Dependable Erection

Thursday, May 31, 2007

Beaver Queen Pageant - Meet your judges

Third in a series

If you're a Durham resident, chances are you've been to the monthly Drag Bingo fundraiser at the Durham Armory. Mary K. Mart and the BVDs (Bingo Verification Divas) host this event to raise money for the Alliance of Aids Services - Carolina, and are able to donate all of their proceeds to this worthy organization.

We are thrilled and honored that Mary K. Mart has agreed to be a judge for this year's Beaver Queen Pageant, and only wish our damned email app hadn't garbled some of the answers to our questions. If we're fortunate, she'll find the time to resend them, but if not, you'll have to come out to the pageant to see Mary's fabulous costume, and find out where she got it.

Here, in her own words, and fresh from her write-up in Time Magazine, is Mary K. Mart:
I was born the daughter of a poor, but attractive lettuce picker from the Hills of West Virginia. At the ripe marrying age of 16, I grabbed my teeth and my shoes and moved to NC where I took up residence at a local Trailer Park/Live Bait Shoppe.

I have been doing Trailer Park Prize Night at Club Flex in downtown Raleigh for over 10 years, as I can't afford a good attorney to get me out of the contract.

I have also been the reigning Queen of Drag Bingo for the past 5 years helping raise over $600,000 to help those living with HIV/AIDS

DE: What Qualifies you to be a Beaver Queen Judge?

MKM: Although, I have not personally seen a "Beaver", especially one in captivity, I have been judging Queens forever. Me, with all the trailer park fashion sence, big hair and big shoes, I feel that I am the perfect judge for the contest. Plus I was a former judge at the Miss Wombat Pageant 4 years ago!!

Unfortunately, here's where the rest of the interview gets lost. But you can catch up with Mary online here, and come out to the Duke Park meadow on Saturday night and catch up with her in person.


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"I was able to get a sense of his soul"

So said George Bush on the occasion of meeting Vladimir Putin for the first time after assuming the office of the President of the United States, back in June of 2001.

Is there anything that George Bush hasn't fucked up?
Russian President Vladimir Putin launched a scathing attack on the West on Thursday, accusing Washington of imperialism and of starting a new arms race.

Speaking a week before he meets leaders of the Group of Eight (G-8) industrial nations in Germany, Putin said Russia's tests on Tuesday of a two new missiles were a direct response to U.S. moves to create a missile defense system.

"We are not the initiators of this new round of the arms race," Putin told a joint Kremlin news conference with visiting Greek President Karolos Papoulias.

"There is no need to fear Russia's actions: they are not aggressive," he said. "They are a mere response to harsh and groundless unilateral actions by our partners and are aimed at maintaining the balance of forces in the world."

Putin's comments, which will be popular among ordinary Russians in a year when there is a parliamentary election, are the latest in a line of harsh outbursts against the West.

Russia on Tuesday test-fired a new intercontinental ballistic missile with multiple warheads and a new cruise missiles, which Russian generals say are sufficient to ensure the country's security for the next 40 years.

"Our partners are stuffing eastern Europe with new weapons," Putin said. "What are we supposed to do? We cannot just observe all this."

Moscow has been alarmed by U.S. plans to deploy elements of its global missile defense system in Poland and the Czech Republic. Washington says it wants to avert attacks from "rogue states" such as Iran but Russia sees a threat to its own security.

"There is a clear desire by some international players to dictate their will to everyone without adhering to international law," Putin said. "International law has been replaced by political reasons."

"In our opinion it is nothing different from diktat, nothing different from imperialism," he added.



Continue reading "I was able to get a sense of his soul"

Biting my tongue

Just go read Ray Gronberg's piece in the Herald-Sun this morning about "the shrinking bond package" city officials are fretting about.

The gist is that inflation has sucked up about a quarter of the value of the construction bonds voters approved just 19 months ago, and the city's not going to be able to build a lot of what it promised.

I've got some plans that the city presented to the Duke Park Neighborhood Association about how it was going to spend the 1996 bond money renovating Duke Park. We could look at them in the "meadow" behind the abandoned bathhouse on Saturday afternoon, as we get ready for the Beaver Queen Pageant. That's where the grand entrance plaza, complete with synchronized water feature and 30 foot tall climbing wall was going to go.

Come on, people. How can our city administrators get caught off guard like this time after time? Over promising and under delivering is not a good recipe for staying in office. Sooner or later, this lesson will be learned.

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Beaver Queen Pageant - Meet your contestants

Sixth in a series

First off, a shout out to all the new visitors to DE from Dykes to Watch Out For.

Welcome. i'm glad you found this place. The commenter who noted that there was nothing silly about the lacrosse case is absolutely correct. Which is one of the reasons we strive to inject a bit of silliness into our otherwise decidedly un-silly existence. The story behind DE can be found here. If you're anywhere near Durham, NC, this weekend, i hope you can make it to our pageant to indulge in a fair bit of beaver silliness.

Now, let's meet our sixth and final contestant.

Be Vell (La Bouche) BeVon may be our only contestant who flits back and forth with ease between crepes suzette and crape myrtle, but let's hear what she has to say about herself in her own words:
Mesdames, Monsieurs, on vous presente la fabuleuse Be Vell “La Bouche” Bevon. All the rage from the Cote d’ Azur to the Red Neck Riviera , she comes to this event courtesy of an amnesty agreement between the U. S. government and the French Canadian provinces. She has danced and sung her way across two continents, dazzling on lookers from the side walks of gay Paris to the gravel back roads of the Yukon . A misadventure in Homer, Alaska is a story for another time. Clearly, entertainment is in her bones. Her grandmother, the astounding Madam Bonbeavaire, performed several seasons with Josephine Baker.

Be Vell is the daughter of the celebrated couturiere, Peau de Soie Bevon, who was fashion consultant to Brigitte Bardot. It is also worth noting that her father was an engineer who immigrated to Canada to build dams. Talent AND brains . . . Brains AND Talent . . . Bienvenue Be Vell!

That wraps up our presentation of this year's contestants for the Beaver Queen crown. We'll recap them quickly tomorrow, and hopefully finish up our presentation of our celebrity judges as well.

We'll also put the video from the 2005 Pageant back up on the blog, and we're just about finished with the slide show of June Cleaver Beaver's busy year since she was crowned Beaver Queen in June 2006.

Stay tuned, and we hope to see you all out in the Duke Park Meadow on Saturday night, June 2.


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Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Beaver Queen Pageant - Meet your contestants

Fifth in a series

Durham is the home of the Piedmont blues style popularized in the middle of the 20th century by the likes of the Rev. Gary Davis and Blind Boy Fuller. We're excited this year to welcome Little Bluesy Beaver, not to be confused with Little Willie Beaver or Blind Lemon Beaver, to the contestant's tent behind the stage at the Beaver Queen Pageant.

Here's what Little Bluesy has to say for himself:
Little Bluesy Beaver is excited to enter his first Beaver Pageant. He originally hails from the wetlands of Long Island NY and, having read about the excellent quality of life in and around the Ellerbe Creek Watershed, packed up his tail and moved south in 1991. As a young beaver growing up he was considered somewhat eccentric by his peers. Lonely, hairy, and damp he sought solace in the deep mystical music of the blues, spending many hours alone in the woodshed playing with his saxophone. Try as he might, he did not really get to know another beaver until college. After some time he made a name for himself playing late night gigs at full moon parties for his Ellerbe Creek brethren including the great blue heron, barred owls, box turtles, and various types of fish. Beavers of course have always been his favorite critter and the mere mention of a beaver party makes him want grab his horn.

I can already hear the bullfrogs calling me.

Come on out to the Duke Park Meadow, off I-85 exit 177 in Durham, this Saturday evening at 6 pm to meet Little Bluesy and the rest of our Beaver Queen contestants and celebrity judges, to be amazed and astounded by sights never before seen, and to part with your hard earned cash by purchasing swag to benefit the Ellerbe Creek Watershed Association.


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A Beaver Queen Pageant slideshow

IF you weren't at last year's Pageant, here's a taste of what you missed.


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Money, it's a hit

Just a quick note on a report in the N&O about the Durham City Council considering its first raise in pay since 1999.
Mayor Bill Bell now makes $15,672 per year. The proposed budget would raise that to $21,423, a nearly 37 percent increase.

That would match the pay of the chairwoman of the county commissioners.

Each of the six council members makes $12,240 a year. That would go up about 49 percent to $18,198 to equal what their commissioner counterparts receive.

As Durham continues to grow, more and more we will need our Council members to be on the job full time, or nearly full time. As it is now, with only 7 members of the Council, everyone is on multiple committees and in meetings or working for us at least 30 hours a week. They should be paid more than the folks in the drive through at McDonald's.

Quite honestly, the reduction in size of the Council from 13 to 7 some years back was an ill-considered mistake (and don't get me started on the fake ward system which effectively makes everyone on Council an at-large member) which will eventually have to be rectified, but these proposed raises are reasonable and more than justified, given the work we expect our Council to do.

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Beaver Queen Pageant - Meet your contestants

Fourth in a series

Who knew that beavers were so exotic and mysterious, living lives of mystery, danger, and intrigue?

Our fourth contestant writes to tell us:
Loved by millions, our mystery contestant is a star of both the stage and screen, taking time out of his busy schedule to appear at this year's Beaver Queen pageant. (The need for extra security should his identity be revealed keeps us from saying more.)

All we know is that his handlers have requested that a special sideburns grooming kit, a holding area for his oversized belt buckles, and a trailer full of jelly donuts be waiting backstage during the pageant, or he'll be leaving the building.

Come on out to the Pageant on Saturday for a rare sighting of this mystery beaver.


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Tuesday, May 29, 2007

I'm walkin' (still)

As part of an ongoing conversation on the Durham bicycle and pedestrian listserv, Fred Broadwell posts a link to an excellent resource, Walkable Communities, Inc.

I'm especially enamored of the various posters they have available showing in clear, visual terms what constitutes a decent walking experience versus a shitty one, and what the differences are between well designed intersections and, well, what NCDOT has been constructing in Durham these past years.

That's an extract from a poster describing curb extensions. Elsewhere in the poster, they note "often motorists turn too fast when curb radii were made too wide for safety." Kinda like this one at the Duke Street offramp from southbound I-85:

WCI also draws a distinction between the typical metric used by traffic engineers, and a new metric designed to determine whether the road services all its users, not just motor vehicles:
Most roadways are designed to produce a specific Level of Service (LOS), and the typical LOS standard measures only how fast and free-flowing motor vehicles can move. These new Level of Quality (LOQ) Guidelines, developed by Dan Burden of Walkable Communities, are meant to show graphically why some streets work better than others for access, safety and mobility of all modes.

Good stuff there.

On a related note, this Saturday is the Town of Hillsborough's 6th Annual Walkable Hillsborough Day. Although i work in Hillsborough, i'm essentially on the outskirts of town, and i have a hunch i'll be tied up with the Beaver Queen Pageant on Saturday, but if you're near Hillsborough, this looks like something worthwhile. I'm wondering if we can think about doing something similar in Durham?

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Shiny happy people holding hands

In Baghdad, a parked minibus packed with explosives blew up in Tayaran Square, riddling cars with shrapnel, knocking over pushcarts and sending smoke into the sky, witnesses said. The blast killed 23 people and injured 68.

Yousef Qasim, 37, was working in his clothing shop 200 yards away when the blast tore through a line of buses waiting at the square, he said.

"I rushed there to see about four or five burning bodies," he said.

Shop owners grabbed their wares and tried to flee, fearing a second blast, said Talib Dhirgham, who owns a nearby laundromat. Police who arrived at the scene confiscated the cameras of journalists who came to cover the attack.

Because that's their job, to make sure those pictures don't get into circulation to disturb our beautiful minds.

But wait, there's more:
Gunmen in police uniforms kidnapped at least three Western lecturers in Baghdad on Tuesday, a witness told Reuters, as eight more U.S. soldiers were reported killed in the deadliest month this year.

The gunmen seized the lecturers and several of their bodyguards from a Finance Ministry building in central Baghdad, the witness said.

. . .

Police identified the lecturers as German and said up to four were seized when gunmen entered the ministry building. The British embassy declined immediate comment on media reports that the bodyguards were British.

The lecturers had been advising ministry personnel on organizing electronic contracts, said the witness, who did not want to be identified.

The gunmen entered the lecture room led by a man wearing a police major's uniform, the witness said.

As the Iraqi security forces stand up, we'll be able to stand down, or so i hear.

UPDATE: BBC is giving new details on the kidnap operation:
Five Britons have been kidnapped from Iraq's finance ministry in Baghdad, the British government has confirmed.

They included four bodyguards and a finance expert. Earlier reports said the expert was German.

Witnesses and sources told the BBC that the kidnappers wore police uniforms and arrived in up to 40 police vehicles.

. . .

There are conflicting reports about exactly how Tuesday's abduction took place and how many people are missing.

Witnesses said it was carried out by what appeared to be a police unit.

The street was sealed off at both ends and the kidnappers, in police camouflage uniforms, walked straight past guards at the finance ministry building on Palestine Street, the witnesses said.

A police source told the BBC that dozens of police vehicles were used in the operation.

The BBC's Paul Wood in Baghdad says that if such reports are true, it could point to the involvement of a renegade police unit, possibly special commandoes.

While it has been possible in the past for criminals or militants to hire police uniforms and vehicles, he says, the scale of this operation suggests real police involvement.

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It's what's for dinner

Don't forget to use your credit card.

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Beaver Queen Pageant - Meet your judges

Second in a series

Our initial disappointment at receiving the news that Durham City Councilmember Mike Woodard would be unable to perform his duties as a judge at the Beaver Queen Pageant gave way to hope when we learned about his replacement on our celebrity panel.

Mike has always struck us as the perfect Southern gentleman, and in keeping with this he has gone above and beyond to find someone equally capable, and perhaps more exciting, to fill his shoes on Saturday night. We'll introduce you to Mr. Beaver A. Hunter in just a moment, but as we thought about Mike, we realized that we'd never seen him without a jacket and tie, even at a Durham Bulls game. It's virtually impossible to imagine him sipping at a mason jar of moonshine. So he may not have been the perfect choice for a Beaver Queen Pageant judge after all. Besides, our attorneys have advised us that Mr. Woodard may have been required to report all of his bribes to the Council's Ethics Committee, and you can imagine what a ruckus that would have caused.

But frankly, between you, me, and the fly on the wall, i suspect that a search of the genealogical records of Bladen Wilson County, North Carolina, just might reveal more connections between Messrs. Woodard and Hunter than he's prepared to admit.

So let's meet our celebrity judge, Mr. Beaver A. Hunter:

Beaver A. Hunter is known to all at the Dew Drop Inn and the Bear Grass Social and Hunt Club as B.A.

About his career, he tells us that "I get by doing as little work as I can. After Big Daddy left me all his land, I mostly just hunt."

We asked B.A. our standard quite of questions.

DE: What qualifies you to be a judge at the Beaver Queen Pageant?

BA: Just like my old friend Mike, I grew up hunting all kinds of critters in eastern NC, starting with squirrels and rabbits, moving up to ducks, then to deer. But we always enjoyed hunting beaver the best. We were always on the prowl for beaver. Didn't matter where or when. And we didn't really need hunting dogs to help us hunt beaver. So I guess the best thing that qualifies me is that I know a good beaver
when I see one.

DE: When you visit the beaver lodge behind the old K-Mart/Compare Foods, what thoughts does it evoke?

BA: A pond full of beaver right behind an old Winn-Dixie store that sells PBR? I'm happier than a pig in mud.

DE: Where did you get that fabulous outfit you're wearing to the pageant?

BA: The word "fabulous" ain't really in my vocabulary, but I'll just be wearing my usual beaver hunting clothes. Blaze orange won't make me look too much like one of those metrosexual types, will it?

DE: Just how big a bribe is it going to take to get you to vote for the candidate of my choice?

BA: Hell, I'm cheap. A fifth of Old Turkey, a big bag of pork rinds with some Texas Pete, and Merle Haggard's new CD is all it'll take.

Looking forward to visiting y'all in Durm Saturday night. My friend Mike has told me a lot about y'all. Can't wait to see how much of it is true.


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Monday, May 28, 2007

If you love this land of the free

Now we'll give no more brave young lives
Bring 'em home, bring 'em home
For the gleam in someone's eyes
Bring 'em home, bring 'em home


Continue reading If you love this land of the free

Why i love this town, #12,155

Kansas, City, Missouri:

KANSAS CITY, Mo. - Tom Wayne has amassed thousands of books in a warehouse

His collection ranges from best sellers, such as Tom Clancy's "The Hunt for Red October" and Tom Wolfe's "Bonfire of the Vanities," to obscure titles, like a bound report from the Fourth Pan-American Conference held in Buenos Aires in 1910. But when he wanted to thin out the collection, he found he couldn't even give away books to libraries or thrift shops; they said they were full.

So on Sunday, Wayne began burning his books in protest of what he sees as society's diminishing support for the printed word.

"This is the funeral pyre for thought in America today," Wayne told spectators outside his bookstore as he lit the first batch of books.


Durham, North Carolina

The most challenging Friends Book Sale on record—with a destructive fire less than six weeks prior and a nor’easter that blew in on closing day and stayed around to take down two tents the following morning—also exceeded previous sales records. The recovery from the fire was no small feat. Friends volunteers were buoyed, however, by the outpouring of generosity from the community, from publishing companies and, ultimately, by the hundreds of shoppers who showed up for the “not a fire sale” sale.

“There is no question, we did more sales than ever by at least $7,000,” exclaimed Jane Goodridge, Friends treasurer, who has co-chaired the group’s book sales with Carol Ann Walters for the past seven years. “Now the coffers are full again and we can keep our promises to help the library this year.”

The Friends, who annually provide thousands of dollars to the Library, have issued a challenge to match every new donation to The Campaign for the Library—Branching Out, dollar-for-dollar up to $25,000. They are also paying on a $110,000 pledge to the Foundation to support humanities programming and acquisitions. On March 6, the Friends wondered if the group would be able to keep its pledge, as volunteers watched thousands of books and hours of hard work go up in flames. The Friends’ storage shed and its most coveted—and pricey—books were a total loss after a fire that started in a waste container spread to the shed. Thousands of hardback fiction, children’s books and audiobooks collected since October were destroyed. As firefighters emptied the shed of the boxes that had been stacked floor to ceiling, Friends members who looked on counted their blessings: no one was hurt and there were almost six weeks to recover before the Spring Book Sale.

Immediate coverage by print and broadcast media galvanized a community that values and appreciates its library. The first two calls the Friends received the day after the fire set the course for recovery and success. SmartBox of Raleigh responded with portable storage units provided free of charge, and The Herald-Sun provided free advertising and served as a collection point for donations, which newspaper employees sorted, boxed and delivered. Soon, the Friends saw a new challenge take shape: an enormous wave of books to process in a very short time.

Carol Ann Walters who heads up the volunteer book sorters made a promise, “We’ll be here every day until the sale to receive any books people will give us.”

Marge Nordstrom, president of the Friends, put the organization into high gear. At the group’s March 7 board meeting, she swept aside the agenda and led a strategy meeting resulting in a full slate of volunteers who tackled numerous tasks in a short time frame.

Nordstrom said, “This Board is an outstanding group of active volunteers. They are worker-bees and put on aprons to work the sale, but they are also strategic leaders for the Friends and they love the library!”

The entire Library family—staff, trustees and directors of the Durham Library Foundation—rallied behind the Friends, soliciting donations, handling inquiries, recruiting volunteer helpers and directing donors to appropriate locations. Library Trustee Allan Lang contacted publishers, who donated more than five gaylords (boxes that hold 1,000 lbs.) of new books. County departments lent support, too, including General Services, which rearranged schedules to accommodate daily pickup of refuse generated by the frenzy of book donations and sorting. The County also provided new fire extinguishers and improved lighting in the garage.

The book sorters put everything they had—heart, soul and sinew—into turning the book sale around by working every weekday morning to ensure that the sale would go on. Their hard work paid off when they set up for the April 13 opening day with more and better-quality books than ever before.

The 2007 Spring Book Sale was the hottest ever in a long, proud history of Friends book sales. The sale exceeded all others by 25 percent and, Nordstrom believes, really raised awareness of the Library and the Friends throughout the community.

“Durham’s citizens let us know—by bagloads and carloads of donations and by bagloads and carloads of purchases—that they really love their Library,” she said.



Continue reading Why i love this town, #12,155

Sunday, May 27, 2007

Sunday morning church marquee blogging

Roxboro St., Durham, NC


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Saturday, May 26, 2007

Reading between the lines

Iraq's prime minister and two top American officials flew to the blistering western desert Saturday in a rare joint outing to highlight gains there in the fight against insurgents, hours before the military reported the deaths of eight U.S. troops.

One of those killed, a Marine, died in combat in Anbar province, once the site of some of the fiercest fighting in the country — and where the U.S. ambassador, the American commander in Iraq, and the Iraqi leader traveled Saturday.

The Sunni-dominated province has grown calmer in recent months with the flowering of a new alliance among Sunni tribal leaders, the Iraqi government and U.S. led forces, but peace continues to be elusive — as the death Saturday of the Marine demonstrated.

. . .

Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, U.S. Ambassador Ryan Crocker and (Gen. David) Petraeus had planned to travel Saturday to al-Qaim, an Anbar town on the Syrian border, to meet with tribal leaders and survey a $20 million border terminal under construction.

But low visibility prevented their aircraft from completing the trip, and they could only reach the al-Asad air base in Anbar.

Yeah, right.


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Beaver Queen Pageant extends special invitation to Miss Sweden to enter the Pageant

For Immediate Release
Sunday, May 27, 2007

Beaver Lodge Local 1504, organizers of the Third Annual Beaver Queen Pageant, announced today a special waiver of the deadline for entrants into the Pageant to allow Miss Sweden to compete in the 2007 Beaver Queen Pageant.

"We fully understand Sweden's reluctance to allow their representative to compete in the Miss Universe contest, on the grounds that it is degrading to women," said Katherine DeNerve, of the Beaver Lodge's Pageant Committee. "Our pageant is the only one we know of that honors all genders and orientations, regardless of which species the contestant to belongs to. Miss Sweden is welcome to come to Duke Park, in Durham, North Carolina, on Saturday, June 2, to honor the beaver by competing for the title of Beaver Queen."

News reports state that Isabel Lestapier Winqvist, the newly crowned Miss Sweden, has withdrawn from the Miss Universe contest because the Swedish federation believes the contest is degrading to women.

Previous winners of the Beaver Queen Pageant include Beverly Woody (2005) and June Cleaver Beaver (2006). For more details about the Third Annual Beaver Pageant, including a slide show and video presentation of previous pageants, please visit Beaver Lodge Local 1504.


Continue reading Beaver Queen Pageant extends special invitation to Miss Sweden to enter the Pageant

Beaver Queen Pageant - Meet your contestants

Third in a series

Today, let us introduce you to World Wide Beaver, a mysterious and exotic contestant about whom very little is known beyond what she writes in to tell us.
World Wide Beaver is overjoyed to be appearing in Duke Park for the first time… landing in the southeast to take a break from her hectic global schedule. Just what exactly this Beaver does professionally defies conventional definitions but suffice it to say that she responds to the need for a dedicated and dependable Beaver, wherever her journey may take her. Much like a Global Priority Package, this Beaver can be where she is needed by 10 am the next business day. Unlike a more well known globetrotter, Britain’s 007, she does not carry a license to kill, but her performances have been known to knock ‘em dead.

World Wide is known for her love of folk art and global theatre traditions. Lately she finds herself increasingly convinced that every beaver lodge should be required to have it’s own theme song and dance. She’s been told that the Duke Park’s Lodge has already created one and she can’t wait to learn it and share it ‘round the world.

It’s been a busy year for World Wide and these days she hardly knows what country she is in or what language will come out of her mouth. She is as eager to see what tricks she pulls out of her tail for the talent competition as the rest of you are – all she can guarantee is that it will surely be silly and will most likely reflect all that
she’s learned on the job.

The lodge is very excited by World Wide Beaver's entry into the pageant. We hope you are as well, and will come on out to Duke Park on Saturday, June 2, at 6pm to cheer on World Wide Beaver and all of our other contestants. Check back here over the next few days to meet the rest of our contestants and celebrity judges, and for other exciting Beaver Queen Pageant news.


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Friday, May 25, 2007

Friday flower blogging

h/t Lenore


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Percentage of Americans who think the country is seriously off on the wrong track: 72%

Percentage of US Senators who voted to continue funding the war in Iraq with no timetable for withdrawal: 80%

Any relationship between these two numbers is purely causational.

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Beaver Queen Pageant - Meet your contestants

Second in a series

Today we meet Duke Park's own Flapper LaTail, who is a real throwback to those Roaring 20s when you had to know the secret knock to enter the lodge for a taste of that bathtub hooch. Here she is in her own words:
Flapper LaTail fled snowy Beaver Falls, NY for the sunnier ponds of North Carolina in 2001. When she's not all dolled up at some swanky juice joint singing to the hepcats, Flapper LaTail likes to paddle 'round the pond with her lodgemate, Mr. Dependable.

"It's been swell being able to depend on him to erect our dam," sez Ms. LaTail. "It leaves me more time for flappin' my tail to that crazy jazz down at the speakeasy."

I hear her tail flappin' can put ripples on ponds two states away.


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More trash talking

Following up on a post earlier this week about the city charging residents $60/year to participate in a yard waste pickup program which is essentially non-existent, i'd like to note this email sent out over the InterNeighborhood Council listserv yesterday:
On Wednesday May 23rd, City Manager Patrick Baker presented us with a letter dated December 18, 2006 from NCDENR (North Carolina Department of Environment and Natural Resources) to Donald Long, Director of Durham's SWM, permitting Durham to transport solid and yard waste in the same truck from Durham's transfer station to Brunswick Waste Management Facility, LLC Landfill located in Brunswick, Virginia.

With all due respect, having permission from a bureaucrat in Raleigh to mix our yard waste and regular solid waste in a Virginia landfill is not the issue.

The issue is that the city of Durham still prohibits its residents from mixing yard and solid waste; the city of Durham charges its residents extra to have their yard waste picked up; and the city of Durham saw no need to mention the fact that its yard waste program had disappeared until a the N&O pointed it out to the public.

Nobody has yet to explain to me why i should be charged $60 a year to participate in a program that is essentially non-existent.

Suppose i'm a phone service subscriber, and i pay an extra $5 a month for a voice mail service. Now suppose that the phone company rolls voice mail into its basic package at no extra charge, but keeps collecting my $5 a month anyway. And doesn't tell me its changed the terms of its service. Don't you think i'm going to be pissed off? And imagine how pissed off i'd be if i didn't have the choice of switching phone service providers at my earliest opportunity.

If i want my yard waste picked up in the city of Durham, i have exactly one option. Many Durham residents don't even take that one option, instead figuring out ways to dump their yard waste illegally, making it someone else's problem. Those of us who pay for the service do so because it's the right thing to do.

Not charging us for a non-existent service is also the right thing to do.

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Thursday, May 24, 2007

Roll call vote on Iraq supplemental



WTF? Burr voted against the supplemental? Nothing on his website explaining that vote. I'll keep looking to see if this is any kind of mistake. Feinstein, Harkin, Levin, and Mikulski all voted in favor. How did Burr get religion on this vote?

UPDATE: Here's what the morons who represent us in Washington voted for yesterday:
The U.S. military announced on Friday the deaths of six more soldiers in Iraq, hours after U.S. President George W. Bush predicted a bloody summer lay ahead.

Five of the soldiers died on Thursday while another was killed on Tuesday by a roadside bomb in Tikrit, 175 km (110 miles) north of Baghdad, the military said.

. . .

Bush told a news conference in Washington on Thursday he expected heavy fighting in Iraq in the weeks and months ahead.

"It could be a bloody -- it could be a very difficult August," Bush told reporters.

Tell me Dianne Feinstein, tell me Carl Levin, how this differs from the Soviet Union's catastrophic actions in Afghanistan in 1987?

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Personal responsibility

A month or so back, probably in the context of the wrap-up of the Duke lacrosse case, i chastised someone for inappropriately drawing conclusions about classes of people based on the actions of a single individual.

So given what i'm about to write, i'm going to have to be very careful not to find myself inhabiting a very uncomfortable precipice, having been hoisted there by my own petard.

I think this is the the kind of thing that people mean when they say that "lawyers are scumbags." And i'm almost certain that when people, especially right-wingers, lament the loss of personal responsibility in our culture, this is what they're talking about.
The father of Josh Hancock filed suit Thursday, claiming a restaurant provided drinks to the St. Louis Cardinals relief pitcher even though he was intoxicated prior to the crash that killed him.

The suit, filed in St. Louis Circuit Court by Dean Hancock of Tupelo, Miss., does not specify damages. Mike Shannon's Restaurant, owned by the longtime Cardinals broadcaster who starred on three World Series teams in the 1960s, is a defendant in the case along with Shannon's daughter, Patricia Shannon Van Matre, the restaurant manager.

Other defendants include Eddie's Towing, the company whose flatbed tow truck was struck by Hancock's sport utility vehicle in the early hours of April 29; tow truck driver Jacob Edward Hargrove; and Justin Tolar, the driver whose stalled car on Interstate 64 was being assisted by Hargrove.

OK, i can get my head around trying to hold the restaurant responsible. I lived on Long Island in the 70s when the owners of a bar called the Little Brown Jug was sued by the family of someone killed by a drunk driver who had been served while inebriated. As i recall (and i can't find any documentation of this online) this was the first successful lawsuit against a tavern owner for failing to cut someone off who then went on to kill someone else. If Josh Hancock had taken anybody else with him that night, i'd expect their survivors and heirs to sue the restaurant as well.

But suing the tow truck operator? Suing the guy whose car stalled out in the middle of the highway?
Authorities said the 29-year pitcher had a blood content of nearly twice the legal limit for alcohol in his system when he crashed into the back of the tow truck. He was also speeding, using a cell phone and wasn't wearing a seat belt, Police Chief Joe Mokwa said after the accident. Marijuana also was found in the SUV.

You know, i feel bad for Dean Hancock. He just lost a son. But come on, what kind of way is that to respond to such a loss? What does that say about our society that such a lawsuit is going to be taken seriously?

UPDATE: Welcome to all you folks coming in from AOL Sports. Feel free to check out some of our other fine posts while you're in town. Especially this one, which will introduce you to Dependable Erection, or any of these, about our amazing, not be missed if you're anywhere within a hundred miles of Durham, NC, Third Annual Beaver Queen Pageant coming up on June 2nd. Hope to see you again soon.


Continue reading Personal responsibility

Beaver Queen Pageant - Meet your contestants

First in a series

While we wait for the rest of our celebrity judges to answer the probing questions submitted to them recently, let's start meeting some of this year's Beaver Queen Pageant contestants.

Leading off the parade is Yogi Beaver. Let's hear what she has to say for herself.

Yogi Beaver spends the majority of her time in a Southern New Jersey bog close to the Pine Barrens. Her second home and the place where she keeps her heart (and one of her favorite guitars) is Duke Park in Durham, North Carolina. Yogi is thrilled to be a part of the Beaver Queen pageant. She says, "It doesn't matter who wins or loses. I'm simply honored to be in such esteemed company. This year's contestants reflect the best of the Beaver. I'm awed to be included in a group of Beavers with such tremendous talent, poise, grace, intelligence, teeth and tails. Further, if I lose I'll build a dam the likes of which you've never seen....right there behind the abandoned K-Mart. You wanna see flooding? I'll show you flooding. Oh, excuse me friends, Yogi Beaver needs a bit of green bark tea and a few moments to re-center and breathe deeply...ahhhh...that's better. See you at the pageant...Namaste. "

This is Yogi's first pageant. Her motto is "Don't Hog the Log" and of course her platform also includes the ever popular, "World Peace". If Yogi becomes Queen of the Lodge she plans to use her reign to further her personal mission of promoting environmental conservation and encouraging pacifism amongst all mammals. She hopes to gnaw this message into the minds of our Duke Park residents and then onto the world at large. And wait'll you see her in a swimsuit...she's hot I

Well, you know what they say about folks who proclaim that it's an honor just to be considered in the same category as, well, you do know what they say, don't you?

Thank you Yogi Beaver, and good luck next Saturday. Keep stopping by to meet the rest of our judges and contestants.


Continue reading Beaver Queen Pageant - Meet your contestants

It smells like victory

I guess this means we can put away the heavy artillery and start enjoying the peace dividend.

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Continue reading It smells like victory

Beaver Queen Pageant - entertainment update

I am thrilled to be able to tell everyone that the Disco Beaver Fever dance ensemble will again be performing at the Beaver Queen Pageant.

You may remember this troupe from last year, when they performed the sacred and almost never seen in public "Dance of the Seven Beavers." Alas, the grand poobahs of beaverdom were so upset at this ritual being performed in front of the uninitiated, we hear that severe measures of discipline were undertaken. Several members remain unable to speak of it.

This year they will be performing the more secular, and already approved, "Saturday Night Beaver," which promises to rock the house. They'll also be selling Beaver Kisses during the pre-pageant festivities. You'll be able to Kiss the Beaver for $1.00 with all proceeds going to the Ellerbe Creek Watershed Association. Details subject to change depending on availability of both beavers and kisses.


Continue reading Beaver Queen Pageant - entertainment update

Welcome new readers

If Sitemeter and Google Analytics are to be believed, the number of visitors to this blog has pretty much doubled over the past ten days.

so i thought i'd say hello to y'all and welcome you to my little place.

It's not clear, or at least i can't figure it out, where all the new folks are coming from. surely the link in the Bull's Eye Blog at the N&O last Friday ain't doing it. And since Blazer Manpurse doesn't even have a friggin' blogroll, i know you're not coming from his place. (Except this morning. Thanks for the link, Blazer.) Where's Blazer's blogroll anyway?

if you're wondering where the name came from, or how to find the Seegar's Fence Co. sign which inspired it, scroll down and click on the last link in the left hand column titled "The Origin Issue."

Comments are encouraged and unmoderated. You can post a comment anonymously. Spam protection is turned on, so make sure you type in the squiggly letters to post your comment. You wouldn't believe the kinds of things that were showing up before i enabled that feature.

I write under my real name, so don't expect to see much about my job or my family here. I write about my neighborhood, Duke Park, in Durham, NC. There's a lot to love about it, and a fair number of things that need to be better. Every Sunday i post a church sign that has caught my eye recently. All the church signs are guaranteed to be unretouched. On some Fridays i post a photo of something blooming in the garden. The rest of the time i write about stuff that piques my curiousity. I write about idiots, mostly in the media or in government. There's a lot of them, so it seems like i post about them frequently.

Archives are on the right, sorted by month. Many posts are tagged, but i haven't figured out how to put the library of tags on the front page. I'm not sure i want to. If you see a post you like, and want to read others about the same topic, click on the tag. The blogroll on the left side of the page is almost exclusively devoted to people who write about or are in Durham. Go read their stuff. The "Ephemera" links are mostly science or space related items that catch my eye, but don't need to be commented on. They disappear after a while. That's why they're called ephemera.

That's about it. Thanks for stopping by. Hope to see you around again soon.


Continue reading Welcome new readers

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

President Bush: We have always been at war with Eastasia

Oceania was at war with Eastasia: Oceania had always been at war with Eastasia. A large part of the political literature of five years was now completely obsolete. Reports and records of all kinds, newspapers, books, pamphlets, films, sound-tracks, photographs—all had to be rectified at lightning speed. Although no directive was ever issued, it was known that the chiefs of the Department intended that within one week no reference to the war with Eurasia, or the alliance with Eastasia, should remain in existence anywhere. The work was overwhelming, all the more so because the processes that it involved could not be called by their true names. Everyone in the Records Department worked eighteen hours in the twenty-four, with two three-hour snatches of sleep. Mattresses were brought up from the cellars and pitched all over the corridors: meals consisted of sandwiches and Victory Coffee wheeled round on trolleys by attendants from the canteen. Each time that Winston broke off for one of his spells of sleep he tried to leave his desk clear of work, and each time that he crawled back sticky-eyed and aching, it was to find that another shower of paper cylinders had covered the desk like a snowdrift, half-burying the speakwrite and overflowing on to the floor, so that the first job was always to stack them into a neat enough pile to give him room to work. What was worst of all was that the work was by no means purely mechanical. Often it was enough merely to substitute one name for another, but any detailed report of events demanded care and imagination. Even the geographical knowledge that one needed in transferring the war from one part of the world to another was considerable.

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Continue reading President Bush: We have always been at war with Eastasia


This is funny.

This is funnier.
h/t to toastie


Continue reading Humor

Beaver Queen Pageant - Meet your judges

First of a series

We're only 10 days away from the Third Annual Beaver Queen Pageant, presented in the Duke Park meadow by Beaver Lodge Local 1504. Last year's celebrity judge, Sgt. Dale Gunther of the Durham Police Department, was such a hit (and had such a good time that he could hardly contain himself), that this year the entire panel of judges consists of local celebrities. We'll be profiling them all (we hope) over the next few days.

First up is Blazer Manpurse, BFA, proprietor of the heppest blog in all of downtown Durham, BullSh@t. Blazer was kind enough to send along some previously undisclosed biographical information, and to answer a few of our questions. In his own words, here is Blazer Manpurse, BFA.

Blazer Manpurse's true background is shrouded in secrecy. After seeing his beloved parents brutally made fun of before his eyes, Manpurse dedicated himself to using sarcasm against those who would seek to take advantage of others. "Developers are a superstitious, cowardly lot," he is rumored to have said, "so my disguise must be able to strike terror into their hearts. I must be a creature of the night, brown and lumpy..." And thus the 'Shatman was born.

Rarely leaving his porcelain hideout, the 'Shatcave, Manpurse now employs a vast arsenal of weapons ('Shatmobile, 'Shatphone, ad nauseum) in his quest to "talk shit to power." His primary organ, " Bullsh@t," is constantly teetering on the verge of total implosion and irrelevance.

We asked Blazer (and all of our judges) a series of questions designed to elicit those brutally honest comments that come from the inner reaches of the soul and that can usually only be accessed after a night of reading Edgar Allen Poe and drinking clandestinely imported absinthe.

DE: I'm especially curious to learn what in your background gives you that special quality a Beaver Queen Pageant judge
needs to have.

BM, BFA: As a practicing BFA, I've sketched a lot of beaver in my day. I think I know a thing or two about the subject by now. There's a certain je ne sais quoi about quality beaver, and I'm your man to sniff it out. This is a job I'm ready to lick.

DE: When you visit the beaver lodge behind the old K-Mart/Compare Foods, what thoughts does it evoke?

BM, BFA: This area would be perfect for some really kickass condos.

DE: Where did you get that fabulous outfit you're wearing to the pageant?

BM, BFA: I was born in it.

DE: And lastly, just how big a bribe is it going to take to get you to vote for the candidate of my choice?

BM, BFA: You can accomplish quite a lot with a tub of Cool Whip, a copy of "The Catcher in the Rye" and a leopard print banana hammock...

There you have it, up close and personal with Blazer Manpurse, BFA. Check in over the next 10 days to meet more of our celebrity judges and contestants, and to learn how to really get the most out of this year's pageant.


Continue reading Beaver Queen Pageant - Meet your judges

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

U.S. Democrats to fund Iraq war with no pullout date


$100 billion to get us through September. Six freakin' billion dollars a week pissed down the drains of Iraq and Afghanistan because the Democratic leadership is afraid of the weakest, most incompetent, most reviled president in the history of the United States.

No wonder so many people see no differences between the parties.

UPDATE: Via Greg Sargent, Senator Harry Reid's (D-NV) comments on why this is not a bad thing:
QUESTION: How about exit dates and timelines or withdrawal strategies or language in the bill? Isn't that a significant concession by your side?

REID: First of all, it hasn't been determined what we're going to have in that. But keep in mind the progress that we have made. Even the Republicans now have timelines. Remember, they wouldn't accept our timelines in the bill that was vetoed? And they're talking now about a plan B, which basically is what was in the vetoed bill. So I think we have to look at the progress that has been made. We now have the timeline that the Republicans have set, and that's this September. And that's the very least. And then, as I've indicated, the defense authorization, we're going to start right where we've left off with this bill, continuing our push to change direction in the war in Iraq. And now we're being joined by Republicans.

Umm, how many ways do i know to say bullshit?

This does nothing to bring our troops home, does nothing to make the US safer, does nothing to inspire people to vote Democratic in the 2008 elections.

Jesus Christ, Harry. The people know that this war is the stupidest, most dangerous foreign policy mistake the US has ever been involved in. We know it can't end well, and the longer it takes to end it, the worse the results are going to be. You had a chance to take a big step, and you bailed.

We don't care if you're being joined by Republicans. We care if you stand up for doing the right thing.

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Signs of the times

I'm now getting hot stock tip spam with the following subject header:

Impeach George Bush and Cheney too.



Continue reading Signs of the times

The politics of climate change

A couple of stories have crossed the wires in the last 24 hours that illustrate precisely how the present US administration's practice of "faith-based science" is harming our citizens, our country, and our planet.

First, let me make clear my position on climate change. Anyone who attempts to ignore or dispute the data which shows our planet is getting warmer (or more precisely, our climate system is getting more energetic) is a fucking moron. (Yes, that's a technical term.) The data is also clear that at least some of this warming is due to human causes, almost certainly most of it is, and very likely the overwhelming majority of the earth's warming is a result of the increased carbon and other greenhouse gases in our atmosphere as a result of human activity over the past several hundred years. That's where the science is, and if you are not willing to accept that, you should not be in a position of establishing, directing, or implementing public policy.

The real points of debate right now are how severe the impact on the planet will be, and whether we have 10 years, 50 years, or a hundred years to reverse the changes, or whether it may already be too late.

Lovelock, to cite probably the most well known of the "act immediately or it's too late" thinkers, has proposed both a crash program to convert all energy generation to nuclear powered to reduce greenhouse gases, and alternately despaired that we're basically doomed.

I tend, on my better days, to fall in with the "50 - 100 year window to fix things" crowd. Mostly because it's a time frame within which signifcant change can be made. If Lovelock is right, however, we'll find out soon enough.

Either way, the sight of my government continuing to deny the existence of the problem is just getting me angrier by the day. Yesterday, Reuters reported that:
The United States is battling to stop next month's Group of Eight summit in Germany from pushing for urgent talks on a new deal to fight global warming after the Kyoto Protocol lapses in 2012.

In a draft of the final communique for the June 6-8 summit seen by Reuters, Washington wants references taken out to the urgency of the climate crisis and the need for a U.N. conference in Bali in December to open talks on a new global deal.

According to the draft, the United States supports the deletion of the following paragraphs: "We firmly agree that resolute and concerted international action is urgently needed in order to reduce global greenhouse gas emissions and sustain our common basis of living."

"To this end we will, in the face of the U.N. Climate Change Conference at the end of this year, send a clear message on the further development of the international regime to combat climate change."

And after removing those clear, if less than specific, paragraphs, here's what the US wants the new document to say: "Addressing climate change is a long-term issue that will require global participation and a diversity of approaches to take into account differing circumstances."

Say what? What a bunch of drivel. Where's the leadership? Where's the drive? Where's the vision of how to meet this urgent challenge and create a livable future for our kids. I'm trying to imagine John Kennedy mumbling this pabulum while announcing that the US would put a man on the moon within a decade. That's why Armstrong and Aldrin were able to go to the moon in 1969, while Both Bush's space program announcements have been consigned to the bureaucratic dustbin.

This morning, an AP story showed another side of the administration's inability to deal with reality, preferring instead to revel in Sunday school dioramas that may comfort, but fail to enlighten or educate.
The Smithsonian Institution toned down an exhibit on climate change in the Arctic for fear of angering Congress and the Bush administration, says a former administrator at the museum.

Among other things, the script, or official text, of last year's exhibit was rewritten to minimize and inject more uncertainty into the relationship between global warming and humans, said Robert Sullivan, who was associate director in charge of exhibitions at the Smithsonian's National Museum of Natural History.

Also, officials omitted scientists' interpretation of some research and let visitors draw their own conclusions from the data, he said. In addition, graphs were altered "to show that global warming could go either way," Sullivan said.

"It just became tooth-pulling to get solid science out without toning it down," said Sullivan, who resigned last fall after 16 years at the museum. He said he left after higher-ups tried to reassign him.

This is not all that different from the presence of Creationist fiction at the Grand Canyon, for example, a willful ignorance of science and human observation in favor of fear and superstition. What makes the Smithsonian exhibit worse is that it prevents those visitors, many of whom may be encountering this debate for the first time, from learning the full scope of the issue from a supposedly trustworthy source. All in the name of a politics which is rooted in preventing the dissemination of human knowledge.

You know, the irony is that if it turns out that Lovelock is right, we won't be able to blame God at all for our failures.

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Continue reading The politics of climate change


So when i got home on Saturday from the trip up the mountain and back, i had a drink, watched the end of the Mets - Yankees game, and then pretty much vegged in front of the Heroes marathon on SciFi. I think i caught the last 4 or 5 episodes leading up to last night's finale.

i guess because i didn't have a whole season's worth of emotional involvement riding on the climax, it didn't quite pack the punch that the producer's were aiming for. Nathan's decision to forego the Presidency of a devastated America by sacrificing himself to prevent that devastation in the first place might be an object lesson for, say, Rudy Giuliani, but it didn't have the impact of Yoda shaking his head sadly and saying under his breath, "That is why you fail."

And Sylar leaving his trail of blood like snail slime crawling to the sewer to lead in to next year's story? And Hiro in feudal Japan?

All that's missing is Nazis.

I'll probably pass on next season.

Any Heroes fans out there want to change my thinking?

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Continue reading Heroes

Monday, May 21, 2007

Graffiti - not the good kind

According to a post on the Duke Park list serv, this gang related graffiti on the Duke Park handball court was reported to Durham One-Call on Saturday afternoon. At 6:30 Monday night, it was still around.

Which actually raises the question - how long is the handball court going to remain in the park? It's another long lasting example of Durham Parks and Recreation's inability to hear what its customers are saying. During the charette process following the 1996 bond issue, when Parks and Rec met with Duke Park and other interested city residents to decide how to renovate the park, there was virtually no constituency for the handball court. Majority interest favored converting it to tennis. But Parks and Rec got it into their heads that there were enough tennis courts in town, and Duke Park deserved something better.

Well, of course, Parks and Rec blew through all of the budgeted funds for the park renovation on a swell new playground, and no additional funds are anywhere in the budget for a future redo of the handball court.

So i guess we'll just continue to use maintenance funds cleaning up the inevitable graffiti and other messes.

Let's hope new Parks and Rec Director Rhonda Parker has some better ideas about how her department can serve its constituents.

UPDATE: The graffiti had been removed by 5pm on Tuesday, 5/22.


Continue reading Graffiti - not the good kind

Warehouse Blues schedule

The Warehouse Blues series, Friday nights during the summer in the West Village courtyard, is one of the things that Durham's Parks and Rec department gets unequivocally right. Cosponsored with MusicMaker Relief Foundation, the series features local and regional roots musicians in an intimate, outdoor setting, complete with shared grill space and giggling 4 year olds.

This summer's schedule is out, but who's playing is unimportant. It's a great way to kick off the weekend, meet some new friends, catch up with old ones; it's free and you can bring your own adult beverages. What more could you ask for?

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Kidney disease

Toastie's got an informative and moving post about living with kidney disease. You should go read it.

Continue reading Kidney disease


Buried in a story yesterday about the deaths of 7 US troops in Iraq was this nugget:
In another political setback, the leader of Iraq's largest Shiite party, Abdul-Aziz al-Hakim, has been diagnosed with lung cancer and was headed to
Iran for treatment, party officials said Sunday. Al-Hakim's absence is likely to create disarray in his Supreme Islamic Council in Iraq — a Shiite party the U.S. is counting on to push through benchmark reforms.

Insert your own snarky comment about the US medical and health insurance system here.


Continue reading Huh?

Sunday, May 20, 2007

Speaking of the Durham News

Hey, it's been a long weekend for me. I did a 400 mile round trip yesterday helping my daughter pack up her apartment and move back to Durham, and today, my neighbor and i split about 5 cords of wood from the trees we've had taken down in our yards the past month or so, so i'm just now getting around to catching up on the local print media.

Anyway, great article in the Durham News about two local businesses, Stone Bros. and Byrd, and Barnes Supply. They're both throwbacks to the neighborhood garden supply shop that in many towns died out with the advent of big-box retailing. Good on the Durham News for recognizing them. Hopefully they'll pick up some new business as a result.


Continue reading Speaking of the Durham News

Trash talking

The N&O reports that the Durham Solid Waste department has been mixing yard waste with regular trash since late last year. As you may recall, the city charges an extra $60 a year to pick up yard waste, on top of the 40 bucks or so it gets for the separate yard waste cart. In fact, the city's website cautions us to, "(r)emember that State laws prohibit yard waste from being mixed with regular household waste." The website also notes that the city recycles all yard waste at it's compost center, which does not reflect the fact that the compost center has been closed since late last year, following a fire and the revelation that it lacked the necessary permits from the state.

So what does Donald Long, the new Solid Waste Department director have to say about the situation?
"That's a very temporary arrangement," said Donald Long, the city solid waste management director.

The city will continue to collect the $60 annual fee, Long said. "The fee is for us to pick it up," he said. "The fee is not contingent on what we do with it."

Uhhh, Donald? Fewer than a quarter of the city's households participate in the yard waste program. Even allowing for some cart sharing among neighbors, probably 2/3 of the yard waste in the city goes uncollected. We need to be encouraging people to participate. If you're not going to eliminate the fee, at least those of us who have been paying it while we don't need to could get a discount on the next year's service?

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Continue reading Trash talking

Best headline ever!

Mets beat hapless Yankees again in Subway Series

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Continue reading Best headline ever!

Iraq news

What to make of this?
Northeast of the capital, there was more gruesome Iraqi-on-Iraqi murder. Men in Iraqi army uniforms rousted Kurdish villagers from their homes, separated out the able-bodied men, and shot dead 15, according to an Iraqi general and a Kurdish political party.

It was the latest incident in months of sectarian killings in lawless Diyala province and officials said Saturday that the local army commander was fired by the government.

. . .

The execution-style slayings of 15 Kurds in Hamid Shifi, 60 miles northeast of Baghdad by the men posing as troops, stood out because details of the event were known.

Since they "fired" the local army commander, it's a pretty safe assumption that the men weren't merely "posing" as Iraqi troops. These are the guys we're arming and training. These are they guys who are supposed to "stand up" so we can "stand down." Remember that?

There's a reason why the Democratic Congress' approval ratings are starting to rival those of President Bush, and it's got very little to do with the new immigration bill.

There's no more honor to be salvaged from our Iraq misadventure. This is an entirely predictable end to a foreign policy based more on the philosophy of the sign directly below than it is on any knowledge of the real world and how it works. It's time to stop pretending that anything good can come of this, and just bring our people home.


Continue reading Iraq news

Sunday morning church marquee blogging

Roxboro St., Durham, NC


Continue reading Sunday morning church marquee blogging

Saturday, May 19, 2007

Sky blogging

Hope you got out to look at the moon and Venus together in the western sky tonight. Might be a few years before you get to see that again.

Continue reading Sky blogging

Gary's pissed

Can't say as i blame him.

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Friday, May 18, 2007

Third Friday crawling


Continue reading Third Friday crawling

Traffic circle blogging

The Sweet Zephyrs

UPDATE: Phil's got video. Check it out.


Continue reading Traffic circle blogging

Friday flower blogging



Continue reading Friday flower blogging

Now that's what I call civilized

Tomorrow's the big game, the FA Cup final between Chelsea and Man U. It's the English Super Bowl, if you don't follow soccer, the culmination of a season long tournament that runs parallel to league play, that every club, from local amateur sides to the highest level international players, is able to participate in. (Fox Soccer Channel won't be showing the game until Tuesday night, so please don't tell me the score, OK?)

Over in the British Isles, where gambling is legal, you can get a line on virtually every possible circumstance surrounding the game. My favorite?
Paddy Power (an Irish bookmaker) has opened a book on the BBC's first commentary cliche during the match, with "worth the wait" the favourite at 6-1.

On a more serious note, i like what the Brits are doing to encourage the 90,000 + fans attending the game to use public transportation.
A spokesman for Wembley said fans attending Saturday's match were being encouraged not to bring their cars. He said there were good public transport links nearby and nowhere to park during the game.

Try that in Southern California.


Continue reading Now that's what I call civilized

Old white guys - the last ethnic group it's OK to rag on

Now that Wolfowitz is on his way to a cushy retirement, here's who the Bush administration is considering to replace him:

Among those mentioned as a possible replacement for Wolfowitz were former Deputy Secretary of State
Robert Zoellick, who was Bush's former trade chief; Robert Kimmitt, the No. 2 at the Treasury Department; Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson; former Rep. Jim Leach, R-Iowa; Sen. Richard Lugar, R-Ind.,; Stanley Fischer, who once worked at the International Monetary Fund and is now with the Bank of Israel; and former U.S. Federal Reserve chairman Paul Volcker.



Continue reading Old white guys - the last ethnic group it's OK to rag on

Iraq - still more thoughts

Rereading the Iraq post below, published last night, i realized that, having written it over a period of several days, it may not have the focus i was aiming for.

so here's the executive summary.

The US is making the same mistakes in Iraq that the Soviets made in Afghanistan. The consequences of those mistakes were fatal to the Soviet Union, and pretty disastrous for the rest of the world, since, arguably the Soviet misadventure in Afghanistan is what allowed al-Qaeda to originally organize, and the Taliban to come to power.

The consequences of the US mistakes in Iraq are unpredictable, but likely to be as serious as those that followed the Soviet misadventure. The time remaining to us to change course and avoid these consequences is rapidly disappearing.

If the pundits would rather argue about Rosie O'Donnell, and the Congress wants to pretend that they are providing oversight while refusing to do what needs to be done about the Bush administration, then we're pretty well fucked. If my kids were little, i'd be teaching them to speak Chinese.


Continue reading Iraq - still more thoughts

"I'm proud to be sick"

I'll bet you are.


Continue reading "I'm proud to be sick"

Thursday, May 17, 2007

More Iraq thoughts

I wrote a little earlier about a British think tank report which gave a perspective on Iraq not often seen in the US. The report is worth reading in its entirety. Here's the executive summary:
• Iraq has fractured into regional power bases. Political, security and economic power has devolved to local sectarian, ethnic or tribal political groupings. The Iraqi government is only one of several ‘state-like’ actors. The regionalization of Iraqi political life needs to be recognized as a defining feature of Iraq’s political structure.
• There is not ‘a’ civil war in Iraq, but many civil wars and insurgencies involving a number of communities and organizations struggling for power. The surge is not curbing the high level of violence, and improvements in security cannot happen in a matter of months.
• The conflicts have become internalized between Iraqis as the polarization of sectarian and ethnic identities reaches ever deeper into Iraqi society and causes the breakdown of social cohesion.
• Critical destabilizing issues will come to the fore in 2007–8. Federalism, the control of oil and control of disputed territories need to be resolved.
• Each of Iraq’s three major neighbouring states, Iran, Saudi Arabia and Turkey, has different reasons for seeing the instability there continue, and each uses different methods to influence developments.
• These current harsh realities need to be accepted if new strategies are to have any chance of preventing the failure and collapse of Iraq. A political solution will require engagement with organizations possessing popular legitimacy and needs to be an Iraqi accommodation, rather than a regional or US-imposed approach.

This summary paints a picture of the war that is, i think, unlike any conflict the US has been involved in, certainly within my lifetime. But people have a tendency to view current affairs through a prism of past experience. For most of us, the unsuccessful war of our past is Vietnam, and that's what we see when we look at Iraq, whether we support or oppose the US government's position.

Bush supporters tend to try to pin the blame for the failure of the US military mission in Iraq on its domestic opponents. Not only is this the same analysis offered regarding Vietnam, Matt Yglesias shows us its historical antecedents in Germany following the first World War.

It shouldn't be necessary to even discredit this line of reasoning, but attempts like Ramirez' to blame the Congress are shown for the cheap propaganda they are by the Chatham House study.

But the Chatham House study points out as well the inadequacy of using the Vietnam War as an analogue for our struggles in Iraq from any perspective.

The US position in Vietnam was an attempt to establish an artificial state (South Vietnam) that had little to no indigenous support among the Vietnamese people. But the restoration of a unified state was supported, and the US position could never have been successful, regardless of the military resources committed.

How does this differ from Iraq?

Well, for starters, Iraq was a unified state before the US entered. We fractured it. And here's how Chatham House describes the current various conflicts:
• a struggle over the control of the state between
Shi’a and Sunnis, with Kurds involving themselves
as potential ‘king-makers’. The result of this is a
vicious Shi’a–Sunni civil war in Baghdad and its
environs in which the security institutions of the
Iraqi government are involved.
• a struggle for control over the design of the
state, and whether it will be unitary or federal. This
is bringing Kurds into direct confrontation with
Sunnis and supporters of Muqtada Sadr, and
causing conflict between Sadrists and other Shi’a
• a rapidly emerging conflict between Kurds and
non-Kurds in Kirkuk, which has every possibility of
being mirrored in Mosul.
• a Sunni–US conflict in the centre and north of the
• a Shi’a (Sadrist)–US/UK conflict in the centre and
south of the country.
• a Sunni–Sunni conflict in the governorates of
Anbar, Nineva and Diyala between tribal forces and
those associated with Al-Qaeda and other radical
Islamist movements.
• a conflict caused by the spreading and
strengthening of the Islamic State of Iraq in
Baghdad and the Sunni Triangle, including rifts
between Al-Qaeda and home-grown Iraqi
movements such as Ansar al-Sunna.
• a Shi’a–Shi’a conflict in Najaf and Basra, mainly
between Sadrists and Badr forces.
• rampant criminality across the entire country.

There are no perfect analogies, but that sounds more like the conflict that the Soviets got themselves trapped in back in 1980 in Afghanistan.

Here's another thing to look at. Soviet casualties in Afghanistan during the length of the conflict. The Soviets lost about 6000 men in the first 4 years of fighting. You have to interpret the sick/wounded column in a way that makes sense. Ninety percent of the sick/wounded casualties were actually communicable diseases that spread through their forces. So, rather than nearly 150,000 wounded, drop a zero and think about 15,000 wounded in combat through the first 4 years of the Soviet/Afghanistan fighting.

US casualties in Iraq through 4+ years are nearly 3500 dead, and over 30,000 wounded. One thing to remember is that we have been told that many combat injuries that would have resulted in death in previous wars do not in Iraq. So it's not a stretch to say that US casualties in Iraq are not dissimilar to those suffered by the Soviets during their Afghanistan misadventure. And, according to, US casualties over the past 4 months are at the highest rate since the first days of the war.

Now, i want to revisit a quote i posted 10 days or so ago. This is from Major Gen. Rick Lynch, who commands US forces south of Baghdad:
“You got a thinking enemy out there,“ Lynch added. “As soon we do something to prove our capability, he does something to defeat our capability. It is a continual cycle.

It's worth remembering that the US military budget is about $10 billion/week, before the Iraq and Afghanistan conflicts are included. (The unwillingness of the Bush administration to include these wars in the budget is a problem of another rank.) The current supplemental request comes in at a bit over $2 billion/week. That "the enemy" is able to "defeat our capability" seemingly at will is something to keep thinking about.

And the reason why we need to think about is because of the Soviet experience in Afghanistan. Several players, including the US, Pakistan, and Saudi Arabia, were contributing arms and aid to anti-Soviet forces, who were by no means unified, not unlike the anti-US forces in Iraq. (One difference, however, is that no outside parties are open about ther materiel support for the Iraq insugency. If that should change, the entire dynamic changes as well.) In fact, one of the groups receiving support from the US and Pakistan would eventually become al-Qaeda, a fact which is often forgotten by American Republicans. Under Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush, the US supported Afghani anti-Soviet forces to the tune of between $5 and $10 billion dollars, or about a billion per year.

That level of funding was sufficient to pretty much spell the demise of the Soviet Union, which could not maintain its Afghanistan adventure financially or politically. It could not, though, provide a stable unified Afghan government, until the Taliban moved in in 1994.

Lessons learned?



Continue reading More Iraq thoughts

Blues Festival news

According to both the Herald-Sun (reg. required) and the Hayti Heritage Foundation website, this year's Blues Festival will be held at the Durham Athletic Park, contrary to earlier rumors that it would be moved to accomodate the park's planned renovations. I'm assuming that means the renovations will not be geting under way until later in the year, and maybe the Beer Fest will be able to use the DAP this year as well.

The H-S reports a stellar lineup for the Blues Fest, with Buddy Guy (warning - sound files play automatically) and Percy Sledge headlining on Friday Sept. 7, and Shemekia Copeland and Booker T. and MGs performing on Saturday night.

Yeah, that Booker T.

See you in September.


Continue reading Blues Festival news

Speeding, continued

The N&O's got part 3 of their series on speeding up today. As with the previous two parts, they're focusing on the criminal justice system and how to play the game to avoid points and insurance penalties.

I can't help but feel that they've wasted a good opportunity to really delve into deeper issues of road design that encourages speeding at the expense of the safety of people who aren't in cars, and the culture which is created by policy decisions which privilege the car over other means of transportation.


Continue reading Speeding, continued

Traffic circle live performance invitation

From the Duke Park list:
This Friday from about 5:30-6:00 (weather permitting) the woodwind quintet Sweet Zephyrs plans to play in the traffic circle. If you can, please drive (SLOWLY), walk, or bike on over for a few tunes!

The Duke Park traffic circle is at the intersection of Markham and Glendale. There's limited parking on the south side of Markham, and some more on Glendale, especially south of the intersection.

Come by and make it a happening.


Continue reading Traffic circle live performance invitation

Prioritizing pedestrian safety

Somehow i missed Gary's post yesterday about an accident on Franklin St. in Chapel Hill that, thankfully, avoided pedestrian casualties due to decent road design.

However, i disagree with his assesment that a similar accident in Durham would have caused pedestrian casualties. Primarily because you need to have pedestrians first.

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Continue reading Prioritizing pedestrian safety

British think tank: Iraq on verge of total collapse

So says the BBC about the new report out today from Chatham House, a foreign policy research institute founded in London back in 1920.

Iraq faces the distinct possibility of collapse and fragmentation, UK foreign policy think tank Chatham House says.

Its report says the Iraqi government is now largely powerless and irrelevant in many parts of the country.

It warns there is not one war but many local civil wars, and urges a major change in US and British strategy, such as consulting Iraq's neighbours more.

The analysis is getting a fair amount of coverage in Britain and the Middle East; in the US, not so much.

I've been thinking more about Iraq lately. Isn't everybody? One of the things i've been thinking is poor our analogies for the Iraq War are. Some of my right wing co-workers will often point out, for example, how much lower US casualties are than during the Vietnam War. Implicit in this is the idea that, somehow, if we only supported our fighting forces more, instead of stabbing them in the back, the war would be winnable.

But Vietnam is an imperfect analogy. I'm not sure which, of the many wars this country has fought previously, Iraq is most like. In my lifetime, the conflict that seems to be most like this one was one that the US was only peripherally involved in. And that's the Soviet war in Afghanistan.

I'll have a post up later today, or tomorrow, explaining my thinking on this. In the meanwhile, it's worth contemplating all of the consequences of that particular misadventure.


Continue reading British think tank: Iraq on verge of total collapse

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Small steps

I've just learned that the city of Durham has hired a Bicycle and Pedestrian Coordinator to replace the sorely missed Alison Carpenter. Looking at Dale McKeel's postings to the Durham Bike and Ped list, it looks like he might have been given the job earlier this year. The city's website doesn't list him in the staff directory for the Transportation Department, and the PDF file of the Public Works Dep't. org chart is a mass of gibberish in my reader.

Anyway, here's hoping that a good working relationship develops between Mr. McKeel and the neighborhoods. I know i'll do my part in introducing him to Roxboro St., Avondale Dr., and Washington Ave.


Continue reading Small steps

Meanwhile, in the real world . . .

Up in Washington, DC, the Senate today will vote on the Feingold/Reid amendment, which calls on the President to withdraw US combat forces from Iraq within 4 months, and cuts off funding for troop deployment at the end of next March.

Leading candidates for the Democratic nomination for the presidency are supporting it, but frankly, i don't think there's a ghost of a chance of it passing. Forty votes will be a significant achievement, and it could get as many as forty five, i think. Here in North Carolina, represented as we are by Liddy Dole and Richard Burr, neither of whom are capable of thought independent fromt he Whit House party line, i don't see any reason to call our Senators urging them to support the amendment. Dole's vote in support of Bush's failed Iraq policy will be another reason why North Carolina will be represented by a new Senator after November, 2008.

UPDATE: Not even close. 29 Senators supported the Feingold/Reid amendment. That's only a little more than half the Democrats in the Senate.

We're pretty well fucked. And we probably deserve it.

UPDATE 2: the 29-67 vote was merely a vote to close debate on the Feingold amendment. So we didn't even get the "straight up-or-down" vote that our Republican friends were so hot and bothered about for so many things during the previous 6 years. Pretty pathetic that Dems coulnd't even muster the 41 votes needed to bring this thing to the floor.

Sixteen Dems, including (surprisingly to me, at least) Carl Levin of Michingan, voted against cloture. No Republicans voted for cloture. Liddy Dole is listed as not voting. Hope she's feeling OK.

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Continue reading Meanwhile, in the real world . . .

A loose dog story

I've always been a dog person and, yes, when i was younger and living in a different town, probably not the most responsible dog owner. But 6 years of living with an ever changing variety of neighbors who think that proper dog care consists of tying your mutt up to the carport pillar, changing the water in his bowl twice a week, and yelling "Shut Up!" loudly at 3 am when he's been howling for the past two hours, (and those are the good owners. The ones who simply open the front door to let their dogs roam the neighborhood killing cats are a whole different story) has changed me a bit.

My golden died over a year and a half ago, and i'm still not close to being ready for another dog.

But i definitely got a chuckle this morning from Jose Mourinho's problems with his dog in a fancy London neighborhood.

Today's Sun claims Mourinho sprinted out of Chelsea's player of the year awards and rushed home to Belgravia after his wife called to tell him police had arrived at their home and were trying to take the dog away to quarantine. Officials feared the dog had been taken abroad, then back to Britain, without jabs.

But Mourinho, apparently unwilling to surrender his pooch so soon after letting go of his Premiership title, is said to have confronted the police before grabbing the dog and releasing it onto the streets so that they couldn't take it with them. The Sun claims it was still on the loose last night.

"A 44-year-old man was arrested on suspicion of obstructing police and was taken to a west London police station," said a Scotland Yard spokesman today. "He subsequently received a caution for obstructing police."

The spokesman said the dog was to be seized for alleged offences under the Animal Health Act of 1981 and the Rabies Order of 1974.

Mourinho, in case you don't follow European football, is the highly successful manager of the Chelsea Football Club, sort of the equivalent of Joe Torre. In his first year, Chelsea won the EPL title for the first time in five decades. They repeated in his second year. They came close to a third consecutive title this year. He makes American Express commercials. He is suave and elegant and impeccably dressed, even when pacing the sidelines during a Champions League match.

Which is why the vision of Mourinho stamping his feet, yelling red-faced at the police and, ultimately grabbing the Yorkie and turning him loose on the streets, is so amusing.

Oh, and if you see the dog, The Sun would like you to shoot them an email at

Continue reading A loose dog story

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

I shudder to think . . .

"I shudder to think where the country would be right now if the religious right had not evolved," Falwell said when he stepped down as Moral Majority president in 1987.

Thanks for nothing, you fat SOB.

UPDATE: Sometimes i wish i spent more time watching cable news programs. Even better - Josh has the video.


Continue reading I shudder to think . . .

Pace Car update

Just a quick note that you can now enroll in the Pace Car program online.

See my previous thoughts on the Pace Car program here and here, and Kevin's also been posting about the problem of speeding on our neighborhood streets.


Continue reading Pace Car update

Pedestrian signs

Spend a little time at the Brightleaf Square courtyard, and you'll notice that pedestrians crossing Gregson St. are treated with a bit of respect by drivers passing through. Maybe it's because a lot of the drivers are also Brightleaf patrons, or maybe it's the ratio of pedestrians to motorists.

Or maybe it's the frikkin' sign in the middle of the road reminding drivers that it's the law for them to allow pedestrians to cross the street.

Which forced me to take a second look at the new pedestrian signage at Knox St. and Roxboro St, where i cross daily.

Why is it so goddamned hard for the NCDOT to post signage reminding motorists that it's the law to yield to a pedestrian in a crosswalk? What are they afraid of? Why can't the signage at all crosswalks include this bit of information, helping to educate the driving population that they are not any more privileged in their use of public facilities than those who are not behind the wheel? How hard would it be to make crosswalks look like this:

Or this:

Or even better, this:

click on any of the photos for a high res version

I've had my fill of fucking morons like JohnJacobH who writes in to the News and Observer dismissing "Bureaucratic fad(s) such as "traffic calming devices" (traffic circles)," as though any attempt to remind him that roadways are community property, and that he is not entitled to treat them like his own personal Lowe's Speedway, is somehow emblematic of the bureaucracy trampling on his rights to be free.

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Continue reading Pedestrian signs