Dependable Erection

Saturday, May 31, 2008

Just because


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Beaver Queen Pageant - Meet the judges

The mysterious wrestler Nacho Rafa has found his way into the Duke Park wetlands, and offered his talents as a judge of this year's contestants. Bowing to his studliness, the Beaver Lodge Local 1504 had no choice but to accept:

Nacho Rafa, the world famous "luchador" has traveled the world, taking time to get to know the beavers of the world. "Many people, they think that just because a man wears stretchy pants, that he cannot be interested in beaver," says Nacho. "I can assure you that this is not the case," he adds while grooming his luxuriant chest hair. "In fact, the stretchy pants help me gain easier access to the beaver den, and they also help with the quick exit, which is sometimes just as necessary." But why the mysterious mask? "I am so well known from my exploits in the lucha libre ring, not to mention the beaver den, that I cannot go anywhere without my mask My friends and enemies alike would tear me apart!" Nonetheless, the mask doesn't block his ability to pick out a good beaver when he sees it. "Without a doubt, I will be the ultimate beaver judge," Nacho boasts. Let's hope so. Nacho has threatened to unleash his top secret "beaver tail smack down" wrestling move on "anyone who upstages his beaver judging." Viva el Nacho!

Nacho Rafa, in his native habitat


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Number Nine


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Beaver Queen Pageant - Meet the judges

Beaver Lodge Local 1504 is also very excited by the presence of Dolly Wood on the judges panel. Dolly is one of the most talented designers of lodges in town, and we're looking forward to the first condo-lodge to be, dare we say it, erected by Mr. Wood. Look for it soon.
I’m not really familiar with beaver. I’m kind of...a beaver virgin, you could say. I know much more about....starfishes and snakes...that sort of thing.

As a judge, it will be necessary for beavers to be clandestine and, dare I say, closeted about their bribes and attempts to influence my decision. It’s important that the beavers...well...not get too close.

My credentials?

I’ve been called the Mayor of Gay Durham. Not to be confused with the Gay Mayor of Durham (which hasn’t happened yet, but I’m working on it). I’ve been accused of being the Don of the Gay Mafia in Durham. There’s no such thing, and anyone who claims otherwise is liable to get their coffee table legs broken.

I have a knack for talking first, and thinking later. That, combined with my need for daily 12-Step recovery and my legendary codependency, leads to a paradoxical combination of brutal candor and stagnant diplomacy. I love to call it like I see it, especially if it’s the answer you wanted to hear.

Most importantly, I will not be swayed by the typical powers of the beaver (see beaver-virgin thing above). The beavers will have to perform, and perform well. The performances must rise above the day-to-day routine of beaverhood.


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Friday, May 30, 2008

Good times


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My world just got bigger

Image: Gleison Miranda, Funai
The photos were taken during several flights over one of the most remote parts of the Amazon rainforest in Brazil's Acre region.

They show tribe members outside thatched huts, surrounded by the dense jungle, pointing bows and arrows up at the camera.

"We did the overflight to show their houses, to show they are there, to show they exist," the group quoted Jose Carlos dos Reis Meirelles Junior, an official in the Brazilian government's Indian affairs department, as saying.

"This is very important because there are some who doubt their existence."

He described the threats to such tribes and their land as "a monumental crime against the natural world" and "further testimony to the complete irrationality with which we, the 'civilised' ones, treat the world".

Continue reading My world just got bigger

Friday flower blogging


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On the radio

Just a reminder that Kevin and i will be on your radio Sunday night at 7:30 pm, WXDU 88.7 FM in Durham, on the web.

We'll be talking with Miss Kaferine De Nerve about the upcoming Beaver Queen Pageant, among other things. I'm pretty sure i'm going to ask Kevin about the recent Dunkin' Donuts/Rachel Ray keffiyeh kerfuffle too.

I wanted to take a minute to update some comments from the inaugural radio show a couple of weeks back. We had City Councilman Eugene Brown and Planning Commissioner Don Moffitt as our guests, and i asked them for a comment about the Durham v. Graham case. Neither of them were familiar with the case, and to be frank, neither was i. I was counting on one of them to comment knowledgeably, and failed to do my own homework.

Anyway, the docket sheet, which doesn't say too much that i can understand, is here. An Indy article from April 2006 is here:
Durham businessman Lynn E. Graham has accumulated nearly six acres of construction and demolition debris, piles of fill dirt, junked cars, junked furniture and just plain junk at two illegal dump sites, one in East Durham and one near Research Triangle Park.

Cited numerous times by county regulators for an array of environmental and zoning violations since early 2003, Graham has also accumulated more than $600,000 in fines--and counting, at $2,400 a day, until he brings the properties up to standards.

It's the largest financial penalty Durham County's erosion control officer, Joe Pearce, has imposed. The enormous dollar figure signifies a long, convoluted effort by regulators to convince Graham to clean up his properties and protect the environment from pollution. Last week, a judge gave the landowner two weeks to come up with a plan for doing so.

"We want Mr. Graham to do two things: Get a revised plan for how to bring these sites into compliance with his permits; and be held accountable for doing it, not just talking about what's going to happen," Assistant County Attorney Curtis Massey told Superior Court Judge Abraham Penn Jones at a March 30 hearing.

The case has been in the court system for the past two years, and Mr. Graham recently won a judgment vacating the 6 figure fines mentioned above. The County Commissioners, after spirited debate at the April 28 regular session, agreed to accept the judgment:
County Manager Mike Ruffin stated that he seriously struggled with his recommendation to reject Judge Gray’s decision, as the decision does not address the time in violation that was not considered by the Court in the first action, and the decision in the first action did not constitute a final binding judgment under the doctrine of res judicata (which means that the case has been adjudicated and cannot be re-litigated.

Commissioner Heron’s primary concern was that the property owner did not address the
violation of the Sedimentation and Erosion Control Ordinance within a reasonable time
period. Retribution should be made for violating Durham County law. She reiterated this concern numerous times during the discussion.

Commissioner Cheek suggested that the attorneys be allowed to speak.

Chairman Reckhow agreed to give the attorneys five minutes to present their arguments.

The attorneys for each side made their presentations to the Board expressing their positions.

Sam Roberti, Attorney for Lynn Graham, made a presentation expressing his client’s
position. He submitted that the facts are not in dispute and that the case has been fully heard. Any remedy must take place in a higher court.

Marie Inserra, Assistant County Attorney, disagreed with several points made by
Mr. Roberti. Her contention was that the Board is only to consider Judge Gray’s decision of Res Judicata, which requires a final judgment on the merits. The County’s argument is that a hearing has not been held on the merits of the case during a particular time period; therefore, the first prong of Res Judicata is not satisfied.

Attorney Inserra responded to questions by Chairman Reckhow as to why the case was not
heard for the entire time span. She explained that the notice of violation and the notice of civil penalty assessment (which mimicked the statute) failed to specify a defined time period (with an end date) and a clear monetary amount. The judges had concerns about the way the notice was written, which is the law of the case because it was not pursued on appeal.

Attorney Inserra clarified for Vice-Chairman Page that Judge Hobgood and Judge Stephens ruled that the notice of violation was deficient because it failed to specify a defined time period. She stated that this case is an anomaly because most people respond to violations rather quickly as opposed to Mr. Graham’s lack of compliance. Due to the impact of this particular ruling, clear end dates are being defined. In addition, the attorney’s office is moving immediately for injunctive relief.

Attorney Inserra answered questions posed by Commissioner Cheek. She replied that the
property is no longer owned by Mr. Graham; the property is owned by U.S. Capital Partners, which was issued a violation of noncompliance in December since no plan has been filed. Action is currently taking place to make it in compliance with the UDO. However, the property is stabilized in such that no risk is posed. There is no evidence that any damage has been caused by the conditions on the property.

Attorney Robert informed the Board that Mr. Graham totally complied with Judge Jones’
preliminary injunction. The property was completely stabilized under difficult

. . .

Following several additional questions from Chairman Reckhow and Commissioner Heron,
Attorney Inserra stated that signed decisions must be presented by Friday unless the decision is made to adopt Judge Gray’s decision.

Attorney Inserra informed Chairman Reckhow that the County has a “good argument” that
the time period was not heard.

Vice-Chairman Page expressed that he was inclined to agree with Commissioner Cheek that this case should be brought to an end. He asked additional questions for clarity.

Commissioner Cheek stated the complexities of this specific case. “No good can come out of the County pursuing this case.”

Per a question by Vice-Chairman Page, County Manager Ruffin responded that this is the
first case since his becoming County Manager that the judge did not find in favor of the County.

Commissioner Heron moved to accept the County Manager’s recommendation and adopt Judge Gray’s decision. *

The motion died for lack of a second.

Commissioner Cheek moved, seconded by Vice-Chairman Page, to adopt Judge Gray’s decision (“simply in order to put an end to this”).

Vice-Chairman Page stated that he was supporting Commissioner Cheek’s motion because
he feels that Mr. Graham has “dearly” paid for his mistake. The Board should always deal with cases on a case-by-case basis. Too much of a risk is being taken if the County moves forward.

The motion carried with the following vote:

Ayes: Cheek, Cousin, and Page
Noes: Heron and Reckhow
Absent: None

* I believe the minutes are in error here, and that Commissioner Heron's motion should have been recorded as to reject Judge Gray's decision.

Perhaps one of my legal eagle readers can comment on this, but the way i read it, Durham put up with a couple of illegal dumps for several years, and then wasn't able to collect the fines it levied on the owner of the dumps. We got out-lawyered.

anyway, that's the case i was asking our guests about a couple of weeks back, if you were curious. It wasn't a rezoning case, but it does point out, i think some of the challenges in enforcing zoning regulations.


Continue reading On the radio

The Lions of Mesopotamia

This is almost too sad for words.

Less than a year ago, the Iraqi National Football Team, the Lions of Mesopotamia, were the feelgood story of the sports world, winning the Asian Cup against almost overwhelming odds, at a time when the situation in Iraq was at perhaps its worst since the the US occupation began. The makeup of the team, which included Sunni, Shia, and Kurds, reflected the best hopes for Iraq, and the victory perhaps signaled that those hopes were realizable.

The reality of modern Iraqi politics is such that each government ministry has been dolled out along political – read sectarian – lines. The driving force behind the dissolution of Iraq's sports associations was Jassim Jaafar, minister of youth and sports, a Shia politician who is a member of the Supreme Islamic Iraqi Council (SIIC), which is part of a Shia political umbrella group along with Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki's Islamic Dawa Party. "You know what's going on? There is a conflict between Shia and Sunni in sport," explained Hani Abdel Saleem, sports editor for leading Arabic daily newspaper Asharq Al-Awsat. "The minister of sport Jassim Jaafar has tried to push Hussein Saeed out. This guy wants him out because he played under Saddam Hussein and is a Sunni. He has said there is no way he will accept him. Jaafar has good contacts with Maliki too. But Jaafar got a letter from [Jalal] Talabani [Iraq's Kurdish President]. The people in Iraq know that Talabani told Jaafar to stop his involvement in trying to remove Hussein Saeed."

The intervention forced Fifa to temporarily reverse its decision and allowed the game to go ahead. Crisis averted? Not exactly. For one, this communiqué sent from the Iraqi government to Fifa doesn't deal with the dissolution of the Iraqi Olympic Committee. It is now a distinct possibility that the country will not be represented in Beijing. More worrying are the political consequences of the controversy, which will be felt long after the final whistle has blown. It raises the spectre that that the position of the unpopular Prime Minister Maliki has become untenable, especially if Iraq lose on Sunday. "Under Saddam Hussein's time the Sunnis controlled sport. Ammar al Hakim [de facto leader of the SIIC] wants to control this now," Ashraq Al-Awsat's political editor Fayad Maad told me. "But Hussein Saeed is more famous than Maliki. This is [politically] a big mistake. People are tired of politics and war. But the people are never tired of football. Yes sure, Maliki is Shia and he is doing what his party ordered him. He is with Hakim, and Hakim wants to control sport. They are idiots. If they were going to do this why not before qualification started or after. Not now."

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The $20 fix

From the Herald Sun:
'THE $20 FIX' offered for pets

DURHAM -- AnimalKind's "THE $20 FIX" program, The Animal Protection Society of Durham, the Spay-Neuter Assistance Program of NC and the city Parks and Recreation Department are collaborating to prevent accidental pet pregnancies this summer.

"THE $20 FIX" provides financial assistance to residents who otherwise would not be able to afford the cost of spaying or neutering their pets -- specifically, adult Medicaid participants and households below specific income thresholds -- $13,000 to $25,000 gross, depending on the number of people in each household.

Durham residents can request an application for THE $20 FIX financial assistance program by calling (919) 870-1660, online at, at the APS of Durham shelter on East Club Boulevard, or at either Durham County Social Services location.

THE $20 FIX also can finance rabies vaccinations.

I suspect that my readership is probably not the target audience for this program (just a hunch, i'm not using any supersecret DHS software to figure out who's actually on the other end of the screen), but you can probably post this around to local listservs, neighborhood newsletters, etc. That's what i'll be doing.

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Beaver Queen Pageant - Meet the judges

Trip N. Rivers, our next judge, took a more circuitous route, but has arrived in the same place as our other beaver cognoscenti. She describes her journey:
Long-time Durham wetland activist Trip N. Rivers is one of the six co-founders of the Durham-based Southerners On New Ground (SONG). Founded in 1993, SONG is about building transformative models of organizing that connects race, class, culture, gender, and sexual identity/orientation in southern streams. SONG knows diversity creates a vibrant ecosystem. Trip N. Rivers was named one of the "1000 Beavers for Peace for the 2005 Nobel Peace Prize".

This year's pageant has Trip N. euphoric about the days she left her family's lodge. In the summer of 1966, after graduating from high school in upstate New York,

Trip N. did volunteer work for Timothy Leary's League for Spiritual Discovery (LSD) in the West Village. In exchange for her work she was given the warmth and comfort of a NY den for the summer. She remembers the experience as one of the best summers of her life.

Her job for the project job was to work the 24-hour hotline for anyone freaking out on Acid (LSD) and talking "them down" if they were on a bad trip. And, letting folks know that Vitamin B and/or Niacin would bring them from a bad trip. In fact, she took her own advice after her first and only trip in NY City's psychedelic waters. The hydraulics were just too much.

But she could not forget the color and motion of trippy waters. She then hitched out to San Francisco with two other friends at the end of that summer and ended up in
Haight-Ashbury and went to the Haight Ashbury Switchboard to find a place to stay. There Trip N. Rivers stayed with draft resister Vincent O'Connor of the Catholic Peace Fellowship. He was tied in with the War Resisters League/West office which is where Trip N. got her first ever movement job. That job ultimately led to her taking a job with War Resisters League/Southeast located in Durham, NC. Which is how she landed in Durham back in 1982. One of the folks on the hiring committee was Joanne Able of the Ellerbe Creek Watershed Association.

Small world isn't it??!! Peace, Love, Beaver!


Continue reading Beaver Queen Pageant - Meet the judges

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Oh, well


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That's Hedley!

Harvey Korman: 1927 – 2008


Continue reading That's Hedley!

Didn't see that coming - part 2

Matt Dees continues his excellent blogging from City Hall this afternoon:

Thursday, May 29, 2008
Durham lacks sense of urgency on capital projects

A consultant's report found that Durham staff take too long to complete capital projects in part because they don't make it a priority to push construction projects ahead.

MWH Inc., paid $748,000 to critique how the city completes projects, said city staff aren't compelled to push projects ahead aggressively.

It's a major concern as many projects of the $110 million bond package approved in 2005 still aren't anywhere close to completion. Due to escalataion of construction costs, many of those projects won't be completed with current funding or will have to be drastically cut back.
To be fair to the city, it's only been two and a half years since the 05 bonds were approved. Many of the 96 bond projects weren't completed until just before the 05 bonds went on the ballot. Just ask the folks over at Northgate Park. Or in my neighborhood.

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Continue reading Didn't see that coming - part 2

Thank you, Parks and Recreation

What a pleasure to write a post complimenting someone in the city for a change. In the two weeks since i first encountered and wrote about some selfish idiots driving over our neighborhood plantings to bring their cars into Duke Park, we've had a lot of behind the scenes discussion with Parks and Rec director Rhonda Parker about how best to prevent recurrences.

Yesterday, Durham police officer Taylor visited me on my block to talk about the new boulders that were installed yesterday afternoon, and to provide the neighborhood with contact information to call (outside of 911) if we have more morons trying to figure out ways to bring their cars into the park. I got a chance to check out the boulders this morning.

I'm sure we ended up getting more media coverage than we sought (Ray Gronberg of the Herald Sun and i talked at length about Duke Park, the current problem, and historical problems for a piece that appeared on Tuesday, and i turned down interview requests from two TV stations), but i'm hopeful that these steps are in the right direction.

Thanks again.

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More stupid

The unfolding disaster that is Durham's search for a new city manager is taking yet another wrong turn, according to the N&O. It's not bad enough that the kabuki theater presentation of the "three finalists" last month has not led to an offer, and that the mayor is continuously dropping hints that Council might have someone else in mind. (To be honest, i don't think that presenting the candidates to the public or the press during the hiring process is necessary, or even such a great idea. Although in Durham, it might serve the dual purpose of the citizenry meeting their potential managers, and the managers getting a taste of what their new life might actually be like. Perhaps that's what happened here. Maybe all three finalists decided that Durham wasn't where they wanted to be after all.)

No, dropping hints that none of the finalists may have been good enough, and dragging the process out far longer than is necessary may be minor concerns compared to Matt's news:
City Council members have not been taking minutes of their closed meetings to discuss who will be the next city manager, possibly a violation of state law.

And it might not be the only instance of the council running afoul of the open-meetings law, which says that "every public body shall keep full and accurate minutes of all official meetings, including any closed session."

Council member Diane Catotti said the city clerk usually leaves the room for closed sessions and said she doesn't know "if anyone's taking notes or not."

The City Council has entered closed session more than a half-dozen times in the past month to discuss the new manager.

"I'll be honest with you: We haven't taken any minutes," Mayor Bill Bell said. "It's because it's just been confidential personnel. We've kept it strictly among the council."

He said he didn't know the law required documenting closed sessions. "If I was aware of it, I would have been doing," that he said.

I don't know. I thought being aware of it was part of the job description, Mr. Mayor.

To be fair, Matt quotes the interim City Attorney as saying that a report that Council entered closed session to discuss personnel matters and "discussed the qualifications of the candidate" would be adequate to meet the letter of the law.

I wouldn't want to take that bet.

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Continue reading More stupid


From the Herald-Sun:
City Council members signaled Wednesday that plans for a move to tax-paid yard-waste service are on the chopping block as they look for ways to trim a requested 11 percent increase in Durham's property tax rate.

Two members, Diane Catotti and Eugene Brown, told colleagues they should cut some or all of the $3.2 million City Manager Patrick Baker has requested to implement the program in fiscal 2008-09.

"It's too expensive, frankly, given all our other needs," said Catotti. "There are other options."

Brown agreed.

"Come back with some compromise or hybrid system," he told Baker as the council finished reviewing the manager's request for the Solid Waste Management Department. "If we're serious about cutting the proposed budget, this is the arena in which to do it."

. . .

They could even go the other way entirely, and instead of doing away with the present $60 annual collection fee, make it mandatory and force about 50,000 Durham households into the program, Page and Long said.

That'll fly. What would be the difference between a mandatory 50 or 60 dollar a year fee, and a tax increase? I guess i'm too stupid to figure that one out.

Give me a break, here. Pick up the damn yard waste, and finance it out of property taxes. Right now about 25% of Durham's households pony up the 60 bucks a year. A concerted effort to get people to stop participating in that program, and start dumping their yard waste into the street should be able to cut that number down to 10% or less.

I've been a participant in the pay for yard waste pickup program since it started in 2003 or whenever. (I'll take a picture of all the stickers on my cart when i get home from work.) This is the last year i'm doing it.

It's time our Council started treating Durham like a real city, and not a credit union for their favorite projects. First, take care of the basic necessities. Pick up the damn trash. Make sure the water and sewer systems are working. Same for the traffic lights. Same for the bathrooms in our city parks.

As much as i want to see one in town, you can't start building baseball museums until all the broken stuff is fixed.

UPDATE: Michael makes the suggestion in comments that the yard waste program be made biweekly and the white goods pickup program (old appliances, etc.) be made monthly. These are excellent suggestions. I'm waiting to hear if they generate enough cost savings to be be considered.

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Continue reading Stupid

Beaver Queen Pageant - Meet the judges

Beaver Lodge Local 1504 is incredibly lucky to have secured the services of today's featured celebrity judge, Cher Beaver. I'm going to let her tell you her life story. You'll understand why whe's qualified to be a Beaver Queen judge by the end.
Cher Beaver, born Cherilyn Sarkisian Beaver on May 20, 1946, in a pond called El Centro, California. She is an American~ Armenian Beaver, singer-songwriter and beaver actress. Cher has been a busy beaver, with career accomplishments in music, pond diving and swimming, television and film. She has won a Beaver Academy Award, a Beaver Grammy Award , a Beaver Emmy Award and three Beaver Golden Globe Awards among others.

Cher Beaver rose to prominence in 1965 as one half of the pop/rock duo Sonny & Cher Beaver. Through Sonny Beaver, Cher started as a beaver back up session singer, and recorded well known beaver songs by The Righteous Brothers' "You've Lost That Beaver Feeling", The Crystals "Pa Pond Pond Pond” and The Ronettes’ "Be My Beaver Baby".

Then the duo released their first album Look at Us Beavers in the summer of 1965. This album contained the overnight smash single "I Got You Beaver" (1965) which reached number one on the Billboard Hot 100 in August of 1965. She subsequently established herself as a deep diving solo recording artist, releasing 25 beaver albums, contributing to numerous compilations, and tallying 34 Billboard Top 40 Beaver Entries in the United States. In 1987 she won the Beaver Academy Award for Best Actress for her role in the romantic comedy Moonstruck by the Beaver Pond.

With a career lasting over 40 years, Cher Beaver is an enduring pond icon and one of the most popular female beaver artists in music history. At age 61, Cher Beaver has been performing in a pond near the Hoover Dam called Las Vegas. As someone once said, “After a nuclear holocaust, all that will be left are cockroaches and Cher Beaver.”


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Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Just because


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Now he tells us

First, Scotty McClellan acknowledges that the Iraq War was a war of choice.

Now George Bush reveals that "(t)his is a difficult and unprecedented task, and we're learning as we go."

It wasn't all that long ago these clowns were proclaiming the end of history, and bragging about how "when we act, we create our own reality."

Now, we're "learning as we go."

Just like fucking kindergarten. January 20th can't come soon enough.


Continue reading Now he tells us

City manager offered position - in Wichita

The N&O is reporting that Wichita has hired is offering Durham city manager candidate Pat Salerno that position. Wichita acted so quickly, Matt Dees writes, "because they were worried Salerno would be snatched up by another city."

Durham, meanwhile, still appears to be deciding whether or not the three candidates who appeared in public last month, including Salerno and George Kolb, who Salerno is effectively replacing in Wichita, are the best people for the job here. Bill Bell has hinted that the final choice may not even come from the pool of candidates brought forth by the consultant the city hired to conduct the search for a new manager.

No word on whether Durham will be receiving a discount on future high level appointment searches.

UPDATE: Matt has corrected his story to reflect that Wichita has offered the city manager position to finalist Patrick Salerno, bu tthat no agreement has yet been reached. I've changed my headline and lede to reflect that.

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Continue reading City manager offered position - in Wichita

Dunkin' Donuts - craven poltroons or Islamofascist symps?

Now that Kevin has outed himself as a lefty blogger, here's the question on everyone's lips.

How's he taking to the revelations that Dunkin' Donuts is a full-blown supporter of Islamic terrorism? Will he organize a counter-boycott of DD because they bowed to the pressure of true American hero Michelle Malkin, or will he simply participate in the first level boycott against DD for using Islamo-fascist symbols in their advertising? Or maybe, he'll join me in taking it to the next level and call for any advertising executive who suggests using the terminally ubiquitous Rachel Ray in their next campaign to be forced to sit next to Michelle Malkin while their flight spends 6 hours on the tarmac at Kennedy because someone left their shoes behind at the security checkpoint.

UPDATE: Holy shit, they're everywhere!

Continue reading Dunkin' Donuts - craven poltroons or Islamofascist symps?

But, Obama said "Auschwitz" when he meant "Buchenwald"

From Scotty McClellans's new book:
“History appears poised to confirm what most Americans today have decided: that the decision to invade Iraq was a serious strategic blunder. No one, including me, can know with absolute certainty how the war will be viewed decades from now when we can more fully understand its impact. What I do know is that war should only be waged when necessary, and the Iraq war was not necessary.”

Meanwhile, over in Camp McCain:
Republican presidential candidate Sen. John McCain’s national campaign general co-chair was being paid by a Swiss bank to lobby Congress about the U.S. mortgage crisis at the same time he was advising McCain about his economic policy, federal records show.

“Countdown with Keith Olbermann” reported Tuesday night that lobbying disclosure forms, filed by the giant Swiss bank UBS, list McCain’s campaign co-chair, former Texas Sen. Phil Gramm, as a lobbyist dealing specifically with legislation regarding the mortgage crisis as recently as Dec. 31, 2007.

Gramm joined the bank in 2002 and had registered as a lobbyist by 2004. UBS filed paperwork deregistering Gramm on April 18 of this year. Gramm continues to serve as a UBS vice chairman.

News of Gramm’s involvement as a paid advocate for the banking industry, simultaneous with his unpaid work on McCain’s economic policies, comes as McCain’s campaign continues to reel from the purge of four other lobbyists. Two weeks ago, McCain banned lobbyists from advising him on the same subjects covered by their lobbying work.

In other UBS news:
UBS has told members of its former private banking team responsible for rich US clients not to travel to America.

The Swiss bank has also made lawyers available to the more than 50 bankers involved, many of whom have left UBS since it decided last November to wind down its cross-border private banking business for US ­customers.

The move follows the recent indictment of one of the unit’s former senior executives, Bradley Birkenfeld, who US authorities have accused of helping a billionaire client evade taxes. Mr Birkenfeld has pleaded not guilty and his lawyers have made no public statement on the matter.

And McCain wants to run against Obama by calling him an elitist.


: Turns out we don't have to pay attention to Scotty McClellan's new book after all. He's just disgruntled.


Continue reading But, Obama said "Auschwitz" when he meant "Buchenwald"

Didn't see that coming

Skyrocketing fuel prices could push Durham's budget even higher, as cost estimates made just a few weeks ago in preparation for the proposed budget already are woefully low, the council learned today during budget deliberations. The proposed budget is $356 million, a 17 percent increase over the current fiscal year, and calls for an 11 percent property tax rate increase.

The transit system, for instance spent $1.7 million on fuel in fiscal year 2006-07. It budgeted $2 million for the current fiscal year but will have spent $2.6 million by the end of June.

. . .

The impact will be felt across the city, not just in the bus system, as everything from garbage trucks to police cruisers to housing inspectors making their rounds will be affected.

Durham [County] has budgeted $836,000 for fuel, mostly for sheriff's vehicles and ambulances, but Ruffin said that may climb. The original cost estimate, prepared two months ago, pegged fuel costs at $2.80 a gallon, but the county is currently paying $3.20, because government agencies are exempt from gas taxes.

Maybe we should just let the free-market take care of our so-called congestion problem, and get the government out of the business of building roads all together. (/snark)

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Continue reading Didn't see that coming

Beaver Queen Pageant - Meet the judges

I think it's fair to say that without Beverly Woody, the Beaver Queen Pageant might not even exist. Beaver Lodge Local 1504 is honored that the very first Beaver Queen is making the long paddle from the San Francisco Bay to the wetlands of her youth to be a judge for this year's pageant. In her own words:

Beverly Woody has been conditioned to the dry cycle of life out here and how wetlands thrive and generally decline in an annual pattern. We are entering a long period of dry. No rain expected until October. The wetlands will be nourished by snow melt for the next few months, and thats about all. Its survival of the toughest beavers out here.

In San Fransisco Bay there has been a huge loss of wetland areas. An irony of life is the more humans there are the less wetlands, to the point that infill of soil to make room for more and more people has been the number one cause of wetland reduction. I can't tell if it is a byproduct of the Male Gay lifestyle that flourished here that wetlands were not only neglected, but covered over, buried even. One thing is for certain wetland conservation is on the rise and more and more progressive thinking people, even the Male Gay lifestyled types, long to bring wetlands back to the vital energy giving role on our planet. We take those short showers, and meter the flushes round here just like back home I hear.

As for me, I've been a busy little beaver. The latest project was an all comers drag evening at the seminary. We danced and 'sang', and generally cut up for hours. The crowd left satiated, and smiles all around. Just the way anyone should look after an entire evening of Beaver play. And for those who remember my communal crime prevention activities, I attended a Merchant Watch meeting this very evening. Life in California has gotten every bit as fast tail slappin' as life in Durham ever was.

Oh, one of my favorite things is the Big ol' Tree they have out here. I almost hate to say it but Big ol' Tree has its place sometimes. Big ol' Tree didn't get away from Westerners. I do not think they ever had it under control. I get wet in the choppers just thinking about the huge wood out here. Trees so tall, and fat, there seems to not be space left for sky. There is not much more beautiful that watching the rain and sunbeams racing each other, at the same time, through the branches to earth.

All of us are counting the days till we can give Beverly a big beaver hug in person.


Continue reading Beaver Queen Pageant - Meet the judges

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Assuming privilege

The unconscious assumption of privilege is one of the most toxic elements in human interaction, whether in a personal relationship or in attempting to navigate the gulf between cultures. Carl Kenney, for example, documents a specific example of a class based assumption of privilege in a recent blog post that's worth reading.

Assumption of privilege is not limited, though, to racial, gender, or socio-economic based classes. I think on a daily basis we all encounter, and many of us hold ourselves, a perspective in which the automobile is privileged over virtually every other means of getting from point A to point B.

Nowhere is this more clear than in the comments of Gary's recent post about developments in the Alston Ave. widening discussion. Once upon a time, we used to have a word for the process by which an individual was brought to awareness of his or her assumptions of privilege. Consciousness-raising. You don't hear too often these days, but let's give it a go.

Here's the comment in question:
Alston Ave Commuter said...

So now you're negotiating on how many intersections can have right turn lanes?

If I was the NCDOT I'd say the hell with you, we've got plenty of projects in Raleigh, Charlotte and Greensboro to fund.

Obviously what you want is to tear up Alston and put in a bike path to take its place.

More power to you, I say. Maybe you should start by electing people to the city council who agree with you,

That's hard work, of course. It's easier to jot a few things into a blog everyday.

Let's start with the screen name chosen by the author, Alston Ave Commuter. By commuter, this person means that he or she rides in a car along Alston Ave., from point A to point B, from home to work and back again. And assumes that this vantage point should be more important in the decision making process than that of those people who, you know, actually live along Alston Ave. In other words, our commuter friend assumes the privilege of the commuter over the resident, and the primacy of his or her choices over those of others.

Strike one.

Next, the commenter makes the expert/power figure play, questioning why Gary, or anyone else, would have the audacity to "negotiate" with decisions made by the NCDOT regarding the actual structure of the widened Alston Ave. Again, the assumption here is that people such as Gary, or Aidil Collins, or anyone who questions NCDOT's program, lacks the standing to do so. They are not privileged enough to actually act on their opinions. And that the proper response to this not knowing your place is for the authority figure to take their ball and go play elsewhere, like Greensboro or Charlotte, where the citizens know their place and stay in it. The giveaway is the "Obviously what you want is to tear up Alston and put in a bike path to take its place," line. Not only is this not obvious, not only does this explicitly contradict what the commenter has just said (re: negotiating right turn lanes), not only does this fly in the face of what an reasonably intelligent person has just read on their own, but it also reveals the commenters animosity towards non-automobile transportation. Opposing bad design can only mean that you're one of those bike riding tree huggers, in the mind of our commenter.

Strike two.

Finally, the challenge. Go and elect your friends to the City Council. Betcha can't do that because it's too hard. Much harder than writing a blog post. Other commenters have already pointed out the hypocrisy in that it's so much easier to make a anonymous drive-by on someone else's blog than it is to research the issues and put your thoughts out their under your own name in a community the size of Durham. But as it stands, there are already members of City Council who agree with Gary's position, as well as significant and authoritative members of staff. And, based on the hard work that people like Aidil and Gary are doing, much of it behind the scenes, it's likely that a majority of Council will come to realize that East Durham indeed all of Durham, deserves a better design for a widened Alston Ave. than the one that NCDOT has come up with. Once we are conscious of the assumptions of privilege that those who argue in favor of the current design make on behalf of that small group of automobile users, and once we realize that they have no more claim on the benefits of road design than the residents of the neighborhood, there's literally nothing left in their argument that's persuasive.

Strike three.

Go grab some pine.

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Continue reading Assuming privilege

Broken windows theory

Avondale Drive
Interesting doings at this house over the weekend. I've gotten conflicting reports from some of the immediate neighbors as to whether or not the tenants actually bailed on Friday. There was a large pile of appliances and junk in the backyard today on my to work, so i'm inclined to think they're gone. The story is that they kicked their dogs out into the street on their way out. Again, i'm trying to confirm this with Animal control who, according the paint crew at my place on Friday, had to send 4 officers to the scene to corral to the poor animals, who will probably end up being euthanized since they're completely lacking in socialization. If only any of the complaints about mistreatment had been taken seriously over the past couple of years, maybe they could have been rescued. And if only the landlord had stopped by to look at their property once or twice over the past five years to see how badly it was being trashed. I guess as long as that check comes in every month, it doesn't matter what damage is being done to the rest of the community.

Anyway, i'm working on a longer piece inspired by one of the commenters over at Gary's place on the unconscious assumption of privilege that's so prevalent among many classes in our culture, in this case the class of people who drive automobiles.

And rumor has it that the Herald-Sun has picked up on the story of the city not being able to keep cars out of Duke Park on the weekend, which apparently happened again yesterday.

If only i didn't have to work for a living.

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Continue reading Broken windows theory

Monday, May 26, 2008

Countdown to the 4th annual Beaver Queen Pageant

Only twelve more days until the the crowning of the new Beaver Queen, and the folks at Beaver Lodge Local 1504 are getting so excited, they're slapping tails left and right. In fact, they'll be getting an early start on the festivities by cleaning up the old Beaver Pond behind the Compare Foods store on Avondale Drive this Sunday, June 1, from 9 am to noon. Folks from Ellerbe Creek Watershed Association and The Scrap Exchange will also be pitching in, and the rumor is that the best stuff hauled out of the pond is going to be used in making a gown for celebrity judge, and former Beaver Queen, Beverly Woody, who is paddling out from California just for the pageant.

No need to RSVP, just show up in the parking lot between Compare/Big Lots and the old K-Mart at 9 am on Sunday, June 1. Gloves and boots highly recommended.

And in case you needed a formal invitation to the Beaver Queen Pageant, here it is.


Continue reading Countdown to the 4th annual Beaver Queen Pageant

Decoration Day

General Orders No.11, WASHINGTON, D.C., May 5, 1868

i. The 30th day of May, 1868, is designated for the purpose of strewing with flowers or otherwise decorating the graves of comrades who died in defense of their country during the late rebellion, and whose bodies now lie in almost every city, village, and hamlet church-yard in the land. In this observance no form of ceremony is prescribed, but posts and comrades will in their own way arrange such fitting services and testimonials of respect as circumstances may permit.

We are organized, comrades, as our regulations tell us, for the purpose among other things, "of preserving and strengthening those kind and fraternal feelings which have bound together the soldiers, sailors, and marines who united to suppress the late rebellion." What can aid more to assure this result than cherishing tenderly the memory of our heroic dead, who made their breasts a barricade between our country and its foes? Their soldier lives were the reveille of freedom to a race in chains, and their deaths the tattoo of rebellious tyranny in arms. We should guard their graves with sacred vigilance. All that the consecrated wealth and taste of the nation can add to their adornment and security is but a fitting tribute to the memory of her slain defenders. Let no wanton foot tread rudely on such hallowed grounds. Let pleasant paths invite the coming and going of reverent visitors and fond mourners. Let no vandalism of avarice or neglect, no ravages of time testify to the present or to the coming generations that we have forgotten as a people the cost of a free and undivided republic.

If other eyes grow dull, other hands slack, and other hearts cold in the solemn trust, ours shall keep it well as long as the light and warmth of life remain to us.

Let us, then, at the time appointed gather around their sacred remains and garland the passionless mounds above them with the choicest flowers of spring-time; let us raise above them the dear old flag they saved from hishonor; let us in this solemn presence renew our pledges to aid and assist those whom they have left among us a sacred charge upon a nation's gratitude, the soldier's and sailor's widow and orphan.

ii. It is the purpose of the Commander-in-Chief to inaugurate this observance with the hope that it will be kept up from year to year, while a survivor of the war remains to honor the memory of his departed comrades. He earnestly desires the public press to lend its friendly aid in bringing to the notice of comrades in all parts of the country in time for simultaneous compliance therewith.

iii. Department commanders will use efforts to make this order effective.

By order of


Adjutant General


Continue reading Decoration Day

Fair and balanced

Lots of bloggers picking up on this most recent atrocity from Fox News:

"Both if we could."


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Continue reading Fair and balanced

Utah Phillips 1935-2008


Continue reading Utah Phillips 1935-2008

Shooting the Bull podcast

This week's edition of Shooting the Bull, the weekly radio show Kevin and i host on Sunday evenings over at WXDU, is available here. Apologies for the audio difficulties in the first five minutes.

We had a great conversation with the charming Aidil Collins, community activist and blogger over at Uplift East Durham. Don't forget, if you'd like to talk about the program, have an idea for a topic you'd like to see us cover, or some inside information about Durham you want to share, the email address is ShootingTheBull AT gmail DOT com.

Next week, we'll previewing the upcoming Beaver Queen Pageant, with Miss Kaferine De Nerve, from Beaver Lodge Local 1504. Should be a good time.


Continue reading Shooting the Bull podcast

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Reality intrudes

Spotted on a recent trip through the Yadkin Valley:

Highway 286 at the Yadkin River, Ferguson, NC

Maybe it's simply that i never paid that much attention, but i had no idea that Tom Dooley was a real person.

Or that he may very well have been innocent.


Continue reading Reality intrudes

Beaver news

As all of Durham anxiously awaits the crowning of this year's Beaver Queen on June 7, we note with more than just passing curiosity this BBC news item:
The European beaver is to be reintroduced to Scotland for the first time in more than 400 years, the Scottish Government has announced.

Environment Minister Michael Russell has given the go-ahead for up to four beaver families to be released in Knapdale, Argyll, on a trial basis.

The beavers will be caught in Norway and released in spring 2009.

Mr Russell said: "This is an exciting development for wildlife enthusiasts all over Scotland and beyond."

The beavers, which will be captured in autumn 2008, will be put into quarantine for six months before three to four families are released. Five lochs have been proposed for the release.

This will be the first-ever formal reintroduction of a native mammal into the wild in the UK.

The trial will be run over five years by the Scottish Wildlife Trust and the Royal Zoological Society of Scotland, with Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH) monitoring the project.

Mr Russell added: "The beaver was hunted to extinction in this country in the 16th Century and I am delighted that this wonderful species will be making a comeback.

"They are charismatic, resourceful little mammals and I fully expect their reappearance in Knapdale to draw tourists from around the British Isles and even further afield."

Of course, Durham is home to one of the largest beaver ponds in the Piedmont region, behind the Compare Foods on Avondale Drive, just north of I-85. No word yet from any of our elected officials when they will recognize the potential economic benefits of this natural resource.


Continue reading Beaver news

Sunday morning church marquee blogging

Fayetteville Rd., Durham, NC


Continue reading Sunday morning church marquee blogging

Saturday, May 24, 2008

The legend of Marvin Hamlisch

Today marks the 125th anniversary of the Brooklyn Bridge. It really is one of my favorite places in the US.

The tragic poet Hart Crane made of the bridge a potent symbol for some of his best work:
. . .
Out of some subway scuttle, cell or loft
A bedlamite speeds to thy parapets,
Tilting there momently, shrill shirt ballooning,
A jest falls from the speechless caravan.

Down Wall, from girder into street noon leaks,
A rip-tooth of the sky's acetylene;
All afternoon the cloud-flown derricks turn . . .
Thy cables breathe the North Atlantic still.

. . .

So, the city is celebrating 125 years of John and Washington Roebling's engineering wonder with a series of parties that began yesterday, featuring "pecial guest performances including the legendary Marvin Hamlisch, followed by a Grucci Fireworks extravaganza. A festive lighting ceremony will illuminate the entire Bridge, which will remain lit every evening from 9pm–11pm through Memorial Day."

I have to admit, having been somewhat disappointed by The Kingdom of the Crystal Skull last night, I am dying to have someone fill me in on the legend of Marvin Hamlisch. I guess that scoring The Sting and being named as the Anti-Christ isn't enough for one lifetime.

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Continue reading The legend of Marvin Hamlisch

Number Nine


Continue reading Number Nine

Friday, May 23, 2008


It ain't as classy as that one in Brooklyn that turns 125 years old tomorrow, but my backyard now has a new bridge. Now, all i need is a troll.

Oh, wait.


Continue reading Bridges

Three day weekend

Hey, y'all stay safe on the roads this weekend, OK?

Oh, who am i kidding? Gas is 4 bucks a gallon. Where are you gonna go?

Hang out with your neighbors, eat, drink, and be merry.

And remember.

Continue reading Three day weekend

On the radio

Kevin and i are back on the air Shooting the Bull on Sunday night at 7:30, on WXDU 88.7 FM. Our guest this week will be fellow local blogger Aidil, who writes over at Uplift East Durham.

We'll be talking about developments on the Alston Ave. widening project, the upcoming East Durham home tour, and related issues around creating (or re-creating) neighborhood cohesion and unity.

The show also streams at If you've got anything to add to the conversation, drop a line to ShootingTheBull AT gmail DOT com.

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Thursday, May 22, 2008

Crack that whip

Off the see the new Indiana Jones movie at the Carolina tonight. You kids stay out of trouble.

UPDATE: So, who all saw it? What did you think? I couldn't believe that Karen Allen didn't get to throw back a single shot of booze.


Continue reading Crack that whip


Looks like nobody did anything stupid at the gas giveaway up on Roxboro St. today. I can't say how thankful i am about that.

But really, camping out for 12 hours for 10 gallons of gas? That's a lot less than minimum wage.

UPDATE: WTVD's got video. One of my fellow bloggers wonders if Durham can bill Verizon and Superpages for the police work that was needed to keep things under control. I'm just really glad nobody got hurt.


Continue reading Relief

Fun toys

For you political geeks, there's an interactive electoral college map to click on to your heart's content at

By default it shows a map based on recent election trends with 175 electoral college votes going to the Dems, 174 to the Repubs, and 189 still up for grabs. North Carolina is listed in the latter category by the way.

Clicking on the map showing latest polling data gives a different picture, with Dems up 194 - 144, and 200 EVs in the undecided category. Biggest difference is that Texas shows up as undecided on this map.

Plus, on the main page, you can click on any state, to cycle it through the different election outcomes. And it displays how that state voted in the last 10 presidential elections.

Have fun.


Continue reading Fun toys

Death knell

This should put the final nail in the coffin of the plans to site a "National Bio and Agro Defense Facility in Butner, or anywhere else in the mainland US for that matter.
The Bush administration relied on a flawed study to conclude that research on a highly infectious animal disease could safely be moved from an isolated island laboratory to sites on the mainland near livestock, congressional investigators concluded in findings obtained by The Associated Press.

The Homeland Security Department "does not have evidence" that foot-and-mouth disease research can be conducted on the U.S. mainland without significant risk of an animal epidemic, Congress' Government Accountability Office said.

. . .

"We found that DHS has not conducted or commissioned any study to determine whether FMD (foot-and-mouth disease) work can be done safely on the U.S. mainland," according to testimony prepared for the committee by Nancy Kingsbury, the GAO's managing director for applied research and methods.

Jay Cohen, an undersecretary of Homeland Security, said in his prepared testimony: "While there is always a risk of human error ... the redundancies built into modern research laboratory designs and the latest biosecurity and containment systems ... effectively minimizes these risks."

Department spokeswoman Amy Kudwa said risk assessments are being conducted at each proposed site to evaluate impacts of hypothetical foot-and-mouth disease releases. The public will be asked to comment on the findings.

The administration based its decision of safe mainland research on a 2002 Agriculture Department study on whether it was technically feasible to do the work onshore.

Kingsbury said there's a major distinction between what is technically feasible and "what is possible, given the potential for human error."

"We found that the study was selective in what it considered," she said. "It did not assess the history of releases of FMD virus or other dangerous pathogens, either in the United States or elsewhere."

It also did not address the dangers of working with infected large animals; the virus can be carried in a person's lungs, nostrils or other body parts, making him or her a possible vehicle for a virus escape. The study also did not consider the history of accidents in laboratories, the GAO said.

The AP reported in April that a 1978 release of the virus into cattle holding pens on Plum Island triggered new safety procedures. While that incident was previously known, Homeland Security officials acknowledged there were other accidents at Plum Island.

The GAO report listed six other accidents between 1971 and 2004.

"These incidents involved human error, lack of proper maintenance, equipment failure and deviation from standard operating procedures," the GAO said. "Many were not a function of the age of the facility or the lack of technology and could happen in any facility today."

The investigators found that the United States only avoided international restrictions after the 1978 outbreak because it was confined to the island.

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Wednesday, May 21, 2008


Mrs D made some very compelling arguments against calling out my more irresponsible neighbor landlords on the blog, which i am considering carefully. Since i'm not anonymous, and she and i share a house, if she's not on board, it's not going to happen.


But lo and behold, on my way to work today, what did i see but a contractor checking out one of the properties on my block that i was planning to feature. Seems the owner is now willing to consider fixing the place up and selling it. Hopefully to someone who is going to live in it and not rent it to drug dealers or pit bull breeders.


Continue reading Coincidences

Animal Control

One of the government departments that it's been most frustrating to deal with in Durham is the County Animal Control Department. I don't know what the issue is. They seem for the most part to be dedicated and qualified public servants, but the problems, large and small, in dealing with animals here seem unsurmountable. On the small end of things, virtually everyone i know in Durham has a problem with nuisance dogs, the one or two dog owners who allow their dogs to run loose through the neighborhood whenever they feel like it. These animals are almost always intact males, and you know they're contributing to the animal overpopulation problem. The other end of that spectrum are the dog owners who keep their dogs chained to a tree 24/7, often in violation of the County's animal cruelty codes regarding food, water, shelter, length and composition of tieout, etc. The larger problem is that, according to a conversation i had with Cindy Bailey, Director of the Animal Control Department, a couple of years ago, as many as 60% of the dogs and cats in Durham County are not licensed. This means the county has no way of knowing whether or not those animals are vaccinated against rabies. This has the potential to be a really big deal at some point in time.

I bring this up because of something i saw in Hillsborough yesterday while at lunch.

In case you can't read it, here's a transcription:
The Animal Control of the Animal Services Department will be updating civil penalties and fees effective July 8, 2008.

The civil penalties and fees cover ordinance violations including animal mistreatment, public nuisance, and failure to vaccinate or license pets.

The flier goes on to give an accounting of these new fees and penalties.

those are some steep fees and penalties. I have no idea how many violations the Orange County Animal Control Department will actually end up citing. I would hope that, if they do a good enough job educating their population, that the number will be small, because the number of violations will be small. I have no such confidence that a similar condition will prevail in Durham County.

One of the responses that i hear a lot from people in Durham when i say that i don't recall having to deal with these issues when i lived in New York or California is, not always with a smile, "we don't care how you did things up north."

I ain't talking about how they do things up north, folks. I'm talking about how they do them next door. Too many aspects of Durham's public administration and public services are run as though this is still a small town where everyone knows everyone else, and all that's needed to take care of the problem is Sheriff Andy to put his arms around your shoulders and explain the facts of life, and everyone goes home happy.

Those days, if they ever existed, are long gone. It's time our public administration reflected this reality.

UPDATE: The Orange County ordinance dealing with nuisance animals:
Orange County Ordinance
Chapter 4. Animals
Sec. 4­45. Public Nuisance.
Public nuisance means the following activities of an animal, or conditions maintained or permitted by the animal's owner or keeper:
(1) The animal is found at large off the premises of its owner or keeper and not under the restraint of a competent person.
(2) The animal damages the property of anyone other than its owner or keeper, including but not limited to turning over garbage containers or damaging gardens, flowers, shrubbery, vegetables or trees, fences or gates, or causes injury to domesticated livestock or pets.
(3) The animal habitually and repeatedly barks, whines or howls so as to interfere seriously with the reasonable use and enjoyment by neighboring residents of their property.
(4) The animal repeatedly chases, snaps at or barks at persons, domesticated livestock, pets or vehicles when it is not in an enclosure, leashed or on the owner' s or keeper's property.
(5) The owner or keeper fails to confine a female dog while in heat (estrus) in a building or secure enclosure in such a manner that she will not be in contact with another dog; however, this subsection shall not be construed to prohibit the intentional breeding of animals within an enclosed area on the premises of the owner or keeper of an animal involved in the breeding process.

It shall be unlawful for an owner or keeper to permit an animal to create a public nuisance, or to maintain a public nuisance created by an animal. Compliance shall be required as follows:
(1) When an animal control officer or law enforcement officer observ es a violation, the owner or keeper will be provided written notification of such violation and be given 24 hours or less to abate the nuisance.
(2) Upon receipt of a written detailed and signed complaint alleging that any person is maintaining a public nuisance, the animal control director shall cause the owner or keeper of the animal in question to be notified that a complaint has been received, and shall cause the situation complained upon to be investigated and a written report to be prepared.
(3) If the written findings indicate that the complaint is justified, the animal control director shall cause the owner or keeper of the animal in question to be notified in writing, and shall order abatement of such nuisance within 24 hours or such lesser amount of time, which shall be designated on the abatement order.
(4) If, after 24 hours or such lesser time as is designated in the abatement order, the nuisance is not abated, the animal creating the nuisance may be impounded or a civil penalty may be issued and/or a criminal summons may be issued.
(Ord. of 6­16­1987, § XV, eff. 1­1­1988; Ord. of 11­1­1995, eff. 1­1­1997)

I particularly like the second part which spells out in detail the steps that will be taken to alleviate the nuisance, and the time frames involved. The vagueness of the barking section ("so as to interfere seriously with the reasonable use and enjoyment") which may limit its enforceability. Any of my Orange County readers have any experience in having nuisance animal problems resolved by Orange County Animal control? I know that in Durham, AC has dropped the barking dog provision from the nuisance animal ordinance, instead directing citizens to call Durham police and have the issue dealt with as a noise ordinance violation.

Good luck with that.


Continue reading Animal Control

A Train

Churton St., Hillsborough, NC

I had no idea.


Continue reading A Train

Tuesday, May 20, 2008


It's pretty dark and stormy outside Mr. Dependable's office right now.


Continue reading Yikes!

Neighborhood sustainability

I wish i had known that today was going to be link to Kevin day at DE.

He's got a great post up on the issue of neighborhood sustainability today, inspired by some of the discussion regarding "gentrification" in Cleveland-Holloway neighborhood (and elsewhere in Durham) as well as news reports this morning of what may have been a gun battle in East Durham.

I live in the Duke Park neighborhood of Durham. It has a reputation of being one of the more upscale in-town neighborhoods. We're just south of I-85 off of exit 177. But here's the deal. If you take the intersection nearest my house (Markham and Shawnee), and draw a circle of 1/4 mile radius using that as the center, you probably have about 140 - 150 houses of which between 35 and 40% are rental properties. some of these properties are well-maintained, and owned by people who live in the neighborhood, or who used to live in the neighborhood. some of them are owned by people who obviously don't give a shit about Duke Park neighborhood, Durham, or even, apparently, protecting their own investment.

I've been thinking over the past two weeks about running a series on DE, featuring one of these houses at a time, showing photographs of the deterioration that's been allowed to take place, giving a brief oral history, and calling out the landlords whose greed and thoughtlessness is behind all of this. I say thinking about it because, to a large extent, i have a policy of not naming or identifying individuals on this blog without their permission, public figures excepted. I'm not sure if i want to proceed with this.

But it's clear to me that, at least the eastern portion of Duke Park neighborhood, the part with Avondale Drive as its central corridor, is at risk of falling into the same kind of decline that other parts of East Durham have experienced over the past years. I really don't want that to happen, and not just because i own a home here.

What do you think? Do these slumlords deserve to have their privacy respected, or do the needs of the neighborhood and the city to stop this "demolition by neglect," as Gary so aptly describes it, outweigh their privacy rights?

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Continue reading Neighborhood sustainability

File under: really bad ideas

Got an email yesterday from a fellow local blogger:
Just in time for Memorial Day travel, the Verizon Yellow Pages and are giving away free gas to consumers across the nation in 24 locations, including Raleigh/Durham. A $40 pre-paid gas card will go to the first 200 vehicles at each location.

According to AAA, the average price of gas is up 1.8 percent compared to last year – with the national average gas price at $3.776. The gas giveaway will help ease the strain on consumers' wallets right before this busy travel weekend – AAA is reporting that about 31.7 million people are expected hit the road over Memorial Day weekend.

The average regular gas price in Raleigh/Durham was $3.77 on Monday, May 19, 2008.

WHEN: Thursday, May 22, 11 a.m. – 1 p.m.

WHERE: Shell
3615 N. Roxboro St.
Durham, N.C. 27704

WHO: The first 200 vehicles at the station listed above.

DETAILS: Participating areas include Huntington Beach, Calif., Oxnard, Calif., Long Beach, Calif., Redlands, Calif., Ontario, Calif., Manteca, Calif., Denver, Colo., Washington, D.C., Wilmington, Del., Tampa, Fla., Coeur d'Alene, Idaho, Ft. Wayne, Ind., Timonium, Md., Durham, N.C., Philadelphia, Pa., Bethlehem, Pa., Pittsburgh, Pa., Dallas, Texas, Grand Prairie, Texas, Ashburn, Va., Glen Allen, Va., Virginia Beach, Va., Everett, Wash., and Kirkland, Wash.

CONTACT: Lisa Johnson/972-453-6507/

First, let's dispense with the low-level stuff. Gas at $3.77/gallon is up a whole lot more than 1.8% over the past year. It's up about 1.8% over the past 3 weeks. (It was $3.55/gallon when i got in the car to drive to the mountains 3 weeks ago. According to the DoE, it's up almost 60 cents a gallon from last year, about 20%.

Second, as Toastie pointed out, how the hell do you get Raleigh-Durham out of 3615 N. Roxboro St.? Glen Allen, VA is not called out as Richmond/Glen Allen? This event is happening in Durham.

And that brings up the biggest deal of all. Surely i am not the only one who sees what a clusterfuck in the making this is. Free 40 dollar gas cards to the first 200 customers? And what do you do if, say, 600 people show up for this event? Who's managing the lines? This is gonna be worse than Filene's Basement at 6am on the day after Thanksgiving. I was at a Smoke-In in Washington Square Park in 1979 when the Yippies were tossing free joints to the crowd. Joints which you could have bought on the other side of the park for a buck each, and you wouldn't believe how people were stomping on each other to snag one of them. Our police have better things to do than manage the crowds at an ill-conceived publicity stunt for Verizon. Let's hope someone is already n the phones to Lisa Johnson at Idea RC letting her know what a stupid idea this is.

: Kevin beat me to it.


Continue reading File under: really bad ideas

A little more about Duke Park

I mentioned below in the brief history of Duke Park that the park used to be the home of a swimming pool. When i moved to the area in 1993, i chose Duke Park because the idea of having a public pool in walking distance for my two young children was appealing.

Alas, the pool closed for the season on Labor Day that year, and never reopened. The reason why the pool had so many structural issues is that it was built over an unnamed branch of the Ellerbe Creek, which is, in theory anyway, culverted where it runs through the park. But water kept eroding the soil structure under the pool, opening sinkholes and cracking the concrete. Eventually it reached the point where the pool could no longer be repaired, but instead needed to be either removed or replaced. Fortunately, it only took the city 11 years to get around to removing it.

Here's a shot of what happens, though, when you don't deal with drainage issues caused by building your park on top of a creek.

During the swimming pool removal, the Neighborhood Association offered numerous suggestions to city personnel in charge of the process as to how to deal with the issue of water on the site. Steve Hiltner, then of Ellerbe Creek Watershed Association, had some especially good ideas about creating a larger scale aquatic garden modeled on the one at Indian Trail Park, but P&R and General Services weren't remotely interested in talking about it. Instead, sod was laid on the old swimming pool site over a bed of clay and industrial grade fill, complete with concrete chunks 8 inches across, and broken glass. Since this was done in August, a sprinkler was set up to keep the sod watered 24/7 for about two weeks.

It was all dead before mid-September.

Oh, well.

At least we still have bathrooms. But if you want to let your daughter use the ladies room, better make sure she knows what poison ivy looks like. This tree is about 15 feet from the door to the ladies room. I first reported it to Parks and Rec after the 2006 Beaver Queen Pageant.

Finally, i mentioned that the old parking lot had been fenced in and turned into a storage yard. It's great that the Parks Department was able to find the resources to buiild this fence to keep people out of their yard.

After all, those busted basketball goals have to be kept safe:

Too bad the department hasn't figured out where to find the money to keep park users safe from morons who drive their cars over gardens and into the park.

I've posted a bit about my trip to NY last weekend. I did a lot of walking, including through much of Central Park. The park has around 6 miles of roadway that is open to vehicular traffic. Except for the following times:
When are Park Drives closed to motor traffic?

Weekdays: 10:00 am – 3:00 pm and 7:00 pm – 7:00 am.
Weekends: 7:00 pm Friday – 7:00 am Monday
Holidays: 7:00 pm the night before – 7:00 am the day after.

Somehow, even though cutting through the park is incredibly convenient for motorists, the folks in New York City are able to keep cars off of the park drives during these hours, allowing tens of thousands of people to enjoy the park on their bikes, skates, wheelchairs, or feet. How hard should it be to keep a 1/8th mile loop in a small neighborhood park vehicle free?

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Monday, May 19, 2008

We like Mike!

We cannot be this fortunate, can we?
Former Republican presidential candidate Mike Huckabee said he would like to be vice president to the party's presumptive nominee, John McCain.

``There's no one I would rather be on a ticket with than John McCain,'' Huckabee said on NBC's ``Meet the Press'' program yesterday. ``All during the campaign, when I was his rival, not a running mate, there was no one who was more complimentary of him publicly and privately.''

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Memo to elected officials in Durham

Just in case you were wondering why the proposals to "steamline" the development review process, floated 10 days ago by city staffers in response to a request by the mayor, drew such vehement opposition from neighborhood activists across the city, you don't need to look any further than this article in the Herald sun by Ray Gronberg this morning:
But officials allowed the development team assembled by Fairfield Residential of Bethesda, Md., to push for the rezoning without submitting a formal traffic impact study, which would have cost the developer months of times and tens of thousands of dollars.

Suski and Goodwin point to an August 2007 series of e-mails between city transportation office staffer Bill Judge and one of the consultants working for the developer, John R. McAdams Co. Traffic Engineering Director Earl Llewellyn.

Durham law requires a traffic impact study if a project will generate "at least 150 vehicle trips" at either the morning or evening rush hour. Llewellyn claimed the project would generate 149 trips at rush hour, but Judge said his initial calculations showed it would generate 150.

Judge suggested Fairfield bring the project under the threshold by filing it as a 239-unit development. But Llewellyn pointed out that his calculations using the 240-unit plan suggested it would generate 149.65 trips at rush hour.

In response, Judge agreed to truncate the estimate instead of rounding it up to 150, reasoning that 149.65 is less than 150.

. . .

Goodwin and Suski also believe city/county planners were quicker to answer the developers' request for information than they were the neighbors'.

Project lawyer Craigie Sanders has been privy to every written communication that's occurred between city/county planners and the neighbors, thanks to a Public Records Law request he filed on Jan. 28.

Goodwin, by contrast, said her own efforts to secure information on the developers' contacts with the city were a struggle, with a key official at one point insisting the neighbors pay postage for relaying documents to them.

Kinda gives you that warm fuzzy feeling all over, doesn't it?

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Holy smokes!

Hours before being greeted by the biggest crowd of his campaign, Democrat Barack Obama quietly told a small group of seniors Sunday that Republican John McCain would threaten the Social Security they depend on because he supports privatizing the program.

Fire officials estimated 65,000 packed into a riverside park for a spectacular afternoon rally at a sun-splashed scene on the banks of the Willamette River in Portland. They said an additional 15,000 were left outside and dozens of boaters could be seen floating in the river.

80,000 people at a rally for a presidential candidate? 80,000 people? Are you kidding?

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End of my rope

I haven't written about Duke Park recently. Let's make up for lost ground.

If you're new to Durham, here's a very brief, recent, oral history. There used to be an outdoor swimming pool at Duke Park. It closed after the 1993 season, and never re-opened. The concrete liner had cracked for the third time, relining the pool yet again was expensive and probably futile. Eleven years later, after using the abandoned pool for a time as a storage area for trees soon to be planted by Parks and Recreation the department, the pool was finally demolished after a neighbor spent months negotiating with several different city agencies to get them to figure out a way to work together on the project. The old swimming pool space is now the "Duke Park Meadow," and will be the site of the Beaver Queen Pageant on June 7th and, we're excited to learn, a "Cool" John Ferguson concert sponsored by Durham Parks and Rec on June 21st.We're hoping it doesn't rain for a few days before either event, but that's an entirely different blog post.

In 1996, Durham voters passed a municipal bond authorization for park improvements. Duke Park was slated for major upgrades. By the time the city got around to actually building those upgrades nine years later, inflation and other projects had reduced those upgrades to a single aspect, a modern playground area which could accommodate a hundred or a hundred and fifty kids at a time. And it does. On Weekend afternoons like those just past, there are easily that many children from all across Durham enjoying the park in our neighborhood.

ONe of the major complaints that park users had before the renovation began was the paved loop through the park that went around the picnic shelter. It was used by too many people who would drive their cars into the park as soon as it opened in the morning, use the immediate vicinity as a bathroom, and then sleep in their vehicles all day. Or conduct the occasional drug deal or sexual tryst. None of these activities are illegal*, but they were keeping the intended users, namely parents and small children, out of the park. Our neighborhood association was very happy to learn that Parks and Rec shared our concern about these activities, and agreed to close the loop to traffic. This would give all those youngsters a safe area to learn to ride bicycles or roller skates as well, and the loop gets heavily used for that.

But from the beginning, many park users have seen the closing of the loop as an inconvenience for their party needs, and driven across the lawn, or taken the bollards at the foot of the loop apart, and driven through the park heedless of the new regulations. That happened again this weekend. Our neighbors have been instructed by Parks and Rec to call 911 when they see cars in the loop. At least three of us did that on Saturday afternoon between 4 and 5:30 pm. Durham police were, apparently, busy with higher priority calls, and no officer arrived at the park until all the vehicles were out. Members of the DPD have been attempting to get Parks and Rec to install more effective means of blocking vehicular access to the park, but Parks and Rec hasn't implemented any of them.

This particular group simply removed the paving blocks that form the border of the small garden planted between the loop entrance and the stone pillars at the foot of the loop, dug up the sign that says "Dogs must be leashed," and drove over what remained of the hostas that were planted there last year to bring their cars into the park.

I'm really getting sick and tired of this nonsense. Why is our city prepared to wait until one of these assholes drives over someone's kid before they do something? Why is our city willing to allow its investment in our parks to be degraded in this fashion by people who obviously don't care a whit about public spaces?

As an emailer to our neighborhood listserv wrote:
Raleigh, Cary and Morrisville all have extensive rental agreements that people must sign to rent park shelters. Cary has a minimum $50 deposit, Morrisville has a $100 deposit. The rental agreements include information about parking. Citations are given for those not following the parking regulations. Deposits are not refunded to those who break the rules, do not clean up, or do any damage to the park or facilities. I expect no less of Durham.

We won't know until later this morning whether or not these users rented the pavilion at Duke Park, or were merely fortunate enough to claim it on a day when it was unrented. The question remains whether or not Parks and Rec will seek to recover damages from them if it turns out that they did have a rental agreement.

Even more importantly, why should we as a neighborhood association and as individuals, continue to put our own time and money into maintaining and improving the appearance of our neighborhood park if, by its inactions, the city is going to allow a small group of park users to constantly trash our work. And still more importantly, is the city going to wait until one of these selfish assholes actually injures or kills someone in the park before they figure out a way to resolve this problem.


* Brian helpfully points out in the comments that, maybe some of these activities are a little illegal. Sloppy writing on my part. Apologies to my readers.


Continue reading End of my rope