Dependable Erection

Monday, December 31, 2007

Get the fantastic out of here

Domino's flier which showed up in the mail today:

The fine print says "Big Fantastic Deal"

Fantastic A!


Continue reading Get the fantastic out of here


Twilight Zone marathon at Sci-Fi, or Planet of the Apes marathon on AMC?

UPDATE: I hadn't realized that Rod Serling was a co-writer for Planet of the Apes. Oh, by the way, "To Serve Man"? It's a cookbook.


Continue reading Choices


I almost never do this. But here's some things i'd like to accomplish in 2008.

10) To be less tolerant of Bush apologists who, after 7 years of extra-constitutional government must be total fucking morons™ if they still think there's anything good to be said about this guy and his henchmen.

9) To finish the damn rain garden and landscaping project in the back yard. I'm still closer to schedule and under budget, so it's not like Boston or anything, but if i drag it out another seven years and 2 billion dollars, maybe i'll be competitive with the Big Dig.

8) To find or replace the title to my old car so i can donate it to TROSA.

7 To get back into 10K condition.

6) Dependable Erection CafePress store.

5) Former Senator Elizabeth Dole.

4) To contribute regularly to Bull City Blue.

3) More pictures, fewer words.

2) To follow up on my blog posts about the Boy Scouts, landscaping on I-85 interchanges, and cleaning up Avondale Dr.

1) To have a really bumper crop of tomatoes.

Continue reading Resolutions

Sunday, December 30, 2007

Finally, some good news on the drought front

All the rain this week is finally starting to show up in the reservoirs.

Over at the Little River reservoir, both inflow and gage height have finally climbed above the median for this time of year, and the most recently measured inflow (142 cubic feet per second) is the highest ever recorded for 12/30. (Granted, they've only been keeping stats at Little River for about 20 years). This should actually add a significant number of days to our water supply.

Over at the Flat River/Lake Michie, both inflow and gage height have just about reached median levels for this date. Looking at the satellite photo, we should be getting rain for at least another 3 hours.

My bet, even without the Teer Reservoir, is that the city will announce water supplies back up around the 45 day level (up from 36 last week) in Lake Michie and Little River tomorrow, which will be the first increase in quite some time. Teer is supposed to be online by now, but i haven't seen a press release announcing that yet. And i suspect that the city would absolutely want to spread that news as soon as it's official. Assuming some inflows into Teer as well, we could easily be at the 80 day mark for "easily accessible, premium" water after this rainfall.

Doesn't mean you can start taking baths yet, but that should be enough breathing room to allow our elected leadership to start thinking rationally about the relationship between development and water supply over the next couple of months.

By the Way
- Flat River real-time data is here; Little River data here.

Adding, this gives a pretty good graphic presentation of how serious the problem is.

UPDATE: A little math. There's 7.48 gallons in a cubic foot of water. Multiplying out, it turns out you need an average flow of 31 cfs (232 gallons per second; 13912 gallons per minute) to meet a daily demand of 20 millions gallons per day. We haven't been close to that for the past couple of months.

The median at Lake Michie for this time of year over the past 80 or so years, has been 70 cfs, or more than double what's needed for current demand. We've been over 300 cfs for about the past 36 hours. That's almost 15 days of water right there, at least by my math. (For a couple of hours we got near 1000 cfs) The city's just updated their website saying we have 60 days without Teer, based on 17 million gallons per day average over the past week.

Again, we're certainly not out of the woods, since there's no rain in the immediate forecast. But we've got a little breathing room again.

UPDATE: As of 6 pm Monday, inflows at Lake Michie are still above 400 cfs, and over 100 cfs at Little River. That's just about 24 hours straight with a combined total over 500 cfs, and much of that time near 1000 cfs. Hopefully, that runoff will continue, because there's no rain in the forecast for the next 10 days or so.

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Continue reading Finally, some good news on the drought front

Sunday morning church marquee blogging

Highway 70, Durham, NC


Continue reading Sunday morning church marquee blogging

Saturday, December 29, 2007

Beer, and more beer

End of year beer tasting at the Dependable Ranch.

From left:
Avery Old Jubilation, Rogue Santa's Private Reserve, Highland Cold Mountain Winter Ale, Samuel Smith's Taddy Porter, Samichlas, Triangle Brewing Company Bourbon Cask Conditioned Belgian Ale, Brooklyn Brewery Monster Barleywine, Duck-Rabbit Barleywine, Maredsous 10 Ale, Weyerbacher Blithering Idiot Barleywine, Sierra Nevada Bigfoot Barleywine, Brooklyn Winter Ale, Old Rasputin Imperial Stout, Thomas Hardy's Ale 2006, Anchor 2006 Christmas Ale, Anderson Valley Winter Solstice Ale.

Need i say, that a good time was had by all.

Happy New Year.


Continue reading Beer, and more beer

Friday, December 28, 2007

Who makes our foreign policy?

President George W. Bush intends to veto defense legislation after Iraq objected to a provision that could freeze its assets in the United States if Americans sue the country, the White House said on Friday.

Iraqi officials raised their concerns with U.S. Ambassador Ryan Crocker about 10 days ago and when administration officials took a closer look at the provision they agreed that it could pose "grave financial risk" for Iraq, tying up assets needed for reconstruction, the White House said.

. . .

Congressional Democratic leaders House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said the administration should have raised its objections earlier.

"It is unfortunate that the president will not sign this critical legislation," they said in a statement. "Instead, we understand that the president is bowing to the demands of the Iraqi government, which is threatening to withdraw billions of dollars invested in U.S. banks if this bill is signed."

. . .

Sen. Frank Lautenberg, a New Jersey Democrat who sponsored the provision, said it was aimed at allowing American victims of terrorism to take countries responsible to court, such as Iran for the 1983 bombing of the Marine barracks in Beirut.

Bush's veto, expected by December 31, would not interrupt funding for the Pentagon and Iraq war since separate legislation provides more than $500 billion for the year.


Two things.

First, since when does the POTUS take his foreign policy decisions from foreign nations?

And second, i knew that the Iraq War was funded via a separate, off-budget line. But since when does the Pentagon get its funding from something other than the Defense appropriation?

: Sweet Jesus, this is even worse than it appears at first glance.

UPDATE II (1/3/08): Today's "must read" over at TPM delves deeper into this.


Continue reading Who makes our foreign policy?

Another perspective

Mrs. D gives her take on the things i kvetched about earlier in the week.

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Continue reading Another perspective

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Benazir Bhutto 2007 = Robert Kennedy 1968 ?

Outside of condolences to her family, who seem to have lost quite a few members to political assassination over the years, i don't really have any insight into, or comments about, today's events in Pakistan. But if the impact on that nation of the assassination shortly before an election of a leading candidate is anything like what happened in the US in the months following Bobby Kennedy's assassination in June 1968, things are going to get a lot worse before they get better.

Mrs D. pointed out in conversation this evening that the Muslim world can ill afford to lose prominent women who are not afraid to be public about their views. Sounds right to me.


Continue reading Benazir Bhutto 2007 = Robert Kennedy 1968 ?

Deeply held religious beliefs

I don't know if this is better or worse than a state run lottery:
And so the 53-year-old accountant from the Tampa, Fla., area pledged $500 a year to Joyce Meyer, the evangelist whose frank talk about recovering from childhood sexual abuse was so inspirational. She wrote checks to flamboyant faith healer Benny Hinn and a local preacher-made-good, Paula White.

Only the blessings didn't come. Fleenor ended up borrowing money from friends and payday loan companies just to buy groceries. At first she believed the explanation given on television: Her faith wasn't strong enough.

"I wanted to believe God wanted to do something great with me like he was doing with them," she said. "I'm angry and bitter about it. Right now, I don't watch anyone on TV hardly."

To be honest, though, i don't see any reason for the Senate to be investigating this. If you're meshuggah enough to fall for this kind of bullshit, maybe you shouldn't be around a checkbook in the first place.
Some ministers hold up their own wealth as evidence that the teaching works. Atlanta-area pastor Creflo Dollar, who is fighting (Iowa Senator Charles) Grassley's inquiry, owns a Rolls Royce and multimillion-dollar homes and travels in a church-owned Learjet.

In a letter to Grassley, Dollar's attorney calls the prosperity gospel a "deeply held religious belief" grounded in Scripture and therefore a protected religious freedom. Grassley has said his probe is not about theology.

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Continue reading Deeply held religious beliefs

Dan Besse at Blue NC later today

Dan's a candidate for the Democratic nomination for Lt. Governor next year. The Progressive Democrats of NC recently endorsed his candidacy. He's said a number of good things on issues that are near and dear to me.

He'll be liveblogging and answering questions later today (5:30 pm) over at Blue NC. Check it out. Got a question for Dan? Post it here.


Continue reading Dan Besse at Blue NC later today

Didn't see that coming, again

The New York Times reports on the introduction of the $50 scratch off lottery ticket in Texas:
As for the criticism from legislators and others that such games appeal most to compulsive gamblers or low-income players, a spokesman for the Texas Lottery Commission, Bobby Heith, said, “We value and respect those concerns very much but our job is to run the lottery, to generate as much revenue as possible, as responsibly as possible.”

I figure we'll see these games in North Carolina within 24 months.

Because it's so much easier to do than a responsible tax policy that raises enough revenue to educate our children.

UPDATE: We've already got a $20 ticket game. The drawing is today. There's 500,000 tickets available. If all tickets were sold, that would be a pool of $10 million.

But they weren't. Last week, the N&O reported that only half the tickets had been sold, and the lottery needed to sell 290,000 just to break even.

Today they're saying that a total of 368,462 tickets had been sold, generating a total of $7.37 million in revenue. Since there are 4 $1 million prizes, and 5 half million dollar prizes, that leaves, at best, about $800,000 for "education," assuming that the raffle cost absolutely nothing to stage.

You know, education is really too important to be run like a VFW lodge in the state of North Carolina. Considering that the entire program was only approved as a result of the corruption of folks like former state Senator Jim Black, maybe it's time to start thinking about scrapping this piece of shit and replacing it with a sane revenue policy.


Continue reading Didn't see that coming, again

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Go beavers!

Beavers are on the move:
Plans are in the pipeline for beavers to be released into the Scottish wild for the first time in 500 years.

Wildlife bodies have asked the Scottish Government for a licence to allow about 20 beavers to be set free in Argyll in 2009.

The Scottish Wildlife Trust and the Royal Zoological Society of Scotland believe the animals will improve the eco-system and boost tourism.

Beavers were hunted to extinction in Scotland in the 16th Century.

I'm sure everyone at Durham's Beaver Lodge 1504 wishes our Scottish friends the best.


Continue reading Go beavers!

Tuesday, December 25, 2007


If he didn't make it to your house last night, this little accident in Orange County might explain it.


Continue reading Santa

Monday, December 24, 2007

Happy Christmas, y'all

Continue reading Happy Christmas, y'all

Ummm, a little help please?

Following up on Friday's post about Durham police doing a house raid and busting an alleged murderer on my block, Mrs D. went out earlier today to consolidate some of the stuff in the various recycling bins, remove the leaves that have blown in them the past two days, etc.

She almost stuck herself on this:

Fortunately, she saw it under the leaves in time, and saved us from, at minimum, a trip to the emergency room for antibiotics and tests on this holiday weekend.

It's certainly possible that one of our transient diabetics just happened to finish an insulin injection while walking past our house on Friday afternoon and tossed his syringe in our recycling bin while it waited at the curb for our return from work. More likely, it was tossed there by our neighborhood fugitive as he ran from the police after being surprised in his house. My next door neighbor reports he also dropped a cell phone in her yard.

I've posted this to the PAC2 list. I don't think it's a 911 call. I'll follow up during business hours tomorrow and see if anyone at DPD thinks it's worthwhile as evidence.

Elsewhere on Avondale Drive, the City County Planning Department has still not been able to figure out that the tenants at 1705 Avondale Drive are running a car sales lot out of the back yard.

Here's a photo from September showing 4 cars in the yard:

Now, here's one from this afternoon with three different vehicles. I'll post a close up on the truck to show that it's not registered next.

The Planning Department's reluctance (some people less generous than i might call it incompetence) to enforce zoning laws regarding businesses being run out of residential property is simply incomprehensible to me, especially after all the fuss that was made over provisions in the UDO about how many square feet in a house would be allowed to be used in a home base business like a law practice or design firm. Running a junk yard though seems to be OK, as long as it can only be seen from the backyard.

The Planning Department's inability to enforce Durham's laws doesn't end there. Way back in the spring, the folks at 1707 Avondale Dr. began to construct an addition to their house, visible only in the back. Since no permit or inspections placards were posted on the site, and the addition was as large as the main building, with a separate entrance, i emailed the Planning Department inspector to ask whether or not building a duplex on that site was permitted under our current zoning.

Never heard back.

I made a few followup emails to the supervisor of zoning inspectors. Here's the email i got in response:
1707 Avondale: The owner stated he has installed a new roof and not converted his home to a duplex. Inspections did not respond to me that they are aware of any violations at this address.

Got that? The Planning Department investigated whether or not zoning violations were taking place at 1707 Avondale by asking the owner.

Here's the photo of 1707 Avondale that the city has in its GIS database with a 2005 tag:

Now, here's a screen grab from Google Maps taken this month:

Is it a duplex? I sure as hell don't know. But it's at least as big a footprint as the original building. And i suppose you could call it a new roof, if you neglect to mention the 900 or so square feet that are under the new roof.

But wait, there's more.

That's a carport being turned into a garage by means of a cinder block foundation and plywood siding. It sure looks pretty close to the edge of the property line if you ask me, but i'm not a Planning Department inspector, so i can't tell you whether or not it violates the zoning codes. Unfortunately, neither can the Planning Department, because as far as they're concerned the only thing going on at 1707 Avondale is a new roof.

Oh, and did i mention that the backyard at 1707 is a parking lot also? I didn't? Well, i guess they ran out of room after parking 5 vehicles in the front of the house.

Maybe after Avondale Drive turns into another completely blighted district of the city we'll have people in various departments holding meetings and throwing money around trying to solve intractable problems and coming up with redevelopment plans. In the meantime, with just some unlicensed businesses, unpermitted construction, and a murderer or two on the block, there's no point getting too worked up about the state of things, is there? Just make sure your graphic design business doesn't take up more than 300 square feet in your 1200 square foot house. Because then you'll get busted for sure.

UPDATE: i'm pushing this to the top of the blog through Wednesday for any city folk who happen to stop by to read it.

UPDATE II: We had an officer stop by on Monday afternoon and tell us that the syringe really wasn't going to be useful as evidence. He recommended that we toss it in the trash. I told him i didn't think that was a good idea, since it's hazardous medical waste. Following some advice i got from the post i made to the PAC2 list, i dropped it off at a fire station near Mrs. D's mom's place. Hopefully, they got it to the EMT people to dispose of with the rest of the hazardous medical waste.

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Continue reading Ummm, a little help please?

Start spreadin' the news

Thanks to Michael, i learned that Durham has the best public school system in the state of North Carolina.

Yeah, really.

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Continue reading Start spreadin' the news

Really good customer service

At the risk of damaging my reputation as a world class whiner, i want to call attention to a company that lived up to its promises.

I bought a pepper mill and salt shaker earlier this year at Costco. Just when i was getting ready to refill the mill, it broke. The grinding mechanism completely fell apart. I went to Olde Thompson's website:
What is the guarantee policy?
If, at any time, your Olde Thompson grinding mechanism fails to give complete grinding satisfaction, simply mail the mill with your name and address to our customer Service Department,and it will be repaired or replaced without charge. Damage to body or finish caused by accident or improper use is not covered.

So i sent the mill back with my return address a couple of weeks ago. On Saturday, a replacement mill arrived. With a matching salt shaker. Both of them filled. No questions asked.

Just good timely customer service, over and above what was promised.

That really shouldn't seem so strange, should it?


Continue reading Really good customer service

Dissing Durham

I think my last couple of posts show that i'm not above dissing Durham when i see things that don't make sense, or get frustrated with a government bureaucracy that sometimes doesn't seem like it's interested in doing its job.

But dammit, when things are right in Durham, Durham should get credit for it.
Cooking Live
Episode CL9606

Family Affairs: Magnolia Grill
Our Family Affairs week continues with the dynamic duo, Karen and Ben Barker. They'll be making delicious recipes from the renowned Magnolia Grill in Chapel Hill, NC.

When did the Magnolia Grill move to Chapel Hill?

(h/t to reader TM)

UPDATE: If i'd done a little more research before hitting the publish button, i'd have noted that this show is no longer in production. But they could update the description anyway.


Continue reading Dissing Durham

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Sunday morning church marquee blogging

Highway 70, Hillsborough , NC


Continue reading Sunday morning church marquee blogging

Friday, December 21, 2007

Speaking of list serves

From my neighborhood list serve earlier today:
My mom, who is at our house on XXXXXXX babysitting, just called to tell me that police are everywhere because there were two fugitives running around XXXXXXX (no outlet side). Apparently shots were fired and one person was caught, but the other is still at large. A cell phone from one of the fugitives was found in our backyard. If anyone has more info on the situation, please share. Just wanted to let people know. Pretty unsettling.

Response from DPD's Sgt. Gunter:
The Police Department raided a house there earlier today. There were NO shots fired, that big boom was a distraction device used upon entry. Nothing to worry about.
Sgt. Gunter

Can't wait to hear to the details on that one. By the way, XXXXXXX St. is my block. Doesn't look like it was my house.

UPDATE: Some details here. I've gotten some info from the PD over and above what's in the paper. Today's a hugely busy day getting ready for the holidays and all that, but i'll be sharing some thoughts about this over the weekend as time allows. And yes, this is one of the houses about which i've written extensively over the past year. We'll see if anything good comes out of this.

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Continue reading Speaking of list serves

List serves

I think i subscribe to around a dozen Durham email lists. Most of these are neighborhood based, and generally eschew politics and controversy (at least the one i moderate does, which is one reason i really need to have a blog). The PAC2 list is theoretically devoted to crime and crime prevention issues.

But there's a fair bit of good info that moves across these lists, enough so that i wish some of the people who post a disproportionate amount of that good stuff would start to blog (hint to JS).

Here's a piece that came across the Bike and Ped list this week, that i would otherwise have missed:
“Step on a sidewalk or try crossing any street here, and chances are you’ll instantly feel like the prey of a safari hunt,” said Vassilis Theodorou of the Hellenic Association of Road Traffic Victim Support. “This is the only place in Europe where the golden traffic rule — that pedestrians have the unconditional right of way — is so brazenly disrespected.”

In Athens alone, swarms of scooters race down crowded sidewalks. Pedestrians struggle to circumnavigate construction debris, torn-up pavement and mounds of refuse. The greatest impediment, however, is the fleet of vehicles that each day mount the city’s approximately 1,200 miles of tree-lined sidewalks or other walkways to park.

To deter violators, the authorities blocked off the sidewalks with some 50,000 steel columns in preparation for the 2004 Olympics. But since then, drivers complaining of not enough parking places have rammed, removed or ruined most of them.

“The drivers aren’t to blame,” said Christos Akritidis, the deputy mayor of Athens. “We, the authorities, are responsible for applying Band-Aid solutions, than setting up a coordinating commission to effectively deal with the city’s traffic problem.”

With an estimated two million vehicles in the city, Athens has the European Union’s highest per capita car ownership, Mr. Akritidis said, with 450 cars registered for every 1,000 residents.

A string of new traffic measures, including high fines, designated parking areas and campaigns to discourage driving in favor of mass transit, biking and walking, have eased the plight of pedestrians somewhat.

Still, activists argue, no solution can succeed without effective enforcement of traffic regulations, and a change in the Greeks’ lackadaisical mind-set.

The article goes on to note that in France, letting the air out of tires of vehicles that violate pedestrians' rights is not illegal, as long as the car isn't damaged in the process. An ad hoc group called "The Deflated" has been doing just that.

One thing i've been trying to figure out is just where Durham would compare with the figures of vehicle ownership cited for Athens. Athens has 45 vehicles per 100 residents, and i'm assuming that's an overall number including residents under 16. Best i can find is US DOT figures for North Carolina as a whole, which are about 6.5 million vehicles for about 10 million residents, and Census Bureau figures for Durham which show that about 75,000 of our 100,000 strong work force commutes in a single occupancy vehcile. I'm going to guess when all is said and done that our vehicle registrations are going to end up being about 100,000 for a city of about 225,000, or a registration density similar to that described for Athens. Obviously, parking is not the problem here as it is there. But that doesn't mean that pedestrians are any safer here.

Let's hope that our city officials start allocating the funds to implement our pedestrian plan before things get to the point where people start taking matters into their own hands.

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Continue reading List serves

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Scary, and kinda sad

I don't know about you, but my first thought when i saw this headline was "Whose?"
Iraq 'torture complex' discovered

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Continue reading Scary, and kinda sad

State's rights

Remember that little brouhaha about state's rights awhile back?

Turns out it wasn't about state's rights after all.
The 17 states — including New York, New Jersey and Connecticut — had waited two years for the Bush administration to issue a ruling on an application to set stricter air quality standards than those adopted by the federal government. The decision, technically known as a Clean Air Act waiver, was the first time California was refused permission to impose its own pollution rules; the federal government had previously granted the state more than 50 waivers.

The emissions standards California proposed in 2004 — but never approved by the federal government — would have forced automakers to cut greenhouse gas emissions by 30 percent in new cars and light trucks by 2016, with the cutbacks to begin in 2009 models.

That would have translated into roughly 43 miles per gallon for cars and some light trucks and about 27 miles per gallon for heavier trucks and sport utility vehicles.

The new federal law will require automakers to meet a 35-mile-per-gallon fleetwide standard for cars and trucks sold in the United States by 2020. It does not address carbon dioxide emissions, but such emissions would be reduced as cars were forced to become more fuel efficient.

Seventeen states, including California and New York, accounting for over half of all vehicles purchased in the US, want to set stricter emissions limits on automobiles than the feds. Conservatives in the federal government won't allow it. Where's the outcry among state's rights advocates?

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Discussing with some other local bloggers, seems we've all noticed various marketing materials around town for a website called

Here's one of the their features:
Itemize your receipts to catalog what you own; then look at what other people are buying.

You've got to be shitting me. I want to put my purchasing habits out there for total strangers to amuse themselves with? What kind of moron thinks this is a selling point?

But wait, there's more!

Toastie (who started all of this) has unearthed a recent comment over at Blazer's place (yeah, leaving comments at defunct websites strikes me as a little necrophiliac, too) that might link Shoeboxed with a place called Which may or may not be affiliated with the We Want Oprah! campaign, or it might just be another joke.

Inquiring minds want to know.

Meanwhile, does anybody think sharing your receipts with the world at large is a good idea?

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Herald Sun comments are back

Kevin noted earlier this month that the HS was experimenting with comments from readers on certain stories, but that experiment didn't last too long.

As of this morning, at least on a couple of stories, comments have been re-enabled.

Should be fun.


Continue reading Herald Sun comments are back

Happy Birthday, Billy Bragg!

Billy Bragg turns 50 today, and i thought i'd celebrate by counting down my favorite Billy verses from the past 20+ years. I wanted to choose a top 10, but that turned out to be too hard. So here's 21 of 'em. Song titles in italics, album titles in parentheses.

Billy's website is here. Go buy some stuff.

He was trapped in a haircut he no longer believed in
She said "I'm a teacher here. I teach the children."
--King James Version (William Bloke)

They're out there making history
In the Lenin Shipyards today
And here I am in the Hammersmith Hotel
Wishing the days away
--Wishing the Days Away (Talking with the Taxman About Poetry)

Mixing Pop and Politics he asks me what the use is
I offer him embarrassment and my usual excuses
--Great Leap Forward (Worker's Playtime)

I flew with them over the Great Wen till I had seen my fill
Of such poverty and misery sure to tear my soul apart
I've got a socialism of the heart
--Upfield (William Bloke)

I don't feel bad about letting you go
I just feel sad about letting you know
--A New England (Life's a Riot with Spy v Spy)

Money speaks for money, the Devil for his own
Who comes to speak for the skin and the bone?
--Power in a Union (Talking with the Taxman About Poetry)

You know your moods just make me want to throw up
Why don't you just bloody well grow up?
--Sulk (Reaching to the Converted)

I had an uncle who once played for Red Star Belgrade
He said some things are really left best unspoken
But I prefer it all to be out in the open
--Sexuality (Don't try this at Home)

They are testing the air raid sirens
They've filled up the blood banks and emptied the beds
At the hospital and the asylum
--Rumours of War (Don't try this at Home)

I said there is no justice
As they led me out of the door
And the Judge said, "This isn't a court of justice, son
This is a court of law."
--Rotting on Remand (Worker's Playtime)

People say that we're a perfect match
They don't realise that there's a catch
They don't have to live with you, forgive you for the things you do
There's just no ignoring, you're pretty but you're boring
--Everybody Loves You Babe (William Bloke)

And there's only two teams in this town
And you must follow one or the other
Let us win, let them lose, not the other way round
In a northern industrial town
--Northern Industrial Town (William Bloke)

So drag me to the altar
And I'll make my sacrifice
Love is just a moment of giving
And marriage is when we admit our parents were right
--The Marriage (Talking with the Taxman About Poetry)

Oh look out, my country's patriots are hunting down below
What do they know of England who only England know
--The Few (Don't try this at Home)

Goodbye and good luck to all the rubbish that you've spoken
Goodbye and good luck to all the promises you've broken
Your life has lost its dignity, its beauty and its passion
You're an accident waiting to happen
--Accident Waiting to Happen (Don't Try This at Home)

Outside the patient millions who put them into power
Expect a little more back for their taxes
Like school books, beds in hospitals and peace in our bloody time
All they get is old men grinding axes
--Ideology (Talking with the Taxman About Poetry)

How can you lie there and think of England
When you don't even know who's in the team?
--Shirley (Talking with the Taxman About Poetry)

I know people whose idea of fun
Is throwing stones in the river in the afternoon sun
Oh let me be as free as them
--The Warmest Room (Talking with the Taxman About Poetry)

He has a lack of humility that defies imagination
And he hangs round like a fart in a Russian space station
--Goalhanger (William Bloke)

As we grow old I'm sure
There will be moments that we will not forget
But I would remember something of the moment that we met
--The Fourteenth of February (William Bloke)

I'm celebrating my love for you
With a pint of beer and a new tattoo
--Shirley (Talking with the Taxman About Poetry)

And there you have it. Welcome the best songwriter of the past 25 years to the half century club.


Continue reading Happy Birthday, Billy Bragg!

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Trusted media

CHICAGO Tribune Co. will pay $15 million to settle a federal criminal fraud investigation into a five-year scheme to artificially inflate the circulations of Newsday and the New York edition of the Spanish-language daily Hoy, U.S. prosecutors in Long Island announced late Tuesday.

"In light of, among other things, the newspapers' acceptance of responsibility for the fraudulent conduct in which they and their employees engaged, their ongoing cooperation with the government, the newspapers' payment of approximately $83 million in restitution to their advertisers to date, and the implementation of remedial management and internal auditing reforms designed to prevent circulation-reporting fraud from recurring, the government has agreed not to prosecute the newspapers for their participation in the scheme," said the announcement by federal authorities.

I'm sure both of my readers will appreciate the irony of this story.


Continue reading Trusted media

Things i'd be writing about today if i wasn't sick and up to my ears in work

Chris Dodd on Countdown last night.

Ryan McFaddyen sues the City of Durham and Duke University. Yeah, that Ryan McFadyen.

New Durham Magazine generates discussion over "improper usage of a colon." (Context, as i think one of my English professors once said, is everything. Or maybe it was Virginia Woolf. I no longer remember.)

Maybe i'll be recovered enough tonight to express some coherent thoughts.

Meanwhile, feel free to talk amongst yourselves.

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Continue reading Things i'd be writing about today if i wasn't sick and up to my ears in work

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

What's up with Fishmonger's?

I was a little disappointed last Friday to walk up to the 'Schmong for my regular oysters and beer session and see a sign on the door saying they were closed for a couple of days to (i'm not making this up) spend more time with the family.

There were signs of perhaps a redecorating project being undertaken as well, but the note promised a Sunday reopening.

Today's note is a little different.
Obviously, Monday has come and gone, and looking through the window, it doesn't look like much progress has been made on the repainting front. Last year around this time there was a rumor that the place was in the process of being sold. That didn't pan out, but i've counted every Friday afternoon i've spent upstairs since as a bonus. I'm hearing different rumors this time (which, as a responsible blogger i've decided not to reprint) which don't give me a good feeling. Anybody with the real skinny care to enlighten us as to what the New Year will bring at one of my favorite dives?

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Continue reading What's up with Fishmonger's?

Drought watch

Saturday's rain, about an inch and a half throughout the Triangle, had no appreciable affect on Durham water supplies. INflows at Lake Michie, for example, barely reached 10 cfs, compared to the median of about 65 cfs for this time of year, recorded over the past 81 years. There's now 39 days of "easily accessible" water left in the reservoirs, down from 45 last week. The only good news is that the connection to the Teer Quarry resrvoir should be online inthe next week or so, adding about a month's worth of water to the system. The number of Stage IV exemptions has grown to 19 this week. An exemption allows an organization to do things like use outdoor watering systems or wash vehicles provided "it can be shown to the manager's satisfaction that the licensee's use of water will result in an overall fifty (50) percent or greater reduction in water use." We assume that the golf courses and country clubs with exemptions are simply not watering anywhere near as much as over the summer in order to meet the 50% reduction. Duke University remains conspicuous by its absence from the list of Stage Iv exemptions.

There's a chance of rain in the forecast for the weekend. Let's hope for an early Christmas present of a real gully washer


Continue reading Drought watch

Traffic circle blogging

The crow says "Happy Holidays."


Continue reading Traffic circle blogging

Monday, December 17, 2007

More emails

Dear Barry,

Majority Leader Harry Reid just pulled the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act from the floor of the Senate, only moments ago.

What does this mean?

Well, first, it will come back up again in January after the recess. We'll continue the fight against ANY bill that includes retroactive immunity.

As Chris Dodd just said on the floor, "If it's not [stripped], I'll be back here engaging in this very same effort."

Second, this is what leadership that delivers results look like. It's been a while, but you saw it on display all day on the floor of the Senate.

A leader who stands on principle. And a leader who can turn that principle into results.

Finally, this is evidence of what grassroots advocacy along with real leadership can accomplish.

We'll keep up the fight in the White House, and I'm sure you'll be there right by Chris Dodd's side the entire way.

We'll have updates all night at if you want to drop by and share your thoughts or send a message to Senator Dodd.

They can hear us now,

Tim Tagaris
Proud to work for Chris Dodd for President

Well, that's how it's done.

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Continue reading More emails

Best line of the week

Watching TV with Mrs. D. A commercial for Robitussin comes on.

Me - I guess mucus is the big marketing word this season.

Mrs. D. - No, it's not.

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Continue reading Best line of the week

Royal Ice Cream sit-in to get highway marker

Via email from community activist John Schelp:
This afternoon, the State marker commission in Raleigh
voted to erect a State marker in Durham for the 1957
Royal Ice Cream sit-in.

The Durham delegation, led by R. Kelly Bryant and
Virginia Williams, did us all proud.

The N&O notes:
The new marker will be just the state's fourth commemorating a civil rights event. In all, more than 1,500 historic markers dot the state's highways, each denoting a person, place or event that members of this committee -- a revolving collection of history professors from across North Carolina -- have deemed of statewide significance.

Only four events in the history of the civil rights movement in the state of North Carolina are worth remembering? That can't really be true, can it?

UPDATE: More from N&O and Herald-Sun. The H-S story notes the approved text of the new marker:
"Segregation protest at an ice cream parlor on this site, June 23, 1957, led to court case testing dual racial facilities."

Got to say that seems a bit weak to me.

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Continue reading Royal Ice Cream sit-in to get highway marker

Left hand, meet right hand

Eric Ferrari at the N&O's Bull's Eye blog writes:
If you see smoke today at N.C. Central University, fear not!

The university is testing its sewer lines by forcing smoke into them using a motorized blower. Smoke that escapes will reveal breaks and defects in the sewer lines.

To prevent smoke from entering classrooms and office buildings, people are urged to pour a gallon of water into every sink, tub and floor drain that doesn't receive regular use.

Good timing, that


Continue reading Left hand, meet right hand


From Chris Dodd:
Dear Barry,

It's pretty amazing when you think about it...

Countless bad bills and threats of Republican filibusters, and the first one of the new majority will be carried out by a Democrat in defense of the Constitution.

Make no mistake about it, if the Senate passes retroactive immunity for telecommunications companies, it is approving the further shredding of our Constitution, and making a mockery of the rule of law.

And the sad thing is, it probably will pass.

That's why Chris Dodd has pledged to filibuster the bill, an effort that will begin later today.

Please sign-up at the link below and stand with Chris Dodd as he stands for all of us on the floor of the Senate.

The time for talk is over (unless you're Chris Dodd, for whom it's just beginning), and only action counts now.

No more press releases about how bad retroactive immunity is.

We're going to need all hands on deck voting to find 41 votes against retroactive immunity in the Senate.

And Chris Dodd will buy us the time to get there as he is prepared to filibuster later today.

Will you stand with Dodd as he stands with us to defend the Constitution?

Democrats were elected to stand up to the President, end the war and restore the Constitution.

Enough is enough.

Tim Tagaris
Chris Dodd for President

P.S. Please be sure to sound-off at any of the links above. When you're done, call your Senators and ask them to vote NO on any bill that contains retroactive immunity.

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Continue reading Emails

"There's one last favor I'll ask of you . . .

See that my grave is kept clean."

Gary's got the scoop.

Continue reading "There's one last favor I'll ask of you . . .

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Everything i need to know about life i learned from watching Coen Brothers movies

If you stumble across a whole lot of someone else's money, best to leave it alone*.

One time back in, i think, 1980, i was walking in uptown Manhattan with a woman i was dating, and we passed a man sitting in a doorway, apparently passed out, with a large stack of bills between his feet. She poked me, but i declined the opportunity. At the time, i was thinking the worst that would happen would be that i would end up in some sociology grad student's thesis about human behavior.

Now, i'm not so sure.

*Suggested by Mrs D. after seeing their latest.


Continue reading Everything i need to know about life i learned from watching Coen Brothers movies

Sunday morning church marquee blogging

Guess Rd., Durham, NC


Continue reading Sunday morning church marquee blogging

Friday, December 14, 2007

Tough call

Of all the "controversial issues" that our body politic wrestles with, capital punishment is the one that i have the most difficulty settling on a "position." Every time i come 'round to thinking that the state simply cannot be allowed to possess the right to take the life of its citizens, someone goes out and commits a crime so heinous that i can't imagine that person being allowed to continue breathing.

Our execution rituals reflect this ambivalence, i think. Three executioners, only one with the live bullet, none knowing if it's their shot or their switch that sends the lethal dose through the IV. Presumably so they can each sleep at night with a clear conscience.

Because it is, literally, a life or death issue, it's not amenable to a rational solution. Our visceral reactions to certain crimes have to be allowed to have some part in the discussion. To argue, for example, that's it's much more expensive to execute someone than to keep them in prison for life is not convincing, simply because it wouldn't be all that difficult to change that financial equation in the other direction. Similarly, statistical evidence on the deterrent effect of capital punishment can't be the deciding factor. Texas, which by any available metric executes more people than any other state, is constantly adding to its death row population, but other studies have shown a drop in the rate of capital crimes after reintroduction of the death penalty.

Ultimately, it's a moral choice. And the key question to answer when making that choice is this: Are justice and vengeance synonymous?

"There is no doubt whatsoever that those criminals now sitting on death row are guilty*," said Assemblyman Richard Merkt, a Republican. "Yet their lives are being spared in the name of justice. Tell me then, where is the justice for Megan Kanka and her family?"

What Merkt is really saying, it seems to me, is that without "an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth, a life for a life," what you have is not justice. It's an appealing notion. But justice, i think, is not vengeance, and does not demand equivalency. That kind of equivalency makes killers of us all, and i'm not willing to sanction that it's the function of the state to make that choice on my behalf. And so, it appears, are the legislators of the State of New Jersey. Expect more demagoguery like that quoted above from death penalty supporters. We'll see next year if it's politically effective.

At least that's the way i feel today. Ask me again after certain political leaders have been found guilty by war crime tribunals of crimes against humanity.

* Let's assume this is true and avoid for the moment the argument that mistakes can be, and are often, made in determining guilt or innocence. My point is that even under a system in which guilt or innocence can be determined perfectly, the death penalty would still be wrong.


Continue reading Tough call

Thursday, December 13, 2007


On the off chance that you get your dose of liberalism here, and not from one of the big boys and girls, you really should know about this.

Not that you have to watch it or anything, but you should be aware of its existence, in that kind of mad aunt in the attic way.

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Continue reading Abomination!

Beer + Food = Good

Mrs D and i were fortunate enough to indulge ourselves last night in JuJuBe's 6 course paired beer dinner. While i'm generally content to leave food blogging to the experts, i didn't notice any of them in attendance.

The set up was a long row of tables for two, some pushed together to make four places, some not, and a round table off to the side that sat 8 people; so 26 people all together. I kinda like the round table idea better because you'd get to converse with more than just your immediate table mates (we didn't know anybody else there.) But as we were seated with James, the beer host for the evening, we got lots of inside information. There were a couple of other fans of Sam's Blue Light in attendance as well.

for the most part, the pairings worked very well, especially the mussels and the Golden Ale, the won ton and the Abbey Dubbel, and the dessert course, which was great. Minor quibbles - the aioli was a bit too salty for my taste (garlic would have been just fine; mussels and garlic go together like Lemmon and Matthau); the Grand Cru is a very sour, cherry infused ale that i think overpowered the more delicate flavors in the pork loin. I wouldn't mind trying it again with some baby back ribs that brought a little more smoke and sweetness to the table.

But as i say, those are minor quibbles. The fennel mussels were exceptional, and virtually everything else was great. I've been urged on numerous occasions to check out JuJuBe; now that i have i'm hoping to save up for a return trip for one of Charlie's Tuesday night chef's tables.


Continue reading Beer + Food = Good

Paging Solid Waste Dep't

Give the man a new trash can. Stop acting like fools.

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Continue reading Paging Solid Waste Dep't


The RIAA. I suppose they'll consider driving recorded music sales all the way down to zero a success.

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Continue reading Morons

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Young Mr. Bush

I got home from dinner last night (a lovely dinner, by the way, with many members of the Durham blogging community at a venerable Durham institution, the Pizza Palace) to find my daughter watching the classic John Ford movie, Young Mr. Lincoln.

I came in on the scene where young Abe the defense attorney (played by the finest American screen actor of the 20th century Henry Fonda) is getting the prosecution witness John Peter Cass to admit that names don't matter much. "Well, then i suppose i'll just call you Jack Cass," says Abe, in what must surely have been a daring line for a 1939 audience.

And that got me thinking about stories. I have no way of knowing how much of Young Mr. Lincoln is real and how much is made up. Or in today's vernacular, how much truthiness there is in the story. What matters is that this is the way, once upon a time, we told ourselves that true American heroes behaved, defending the downtrodden and weak at great personal sacrifice.

What, one wonders, will the Young Mr. Bush movie look like?


Continue reading Young Mr. Bush

Proposed text for "Royal Ice Cream Sit-in" marker

Advocates of a historical marker commemorating the 1957 Royal Ice Cream Parlor sit-in have released proposed text for the marker. They're seeking feedback at teh addresses listed below.
"1957 Sit-In at the Royal Ice Cream Parlor. Seven citizens challenged the traditions and the laws of racial segregation by moving from the 'colored' section to the 'white' section of a restaurant at this site on June 23, 1957. Police arrested the citizens. The Recorders Court and Superior Court found them guilty of trespass. The North Carolina Supreme Court upheld the conviction and United States Supreme Court denied additional appeals. Nevertheless, the Royal Ice Cream Sit-In, along with earlier acts of civil disobedience, subsequent demonstrations, and the passage of federal civil rights laws, helped to create a reformed legal and social respect for diversity and inclusion in North Carolina and in the United States."

Comments on the proposed text can be sent to R. Kelly Bryant (rkbryantjr AT aol DOT com) or Eddie Davis III (edavis3 AT aol DOT com).

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Continue reading Proposed text for "Royal Ice Cream Sit-in" marker

Idle musings

It's interesting that the two stories posted about Patrick Baker's move from the manager's office to the attorney's office here yesterday, and the two stories that Kevin posted about same, have attracted a grand total of two comments, one at each of our sites.

I think this story is a pretty big deal, and i know that a number of the principals involved read both of our blogs. I'd have thought at least one of those posts would have generated more discussion.

Perhaps if Patrick had announced that he was going to become a partner in a new downtown restaurant that specializes in osso buco you all would have had more to say?

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Continue reading Idle musings

Things i know nothing about

I've never felt that being an expert on something is a prerequisite to having an opinion (and clearly this whole interweb thing shows that a lot of people share that view). When it comes to the CIA torture tape destruction, i've been content to read the people who really do know what they're talking about.

But here's a thought. Surely i can't be the only person in the world who refuses to believe that not a single copy of these tapes was made by anyone and squirreled off someplace to be released to the world at an inopportune moment, can i? I mean, humans are a species that can't even eliminate the last vestiges of smallpox. Someone burned a copy of those tapes onto a DVD somehere, dontcha think?

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Continue reading Things i know nothing about

Pass the popcorn

Republican presidential candidate Mike Huckabee said he considers his rival Mitt Romney's Mormon faith a religion, not a cult, but questioned whether Mormons believe "Jesus and the devil are brothers."

Huckabee raised the question on his own in an interview to appear in The New York Times magazine on Sunday, and ignited a new flap in the up-for-grabs race to be the Republican Party's nominee in the November 2008 presidential election.

Huckabee was asked if he considered Mormonism a cult or a religion. "I think it's a religion," he said in the interview, published on the newspaper's Web site on Wednesday. "I really don't know much about it."

Then he asked: "Don't Mormons believe that Jesus and the devil are brothers?"



Continue reading Pass the popcorn

Hillandale Road widening project

I haven't made up my mind on this project yet, but some tidbits in Carolyn Rickard's article in the Herald Sun caught my eye.
The $10.9 million project would widen Hillandale Road from three lanes to four and add a concrete median from north of I-85 to a little beyond Carver Street.

Businesses and residents along the road have objected, saying the median prevents customers -- and businesses -- from coming into the already struggling Loehmann's Plaza. The commissioners say the widening of the street would cut into wooded areas along parts of the road that buffer neighborhoods.

"There's a lot to think about," said Ellen Reckhow, chairwoman of the commissioners. "There's a mesh of businesses and offices, but you still have single-family homes that will be affected."

The commissioners plan to send a letter to the Transportation Department engineers, citing their concerns. They -- and some 400 residents and business owners who signed a petition on the issue -- say no median is needed. They believe the road would do just as well with five lanes, with a turn lane in the center instead of a median.

First of all, a five lane wide road with a center-left turn lane is just as wide, if not wider, than a four lane road with a median. So if you favor that option, then stop wasting your time talking about buffers or woods. Second, take a look at Guess Rd., from Carver all the way up to Horton. Five nice smooth wide lanes for about 1.6 miles with nothing to slow you down at all. No wonder the median speed on that road is something like 47 mph. No wonder there's already been a high school student struck by a car and killed while walking to school.

People really need to get out of the mindset that they have an inherent right to make a left turn from their driveways onto roads of whatever size. If the Hillandale project goes through, of course there will be cuts in the median. I'd be willing to bet that the median gets landsaped as well to match the existing medians just north and south of I-85.

The lesson here is to be careful what you wish for. You just might get it.

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Continue reading Hillandale Road widening project

Argument from personal incredulity

It's amazing to me how often people make what the evolutionary biologist Richard Dawkins has referred to as "the argument from personal incredulity." Especially in public. Especially on fourth rate blogs like this one, where it sometimes takes the form "I'm still waiting for these same climate "scientists" to tell us why the ozone hole over the antarctic got BIGGER after they banned CFCs. When they figure that one out they can claim to predict the weather 100 years into the future." (The answer is here, by the way. Google is not that hard to use.) Discussing climate change is, of course, a competely distinct endeavor from "predicting the weather." But you can't really expect someone who's willing to put their ignorance on display like that to get it.

It's kind of painful and amusing to watch, in exactly the same way that Eating Raoul is.


Continue reading Argument from personal incredulity

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Best line of the week

At a blogger's dinner, discussing pets and plants.

Me: My rubber tree died this week. Just, all the leaves fell off and it died.

Joe: Oh, don't worry. Maybe it'll bounce back.


Continue reading Best line of the week

A few quick thoughts on the city manager announcement

First, i'm not privy to any of the internal deliberations of council, but from reading the accounts in the Herald-Sun and the N&O, as well as Kevin's speculations at BCR, some things are apparent.

That Patrick Baker didn't have the confidence of the council was made clear earlier this week. I wrote then that i thought that situation was "inherently unstable." I didn't realize how quickly that assessment would prove to be accurate. I think there's a certain amount of fudging in the public statements from council members and from Baker, but i don't think it really pays any benefits to air that laundry publicly. Whether the notion of Baker returning to the attorney's office originated with him or with council is irrelevant in the long term.

I think Patrick has done an overall good job, given the constraints he's had to operate under, and i expect that he will be a stellar city attorney for Durham for many years to come.

Ray Gronberg brings up the idea in the HS story referenced above, that some in city government, particularly Mayor Bill Bell, are considering the possibility of having the Durham charter rewritten to get rid of the Council/City Manager system, and institute what's often called the "strong mayor" system, in which the mayor functions as the chief executive of the city, and not merely the chair of the City Council. Personally, i prefer that system over the one we have now, especially since it's been a decade at least since we've had a manager who has the authority to, you know, manage. However, it would be difficult if not impossible to have voters approve that change for any sitting mayor. I think if Bill Bell wants to leave Durham with the legacy of a strong mayor position, he'd probably have to announce that he wasn't interested in retaining the office after his current term.

The problem with that, of course, is that the city now has to go out and hire a good, no make that a damn good, city manager in the next 6 months. If you know that the current mayor is thinking about eliminating the manager's position in favor of a strong mayor, why would you even consider taking the job? So i think Bill Bell, and anyone else in favor of the strong mayor system, needs to step right up to the plate and say yea or nay that this is the direction they want the city to go in, or run the risk of interfering with the process of hiring a new manager.

One of the things that Patrick Baker did really well, in my opinion, and especially in contrast with his predecessor, was oversee the hiring of Durham's new police chief, Jose Lopez. Not only was the process fair and transparent, but i really think that Baker made far and away the best choice for Durham. I hope he is allowed to have a significant input into the hiring of his replacement.

UPDATE: Kevin's thoughts here.

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Continue reading A few quick thoughts on the city manager announcement

Patrick Baker to replace outgoing City Attorney Henry Blinder - confirmed

That's what Ray Gronberg is saying over at the Herald Sun in a story datelined tomorrow. A very interesting development. Baker was one of Blinder's assistants when he was tapped to replace Marcia Connor 3 years ago, who had even less of the confidence of the Council than Baker seems to have now.

If true, the main question will be whether or not the Council hires a manager with the experience to not require the kind of oversight some members seem to think is necessary; someone who has the trust necessary to make the executive level decisions that often need to be made between Council sessions.

I'll wait and see how it plays out later this afternoon before i spew forth with a remarkably uninformed and completely un-nuanced opinion on this potentially fascinating development.

: Kevin has some interesting and timely thoughts about City Council.

UPDATE II: City press release:
Durham City Manager Patrick W. Baker announced today his intentions to transition to the Durham City Attorney position in June, following completion of the City’s budget process. Baker, who has been city manager since 2004, will fill the position being vacated by Henry Blinder, who recently announced his retirement as city attorney effective January 25, 2008.

“Serving as city manager for the past three years has been a great experience and has enabled me to serve the community at a fantastic time in its development,” Baker said. “The timing of this morning’s State of Durham’s Economy address was fortuitous in that it punctuated many of the highlights that I am proud to say have taken place during my time as city manager – downtown redevelopment is taking off with more than almost a billion dollars of investment, and the streetscape and downtown plaza was completed; our downtown neighborhoods are being revitalized; Minor League Baseball is coming town and the Durham Performing Arts Center is set to become a reality – on time and on budget. I am proud to have been a part of a great time in Durham’s history and to have worked with such a talented and dedicated group of employees. Serving as the city attorney is a great professional opportunity that will also allow me to spend much-needed time with my family.”

“Patrick has served Durham well, and Council is pleased that he will continue with the City as the city attorney,” said Durham Mayor William V. “Bill” Bell. “Having served as the assistant city attorney for eight years, Patrick is well suited to lead the department, and we look forward to his continued leadership in that area.”

Bell said that Council will begin the search for a new city manager immediately and, working closely with the City’s Human Resource Department, will outsource the actual search process. Karen A. Sindelar, an assistant city attorney in the City Attorney’s Office, will become interim city attorney effective January 25, and will earn $150,000.

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Continue reading Patrick Baker to replace outgoing City Attorney Henry Blinder - confirmed

Stage IV water use exemptions

The city has now published a list of businesses and other entities that have been given exemptions from the outdoor watering and other restrictions in effect under Stage IV mandatory water reductions efforts.

It's significantly shorter than the Stage III list, which had 80 some exemptions. According to the city's website, entities are granted the exemption "if it can be shown to the manager's satisfaction that the licensee's use of water will result in an overall fifty (50) percent or greater reduction in water use. (Emphasis added. For informational purposes, the reduction needed to be 30% to get a Stage III exemption. The 50% figure applies to Stage IV)

We've been trying for quite some time to get the city to confirm that all of the Stage III exempt entities had, in fact, reduced their consumption by 30%. We never did get a definitive answer.

The fact that 90% of the Stage III exempt entities have either not applied for or not yet been granted Stage IV exemptions may be significant. The most conspicuous absence is Duke University, whose exemption in order to water artifical surface athletic fields generated a lot of controversy on local email lists. We can only assume that the playing season is over, and the fields are on their own until the rains return.


Continue reading Stage IV water use exemptions

"Premature and inappropriate"

According to the Herald-Sun, that's how Durham County Commissioner Ellen Reckhow described a proposal to hold off approving a rezoning application for a 400 acre mixed used development in southwest Durham.

Maybe so. The approximately 2730 new residents will use about 327,000 gallons of water per day, an increase of about 1.4% over current usage. They'll be moving in in about 2 years.

Surely it will be raining more regularly by then, no?

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Continue reading "Premature and inappropriate"


Cornerback DeAngelo Hall ran on the field during pregame introductions holding up a Vick poster and had "MV7" painted beneath his eyes. Roddy White hauled in a 33-yard touchdown pass that briefly tied the game at 7, then pulled up his jersey to reveal a T-shirt that said "Free Mike Vick."

ESPN didn't earn any bonus points by spending so much time on the few Vick jersey wearing fans in the crowd. He did the crime, he can do the time. And the NFL could do its part by helping to crack down on dog fighting supporters who surely remain in the league.

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Continue reading Disgusting

Monday, December 10, 2007

Media watching

I really don't have the time to be a full time media critic. It's also not terribly rewarding, unless your name is Howard Kurtz.

Here's the N&O's Nation/World page.

Here's the Herald-Sun's.

What's missing from the latter? (Hint - the John Locke Foundation would probably approve.)

By the way, you can find the missing report on the H-S site, you just have to search for it.

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Continue reading Media watching

Luminarias out this year? - see updates below

NBC-17 reported last week that the state's ban on outdoor burning and open fires more than 100 feet from an occupied dwelling was being interpreted to include luminaria, the holiday season display that many neighborhoods in Durham participate in. Informally known as the Night of Lights, luminaria (which are basically votive or tea candles in white paper bags weighted with sand) line streets, walkways and driveways throughout the city.

Luminaria in Duke Park, December 2002, photo by Andrew Preiss

Word is circulating now that Durham Fire Marshall Kenneth Crews has extended the ban to all luminaria within the city. If confirmed, that's a bit of depressing news, although i certainly understand the reasoning. I'll post an update if i can confirm this.

UPDATE: Talking to the Fire Marshall's office is fun. I've left a voicemail, but none of the real people i reached were able to confirm this announcement.

UPDATE II: Councilperson Mike Woodard has posted this announcement to the INC listserv:
An earlier posting indicated that the Fire Marshal called for a ban on luminaries. That is only partially true.

The *County* Fire Marshal asked for a ban without informing the City of his plans.

The *City* Fire Marshal has not yet called for such a ban.

There is a meeting going on now between City Fire Department leadership and County officials.

I'll send word as soon as I have it.

I've also pushed this to the top of the page.

UPDATE III: I've just spoken (1:10 pm) with City Fire Marshall Kenneth Crews, who confirmed to me that the city is prohibiting traditional luminaria (that is, with burning candles) from use this year. Electric or battery driven luminaria are acceptable.

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Continue reading Luminarias out this year? - see updates below

This is stupid

The latest attempt to expand City Manager Patrick Baker's authority to sign contracts has come up short, officials on both sides of the on-again, off-again argument say.

Supporters of giving Baker the authority to sign service, purchasing and construction contracts worth up to $150,000 without advance permission from the City Council have shelved plans for a showdown on the issue this month.

The decision came because one of the people they were counting on to support the proposal, Councilman Howard Clement, signaled that he wouldn't do so at this time.

Clement said for now, a majority of the City Council wants to preserve the panel's role in reviewing small contracts.

"There is sufficient concern on the council that the manager needs our help in making these kinds of decisions," Clement said. "We don't have the confidence that he has the sufficient capacity to make those decisions with respect to expanded contract authority."

City Council meets but four times a month. Under our charter, the manager is responsible for the day to day operation of the city. A situation in which the manager doesn't have the council's confidence to do his/her job is inherently unstable. Whose advantage is it to continue this status quo? Especially when we end up playing games like this:
Baker tested his authority last week by authorizing one of his deputies, Ted Voorhees, to sign a $113,000 contract that will speed work to link an abandoned quarry off Denfield Street to the city water system.

The ongoing drought has officials eager to tap the water that's stockpiled in the quarry. Baker's decision allowed the work to get started by Dec. 17 and made it possible for the water to start flowing by year's end.

Had he stuck to policy and put the contract into the council's regular queue, elected officials likely wouldn't have voted on the request until late January, Woodard said.

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Continue reading This is stupid

That can't be right

Can it? Sleeping with the windows open in mid December?

Weren't we shivering in the dark with no power after an ice storm on this date a few years ago?


Continue reading That can't be right

Sunday, December 09, 2007

Durham's Silk Road *

Joe has an absolutely killer post about shopping at various ethnic grocery stores in Durham. Go read it. Then pick up some Hua Plee and pot stickers.

* - h/t to Joe's commenter Fritz for the "Silk Road" coinage.

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Continue reading Durham's Silk Road *

Sunday morning church marquee blogging

Guess Rd., Durham, NC


Continue reading Sunday morning church marquee blogging

Saturday, December 08, 2007


Astute observers will note the appearance of a "Recent Comments" pane in the right hand column. I want to thank Gary for finding the script and Mrs D. for getting it to work the way i wanted it to here. (That's the kind of thing she does to earn her daily bread. Drop her a line if you're in need of print or web design services). And to whoever wrote it in the first place, although i think their names show up at the bottom of the section.

I've had a couple of requests from readers to put a "recent comments" thingie on the front page, and i'm happy to oblige.


Continue reading Thanks!

Do i need this?

Mrs. D wants to know why i don't have a Facebook or MySpace page? Anybody care to enlighten me as to what benefits i might reap by having one or the other? Besides the obvious one of having Beacon let everyone in my circuit know that i've ordered John Crowley's latest book?


Continue reading Do i need this?

Friday, December 07, 2007

Friday flower blogging

Between the drought and the freeze, i was kinda surprised to see this clematis blooming this afternoon on the garden fence.


Continue reading Friday flower blogging

A quick question

How much does your life have to suck that you spend your time pretending to be someone else in the comments on other people's blogs?

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Continue reading A quick question

The Five Ws

Been a long time since i took a journalism class, but i think they're still teaching the 5 Ws to would be journalists.

What's missing from this story?
Duke University remains an economic juggernaut here says a report released Thursday showing the school had a combined $3.4 billion city/county impact in 2006 and 2007.

The study
is conducted every two years. The latest figure is up $200 million from the 2004-05 report and up by 62 percent over the 10 years since the first economic impact study was released.

"In my more than 30 years in Durham, I have always appreciated that Duke University is an important economic engine for Durham," said Phail Wynn, who is retiring as Durham Technical Community College president at the end of the month. The 27-year Durham Tech leader will become Duke's new vice president of Durham and regional affairs

Duke paid the more than $7.3 million in city and county taxes and fees in the latest fiscal year, including nearly $1.9 million in sales tax.

The university is also the county's largest employer, with a total work force of 39,782, of whom 19,755 are Durham residents and make up the largest portion of the economic impact figure. The resident workers' salaries and benefits total $931 million.

The study is based on a standard formula used by economists to estimate the overall impact of money spent in a community, the university said in a written statement.

The basis of the study included: the amount of spending in Durham by the university and its health system for goods and services; the amount of money spent locally by students and visitors; and the salaries and benefits received by Duke employees living in Durham.

The analysis assumed each dollar spent by Duke changed hands only once.

It's entirely possible, indeed likely, that the study is an accurate accounting of Duke's financial impact on the community. (If anything, using a multiplier of 1 for the number of times each dollar spent changes hands understates the impact. Adding - on the other hand, the article makes no mention of the costs of services Durham provides to Duke; we have no way of knowing whether or not the study does either.) But it would be a whole lot easier to assess the validity of the study if we knew just who had written it, don't you think?

UPDATE: Holy shit! I would never in a million years have guessed that the study was prepared for the Duke University Office of Public Affairs.

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Thursday, December 06, 2007

Oh, that explains it

My health insurance premiums are going up a thousand bucks next year (27%).
The former chief executive of UnitedHealth Group Inc (UNH.N) will forfeit more than $400 million worth of stock options and retirement benefits under a settlement following a probe into the health insurer's options practices, the company said on Thursday.

Under the settlement, former CEO William McGuire will forfeit options valued at about $320 million as well as $91 million in retirement plan benefits, plus an additional $8 million in retirement savings.

Settlement agreements also were reached with former general counsel David Lubben, and former director William Spears, the company said.

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Speculative documentary?

You've got to be shitting me.

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The missing number?

In the context of explaining that the city has no plans to institute a "knee-jerk" moratorium on future development plans in light of the current water shortage, elected officials in the city and county expressed mostly satisfaction with a presentation of long term plans to increase water supply yesterday. Click for coverage in the N&O and Herald Sun, and commentary from BCR.

Reading through all of that, there's a number i think is still missing from the equation. I'm going to try to get to it.

Water officials are projecting a population of 337,000 people thirty years or so from now, up from approximately 220,000 today. Let's assume they're right. They're also projecting a demand of 41 million gallons per day, or about 120 gallons per person. (There are no separate figures provided for industrial use, so i'm assuming that is rolled into the overall demand figure.) Here's a chart of recent usage in Durham:

We crossed below the 120 per day per person threshold (26 mgd, based on a current population of 220K) in early November, after outdoor watering was banned and Stage III mandatory conservation measures enacted. Prior to that we averaged more like 136 gallons per day per person, or 13% higher consumption, and as much as 145 gallons per day per person during the summer months. So, the first question to ask is, i think, is the 41 mgd assumption for 2035 correct? Unless conservation measures are put into effect on a permanent basis, one could just as easily assume demand of 49 mgd, nearly 20% higher.

The real question, though, and the number that is missing from all of the articles, is what is the total capacity of the system in terms of the number of days of water available? It's one thing to say that all of the sources, when implemented, will be able to provide 54 mgd, which would appear to be a sufficient amount. Matt noted recently that some experts think the region has been in a drought for the last decade. This year, we had a surplus of rain through April or May, and a severe deficit since then. To have a full 6 month supply of water, at 54 mgd, requires 9 billion gallons of capacity. To store enough water for a year will require about 18 billion gallons. Teer Quarry adds about 1.5 billion in new capacity. How much do the other plans add? How much storage is the minimum in a changing environment? Those are the missing numbers.

Clearly, a moratorium on development does nothing to address the critical, immediate situation. But do our plans provide the capacity we need to accomodate both anticipated growth and the possibility that years like 2007 will be more common than "one in 50?" The answer better be an emphatic yes if our elected officials are unwilling to consider saying no to new development once in a while.

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Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Comforting words

"Having just visited with so many members of the community in Omaha today, the president is confident that they will pull together to comfort one another," White House press secretary Dana Perino said.

Translation: Depressed guys with guns in malls during holiday seasons? Get used to it.


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Climate change - where's the debate?

Scientists beg for climate action
For the first time, more than 200 of the world's leading climate scientists, losing their patience, urged government leaders to take radical action to slow global warming because "there is no time to lose."

A petition from at least 215 climate scientists calls for the world to cut in half greenhouse gas emissions by 2050. It is directed at a conference of diplomats meeting in Bali, Indonesia, to negotiate the next global warming treaty. The petition, obtained by The Associated Press, is to be announced at a press conference there Wednesday night.

The appeal from scientists follows a petition last week from more than 150 global business leaders also demanding the 50 percent cut in greenhouse gases. That is the estimate that scientists calculate would hold future global warming to a little more than a 3-degree Fahrenheit increase and is in line with what the European Union has adopted.

In the past, many of these scientists have avoided calls for action, leaving that to environmental advocacy groups. That dispassionate stance was taken during the release this year of four separate reports by the Nobel Prize-winning Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.

But no more.

"It's a grave crisis, and we need to do something real fast," said petition signer Jeff Severinghaus, a geosciences professor at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography in La Jolla, Calif. "I think the stakes are way way too high to be playing around."

If you get your news from the Herald-Sun and the John Locke Foundation, you'd never know this.

UPDATE: To be fair, the N&O links to the same lighthearted dismissal of the climate change conference as the HS does. Neither of them devote any space to discussing the substance of the conference.


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On anniversaries

On occasion, i've made reference here to past times in which "music mattered." That's a pretty subjective statement, and probably overbroad as well. But what i'm getting at by that statement is a reference to days in which i'd run out to the record store the week one of my favorite bands released a new one, and play it 40 or 50 times over the next several days, deciphering lyrics, figuring out which direction they were headed, and seeing if they could help me find meaning in the world.

I can tell you when i stopped doing that.

I'd been a DJ/News Director at a university radio station through 1984; my first daughter was born in 85, and i moved to California in early 86. And that's when i lost touch with the music scene, and lost the time to keep up with it. Not to say that dispatches from the front didn't make it into my range. Without any difficulty, i can name 3 or 4 dozen artists whose careers didn't begin until 1985 or so who co-exist in my iTunes folder with REM, Dylan, and Muddy Waters. While i enjoy the music, with only a couple of exceptions, it's not as laden with personal meaning as the music of my younger days.

As it happens, two of those artists are celebrating milestones at the close of this year. We'll be wishing Billy Bragg a happy 50th birthday later in December.

Twenty years ago last week, though, a bunch of musicians hauled their instruments, songs, a single microphone and a DAT recorder into the Church of the Holy Trinity in Toronto, Canada, and walked out 12 or so hours later with what remains one of the best ways to spend an hour of your life. The dictionary defines the verb record as "To set down for preservation in writing or other permanent form." And fortunately, the Trinity Session was so recorded, and the record of that evening remains available still. The choice to cover Lou Reed's Sweet Jane opened the door to a particular audience, of course; but covers of Walking After Midnight, Working on a Building, and Dreaming my Dreams With You, opened others which, perhaps not unsurprisingly, different audiences chose not to enter. Their loss, i suppose. Still, that foundation in a certain type of roots music, and the ability to find the common humanity shared by Lou Reed and Hank Williams is why this music does still matter, at least to me.

Cowboy Junkies remain a vital band, touring regularly and releasing an album every other year or so. Margot is the most personable (and beautiful) singer in the world. They've taken the risky step of revisiting that early album (their second, actually, although their first album remains pretty obscure to this day) by re-recording all of the songs back in the same church. Trinity Revisited is available for purchase at the Junk Store (No, i don't get a cut if you click on the link).


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That's why

I'm not fanatic about it, but when it comes to spending money, i prefer to keep my dollars in Durham county. Wake county does just fine without me or my money. Now, let's see if other Durham residents start feeling the same way after this nonsense:
Some Wake County school board members object to using Alston as the name of a new elementary school in northwest Cary even though the building is going up on Alston Road. The reason they're upset is that Alston Road, which runs from Cary into Durham, is more widely associated with the Bull City.

"As a longtime resident, Alston Road is associated with Durham and Durham County," school board member Eleanor Goettee, a Cary resident, said Tuesday. "It's just not a suitable name."

Why not just come right out and say what you're really thinking?

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Tuesday, December 04, 2007


Joe's got the details.

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If Johnny Cash were a Durhamite - pt. 2

How low is the water mama?
52 days and fallin'

How low is the water papa?
52 days and fallin'

Well, we're saving every drop that hits the sink
And we can squeeze an extra week or two, I think
It's a good thing we've got all that whiskey to drink

52 days and fallin'


Continue reading If Johnny Cash were a Durhamite - pt. 2

A de facto moratorium?

From the N&O:
Drought concerns prompted the City Council to delay a decision on whether to extend water and sewer service to a proposed subdivision near Southpoint shopping center.

The move could herald a broader conversation about whether the city should call a moratorium on all development as Durham grapples with a severe water shortage.

Even if council had approved the extension, Jordan at Southpointe, a 228-unit subdivision, still would need approval from the Development Review Board.

But council members weren't comfortable taking even one step toward sanctioning a new large development without first getting some sense of what it would mean to rapidly depleting water supplies.

We asked six weeks ago whether our elected officials ought to declare a moratorium on new residential and commercial construction until we had keep a 6 month supply of water on hand for an extended period of time.

Somewhere over the last 24 hours, i've read that by some definitions, the Piedmont has been in drought since 1998, with only a couple of tropical storms breaking the shortfall. (if you saw that too, post a link in the comments please. i'm trying to track the source of that quote down also.) If that's the case, it might not be a bad idea to formalize this de facto moratorium.

UPDATE: John points me to the article i was looking for in the N&O. I for one am interested in hearing more about this hypothesis.

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