Dependable Erection

Sunday, August 31, 2008

Great minds, and all that

T-shirt available at the Outer Banks Brewing Station on Kill Devil Hills, which claims to be the first wind powered brewery in the US.

The food was decent, but the beers, especially the kolsch, the hefeweizen, and the brown ale (trade name Dragon's Milk) were all excellent. The Dragon's Milk ranks in the top 10 beers i've ever tasted.

Speaking of beer, Daniel Bradford, publisher of All About Beer magazine and director the of the upcoming (and sold out, if rumors are true) World Beer Festival, will be our guest tonight on Shooting the Bull. We'll be talking about his fundraising work for the downtown and Durham Central Park areas and, since it's the last holiday of the summer, i'm sure beer will enter into the discussion. That's 7:30 pm on WDXU, 88.7 FM. Podcast will be available from tomorrow morning on iTunes.

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Continue reading Great minds, and all that

Sunday morning church marquee blogging

Highway 98, Durham County, NC


Continue reading Sunday morning church marquee blogging

Saturday, August 30, 2008

Just curious

Not that i'm complaining or anything, but i think it's curious that gas is 20 cents a gallon cheaper in the Outer Banks than it is in the Triangle.

Continue reading Just curious

Informal parking lot survey #2

Motel parking lot in Kill Devil Hills, NC

Number of Obama stickers - 0
Number of McCain stickers - 0
Number of Tennessee State House license plates - 1


Continue reading Informal parking lot survey #2

Thursday, August 28, 2008

I hate it when I do that

Three compact flash card readers, and not a one of them in my camera bag.

No beach pictures for you!


Continue reading I hate it when I do that

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

More on dog chaining

One of the speakers at the Durham County Commissioners public hearing on Monday read into the record a letter from the New Hanover County Director of Animal Control. NHC has had an anti-tethering ordinance for some years, now. Her letter addresses, in a fairly calm manner, some of the hysteria being raised by so-called responsible tetherers. You know, the ones who think that tethering is a good idea because the tether will sweep the dog shit out of the way. I spoke with Ms. McNeil, and she gave me permission to reprint her letter to the County Commissioners. Here it is:

I am writing this letter in support of your county passing an anti-tethering ordinance for the protection of your community's companion animals. New Hanover County has had the privilege of such a law for many years, and our residents enjoy the safety it affords our pets. Animal cruelty is a serious matter, and we must do all we know to do to keep it from happening in whatever manner we are able.

Many would argue that you should merely enforce the laws that you already have; however, in our experience, you cannot enforce what you do not have. The majority of offenders will not comply with suggestions, so adequate enforceable laws are necessary to cause compliance. Anti-tethering is a step in the right direction to enhance responsible pet ownership.

Having a pet entails great responsibility, so we must be pro-active in educating owners about the best care they can provide. We passed the ordinance many years ago, but did not write actual citation until quite some time after the law became effective. We issued warning notices, which gave the dog owner time to make corrections. This is not nearly as effective as simply writing the citation. In our experience, an owner will comply more rapidly, if there are consequences for failure to do so. We have the administrative ability to void a citation, if they correct the problem in a timely manner. Again, this would not be possible, if no law was on the books to enforce. Our residents have responded favorably to having a means of preventing animal cruelty in at least one form.

Prior to passing the ordinance, we saw many cases of dogs being left on short leads or ropes for many hours ‚ or permanently‚ at the household. Many individuals lost their pets due to strangulation, heat stroke, and in some severe case the owner's intentional animal abuse of starvation. We had no means of preventing this abuse until the law was enforceable.

The ordinance was challenged in April 2007. We had a group of Pit Bull owners, who desired to tether their dogs with heavy chains connected to tire axles. Fortunately, our advisory committee, board of health, and county commissioners saw through these individuals and upheld the law. We are grateful. We are also in high hopes that you will also act as responsibly for your community pets as we have in New Hanover County. The majority of your residents are counting on you to do the right thing, despite the very vocal minority that opposes the law.

I've been traveling all day, and i'm not really up for blogging too much till the morning. I just want to say, to the folks who think that animal abuse is sanctioned by God in the Old Testament, i hope you don't eat any pork or shrimp. Because God has a special place in hell waiting for you.


Continue reading More on dog chaining

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

C'mon everybody


Continue reading C'mon everybody

A wacky notion

It seems to me that in considering their votes on the proposed ban on dog chaining, the possibility of electoral consequences for our County Commissioners would be a very good thing indeed. Instead, since all five candidates are essentially guaranteed their seats come November, the views of the electorate don't need to be part of the calculus.


Continue reading A wacky notion

Unchaining dogs

Kudos to Amanda Arrington and the Coalition to Unchain Dogs for turning out so many articulate and well informed speakers at last night's public hearing. I'll have a post up later in the day reviewing some of the many interesting and moving statements made, but i wanted to take a couple of minutes to talk about something that happened as i was leaving.

The News 14 Carolina team was putting their story together (note - i'm not able to find it on their website. Maybe they decided it wasn't sexy enough to run?) and interviewing one of the handful of "Responsible tethering" supporters in attendance. I had a chance to chat with one of the News 14 crew about how they were going to frame the story. Given that they had less than 60 seconds, it was clear they were not going to be able to present an accurate sense of the meeting: that supporters of the ban on chaining dogs outnumbered opponents by 12 or 15 to one, that they countered every "argument" made by opponents of the ban, and pretty conclusively demonstrated that the community supports this move. Instead, they were going to have a couple of 15 second clips, one of a supporter and one of an opponent, and present a "fair and balanced" presentation of the issue.

That, of course, is bullshit. The time for a "fair and balanced" presentation of the issue is before the hearing. The story last night was the public hearing. And viewers of News 14 in Durham, assuming the story even aired, will not be getting a "fair and balanced" picture of the public hearing.

Over in the N&O, Samiha Khanna does a better job of presenting how the hearing went, but still falls victim to mainstream journalism's insistence on presenting "both sides," quoting only one supporter of the ban, and giving two paragraphs of her article to one of the few opponents, Natalie Rowntree, who was representing an organization that has been linked to illegal dog fighting, and who doesn't even live in Durham. She also writes: "She and other supporters of what they called "responsible tethering" were heckled, booed and hissed by the opposing members of the crowd."

Unless things changed drastically after i left, that simply didn't happen. The only speaker who drew a negative reaction from the crowd was a man named Kevin, who made the claim that tethers are more sanitary than pens, because the tether will sweep the area clear of feces, while in a pen, they'll just be allowed to pile up, the dog will dig holes to cover them, the holes will fill with water when it rains, and it will be a mess. He got a few howls of derision from the crowd. Justifiably so, in my opinion. I don't imagine that it ever occurred to him that picking up the dog shit might even be an option.

Matt Milliken's article in the HS also devotes an inordinate amount of time to the subject of "heckling." Hey, maybe things looked different from the media bench as opposed to being in the crowd, or maybe our local reporters have forgotten what things were like at school board meetings in Durham not all that long ago. Considering that the room was packed to overflowing, there were no issues of civility or decorum to discuss.

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Continue reading Unchaining dogs

Monday, August 25, 2008

In case you hadn't noticed

Inflows at Lake Michie have now dropped below where they were this time last year. There's some rain in the forecast. Maybe it'll hit the watershed.


Continue reading In case you hadn't noticed

You don't say

Noted at Kevin's place:
According to Gronberg's retelling of the meeting events, it appears that at least part of the 2003 parks master plan -- which called for "four pool-equipped community centers on the southwestern, northwestern, northeastern and southeastern corners of the city" -- is now paper on the shelf, with one Parks & Rec administrator noting there were currently no plans or projections for additional public pools in Durham.

I'm shocked, shocked to find that Durham has created master plans which simply are ignored in order meet some short term political gain. Or even for no reason at all other than just being forgotten.

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Continue reading You don't say

Helping the dogs

Just a reminder - Durham County Commissioners are holding a public hearing tonight on a proposed change in county ordinances which would ban the tethering of dogs completely. Current ordinance provides some limitations to tethering, mostly regarding minimum length of the tether, maximum weight, type of collar, etc. Studies have shown that tethered dogs are more likely to bite, and tethered dogs generally have a lower rate of spay/neutering, which contributes to the animal overpopulation problem.

The Commissioners meet at 7pm at the old County Courthouse, 200 East Main St.

Lisa Sorg has an informative article in the Indy on the issue.

Also, the Coalition to Unchain Dogs, which has been the lead organization in getting this before the Commissioners, is having a benefit concert at
Durham Central park on September 6. Details here.

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Continue reading Helping the dogs

2800 North Roxboro

I hope Gary doesn't mind me encroaching on his territory, and i really hope he's able to shed more light on this in the future, but one of my favorite north Durham buildings is being, er, renovated.

That's the Bragtown Trading post, at the NE corner of Roxboro and Maynard, in the 2800 block of N. Roxboro. It's been a second hand store as long as i can recall, with a distinctly biker ambience. I'm pretty sure that Ink Slingers tattoo parlor, currently in the 1400 block of Avondale, used to live on this corner as well.

No idea what LTH Investments, the current owner of the property, has planned for that corner. Hopefully it's not another pawn shop/fast food complex. (Here's a thought: You can go to the city's mapping web page, and click on the property to find out who owns it. You can also, with one click, get a list of who owns the adjacent properties. But you can't find out what other properties around town are owned by the same people or companies. That seems like an easy fix for a good programmer, no?) Roxboro St., from south Durham up to 147, through downtown, up to I-85, and then to Carver, Infinity, and beyond*, is just crying out for a streetcar/trolley system in the Durham of the future. It's going to be an incredibly important, and most likely valuable, corridor with just the slightest nudges from our planners in the right direction of walkability and transit. It's not too early to start getting it right.
* - It's entirely possible that the whole purpose of this blog has been to give me the opportunity to make that pun.

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Continue reading 2800 North Roxboro

Gee thanks, Time/Warner

I'm sure i had something to say yesterday, but since my internet connection was down virtually all day, i have no idea what it was. Since the tech is due here in about an hour, i'm sure the connection will be working fine until 20 minutes after he leaves.

I hope you get a chance to listen to the podcast of our interview last night with Tom Bonfield, Durham's new city manager, on Shooting the Bull. Mr. Bonfield shares his first impressions of the city, and his vision for the Durham of the future. It'll be interesting to watch him working with our current City Council over the next year or two. Nothing against Patrick Baker, but it's been some time since Durham had a manager quite like our new guy.

Here's a question for you. I've snarked in the past about how the Mercer Group, the headhunters who managed the search for our new manager, should give us a discount on our next search, since they overlapped the Wichita, Kansas manager search onto our own. Mr. Bonfield confirmed last night that he was also in fact asked to interview for the then vacant position in Wichita as well as Durham. I don't have much experience int he "executive recruiting" field. But am i wrong to think that there's some ethical conflict here in taking money from two different cities at the same time to basically give them the same pool of candidates from which to choose? If there really is only one very small pool of qualified city managers, what value add does the search company bring to the table. Why not just contact the professional organization that city managers belong to and post your job openings there?

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Continue reading Gee thanks, Time/Warner

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Sunday morning church marquee blogging


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Saturday, August 23, 2008

Saturday night rockin'


Continue reading Saturday night rockin'

Friday, August 22, 2008

If I had saxophones


Continue reading If I had saxophones


I mentioned a couple of weeks back that i'd signed for an English Premiership fantasy football league. Week 2 starts tomorrow. How am i doing?

Not bad.

I ended up in two separate leagues. One is run by the Guardian, the English news site whose sports writing is among the world's snarkiest. I thought i might invite some pub friends into a private league through that site, but it turned out they already had one through the EPL itself. So i joined that league as well.

There are basic similarities between the two leagues. You get a kitty of play money at the start of the season (100M pounds) and use it to buy a team. All players have a monetary value assigned to them, based on last year's performance, or other factors if they didn't play in the league last year. (Soccer players move around a lot more than baseball or football players, since soccer is played professionally in so many more countries.) The values are such that you simply can't buy the 15 best players for your allotted money, so you have to decide which are the best bargains.

Both leagues require 2 goalkeepers, 5 defenders, 5 midfielders, and 3 strikers on the team. The Guardian goes a bit further and specifies that 2 of the midfielders must be 'defensive' midfielders. From those players, you activate 11 for each game week. You can only have one goalkeeper active. For your outfield team, you can choose from a variety of formations, from the classic 4-4-2, to an attacking 3-5-2, or, in the Guardian league, such monstrosities as 4-1-2-2. Players earn you points based on both their individual and team performances. Scoring goals is good, as is preventing them for both defenders and goalkeepers.

Differences in scoring between the leagues consists in the Guardian keeping track of a whole host of stats that the EPL league doesn't - accurate crosses, last man tackles, passes intercepted, etc.

In the EPL league, here's my standing:
Points / Rankings Points (Rank)
Overall: 74 (5,497Up)
August: 74 (5,497Up)

Total players: 1,343,794

So, worldwide, i ended up in 5,497th place out of 1.34 million players the first week. Not bad. In the local league, called oddly enough Bull City, my 74 points put me 11 points ahead of the second place team.

Over at the Guardian, my team, which was nearly the same, didn't fare quite so well. Although my goalkkeeper, Manuel Almunia of Arsenal, kept a clean sheet in the first match, he only had one save and thus didn't earn me as many points as, say, Shay Given, who gave up 1 goal but had 6 saves, or Brad Friedel, who also made 6 saves despite giving up 2 goals.

So my 126 points in the Guardian league was only good enough for 4,684th place, out of about 100,000 players.

Both leagues let you move players around within your team with no penalties. The Guardian lets you make 5 trades per calendar month for free, the EPL lets you do one per week. So i've shuffled my Guardian team a bit more this week to try to take advantage of the different scoring system.

Here's the lineups i'm going into this week with:
Guardian League:

And in the EPL league:
1: Almunia 6 6 6
2: Davies 4 4 4
3: Sagna 6 6 6
4: Cole A 6 6 6
5: Upson 5 5 5
6: Barry (C) 8 8 8
7: Essien - - -
8: Modric 2 2 2
9: Nolan 8 8 8
10: Ashton 10 10 10
11: Santa Cruz 7 7 7

If Essien doesn't play again this week, then the EPL will substitute one of my bench players for him, so i don't mind leaving him in the lineup. In the Guardian league, though, if one of your players sits out, you're SOL, so' i've left him on the bench.

Wish me luck.


Continue reading Fantasies

Good luck with that

From an AP article titled "Universities try to control students off campus:"
People who choose to live on the beautiful tree-lined streets surrounding the nation's institutions of higher learning often get a more vibrant experience than they expected — loud parties, rundown student boarding houses and trash generated by weekend melees.

A growing number of universities are starting to take a more proactive approach to monitoring off-campus behavior and neighbors say the efforts are working.

. . .

Some universities take their discipline policies a step further. At Duke University, the campus code requires students to report misbehavior by their fellow students to campus officials, no matter where the students find themselves.


Continue reading Good luck with that

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Whole lotta shakin'


Continue reading Whole lotta shakin'

Shooting the Bull

Kevin and i are pleased to host Tom Bonfield, Durham's new City Manager, on Shooting the Bull this Sunday evening at 7:30 pm, on WXDU, 88.7 fm. If you've got a question for Tom, drop us a line at ShootingTheBull AT gmail DOT com.

That's the same address to get your entry in to win a pair of passes to see the El Greco to Velazquez exhibit opening today at the Nasher Museum of Art. Time is running out. Entries are due tomorrow at noon. Tell us in 50 words or less why you want the tickets for your chance to win.

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Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Long Tall Sally


Continue reading Long Tall Sally

No rain for you

Meanwhile, at the Little River Reservoir:

UPDATE: Well, ummm, that was a bit unexpected, wasn't it?

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Continue reading No rain for you

Win tickets!

A quick reminder that we're giving away a pair of passes, valued at 30 bucks, to the El Greco to Velazquez exhibit at the Nasher Museum of Art. Just send an email explaining why you should receive them, in 50 words or less, to ShootingTheBull AT gmail DOT com by noon on Friday for your chance to win. Entries from addresses are not eligible. (You get discounted passes anyway.)

Kevin Davis
and I will choose the winning entry in time for Sunday's edition of Shooting the Bull.

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Continue reading Win tickets!

Drinking Liberally

I mentioned last week that the Durham chapter of Drinking Liberally is finally getting off the ground. It's going to be Thursday nights at Broad St. Cafe, from 7-9 pm, starting Real Soon Now. We're having an organizational meeting tonight at BSC at 7. Some of the good folks at Traction have volunteered to help put this together. If you're interested in taking a leadership role in getting this chapter off the ground, stop by. Please note, this is not a debate club. If you're not 21 or older, and not committed to progressive principles, this probably isn't for you.


Continue reading Drinking Liberally

Fishscenta to the rescue

Our heroine strikes a pose with one of Durham's finest after saving the day Saturday at the Carolina Theatre.

h/t to JA for the photo

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Continue reading Fishscenta to the rescue

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Where it all began pt. 2


Continue reading Where it all began pt. 2

Win passes to "El Greco to Velazquez" at the Nasher

If you tuned into "Shooting the Bull" this past Sunday for our interview with Sarah Schrof, you heard mention of a contest to give away a couple of passes to the El Greco exhibit of 16th century Spanish art opening this week at the Nasher Museum. Here's the details.

Here's your opportunity to win two free passes to the upcoming exhibit "From El Greco to Velazquez" opening Thursday at the Nasher Museum of Art. Send an email to ShootingTheBull AT gmail DOT com explaining, in 50 words or less, why you need these free passes. Kevin Davis and Barry Ragin, the hosts of Shooting the Bull, will choose the winning entry on the basis of creativity, originality, and overall Durhamness. Duke University* employees and students are not eligible (you all get discounted admission anyway) nor are Kevin and Barry's immediate family members. Emails must be time stamped no later than noon on Friday, August 22, 2008. We will contact the winner at the email address you've entered from and provide details on how to claim you prize. We reserve the right to publish any entries as we see fit, but we guarantee that your email addresses will not be used in any form whatsoever. Good luck!

More info about the exhibit is available at the Nasher website. These tickets are valued at $15.00 each for people who aren't museum members. If you are a museum member, you can get free tickets on your own, so why not let someone else have a chance?
*Entries submitted from a address will be automatically excluded from winning.

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Continue reading Win passes to "El Greco to Velazquez" at the Nasher

Fracas at the GLFF

I've got a few more details on the "incident" Saturday at the Gay and Lesbian Film Festival in which Fabulous Fishscenta, the 2008 Beaver Queen, went tail-to-tail with some folks trying to disrupt the festival. We all know who "won" that encounter. Here's Fishscenta's story, complete with lyrics to the songs she serenaded the protesters with.
I am so happy to hear from you, because you know..."I love my pubic" and I am always happy to "come" any time Our Lady of the Fragrant Yoni inspires me! The festival was a wonderful event. I would not have missed it for the world. Thank you for doing your part to make it happen.

How dare those "Chistians" (not real Christians, obviously) try to slime it. You would think that a black man would understand by now how important it is to be represented in the media and made to feel safe and included in a prejudicial society. My heart goes out to him, because that karma like a bomberang is going to blindside his booty. What a young soul, he must be. Oh well, honey, I feel a sin.... or is it a song coming on...

Sung to "Young Girl"

"Young soul get out of my mind. My love for you wants to spank your behind. Better run soul. Hush up..don't be so bold."

He has not learned to curb his dogma and it was making a nasty mess. I think those nice "oricifers" would have enforced a no dogma dumping on the sidewalk law, if Durham had one in place. I just loved those guys. They were all "vagitarians" you know!

Of course, that training wheel on the cross spoke volumes! Obviously they are just learning how to be Christians and not well practiced. Maybe they can come back when they can be more like Jesus and behave in a loving way that would be pleasing to him. I also thought the "Chistians" could do better with their wardrobe. Please, if you are going to represent a deity, glorify thyLord!

But on a positive note, I was delighted to see that they brought the wood, even though it was a tad tawdry and uninspired. As Katherine (DeNerve) said, I thought "Repainting and thinning no more" was a grand idea for the cross and the handrails. If they would only invite a few of those nice festival goers home they would be amazed at the God given talent.. Darling, every home needs a homo to repaint, renew, and redecorate! Hallelujah!

The head yeller, told me that there will be no laughing in hell, which a sure sign that Fishscenta, will not be there! If I am, you better believe I am going to laugh until all hell breaks loose.

I sang a song that was inspired years ago when a buddy and I were accused of being sacrilegious by a visiting religious leader in my community because we always do parody songs of religious practice. (I personally drink the tea and try not to worship the pot, if you know what I mean!)

It is sung to the showtune "Who Could Ask for Anything More?"

I've been Hindu, I've been Buddhist, I've been Jewish,
Who could ask for anything more?

I've been Sufi, I've been Muslim, I've been Christian,
Who could ask for anything more?

All these religions have their niche. I'm just a naughty sacriligious bitch.
I've seen hell fire, I've seen brimstone, I've seen Satan,
He was knocking right at my door.
Who could ask for anything more?

I also performed my new number to the tune of "Jesus Loves the Little Children."
It is very naughty, but I had to pull out the big guns.

Fishscenta loves the little muskrats
All the muskrats of the world
They are pink and black and brown
They go up when I go down
Fishscenta loves the little muskrats of the world.

Fishscenta loves the little beavers
All the beavers of the world
They are pink and black and brown
They all come when I go down
Fishscenta loves the little beavers of the world.

Well, I have to go! Must work on my new costume for the Pride Parade when we will be "tramping" again for Our Lady. It will be here before I can turn around and spit! Hope to see you there.

Peace, Love, Beaver,


The Beaver Queen

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Continue reading Fracas at the GLFF

End of the World

Mrs. D's a long time Werner Herzog fan, so we decided that his new documentary, Encounters at the End of the World, playing at the Carolina Theatre, would be a more entertaining way to spend a Monday than either a City Council meeting or watching Bob Costas' toupee on the TV.

It's a fascinating movie, made in conjunction with experimental/noise guitarist Henry Kaiser, who, it turns out, spends a good deal of his time diving below the ice shelf and photographing the almost alien world at the bottom of the earth. Kaiser also did the music for the documentary, which some reviewers thought the best part, but i have to say i found distracting and obtrusive at times.

Herzog made it to Antarctica on a National Science Foundation grant. Scanning through the list of other grant recipients, there's only one other filmmaker, so it'll be interesting to compare "Encounters" with Anne Aghion's Ice People. Herzog focuses, if you can use that word about this documentary, on the oddest things in his environment. Interviewing a scientist who's spent 20 years observing penguins, and who is supposedly renown for his reticence, Herzog asks if he's ever seen any penguins go insane. (Later in the documentary he actually finds one.) The underwater scenes, and the audio of the seals singing below the ice are spectacular, but as at least one other reviewer noted, at the end of the movie you probably have gotten a better understanding of Werner Herzog than of Antarctica.

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Continue reading End of the World

Monday, August 18, 2008

Where it all began, pt. 1


Continue reading Where it all began, pt. 1


All that rain we've been getting recently?

Not having much effect on inflows at our reservoirs.

They've barely ticked above 2 cfs at Lake Michie over the past 3 weeks, and are currently at .8 (which is well below the 20th percentile for the date, and not that far above the minimum of .24 cfs recorded last year.)

Same story over at the Little River, where inflows have dropped to .14 cfs.

That's a combined inflow of about 600,000 gallons/day, or about 2.5% of our usage.

Little River levels are very closely tracking last year's; Lake Michie is a bit higher than that, but is tracking between 1999 and 2006 levels.

The good news is that demand remains low - about 23% below 2007 levels. An interesting tidbit can be seen in the daily demand graph. Wednesdays and Saturdays jump right out at you. They're the days in which lawn watering is allowed, and with very few exceptions the only days in which usage tops 30 mgd over the past month. Usage over the past 2 Sundays, though, is curiously below that of the previous 3. It's rained on Sunday the past two weeks. I'm guessing the drop in usage on those days corresponds to fewer people cheating and watering their lawns and gardens on account of the rain.

Let's see what Tropical Storm Fay brings our way later this week.


Continue reading Rain

2008 Beaver Queen chases off protesters

Unfortunately, i was sidetracked on Saturday afternoon and wasn't there to witness the scene myself, but my inbox is overflowing this morning with tales of the Fabulous Fishscenta Beaver confronting a horde of anti-gay protesters at the Carolina Theater this past weekend. Apparently, the reigning Queen chased off the forces of intolerance at the Gay and Lesbian Film Festival with a rendition of "I've Got Rhythm," urging them to go home and "REPAINT and thin no more as there were several very drab looking crosses the protesters were carrying."

If you were there, feel free to add your thoughts in the comments. If you've got photos or video of the encounter, drop me a line at DependableErection AT gmail DOT com

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Continue reading 2008 Beaver Queen chases off protesters

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Sunday morning church marquee blogging


Continue reading Sunday morning church marquee blogging

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Shooting the Bull

Sarah Schroth, Senior Curator of the Nasher Musuem's upcoming "El Greco to Velazquez" show of Spanish art, will join Kevin and i on Shooting the Bull tomorrow evening at 7:30 on WXDU, 88.7 fm. Look for the podcast on Monday if you miss the over the air broadcast. With luck, the podcast technical issues will be resolved this week.


Continue reading Shooting the Bull

Number Nine


Continue reading Number Nine

Friday, August 15, 2008

Adventures in Customer Service Land

Chapter 1 - About those rain barrels

I stopped in at Costco today to chat with customer service about my "collapsible" rain barrels. As it turns out, i have neither the receipt nor the original boxes, so i didn't want to schlep them back to the store only to be told i was out of luck. But Mr. Customer Service Man said to stuff 'em in a plastic bag and bring 'em back and they'd be happy to issue a store credit.

Chapter 2 - The recurring destruction of the pepper mill

Olde Thompson's replacement pepper mill sadly lasted barely as long as the first one. I'm guessing something about the design or the production run is at fault. (Brilliant, i know) So i didn't want to replace this one with the same model. Called the 800 number, spoke with a very helpful Ms. Customer Service Woman, and a whole new salt and pepper set of my choice is on its way, no return of the broken item necessary.

Chapter 3 - The unbearable arrogance of the phone company

A few months back, Mrs. D finally got the Alltel situation resolved. So she's got a Verizon cell plan, and for some reason it seemed like a good idea to get a phone for me on some sort of family plan. Now we can stay in touch while i'm driving to work, or if one of us goes to the bathroom while we're eating dinner, for no extra charge.

So, about a month ago, i start noticing that my phone is needing to be charged a little more frequently than seems right. Like twice a week. Even though i basically never use it. I take it to the Verizon place at Northgate, where we got it. There's a huge line, but it looks like most of the people in the line are waiting to pay bills, and there's a bill paying counter right in front of the head of the line. And i ask a couple of people in line if this is the bill paying line, and they all say yes. So i walk up to what appears to be the "repair my busted phone" counter, where there's no line, only to be told i've just cut in front of all those people in the bill paying line.

OK, my bad, but i really have better things to do with my time than waste an hour of it waiting for a Verizon customer service rep. I head back the next morning and learn that i made a good decision, because even though i'm now the first one in line, the rep i talk to says i'm in the wrong place. I have to go a Verizon "store." "Well, what exactly is this?" i ask. "This is a Verizon Wireless Center. You need the Verizon Store." "And where might i find one of those?" "Down on 15-501 somewhere." Well, gee, thanks for the help. Good thing i didn't waste an hour of my time acquiring that piece of information, or i'd really be pissed. So, i look up the "Verizon Store" on 15-501, and drive a bit out of my way to stop by. After waiting only half an hour in the line for the "repair my busted phone" person (which is also the line for the "let me sell you all kinds of upgrades and fancy gizmos to your new phone while i take 20 minutes to activate your account" person) Mr. Customer Service Rep tells me that the problem is bad software, since the battery is only 5 months old and couldn't be defective. It'll take another 20 minutes or so to upgrade the software, and then the phone will have to charge for an hour or so. I tell Mr. CSR i'll come back at the end of the day to get my phone.

That was Wednesday.

This morning, whaddaya know? Dead battery. So i swing back out to the Verizon Store on 15-501 to tell Mr. CSR that i think his diagnosis may have been mistaken. I'm willing to wait a bit for him to replace the battery because there's a barbecue joint at the other end of the strip mall that smells pretty good but, as it turns out, all my waiting is going to have to be done up front because there's about ten people already in the line being sold upgrades and gizmos to go with their new phones and it's going to be close to an hour before i even get to talk to Mr. CSR about his mistaken diagnosis. And Ms "I'm Walking Around Making Sure That Everyone Is In The Right Line" is unable to muster up the initiative to say "why don't you give me your contact information and i'll get the phone back into the repair shop for you so you don't have to wait in line for an hour just to do that." Her contribution to the discussion amounts to, "Yes, i guess you'll have to wait in that line. They're the only ones who can fix your phone."

So now i'm out 3 extra trips to the "Verizon Store" on 15-501 (at 16 miles per round trip) and about an hour and a half of my time (including travel time) and i still don't have a working phone.

Oh,, and while i was waiting in line the first time, Mr. "I'm Walking Around Making Sure That Everyone Is In The Right Line" tried to get me to consider switching from TW Roadrunner to Verizon DSL. Until i told him that story.

As Meat Loaf once said, "Two out of three ain't bad."


Continue reading Adventures in Customer Service Land

Must read

Ray Gronberg's piece on the Durham Housing Authority in today's HS. Let's hope the troubled paper has the resources to allow Ray to stay on top of this story.


Continue reading Must read

Is this the best obituary ever?

Kind of an oxymoron, i know, but this NYTimes piece on the late record producer Jerry Wexler is quite wonderful:
Given the chance, Mr. Wexler would have produced to the end and beyond.

“I asked him once,” said Mr. Thurman, the filmmaker, “ ‘What do you want written on your tombstone, Jerry?’ He said, ‘Two words: More bass.’ ”

Makes me want to go and pick up his autobiography.

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Continue reading Is this the best obituary ever?

Superior genetics

Anybody else's ears prick up last night when the NBC announcer (I'm assuming it was Dan Hicks, and not the laid back singer, either) ascribed Michael Phelps' success in the pool to "superior genetics?"

I could be mistaken but i don't remember anyone ever attributing this man's athletic successes to superior genetics:

Or this guy:

Or even this guy:

Go figure.

Inspired by a conversation with Mrs. D

But wait
, there's more:
Liukin is the closest thing gymnastics has to royalty, her genes practically guaranteed to produce gold.

Because everyone knows that royalty comes from superior genetics. Oh, yeah, and divine selection.

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Continue reading Superior genetics


I finally figured out that my cats are receiving their behavioral instructions from a radio tower located somewhere in Rocky Mount. It's the only explanation for why the two of them both wake up many nights at 3 am from sound sleep needing, more than anything else in the world, to be outside.

I wonder if anyone else's cats are receiving the same communications?


Continue reading Cats

Thursday, August 14, 2008



Continue reading Atlantis

Meanwhile, Durham will build a few more parking decks

Downtowns Across the U.S. See Streetcars in Their Future
Cincinnati officials are assembling financing for a $132 million system that would connect the city’s riverfront stadiums, downtown business district and Uptown neighborhoods, which include six hospitals and the University of Cincinnati, in a six- to eight-mile loop. Depending on the final financing package, fares may be free, 50 cents or $1.

The city plans to pay for the system with existing tax revenue and $30 million in private investment. The plan requires the approval of Mayor Mark Mallory, a proponent, and the City Council.

At least 40 other cities are exploring streetcar plans to spur economic development, ease traffic congestion and draw young professionals and empty-nest baby boomers back from the suburbs, according to the Community Streetcar Coalition, which includes city officials, transit authorities and engineers who advocate streetcar construction.

More than a dozen have existing lines, including New Orleans, which is restoring a system devastated by Hurricane Katrina. And Denver, Houston, Salt Lake City and Charlotte, N.C., have introduced or are planning to introduce streetcars.


Continue reading Meanwhile, Durham will build a few more parking decks

Just wonderin'

If those folks in Raleigh who got all freaked out over an Abercrombie and Fitch poster at the local mall are letting their kids watch the synchronized diving at the Olympics.

Because they might, you know, see something like this.

picture via


Continue reading Just wonderin'

Oh, noez!

And my vasectomy is irreversible. Guess that means i've failed to do my part.
The census calculates that by 2042, Americans who identify themselves as Hispanic, black, Asian, American Indian, Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islander will together outnumber non-Hispanic whites. Four years ago, officials had projected the shift would come in 2050.

The main reason for the accelerating change is significantly higher birthrates among immigrants. Another factor is the influx of foreigners, rising from about 1.3 million annually today to more than 2 million a year by midcentury, according to projections based on current immigration policies.


Continue reading Oh, noez!


Underscoring the urgency, Mr. Bush, who had remained at the Olympics in Beijing while the conflict erupted, postponed a planned trip to his ranch in Crawford, Tex., which was to have begun on Thursday.

(Photo: Thomas Coex/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images)Used without permission


Continue reading Urgency

Radio bleg?

First off, apologies for the light posting this week. Work is kicking my butt, and as much as i like braying loudly and ignorantly and topics local and national, paying the bills comes first. Normal posting will resume real soon now.

Second, and i know this is way out in left field, but if anyone happened to make a recording of Shooting the Bull this past Sunday and can share that with me, i'd be very grateful. The feed we usually use to create the podcast was sub-optimal last week, and i'd like to improve that if possible. Drop a line to the email address on the right if you can help.

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Continue reading Radio bleg?

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Demon in Disguise


Continue reading Demon in Disguise

Ye cannae change the laws of physics!

Seems like i've been waiting for this day most of my life:
Travel by bubble might seem more appropriate for witches in Oz, but two physicists suggest that a future spaceship could fold a space-time bubble around itself to travel faster than the speed of light.

We're talking about the very distant future, of course.

The idea involves manipulating dark energy – the mysterious force behind the universe's ongoing expansion – to propel a spaceship forward without breaking the laws of physics.

"Think of it like a surfer riding a wave," said Gerald Cleaver, a physicist at Baylor University. "The ship would be pushed by the spatial bubble and the bubble would be traveling faster than the speed of light."

In theory, the universe grew faster than the speed of light for a very short time after the Big Bang, driven by the dark energy that represents about 74 percent of the total mass-energy budget in the universe. Dark matter constitutes 22 percent of the budget, and normal matter (stars, planets and everything you see) makes up the remaining 4 percent or so.

Strange as it sounds, current evidence supports the notion that the fabric of space-time can expand faster than the speed of light, because the reality in which light travels is itself expanding.

Cleaver and Richard Obousy, a Baylor graduate student, tapped the latest idea in string theory to devise how to manipulate dark energy and accelerate a spaceship. Their notion is based on the Alcubierre drive, which proposes expanding space-time behind the spaceship while also shrinking space-time in front.

Just so long as you keep the bearin's intact. You don't want to be changing the laws of physics, now.


Continue reading Ye cannae change the laws of physics!

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

The Dyin' Crapshooter's Blues


Continue reading The Dyin' Crapshooter's Blues

Small victory in bio-lab fight

Opponents of a possible National Bio and Agro-Defense Facility won a small victory last night when the Durham County commissioners voted 4-1 to oppose locating the facility in the Granville County town of Butner. I say small victory, because these things are rarely decided by the support or opposition of neighboring local governments.

According to a report on WRAL, the Butner site is still the the number one ranked out of the 5 finalist sites, and the apparent willingness of the state of North Carolina to sell the land to the feds for a buck doesn't hurt that.

Several published reports this week suggest that some behind the scenes hardball has boosted the chances of one of the locations, despite the fact that it wasn't originally ranked highly enough to have made the final cut:
The Associated Press will report Monday that DHS last year rated a site under consideration at Flora, Miss., as significantly less suitable for the lab than the four other finalists, and also as less suitable than several sites that were excluded from final consideration.

The inclusion of Flora as a finalist, the A.P. will suggest, may have been in reaction to the clout the Mississippi Congressional delegation holds within the DHS procurement process. A Democrat from that state, Rep Bennie Thompson, is chairman of the department's oversight committee in the House, and Sen. Thad Cochran is the senior Republican on the Senate Appropriations Committee, the panel expected to approve money to build the lab.

Durham County joins the Granville County Commission, the Raleigh City Council, and the Butner Town Council in opposing the lab. Some reports do indicate that the potential for organized community opposition cost Madison, Wisconsin a place among the finalists, despite ranking higher than the Mississippi site overall.

I also want to say that i really hope that Commissioner Lewis Cheek isn't as clueless about how things work as he sounds:
While acknowledging that speakers had raised important safety questions that needed to be answered, Cheek said it was too early to form an opinion because the U.S. Department of Homeland Security has yet to finalize its environmental impact statement on the project or to decide whether it prefers building the foreign-animal-disease research laboratory in Butner or at one of five competing sites.

Once DHS decides where to build the site, it's going to be a little late for a local government to start opposing it. The draft EIS is also where any opposition needs to happen. Once the draft is finalized, the decision on where to build the facility will be made in less than 30 days.


Continue reading Small victory in bio-lab fight

Broad St. Cafe

Gotta say i don't get the commenters over at Kevin's place ragging on the new Broad St. Cafe menu and setup. It looks great to me. And makes the entire Walltown area and Broad St. shopping district that much more attractive.

A year or so back i had some conversations with some folks about starting a Durham chapter of Drinking Liberally. BSC was mentioned as the most desirable location, but the lack of beer by the pitcher and snacky type food (ie, French fries), among other things, held us back.

Look for an announcement of a local DL meeting real soon now.

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Continue reading Broad St. Cafe

It's not a bug, it's a feature

As reports in the HS and N&O note this morning, new city manager Tom Bonfield remarked during his meet the press session yesterday that "The streets are in terrible shape. Public Works isn't going to be happy about me saying that, but there are a lot of bumpy roads, and things like that that need to be dealt with."

Tom, Tom, Tom.

Those aren't "bumpy roads."

That's our traffic calming and pedestrian safety program in action.

Welcome to Durham.

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Continue reading It's not a bug, it's a feature

Monday, August 11, 2008

Watching the Olympics

No disrespect to the competitors, who i'm sure work extremely hard to get to the top of their game, but can someone explain to me the purpose of synchronized diving?

Thank goodness NBC decided to follow that competition up with a real sport like beach volleyball. That's what the Olympics are all about, if you ask me.


Continue reading Watching the Olympics

Cabinet meeting

Bush Cabinet and its allies in the right-wing blogosphere analyze the situation in Georgia:

UPDATE: Perhaps Margaret Dumont should have been considered for the position of Secretary of State:
US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice has also been noticeably absent on the diplomatic scene, having failed to interrupt her holidays to fly to Tbilisi in support of the Georgian government.

Instead senior State Department official, Matthew Bryza, who oversees the Caucasus region was sent, two days later than planned, to join a joint EU-US mediation effort to win a ceasefire.

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Continue reading Cabinet meeting

Welcome to Durham, Tom Bonfield

I assume that making sure bond money is spent for, you know, voter approved bond projects will be part of your portfolio.

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Continue reading Welcome to Durham, Tom Bonfield

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Can you dig it?

Isaac Hayes 1942 - 2008. RIP.


Continue reading Can you dig it?

Random thoughts on a Sunday morning

New city manager Tom Bonfield seemed to be having a good time at the final Warehouse Blues show on Friday evening. If you did too, don't forget to let City Council know, so they can make sure the series continues to be funded next year.

The Gambian team sure looked great marching into the Olympic stadium the other night. I didn't see all of the teams, but those blue robes were awesome. Bob Costas, on the other hand. I don't know if he thinks he's Dick Clark or what, but something about that hair just doesn't seem, you know, right.

Collapsible rain barrels. Sounds good in the abstract. In reality? Not so much.

English football is back. The season is underway right now with the Community Shield, a charity event featuring the League champion Man U. v the FA Cup winners Portsmouth FC. Another in the continuing rivalry of red v blue. I've got 6 more days to fine tune my fantasy team. Stay tuned for updates.


Continue reading Random thoughts on a Sunday morning

Sunday morning church marquee blogging

N. Duke St., Durham, NC


Continue reading Sunday morning church marquee blogging

Saturday, August 09, 2008

Number Nine


Continue reading Number Nine

Friday, August 08, 2008

Good news

Marvin Hamlisch is not the Anti-Christ.

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Continue reading Good news

Warehouse blues

Tonight is the last of this season's Warehouse Blues shows. Music Maker all-stars Cap't Luke and Macavine Hayes are on the bill along with Big Ron Hunter and the Sol Creech Band. Come on down to the courtyard in the West Village Apartments before 6 pm for the best seats, and don't forget to bring your cooler.

In my book, this is one of the best programs that the city of Durham sponsors, through its Parks and Recreation Department. You can join in me in letting the Durham City Council know that you want to see this program continue next year by sending an email to Put "Warehouse Blues" in the subject line.


Continue reading Warehouse blues

Shooting the Bull

Amanda Arrington, founder of the Coalition to Unchain Dogs, will be our guest this Sunday evening on Shooting the Bull, the weekly talk show that Kevin Davis and i host on WXDU, 88.7 fm. Tune in Sunday night at 7:30, or catch the podcast on iTunes.


Continue reading Shooting the Bull

Thursday, August 07, 2008

Water song


Continue reading Water song

Because it worked so well in California

Just ask Governor Gray Davis.

News & Observer:
Duke Energy is pushing to sell electricity outside its monopoly service area in the Carolinas, a move that would introduce competition and shake up the state's regulated utility model.

. . .

Duke officials are promoting wholesale competition as beneficial.

"Orangeburg will be able to offer customers much more competitively priced power than they have now, so those customers benefit," Sheehan said. "It also sends a strong economic development message to businesses trying to remain competitive or seeking to locate in the region."

Further proof that bad ideas never die; they just hide out until people forget how bad they are (reg. required):
Duke Energy, a power-generating company accused of overcharging customers millions of dollars during California's year-old energy crisis, has secretly offered Gov. Gray Davis a deal that it hopes will solve its legal problems while helping to calm the state's chaotic electricity markets.

The proposed settlement, outlined in documents prepared in March by Duke's lawyers, calls for an end to various state investigations, private lawsuits and state complaints to federal authorities accusing Duke of overcharging.

In return, Duke would make an unspecified "appropriate payment" but admit no wrongdoing.

"Duke is committed to sharing pain" and "expediting high-level confidential discussions that would embrace the governor's political and public relations needs," according to the documents, which were given to The New York Times by someone who wanted the issue aired publicly.

Pass this revision to the Public Utilities codes, and the question is how long till the next NY Times expose on Duke Energy, centering on its operations in the Carolinas? Three years? Five? Ten?


Continue reading Because it worked so well in California

McDonalds endorses meals tax

Well, not really. But that's one way to interpret this:
The world's largest restaurant chain posted second-quarter profit that beat expectations on strong international sales, but said to offset mounting commodity pressures it was looking at changes to the popular Dollar Menu, which lures value diners.

"I don't think customers care that much if the price moves slightly away from a dollar," Chief Executive Jim Skinner told Reuters in an interview on the sidelines of an event to mark its sponsorship of the Olympics.

"It will always be the best value around," he said.

If you think about the city as a business that's owned by all of its residents, well, then occasionally that business, like McDonalds, needs to raise its prices in order to keep providing services to its customers and returns to its owners. I know most people don't like to think about their government that way. It's easier to bitch and moan about taxes. But McDonalds' higher prices generally go to making people like Jim Skinner wealthier, and not to keeping our streets clean or our teachers and police officers paid well enough to want to keep their jobs.

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Continue reading McDonalds endorses meals tax

InterNeighborhood Council followup

I've gotten a few emails from current and former board members of the INC taking me to task for my call for the incoming INC president to resign. (Note: i've re-enabled anonymous commenting for the time being to deal with this issue. I'll publish your comments on this topic anonymously if you want.) I've been told that my zoning case example below is inaccurate, and that INC would not take a position one way or another in a zoning case as i described. I concede the point.

I've also been told that the incoming INC president is uniquely qualified for the position by virtue of his education and experience. I concede that point as well.

Those points are irrelevant, however. The key factor is this: According to published reports, neighborhood opponents and adjacent property owners of the Fairfield rezoning filed a valid petition against the rezoning. The result of that petition meant that supporters of the project needed 6 votes on City Council to get it approved, rather than a simple majority. The incoming INC president, who had a financial stake in having the rezoning approved, then lobbied some of those adjacent property owners to remove their signatures from the petition. This lowered the bar for getting the rezoning approved in Council back to a majority.

No one has yet disputed this account of what happened. As i've said, i am not and was not an opponent of this rezoning. My objections to the actions of the incoming INC president are not based on supporting or opposing his position. They are based on the conflict of interest that his lobbying on behalf of his client exposed. This conflict of interest is damaging to the InterNeighborhood Council. The INC board may choose not to see this or act on it. And i suppose that if they manage to keep people in neighborhoods throughout the city from seeing what has happened, they can minimize the damage to the organization. But i'll be honest. Unless someone steps up with a flat out declaration that the published reports are inaccurate, and provides some evidence to support that, i intend to keep pointing out this conflict of interest.

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Continue reading InterNeighborhood Council followup

Wednesday, August 06, 2008

Even more incredible


Continue reading Even more incredible


Huffington Post is starting up a new political newsletter for, i guess, the duration of the campaign. Someone hit the send button a little to early, though:
HuffPost's OffTheBus has just launched "OffTheBus Listening Post."

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Ut fermentum diam eu mi. Ut lacinia enim sed pede. Nulla facilisi. Curabitur tincidunt blandit lacus. Sed vehicula ante non ipsum. Nam nisl. Integer eleifend mauris ac augue. Ut dapibus tincidunt enim. Quisque elit purus, fermentum sit amet, dictum et, bibendum ut, dolor. Nullam dignissim lorem in sem. Ut justo. Mauris fermentum ipsum ut elit.


Continue reading Oooops

Little pleasures

I've noted once or twice before the, ummm, unusual search terms that occasionally lead people here. On the other hand, it's nice to click back on some of the referring URLs to this place and find new things to read.

So, hello to my new (and old) friends at rurritable and Humus.
Be seeing you.


Continue reading Little pleasures


The following is a transcript of the August 6, 2001, presidential daily briefing entitled Bin Laden determined to strike in US. Parts of the original document were not made public by the White House for security reasons.
. . .

Nevertheless, FBI information since that time indicates patterns of suspicious activity in this country consistent with preparations for hijackings or other types of attacks, including recent surveillance of federal buildings in New York.

The FBI is conducting approximately 70 full-field investigations throughout the U.S. that it considers bin Laden-related. CIA and the FBI are investigating a call to our embassy in the UAE in May saying that a group or bin Laden supporters was in the U.S. planning attacks with explosives.


Continue reading Memories


It's just a scratch. From the floor of the 2004 Republican convention.



Continue reading Memories

InterNeighborhood Council

I wanted to follow up briefly on the post i made yesterday regarding the conflict of interest of an InterNeighborhood Council board member in a recent rezoning case. Here's why it matters.

The INC's goal is "to promote the quality, stability and vitality of Durham’s residential neighborhoods. Just as many heads are better than one, neighborhoods gain strength by working together." Neighborhoods that are organized tend to have less crime and more stability. They're more desirable to live in. From their website:
There are no rules for organizing a neighborhood association. Your group could be as big or as small as you all like. Here are some things to consider that may work for you.

Keep it simple. Start small. Don't hold too many meetings.

Choose a neighborhood issue (that you can win) to mobilize interest in your neighborhood association. Work with other neighborhood groups. Build from there.

So that's the context in which this rezoning case needs to be seen. I have no idea whether or not the residents of the Omah St. neighborhood have formally organized a neighborhood association, or, if they had, they've become members of the INC. Doesn't matter, though. One of the express purposes of the INC is to help those folks do just that.

Craigie Sanders, in addition to serving on the current board of directors for the InterNeighborhood Council, is also the President-elect of that group. I believe his term starts sometime in the fall. He is certainly entitled to act in his own, and his employer's, interest in supporting this rezoning. However, it needs to be acknowledged that those interests directly contradict his responsibilities as an officer of the InterNeighborhood Council. It would have been appropriate for the INC to poll its member organizations to determine whether or not they wanted to support the Omah St. residents in their opposition to the rezoning. It's possible, perhaps even likely, that the other neighborhoods in town would have voted to withhold their support. After all, there are a good many reasons why the rezoning will benefit the city at-large. If the INC member neighborhoods had voted to take such a position, it would have further been appropriate for a board member who did not have a financial stake in the rezoning to speak to that issue in front of City Council.

To my knowledge, that did not occur. Rather, what happened was that a board member of the INC who did have a financial stake, inserted himself, acting in a non-INC capacity, into the neighborhood's own internal decision-making process. This happened after the neighborhood had submitted a petition opposing the rezoning, which would have raised the bar in Council to 6 votes for approving the rezoning. Under those conditions, the rezoning application would have failed.

As an individual, and as the attorney for the developer, Craigie Sanders had every right to engage in this process. However, the conflict of interest raised by his actions with his position within INC could not be clearer. If the organization is to maintain its relevance, and its authority to speak for the neighborhoods of Durham, Craigie Sanders needs to resign from its board, and not serve his term as president.

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Continue reading InterNeighborhood Council

A surprising phone call

I'm waiting around the house for a service tech from T/W this morning to look at why my internet service keeps crapping out for hours at a time, and the phone rings. It's an automated call from my bank, verifying that i tried to purchase $2000 worth of "telecommunications" equipment using my debit card.

Which of course i hadn't. So the charge didn't go through. One purchase that did go through, though, was a $50.41 charge at McDonald's in Gonzalitos, Mexico.

I'm utterly appalled. Hope you enjoyed your Big Macs.


Continue reading A surprising phone call

Tuesday, August 05, 2008



Continue reading Incredible!

Memo to Barack Obama

I don't know if this qualifies as any special insight. I'm sure others have seen this as well. But i was realizing the other night that, at least since 1968, Republicans have run the same campaign when it comes to presidential elections. And you'd think that after 40 years, Democrats would wise up.

The campaign message is simple. "My opponent is a pussy." The facts, the policies, the image of the US in the world, the economy, none of that matters. Once a significant enough portion of the electorate has absorbed that message, Republicans win.

Republicans lost in 1976 simply because Nixon had tarnished the brand so deeply. Even with that, the election was quite close. Bill Clinton won in 1992 and again in 1996 because, well, having George H. W. Bush and Bob Dole calling you a pussy just doesn't resonate. But for the most part, that's been the campaign strategy, and it's worked extremely well.

John McCain and his surrogates have just spent the best part of the past month calling Barack Obama a pussy. And if the Obama campaign's response to that is going to be this, well, he's not going to do much to change people's minds. It's not about running an campaign "to be proud of," it's about winning the election. I'd rather have President-elect Obama wake up on November 5th and say, "well, maybe the campaign wasn't our proudest moment as a nation, given all the nasty things we've said about each other, but i'm ready to lead the country in a new direction," than have former candidate Obama giving his concession speech and thanking his volunteers for participating in a campaign they could be proud of. Seems to me i've seen enough of that the past few election cycles.

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Continue reading Memo to Barack Obama

Good news

For dogs:
For more than two years, animal advocates and the county have discussed implementing such a law, based on the principle that chaining or otherwise tethering animals outside is cruel and inhumane, and that the practice contributes to constant barking and even causes dogs to become overly aggressive and attack people who cross into their territory.

The board of commissioners had asked the county's Animal Control Advisory Committee to look at the issue and draft a proposed ordinance.

At a work session Monday, commissioners saw this draft (PDF attachment) and scheduled a public hearing for the end of the month, to be held at the commissioners’ chambers at 200 E. Main St.

Kudos to the Coalition to Unchain Dogs for sticking this out for two years as the ordinance has worked its way through the process to even make it this far. A public hearing will be held August 25 at the Commissioners' chambers in the old court house. You can be sure the oxymoronic "Responsible Pet Owners" groups will be there in force to remind people that animals have no rights.

The coalition has put together a stellar lineup for their annual fundraising concert in Durham Central Park on September 6. You should go.

I'll say this, if the county enacts, implements, and enforces a ban on tethering dogs successfully, i might be willing to willing to give the city a crack at allowing chickens in town.

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Continue reading Good news


Ray and Kevin both have pretty good rundowns on the Council's rezoning of the "Fairfield" project off of Hillandale Road and I-85 last night. I'm not convinced that an apartment complex like this one will necessarily "destroy" the neighborhood. As i've written before, the apartment complexes off of Constitution Drive in the American Village neighborhood seem to co-exist pretty well with their single family home-owning neighbors.

Here's the real problem, though:
Opponents filed a formal protest petition against the project, under a state law that forces applicants of a contested rezoning to muster six votes for passage. Signatures on such a petition have to come from the owners of adjoining properties.

But city officials late last week ruled the petition invalid because some of the adjoining owners who'd put their names on it changed their minds.

Project opponent Laura Suski said one of Fairfield's lawyers, Craigie Sanders, visited petition signatories recently to lobby them to take back their signatures.

That does not bode well for Craigie Sanders' current tenure on the board of the Inter-Neighborhood Council. We'll see how that gets addressed at the next INC meeting.

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Continue reading Rezoning

All-Name Olympians

At first base, for team USA:

And playing second, for Team Canada:

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Continue reading All-Name Olympians

Monday, August 04, 2008



Continue reading Amazing!

Click Here for to see the full picture


Think of the children.


Continue reading Click Here for to see the full picture

Weird scenes

Walking back to my car from lunch on Churton St. earlier, a young man on an expensive bike rode by, followed, casually a few seconds later by a squad car. They had a conversation about 50 - 75 yards up King St. where i was parked in front of the old Colonial Inn, which was still going on when i walked past.

Turned out the police officer was telling the young man he could not be riding on the street without a helmet, and if he didn't get off the bike and walk it home, he was going to have to cite him.

Never saw that before.

Continue reading Weird scenes


For most of the past 10 years or so, i've heard various city and county department heads lament their budgets, stating that if they had more money, they could hire the staff they needed to perform their duties better. Similarly, our elected officials have stated publicly that they need more diverse sources of revenue than the current sales and property taxes, and scattering of user fees they're able to collect. To that end, they've lobbied our legislative delegation to seek enabling legislation giving Durham the right or the opportunity to levy several new taxes and fees.

Yet, last fall, after finally winning the right to give voters the opportunity to approve either a land transfer fee increase or a sales tax increase, Durham County commissioners declined to put either on the ballot. And this year, after what i've been told was a 15 year effort to change Representative Paul Luebke's mind*, Durham County Commissioners are ready to put a 1% prepared meals tax on the ballot. Trouble is, many of our elected officials don't seem especially eager to support it, in face of public opposition from the Durham Committee on the Affairs of Black People.

Here's the question. If you're not willing to ask the voters to approve new taxes after a decade or more of complaining that you don't have sufficient revenues available, why should i believe you when you say you don't have the money to build more shelters and benches at our bus stops, to choose just one item from the scores of necessities that Durham neglects. Is it really a matter of revenue, or is it more the utter lack of leadership necessary to do the things that need doing in our city? That point is not so much that we need this tax or that tax enabled, the point is that our elected officials cannot continue to make the claim that their hands are tied by the lack of resources available to them, and then expect us to believe them when they're not willing to follow through when it comes time to make a difference in increasing those resources.
* Local governments in North Carolina do not have independent taxing authority. They need authorizing legislation from the state to enact new taxes. By custom, if the local delegation from the municipality or county does not unanimously support the request, it won't even be taken up in the legislature. As it stood, even with Rep. Luebke dropping his opposition, passing the legislation to put the tax on the ballot was only narrowly passed.

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Continue reading Leadership

Sunday, August 03, 2008

Shooting the Bull

Kevin and i will be talking to Carl Kenney, local writer, activist, and publisher of the REV-elution blog tonight at 7:30 on WXDU, 88.7 fm.

We'll be talking about downtown, race relations in Durham, and whatever else comes into our heads. Tune in tonight, or catch the podcast starting tomorrow.

UPDATE: Kevin's got the podcast up, if you want to listen to the show and you don't already subscribe through iTunes.


Continue reading Shooting the Bull

Sunday morning church marquee blogging

North Roxboro St., Durham, NC


Continue reading Sunday morning church marquee blogging

Saturday, August 02, 2008


There's rumor around the intertubes that Sitemeter's update yesterday broke something with viewing blogger on IE. Don't know if that's true or not. I turned off Sitemeter for the time being. I'd say, let me know if you have trouble viewing the blog, but, hey, that might be problematic.


Continue reading Rumors

Number Nine


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Friday, August 01, 2008



Continue reading Benedictus

The Second Amendment makes all the others possible

U.S. federal agents have been given new powers to seize travelers' laptops and other electronic devices at the border and hold them for unspecified periods the Washington Post reported on Friday.

Under recently disclosed Department of Homeland Security policies, such seizures may be carried out without suspicion of wrongdoing, the newspaper said, quoting policies issued on July 16 by two DHS agencies.

Agents are empowered to share the contents of seized computers with other agencies and private entities for data decryption and other reasons, the newspaper said.

DHS officials said the policies applied to anyone entering the country, including U.S. citizens, and were needed to prevent terrorism.

The measures have long been in place but were only disclosed in July, under pressure from civil liberties and business travel groups acting on reports that increasing numbers of international travelers had had their laptops, cellphones and other digital devices removed and examined.

The policies cover hard drives, flash drives, cell phones, iPods, pagers, beepers, and video and audio tapes -- as well as books, pamphlets and other written materials, the report said.

Lovely. I'm expecting an armed insurrection led by the Minutemen and the NRA any minute now.


Continue reading The Second Amendment makes all the others possible


Gary's post on the threatened demolition of three buildings in the 100 block of W. Main St. has really got me thinking about the sorry state of our downtown.

It's about 4 years ago Sam and Dave first tried making a go of turning the Mr. Shoe space into a performance room a la the current BCHQ. That lasted long enough for me to get this shot of Dom Casual on a late September evening in 2004, but not much longer than that.

Since then, there was the Anchor of Hope project in 2005, and not much else done with those buildings.

Aren't these exactly the kind of storefronts that you want filled with ethnic eateries, small galleries, or boutiques, to make a lively and walkable community? What are we going to get in their stead? And how long are we going to wait for it?

I went into town last night to see some friends perform at the CCB Plaza, but the show was inexplicably canceled. I guess the rain earlier in the day was enough to scare Parks & Rec off the site, but there wasn't a single notice anywhere in the plaza about what was going on. So Mrs. D and i met for dinner at Toast which was, as usual, lovely. I think we knew someone at almost every table. During one conversation with a friend of a friend, i was asked, "Don't you love living in Durham?" That's usually a no-brainer. Of course i do. But i found myself inhaling deeply and thinking before answering. "Well, yes, but . . ."

Two nights ago i was in Raleigh, in the Glenwood South district, and there's a lot there to like. There's some new construction going on, but most of it seemed to be well scaled. There are street level businesses and, as i mentioned, a coffee shop operating out of an old bungalow. Everything was walkable. And there were people around. Lots of people.

Sitting in front of Toast last night, i could see the row of empty storefronts across 5 Points where Safari and Peacefire used to be. It's been a year since the city finished up its streetscape project, and Safari is still empty. How could that be? Walking back to my car along Chapel Hill St., at 6:45 pm, we were the only ones on the street. There's hundred yard long stretches of empty brick walls, roll up garage doors, and veneer surrounding the ground floor of a parking deck. And a linotype machine marking the spot where a thriving local newspaper once operated. Four years ago, it seemed as though street-level (in every sense of the word) entrepreneurs were giving downtown Durham a go, and the future was bright. Have they all been sucked up into the Greenfire maw? Is American Tobacco, with it's inward facing courtyard and mediocre restaurants, really the best we can do with our downtown?

"Don't you love living in Durham?"

"Well, yes, but . . ."

The bloom, shall we say, is off the rose. This town could be great, can be great. I'm no longer certain, though, that it will be great.


Continue reading Downtown

Another reason why Wal-Mart sucks

Wal-Mart Stores Inc (WMT.N) is mobilizing U.S. store managers to lobby against Democrats in November's presidential election, fearing they will make it easier for workers to unionize, The Wall Street Journal reported on Friday.

In recent weeks, thousands of Wal-Mart managers and department heads have been summoned to mandatory meetings at which the retailer stresses the downside for workers if store workers unionize, the paper said.

About a dozen employees who attended meetings in seven states said executives stressed employees would have to pay hefty union dues and get nothing in return, and might have to go on strike without compensation, and warned that unionization could force the company to cut jobs as labor costs rise, the Journal reported.

Stupid workers. Always wanting to do things that are not in their best interests. Good thing that Wal-Mart Corporate is there to look out for them, and guide them in the right direction.

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Continue reading Another reason why Wal-Mart sucks

DAP renovation program

Speaking of opportunities to give back to the community, here's a great one. Not all of the money for renovating the old DAP is going to come out of taxes or corporate donations. Some of it's got to come from people like you or me. Here's the plan.
Renaissance Downtown Durham, Inc. --- the foundation for Downtown Durham, Inc. --- is helping the City of Durham with the renovation by raising money for the brand new seats. Click through to see photographs of the new seats and the sections. Nine of the sections have been set aside for group sales, with the remainder available for individual seat sales.

When you underwrite the cost of a seat you will:

* receive a charitable tax deduction from Renaissance Downtown Durham, Inc.
* have your name on a plaque on that seat
* have your name placed on a large commemorative plaque at the entrance
* receive a free pass to the Durham World Beer Festival, October 4th at the new Durham Bulls Athletic Park (1 free pass for every 2 seats underwritten)

Please take a moment and review this opportunity to become part of history and go to the beer festival for free.

Friends of the DAP

Bill Kalkhof, Rennaissance Downtown Durham, Inc.
Daniel Bradford, World Beer Festival

Yeah, a hundred bucks a seat isn't cheap. And you've got to buy two of 'em to get that free pass to the Beer Festival. But if the DAP means anything to you, and you're the kind of person who's got that kind of scratch around the house, can you think of a better way to spend it? Haven't you always wanted to walk up to someone and say, "Excuse me, bud, but i think you're in my seat." "Oh yeah, has it got your name on it?" "Well, as a matter of fact, it does. Now am-scray." Here's your opportunity.

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Continue reading DAP renovation program