Dependable Erection

Thursday, January 31, 2008

Bouncing bulldogs! Doubletime documentary at the Carolina

There's been a fair bit of chatter about this on local listservs. For those of you who missed the talk, here's the skinny.

Doubletime is a documentary about a jump rope competition at the Apollo Theater in Harlem between the Chapel Hill based Bouncing Bulldogs and various other teams, including South Carolina's Double Dutch Forces.

Now, i haven't seen the movie myself. It's only been shown in a couple of places. And tomorrow's show (7:30pm, 10 bucks; $25 will get you into a special reception that starts at 6) is a one-off. You probably won't get a chance to see it again locally until the Full Frame Festival in the spring. But people i know who have seen it say it's killer, and the reviews are certainly encouraging.

Plus, there will be a special performance by the Bulldogs on stage after the screening. I can think of few more "Durham" ways to spend a Friday night.

Trailer here.

Official website here.

(By the way, Blade Runner has been held over until at least Feb. 7 if you haven't seen it yet, or if you need seconds.)


Continue reading Bouncing bulldogs! Doubletime documentary at the Carolina

Raucous caucus

The Durham Democratic Women held their "Raucous Caucus" at the downtown library last night. It's modeled on any of the several state nominating caucuses that have already been held - "delegates" arrive, announce which candidate they're supporting, and gather in a part of the room with other like minded folks. If you're so inclined, you can address the gathered masses and explain why you're supporting who you're supporting, and why you think everybody else should change their mind and support the candidate of your choice.

I was a bit late, and so missed most of the speeches. No matter. At this point in the process, i'm still uncommitted, and not because i don't know enough about the candidates to make a choice, either. I fully intend to support whichever candidate wins the Democratic nomination. And fortunately, Mandy Carter made that exact point during the evening: regardless of who you are supporting now, keeping the Republicans out of the White House come November is the most important task.

I am disappointed that even this early in the primary campaign (it's not even February yet) most of the candidates have withdrawn from the race. I don't think that's particularly healthy for the party or for democracy at large, but i definitely don't have a solution. One change that does make sense to me is getting rid of "winner take all" primaries. I'm not a fan of winner take all in the general election, but i understand why we have it. For party primaries, though, it makes no sense. Why shouldn't three or four candidates bring delegates to the nominating convention and bargain their support for inclusion of certain planks in the party platform? The way the process has involved is entirely too "cult of personality" for my taste.

But that's another rant.

Results from last night were (rounded off, as i wasn't writing things down) uncommitted 15%, Hillary Clinton 30%, Barack Obama 55%. I got the impression that many of the uncommitted caucus goers were Edwards supporters, and a few were Kucinich supporters.

Also worth mentioning, both Hampton Dellinger and Dan Besse, candidates for the Lt. Governor nomination, stopped by. I had a chance to chat with each of them briefly. I'm still not ready to endorse a candidate for this office, but both of these candidates appear to be capable and committed progressive Democrats, and i'm glad to see such high quality people seeking this seat.

(Cross-posted here)


Continue reading Raucous caucus

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Water bill

It's been a while, but we finally got a water bill today. Our last bill covered from September 16 through November 16, or the introduction of Stage III restrictions. We used 11 units in that 60 day period, or about 45 gallons per person per day in our 3 person household. I still had some vgetables in the ground then, and Saturday watering with the drip system was still OK.

The new bill covered the period from November 16 through January 25, with Stage IV restrictions in effect most of that time. We used 8 units over a 70 day period this billing cycle, or 28.5 gallons per person per day. Given that usage is rounded down to the nearest unit, our actual usage could have been as high as 32 gallons per person per day. I suspect that having a teenager increases our per person average, but i could be wrong. I suppose we'll find out over the summer, unless we get enough rain to lift our outdoor watering restrictions. I hope so. I'd really like to grow some tomatoes this year.

What have you gotten your water consumption down to?


Continue reading Water bill

Why we fight

From the Beeb:
The upper house of the Afghan parliament has supported a death sentence issued against a journalist for blasphemy in northern Afghanistan.

Pervez Kambaksh, 23, was convicted last week of downloading and distributing an article insulting Islam. He has denied the charge.

. . .

Mr Kambaksh has at least two more courts in which to appeal and the sentence would have to be approved by President Karzai to be carried out.

He is a student at Balkh University and a journalist for Jahan-e Naw (New World).

He was arrested in 2007 after downloading material relating to the role of women in Islamic societies.
These are good guys in Afghanistan.


Continue reading Why we fight

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

What a waste of time

Panhandling ban to begin July 1
"Please avail yourself of all the social services this county has, and not put yourself in harm's way standing in traffic," said Chairwoman Ellen Reckhow.

Unless of course you're waiting for a bus.
Then it's OK to put yourself in harm's way.

Continue reading What a waste of time

World's worst Dallas Cowboys fan

Totally NSFW.

h/t to these guys.

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Continue reading World's worst Dallas Cowboys fan

Monday, January 28, 2008

Justice, Raleigh style

Reader TM asks if this happened in Durham, would we ever hear the end of it?
Wake County prosecutors dismissed a murder charge against a Raleigh man this morning because they couldn't get eye-witnesses to a November 2006 killing to come to court.

Eric Raymond Chambers had been accused of killing Shamonte Miguel Pair, 22, in Southeast Raleigh in November 2006, days before Pair's birthday.

. . .

Pair's family was upset at the decision to dismiss the murder charge, saying that it gives a signal that killers can get away with their crimes.

"Of course they're not going to come," said Erika Pasillas, a family friend. "There's no protection for the victims and witnesses."

But wait, there's more.
This is the second time this month that Wake County prosecutors have dismissed murder charges against a defendant because they couldn't get witnesses to come to court. On Jan. 7, Miguel Goytortua, was freed from jail after spending nearly 10 months behind bars awaiting his trial on charges of killing Pablo Ambriz Ponce, the owner of a rival fruit stand at Watson's
Flea Market.


Continue reading Justice, Raleigh style

Beaver Lodge adventures

Looks like members of Beaver Lodge Local 1504 have been busy gnawing on some doughnuts in Raleigh. They got it hot and now. Ginny's got the video.

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Continue reading Beaver Lodge adventures


I'm enjoying Phil's tales of his adventures in Mexico.


Continue reading Travelogue

State of the Union

Still sucks.

No speech is going to change that, is it?


Continue reading State of the Union

Sunday, January 27, 2008

Sunday morning church marquee blogging

Highway 70, Hillsborough, NC


Continue reading Sunday morning church marquee blogging

Saturday, January 26, 2008

The world is my closet

A couple of photos from our neighborhood park cleanup today.

I left the boots on the tree. They looked like someone might be back for them sometime.

On the other hand, Luann Young's 1984 Christmas bonus check is in safe hands. If anyone knows Luann, let her know we found the check. Maybe it's still good.

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Continue reading The world is my closet

Big mouth!

It's Saturday, time for a . . .


Continue reading Big mouth!

Friday, January 25, 2008

Durham media alert!

Rumor has it that NPR's "Weekend America" show will be doing a feature on Durham during tomorrow's broadcast, including a segment recorded at the Hillsborough Rd. LocoPops shop.

2 pm, WUNC-FM, 91.5

A couple of quick thoughts. First, when the hell is WUNC going to acknowledge that the American Tobacco Campus from which they broadcast is in, you know, Durham? And second, does anyone at NPR or WUNC ever test their web pages to see how they work in Firefox on a Mac?

Holy cow.*

Anyway, tune in if you can. Inside sources tell me it's a fun show.


* OK, maybe that was on my end. Every time i tried to access the Weekend America home page, Firefox asked me if i wanted to download the .php file, and i was never able to actually get to the page. Seems to work OK on my mac at home, though.

UPDATE: A couple of commenters have taken issue with my claim that WUNC does not identify its broadcasts as originating from Durham. I'll have to take y'all's word for it. I've certainly heard "from the American Tobacco Campus" regularly on WUNC. I've never heard "from the American Tobacco Campus in Durham, North Carolina." Maybe i don't listen enough. I've also noted in the comments a list of non-commercial radio stations in the area that i do listen to regularly. Although a couple of them carry some NPR programming, none of them are NPR stations in the same sense that WUNC is. And that, in my mind, is a very good and rare thing.


Continue reading Durham media alert!

Guest editorial - Say no to the solicitation ordinance

Newman Aguiar is one of the best informed, most reasonable people i know in Durham. He posted this earlier this morning to the PAC 2 listserv, and has kindly given permission for it to be reprinted here.

I've touched on the disingenuousness of the arguments being made in favor of the ordinance in past posts. Here, Newman challenges the need for a panhandling ban on its own terms.
Dear Commissioners:

I understand that most of you have given preliminary approval for the roadside solicitation ordinance. The last time this ordinance was before you, our community discussed the merits of the ordinance and it was clear that this ordinance would do nothing or little to enhance the safety of the panhandlers or the community. In contrast, if there is any intention to enforce this ordinance, it is clear that the cost would be too great to justify any benefit that could be imagined. It's been over a year since residents discussed this issue at length on the PAC2 list and I encourage you to review the archives before you vote to approve the ordinance on Monday.

Our judicial system is overburdened and we are actively working with the State to obtain the necessary resources to manage our current case load. The situation is so critical that the recent Comprehensive Gang Assessment recommended that "Durham should request emergency assistance from the State of North Carolina to reduce the backlog."

We are struggling to keep our most violent offenders off the street and are failing to give them a speedy trial. The Comprehensive Gang Assessment also pointed out that "the time from arrest to prosecution of serious gang crimes in Durham takes far too long - on average - nearly three years after the crime." The time from arrest to prosecution, not just for serious gang crimes, but all crime, is far too long. The consequences of these delays pose a significant burden on our limited judicial resources and create a potentially dangerous situation for the citizens of Durham.

(MORE . . . )
Our jail is already overcrowded. Notwithstanding the cost of holding someone in our County jail, we are struggling to find available beds for individuals charged with serious criminal offenses.

Would it be wise under these circumstances to be considering such an ordinance that at best could only serve to further stress our criminal justice system?

We also know, from an evaluation of arrest records, that the individuals arrested the most in Durham are arrested for aggressive panhandling or other nuisances. We know from these data that, in Durham, arresting and charging aggressive panhandlers has not worked to reduce, much less prevent, the aggressive panhandlers from returning to the street corners. Using existing
ordinances, the police department has continued to respond to citizen complaints and continues to arrest and process these individuals at great cost to the citizens of Durham. Why do we believe that the lesser charge that would result from the proposed ordinance would somehow be more

Individuals who work daily with the population most impacted by this ordinance have spoken against this ordinance.

The proposed ordinance is broad and doesn't just target panhandlers. What do you anticipate will bridge the gap for the individuals who survive off the few dollars they earn peddling newspapers or other products to the occupants of vehicles?

I am certain that this ordinance was crafted with the best of intentions, but the evidence from other cities clearly indicates that such ordinances are significantly misguided and seldom enforced. What harm can there be from an ordinance that in all likelihood will never be enforced, or, perhaps, selectively enforced? Given the current situation in Durham, it seems reasonable to anticipate that we run the risk of making Durham less safe.

As of the 3rd quarter of 2006, the NC Dept. of Commerce reports that 14.2 percent (as of 2003) of Durham residents live in poverty. Poverty levels in Durham are above the State average. Thank you for your support of the projects that seek to end homelessness, to provide a System of Care for adults and to find compassionate solutions for individuals struggling with substance abuse and mental health issues. You are taking positive steps that will help us address the needs of this population. We can do better as a community than pass an ordinance that will join Durham with a long list of cities and counties across the United States which have done the same and failed to have any impact on the problem the ordinance seeks to address.

Due to an ongoing commitment, I will not be able to appear before you in person on Monday to urge you to reconsider. Please reconsider your support of this ordinance.


Continue reading Guest editorial - Say no to the solicitation ordinance

Thursday, January 24, 2008

The good old days

Remember this?:
07/31/07 -- DURHAM) -- The City of Durham's Lake Michie boat launching ramp is temporarily closed to recreation until further notice due to low water levels in this particularly shallow area of the lake.

According to the City's Department of Water Management, Durham residents do not need to be concerned with the City's water supply levels. Currently, Lake Michie is only 6.8 feet below full and Little River is only 4 feet below full, both of which are normal for this time of year.

"Our water demands are running about 33.7 million gallons per day and the sporadic rainfall is helping with the water supply level," said Vicki Westbrook, deputy director of the City's Department of Water Management. "Although the lake levels are dropping slowly, this is normal for this time of year and our water demand and usage has not been unusually high."

For more information regarding the City's water supply level, visit or contact James Lim, conservation coordinator with the City's Department of Water Management, at (919) 560-4183, extension 259.


Continue reading The good old days

Arctic explorer Will Steger speaks at Duke this afternoon

Just a quick reminder for those of you who are free at 4 pm today, that Will Steger will be speaking at Duke University on the topic of climate change, and specifically how it is affecting the arctic environment. Steger's made numerous arctic excursions, including some solo traverses that had never been done prior to his, and he's got the first hand knowledge and the visuals to back up his claims. His foundation is on the front lines of educating folks about what's happening in a par tof the world most of us will never see.

You'll need to pick up a free ticket to go. They're available at the Regulator.

Unfortunately, we were not able to work out the interview that i hoped to publish today, but he's here until tomorrow, so maybe there's still a chance. I'll be working through the evening, and unable to attend, but if you go to this talk, drop a line in the comments or send me an email at DependableErection AT gmail DOT com and let me know what you thought about it.


Continue reading Arctic explorer Will Steger speaks at Duke this afternoon

Drought numbers

This is going to seem a little picky to some of you, and maybe it is.

I've been monitoring the city's "Current days of supply" figure as posted on the website pretty regularly for the past couple of months. Right now it says:
Using the 30-day running average demand as of January 20, 2008 of 17.74 MGD:

* Days of supply of easily accessible, premium water remaining (Lake Michie, Little River Reservoir and Teer Quarry combined): 125 days
* Days of less accessible water below the intake structures remaining: 68 days
* Total days of supply = 193

Initially, i was concerned about the 17.74 MGD figure. The 30 day moving average includes the Christmas/New Year week when demand was lower than normal. It would be much better to use a shorter period of time in this case. Especially since the 125 day figure of "easily accessible" water gets us into late May, when demand figures to be higher, as well as such things as evaporative loss.
The city also helpfully publishes a bar graph of recent daily demand.

I've gone ahead and added tick marks showing 16, 17, 18, 19, 21, & 22 MGD levels, to make the graph more useful and easier to read.

(Click on each graph for a full size view)

I can't for the life of me figure out how a 17.75 MGD figure can be extrapolated from a period of time in which demand has not dropped below 19 MGD for a single day. Michael suggested in conversation that perhaps the graph is measuring outflows from the city's water plants, while the daily demand figure is calculated on meter readings. I hope that's not the case. Whether the city bills for all of the water it ships or not is irrelevant. It's how much water that leaves the plant that matters.

The city does give a "month-to-date" figure for January '08 of a shade under 21 MGD, which looks more accurate to me based on the chart. Using that figure, our "easily accessible" water supply drops to about 105 days, almost 3 weeks less than the number on the web site. I think that's a big deal.

It would also be useful to project forward what demand might be. For example, we can tell that demand year over year in January has dropped about 13% from '07. It's not unreasonable to expect that figure to remain consistent, within a couple of points at least, over the next few months.

Good luck trying to find those numbers, though. Someone's got them, but they're not posted anywhere online that i can find.

I'm going to hazard an educated guess that our actual "easily accessible" water supply, based on anticipated demand, is somewhat less than 90 days, which only gets us to mid-late April, not late May. And that our total supply, which includes that "less accessible" water, is not 193 days, but is closer to 135 - 140 days.

Historically, the median inflow at Lake Michie and Little River reservoirs for this time of year has been a combined 170 CFS, more than enough to replenish supply for the year. Today, they're a combined 11 CFS, which is less than half of what we need just to meet daily demand.

Seems to me the city needs to be a ittle more realistic about how bad the situation really is. If the remainder of the winter and early spring stays dry, those supplies are going to drop even more precipitously than they did last August.

UPDATE: I've gotten an email suggesting that the difference between the 17.75 MGD figure and the 20.94 MGD figure represents the water Durham is purchasing from Cary. With the new connections, that's about 4 MGD, so that explanation makes a certain amount of sense.

Would be nice if the city put that on the website to make it clear, though. It would also be nice to see month-by-month numbers for the past couple of years. That way we could make some projections and set soem realistic targets for reducing demand.

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Continue reading Drought numbers

Wednesday, January 23, 2008


Dear Barry,

John Edwards should challenge his rivals Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton to go back to Washington, DC and fight against retroactive immunity for the telecoms.

The Republicans are not going to let Harry Reid punt and extend the Protect America Act for another 18 months so it looks like the FISA bill is going to come back up again on Monday. Chris Dodd's objection to Unanimous Consent still stands, so they will pick up in the middle of the Motion to Proceed debate.

Without the help of the presidential candidates, we are doomed to lose this fight. And all their calls for change will ring hollow if they allow George Bush to railroad this bill through a supine Democratic-controlled Senate because of their absence.

You can email Senator Edwards directly at


Jane Hamsher & Glenn Greenwald

This really should be a no-brainer for Democrats who want to lead this country out of the Bush years.

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Continue reading Emails

Unanticipated drought consequences

The N&O had a story last summer (unfortunately no longer available on their site) about the loss of electrical generating capacity as a result of the ongoing drought. Obviously hydro-electric plants are operating below capacity or shut down altogether when there's no water available to drive the turbines.

I've had a couple of conversations with folks telling me that's not the only place capacity suffers during a drought. Nuclear plants use prodigious quantities of water for cooling purposes, and in some cases their supplies are getting near the level where the plants will be required to shut down.

Here's the first wire services story i've seen discussing this:
At Progress Energy Inc., which operates four reactors in the drought zone, officials warned in November that the drought could force it to shut down its Harris reactor near Raleigh, according to documents obtained by the AP. The water in Harris Lake stands at 218.5 feet — just 3 1/2 feet above the limit set in the plant's license.

Lake Norman near Charlotte is down to 93.7 feet — less than a foot above the minimum set in the license for Duke Energy Corp.'s McGuire nuclear plant. The lake was at 98.2 feet just a year ago.

"We don't know what's going to happen in the future. We know we haven't gotten enough rain, so we can't rule anything out," said Duke spokeswoman Rita Sipe. "But based on what we know now, we don't believe we'll have to shut down the plants."

(MORE . . .)
How much water are we talking about? A lot.
At some plants — those with tall, Three Mile Island-style cooling towers — a lot of the water travels up the tower and is lost to evaporation. At other plants, almost all of the water is returned to the lake or river, though significantly hotter because of the heat absorbed from the steam.

Progress spokeswoman Julie Hahn said the Harris reactor, for example, sucks up 33 million gallons a day, with 17 million gallons lost to evaporation via its big cooling towers. Duke's McGuire plant draws in more than 1 billion gallons a day, but most of it is pumped back to its source.

Nuclear plants are subject to restrictions on the temperature of the discharged coolant, because hot water can kill fish or plants or otherwise disrupt the environment. Those restrictions, coupled with the drought, led to the one-day shutdown Aug. 16 of a TVA reactor at Browns Ferry in Alabama.

To put that in perspective, Durham's daily water usage has averaged just over 20 million gallons per day during January, or only about 15% more than Shearon Harris loses every day to evaporation.

So far, according to all the power company spokespeople, shutting down the plants seems unlikely. Time will tell. If the plants do shut down, the main concern so far seems to be the cost of replacement power, not it's availability. Again, time will tell. I haven't heard that there's a ridiculous amount of surplus energy being generated along the eastern seaboard to replace the loss of up to 25% or 30% of capacity during the high demand summer months.

Officials were way too sanguine last year as drought conditions developed from a nuisance to a crisis in a short period of time. Rolling blackouts and brownouts will quickly teach us how minor an inconvenience "letting the yellow mellow" really is.


Continue reading Unanticipated drought consequences


Things are getting a little busy around both the Dependable Ranch and the Dependable Worksite, especially in the runup to an anticipated mid-winter break in a couple of weeks, so posts may be a little less frequent for a while. Some of you may want to think about taking that extra time you're going to have on your hands from not commenting here so often and consider an anger management class or something.

There's a comment suggesting that name-calling between commenters is counter-productive. Maybe so. It doesn't bother me a bit, though, so have at it if you need that release. What does bother me in the comments is calling out third parties by name, when they are not public figures, and especially if they're not even involved in the discussion. No sir, i don't like that one bit.

If you are in the habit of stopping by on a regular basis, only to find that nothing new has been posted, you might want to think about subscribing to the RSS feed. That way you can check the feed in the reader to see if the blog has been updated. Some readers do a better job than others of keeping track of the updates, it seems. I'm interested in hearing from you how well your reader does. I'm pretty sure the comments have a separate feed. As far as i can tell, though, each posts comments require a separate subscription. Again, if that's wrong, let me know. Or if there's anything this blogger ignoramus needs to do to make that work better for you, leave a comment.


Continue reading Housekeeping

What will we tell the children?

Lies and more lies. Does anyone else remember when character mattered?

Note - it looks like the CPI website (second link) is getting hammered. I can see why.


Continue reading What will we tell the children?

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Blade Runner review

I'm not sure which is more remarkable about seeing a movie again twenty six years after a first viewing, how much you remember, or how much you forget. Anyway, here's a few random impressions.

First off, the overall pacing of the movie seemed much slower than i recall. Joe thought the loss of the narration might have contributed to that feel. Possible, but i think we've all gotten used to the condensed story telling techniques perfected in commercials and TV dramas and music videos in the intervening years. Hard to consider that MTV, for example, was in its infancy while Blade Runner was being made.

I was very conscious of the camera angles and framing of almost every scene, especially the closeups. Usually that's not a good thing. I think directors and cinematographers should make their artistic choices appear unobtrusive. Camera angles shouldn't call attention to themselves. But the only time it bothered me, i think, was when Deckard kills Zhora in slow motion through about a dozen plate glass windows. That was a little too show-off.

J. F. Sebastian was a lot creepier in my memory. This time, i just totally felt sorry for him.

Deckard's job would have been a whole lot easier with a cell phone, no? How did almost everyone making movies of the future get that so wrong? For a long time, nothing said "the future" like a pay videophone.

Vangelis' score was sensational. I wonder if any changes were made to the mix? Perhaps that also accounts for the perception of slower pacing?

It's amazing how our notions of physical perfection have changed. I don't think Rutger Hauer's physique would cut it today. Plus, he's hardly even in the first half of the movie. Were any scenes moved around?

Best part of the night though? After the movie, at Bull McCabe's for a bite, a drink, and some discussion. We had finished our drinks, when Zach came by with another round, and said they were courtesy of someone called Blazer Manpurse.

He is risen.


Continue reading Blade Runner review

Monday, January 21, 2008

Blade Runner

I'm off to see Blade Runner: The Current Version this evening at the Carolina. I mentioned recently that i thought BR was the most significant event in science fiction film and TV over the past quarter century. I haven't seen any of the subsequent releases since i saw it in the theater back in 1982, so i'm really looking forward to this. Kudos to the Carolina for scoring one of only a handful of prints of this supposedly definitive edition.

For the record, i'm one of those who didn't have a problem with either the narration or the ending of the original release. I haven't heard anything about what changes have been made this time around, but i'm hoping there will be minimal eyeballs being squeezed from sockets.

(MORE)There's a little game i play when i revisit things from the past, especially cutural touchstones. From Blade Runner's initial release till now is right around 26 years. What was going on 26 years prior to that? (Besides me being born, that is.) Well, there weren't a whole lot of 26 year old movies getting theatrical re-releases, that's for sure. I spent a lot of time between 1975 and 1984 in and around universities. One very cool thing about university is the number of film geeks, and the volume of older films that are being screened in and near campus. I even managed to see a few from 1956. Hollywood was stil lproducing musicals (Anything goes, with Bing Crosby and Donald O'Connor), westerns (Ghost Town, and The Dakota Incident, two variations on a theme, for example), but was just discovering rock and roll (Rock Around the Clock, released on the very day i was born, and it's sequel Don't Knock the Rock.) Le Ballon Rouge (The Red Ballon) was released in 1956 as well, as was Bus Stop. I could happily watch any of these on TCM if i happened to catch them while channel surfing; i probably saw RAtC, Bus Stop, and Red Balloon at some Tuesday Flicks in a lecture hall at Stony Brook for 50 cents too. But a couple of genuine classics were also released in 1956, and here's where the 26 year gaps between then and then and now can be measured. Earth vs the Flying Saucers, featuring Hugh Marlowe, who had also been in the greatest SF film of all time, The Day the Earth Stood Still. Godzilla, King of the Monsters (yes, the first and best, featuring Raymond Burr, fresh from playing the murderous Lars Thorwald in Hitchcock's Rear Window, and that second greatest of 50s SF movies, Forbidden Planet.

Near future SF was not a big sub-genre in the 50s. Two of these films were set in the present, one in the far future. Forbidden Planet was not so much a speculation as to what space travel might be like, but an attempt to make a different kind of monster movie, and show off both a new generation of special effects, and Anne Francis. It succeeded on all fronts, too. The other two movies were early warnings of the new kind of things Man Should Not Fuck With films that were a response to the technoligical advances brough about by the Second World War. But they didn't attempt to make sociological speculations as to where we would end up if we did. Just that things would get very bad in a very short period of time.

Blade Runner is, to me, the first really successful attempt to extrapolate what the near future might feel like. 2001: A Space Odyssey of course milked that territory, much less successfully, partially by getting it wrong, but also by foregrounding most of the changes in the society it depicted. One of the ways that science fiction works best, is to have characters who treat the wonders of their world the same way that we treat ours, that is, we use them till they break, then we throw them away. We don't marvle on the miracle of cell phones, or GPS devices, or barcode scanners on our highway toll booths much, do we? Blade Runner got this, and also got some of the specifics right as well. (Replicants in the year 2018? Not so much). Ridley Scott caught some of the same zeitgeist that William Gibson was tapping into at the same time period; he realized that the future might actually suck, in many of the same ways that the present sucked, in addition to being as wonderful a place to live as any other point in time.

And that's why, 26 years later, i'm paying full price to go see an old movie in the theater.


Continue reading Blade Runner

Endangered Durham

Did you read Gary's blog today? Well, you should.

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Continue reading Endangered Durham

Louis de Cazenave

Here's a story that's getting only the mildest of coverage locally.
World War I veteran Louis de Cazenave died Sunday at age 110, his son said, leaving just one known French survivor of the 1914-1918 conflict.

De Cazenave, who took part in the Battle of the Somme, died in his home in Brioude in central France, said his son, also named Louis de Cazenave.

. . .

De Cazenave took part in the Battle of the Somme in 1916, in which more than a million soldiers died, and in the liberation of France from German forces, the statement said.

"His death is an occasion for all of us to think of the 1.4 million French who sacrificed their lives during this conflict, for the 4.5 million wounded, for the 8.5 million mobilized," President Nicolas Sarkozy said in a statement.

That's the gist of the wire service coverage published in both the N&) and the HS (and probably most papers around the country. Foreign coverage gets a few more details out there. (MORE)
For instance, here's what the BBC adds:
In April 1917, assigned to the Fifth Senegalese Rifles, he fought in one of the most disastrous French actions of the war, at the Chemin des Dames, during the Second Battle of the Aisne.

The chemin was an 18th Century road straddling a ridge.

The Germans took it in late 1914, and after two years of attritional warfare, the French commander-in-chief, Gen Robert Nivelle, recommended a massive assault against them.

But squabbling between Allied leaders lead to delays and leaks.

Forewarned, the Germans dug in so well that the creeping artillery barrage ahead of the French advance did little to dislodge them.

Across the battlefront the French lost 40,000 men on the first day.

Some reports say the advancing French bleated in mocking acknowledgement that they were lambs to the slaughter.

Mr de Cazenave's family say the experience, which led to French mutinies, left him a pacifist.

During World War II he was briefly jailed by the pro-Nazi puppet regime under Marshal Petain, the general who relieved Nivelle after the debacle.

"War is something absurd, useless, that nothing can justify. Nothing," he told Le Monde newspaper in a 2005 interview.

In that interview, he described walking through fields of wounded soldiers calling for their mothers, begging to be finished off.

AFP adds an even more interesting tidbit:
At 110 years old, an Italian-born Foreign Legionnaire who wants nothing to do with the state funeral proposed by former president Jacques Chirac is the last man standing in France from World War I.

"The first men to fall in the trenches deserve to be honoured as much as the last," Lazare Ponticelli said, according to his daughter Janine Desbaucheron, upon learning of fellow veteran Louis de Cazenave's death on Sunday.

. . .

While Ponticelli and de Cazenave never met, as Desbaucheron pointed out, the two men instinctively reacted the same way when Chirac produced his suggestion for a ceremony filled with pomp and circumstance in 1995.

They were the last two of 8.5 million men who fought between 1914 and 1918 under French colours.

Imagine that. A veteran who saw tens of thousands of his fellows slaughtered for no other reason then the incompetence of his superior officers and politiicians, refusing offers of pomp and circumstance from their spiritual descendants, and dismissing war and patriotism as absurd.

Imagine that.

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Continue reading Louis de Cazenave

Sunday, January 20, 2008


So it's too cold outside to do anything else but tend the fire, make some soup and some wings and get ready for some football. We probably listened to Al DeRogatis call the 1962 Giants-Packers championship game on WNEW radio, as it was blacked out in the NY area. So i'm looking forward to watching this rematch tonight in a warm house.

Go Giants!

The other thing i've been doing is trying to figure out how to make jump pages for the blog. I'm about 85% there. What i haven't figured out is how to make the link to the jump page disappear when all of the content of the post is on the front page. Right now, it looks like every post will have a "continue reading this post" link at the bottom, regardless. If anyone can point me to a solution, i'd be grateful. I'd also like to figure out how to get the jump page link above the tags, rather than after the tags.


Continue reading Bloggering

Sunday morning church marquee blogging

Rose of Sharon Rd., Durham, NC


Continue reading Sunday morning church marquee blogging

Saturday, January 19, 2008

Splitting linguistic hairs

Lynch mob, Salisbury, NC, circa 1906

Lynch mob, Durham, NC, circa 2006

Hairsplitting indeed.


Continue reading Splitting linguistic hairs

Drought watch

Inflows at Little River and Lake Michie reservoirs have been above 30 cfs combined for most of the past 24 hours, and above 40 for a good part of that time.

Yay. That means more water is going into the reservoir than coming out. The heaviest precipitation is still to come. We're supposed to get a few inches of snow by tonight, then more rains and warmer temperatures on Tuesday, which will melt what falls today and tonight. Look for higher inflows throughout the week, which could add another week or two to our supplies. Here's what the Climate Prediction Center of the NOAA has to say:
Widespread rains during the last half of January will contribute to at least some degree of drought improvement for the entire Southeastern drought area outside of Florida. The improvement should be more limited over the longer term from southern Alabama into central and southern Georgia and the Carolinas due to below-normal rainfall forecast during February-April. The drier weather expected later in the season means that conditions could deteriorate following initial improvement, especially in areas near the Gulf and Atlantic coasts. Also, even with several inches of rain during the first 2 weeks of the forecast period, many reservoirs and wells will remain low due to lingering impacts from the extreme rainfall deficits incurred last year.

That means to still keep those showers short. And don't flush unless you have to.


Continue reading Drought watch

Big mouth!

For some of my favorite commenters.


Continue reading Big mouth!

Friday, January 18, 2008

A real note of thanks

I snarked the other day about all of my traffic coming from wingnuts whenever i post about The Worst Miscarriage of Justice in the History of the US™, but i do want to take a minute to really say thank you to all of you who have been stopping by here on a regular basis the last couple of months.

The site's traffic far exceeds anything i expected when i started writing this blog. I'm especially gratified to see that over 120 of you care enough about what i write to subscribe to the RSS feed. Most mornings, when i wake up, i have no idea what i'll be posting that day. Fortunately, as the old saying goes, we live in interesting times, the world continues to be an astounding place, and Durham an even more concentrated amalgam of that astoundingness.

Thanks again for stopping by, and come back soon.


Continue reading A real note of thanks


Well, whaddaya know? Seems like i'm not the only one who thinks the word "lynch" shouldn't be tossed around lightly.


Continue reading Context


It didn't seem so at the time, but in hindsight i think spending afternoons with my father watching Shelby Lyman doing the "play-by-play" of the Boris Spassky v Bobby Fischer matches on public television in the summer of 1972 may have been the weirdest experience of my life.


Continue reading Endgame

Quick drought update

Inflows at Lake Michie are at 18 cubic feet per second as of 7:45 this morning. They look like they're still climbing. At the Little River reservoir, inflows appear to have peaked at around 7 cfs earlier this morning, and have already begun to drop. That translates into a rate of about 16 - 17 million gallons/day, if it keeps up, or a little less than what Durham has been using on a daily basis. So it'll stretch our supply out by a touch, but doesn't really replenish the reservoirs. We still can't tell from the city's website whether any Eno River water is being diverted to the Teer Quarry, or if it's just getting natural runoff.

Current forecast is for rain/snow on Saturday, with total snow accumulations of 1-3 inches. That only translates to about 1/4" or so of rain, so no major replenishment should be expected there either. There's rain in the forecast beginning Tuesday and continuing trough next weekend, but we all know how accurate those are. Keep your fingers crossed, your showers to three minutes, and for the love of God, don't flush unless you have to.


Continue reading Quick drought update

More yard waste stuff

Councilor Woodard reminds me in the comments that the switch from a fee based yard waste program to a program funded out of general revenues is not a done deal. Council is in the process of creating a budget for the 08-09 fiscal year. If you agree that picking up all of the yard waste in the city is a good idea, please let Council know. You can send an email to all seven members of the City Council by writing to

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Continue reading More yard waste stuff

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Go Havant! and Waterlooville!

It's a few years since i discovered the wonder that is the FA Cup. (Yeah, they've only been playing it for something like 120 years. I'm a little late to the party.) It's a fascinating competition, unlike anything in the US sports world. Imagine the NCAA basketball tournament. Multiplied a thousandfold.

I wrote about it a while back, when the Brewers of Burton Albion held the mighty Red Devils of Manchester United to a draw in their third round match, and earned a replay at Old Trafford. The money earned from that game has obviously been put to good use, as Burton's part-timers are in the thick of the battle for promotion to League 2.

This year's Cinderella story belongs to non-league Havant and Waterlooville, a mid table team in the Conference South. That's a couple of divisions lower than League 2, by the way. H&W just knocked off Swansea City, who are the current League 1 leaders, and advanced to the fourth round. I think they're the first non-league team to make it that far in a decade or so. Their reward is a match against mighty Liverpool, at Anfield, where instead of the 50 or so family members they're used to playing in front of, there'll be 50,000 some fans screaming "You'll Never Walk Alone" at the top of their lungs.

Seriously, this is like your American Legion baseball team getting into a tournament with the Boston Red Sox. And playing at Fenway.

The game is scheduled for Saturday, the 26th. FSC is showing League 2 bottom dwellers Mansfield v Premiership mediocrities Middlesborough. Oh, well.


Continue reading Go Havant! and Waterlooville!

Lynch mob redux

The Herald Sun has a story today on former Duke lacrosse coach Larry* Mike Pressler's revised slander suit against the University. Seems that calling his successor a "mensch" is somehow slanderous. Well, that's for the lawyers, judges, and juries to decide, i guess.

But what i noticed is someone calling himself "pacfandave" making this claim:
Brodhead is nothing more than a figurehead, a shill who takes his marching orders from the Gang of 88, who formed the lacrosse players lynch mob and put him out in front to parrot their vitriolic and baseless rant.

emphasis added.

If i didn't know better i'd swear there was a bunch of whiny ass titty babies gathering together on a website somewhere working themselves up into a lather about how their victimization status is so clearly more victimization statusy than anybody else's, that anytime something about this case appears on the interwebs, they have to take turns jumping up and down and throwing the term "lynch mob" into the discussion, just to make sure everybody else knows that they are more victimy than anyone else ever.

What's that?



* Damn, i hate when i do that.


Continue reading Lynch mob redux

Useful information

The U.S. Northeast from upstate New York to Maine will have equal chances of above- or below-normal temperatures during February and in the 3-month February-April period, the National Weather Service predicted on Thursday.

OK, boots or sneakers . . .

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Continue reading Useful information

Durham: Left hand, meet right hand

Longtime DE readers, and people who know me in the real world, know that i really don't like the city's current yard waste program. Durham is practically the only city in NC that charges both a start up fee, to purchase a yard waste cart, and a monthly subscription fee to have the cart emptied. It's almost certainly the only city which does that and does not have a policy in place to pick up all of the leaves that fall off our trees each autumn.

The end result is predictable - fewer than 25% of Durham's households participate in the yard waste program, there's illegal dumping of yard waste in the trash, in empty lots, and in our creeks and streams, and whenever there's a decent amount of rain, our storm sewers back up and clog, resulting in localized urban flooding.

Nevertheless, every year for the past 6 years, Mrs. D. dutifully writes, over my protestations, a check to the city to continue our participation in the yard waste program. And, just as dutifully it seems, the Solid Waste Department neglects to send us the sticker for our container indicating that we've paid up. My part in the program is to not notice that the sticker hasn't arrived until after i do my winter raking and place all my leaf bags out at the curb.

That's what i did two weekends ago. I generally wait till late December/early January to do this project because, for some reason, the trees on my block tend to hold on to their leaves till after Christmas. Some of my oaks still haven't dropped their leaves. And on Friday, Jan. 11th, the fruits of my labor lined the curb in front of my house, waiting for the yard waste truck. I made sure no cars blocked the path. When i got home that afternoon, all the other yard waste on the block had been picked up, except for mine.

That's when i realized that the sticker on the brown cart said "good through Sept. 07." So i called Mrs. D., who confirmed that we were paid up. I called Durham One-Call, who transferred me to the yard waste program, who confirmed that we were paid up, that a sticker had never been mailed, that one would be put in the mail that very afternoon, and that a supervisor would be on a truck the very next morning (Saturday the 12th) to pick up my yard waste. I said i appreciated that, but that it wasn't necessary. So long as it got picked up before the bags fell apart i'd be happy. She assured me it was no trouble.

So i was a bit surprised when i saw a yard waste truck drive up my block on Saturday morning, turn around at the end of the street, and drive away, without touching my yard waste. Maybe it was still a sticker issue?

I called back on Monday afternoon, spoke to a different person in the yard waste program who confirmed that we were paid up, that a sticker hadn't been sent to us yet, that she was putting one in the mail immediately, and that when i got it i should put it on the cart. And that my yard waste would be picked up on the next scheduled run through the neighborhood, which is tomorrow. Meantime, i should just leave my yard waste at the curb.

Sticker arrived in the mail on Tuesday. I put it on the cart immediately.

And lo and behold, when i got home from work last night, the yard waste had magically disappeared. Now i can get the leaves that are piled up in the backyard out to the curb this weekend.

I can't wait till we lose this program later this year, and start picking up everyone's yard waste regardless of whether they've got a sticker or not. Kudos to Donald Long for getting council to go along with the new program.

UPDATE: Cool. Our second yard waste sticker arrived today. Maybe i can sell it on eBay.

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Continue reading Durham: Left hand, meet right hand


I'm off to brave the wilderness of I-85. If you haven't heard back from me by noon, send out a patrol.

UPDATE: Well, that was an adventure. I'll bet it took me an extra five minutes to get in to the office this morning. How do they do it in Syracuse?


Continue reading Roads

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Must buy milk and bread



See what i mean

By the way, those overnight lows in the teens on Sunday should put a stop to this.

UPDATE: Oh, shit, i was too busy eating dinner at Watts Grocery (the Guinea fowl was a tad underdone, but the oysters were superb, as was the chocolate cake) and seeing the Durham Jazz orchestra (big band and swing era standards with trombones and saxes, but nary a sousaphone in sight) at Broad St. Cafe to remember to stop at the grocery store for bread and milk. Probably no matter, since Kevin tells us the store was wiped out anyway. This is his first NC winter weather event. For God's sake, man, stay off the roads.

What'll i do? I've only got two loaves of bread and a gallon of milk in the fridge?


Continue reading Must buy milk and bread

Climate change educator Will Steger to speak at Duke

When it comes to the effects of climate change on earth's polar regions, Will Steger knows his stuff. First hand.

From his bio:
Steger led the first confirmed dogsled journey to the North Pole without re-supply (1986), the 1,600-mile south-north traverse of Greenland (the longest unsupported dogsled
expedition in history in 1988), the first dogsled traverse of Antarctica (the historic seven month, 3,471-mile International Trans-Antarctica Expedition in 1989-90), and the first dogsled traverse of the Arctic Ocean in one season from Russia to Ellesmere Island in Canada (1995).

He'll be speaking at Duke on Thursday, January 24th, at 4 pm. I'll have more details over the next few days.

I'm also working on putting together a liveblogging sessions with Steger, depending on his schedule. It'll most likely be hosted at BlueNC.

Stay tuned.


Continue reading Climate change educator Will Steger to speak at Duke

Fire sale!

I'm not an economist, so if anybody smarter than me wants to correct my interpretation of this, please do:
Despite signs of a slowing economy, foreign investors continued to pour money into U.S. investments. Net overall capital inflows into the United States surged to $149.9 billion in November, from a revised $92.2 billion in October, the Treasury Department said.

November's inflows were more than sufficient to cover the month's U.S. trade deficit of $63.1 billion.

Net long-term capital inflows totaled $90.9 billion compared with $114.0 billion in October.

What i think that means is that even when things start "improving" in the domestic economy, that more and more of the profits are going to be going overseas to our new "investors," who include, as i recall, all those foreign governments picking up equity positions in US financial institutions, generally at bargain basement prices.

In other words, the productive capacity of the US is on sale right now.


Continue reading Fire sale!

Funny/Not funny

From the Dome.

All this time, we thought Charlotte Mayor Pat McCrory was running for governor. Turns out, according to his first news release, he's running for "governer."

Update: Victoria Smith, McCrory's campaign manager, just told Dome that they believe someone hacked into their system and inserted the misspelled word in the news release sent by e-mail to reporters.

"There's no way that this was misspelled," Smith said. "I'm going to have to look into this."

Not funny:
With its biggest performance of the year fast approaching, N.C. Central University's marching band has been crippled by the theft of at least two dozen instruments.

Fourteen sousaphones and a selection of other instruments were stolen from the band room in at least two thefts stretching back to November, said Jorim Reid, NCCU's band director. The instruments were taken from locked rooms, and the thieves left the sousaphone cases, so it wasn't immediately apparent that the instruments were missing, Reid said.

Now, with the high-profile, annual Battle of the Bands showcase set to start Jan. 26 in Atlanta, Reid is trying to patch his band back together. The loss of sousaphones, in particular, is a blow to a 180-member band that relies heavily on the large brass instruments. There are 16 sousaphone players in the band.

Anyone with information about the thefts is asked to call NCCU Detective A.J. Carter at 560-5397, NCCU Detective Billy Boyd at 560-7365 or CrimeStoppers at 683-1200. CrimeStoppers pays cash rewards for information leading to arrests in felony cases and callers never have to identify themselves.

Seriously, what the hell are you planning to do with the sousaphones? Every pawn shop up and down the east coast is going to know they're stolen. Just drop them off back at the football stadium at midnight and make everyone's life easier.

Continue reading Funny/Not funny

Tuesday, January 15, 2008


I did something tonight i haven't done yet this campaign season, and that's watch a debate. While i'm still disappointed that half the field has dropped out already, i thought all three of our remaining candidates are strong.

Stronger than Rudy Giuliani, that's for sure.


Continue reading Debate

Go fly a kite

Someone on my neighborhood listserv wants to know the best places in town for kite-flying. It's for a 4 year old's birthday party coming up in March, so the venue needs to be both kid party friendly (benches/picnic tables and bathrooms, at a minimum), as well as kite friendly.

The field off Main St. near Erwin Sq. has been mentioned, as has Duke Gardens, DCP, and Forest Hills Park.

Where would you take a bunch of 4 year olds for a kite flying birthday party?

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Continue reading Go fly a kite

Memo to County Commissioners

I see you gave preliminary passage to Lewis Cheek's holy crusade to ban panhandling on Durham's highways, citing "safety issues" as your reason.

Here's the deal.

If you want to see our surface streets made safer for pedestrians, how about directing your law enforcement agencies to enforce existing law:
20-173. Pedestrians’ Right-of-Way at Crosswalks

(a) Where traffic-control signals are not in place or in operation the driver of a vehicle shall yield the right-of-way, slowing down or stopping if need be to so yield, to a pedestrian crossing the roadway within any marked crosswalk or within any unmarked crosswalk at or near an intersection, except as otherwise provided in Part 11 of this Article.

(b) Vehicle operators of any vehicle approaching another vehicle from the rear shall not overtake and pass the stopped vehicle when it is stopped at a marked crosswalk, or at any unmarked crosswalk at an intersection, to permit a pedestrian to cross the roadway.

(c) The driver of a vehicle emerging from or entering an alley, building entrance, private road, or driveway shall yield the right-of-way to any pedestrian, or person riding a bicycle, approaching on any sidewalk or walkway extending across such alley, building entrance, road, or driveway.

I'll be the number of tickets written by the Sheriff's department for violating this provision of state law approaches zero, regardless of the time period you choose. The city could do its part by building a few bus shelters with benches and funding the pedestrian plan you all spent $315,000 on a few years ago.

Criminalizing this behavior is one thing. If that's what you want to do, go ahead and do it. But don't piss on my leg and tell me it's raining by hiding behind pedestrian safety issues.
UPDATE: Here's a photo of the bus stop nearest my house on Avondale Drive. Pedestrian safety my ass.

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Continue reading Memo to County Commissioners

Thank you, wingnuts!

Pageviews for the first two weeks of January are up 30% over the comparable period for December, and are more than double the comparable period from September. As far as i can tell, that unfortunate incident with the cat, the extension cord, and the refresh button had very little to do with it.

My plans for global media domination are proceeding right on schedule.

Next step - advertising*.

Since i have little knowledge of whether, or how, the right-wing brain actually functions, here's where you can help me out with a little market research. Which of the following advertising segments would you be more likely to click through on? Please answer based on your best self-awareness.

1) Snack foods coated with bright orange powders
2) Hair restoration products
3) Natural male enhancement products


* Ote-nay to my ue-tray omrades-cay: On't-day orry-way. The only ads-way i'd eally-ray accept-ay ould-way be om-fray ocally-lay owned-way used-way ookstores-bay and alal-hay oat-gay eat-may ellers-say.


Continue reading Thank you, wingnuts!

Monday, January 14, 2008

Holy shit

Thought you'd heard everything? Think again.

A couple of dozen former Lockheed-Martin employees have a suit against the company in California contending that their long-term exposure to hazardous chemicals on the job caused a variety of illnesses. Over the years, the cases have been consolidated as they worked their way through the courts. Last year the highest court in California agreed to hear the most recent appeal.

Turns out the case was dismissed late last year, but not for any of the reasons you might think. No, the problem is that a majority of the members of the California Supreme Court are shareholders in the companies that provided the various solvents and chemicals in question, and have recused themselves from participating in the case. So there's no one left to rule on the case.

I could make some snarky comment about the rhetoric of class warfare, but that would be a waste of time.


Continue reading Holy shit

Wait till LieStoppers hears about this case

I'm sure they'll be all over it like a bum on a bologna sandwich.
A Durham law instructor and the Durham-based North Carolina chapter of the NAACP are riled up over the plight of a young Wilson man, who was locked up for more than three years on homicide, rape and kidnapping charges that finally were dropped last month for lack of evidence.


Continue reading Wait till LieStoppers hears about this case

R.I.P. Johnny Podres

Johnny was an above average lefty who pitched for the Brooklyn and Los Angeles Dodgers between 1953 and 1966, then closed out his career with a couple of mediocre seasons in Detroit and San Diego, before retiring in 1969.

But he pitched the single most important game in the history of the Dodgers, Game 7 of the 1955 World Series, a complete game shutout against the Yankees at Yankee Stadium, the only Series Dem Bums would ever win in Brooklyn.

I can remember as a kid reading a science fiction story in which a bunch of space travelers marooned on an alien planet teach the natives baseball. One of the natives is a lefty with a natural sharp breaking curveball, and one of the crew refers to him as a podres, with the explanation that a long time ago on earth, the best lefty who ever pitched the game had that name.

I've looked through dozens of SF anthologies of stories published in the 50s (clearly the story would have been written between October 1955 and say 1959 or 60, because it was certainly clear by then that Podres was no Warren Spahn) without ever finding this story again. Once, in an online discussion about baseball in science fiction, i stumped the multiple Hugo winning editor Gardner Dozois, who also did not know this story. It reminds me of stuff i've read by Robert Silverberg, who was writing that kind of stuff at the time, or maybe William Tenn. If anybody else recalls this story, please leave a note in the comments.

"Elston Howard hits a sharp grounder to short. Reese fields it, sets, fires across the diamond to first. Hodges makes the putout, and the Brooklyn Dodgers are the 1955 World Champions!"

Rest in peace.


Continue reading R.I.P. Johnny Podres

"It's a wonder that you still know how to breathe"

Average inflows at Lake Michie reservoir 1/7/08 through 1/13/08: 3.125 cfs
Total inflows at Lake Michie (approximate) during that period: 14.175 million gallons
Average inflows at Little River reservoir 1/7/08 through 1/13/08: 1.4 cfs
Total inflowas at Little River (approximate) during that period: 6.35 million gallons
Month to date average demand for water in the City of Durham January 2008: 21.43 million gallons/day
Total shortfall (approximate) 1/7/08 through 1/13/08: 129 million gallons.

Trinity Park resident and Lohn Locke Foundation blogger Jon Ham, after misinterpreting comments made at the Duke/Durham drought forum last week:
And the final paragraph is this one, which I think would be huge news to anyone who’s been reading about water shortages in our local media:

“We have sufficient available resources right now to easily last us through the next 50 years,” Miller said. “It’s more of a function of making better use of what we have.”

Talk about undermining urgency to conserve water! If word of this gets out there’s be a rebellion among those whose businesses are threatened as we speak due to water restrictions.

Durham resident and DE commenter Trinity Rez: "As much as you want the world to be a particular way it will never be such."


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Continue reading "It's a wonder that you still know how to breathe"

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Go Giants!

Make Y.A.Tittle happy.

UPDATE: Oh, yeah. He's happy.



Continue reading Go Giants!

Keep an eye on this

I've heard, through my participation on the East End Connector ad hoc committee, that negotiations between the city and the state DOT over the proposed Alston Ave. widening had stalled.

Gary's written on more than one occasion about the sheer awfulness of NCDOTs designs for Alston, and he's got an update this weekend. I've casually mentioned how bad the design is once or twice myself.

Ray Gronberg's piece in yesterday's Herald Sun fleshes out the details of the city's opposition. And it's mostly pretty good news, based on concerns over pedestrian safety along a corridor with a high number of pedestrians and pretty poor safety record already, as well as concerns over disruption of the community, primarily over the loss of the only grocery store in the area. Mayor Bell's comments were also, i think, unhelpful. If there's a "public relations" problem over the staff's position, that's precisely where the mayor's office should be the most helpful.

Here's why this needs watching.

Nobody disputes that the numbers show that Alston Ave. is already carrying more traffic than it's rated for. And the projections, even taking into into account the beneficial effects of the East End Connector in reducing traffic volumes on surface streets, show traffic is going to be 40% or so higher over the next decade and a half.

The state usually gets its way when the numbers look like that. The city's history of getting pedestrian safety a priority in dealing with state maintained roads is also pretty poor. Add in the fact that we're dealing with one of the poorest and least well organized communities in Durham, and the potential to have the state implement its project anyway is pretty great.

Stay tuned.

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Continue reading Keep an eye on this

Sunday morning church marquee blogging

Guess Rd. Durham, NC


Continue reading Sunday morning church marquee blogging

Saturday, January 12, 2008

Big Mouth!

Some people think i'm a beer snob. I guess that's cause i usually order a craft brew (and especially an NC craft brew if it's available) when i'm out, and i make my own beer, when water's available. I imagine things like this help perpetuate that impression.

But i will quite happily drink a PBR, a greenie, or even a Bud Light if that's what you put in front of me. We went through 4 cases of Coronitas at our wedding in September. (Coffee's a different story. I am a coffee snob.)

So last night at the Man Cave™ i had no problems when a 6 of Mickey's Big Mouths made an appearance. I love the bottle caps.

I especially love the rebus puzzles on the inside of the bottle caps. I love them so much i'm going to be posting one each Saturday for the foreseeable future as a treat for you, dear reader. This seemed the obvious choice to start things off.

In fact, it was so obvious it was essentially a



Continue reading Big Mouth!

Lynch mob

Over in the comments, someone described the people of Durham as a "lynch mob," presumably because a number of citizens had the audacity to demand that law enforcement agencies investigate and prosecute allegations of sexual assault. Leaving aside for the moment the hows and whys of that investigation and prosecution (but of course we can't, can we? The Duke lacrosse case continues to constitute The Worst Miscarriage of Justice in the History of the United States™) the use of the words lynch mob is particularly misplaced, and reveals much about the character and nature of the supporters of the Duke lacrosse players.

Lynching of course has nothing to do with demanding that law enforcement do its job. Wikipedia quotes from numerous state codes defining lynching as "Any act of violence inflicted by a mob upon the body of another person which results in the death of the person," with a 'mob' being defined as "the assemblage of two or more persons, without color or authority of law, for the premeditated purpose and with the premeditated intent of committing an act of violence upon the person of another."

The use of the word, even metaphorically, invokes the out of control mob, impatient and frustrated with the authorities, taking matters into their own hands. Which, no matter how you slice it, is not what happened in Durham. But it's important for supporters of the lacrosse players to continue to enhance their status as victims. Indeed, the more we see members of the far right embracing the lacrosse players cause, the more the victimization card is played. It is, after all, what they do best.

Another commenter reminds me that lynchings were not confined to black victims, and that they did not always result in hangings.

True that.

The archives at the Tuskeegee Institute remind us that of the 4,743 lynchings documented in the US between 1882 and 1968, a mere 3,446 (or 72%) were committed against African-Americans. Why, some states like South Dakota, Nevada, and Arizona didn't lynch a single black person. And not all of those lynched were hanged. Some were burned, shot, or stomped to death.

It will probably continue to amaze me for the rest of my life how willfully blind and ignorant some people choose to be.

By the way, Floyd Lee Brown could still use your help. Eighty years ago, he probably would have been lynched. I wonder who would have been in the mob on that day?

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Continue reading Lynch mob

Friday, January 11, 2008

Friday garden blogging


It's Friday. Go drink some beer and eat some oysters.

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Continue reading Friday garden blogging

Advantages of growing old

i've aged out of the "potential terrorist" demographic.
By 2014, anyone seeking to board an airplane or enter a federal building would have to present a REAL ID-compliant driver's license, with the notable exception of those more than 50 years old, Homeland Security officials said.

The over-50 exemption was created to give states more time to get everyone new licenses, and officials say the risk of someone in that age group being a terrorist, illegal immigrant or con artist is much less. By 2017, even those over 50 must have a REAL ID-compliant card to board a plane.

It is also depressing to realize i've aged out of the con artist demographic also. I was kinda thinking about exploring that as a post-retirement career.

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Continue reading Advantages of growing old


Last year, there was a big brouhaha over the poor pruning practices of our city's large urban trees, mostly raised in Watts Hospital-Hillandale and Trinity Park neighborhoods. Kevin wrote about it here. (I also touched on the issue here and here.)

The solution, or compromise, that was reached called for Duke Energy to meet with neighborhood associations before pruning, and also to enlist city arborists to hep determine which trees needed pruning, and how much pruning to do.

This morning an alarmed email appeared on my neighborhood list serve indicating that Duke Energy folks had been speaking individually to neighbors letting them know their tree trimming crews would be at work on their blocks in the very near future. I know for certain that no meeting with our association has taken place. And i strongly suspect that Duke Energy is not consulting with the city on this project. Maybe they thought the whole matter had blown over?

Regardless, there's lots of discussion going on right now. Here's the latest from the city's department of urban forestry.
I read your posting to the Duke Park list-serve this morning and I thought it deserved a reply. Let me first say that your observations are correct and your anger and indignation is justified. It is not my place to explain or defend the practices of Townsend Tree Care in their pursuit of fulfilling their contract with Duke Energy, but I feel it is my job to inform the public on why the situation has gotten to where it is and what can be done about it.

The major component of Durham’s streetscape consists of willow and water oak trees planted in the period roughly between the mid 1930’s through the 1950’s. For a long time the trees and powerlines have coexisted due to constant pruning work done at Duke Power’s expense. The early pruning practices called for “rounding over” the trees, like you would do to a boxwood, to create trees that look like mushrooms.

This practice was phased out in the 1980’s when the science of Arboriculture took a giant leap in its applied understanding of tree physiology under the lead of Dr. Alex Shigo. It was shown that “rounding over” is not sustainable and leads to trees that are dangerous to the public when the decay resulting from numerous treatments finally undermines the trees’ structure.

The shift to “directional pruning” that took place in the 1980’s created the Y-shaped trees that we now have. It was instituted by a crew of tree workers who were “dedicated” to Durham. They worked year-round and constantly pruned trees from one side of town to the next. The “pruning cycle” that was thus established meant that trees received maintenance roughly every 2-4 years.

Somewhere in the late 1990’s Duke Power became Duke Energy and expanded it’s share of the market. It absorbed competitors and moved its operations base to Charlotte. In the process it stopped its
dedicated Durham crew and went away from a pruning cycle and adopted an “on demand” policy. In other words, trees no longer obtained systematic pruning to keep the power on, they waited until the "reliability” of the circuit became compromised (power was interrupted by contact with tree limbs) to act. When they acted, they did so in such a way as to remove all of the growth that had accrued since the last pruning cycle (~8-10 years) and to further prune in an attempt to guarantee that the tree wouldn’t interfere with the line for 8-10 years. This is what their contract with Townsend stipulates – 15’ of learance from the wires with no overhanging branches.

What I am confronted with today are trees that are in overall pretty poor shape due to their age (these trees can be expected to live another 5-20 years depending on the site and when they were planted), their history of pruning, incidents of drought and vehicle impacts (both the pollution and being physically hit). This is the backdrop into which we now introduce the contractors who have been given an impossible task; to make powerlines “tree-proof” for a period of 8-10 years after up to a decade of deferred maintenance (and still perform their function as street trees). In many cases, it couldn’t be done. The work required by Duke Energy would leave trees that look more like goalposts or totem poles; “trees” in name only whose liability for potential failure would outweigh any potential benefit they could deliver. Rather than have the power company leave me with more dangerous tree for my already overextended crew to deal with, I’ve directed a lot of removals.

I approach this problem knowing that the power company has the right to maintain its lines, and the way in which it does so needs to translate across all of its jurisdictions (not all towns and citys in D.E.’s customer base are as full of oaks planted under powerlines as Durham). My “solution” is to push for a compromise, to go back to a pruning cycle (4-5 years instead of 8-10) and to replace large trees under the lines with small-medium ones. The cycle issue is being addressed through a “master permit” process as well as internal dialogue with D.E. representatives. The tree replacement part will need to be addressed through the Street Tree Replacement Partnership program, which requires neighborhoods to take a proactive role in replacing the trees in the right of way next to their homes and businesses. This link goes to the city’s website that explains the program and I’d encourage you and your neighbors to participate: I am available to speak to groups of people who are interested in coordinating their efforts to get trees replaced and would be happy to set something up for Duke Park.

Feel free to post this on the list-serve and/or contact me personally.

Alex Johnson RF, CA
Urban Forestry Manager
City of Durham General Services Department
Office: 560-4197 Extension 275

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Continue reading Trees

Durham dining

If Phil and Kevin are to be believed, downtown Durham's dining options are going to be a lot more expansive in the next month or two.


I'm not holding my breath.

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Continue reading Durham dining

Thursday, January 10, 2008

A life well lived

Sir Edmund Hillary, 1919 – 2008

Continue reading A life well lived

Answering old questions

Back in November, i asked the question, Is Jon Ham a moron, or what?

Looks like we have our answer.

Earth to Jon - Inflows at Durham's reservoirs have been below sustainable levels almost every day for the last 8 months. If you don't know what you're talking about, maybe it's best to keep quiet.

(h/t to Kevin)

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Continue reading Answering old questions

Welcome LieStoppers readers!

Feel free to justify the practice of leaving anonymous, racially harassing phone calls to people you don't like here.

Oh, and don't forget, Floyd Lee Brown still needs your help.
Thanks to the wonderful efforts of DA Parker, Floyd had a rough start when he was released. He basically left Dix with nothing. If any of your readers would like to help him, one of my coworker's and her family adopted him for Christmas this year. You can contact Beverly McJunkin at the Office of Indigent Defense Services to find out what he still needs.


Continue reading Welcome LieStoppers readers!


I've been saying in private conversation for a couple of weeks that i fully expect Bloomberg will throw his hat in the presidential ring, especially if it looks like anyone other than McCain is going to get the Republican nomination.

The only remaining question i have is whether he'll have the balls to recruit Joe Lieberman as his running mate, and go for the "Two-Jew Ticket" or not.


Continue reading Bloomberg!

Shall we call him "bloodhound"?

Looks like our own Sgt. Gunter had a busy night last night, tracking down an alleged drunk driver in Bragtown.

From the N&O:
Police found a man accused of drunkenly driving into a yard by following a trail left after he walked away through droppings left by the resident's dogs.

Police say Josue Herrios-Coronilla, 18, was drunk when he left his apartment on Channing Court and drove his black Camaro on the wrong side of the road, all the way into the front yard of 3025 Farthing St. in Bragtown.

. . .

Luckily for police, two of McDonald's four dogs -- a Great Pyrenees named Comet and a chow named Snowball -- use the yard as their dumping grounds. And when the driver stepped out of his car, he left a fresh shoe print in a pile of droppings and an odoriferous trail down Channing Avenue, said Durham police Sgt. Dale Gunter.

Gunter followed the path and stopped a white van driving toward him, asking the passenger, Herrios-Coronilla, to get out. The officer smelled his breath. He smelled alcohol.

Then, he looked at the man's shoes. They were covered in evidence.

The real question for Sgt. Gunter, of course, is how does this compare to being a Beaver Queen Pageant judge when it comes to career highlights?


Continue reading Shall we call him "bloodhound"?

This kind of thing can never be justified

Ray Gronberg has a story in the Herald Sun this morning that needs to be read.

Apparently Assistant DA Tracey Cline has been on the receiving end of harassing and anonymous phone calls as a result of, perhaps, her involvement in the Duke lacrosse case. The calls are, according to the report, racist in nature.

They're certainly immoral, and i'm going to guess that they're probably illegal. You would think that the DA's office would be able to figure out where they're coming from and prosecute, but that's a different story.

Here's the rub.

Gronberg writes:
At the heart of the matter is material taken from the notes of lacrosse case lead detective Ben Himan, and notes and a deposition from Durham police Sgt. Mark Gottlieb.

They referred to Cline's role in the creation of a non-testimonial order, or NTO, that allowed police to take photographs of and collect DNA evidence from 46 of the 47 members of the Duke lacrosse team.

Cline denied that she had any role in writing the order.

"The record will indicate that David Saacks did it," she said. Saacks is the interim district attorney but was an assistant DA at that time. "I didn't prepare any paperwork on that case. Nothing at all. I've never even seen or laid hands on a non-testimonial order."

She said, "I remember Gottlieb asked me about a non-testimonial order, and I told him I was not available."

But when asked by The Herald-Sun whether she'd asked police to draft the non-testimonial order, Cline responded, "I don't recall."
(emphasis added)
The implication is clear. That Cline's possible involvement in this aspect of the lacrosse case can be used to justify harassing her.

That's just wrong. The heart of the matter is whether or not some individuals are engaging in particularly repulsive behavior. Cline's role in the lacrosse case is irrelevant here. The various lawsuits that are working their way through the court system, and the potential electoral campaign should Cline seek the DA office later this year, are appropriate places to discuss her involvement inthe lacrosse case. The racial (and, i'm willing to bet, sexual) harassment merely points out where many of those who think that the lacrosse case represents The Worst And Only Miscarriage Of Justice In The History Of The World™ are actually coming from. And it's an ugly place.

UPDATE: Boy, do the comments ever confirm that idea.

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Continue reading This kind of thing can never be justified

Another question

You know the landscaping in the median Jersey walls along the newly widened stretch of I-85? According to a NCDOT official i spoke with last month, that median is irrigated along its entire length.

Is the water turned off during the drought?

Inquiring minds want to know.

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Continue reading Another question

Wednesday, January 09, 2008

Video of drought forum now online

If you weren't able to make it last night, you can watch it here.

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Continue reading Video of drought forum now online

The unasked question

The unasked question at the drought forum last night was, given that Duke University is not a Stage IV exemption holder, will there be any watering of artificial surface athletic fields come the spring season?

The other unasked question, i guess, is why is Duke not a Stage IV exemption holder? Did they not apply? Did they not meet the 50% reduction required in order to receive an exemption? Months of requests to the city of Durham water folks never resulted in an answer about how much reduction was seen from the Stage III exemption holders.

Meantime, any outdoor watering by anyone who is not on that list of 27 businesses is illegal. You can report violations here, or by calling Durham One-Call at 560-1200

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Continue reading The unasked question

Impressions of the drought forum

First off - Kevin's play-by-play is here. The N&O report by Matt Dees is here. And Ray Gronberg's report in the Herald-Sun is here.

Adding - there's a good analysis of the meeting over at Bull City Blue also.

Two things struck me, and they're kind of hinted at in the various reports, but i wanted to put a magnifying glass on them.

A number of the panelists were clear in stating that Durham and the Piedmont have seen longer periods with less rainfall in the past, and not necessarily going back into prehistory, either. Forum moderator William Chameides remarked, and i'm paraphrasing here, that a natural response to this knowledge is to think that what we're experiencing now is no big deal.

Actually, and maybe this is more an example of my twisted thought processes than anything else, i think just the opposite. If this moderate shortage of rainfall is causing such a serious crisis, then how much worse are things going to be in 8 months if rainfall remains 30% below "normal"? I suspect the answer is "a lot."

The second thing i noticed was a more general disconnect between the "citizens" and the "experts" on the panel. I think this was represented best by Sydney Miller, who attempted to point out that Jordan Lake is a vastly underutilized water storage medium that, if tapped more completely, could help the region meet its water needs for the next several decades. On the other hand, citizens were consistently pushing to have our leaders start taking bolder steps, like requiring developers to install state of the art water conservation fixtures in their new construction, or follow best practices in xeriscaping as well as preserving older growth mature trees rather than clear cutting and replanting with water intensive foliage. Or continuing and enhancing education efforts to get everyone to understand that reducing water consumption is a permanent lifestyle change that needs to happen.

There is, in almost all fields, a tendency on the part of "experts" to listen to the little people, nod their heads sagely, and remind the folk that, after all, they're the ones who study these things and that the rest of us shouldn't worry.

Ummm, no. That's not how it works.

Decision makers need to be listening to all of the rabble on this issue. Quite frankly, that's where the best ideas are going to come from.

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Continue reading Impressions of the drought forum

Tuesday, January 08, 2008

Duke-Durham drought forum

I just got in from a couple of beers with the movers and shakers of Durham after the forum on the drought held at Duke Gardens tonight.

Kevin i'm sure will have lots of stuff to say tomorrow (or maybe tonight); he was taking mad notes during the session. I don't have much to say right now. If you read this blog you know we're running low on water. I assume you're doing everything you can personally to reduce your own consumption.

Will it be enough?

Probably not. Stay tuned.


Continue reading Duke-Durham drought forum


I haven't posted much on the presidential campaign because i think it's just too damn early to be making these decisions. I could cheerfully have voted for any of the Democrats in the field (except Joe Biden, for whom i could have only voted grumpily) while the Republicans are, to a man, laughable at best.

So if the conventional wisdom that the nominating process is going to be over after tonight holds true, all it means to me is that the nominating system is broken, possibly beyond repair.

UPDATE: Tony comments that the conventional wisdom has been wrong a lot lately. Looks like he's right.

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Continue reading Primaries

That can't be right

Pear blossoms on January 8th?

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Continue reading That can't be right