Saturday, December 30, 2006

I've Gotta Get Me One of These!

Today I had the opportunity to take a geocaching trip to Cape Henlopen State Park with my brother Matt, his wife and daughters, and my parents. Matt and family were given a geocaching starter-kit by Matt's sister-in-law and her partner for Christmas.

This isn't quite the first time I've tried this. For the last several years we have organized a GPS-based or geocaching-style activity as part of the Delaware GIS Conference. I helped field-test a set of way-points tied to Cape Henlopen's World War II history interpretation.

I am surprised that I have not yet gotten myself a GPS unit. GPS has become a tool in geospatial data development, which is my field. On the other hand, I'm in data coordination and not in field data collection.

I'm thinking about getting a GPS now, though. I'm not sure that geocaching is my sport, though it is fun. What I'd like to do is use a GPS to collect point locations of the various neat things I find in my wandering around Delaware.

The Park was active today. The weather was warm and there was bright sunshine. Lots of folks were out enjoying the dunes and pine woods of the Park.

Friday, December 29, 2006

Quiet Please! I'm Eating

This will have to become a year-end tradition: The British Medical Journal late December edition, which seems to always feature research from out on the edge.

Last year was the first time I ran across this fun site. Last year at this time, the BMJ included studies looking at the effect of the shape of a glass on how much alcohol people pour, and at the effects of reading Harry Potter on accident-prone kids.

This year, the December 23 edition includes a paper entitled "Sword swallowing and its side effects."

A finding? "Major complications are more likely when the swallower is distracted..."

And: "Sword swallowers without healthcare coverage expose themselves to financial as well as physical risk."


By the way, did you know that there is a Sword Swallowers Association?


Thursday, December 28, 2006

Storming Times Square

Karen, the girls and I made a flying visit to New York City on the Wednesday after Christmas. Irene the Organizatrist put together a bus trip for students and families of the Dance Studio. We sent away for Broadway tickets, booked our bus seats, got up hideously early, and drove over to Millsboro to catch our motor coach.

By chance, one of Colleen's friends from Academic Challenge was in the city with her family, from Seaford, for a few days. Against all odds, we managed to meet them for lunch at the Times Square Hard Rock Cafe. Afterwards, they helped us take Standard Tourist Family Portrait #32.

Mahaffies on Times Square

After a short wander around Times Square, checking out the buildings and people, we headed to a matinée of Hairspray. That's a great show: bright, funny and rocking. We loved it.

Waiting in line outside the Niel Simon Theater, I enjoyed watching a young woman from Fox 5 in New York (Vanessa Alfano, maybe? Looking at this again, I think maybe it was Toni Senecal) doing takes for some sort of story. She would walk towards the camera, bouncy and animated, saying whatever the line was supposed to be for her report. Then she would stop, turn on her boot heel, and stalk back to her starting point, fuming and discontented. Next take? Bouncy and happy again.

Everyone in line enjoyed that.

After the show, with dusk falling, we headed up 52nd Street to Fifth Avenue, stopping to shop and take pictures. The girls had a strong urge to check out Saks Fifth Avenue. I thought it a good place to try for a new self-portrait.

Evening on Fifth Avenue, a day or two after Christmas, is crowded. Really, really crowded. We had to play old-fashioned, NFC-style, ground-attack football just to get through the crowds to meet the bus.

Then it was a creep through the streets of Manhattan, out the Lincoln Tunnel, down the turnpike and home. We pulled back into our garage just at Midnight.

It was a long day, but fun.

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

It Is An Ill Blog Post That Yields No New Words

I was going to swear-off pointing to "I Hate Delaware" blog postings, but one of the several that have resulted from Christmas traffic back-ups on I-95 in northern Delaware offers a word I had not heard: Shunpiking.

I found that word in a set of links on avoiding the Delaware Turnpike at the end of a post entitled "Ban Delaware" on Backwards City.

Shunpiking refers, of course, to finding ways around toll routes. The drive-around for the Delaware Turnpike has been the subject of some on-line conversation lately.

The fuss, by the way, tends to arise from traffic back-up associated with the toll plazas on I-95. Complainers advocate doing away with those tolls, or with Delaware altogether.

We can't get rid of the tolls, though. Our state runs on cash from out-of-staters. It's worked well so far; why change now?

Sunday, December 24, 2006

A Very Merry Christmas to You All

Christmas Tree

In Which We Head Down a Familiar Road (But Get Lost Anyway)

I maintain Google alerts for a few topics, one of which is "Delaware." I'm curious to know what's being written about us out there along the back roads of the information superhighway system.

The results have focused mostly around two aspects of Delaware: the resort area and our roads. Neither subject area is surprising. Our beaches are our pride and our roads are sometimes our shame (as they are for many states).

This morning, Google alerted me to what may be a definitive "roads" site, a blog called On the Road that focuses entirely on the minutiae of American highways. It's the blog of a "roadphile" collective known as All About Roads, co founded by a former Delawarean named Alex Nitzman who had been collecting an posting photographs of Delaware Road signs.

Mr. Nitzman returned to northern Delaware recently and has written a comprehensive critique of recent road improvements and signage changes.

He has things to say about new road work and alignments, such as the new Route 141 Spur, which he argues is not a spur.
So much for the new “Delaware 141 Spur” being an actual spur. Instead the “Spur” is a relocated Delaware 141 mainline. Why is it so difficult to get the nomenclature right in the state of Delaware?
And he has many thoughts about the highway signs that have been replaced along upstate highways.
Not only are new signs installed everywhere, but the signs installed display exactly the same thing that the editions in which they replaced did! I believe DelDOT was quoted as stating that each sign costs between $25,000 to $50,000 each in 1997, and that cost most certainly has gone up since that time. So with that kind of expenditure, was it necessary to replace 80% of the guide signs along Interstate 95 north from Delaware 141 to U.S. 202 given the fiscal crisis?
I was interested to note that he also calls attention to the use of "Must Exit" on some signs in Delaware instead of the "Exit Only" that appears to be a highway signage standard; at least based on the the surprised looks I read about here and in other Delaware highway rants.

TINGB wrote about that wording in her report on driving home to DC through northern Delaware this fall:
Julie: Here's the exit.
Me: Why does it say "Must Exit" instead of "Exit Only?"
Julie: Because this is Delaware, and Delaware is stupid.
I did a little desultory Googling this morning on this "Must" vs "Only" thing. I was unable to find any definitive "standard" language that sets one as the right verbiage to use. I did find a marvelously incomprehensible discussion of research on highways and exits at the Federal Highway Administration's Highway Research Center. It may be in there, but please don't make me read any more of that. If there are any highway engineers in the audience, please leave a polite note correcting me.

This standards-confusion is not unusual, by the way. In government I find many things that are assumed to be "standard" by everyone, even though there's been no official "finding," because almost everyone is following the assumed standard. And, conversely, when there is a standard officially declared, most folks in government will ignore it.

Here are two items that need additional research:
  1. What in the name of all that is oily is the derivation of the phrase "exit gore area" that I kept finding in my highway standards spelunking? The definition is "The area located immediately between the left edge of a ramp pavement and the right edge of the mainline roadway pavement at a merge or diverge area." But why "gore?" It can't be why I think it might be, can it?
  2. Why do I always type "standrads" instead of "standards?" Is it Freudian?

Saturday, December 23, 2006

Don't You Mean....

A headline on the WGMD News RSS feed caught my eye yesterday. They ran a short news item about a fire in a local chicken house.

The headline -- Millsboro poultry house fire - chickens spared -- left me thinking, "Yes, but for how long?"

I think the lede could be re-written. They ran:
Fire crews saved 35,000 chickens from becoming dinner after fire broke out in a poultry house in Millsboro Wednesday afternoon.
It more accurately might read:
Fire crews saved 35,000 chickens so that they eventually will become dinner after fire broke out in a poultry house in Millsboro Wednesday afternoon.
I think we all know that those chicken houses aren't housing pet chickens.

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Me? I'm Tickled. Tickled Pink.

I am happier than I probably should be about this, but I am quite pleased that Mike's Musings is recognized in the January issue of Delaware Today magazine in a brief list of "10 Delacentric blogs you've got to see."
Mahaffie waxes poetic on many subjects with a high degree of grace and humor. His subjects run the gamut from art to politics to family life, but we especially enjoy his musings on Sussex County culture.
That's very nice. I do try for grace and I value humor.

The list includes a few of my favorites: Down With Absolutes, Delaware Watch, Kilroy, Hube and the boys at Rhodey, and Pulp Culture.

It left out some of my favorites too: TommyWonk, Sneaking Suspicions, First State Politics, and Delawareliberal (where they were somewhat miffed).

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

The Curve of Your Laugh

Driving the girls to dance this evening, I was half listening to an interview on the World Café. A performer started a gentle, acoustic love song with a phrase that sounded, to my partial ear, like "the curve of your laugh."

That can't be the actual lyric, but I think it paints a great sound. It made me think of Karen's sometimes out of control laughter when something catches her just right.

Years ago, my youngest brother Bob and his fiancée, also a Karen, brought home a new family member: a black lab puppy named Sasha. She was a pedigreed dog, a new thing for Karen and me; we're used to mutt cats and mixed breed dogs.

We eagerly read through Sasha's papers, tracing her line back until we reached a forebear named "Quiver of the River."

That's minor silliness, but it started Karen's laugh, an open, joyous, eyes shut, head thrown back giggle-laugh that lasts until the air runs out, then pauses, almost in disbelief, re-gathers itself, and takes off again.

That laugh has lasted for years, as Sasha grew from a gangly young pup, through her frolicking prime, and into a white-muzzled canine crone. All I had to do was say "Quiver of the River" and the laugh would pick up where it left off.

Now, though Sasha is gone, the laugh remains. It can be triggered by the many wonderful and silly things our girls do, or by comic improv (God bless Ryan Stiles), or by a chance gift of goofiness from the cosmos.

And it still has that lovely curve.

Monday, December 18, 2006

Neologism #1 (Updated)

  1. (adj) : The state of being badly messed up or having gone seriously wrong as the result of two or more related things having gone wrong.

    "First the car wouldn't start, and then it started raining; my morning was, like, totally confunktified!"

  2. (adj) : Made funkier by the combination of two or more instances of funkiness.

    "When the bass joined the drums, things got confunkified."

Etymology: This word was first coined by my colleague Dorothy Morris' teen-aged daughter Rebecca. (Circa 2006) May be derived from "funkified" (to make funky).

I believe that this word may actually count as a protologism.

Update: I checked with Dorothy and found that I had gotten the word slightly wrong. I was thinking "confunkified", rather than "confunktified." The former may indeed suggest "becoming more funky," but I think confunktified, with its slight odor of disaster, offers a richer (almost olfactory) imagery.

Sunday, December 17, 2006

Phone Call for Mr. Leghorn! Foghorn Leghorn, Call For You!

The universe will provide all the laughs we need if we are but open to it.

There's an article posted this afternoon on the News Journal web site about a dispute over a proposal for a cell tower disguised as a tree in Western Sussex County.

There are opponents. There are supporters. Chief among the supporters is Byard Layton, on whose chicken farm the tower would be placed.

According to Mr. Layton, the area needs more cell coverage: “If you go in the chicken house, you don’t get any reception.”

Friday, December 15, 2006

Could This Be Blogging's "Shark"?

There's a story on Federal Computer Week today about a new utility to allow Congress-people to create blogs. The story, House makes blogging easy, is about a new centralized "House Web Log Utility" that let's Congressional offices create and manage blogs on their official Web sites.

I was tempted to make jokes. In fact, I gave-in and used one in the title of this post. But the more I think about it, the more I like the idea.

I like the notion of making it easier for elected officials and, by extension, government agencies, to adopt the blogging ethos of constantly adding information to the web.

Government web sites get stale. Agencies are parts of hierarchies. They have chains of command. Everything has to go through that chain. Web sites are usually maintained by IT staff, or by PR folks, rather than by the people who make decisions and work with constituents.

It would be great to enable those people to add regular and frequent content and updates to web pages. Maybe this will work?

I'm staying positive.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Grant Me Patience? Too Late.

I rarely do this, but let me take a moment to point, aghast, to a letter to the editor in today's Coast Press newspaper.

One Maria Johnson, of Georgetown, has written a letter asking "Is AIDS education a sly 'agenda'?"
Is it true that there's a poster contest in the middle and high school sponsored by CAMP Rehoboth to recognize HIV and AIDS? Do other organizations like heart or cancer foundations, pregnancy care centers, Alcoholics Anonymous, or domestic abuse groups go into schools and tie up young people's emotions, energy and brains with their stuff?
Okay. First let's check on that "is it true?" question. A Google search finds the CAMP Rehoboth web site, where a small amount of perusing shows us that, yes, CAMP Rehoboth did sponsor a Student Art Contest this fall as part of the local World AIDS Day activities.

The contest was one of two activities added by local sponsors for this year. The other was a Wall of Healing, Remembrance and Prayer at Epworth United Methodist Church.

The Art Contest wasn't intended to "recognize" HIV and AIDS, though. It was designed to call attention to the risks of HIV infection that young people face. Here's what the organizers had to say:
CAMP Rehoboth chose to sponsor the Student Art Contest out of deep concern with the latest statistics released by the Centers for Disease Control. The data establishes that 50% of all new HIV infections occur in young people under the age of 25. In addition, national case surveillance data for people ages 13 to 24 revealed that the burden of HIV/AIDS falls most heavily and disproportionately on black and Hispanic youth. CAMP Rehoboth believes that accurate, age-appropriate information is our best hope for reducing these trends for our young citizens. By working with Sussex County school districts, CAMP Rehoboth hopes to ameliorate this situation.
And yes, Ms. Johnson, quite a few other issues-based organizations sponsor student arts contests, essay contests, and the like. My daughters have both been winners in fire-prevention essay and art contests, and young people we know have won citizenship essay contests and that sort of thing. It can be rather a positive experience.

Let's see what else Ms. Johnson had to say.
There's a whole page of support groups in the Delaware State News. If there's a private matter that a student needs help with, maybe a guidance counselor could direct the young person to a support group or a helpful foundation.
I'm not sure why you would limit yourself to the State News, but directing kids to guidance counselors makes excellent sense. I quite agree.
I am not a gay-hater, but this example demonstrates that the gay agenda is being slyly and forcibly taught to children in schools. I think people should be aware of this, and I think CAMP Rehoboth should be kept out of our schools.
You are not a gay-hater? Let's leave that to one side for the moment. I can say, though, that something can't be both "slyly" and "forcibly" done. I think those two adverbs are mutually exclusive.

If the "gay agenda" is to teach young people about the risks of unprotected sex and the dangers of making poor choices, then I say bring on the homosexuals as soon as possible.

And by the way, let us not suppose that HIV and AIDS are only a gay issue. We know well that AIDS affects gay and straight folks alike.

But this is silly. CAMP Rehoboth is not in the schools trying to turn young Sussex Countians into gays and lesbians. If you spend your time worried about this sort of thing, please get a clue. Or a life.

As it happens, I have gotten to know a few of the founders of CAMP Rehoboth over the years. The Executive Director, Steve Elkins, is in the Epworth Church bell choir with Karen. His partner Murray Archibald, CAMP Rehoboth President, is a lay leader in the church.

Both gents are much more religious than I am, but I am sometimes at the church and they have been most welcoming and friendly, despite my less-Christian status.

By the way, if you were wondering, CAMP Rehoboth stands for "Creating a More Positive Rehoboth."

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Darn that Pete Schwartzkopf, He's Such a ...

Radio Station WGMD now has a Team Blog, Talk of Delmarva, which appears to replace their WGMD Forums. A team blog means you get a variety of voices.

I was interested to see two different posts in the last few days that take very different angles on the 14th District Representative Pete Schwartzkopf.

Yesterday, Dan Gaffney wrote a post, Stuck in Sussex by Heroin Needles, which accuses Rep. Schwartzkopf of lying about the legislation authorizing a needle-exchange program for Wilmington.

Whether you approve of a needle-exchange program or not, the quotes that Dan pulls from a recent News Journal article on the program seem awfully selective to me. And even so, they don't suggest to me that Rep. Schwartzkopf was lying.

But I'm not really interested in arguing the point.

What does interest me is today's post, What Would You Give Your Neighbor For Christmas?, This one, by a Maria Evans (she is said to be "fiesty"), is about Pete's donating one of his kidneys to a neighbor.

So who is this "Pete Schwartzkopf?" A lying political manipulator who wants everyone hooked on heroin? Or an incredibly generous man, willing to sacrifice for his friends?

I've met him. I think I know which.

Monday, December 11, 2006

Virtual Fun?

Virtual Fun?I saw this sign at the Disney Downtown Marketplace in Orlando. We had a chance to have a walk around the place after a full day of meeting last week.

I've seen "virtual fun" advertised elsewhere and I am always puzzled by the idea.

If the fun is virtual, have you actually had any?

Sunday, December 10, 2006

A Family Affair

Mahaffies 2
This weekend, Karen, Colleen, Christina and I performed together in the Sussex Ballet's production of The Nutcracker.

Well. Colleen and Christina performed. Karen and I helped fill-out the party scene that starts the ballet.

Karen played the part of a lovely lady party-guest. In Green.

I played the part of the old guy who appears to be the man of the house where the party takes place, but who doesn't really dance all that well.

It was cool to be on-stage again. I used to do lots of community theater back before we had children. I enjoy it.

This was particularly fun. I was playing a very small part, with no pressure.

And I had the opportunity, at least for the first scene, to watch my girls dance from on-stage next to them.

The Time Came

You may notice things looking just slightly different on Mike's Musings this week-end. My number came up in the "switch to Blogger Beta" lottery and I made the change.

There are differences between the old and new Bloggers. I am slowly tweaking my way through the various settings and layout options.

This week-end, though, I am also deeply involved in a production of The Nutcracker, featuring my lovely daughters (with cameo appearances by me and my better half). So, the tweaking will be slow.

Thoughts? Comments? Critiques? Requests?

Saturday, December 9, 2006

Word. Up.

TechCrunch pointed me to a new site today that is just my sort of place: Wordie.

Wordie describes itself as "Like Flickr, but without the photos." It provides a simple way to list words. Just words.

And I like words.

Of course I created an account. My first two words were entered in honor of my brother John, who, when I became a news-person at a local radio station many years ago, offered me this simple advice: "Eschew obfuscation."

The Wordie : Errata blog includes a succinct site history, the begins:
11/21: Idea pops into my head, gets dismissed as a joke.
That's my kind of site.

Friday, December 8, 2006

It Occurs to Me Lately That...

...if is there is a culture war, I must be a part of the Great Army of the Progressives.

And, if I am a soldier in that Army, I must be on detached service in a small, special unit.

And that small unit clearly focuses on the isolated skirmishes known as "irony."

Therefore, I'm a proud member of the Ironic Detachment.

Thursday, December 7, 2006

Wait. What Are We Talking About Here?

I spent the last few days at a strategic retreat of the board of the National States Geographic Information Council (NSGIC). It was an intense few days.

This morning we were talking about whether or not we had reached "consensus" on something. Uncertain about that, Cy Smith asked me to look up the word.

A Google search (definition: consensus) produced a variety of definitions, from "agreement in the judgment or opinion reached by a group as a whole" to "general agreement : UNANIMITY" (suggesting unanimous agreement).

Then we found a site with instructions on reaching consensus. It started with an exercise in which you have "each person write his or her own definition of consensus."

Uh oh.

To cap it off, we found a page on "Consensus for Small Groups." Here's the start of Section 2:
Definitions of consensus
There is no one widely accepted definition.....
So, in other words, there is no consensus on "consensus?"

Monday, December 4, 2006

And Did He Ever Return?

I see our old family friend Dick Wertheimer perched on a couch in my parents living room. There's a glass of scotch on the table in front of him and a 5-string banjo perched at a jaunty angle in his lap.

And he is singing:
Did he ever return?
No he never returned.
And his fate is still unlearned (poor old Charlie)
He may ride forever 'neath the streets of Boston
He's the man who never returned.
Charlie on the MTA was (and is) a standard at family and friends get-together dinners. When we were small, we all listened to Mr. Wertheimer sing and play the 1950's folks standards of his youth. As we grew, we joined in on the chorus. In recent years, we've hauled out guitars and hand-drums and played along.

The song dates from the middle of the last century. It was written for a political campaign in Boston to criticize an opponent for a subway fare increase.

Now, thanks to Governing's 13th Floor blog, I find that the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority -- the MTBA -- has, in a rare instance of a municipal sense of humor, named its fare-card after the fictional Charlie.

The CharlieCard will prompt a smile of recognition from Bostonians who know their history and from fans of mid-fifties folk-music.

Sunday, December 3, 2006

Would That all Village Weblogs Were as Fulfilling

With thanks to Miriam, I point with a chuckle to Little Frigging in the Wold, the official Little Frigging in the Wold village weblog.

This is not a site for the faint hunor, but does offer some delightfully silly writing, such as this, from a post entitled All-Nude Chicken-Intriguing:
Nasturtium Cheeseincident (1945 - 2006) began as a Chicken-Intriguer of the old school. She first learnt the ancient and noble art of Chicken-Intriguing at the knee, ankle and - on one memorable occasion - elbow, of the semi-legendary Great High Trilobite of Chicken-Intriguing - Gerrymander Ankletrouser, an adept at the once lost art of Turkey-Perplexing, as well as being the greatest Chicken-Intriguer this world has ever known.
Sometimes, I find that a stiff dose of absolute absurdity is just the thing.

Saturday, December 2, 2006

Literalists' Litany of Complaint: #367 -- At the End of the Day

I keep hearing various spokesfolks use the phrase "at the end of the day" to wrap-up a thought. As in, "of course the Iraqi army needs more training and support and yes, we shouldn't have disbanded that army, but at the end of the day the Iraqis will have to govern themselves."

At the end of the day? Why not at the start of the day? And what about over lunch?

Thursday, November 30, 2006

In Which We Find Our Christmas Tree up on a Small Hill Way at the Back of the Christmas Tree Farm

In the Pines
We went out to Sposato's Tree Farm last Saturday to look for our Christmas Tree. It took a while. We all have a slightly different vision of what our tree should be.

We found trees with Grasshoppers living in them. We found trees with crooked trunks. Some were to small. some were too big. Some had bald spots. Some were uneven.One was host to a Praying Mantis.

Eventually, we made our way out to the back of the tree farm, up a slight hill. From there, we could see the whole place.

And there we found our tree.

Sunday, November 26, 2006

Does Delaware Need a Better PR Firm?

There's another Washingtonian who is annoyed by traffic on I-95 in Delaware. Well, another who has blogged about it. I'm sure there are more who haven't.

The unnamed author of a blog named "Time I'll Never Get Back" has written two posts about the holiday and Delaware's section of I-95.

In the first, a Travel Advisory last Monday, she noted that "Delaware is acting like the bratty child we always knew it was." She was annoyed by the lane closures related to bridge construction.

She first warned fellow-travelers to avoid Delaware during the holidays, then posted an update, based on reporting in the Washington Post, that the lane closures may be out of the way by the heavy travel part of the holiday. She still objected to having to pay the toll, though.

After a pleasant family interlude somewhere north of Delaware, Miss Time returned to DC yesterday and avoided the nasty back-ups of I-95 in Delaware by taking some other road than I-95. She complains about her brother not having told her this secret to painless travel before her drive north, but was pleased to have worked out out for her return trip.

Do people not realize that there are other roads than I-95 in Delaware? Are there no maps? Or is hating Delaware just too popular a pass-time?

UPDATE: Of course, back-roading it is not always the best idea.

Friday, November 24, 2006

Literary Parallels. Again.

I've been reading a new book called Winkie this week. It's a story about a teddy bear of that name who has somehow become sentient and wandered off into the woods to live. When the book opens, Winkie has been arrested by Homeland Security and is on trial as a terrorist.

The meat of the story (so far, anyway) is the bear's recollection of life as a toy to several generations of one family. He's remembering and reflecting as he sits in a cell awaiting trial.

I was struck by the similarities to the Patrick O'Brian novel Richard Temple, which I finished a week or so back.

In that book, the title character is in prison in southern France where he's been captured by the Gestapo as an English spy during world War II. As he recovers from torture, he remembers his pre-war life as a hungry artist in London.

I suppose prison-recollection is a fairly common literary device. Still, I find it interesting to see it applied in two very different character studies.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Before. And After.

Old Picture The restaurant 33 West, at 33 West Loockerman Street, in Dover, has a picture hanging up of what the building it lives in looked like way back when.

I don't know exactly when, but before my time, the building held a drugstore, the Sun Ray Drug Company. There was a Singer store next door. Loockerman Street lacked trees. It looks freshly paved and has those new-fangled parking meters.

New PictureMany years later, the Singer store is gone. Street trees planted since those two young women posed on the corner above have prospered and now tower above the buildings. Concrete sidewalks have been replaced with brick. There are no more parking meters, but parking time is limited. The drugstore has been replaced by a popular Dover eatery.

I recommend the Turkey Burger.

Monday, November 20, 2006

Book Signing

Book SigningI got to have an author sign his book for me this past week-end. Tom Starnes, a retired Methodist minister I know through Karen's church, has published a memoir, Through Fear to Faith. He held a book-signing down at Browseabout Books in Rehoboth Beach on Saturday morning and I stopped by.

Tom filled-in at Epworth United Methodist in Rehoboth some years ago when they were between ministers. Karen enjoyed his sermons and I liked him the few times I attended. Since then, we've seen him around a fair amount; he's retired here. And I get to play golf with him every once in a while when the Methodists have a fellowship golf outing.

I've mentioned Tom here before. He writes occasional Community View columns for the News Journal that I always enjoy. I look forward to reading his memoir.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Life-Changing Moment #381

This morning, I had the Tivo machine grab a showing of the 1933 Marx Brothers movie Duck Soup.

I'm indulging in a little Marxian madness this evening; I haven't time to watch the whole thing just now, but a few moments of Groucho, Harpo, and Chico are refreshing after a full week.

I find myself thinking back to the early 1970s, when I was a kid. A friend up the street invited me to the church his family attended one evening for a showing of Duck Soup. I had no idea what the movie was, but at that age, no longer a child but not yet a teen, any opportunity to get out with friends is worth taking.

Now, decades later, as the movie begins with its ornate 1930's crowd scene, musical number, and fancy costumes, I wonder what my initial reaction was. What was I thinking as he movie started? How did I react at the first entrance the wise-ass Groucho and the clowny Chico and Harpo?

I can say that that experience -- watching this insanity on a screen set up in River Road Unitarian Church -- changed my life. I became, and have stayed, a Marx Brothers fan.

It helped lead me to vintage movies, to vaudeville, to absurdist theater, to wider reading, and to an acceptance of silliness in all its wonderful forms.

I'd hate to think what my life would have been without it.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

What a Law Looks Like

Congress took an action this week. It voted to name Delaware's SR1 bridge over the C and D Canal for the late Senator Bill Roth.

This caught my eye for several reasons. I take a professional interest in the names of geographic things (even man-made ones). Bill Roth was the first sitting US Senator I ever met. And I liked Bill Roth. I didn't necessarily agree with him politically, but he seemed like a nice fellow and he gathered around him a staff that did a great job. My Dad always pointed to Senator Roth's staff as a great example of how to do legislative staffing the right way.

So I was interested to hear that Senator Carper's bill to name the bridge for Senator Roth had passed. I was also interested when the Bill's text cropped up in my "Delaware" monitor.

And I was interested to see the simple language of the bill:
S. 1140

To designate the State Route 1 Bridge in the State of
Delaware as the "Senator William V. Roth, Jr. Bridge".

Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representa-
tives of the United States of America in Congress assembled,


The State Route 1 Bridge over the Chesapeake and
Delaware Canal in the State of Delaware is designated
as the "Senator William V. Roth, Jr. Bridge".


Any reference in a law (including regulations), map,
document, paper, or other record of the United States to
the bridge described in section 1 shall be considered to
be a reference to the Senator William V. Roth, Jr. Bridge.
I'm now picturing that little scrolled-up Bill featured on the old Schoolhouse Rock series dancing and singing its way across the Senator William V. Roth, Jr. Bridge.
I'm just a bill
Yes, I'm only a bill
And if they vote for me on Capitol Hill
Well, then I'm off to the White House
Where I'll wait in a line
With a lot of other bills
For the president to sign
And if he signs me, then I'll be a law.
How I hope and pray that he will,
But today I am still just a bill.

Monday, November 13, 2006

There is a Young Woman in Washington DC Who Does Not Like Us

A young woman named GreenEggsSamDC has written a blog posting titled My Campaign to Demote Delaware! on her blog Chapter 2006. (Warning: linked blog-posting contains some language unsuitable for smaller children and my Mother. Some of which may be quoted below.)
I'd like to suggest we, as a nation, take away Delaware's status as a state. It is the most worthless place in the US.
Ms. GreenEggsSamDC apparently traveled north recently on I-95 and was stuck in traffic, likely because of construction involving toll booths. It was an unpleasant experience and has led to Ms. GreenEggsSamDC characterization of our state as a "Damn cockblocking state."
An aside. This is an expression that I have not heard before. It is rich in suggestive negativeness but new to my ears.
Ms. GreenEggsSamDC suggests that Delaware be de-Stated and shared out among surrounding states and that statehood pass to some more worthy territory. She suggests Guam.

She then rehearses some of our state's unfortunate stereotypes, in arguments both for an against demotion of Delaware.

I think we should reach out to this unfortunate young woman and offer our hospitality and understanding. Perhaps we can win her back.

Or we could post her name and picture in the I-95 toll booths and have the toll-takers tell her to beat it if she tries to pass this way again.

Sunday, November 12, 2006

Please, Don't Make It So Easy

The state of Mississippi has a cute new PR campaign -- Mississippi Believe It! -- in which they take some of the stereotypes about the state and turn them neatly on their heads.

One poster, for example, has the headline "Yes, we can read. A few of us can even write." and features portraits of 12 celebrated Mississippi writers. Another reads "Yes, we wear shoes. A few of us even wear cleats."

That's a great idea, and well executed, except when it comes to the "title" element of the Mississippi Believe It! web site, which reads: "Facts about Mississippi Business, Medicine, Entertainers, Writers, Musicians, Atheletes, Arts, Healthcare, Generousity and People."

Atheletes? Generousity?

Maybe they should trade one of those writers for a proof-reader or two.

UPDATE: As of late Monday morning, the typos are fixed. Mississippi: They're quick!

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Feeling Very Tech-Savvy

I am a lifelong Redskins fan. It hasn't been a great deal of fun lately. One thing that has really tweaked me this season has been the loss of the Redskins Radio broadcast of the games. But I think I've solved the problem.

The Redskins Radio team includes Sam Huff and Sonny Jurgensen. I love listening to their call of a game. They have a wonderful history with the team and make even the dismal seasons of late enjoyable.

For many years, the Redskins Radio broadcast was available locally on WGMD. A few years ago it switched to one of the horrible rock stations upstate. I could still pull it in, though.

This season, however, Daniel Snyder -- the team owner and I think the team's jinx -- has launched his own broadcasting company and now the only place I can find the Redskins Broadcast is on-line.

I don't mind that, of course. The problem is that, for some reasons I don' really understand, the Redskins Radio call of the games -- whether on-line or over the air -- is somewhere between 15 seconds and a full minute behind the TV broadcast. This has been a sore point for Skins fans everywhere.

Today, though, I realized that I can use our new Tivo system to bring the TV and the radio call back in sync. If you pause a live broadcast via Tivo, it records the show while it waits for you to hit "play." I simply paused the TV version at the start of a play and started it when the radio broadcast reached that point.

Perfect! I have my Sam and Sonny back and don't have to listen to retired Dallas Cowboys players call Redskins games anymore.

Of course, the Redskins still suck. It's 17-0 in the second quarter. Clinton Portis is gone with a broken hand. The Skins can't score and their defense is making the Eagles look like the best offense ever in the history of football.

But at least I'm listening to my old friends again.

Saturday, November 11, 2006

There Comes A Time to Stop the Cheering

We went out to a sports-bar type of restaurant this evening. It was crowded, so we were put at a table in the bar section.

The bar features a huge television screen, on which was showing the Penn State game against Temple. Penn State won the game, 47 to 0.

The bar was crowded with Penn State fans. Alumni, I would guess. They were very proud.

With each interception by Penn State, each score, each big play, the bar crowd erupted in cheers.

But here's what puzzles me. When the score is already 41-zip in the third quarter; when the other team is completely routed; when you've put in your freshmen and they are walking all over the other team; is it really appropriate to cheer deleriosusly when your team does well?

Isn't the whole thing kind of already over?

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Friday, November 10, 2006

Report From Return Day

Ferris Wharton and Beau BidenI spent yesterday at Return Day, Delaware's ancient tradition of post-election reconciliation.

The Thursday after each election, the candidates, party leaders, their staffs, and a state's-worth of political junkies gather at the circle in Georgetown to hear the official election results, join in a patriotic parade, and ceremonially bury a hatchet to symbolize their putting the battles of the campaign behind them.

Students from the Sussex Dance Academy were scheduled to perform in the morning at the youth stage; Colleen was joining the performance. I took her over early and we spent the day at Georgetown.

The youth performances ranged from gymnasts through singers and dancers to a tiny child giving a recitation.

We walked around to see the sights before the parade. It was fun to see who I knew. I ran into my old friend Mike Short, who is now the editor of the Sussex Post. I had a chance to talk to John Schroeder, once our state representative, before redistricting following the 2000 Census. I told him that Karen and I had written him in on the ballot.

Don and Dolores BlakeyI also had a chance to say "hi" to Don Blakey, newly elected to the General Assembly as representative for the 34th District. Don has been a Levy Court Commissioner in Kent County. He's a retired educator. I knew him first when he and his wife Dolores came down to join us in a production of Big River with the Possum Point Players.

They are a talented couple. And nice folks.

The parade was long, with many carriages and cars filled with politicians. The practice is for opponents to ride together and greet the crowds together. We got to see Tom Carper and Jan Ting, Ferris Wharton and Beau Biden, Joe Biden, and many others.

Two things stood out for me.

There appear to be more beauty pageant winners in Sussex County than there are elected officials in all of Delaware.

The parade entry marching right behind the very talented African American Step-Dancing group was the Delaware Grays, part of the Sons of Confederate Veterans.

Cleaning UpI particularly liked the float by the Cape Gazette, which included a front-end loader laden with cleaned-up campaign signs and pulling a trailer with a large fake bull and the sign: "Election is Over. No More Bull."

Tuesday, November 7, 2006

Oh, For Pity's Sake

I'm on many e-mail distribution lists. I'm an information junkie.

One of the lists I'm on is the e-mail list of the "Positive Growth Alliance," a pro-developer PAC-type group formed by property-rights activists (developers) to counter the many growth-control groups that have arisen in recent years in response to what many see as out of control development in Coastal Sussex County, Delaware.

The Positive Growth Alliance people are nothing if not self-promoters. Their election day e-missive today centers around this:
For up-to-the-minute ELECTION RESULTS, please visit the POSITIVE GROWTH ALLIANCE WEBSITE and click on the link that says ELECTION RESULTS on the center of the home page.
The excessive CAPITALIZATION is theirs. not mine.

I was curious to see how this crowd might present the election results, so I dutifully clicked through to their home page and clicked on the big, red, "ELECTION RESULTS" link that I found there.

It took me directly to the Delaware Commissioner of Elections web site and its Election Results page.

Why not just send a friendly e-mail reminding people where to find the official election results? If you must direct people to your own web page, shouldn't you offer some original content? Some analysis? Some thought?

Or did they just want to count clicks?

It's Time

If you are reading this and you are a citizen of the United States of America, let me just say:


That is all. Thank you.

Sunday, November 5, 2006

How Hard Was It to Find This Guy?

Curtis Allgier, considered Public Enemy #1 in Salt Lake City, Utah, was captured today. Someone spotted his girlfriend and that led the authorities to Allgier.

I assume he was keeping out of sight; he had some, um, distinguishing features.

Saturday, November 4, 2006

Protest Song Number (Fn:Count[PROTESTSONGPOSTS])

I heard David Dye interview the singer Will Kimbrough on The World Cafe a few days ago. It's well worth a listen, especially for his song Pride, which neatly sums up much of what I've been feeling of late.

The tune is from Kimbrough's new album, Americanitis. He says, of the song:
A good friend tried to warn me about being too preachy on the CD. I responded by putting a full blown sermon, complete with slide guitar solo, on there.
He calls it a sermon; but if the thoughts are preachy, the musical style is not. The song unfolds in a laconic American folk-song version of sprechstimme, with Kimbrough quietly skewering us for some of our sins:
There's no power in pride.
Pride is a man who goes to war to save face.

And pride is a man who cannot tell the truth
if it might make him look weak.
There's no power in pride.

Our sin is pride and we know it.
We just can't bear to talk about it.

We paste those [pride] stickers right next to the fish
we bought down at the Christian Store.
I'm not bashing Jesus,
But how 'bout we read what Jesus said for once.

I say for balance we take in a little Buddha,
And Johnny Cash.
He has a point.

Thursday, November 2, 2006

Pardon Me While I Boggle. Briefly.

Here's a headline that puts my brain on "pause:"
BREAKING NEWS: Air Force to create Cyber Command
According to the full story, on Federal Computer Week's, the Air Force is planning "to bring full-scale military operations to cyberspace."
Service officials have said they view cyberspace as a strategic and tactical warfighting domain, similar to air, sea, land or space.
Oh. Goody.

Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Are You as Sick of the Election as I Am?

Don't get me wrong. It's hugely important that we all go out next Tuesday and vote. Who-ever you vote for, you must vote. We don't deserve our Democracy if we don't. (Or maybe we do?)

But I am sick of the partisans, and the TV ads, and the attacks. I'm ready to vote. Can it be election day yet?

GusOn the other hand, it was cool to run into Levy Court At-Large Candidate W.G. Edmanson at Spence's Bazaar today.

I was walking my lunch. Mr. Edmanson had rented a space in the weekly flea market that forms at Spence's each Tuesday. He was there to meet possible voters and hand-out literature and lawn-signs.

I told him that I don't vote in Kent County, but that I wished him luck. I asked him how the Spence's booth was working. He said he's "not one of those in-your-face politicians" (I think I remembered that right) and that he was just there to give things away.

He seemed like a nice fellow.

Saturday, October 28, 2006

Here's a Useful Resource for Some Delaware Bloggers

Given how closely some Delaware blogs are following and blogging the current election, I think the Center for Citizen Media's Election Day Bloggers' Legal Guide could be a help.

The idea is that bloggers can submit legal questions about blogging the election. They will be answered by Student Fellows at Stanford Law. The first example question caught my eye:
Can you be in the voting area except to vote? (Not in Delaware)
Word to the wise. (via theBivingsreport)

Friday, October 27, 2006

Please, No G's

In web-searching for the Punkin' Ale post I just wrote, I found that there are two wikipedia entries on Delaware's native sport: Punkin' Chunkin' and Pumpkin Chunking. Both contain a note that they should probably be merged.

Merged? Certainly. But leave out the G's.

In Punkin Chunkin, G's are superfluous (not that a true Chunker would ever use the word superfluous).

Dogfish Head Beer Praised, but Spelling is Questioned

Dogfish Head's Punkin Ale won a positive review from the blog Dethroner (a field guide for the modern man) today.

In Pumpkin Beer That Doesn’t Suck: Dogfish Head Punkin Ale, Joel Johnson praises Dogfish Head's fall offering as "a fully round ale with just the right balance of pumpkin, spice, and malt flavors—and just a touch of brown sugar." He suggests checking it out when one is in the New England.

New England? Hrmph! That's Delaware's beer.

At least one commenter thought that the spelling "punkin" was a pun (or its kin?), maybe based on the notion that the Dogfish version of pumpkin beer was so much better than others that it could be said (in the vernacular, of course) to be "Punking" the other beers.

I set them straight, pointing out the the beer is a part of our Punkin' Chunkin' heritage.

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Who Says the World Isn't Watching Delaware Vote?

The Indo-Asian News Service (IANS) has a story in its Diaspora section on the candidacy of Prameela Kaza, an Indian-American running against Nancy Wagner for the 31st Representative District seat in the General Assembly.

The IANS site requires login, but I found the story -- Indian American in running for Delaware house seat -- repeated on the Telugu Portal site.

Ms Kaza is a Democrat. She is no political newcomer; she is active in Kent County politics and civic life and ran against Representative Wagner four years ago.

The Telugu people are an ethnic group in India, and Telugu is an official language of that country. According to wikipedia.

So. 31st District voters: you vote for whomever you like. Just remember, though, the world is watching.

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Delaware (The Band) Update

Morty Black stopped by Mike's Musings early today. Morty is a member of the Norwegian rock band Delaware. He left a comment on my posting about that band from last month.

Mr. Black has cleared up one mystery; he says the band named itself in honor of the 1992 debut album by The Drop Nineteens. Not only is the album named "Delaware," it includes a song of that name as well. Trouser Press described it as "mid-range Dinosaur Youth aggression."

Sadly, iTunes has let me down on that one.

Morty also says "We'll definitely come by [Delaware] if we go touring the states!"

That sounds cool, Morty. Have your tour planners book you into The Bottle and Cork. You'll want to play "the greatest rock'n'roll bar in the world."

Sunday, October 22, 2006

Back from Chicago

Karen, the girls, and I went to see the Possum Point Players production of Chicago last night. It was great.

The Players are a big part of our history. On our first date, Karen and I went to a Possums show. Before kids, we were involved in many of their productions. Since kids, we've done a few, but with the girls' growing schedules, we have not been able to be as involved lately. We're still annual contributors, though, and we try to get to shows when we can.

Thematically, Chicago is a bit mature for Christina, but the choreographer for the show is a dance teacher of both of the girls, and there were cast members they both know, so we decided to just go see the show.

The Possum Point Players are a great resource for high school students in Sussex County interested in theater. This production included two kids who go to Sussex Tech with Colleen, and two others who were students at the Southern Delaware School of the Arts, including one with whom Christina did a school play a few years ago.

One of the leads was our old friend Donna DeKuyper, a Lewes neighbor. Donna and I worked together in the Possums' Big River years ago and performed Love Letters together as well. The other female lead was Becky Gaffney, second wife of a former co-worker, though I have never met her. Both ladies are strong singers and did a great job as did Lorraine Steinhoff, of Dover, as Mama.

Another old friend, John Hulse, played Amos. John has a wonderful tenor and has developed an acting talent that serves him well. It was also interesting to see Destiny Kerstetter, manager at the Schwartz Center in Dover, perform as a member of the chorus. She was the topic of a cute story in yesterday's News Journal about her having been proposed to on-stage at the Schwartz Center Thursday night.

This was a wonderful production of Chicago. I think that's a tough show for community theatre to do well, and the Possums did it very well. They pulled no punches. The cast were up to the acting challenge and the singing challenge. It was great.

And I enjoyed the traditional cellphone overture before the show. As the lights dimmed, an announcer asked that there be no flash photography and that patrons power-down their phones. What followed was an Ivesian symphony of cellphone turn-off music warbling from all points in the theatre.

Friday, October 20, 2006

OK. That's Done.

The other day I finished reading Blue at the Mizzen by Patrick O'Brian. It's the 20th and final novel in the O'Brian's Aubrey/Maturin series.

This is a series of novels about Jack Aubrey, a ship captain in the British navy during the Napoleonic wars, and his "particular friend" Stephen Maturin, ship's doctor and intelligence agent. It's a great series of novels that combines action and adventure with a Jane Austin-like close observation of personality and social interaction in the 19th century.

I started working my way through the series back in May, somewhat by chance. I had read all of those books before, of course. My brother Matt turned me and our other brothers on to the series years ago and we traded the first several books back and forth within the family, eagerly awaiting each new title. Since then I've read a few of them several times more.

After reading Master and Commander this spring, I decided to make my way through the series again. For the first few I was interspersing O'Brian novels with other sorts of books. After a bit, though, I decided to just stick to O'Brian until I finished the series. I found I couldn't wait
to get back to that world.

In the end, it took almost exactly 5 months to read all 20 novels. It was great fun. In another 5 years or so, I think I'll do it again.
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Wednesday, October 18, 2006

The Delaware Blogosphere is Starting to Look Like a Community

We've been increasingly trading links back and forth and commenting, often intelligently, on each others' blogs.

Now, Hube, at Colossus of Rhodey, offers an [un]abashedly thorough guide to the Delaware blogosphere that looks at most of the Delaware blogs. There are some on my list of Delaware blogs that he didn't cover, but he got most of them.

Hube looks at where each blogger sits on the political spectrum and which blogging software they use. He makes a judgment of the look of each blog and provides some thoughts about each blog's content.

Well done, Hube.

Also today, Bill Slawski, of Newarking, has proposed a Delaware Blogging Conference. That's an intriguing idea.
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Monday, October 16, 2006


...maybe we should be careful about trusting what we read on blogs, especially from anonymous commenters. The October issue of Management Science includes a paper entitled "Strategic Manipulation of Internet Opinion Forums: Implications for Consumers and Firms."


...maybe we need to add a few law professor bloggers to our blogrolls. Both TommyWonk and Jason point to today's News Journal editorial (Internet becomes less of a shield for bloggers) about growing legal challenges to blog-speech. Luckily, there is a Law Professor Blogger Census (Version 5.0) over at Concurring Opinions. It includes a list of law professors who are bloggers. There are 290 of them.

(Both via Resource Shelf)

Sunday, October 15, 2006

Here's a Cause Worth a Donation

I was honored last week to be quoted in a story (Teacher's torch to blaze for years) on a new scholarship fund set up in memory of former Lewes Mayor George H.P. Smith, who passed away in September of last year.

Mayor Smith's Daughter, Barbara Smith-Shelton, has founded the Hon. George H.P. Smith Memorial Scholarship to help students at Lewes' Cape Henlopen High School who plan to become teachers.

Before he was Mayor, George Smith was a highly respected teacher. That's an aspect of his life that I had mentioned in my memorial posting last year. Kim Hoey, a freelance writer and old acquaintance, found that posting and quoted one of my favorite memories of the Mayor: his school-master approach to running meetings.

The fund is being managed by the Greater Lewes Foundation. Donations can be made through the Foundation, at Box 110, Lewes, DE 19958. More information? Try the Foundation at (302) 644-0107.

By the way, there's a sweet picture of Mayor Smith posted with the Cape Gazette's memorial story last fall.

I hope you will join me in making a donation.
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Did You Know That There is a Norwegian Alternative Rock Band Named "Delaware?"

I didn't. But there is.

Petter, Morty, Joffe and Richard make up a band called Delaware, out of Drammen, Norway. They use MySpace and a blog to market themselves and have two albums out: ...and everything reminds me and Lost In The Innocence Of Beauty.

They describe their music as "characterized by vocalist Richard Holmsen's both angelic and raw, desperate voice." And they say that their concerts include "delicate, almost acoustic ballads that turn into monsters of screaming guitars and pounding drums."

Though the question is asked in their delawaremuzic community forum, I have not been able to discover why they call themselves "Delaware."

They have never been to the First State.
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Saturday, October 14, 2006

Thank Goodness for Garrison Keillor

Being horribly busy all the time, running hither and yon, and delivering the girls to the various parts of their lives (and, to be honest, my internet addiction) has led me to neglect what once was a great pleasure in my life: listening to Garrison Keillor's Prairie Home Companion every Saturday evening.

I often like the music on that show, and the gentle, subtle humor can be a nice change from the caustic broadsides we've become used to in our modern lives. But it is really the quality of his writing that I miss.

Justin, over at Down with Absolutes, has posted a great political commentary by Keillor, from back in June. That led me to a little light Googling and that led me to The Old Scout, a collection of Keillor columns.

The most recent -- The cranky man's guide to contentment -- is a great example. In it, Keillor works his way from a pleasant visit to Missoula, Montana, through various musings on happiness, past a variety of urban vexations, and so to the present political situation.

His conclusion:
The power of righteous vexation is what keeps so many old Democrats hanging on in nursing homes long past the time they should have kicked off. Ancient crones from FDR's time are still walking the halls, kept alive by anger at what has been done to our country. Old conservationists, feminists, grizzled veterans of the civil rights era fight off melanoma, emphysema, Montezuma, thanks to the miracle drug of anger. Slackers and cynics abound, not to mention nihilists in golf pants and utter idiots. Time to clean some clocks. As Frost might have written, "The woods are lovely, dark and thick. But I have many butts to kick and some to poke and just one stick."
I believe I'll add The Old Scout to my on-line reading list.

Corrected (1:18 p.m.): Corrected misattribution from Mike to Justin. Thanks, Nancy.

Friday, October 13, 2006

A Report from New Orleans

Earlier this month, my sister Margaret and her husband Lou went to New Orleans to spend a week volunteering with the St. Bernard Project a grassroots nonprofit that is working family by family and house by house to try to help rebuild the parish.

They drove down in their pick-up, packed with tools and other donations from friends and family. During their week, they helped with rehabilitating a house and organizing the Project office. They stayed in a Bed and Breakfast that wasn't too damaged and had a chance to see New Orleans both as tourists and as people driving around trying to get a job done.

They took a number of pictures. The amount of damage still evident a year later can be sobering.

Thursday, October 12, 2006

High School Football

Kick-OffSussex Tech and Caesar Rodney High Schools made-up their rained-out Friday game this past Monday afternoon. I had the day off (Thanks, Columbus!) so I was able to attend, and take a mess of pictures.

The game started at 4:30. The home stands at Tech face west, so I had to deal with looking, and photographing, into the setting sun, but the skies were clear and blue.

The CR Riders are a very good football team. They led 41 to 0 at the half, but Tech's Ravens came back with a pair of touchdowns in the second half.

Of course, I was there mostly to watch my kid play the bass in the marching band.

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

What's The Deal With the Ducks?

A DuckA comment from imsobob on one of my Peabody Duck photos on flickr led me to realize that I need to explain what's going on there.

I spent last week in the Peabody Hotel in Little Rock, Arkansas, at the annual NSGIC Conference. Downtown Little Rock itself is photogenic, but the photos I wanted to take all week were right in the Peabody Lobby. I finally got to be in the lobby at the right time of day on my last day in Little Rock.

A tradition at the Peabody Hotels is to host ducks in the lobby fountain. The Manager of the Peabody Memphis was hunting, and drinking, with a friend back in the 1930s. As a joke, they left their (then legal) live decoy ducks in the hotel fountain when they returned late one night. It has become a tradition and spread to the Little Rock and Orlando Peabody Hotels as well.

Ducks 3Each day at 11 and 5, the ducks march a red carpet. In the morning they come down on the elevator and march to the fountain. At 5 in the afternoon, they march back to the elevator and so to their rooftop home.

The last day of my conference, I was finally able to make it to the 5 p.m. march. It was great fun. I was particularly charmed by the little girl in blue.

Monday, October 9, 2006

Moved to the Inactive-Blog List

following the brush: Shae is on hiatus. But hey, she just got married! She'll be back.

The Meaning of Life, and Other Weighty Matters...: She does say "occasional..."

Red White & Blue Hens: I guess they are studying.

Upstart Radical: The last entry (a month ago) was titled "I'm Back."

It's a Small World Web

Heidi Cool, over at Case Western Reserve University, refers to an earlier Musings entry in a posting on the value of links within blog postings: From Case to Colby in 8 jumps: The value and vagaries of external links.

She'd followed links from an unrelated blog posting at Case and, within 8 links, found my entry on the Babson Gravity Monument from back in April of 2005. She points to a Colby Echo article on the monument, which I found most interesting.

Ms. Cool and I were at Colby together; she graduated a year after I did and I remember the name, I think. She certainly remembered mine.

She's right, it's the links within blog posts that make for information flow and discovery. I think we all have a duty to try to find new things to point to, to spread knowledge.

Sometimes, I'm afraid, we tend to get into ruts and blog about, and point to, the same things and the same places, over and over. I will try to break out of that mold and cast my web-net farther afield.

Sunday, October 8, 2006

Another Protest Song

The WXPN All About the Music Blog has a new protest song by James McMurtry.

McMurtry's God Bless America isn't quite the screamer that Michael Franti's Light Up Ya Lighter is, but it speaks to me:
Negotiation's just no fun
And it don't serve our interests none
Gonna turn up the heat till it comes to a boil
So we can go get that Arab oil

And we'll suck it all up through the barrel of a gun
Everyday's the end of days for some
Republicans don't cut and run
Tell me ain't you proud of what we've done
I like it.

Why is it Called "Little Rock?"

The Little RockI've just spent a week in the capital of Arkansas and I learned a few things, including why the city is called "Little Rock."

As it turns out, the city is named for a little rock formation in the bank of the Arkansas River.

The story, as I have it from Shelby Johnson, Arkansas' GIS Coordinator and our host last week, is that as European trappers and traders came up the Arkansas River there were few landmarks as they entered what is now Arkansas. Much of the land they found was low, flat and featureless.

When they came upon a bedrock outcrop the size of an elephant, it stood out in their minds and became their landmark. "Meet me after the season at the Little Rock," I imagine them saying. It would have become a natural place to trade and eventually would grow into a settlement, a town, and a capital city.

The Little Rock itself is now partly buried by the concrete base of a railroad bridge. It is accessible via a decaying footpath and has a scruffy but informative historic marker affixed to it.

Turtles 2If you visit, don't be fooled by the even littler rock in the river just off-shore. It is popular with the local turtles, but is not the little rock that gave its name to the future home of the Clinton Presidential Library.

Saturday, October 7, 2006

Home at Last

It's good to be back home, after a week away at a professional conference.

I flew back yesterday afternoon, after a meeting of the NSGIC Board of Directors. I was on the one daily flight from Little Rock to BWI, along with a few others from the NSGIC Conference. We had a pleasant gab-fest in the departure area in Little Rock and took our leave at baggage claim in Baltimore.

I was at my car by 7:00 and planned to drive a short way before stopping for supper. I figured I'd be home by 9:30.

Unfortunately, the winds from the northeast storm now off Delmarva led the Maryland Transportation folks to not open a third east-bound lane on the Chesapeake Bay Bridge, as they normally would on a Friday. Because that third lane would be on the west-bound span, and a gust could knock a vehicle into on-coming traffic, they have a wind-restriction.

The result was a crawling slow back-up from the bridge west for many miles and up Route 97, the highway from BWI to Annapolis. As it turned out, I didn't even reach the bridge until 9:30 and wasn't home until 11:30.

What fun.

Thursday, October 5, 2006

Update From Little Rock: At the Clinton Library

Clinton Library at NightI'm sorry to say that most of my photos from within the Clinton Library from the other night did not come out well enough to post on flickr. We were asked to not use flash photography, so my shots, while interesting to me, are not sharp enough for "publication."

I did get some cool shots outside.

The evening's event was sponsored by TeleAtlas, a company that DelDOT and the three Delaware counties are working with on a comprehensive statewide update of road data in Delaware. They had one of their data-gathering cars there for us to check out. These cars, and vans, and outfitted with some high-end locational data gathering tools. They are simply driven around, by highly trained folks, to find what's there.

Pretty cool.
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Tuesday, October 3, 2006

Still in Little Rock

Bridge at Dawn 2I'm still ensconced in a hotel in Little Rock, Arkansas, in the middle of a grueling week of the annual NSGIC Conference.

I've mentioned before how crazed this organization is; we meet all day, for days on end, trying to cram as much content as possible into one week. As a result, of course, I'm usually too pooped to post.

I have been trying to blog the conference on the NSGIC blog. I have been reduced, by limited web access, to one post a day (generally). I'll keep working that angle.

Thursday morning I will make a presentation on using blogs, wikis and other social media to increase communication among our user groups. I guess I'd better get to writing that.

This afternoon, I did get a chance to take an hour's walk around downtown Little Rock. With my camera, of course.

This evening, our social event was a dinner at the Clinton Presidential Library. It is a fascinating place. Very impressive. The meal was great and the crowd was interesting, as usual.

Because we were at a presidential library, we all made an effort to rise to a certain sartorial level. One long-term NSGIC leader remarked that he'd never seen the group look so classy.

Yes, I did take photos at the Clinton Library. I'll post those tomorrow.
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Saturday, September 30, 2006

Here I Am

I'm seated at a desk in a room at the Peabody Hotel in Little Rock, Arkansas, getting ready for the 2006 Annual Meeting of the National States Geographic Information Council (NSGIC), which gets started tomorrow at about 9:00 a.m.

The NSGIC conference is an important part of my professional life. It is the annual gathering of people who try to do what I try to do for Delaware's state government: coordinating the use and sharing of geospatial data among local, state, and federal agencies, along with the academic and private sectors.

There will be state GIS coordinators from probably 40 of the 50 states (maybe more), with lots of private sector folks, USGS staff, Census Bureau staff, and federal Homeland Security people. We'll meet from early morning until late at night Sunday through Thursday and finish up with a Board Meeting on Friday morning. I have the honor to serve as a member of the Board of Directors of NSGIC.

There will be breaks, and members of the group will be out late drinking beer every night. Likely without me. Lots will get done and by the end of the week I will be a wrag (even without too much partying). It's all worth it, though. This is an active, directed, and valuable group.

Riding in from the airport this afternoon, I shared the hotel shuttle with several USGS staff and , as it turned out, several folks who are in town for the annual meeting of COSLA, the Chief Officers of State Library Agencies.

One, I think, was Gary Nichols, the State Librarian of the State of Maine, with one of his staff. I think Mr. Nichols is the President of COSLA. A nice man, and interested, as I am, in the possible cross-overs between our two organizations. We are both, after all, in the business of enabling public access to information.

I was, as a graduate of Colby College in Maine, interested in talking with the Maine State Librarian. In addition, his staff member is a fellow Colby Grad, though she notes that when she was there, in the 1960's, they still had to wear skirts or coats and ties to class.

I'll have to keep an eye out for Anne Norman, the Delaware State librarian, and see if we can have a Delaware Caucus here in Arkansas.

If I can figure out how to get wireless access in the State Convention Center, next door, I plan to try to live-blog much of the NSGIC Conference on the NSGIC Blog. One of my goals for this week is to try to turn the NSGIC Blog into a group blog, recruiting and, if needed, training a few of my colleagues to add content.