city councilperson. In fact, it's unthinkable that they didn't. Actually, i don't think they ID'd anybody who was on camera. That was me with the glasses and greying beard, if you're wondering.

The story also had a lot of mixed messages. On the one hand, everybody interviewed, including myself, were talking about the need to slow people down, especially on the surface streets in our town. The anchors, though, were only focused on the inconvenience of getting stuck behind a driver who is actually obeying the limit, and what a problem that is for the busy lifestyle.

Tough shit, people. Worried about being late for work? Get up ten minutes earlier.

It would also have been nice to include some background material on the number of accidents, including those involving pedestrians, caused by speeding, the number of requests that the Durham city government gets for traffic calming measures in neighborhoods around town, the amount of money that is actually available to meet those requests, etc.

And wasn't it just a bit ironic that a couple of stories before the PACE Car story, we learned that a single vehicle accident in Oakland has closed down a major overpass/off ramp of the Bay Bridge, which is going to cause major havoc to the entire Bay Area transportation system with unknown economic consequences, and a price tag of "tens of millions" of dollars to repair the damage. Initial reports indicate that excessive speed was a contributing, if not major, cause of the accident.

Ha ha ha. Drivers going the speed limit. They're such a problem.

: I'm reminded via private correspondence that one of the major stories on tonight's newscast was a live report from the "Garden of Hope" at Wakefield High School, which was dedicated earlier on Sunday. The garden memorializes the eight young Wakefield students who have died over the past two years in traffic accidents.

Ha ha ha. Drivers going the speed limit. We're such a problem.

Almost as big a problem as clueless local news anchors.

UPDATE 3: A coworker tells me that WTVD reran the piece a couple of times on this morning's newscast. It apparently is being re-edited with each new appearance. Word is that the morning anchors were not as obnoxious as those on the Sunday night 11 pm show. Meanwhile, want to bet that they're covering this incident without a hint of irony?

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Continue reading TV party tonight!

Race and politics in Durham

A few pieces that appeared in print this week around town got me thinking about race and politics in Durham.

All politics in Durham is about race, right?

Not exactly, but all of Durham's politics has a racial component that manifests in ways that are unpredictable to many of us who did not grow up here.

I mentioned Barry Saunders' column yesterday and promised to revisit it with some thoughts. We'll get to those later. First, i alluded to some "controversial" pieces in town recently, that i had some thoughts about, but didn't necessarily feel obligated to write about. But i wanted to say something about this one, and i wanted to have some time to think about it.

I found my hook a day or two after that story, in the Indy letters column. Dudley Stallings of Knightdale, responding to the previous week's cover story about John Hope Franklin, writes:
What does John Hope Franklin have to complain about? He has lived a life of the elite, better than a great percentage of whites. His father was an attorney in 1920. Of course slavery was terrible, but no people living today had anything to do with it and owe nothing to anyone. Would all of the blacks whose ancestors were brought from Africa be better off today if those ancestors had never left Africa?

Which we can summarize as "John Hope Franklin has a nicer house than i do, so slavery couldn't have been that bad."

Mr. Stallings makes a common mistake, which we'll see repeated shortly. He takes a specific individual, in this case Mr. Franklin, and attempts to draw unsupported generalizations from that person's life to an entire culture, or, in this case, race.

Sorry, bud, it doesn't work that way. How many generations provided labor, without compensation, to build some of the world's great fortunes for others? What would the distribution of wealth be like in this world if slaves had been allowed to accumulate the wealth which their labor helped to create? If John Hope Franklin has achieved success in this life as a result of his intelligence and diligence, that's a reflection on him, but has really nothing to do with the wrongs created and perpetuated by centuries of slavery. As things stand, we really can't say what the fortunes of individuals and cultures might be had the African slave trade never existed. But its continuing effects cannot be dismissed simply because John Hope Franklin has made a better life for himself than Dudley Stallings here at the beginning of the 21st century.

Solomon Burnette, writing in the NC Central student paper "The Campus Echo," makes a similar mistake in criticizing (and going beyond criticism, actually) the outcome of the Duke lacrosse rape case. As i've argued several times in the past, first and foremost, this case is about the people actually involved in it. District Attorney Mike Nifong took the original allegations with the utmost seriousness, conducted his investigations and, at least for a log time, had me convinced that there was a case to be made against the players. It should be pretty clear, and i suspect it is to most Durham residents, that case basically didn't exist.

It may very well be true, as Mr. Burnette alleges, that "White people still murder us with impunity. White people still beat us with impunity. White people still rape us and get away with it." But i don't think we can draw that conclusion from this case. What we have is, in the end, an unreliable accuser, a single individual whose lack of credibility ends up preventing us from ever learning the whole truth about what happened last March.

The unfortunate result, i think, is that women of any skin color are going to find themselves facing greater skepticism when they do report crimes of sexual violence. Because drawing inappropriate generalizations from individual events is a human characteristic which affects all of us.

Barry Saunders addresses one of those Durham issues in which race plays a role, even if it's not one which is obvious to the casual observer. You see, even though 5 out of the 6 candidates to replace the late Senator Jeanne Lucas were African-American (and the only white candidate had minimal support), there was a clear racial subtext to the election which those of us who were lobbied to support the various candidates were aware of.

And i suspect that Mr. Saunders, who has been a journalist and columnist in this town for a long time, is surely aware of it as well. So, it's one thing to castigate the Durham County Democratic Party for electing Floyd McKissick to the seat. But Mr. Saunders readers are entitled to a view of the bigger picture that resulted in Mr. McKissick's election. After all, the final ballot was 44-38-1, which indicates that personalized lobbying on the part of an organized faction of the party may very well have played a successful part in the outcome.

Finally, let me say that Mr. Saunders, as a journalist, is entitled to publish his opinions whenever and however he wants. As a Durham Democratic Party county executive committee member, i feel pretty much obligated to support our new Senator now that the election is over. Mr. Saunders is under no such obligation. But if he holds such stong feelings about Mr. McKissick, he might have thought about publishing them before the election, when they might have swayed the handful of votes that could have changed the outcome of the election, rather than at this late date, when all he accomplishes is making himself look smug, and making it more difficult for Mr. McKissick to successfully represent Durham in the state legislature.

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Continue reading Race and politics in Durham

Durham travel guide

Via Blazer, i see that Lisa B has posted a takedown of the recent NYTimes travel piece on hauling the kids down to the Triangle for a weekend of fun and games,

Lisa's one of my 5 favorite XDU disk jockeys (Christa, Robbie, Sylvia, and the guy who does "A Broken Heart and a Glass of Beer" at 8 am on Sunday morning are the others.) But i think she misses the good side of this article.

Sure, the writer clearly might as well have skimmed a couple of Convention and Visitor Bureau and Newcomers' Guides websites to put together her list of things to do. She might even have made a couple of phone calls just to confirm that these things are still in fact happening. (The piece does have a Jenny Warburg photo accompanying it, so that's a good sign, and props to Jenny).

But really, if you're the kind of person who's going to pop in for a weekend to show the kids some authentic Mayberry culture (in freakin' July!) at the Eno River Festival, using the New York Times as your travel guide, i'm not sure i want to be standing in line behind you at Loco Pop's listening to your kids whine about how hot they are while you order the last damn Mexican Chocolate popsicle. And i don't want to see your ass at the Warehouse Blues shows. Or the Third Annual Beaver Queen Pageant. Enjoy Crook's Corner.

UPDATE: Steve points out in the comments that Joanna Kakissis, the author of the Times piece under discussion, in fact worked for the N&O and lived in the Triangle (specific location unknown) for about 6 years. I've edited the copy of my post to reflect that.

I'm not sure that helps.

If i was writing a piece on places to eat with the kids, Crook's Corner would be near the bottom of the list. Satisfaction (they've got a car coming through the wall!) and Bullock's would be my Durham recommendations. I don't know squat about Raleigh and only a little more about Chapel Hill, so i wouldn't bother to recommend anything there.

Depending on the age of your kids, i bet they'd have more fun at Pullen Park than at the Art Museum, though.

And finally, while i love the Bulls, there is absolutely nothing nostalgic about the DBAP. If it's baseball nostalgia you want, try the Burlington Royals.

Continue reading Durham travel guide

Sunday morning church marquee blogging

Roxboro St., Durham, NC

Continue reading Sunday morning church marquee blogging

Saturday, April 28, 2007


Barry Saunders in today's Durham News, on the election of Floyd McKissick, Jr., to replace the late Jeanne Lucas in the NC Senate:

. . . Durham-lovers have one more reason to cringe when admitting they're from Durham, and Durham-bashers have one more reason to laugh till their sides ache.

McKissick, chairman of the county party, said previously that he chose to run because of popular demand.

In an interview prior to his victory over several women he said, "The reason I got in was, I had public officials calling me, encouraging me to consider filling the vacancy."

After Lucas' death, I can imagine party leaders gathered around the table going "Gee, we need to replace our respected, genial legislator with a lawyer who has been reprimanded by the bar, a city councilman who tried to stick up a developer for personal gain and a husband who was arrested for ignoring a restraining order taken out by his estranged wife. Where oh where can we find all of that in one person?"

Today's not only an incredible day for working in the garden, but also a brewing day for me. So blogging is low on my priority totem pole.

Comments on this, and other controversial topics, later on this weekend.

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Continue reading Ouch!

Friday, April 27, 2007

Top 10 ways to be a shitty neighbor in Durham

10 - Don't participate in any neighborhood activities, join the neighborhood association (hey, it's only ten bucks a year. is it gonna kill you?), help distribute the newsletter, or come to any of our potluck dinners. Bitch loudly that nothing you need ever gets done in the neighborhood, and it's all run by an exclusive cabal that won't admit outsiders. Bonus points for subscribing to the list serve "in order to save on advertising for your FSBO."

9 - Drive 50 miles an hour on my dead end street.

8 - Leave your trash can at the curb all week long. Pack it to overflowing. Don't recycle anything. Unwrapped meal remains that attract animals are especially good.

7 - Let your yard go unmaintained for the entire spring. Wildflowers? I don't think so.

6 - Park your car in the yard. Let your friends park their cars in the yard, too. This will kill all the grass, so you don't have to worry about maintaining the yard.

5 - Fight with your spouse/partner at 3am. Or 3 pm, doesn't much matter. Threaten violence. Breaking a few windows is good. Use the "b" word and the "c" word a lot.

4 - Play your music loud enough for me to hear it in my living room. I've got a pretty nice sound system, and a music collection i've spent 3 decades building. But i'm always looking for new music. Especially music that uses the word "muthafucka" a lot.

3 - Even better, use your car's sound system as your main music listening device. Park as close to my bedroom window as you can.

2 - Let your dog out at 6 in the morning to cruise the neighborhood, knocking over trash cans, and dumping on other people's lawns. Then tie him up with no food or shelter the rest of the day whether it's 15 degrees or 95 degrees, rain or shine. Ignore him when he starts howling for companionship at 4 in the morning.

1 - Be a landlord who allows all of these things to happen on his property. Profit margins are low in the landlord business, and hey, a guy's gotta eat, right.

Names and address of the landlords who fit the bill furnished on request. The fact that every item between 9 and 2 on this list is illegal certainly hasn't diminished the frequency with which they occur.

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Continue reading Top 10 ways to be a shitty neighbor in Durham

Thursday, April 26, 2007

Sports and politics

Barney Ronay has a fascinating piece in the Guardian yesterday about the fact that really large amounts of money are having an impact on the politics of sport in England, in ways that simply do not compute here in the States.

Baseball, our National Pastime, long received an exemption from anti-trust laws which benefited team owners in numerous ways. The most obvious was, of course, the reserve clause, which bound a player to a team essentially in perpetuity. If you wanted to play for another team after your contract expired, or couldn't reach agreement on a salary with your current team, that was just too bad. Ballplayers simply had no other options. That changed with Marvin Miller organizing the MLBPA, and with Curt Flood and later Andy Messersmith challenging the reserve clause in the courts and eventually winning the right for ballplayers to be free agents.

You can argue whether or not the implementation of free agency has been good for the game, but there should be no dispute as to whether eliminating the reserve clause was the right thing to do.

A second way that owners benefited, and continue to do so, is the monopoly they enjoy on the franchises of MLB. The number of teams is limited, movement of teams is restricted, teams essentially "own" their territory, controlling everything from the presence of minor league teams in their region to the airing of out of market games on pay-TV and the internet.

European sport has always used a different model, but that's beginning to change.
The escalation to a current average Premiership wage of £12,300 a week has been like an unplanned social experiment. The players have come to represent an acme of consumption, a brutally linear expression of a certain way of living. In our footballers we see a funfair mirror reflection of the same forces working on the people watching them from the stands. We don't admire them, so much as aspire to their lifestyle, crave their large American cars and holiday homes in Dubai, bandy their salaries around with a Gollum-like mixture of avarice and disgust. The top tier of British football stands as an extreme expression of a certain kind of politics, rampant capitalism with the volume turned up to 11. A Premiership socialist? It might not even be possible.

This is all relatively new. We're not talking about golf here. Historically, football's politics, such as they are, have tended to loiter on the left wing. The majority of Premiership clubs have their roots in either a local church or a local pub. For 100 years these clubs existed as an extension of their local community, a living riposte - albeit an occasionally violent and shambolically administered one - to the Thatcherite notion that there is no such thing as society.

Football clubs exist everywhere in England. This year, London alone has 6 teams competing in the Premiership, the highest level of English soccer. (Arsenal, Chelsea, Tottenham, Fulham, Charlton, and West Ham). The Manchester region has five (Man. United, Bolton, Man. City, Blackburn, and Wigan.) Clubs don't own their territory, and neither do they own their place in the Premiership, England's "Major Leagues."

Fulham, Wigan, Charlton, and West Ham are all in danger of playing next season's games in the Championship, a one division lower. Two of the the four almost certainly will be relegated. Watford have already been. Every year, the bottom three teams go down, with a corresponding loss of revenue, and three teams from the Championship are promoted. This happens all throughout the various divisions of English (and European) soccer. Could you imagine if the reward for the Durham Bulls winning the International League championship was promotion to Major League Baseball?

This would create a very different relationship between the team and the community, for certain. In the States, almost every stadium is municipally owned, and rented to the team on the favorable terms in return for the increased tax revenues and perhaps a share of other revenues generated by the ballpark. Teams threaten to move all the time when another municipality offers a sweeter deal, and they often do. Would we want a 40,000 seat stadium in Durham, enabling our Bulls to compete at the major league level? Could we afford it? Would we risk losing the Bulls to, say, Tampa Bay or Kansas City if those teams were the ones relegated, and their cities offered a revenue deal that Durham couldn't compete with?

Ronay is interested more in the relationship between athlete and fan, and how the presence of lots of money is changing that. That's not necessarily a new concept for Americans, but it's worth looking at for the light it sheds.
The suspicion is that socialism - in the everyday sense practised by the likes of McQueen - is simply incompatible with the life of the Premiership footballer. Leftwing sympathies are still present in isolated gestures. Liverpool player Robbie Fowler celebrated scoring in a European Cup-Winners' Cup game in 1997 by pulling up his shirt to reveal a T-shirt expressing support for striking Liverpool dockers. As a gesture it was widely appreciated. But solidarity only goes so far: Fowler is also English football's fourth-richest man, estimated to own almost 100 houses as part of a £28m buy-to-let portfolio (inspiring the Yellow Submarine-style terrace chant, "We all live in a Robbie Fowler house"). Wigan manager Paul Jewell's dad was a trade union activist in Liverpool. He keeps a pet tortoise called Trotsky.

And then there's Gary Neville, the man most people would pick out as an example of a modern footballing socialist. Neville's "Red Nev" nickname was given to him by the tabloid press after his stewardship of a revolt in the England dressing room over Ferdinand's punishment for missing a drugs test. It's not exactly flogging Marxism Today outside Sainsbury's, but the nickname has stuck.

Neville is one of the Premiership's more thoughtful players. He has called on his colleagues not to use agents, although having always been represented by his father makes this an easy position to adopt. He signed up to the recent initiative for footballers to donate a day's wages to a nurses' hardship fund. He might even, you never know, see himself as a socialist. Still, you come up against the insurmountable stumbling block of his profession. In Neville we can see an intelligent man placed in an unintelligent situation. Earning £80,000-a-week for playing football places him on one side of a very real divide, whatever his potential leftwing leanings. The old distinction of champagne socialism doesn't really do it justice, unless perhaps we're talking about taking an Olympic swimming pool-sized Jacuzzi in the stuff every morning. Which is possibly something Neville might be planning to do in the £3m home with golf course, gym, pools, stables and a cinema he is having built in Lancashire. Clough is right. Socialism doesn't necessary exclude you from living in a big house; but there are limits to everything.

Does any of this matter? Certainly, football's central relationship, that between fans and players, seems to have suffered some collateral damage. The working man's ballet is now very much the middle-class man's ballet, too. Nothing wrong with that, of course, but the speed with which the demographic of football's target market has shifted is unprecedented. Not least in the idea of actually having a target market in the first place. Andy Lyons is editor of When Saturday Comes, the UK's only independent national football magazine. WSC began as a fanzine in 1986, at a time when following football was a relatively marginalised activity. "There used to be a sense of a shared experience of being a football supporter," Lyons says. "This has splintered now, due in part to the sheer weight of numbers of the Sky generation of new supporters."

Various forces have been working on this relationship between supporters and players: the repackaging of the game as televised entertainment and the dilution of the idea of a geographical fanbase; the hyper-inflationary hikes in ticket prices and the emphasis on football as a corporate hospitality product. Going to watch a game at Arsenal's new Emirates ground feels more like attending a stadium rock concert or visiting the Ideal Home exhibition. Your relationship to everyone else inside the stadium has changed. You're united by consumer choice. The people performing in front of you are skilled entertainers.

That right there encapsulates something very important. As a kid, my dad would take me to see the Mets play, first at the old Polo Grounds, and later at Shea Stadium. Some of that warm glowy feeling i remember from going to those games is misplaced nostalgia, no doubt, but it's also the case that the experience has changed. We never got the front row seats, but certainly we could have had we really wanted them

Now? Not so much. And especially the corporate suites with the private entrances and tableside service. Totally out of my reach. And where's Karl Eberhardt, who used to sit in the field level boxes between third and home, and kept, in his magic bag, a sign for every occasion? Where are the spontaneous chants?

Certainly not at the DBAP, which, even though it's about 1/8 the size of Emirates Stadium, encapsulates that entire feeling Ronay describes. I liked the old ballpark. I liked that kids could spend an inning on the rickety platform in the back of the bull and pull the lever that blew the steam out of his nose after a home run. (Never mind that the bull itself had no more history than the 1987 movie. My kids were exactly the right age for it.) I liked how the crowd, witout any prompting from a canned stadium announcement, would rag on opposing relief pitchers with "WHOOP, wooo" as they took their warmup tosses. (WHOOP on the pitch, and wooo on the toss back from the catcher.)

I liked striking up conversations with strangers reading magazines i'd never seen before, like AdBusters.

You don't get that at the new ballpark, or at any new ballpark that i've been too.

So what Ronay describes is, i think, something that is not necessarily rooted where it appears from a British perspective. It's not all that different from our experience, in a culture which has never known "socialism." (Although the model of sports ownership in this country, with its government subsidies, is certainly more "socialistic" than anything in Europe, where teams are allowed to go into receivership, and even fold completely, all the time.) I think it's more to the point to say that media has changed our relationship with our athletic heroes; the money is an aspect of how that happens, but there's an intertwining of causes that are not so easily unraveled.

In the meantime, well, Let's Go Mets.

Continue reading Sports and politics

Wednesday, April 25, 2007


Kevin asks:
I'm curious for feedback on what folks might like to see as expanded (or reduced) topics for coverage at BCR, especially as the number of readers grow. Are there things happening in Durham you'd like to read about here... or things you'd never want to see covered again?

Which gets me to thinking. As i commented on his blog:
i'm not sure that i'd like to see you alter your vision by taking audience requests. one of the things about blogs that works best (IMO) is the presentation of individual perspective.

your choices about what to cover, and how to cover it, are what you bring to the table, as are Gary's, Michael's, Pam's, even Blazer Manpurse's.

do any of us, singly or even in the greater whole, present a complete picture of Durham? of course not. but i don't think it's our responsibility or obligation to do that.

To which we can add Christa, Phillip, Lisa B, David, Joe, and everyone else in this town who bangs on a keyboard occasionally.

I started writing this blog almost a year and a half ago, mostly as an experiment to see if there were enough things in my daily life that were worth taking note of. It is, mostly, a communication between my past self and my future self about what caught my eye on, say, April 25 2007, I'm flattered that anyone finds my observations worth reading, and astounded when they draw a comment.

But that doesn't mean that every thought that crosses my head gets written down. Some days, like today, i'm just too busy at work to log into the blogger tab and write about the DDI presentation i saw last night at an InterNeighborhood Council meeting. Or the Streuver Brothers presentation i went to a few weeks ago about the old ballpark. (Great plan, by the way. I hope they can make it work.) My internal debate about whether it's worth the extra 60 bucks to go the Stephen Wright pre-concert party and meet the deadpan man himself. (It is a fundraiser for the Carolina Theater.)

And of course, there are controversial news stories about which i most definitely have an opinion, but realize that blogging, with it's immediacy, may not provide the reflective time i need to say clearly what it is that i'm thinking.

which is a long way to say that while i appreciate you coming here to read my occasionally coherent text, and i love to converse with you (even those of you with whom i vehemently disagree), what's going to appear on this page is simply a reflection of what's catching my eye at this particular point in time, nothing more, nothing less. I can only hope that's good enough.


Continue reading Meta-blogging

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

The bottom line

"The bottom line is the American people are capable of determining their own ideals of heroes and they don't need to be told elaborate tales."

Private Jessica Lynch, whose story from the early days of the Iraq invasion you may recall, speaking today to Congress alongside members of Pat Tillman's family.

The converse of that is also true. That the American people are capable of discerning bullshit stories about imaginary victories in faraway places, and judging the spreaders of that bullshit.

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Continue reading The bottom line

Pace car update

WTVD, the local ABC affiliate, is putting a piece together on Durham's Pace Car program. Here's a little background to bring you, ahem, up to speed.

The city of Durham recognizes that it has a problem with speeders. There's a lot of causes of urban speeding, including poor road design which encourages unsafe speeds (think Guess Rd. north of Carver), lack of enforcement resources (i think most of us agree that Durham has other law enforcement priorities at the moment), and a culture which glorifies going as fast as you can pretty much all the time. Just about every car commercial features someone doing a way cool hi speed turn, locking up the front brakes, and spinning the car 360 degrees sideways into the only parking space on the block.

That's where the Pace Car program comes in.

Right now, according to Master Officer Eric Hester of DPD, there are around 450 Pace Car drivers in Durham. We put these yellow magnetic stickers on the backs of our cars, and drive the speed limit when we're out and about, stoppng at red lights and stop signs, yielding to pedestrians, and basically being good citizen motorists. DPD's goal is to sign up 1000 drivers, so in just about 3 months, they're halfway there. I think when everybody who gets in their car to drive to the day care center or the grocery store sees at least one Pace Car sticker on every trip, then we've probably gotten almost enough folks to sign up.

WTVD's Tim Nelson is putting together a segment to look at the program and evaluate its success. And i got to be the community representative. I hope i expressed my thoughts clearly, and i hope both the news piece and the Pace Car program continue to impact people's attitudes when they're behind the wheel. I've already noticed more people stopping for pedestrians, so maybe that's a good sign. The show should air on the first Sunday in May, for sweeps month. I'll post the details when they're confirmed.

Click here for a copy of the Durham Police Department Pace Car enrollment form.

Continue reading Pace car update

Monday, April 23, 2007

Great names

I've always had a bit of fascination for great names, probably dating back to the time a potential client handed me a business card, made out of real wood, with the name Don Duck printed on it. How, i wondered for many days afterward, had Mr. Duck avoided that life sentence for matricide?

Cherie K. Berry may be a near-total washout as North Carolina Secretary of Labor, but it's somehow comforting nonetheless to get on an elevator and see her face and signature giving the state's imprimatur to that particular lift mechanism, the knowledge that, should the elevator fail to get me safely up to the 3rd floor of my building, there's someone in Raleigh ready to take personal responsibility for it.

And her name is Cherie K. Berry.

So it was somewhat shocking to me when someone left a comment on a post from a week or so back about the new greatest soccer name of all-time, directing me to the Name of the Year blog.

As their subhead says, "Collecting Great Names. So You Don't Have To."

And they mean it.

Check out, for example, this post on the 2007 name of the year. (It appears they actually award NOTY for the current year, not the previous year.)

Or the Hall of Names.

I for one am dying to know what crimes against humanity Mummenschonz Bitterbeetle and Licentious Beastie committed to get themselves ejected from the Hall. Fortunately, they promise to reveal the details "as soon as the NOTY Special Prosecutor concludes his inquiry."

Now get this. These guys have been doing this since 1983.

Kinda makes me feel like a rank amateur. A dilettante in the world of great names, if you will.

I mean, these are guys who spend their time arguing over the Dragonwagon Doctrine, for cryin' out loud. How can i hope to make another post about Ambiorix Burgos or Lastings Milledge knowing that these guys have already immortalized the likes of Dudu Chili and Ringo Wong?


Continue reading Great names

Sunday, April 22, 2007

Durham's most pressing issue



Gentrification? Loss of historic housing stock? Traffic calming?

Uh, no.

Culture Crawl vs Third Friday.

I know i don't have a vote in this election, but if i did, i'd be going with Culture Crawl. Hands down. No contest.

Continue reading Durham's most pressing issue

Sunday morning church marquee blogging

Hillandale Rd., Durham, NC


Continue reading Sunday morning church marquee blogging

Friday, April 20, 2007

Noted without comment

President Bush wore an orange and maroon tie in a show of support. The White House said he also asked top officials at the Justice, Health and Human Services and Education Departments to travel the country, talk to educators, mental health experts and others, and compile a report on how to prevent similar tragedies.


A judge's ruling on Cho Seung-Hui's mental health should have barred him from purchasing the handguns he used in the Virginia Tech massacre, according to federal regulations. But it was unclear whether anybody had an obligation to inform federal authorities because of loopholes in the law that governs background checks.

. . .

"On the face of it, he should have been blocked under federal law," said Denis Henigan, legal director of the Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence.

The 23-year-old South Korean immigrant was evaluated by a psychiatric hospital after he was accused of stalking two women and photographing female students in class with his cell phone. His violence-filled writings were so disturbing that professors begged him to get counseling.

The language of the ruling by Special Justice Paul M. Barnett almost identically tracks federal regulations from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives. Those rules bar the sale of guns to individuals who have been "adjudicated mentally defective."

The definition outlined in the regulations is "a determination by a court ... or other lawful authority that a person as a result of marked subnormal intelligence, or mental illness ... is a danger to himself or to others."


Continue reading Noted without comment

Friday flower blogging


Continue reading Friday flower blogging

Visual aids

Today's New York Times has a feature on the recent renovations to the classical galleries at the New York Metropolitan Museum of Art. It's very Timesian, balancing genuine praise for the work the museum has done bringing its Roman and Greek collections into new prominence with subtle and acerbic putdowns of previous gallery arrangements, as well as the philosphical underpinnings of the movement to restore plundered treasures to their native lands.

And, like all good New York Times web presentations, it's chock full of chewy sidebars, slideshows, and multimedia presentations to help you navigate your way around the subject matter, and focus your attention on the central, important elements under discussion.

Like this one:

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Continue reading Visual aids

Thursday, April 19, 2007

I don't remember

Struggling to save his credibility and perhaps his job, Gonzales testified at least 45 times — before lunch — that he could not recall events he was asked about.

That's got to be worth a Presidential Medal of Freedom, no?

Continue reading I don't remember

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Shorter Supreme Court

Women are wombs.

Get over it.

Continue reading Shorter Supreme Court

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Three kinds of stupid

What is it about tragedy on a large scale that brings out teh stupid in so many people.

Reading news reports yesterday about the mass murder on the Virginia Tech campus, i wondered about the 2 hour gap between the first pair of killings in a dorm at 7 am, and the larger slaughter in the classrooms. I didn't say or write anything at the time, because it was possible that in the confusion that surrounds these kinds of events, facts can get jumbled. And i was pretty much too numb to think about the meaning of that two hour break. See, i have a daughter getting ready to graduate from college in a couple of weeks (not at Va. Tech), and i kept thinking about all those young lives on the brink of their great adventure suddenly snuffed out.

But today, it comes out that University officials, as well as campus and Blacksburg police acknowledged that after the first shootings in the dormitory, they assumed the shooting was "domestic in nature" and saw no need to take any protective measures for the rest of campus.

Ahem. These people are professionals?

Words fail.

But, compared to some other folks, who had the time to actually consider their words and decisions, that's only minor league stupidity.

Consider, Debbie Schlussel and other conservative bloggers who are using this as a call for greater gun ownership on campus. (In keeping with this blog's policy of not linking to morons, i invite you acquaint yourself with Google). The theory goes that if one or more of the students in the classrooms being shot up were in fact armed, many lives could have been saved. Of course, this conclusion is based on careful observation of the behavior of large numbers of human beings in urban environments where gun ownership and possession is nearly universal. Anyone with half a brain can see how safe it is to walk around in Baghdad, for example, and how low the crime rate is there.

But even Schlussel and her ilk are only Triple-A material compared to a real league leader like Nathanael Blake. Blake raises stupidity to high art.

Something is clearly wrong with the men in our culture. Among the first rules of manliness are fighting bad guys and protecting others: in a word, courage. And not a one of the healthy young fellows in the classrooms seems to have done that. . . .

Am I noble, courageous and self-sacrificing? I don’t know; but I should hope to be so when necessary.

Well, since Blake appears to be a 20-something, recent college graduate hiding behind a keyboard, we know that, when his country needs him in Iraq, he's anything but noble, courageous and self-sacrificing. Perhaps there are a few too many people with guns in Baghdad for this prime example of chickenhawkitude.

Over thirty people are dead in the span of about 5 or 10 minutes, and all this asshole can think to say is it's their own fault?

That's a level of stupidity that can only be attained by a rare few.

Continue reading Three kinds of stupid

Mental health services cuts affect Durham

The News and Observer reports today that "Triumph, a mental health services provider, may lay off as many as 60 workers in Durham County as a result of government rate cuts." This amounts to about 25% of its Durham staff.

We commented last week on citizen lobbying efforts to reverse these arbitrary cuts, imposed without advance notice by Health and Human Services director Carmen Hooker Odom.

Screwy Hoolie's been blogging his ass off at BlueNC and Scrutiny Hooligans for the past couple of weeks about this. Read his posts for a better understanding of how this entire fiasco affects us all.

Continue reading Mental health services cuts affect Durham

Monday, April 16, 2007


A gunman opened fire in a dorm and classroom at Virginia Tech on Monday, killing 21 people at least 30 people in the deadliest campus shooting in U.S. history. The gunman was killed but it was unclear if he was shot by police or took his own life.

"Today the university was struck with a tragedy that we consider of monumental proportions," said Virginia Tech president Charles Steger. "The university is shocked and indeed horrified."

Words fail.

UPDATE: Words failed me, but not, apparently, President Bush:
A White House spokesman said President Bush was horrified by the rampage and offered his prayers to the victims and the people of Virginia.

"The president believes that there is a right for people to bear arms, but that all laws must be followed," spokeswoman Dana Perino said.

Words continue to be inadequate.

Continue reading Speechless

Heavy rains help replenish Duke Park swamp

Wetlands enthusiasts were cheered over the weekend as a series of heavy squalls dropped over an inch and a half of rain on our town, bringing the total for the week to nearly three and a half inches, and replenishing the Duke Park swamp to near record depths.

Neighborhood wetlanders had been concerned recently that young children had been seen kicking soccer balls and running through the nearly dry swamp yelling loudly and otherwise having a good time.

"Thank goodness for the downpours this past week," said one local swamp supporter who preferred to remain anonymous. "The whole concept of kids having fun in what should be a muddy, messy, unforgiving morass just kinda creeps me out. Hopefully, we'll have enough rain this season to keep those weirdos from the Beaver Lodge from holding another one of these incomprehensible pageants of theirs. What the hell is that all about anyway?"

Rumors that the Fish and Wildlife Service was planning to stock the Duke Park wetlands with rainbow trout could not be confirmed this morning before our deadline.


Continue reading Heavy rains help replenish Duke Park swamp

Sunday, April 15, 2007

And now it's time to play, "I bet your life"

Vice-president Dick "Biggus Dickus" Cheney went on "Face the Nation" earlier today. Speaking about President Bush's threat to veto legislation approved by the Congress providing about $100 billion for the next 12 months of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars and tying that money to separate timetables for withdrawing US troops from Iraq, Cheney predicted that Democrats in Congress will bow down to Bush's plan to keep US forces in Iraq basically forever.

"They will not leave the troops in the field without the resources they need," Cheney said of the Democrats.

Asked what would happen if they don't back down, Cheney said: "I'm willing to bet the other way — that, in fact, they will."

Here's the chips that Cheney's pushing around the table:

BAGHDAD, April 15 — At least 34 people were killed in Baghdad on Sunday in another day punctuated by car bombings and suicide attacks on civilian targets of the kind that the two-month-old American security crackdown has so far been unable to restrain.

All six bombs that caused fatalities were detonated in predominantly Shiite areas, which have been the persistent target of Sunni militant bombing attacks.

The day’s military casualties included the deaths of two British servicemen killed when two British Puma troop-carrying helicopters crashed northwest of Baghdad in a mission before dawn on Sunday. The United States military announced three new deaths on Sunday: two soldiers and a marine, killed in separate incidents.

Dick Cheney - doubling down with the lives of our soldiers, and tens of thousands of human beings.


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Continue reading And now it's time to play, "I bet your life"

The other shoe

The other shoe finally dropped on Mike Nifong last week when North Carolina Attorney General Roy Cooper dropped all remaining criminal charges against three Duke University lacrosse team members resulting from a team party last year in the Trinity Park neighborhood of Durham.

Durham DA Nifong is taking most of the heat as a result of his poor, possibly criminal decision making in the early days of the case. I feel personally let down by Mr. Nifong, whose handling of the case i defended numerous times in comments on this and other blogs.

If Nifong's got a case, he's obligated to pursue it. Since he's pursuing it, he must have a case, and we're obligated to allow justice to be done. At least that was my line of reasoning up until very recently, when it became apparent that our DA was pursuing charges that simply couldn't be made.

But unlike so many other commentators, i'm not quite willing to make the Duke University men's lacrosse team of 2006 out to be a bunch of heroes and martyrs for men's rights and other favorite conservative causes. (And no, i'm not going to give you a bunch of links to show what i'm saying. You've got google. Use it.)

What so many people seem to forget, is that based on the undisputed facts of the case, as well as the history of the Duke men's lacrosse team, we're not exactly dealing with a group of heroic young men.

Who can forget, for example, Ryan McFadyen's email, sent shortly after the stripper party, on a university email account:

"Tomorrow night, after tonights show, ive decided to have some strippers over," the message read. "However there will be no nudity. i plan on killing bitches as soon as the walk in and proceeding to cut their skin off."

The message goes on to read that he would find the act sexually gratifying.

McFadyen was allowed to continue pursuing his education at Duke. As i noted at the time, there isn't a corporation in the US that would have kept someone on the payroll if they used company email to post a message with such language. And i'm pretty sure that if someone were to write something like that on Facebook or MySpace, and high school or university administrators learned about it, they'd be forced to take disciplinary action, if only to protect their own sorry asses from the inevitable lawsuits they'd be exposing themselves to. (Discerning readers will recall that it was the publication of McFadyen's email that was the precipitating event in both Coach Pressler's "resignation" and the cancelling of the 2006 Duke lacrosse season.)

A lot of people tried to make the case stand for larger issues of racial, gender, and class politics that the United States has, to be honest, never fully confronted. At least in my lifetime. Generally, i've argued against that interpretation, and i still believe that, in its essence, this was a case about one woman and a small group of men. But to the extent we're going to use it as a jumping off point for discussions about gender and privilege, i think that McFadyen's email, and Duke University's subsequent response, marks the point at which social privilege becomes more than an abstract concept.

Throughout last April, i criticized University President Brodhead for what struck me as double dealing, saying one group of platitudes to the Durham community, and another to his alumni supporters and financial contributors. Now, those supporters are criticizing Brodhead and his administration heavily for abandoning his student-athletes and caving to unwarranted community pressure.

Frankly, although i think Brodhead's actions last year were always a day late and a dollar short, i'm happy to see him try to justify himself to this particular group. As i mentioned earlier, the undisputed facts of the case (the Duke lacrosse team, living in a house off-campus, had a late night team party featuring strippers and alcohol served to underage team members) required a certain amount of action which Brodhead was reluctant to take. Instead, he continually referred to himself as being on a par with "other Durham leaders" such as Mayor Bell and NCCU Chancellor Ammons, thanking them for their actions in maintaining calm and restraint.

On one Duke related listserv, several posters react to a comment by Duke adminstrators that the 3 exonerated defendants were "not choirboys" by asking why should Duke be in the habit of recruiting choirboys for its male student-athletes?

As a Durham community member, something which i suspect most of the folks posting to these listservs are not, let me tell you what i think.

Nobody expects Duke to recruit 19 year old choirboys. In fact, if you're going to keep your student athletes on campus (along with the rest of their cash, the spending of which in the community seems to be such a difficult concept for Duke to endorse) none of us really give a fuck who they are or how they behave. Once they move into town, even if it's only on Buchanan St. just a couple of dozen feet from the mortared stones that metaphorically separate Duke from the real world, there's a bit of awareness about responsibility to the community we expect them to have acquired. But in case they haven't, here's a few behavioral tips for getting along with your new neighbors.

First, don't piss in the neighbors bushes at 3 am when you're stumbling up the block after a party. Whether you hired strippers to perform there or not.

Pick up your empties. We have recycling trucks and trash pickup in town. They come by once a week.

Your neighbors' lawn furniture and outdoor lights belong to them. Leave them where they are.

Drive the speed limit.

Baby oil is for diaper rash. Mud is for wrestling.

Durham is full of Duke alumni who fell in love with this town during their college years and figured out a way to stay here after graduation and earn a living. There's even more students who have managed to contribute, via any number of programs, to raising the quality of life in Durham by giving of their time and talents. Moronic members of the Duke community who view Durham as their litterbox, and their supporters both online and in the real world, do more damage to their university's reputation than even the most bull-headed administrators.

I'm glad this case is over, frankly. The only good thing we can say about is that we'll be spared the crushing spectacle of a Court-TV summer with daily commentary by Nancy Grace and Glenn Beck.

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Continue reading The other shoe

Sunday morning church marquee blogging

Carver St., Durham, NC


Continue reading Sunday morning church marquee blogging

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Pedestrian safety at Duke Park

Had a very good meeting this week with NCDOT and city traffic folks about making the Knox St. and Roxboro St. intersection a little safer for pedestrians.

Some background. NCDOT widened Roxboro St. north of Knox from 3 lanes to 6 lanes, as part of the I-85 project. They also proposed having folks walk 300 yards down the hill and back up to cross Roxboro at the signalized collector/distributor. Of course, just south of the intersection, Roxboro is only 35 feet or so wide. So naturally, anybody wanting to use Duke Park will cross at Knox, rather than spend nearly 10 minutes to cross a couple of freeway ramps.

Getting NCDOT to understand this and put a crosswalk and some other safety features in has been a project almost as difficult as renovating our bathhouse. But, in this case at least, we're getting results. And for all the kids who live on one side of Roxboro and have friends on the other, life is going to be a little bit safer.

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Continue reading Pedestrian safety at Duke Park

Endangered Durham and NIS

Been a busy week in the Durham blogosphere, and i wanted to call attention to this post by Gary over at Endangered Durham.

Seems that our local Neighborhood Improvement Services Department has been a little quick on the trigger finger when it comes to demolishing abandoned and neglected buildings around town. A number of folks, Gary included, have protested against this policy, and the city has recently declared a moratorium on the practice.

That's not the big issue.

Constance Stancil, NIS director, recently held a meeting with some east Durham leaders trying to justify her department's demolitions. And there are some concerns that maybe her presentation was a touch one-sided.

I just want to chime in a little by saying that i've worked in the past with Rev. Whitley, and i trust him implicitly. He's done as much good work for Durham in recent years as anyone i know. I've also had to deal with NIS and Ms. Stancil recently, not over an abandoned property, but an absentee landlord who's been content to rent a house on my block to a variety of drug dealers, petty criminals, and most recently pit bull breeders. I can't say that the results we obtained from NIS satisfied any of the neighbors.

So i hope that Gary and the rest of those who have supported preserving more of our historic structures are able to get together with Melvin Whitley and other east Durham activists who are working hard to make east Durham a safer and more attractive place to live and find common ground. It's always distressing when people choose division as the easier path.

Continue reading Endangered Durham and NIS

Environmental subterfuge

I hinted below that i had a lot of things to say today, and, unlike most things that go up on the blog, i really wanted to think them through before i posted them.

Most have to do with the other shoe dropping in the Duke Lacrosse case. I wrote extensively about this last spring, and on re-reading, i stand behind everything i said back then. (Click on the March and April 2006 archives in the right hand column to find the posts.)

And i'll be coming back to the case later tonight after i finish up a round of neighborhood meetings.

Meantime, i wanted to call your attention to this excellent expose by gregflynn over at BlueNC. Seems our friends at the John Locke Foundation have set up a website called, at which they're going to republish some of the shadier, corporate sponsored so-called "environmental research" that Exxon-Mobil's money can buy.

But for the irony-deficient, here's the best part. Despite making claims that "If North Carolina is going to address properly its environmental concerns, there needs to be an honest and open discourse on the issues. That is where Environment NC comes in", the website doesn't list its affiliations with the JLF, links mostly to right-wing front groups (its links to "left-of-center" groups has to be seen to be disbelieved), and doesn't allow for its readers to comment or challenge the propaganda it puts out.

Good catch, gregflynn.

Continue reading Environmental subterfuge

So it goes . . .

American literary idol Kurt Vonnegut, best known for such classic novels as "Slaughterhouse-Five" and "Cat's Cradle," died on Tuesday night in Manhattan at age 84, The New York Times reported on Wednesday.

Longtime family friend, Morgan Entrekin, who reported Vonnegut's death, said the writer had suffered brain injuries as a result of a fall several weeks ago, the newspaper reported.

Vonnegut, born in Indianapolis in 1922, also wrote plays, essays and short fiction. But his novels -- 14 in all -- became classics of the American counterculture. He was a literary idol, particularly to students in the 1960s and 1970s, the Times said.

The defining moment of Vonnegut's life was the firebombing of Dresden, Germany by Allied Forces in 1945, an event he witnessed as a young prisoner of war, the newspaper said.

On a day when there is so much to write about, and so much to think about saying before it is said, there is this.

Vonnegut, as much as any one man could, helped us navigate the horrors that made up so much of the 20th century by reminding us that it's not necessary to love all of humanity.

You just have to love those members of it who happen to be standing next to you at the time. "There's only one rule that I know of, babies," he wrote in God Bless You Mr. Rosewater, "'God damn it, you've got to be kind.'"

Poo tee-weet.

Continue reading So it goes . . .

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Suitable erection

We noted a short while back that the University of Florida faculty senate had voted not to award an honorary degree to former Gov. Jeb Bush.

I think we may have snickered under our breath as well.

Now, via ThinkProgress, we learn that the Florida State House is taking steps to force the University to rename its edumacation program the "Jeb Bush College of Education." According to the Orlando Sentinel, "What's more, UF would also have to erect "suitable markers" noting the college's new name and include the revised name in all university documents, including catalogues and brochures."

Suitable is as suitable does, i suppose.

Note: Image found on Flickr, posted by Sumit. It says licensed under Creative Commons. Contact me if this usage violates copyright.

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Continue reading Suitable erection

Great soccer names

Longer term readers of DE will no doubt recall my all-name team posts from the 2006 MLB season, the 2006 World Cup, and the 2005 - 2006 English Premier League season.

I thought i had things pretty well covered.

Until i read today's issue of the Guardian, and learned that Danger Fourpence and Have-a-Look Dube are both playing professionally in Zimbabwe.

But the new, all-time best footballer's name, replacing Junior Agogo and Steed Malbranque forever at the top of any list, is Creedence Clearwater Couto, a Brazilian native who, according to Wikipedia, is currently playing for the Belgian side Lierse SK.

It truly cannot get any better than that.


Continue reading Great soccer names

You know how to lobby, don't you Stevie?

You just extend your index finger and dial. Here's the deal, as posted by Screwy Hoolie at Blue NC:

In 2001, North Carolina undertook a massive reform of its mental health system. The network of publicly funded providers had grown bureaucratic, bloated and stagnant. While individual practitioners continued, in most cases, to provide excellent care, the system was buckling under its own weight and lacked innovation.

The mental health system reform was intended to improve services and cut costs by introducing competition. In this regard the plan was a success, hundreds of private providers sprung up across the state to provide psychiatry, counseling, psychological services, case management, day treatment, job training, and community based services to mentally ill children and adults.

The problem, of course, is that despite being dead last in the nation in spending on mental health, state legislators wanted to cut more deeply, more lethally. They changed the definitions of the services they reimbursed. They slashed the rates at which doctors and therapists were paid, driving many away from providing services to impoverished children and families.

. . .

The state decided to kill mental health services once and for all on the day before Good Friday. Mere hours before the state would commence a 4-day holiday, word came from the Division of Medical Assistance that reimbursement rates for Community Support services would be cut by a third, from $60/hour to $40/hour.

Community Support services, a new service definition created by the state les than a year ago, allow clients to receive needed help in life skills (balancing a checkbook, etc.), accessing resources like child care, or practicing behavioral skills vital to living independently. Without these services, many clients will end up unemployed, expelled, or institutionalized.

The state, unwilling to try systems that have worked in other states, is going to kill the last few private providers by forcing them into this choice: Hire only low-wage workers who will provide sub-par services, or lose money and go out of business.

Contact info for the members of House Committee on Mental Health Reform can be found here. The contact list for the corresponding Senate Committee is here.

Details on the state's actions are available here and here.

I've been trying to find a dollar figure for how much the state hopes to save by this action, but there doesn't seem to be one published. It would be interesting to see how it compares to the $260 million tax break given to Google to provide a couple of hundred jobs in Lenoir County.

UPDATE: See this post at Blue NC for a rundown on the issues to raise with legislators, and a sample letter to send.

UPDATE 2: From Blue NC at 11:40 am
(W)e shouldn't call the legislature. That the problems stem from secretary Odom and Governor Easley.

The recent cut was not through the budget process. It was directly from the Secretary's office.

Here's the numbers: 919-733-4534 for Secretary Odom. Don't let them give you another number. You'll be put on hold forever.

Here's the Governor's number: 919-733-4240.

Apparently, they're trying to destroy the system so that some company can come in and "fix" it. It's been done in several states. We need make sure Easley and Odom know we're on to them.

So there you have it. Two phone calls to make. It probably wouldn't hurt if your legislators hear from you on this either. They can put pressure on the Governor and the Secretary at least as effectively as we can.

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Continue reading You know how to lobby, don't you Stevie?

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Another reason we love Durham

Best snark on teh internets.

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Continue reading Another reason we love Durham

Monday, April 09, 2007

NC 20th Senate ballot results

I'm posting a breakdown of the balloting here and on Blue NC.

For those of you who can't wait until then, Floyd McKissick is the new state Senator from the 20th district.

Floyd was elected on the 4th ballot, with 44 of the 83 votes cast.

More details to follow.


We have a new state Senator.

After 4 ballots, Durham County Democratic Party chair Floyd McKissick, Jr., was elected to fill the remaining term of the late Senator Jeanne Lucas.

There were 91 eligible electors. 86 votes were cast on the first ballot, and 83 on each of the subsequent ballots. 44 votes were needed to win on the first ballot, 43 on each of the subsequent ballots, using the "50% + 1 of cast ballots" rules.

After the first ballot, the tally was

McKissick - 38
Black - 24
Cole-McFadden - 17
Johnson - 5
Burnette - 1
Pollard - 1

Due to a quirk in the balloting rules, with two candidates tied for the fewest number of votes, neither was eliminated for the second ballot.

Second ballot results:

McKissick - 38
Black - 28
Cole-McFadden - 12
Johnson - 2
Pollard - 2
Burnette - 1

Brenda Burnette was eliminated after the 2nd ballot.

Third ballot results:

McKissick - 41
Black - 37
Cole-McFadden - 3
Johnson - 1
Pollard - 1

The same quirk mentioned above applied in this round as well. However, both educator/activist Le Harve Johnson and ciy councilmember Cora Cole-McFadden withdrew their names from the ballot.

4th ballot results:

McKissick - 44
Black - 38
Pollard - 1

I think these results represent a clear victory for the Durham Committee on the Affairs of Black People (hereinafter referred to as the Committee.) They were the only one of the 3 main PACs in Durham to endorse a candidate, and Floyd was their man. Committee chair Dr. LaVonia Allison and Bertha Breeze, elder sister of the late Sen. Lucas worked the crowd through the evening to shore up support for Floyd, and i don't think it was much of a surprise as he picked up the votes he needed as candidates were eliminated following the second and third rounds.

There's no doubt that Floyd brings some baggage with him to his new position. Emails circulating throughout the campaign referred to his past legal troubles and several conflict of interest charges that have been previously aired. There was also a strong sentiment among some electors that the seat which had been filled by a woman should remain filled a woman.

In the end, however, none of the other candidates had a resume quite so impressive, campaigned quite so hard and well, and built quite as solid a base of support as Floyd.

Congratulations to Floyd McKissick. May he grow into his new responsibilities and represent us well in Raleigh.

Congratulations as well to all of the candidates, and heartfelt thanks to all of the electors who treated this responsibility so seriously. This was a proud moment in my life.

And once again, i'd like to repeat what my fellow elector Harris Johnson wrote:

I am reminding my fellow democrats that we should not burn bridges, and that the enemy is the republican party and George W. Bush, Dick Cheney and the Atty. General.

. . .

Again, lets be positive and stick together, we have a fight in front of us, if we are to save this nation. As we build on our strengths let us move forward together, not divided or fragmented regardless [of] who wins Monday evening.


Continue reading NC 20th Senate ballot results

NC Senate 20th district - update

I've spoken over the past week directly with about half of the candidates to replace the late Sen. Jeanne Lucas, and with supporters of every candidate. It's been an educational process for me, and i'm about 75% certain who i'm going to vote for.

Which is, i guess, a good thing, since the first ballot will likely be cast about 9 hours from now.

Overall, the public process has been positive. All of the emails i've read on official Democratic mailing lists have extolled the virtues of the various candidates, explaining why he or she would be the best to send to Raleigh. There's been a small number of negative emails that have circulated to various subgroups of the public lists. I'm not sure how the recipients of these were chosen. Most of the senders seem unfamiliar with the use of the "BCC" field, so trying to piece together how the list was generated by the addresses mailed to could be a day project for Encyclopedia Brown, if he's so inclined.

For myself, i'll pass.

I also want to say that the negative messages, especially when passed among such a small group of people, strike me as petty. I'll have more to say about this, including some details, after the balloting. For now, i'll just state that they were not persuasive, and leave it at that.

I've sought out the opinion of a number of folks i respect, both in and out of the Party, and gotten much good advice.

The meeting tonight will start out by attempting to establish the rules of the ballot. Apparently the party's plan of organization leaves some gray area for special meetings like this. A key area of discussion will be the number of votes required to win the election (50% + 1 of eligible votes, or 50% + 1 of actual ballots?). Another will be whether all candidates remain on the ballot until they withdraw, or whether the last place finisher in each round will be automatically dropped from the ballot.

These are the kinds of details which cause eyes to glaze over around the globe, so i'm hopeful we can come to agreement on them quickly, and proceed to the important part of the meeting.

I did specifically want to mention a conversation i had with Brenda Pollard, 1st vice-chair of the county party, and a candidate for this seat. I had been quoted in several local papers as saying that i thought Ms. Pollard was not yet ready to serve in the state Senate, and that i could not support her candidacy. She called my asking for my support anyway, and despite the potential for awkwardness, our conversation was quite civilized. Ms. Pollard is a graceful human being who is a sincere asset to our party, even if my position on her candidacy is unchanged.

I'll have more to say tomorrow about this process, including congratulations to the eventual winner, and an analysis of what the balloting means to Durham politics. I'm going to quote from an email which circulated late last week in closing:

In review of several recent elections we seemed to attack fellow democrats in support of or opposition to one or another candidate which is the right of each individual and it is the constitutional right of all citizens. I hear comments about "ethics" and questionable behavior, please let us focus on the real enemy and come together in an effort to unify our party, county and Nation.

With the corruption in Washington let's talk about ethics or the lack of ethics in the Republican party, and the immoral majority. It's long over due that we stop beating up on each other or giving the appearance of such.

I am reminding my fellow democrats that we should not burn bridges, and that the enemy is the republican party and George W. Bush, Dick Cheney and the Atty. General.

. . .

Again, lets be positive and stick together, we have a fight in front of us, if we are to save this nation. As we build on our strengths let us move forward together, not divided or fragmented regardless [of] who wins Monday evening. And, let's do it with honor, and integrity.

Harris Johnson
Chair, Precinct 40

crossposted at BlueNC.


Continue reading NC Senate 20th district - update

Sunday, April 08, 2007

Sunday morning church marquee blogging

N. Duke St., Durham, NC


Continue reading Sunday morning church marquee blogging

Saturday, April 07, 2007

Why we like living in Durham

Poked my head out the front door a little while ago, and saw a huge shadow crossing the lawn. This guy was circling my block. Ran back into the house and grabbed the camera. Didn't really have time to get off more than this one shot, and it's a little soft, but these are some great neighbors.

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Continue reading Why we like living in Durham

Opening Day: Getting it right

Durham Farmers Market

Regular readers of DE know that there's no love lost between me and the Durham Parks and Recreation Department. That's one reason why it's especially gratifying to be able to write this post.

Kudos and congratulations to DPR, the Durham Farmers Market, SEEDS, Durham Central Park, Ellen Cassilly, and everyone else involved in the creation of the new Farmers Market pavilion in Durham Central Park. Today's grand opening celebration was the culmination of several years of hard work and volunteer efforts on the part of literally too many people to even begin to enumerate.

Farmer and DFM member Ken Dawson

Yeah, it was a bit on the chilly side, but the crowd had no trouble listening to a variety of speakers thank all of the community supporters of the market who have helped it grow, in 8 years, from a handful of vendors selling out of the back of their pickups in the dirt parking lot of the old ballpark to the beautiful new pavilion, complete with kitchen and restroom facilities, in Durham Central Park. Ken Dawson, above, a founding member of DFM, reminded everyone of the many benefits to the community and to the planet, of growing, shopping, and eating locally.

Elected officials and staff, from left: Council members Mike Woodard, Diane Cattoti, and Cora Cole-McFadden, Assistant City Attorney Sherry Rosenthal, Assistant City Manager Wanda Page, Council Member Thomas Stith, City Manager Patrick Baker.

The Farmers Market, over the past couple of years, has become one of the social centers of Durham life. With the new pavilion, it's going to be even more so.

And more enjoyable than it's ever been.

Congratulations on a job well done.

Continue reading Opening Day: Getting it right

Friday, April 06, 2007

Opening Night

Thanks to some unplanned good fortune (h/t to MC) i was able to attend Opening Night ceremonies at the DBAP last night. First time in all my years in Durham that i've made it to the first game of the season. Saw a couple of skydivers floating in while we were waiting in line to enter. That was cool. Didn't catch if there were any special ceremonies announcing the naming of the playing field in honor of Jim Goodmon. I guess the official name is now the Goodmon Field at the Durham Bulls Athletic Park, which trips off the tongue about as awkwardly as the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim, but i guess most people will still just say, "Hey, going to the Bulls game tonight?"

When we left, the Bulls were up 1-0, with a no-hitter working. (It was cold. We weren't dressed for the occasion.) Turns out they lost 2-1.

That's the breaks.

I did want to call attention to two items, though.

First, the new TV screen and advertisements on the Blue Monster in left field.

They suck.

Out loud.

From our seats behind third base the glare from the TV screen made the hand-operated scoreboard directly below it unreadable. I can't imagine what it's going to do to outfielders trying to play a carom. The ads also are poorly designed and reflect nothing of the long heritage of baseball stadium advertisements. This big a change could have and should have been done in a much more sensitive way that added to the ballpark experience, rather than just being revenue source.

Second, and this ties in with some of the discussion over at Atrios' today about religion and atheism.

I'm not much for organized religion. And generally speaking, i'm even less when it comes to public prayer. My daughter used to play judo, and every time we'd go to a tournament, sometimes driving 6 hours each way for the privilege of competing for less than 10 minutes, the tournament was almost always gotten underway with a solemn public prayer invoking the spirit of Jesus Christ to protect the competitors and bless the mats and what all. I guess they assumed there were no Jews since the tournaments generally took place on Saturdays, and no Muslims, since, well, it was North Carolina.

Public prayer almost always serves to highlight differences between people. And quite frankly, if your God is omnipotent, He's got a pretty good idea of what you need without your having to use a public address system to let Him know.

But one of the Bulls players read a prayer before the game last night (and i wish i knew which one. I'll do my best to find out and post an update) which i assume he had written himself. In it, he called on all the spectators to remember those who could not be in attendance, whether due to illness, infirmity, or poverty. He asked us to remember the sacrifices of loved ones far away from home, as well as the innocent victims of wars and conflicts. He reminded the the players and the fans how special it is to be able to enjoy the simple pleasures of life, including the great game of baseball. And he did it all without actually mentioning any deities.

If everyone who felt compelled to invoke the glory of the Lord in public for my benefit could speak so movingly, i might actually listen once in a while.


Continue reading Opening Night

Friday flower blogging

Dogwood/Moonlight, Durham, NC


Continue reading Friday flower blogging

We write letters

Rhonda Parker, interim Director of Durham Parks and Recreation Department, has responded to my complaints about the parking issues at Duke Park.

Ms Parker writes:

At Duke Park, for instance, there are 22 off-street spaces on Acadia St. and approximately 35 on-street spaces on the park side of Knox St. and Acadia St. There were also approximately 15 off-street parking spaces on the park's interior loop road -- that road was closed at the neighborhood's request to turn it into an additional play area, and the neighborhood was told during that planning process that the closure would quite likely generate more on-street parking.

I know that this neighborhood loves Duke Park; please help us reduce some of the negative impact you seem to be experiencing by calling the Police when you see instances of littering, vehicles on the interior loop road, or alcohol in the park. That will be of real assistance to keeping the park in top shape. Thank you for your continued assistance. Rhonda

Here's my response:

Ms. Parker,

i'm afraid that my recollection does not jibe with your account. The loop within Duke Park was closed by mutual consent of the Neighborhood Association and the Department of Parks and Recreation. My recollection of the meeting in which this was discussed had us proposing that the loop be closed to parking in order to provide a surface on which children could learn to ride bicycles or roller skates without their parents having to worry about moving vehicles. Additionally, there were numerous complaints about individuals sleeping in parked cars throughout the hours which the park was opened, which although completely legal, discouraged many parents of small children from using the park.

DPR's response to this was along the lines of "Oh, you folks want the loop closed to parking?" So do we. We were afraid you were going to want us to keep it open."

On the other hand, the off-street parking that used to exist in the area near the old, and now demolished, picnic shelter at the north of the park, was always slated to be kept as a parking area. It was not until after the entire presentation of park renovations made by DPR in 2001 was abandoned in favor of a limited construction of new playground equipment, sometime in 2003, that DPNA was informed that area would no longer be available for public, off-street parking. I recall quite clearly making my objections plain to members of DPR staff that that area needed to remain public parking.

The whole parking issue is raised by the Planning Department indicating that the current, on-street parking availability may not be enough in the event that the bathhouse is renovated and reopened to public use. It is unlikely that the bathhouse will ever attract the number of users that the playground does, especially when you consider that the playground attracts users from all over the city, most of whom drive to the park. My point is that if the Planning Department is concerned that parking may be inadequate for the bathhouse, how can it possibly be adequate for the park itself, which attracts upwards of 200 people on a weekend afternoon?

Ms. Parker, the entire history of the Duke Park renovations, beginning with the 1996 bond issue and continuing up to this very day with the mismanagement of the "meadow" where the former swimming pool used to be (the area commonly referred to as the Duke Park swamp) is fraught with missteps on the part of DPR. I could fill a small book with the promises made by DPR (and, to be fair, other city agencies as well. The "swamp" fiasco was not entirely DPR's fault.) to the neighborhood regarding the Duke Park renovations, virtually none of which were kept by the city.

The bottom line remains, the city of Durham kept an unused, unusable, and unmaintained swimming pool in Duke Park for over a decade. The city of Durham continues to keep an unused and unmaintained structure, namely the bathhouse, in Duke Park. It is going on 14 years since the bathhouse received a nickel's worth of maintenance from the city. Your department has no plans and no funds allocated to do anything with this structure. The Neighborhood Association would like nothing more than to take responsibility for its renovations, and at every step of the way we encounter red tape, bureaucratic obstinacy, and an inability to think outside of the box that is demoralizing to every resident of the neighborhood who has tried to become involved in any aspect of the park renovation.

To be frank, we need, and deserve, better from the city.

Continue reading We write letters

Thursday, April 05, 2007

Memo to NC House of Representatives: What are you waiting for?

The North Carolina Senate apologized Thursday for the Legislature's role in promoting slavery and Jim Crow laws that denied basic human rights to the state's black citizens.

Following the lead of lawmakers in neighboring Virginia, the Senate unanimously backed a resolution acknowledging its "profound contrition for the official acts that sanctioned and perpetuated the denial of basic human rights and dignity to fellow humans."

. . .

The North Carolina House would have to approve the measure for it to be formalized. A similar resolution is pending in state House, which adjourned for the Easter holiday weekend on Thursday without taking any action.

Seriously, you couldn't pass this resolution before adjourning? I mean, is there anything to even debate about this?


Continue reading Memo to NC House of Representatives: What are you waiting for?

Parking follies

What Kevin says about the idiotic parking policy of Brightleaf Square.

Adding, i used to be a regular (once a month or so) diner at Devine's. One day they made a big deal about anti-war demonstrators staying off of the unused space where the biciycle shop used to be (which is now Alivia's).

Haven't spent a nickel in Devine's since then. Brightleaf businesses could find themselves occupying a similar position on my discretionary spending list.


Continue reading Parking follies

Gun enthusiasts?

There's a wire services story this morning about some issues that Idaho is having with overzealous shooters. Seems the National Guard trains in a wide open area that attracts people with guns who like to "shoot at anything that moves." Including National Guard vehicles.

For years, ATV-riding, gun-toting sport shooters have flouted gun laws in part of Idaho's high desert by taking pot shots at ground squirrels and other animals.

Now, officials say, they're also setting their sights on National Guard tanks that train in the area.

Rifles and pistols have been banned in a 68,000-acre area of the Snake River Birds of Prey National Conservation Area since 1996.

But the federal Bureau of Land Management is considering expanding the gun-restricted area by 41,000 acres to try to limit shootings at Idaho Army National Guard troops who report slugs bouncing off their tanks on a regular basis.

. . .

With just two agents to patrol 4 million acres of desert near Boise, gun enthusiasts regularly defy the ban by shooting squirrels, protected birds and even grazing cattle, park officials say.

We should be clear. People who shoot at volunteer National Guards on training missions aren't gun enthusiasts. They're fucking morons. It's not enough these folks are risking their lives on the streets of Baghdad? They've got to dodge potshots from assholes in the desert who think the world is their private rifle range too?

For the most part i'm agnostic on gun control laws. I think in certain urban environments, guns do much more harm than good. And i'm pretty sure, when the shit really hits the fan, that your assault rifle is not going to protect you and your family from a government that is really intent on imposing its will on the populace. And i don't think you can argue that Texas, for example, with pretty much universal gun ownership, has any significantly lower crime rates than any other part of the country. Hell, look at all the people on death row in that state.

On the other hand, there's certainly a place for responsible gun ownership in our society.

But shooting at our own National Guard?

That's not responsible. That's just stupid.


Continue reading Gun enthusiasts?