Friday, June 30, 2006

Now It's Half Way

HalfwayI rolled 50,000 miles in my Prius on my commute home the other day. I was just coming into Five Points and was able to take this photo while waiting in the left-turn lane to head towards Lewes.

I figure I'll keep this car until just before I hit 100,000 miles. It has taken me about 20 months to roll 50,000. Next Prius in 2008?

This mileage stone isn't as fun as when I hit 22,222 or 44,444, but worth noting anyway.

Update: Update

As you can see, I decided to go back to he clean, minimalist look. I have started rebuilding the sidebar, but I am now headed out to mow the grass. I'll play more with this later!
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Wait. What's Going On Here?

I had a major blog publishing malfunction last night. I don't know the technical details, but my understanding is that Blogger fainted for a moment while adding last evening's post. The result was that my blog template was corrupted.

I believe that the easiest solution is to re-select a template and re-publish in toto. I thought it might be a good excuse to try a new look. Or two. What you see now may not be what you see tomorrow.

I will have to re-add various links and widgets to the sidebar after I make a final template choice.

I was momentarily annoyed. However, this is the first major problem I've had with Blogger in nearly two years of blogging. And Blooger is, after all, a free service.
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Thursday, June 29, 2006

Senior Delinquent?

We live in a wonderful small town that has been colonized by retirees the last few years. In fact, the whole Lewes/Rehoboth area has attracted a large number of retired and nearly retired folks. We're used to seeing more white hair than brown.

This morning though, an older gentleman surprised my eye.

I had an early dentist appointment and was heading out for work about an hour later than usual. I stopped by the new WaWa for a coffee treat (I'd been a brave little dental patient).

As I stepped out of my car, I noticed a man squatting against the side wall of the store. He wore dungarees and a tank-top tee shirt and a pair of those slip-on canvas sneakers. His hair was only a little long, but was lightly greased back in a modified DA.

He had a cigarette cupped in one hand and he stared off into space as he took a long, deep drag. Then he stood up, flicked the half-smoked butt out into the parking lot and slouched into the store.

I couldn't help thinking: "senior delinquent."
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Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Fifth Golf Game of 2006

I played another practice round at Midway Par 3 this evening.

The course was in good shape, though there was plenty of storm blown leaf and tree-bit around.

I played two balls on each hole and kept two scores: good ball and bad ball. Good ball me scored a 62, eight over par. Bad ball me played, well, badly, scoring a (shudder) 82.

I was experimenting with different swings and different clubs. Full swing with the pitching wedge? Or short swing with the 9-iron?

I was happy with my swing, though I have a bad tendency to pull the ball.
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Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Music. Two Very Different Sorts.

I have two very different music links to share. One is a rocking protest song I heard on the way home from work this afternoon. Another is a neat flash-based free-form music tool that I find soothing.

Who Said No One Writes Protest Songs Anymore?
Driving home this evening I found that the weird weather was scrambling the local NPR station. So I punched up the "Jam-On" station on my satellite radio. They played a new song from a soon-to-be-released album, Yell Fire!, by Michael Franti.

I think I've heard of Franti. He and his band Spearhead have been around for many albums. But I don't think I could have picked one of his songs from the musical mix out there. That may change.

The song was called Light Up Ya Lighter. It's one of an album's worth that he wrote and recorded following a non-USO tour of Iraq, Israel and Palestine. Over a tight hip-hop/reggae beat, Franti does a swinging reggae sort of rapping. He has a fairly direct take on the Iraq war:
The army recruiters in the parking lot,
Hustling the kids there juggling pot.
"Listen young man, listen to my plan.
Gonna make you money, gonna make you a man."
Bam, bam.
Here's what you get: An M16 and a kevlar vest.
You might come home with one less leg,
But this thing'll surely keep a bullet out your chest.
So come on, come on. Sign-up. Come on.
This one is nothing like Viet Nam.
Except for the bullets. Except for the bombs.
Except for the youth that's gone.
(Appologies to Mr. Franti. I was taking dictation from the PC speakers.)
Something about this tune really grabbed me. I like the energy. I like the rhymes. I like where the music lives: at the place where rock, rap, and reggae overlap. You can check it out on this MySpace link (I never thought I'd type those words!). The Spearhead website has several free downloads, including the first single, the title tune, from the new album.

I also plan to keep an eye on this guy on iTunes and buy some of his tunes when the album is released.

On The Other Hand....
I found a site called The Pianola a few days back. This is a flash-based application, entirely on-line, that uses little squares, floating in an enclosed space, to control a variety of tones.

The squares play sounds as they bounce off the walls, floor, roof and each other. They are affected by gravity, and their motion changes over time. You can combine tones yourself or start with several pre-sets, from Beethoven to more modern offerings. I particularly like the pre-set titled "F. Low."

This is a wonderful tool for on-line chill-out time.

Sunday, June 25, 2006

Return With Us Now to Those Funky Days of Sesame Street

Back in 1973, Stevie Wonder and his band were guests on Sesame Street. They performed a great version of Superstition (YouTube).

I got such a kick out of this this morning that I had to post a link.

Sesame Street went on the air in 1969. I was already seven years old and too cool for "children's television." It was only as I became an adult that I caught on to what a great show Sesame Street can be. We used to watch it in college and I returned to it when I became a dad.

Watching this clip, I found myself wanting to see Elmo interact with a younger Stevie Wonder. Irrational, I know, since Elmo is a latter-day Muppet. But I think that Elmo is the coolest hipster they've had on Sesame Street in a long time. Even if some fuddy-duddies did dismiss his classic Elmo's Song.

This clip also makes me nostalgic for the days when music was performed live on television. The days when singers really sang and musicians actually were pictured playing instruments. The days when the performance might actually differ from the recorded version.

Reality. How I miss it.

Friday, June 23, 2006

Fourth Golf Game of 2006

Follow Through
I took a half-day's vacation today to play a round of golf with several friends at Delcastle Golf Course, between Wilmington and Newark. The game was an unofficial "Annual DGS Golf Outing" organized by Sandy Schenck, a geologist at the Delaware Geological Survey -- the DGS -- and my partner in crime in organizing the Delaware GIS Community. That's Sandy teeing off on a par 3 above.

We were joined by another DGS geologist and by two guys from the private sector part of the GIS world. We've all known each other for few years and always enjoy spending time together. We had some good golfers along. And me.

The new clubs Karen gave me worked well. They are well-balanced and feel suited to my swing. I'm starting to hit some shots that I'm proud of. I carded a 108; well over par but not bad for me. Sandy broke 100; he said it was the first time.

I liked Delcastle. It's an older, established course. Unlike many of the courses in my part of Sussex County. Also unlike the courses I most often play, Delcastle has topography. There are ups and downs and rolling fairways. Very nice.

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Thursday, June 22, 2006

What It Must Be Like to Be an Adult

Last night I had the interesting experience of chairing a portion of a meeting of the Lewes Planning Commission.

I've been a member of the commission for some time now. I have served as the Commission's Secretary. This spring, I was elected Vice-Chair.

Our Chair, Kay Carnahan, now works for a local real estate broker. Because her company has the applicant who was before the Planning Commission last night as a client, she recused herself. Responsibility for chairing the meeting fell to me.

This was a contentious application. It would be a small land use change, in comparison to all else that is going on around our town in the county, but it is almost in the center of town. Surrounding land owners object to the subdivision, at least in part because it would change the views of the Canal and waterfront hat they now enjoy. I understand why they would oppose the subdivision on those grounds. They also have concerns about drainage, which we share, though our engineers, and the local soil conservation office (which has jurisdiction over drainage), have approved of the project.

In the end, we voted to forward the application to the City Council with a recommendation for approval and with a statement of concern about drainage issues. I think that that was the appropriate action.

To get there, though, required several hours of presentation, questions, statements of opposition, and discussion. In chairing the meeting, I had to keep things under control, move things along, and make sure that everyone had a chance to speak. That included members of the Planning Commission who opposed the project and those who were wiling to send it on to the Council. There was also a young lawyer representing one of the opponents; she presented varying technical and legal objections in thick, lawyerly language.

I was glad that we had our City Solicitor along to advise us. I was also glad that the Mayor and several members of City Council were in the audience (along with a Council member who sits, ex officio, on our Commission).

I have to say that I was nervous going in to the meeting. I have run many meetings in my work for the State, but this was my first attempt at running a formal, legal meeting of an official city body. But, I had good advice from the Chair, before the meeting. I also had great help from the solicitor. The Commission members showed their professionalism and the tradition of collegial relations that we have established. And the people of Lewes, those for the proposal and those opposed, were polite and kind.

Our form of governance works. We have formal processes and large representative bodies for a reason. Not all interests are always satisfied. People will always leave a meeting like that feeling that they did not get their way. Not everyone is happy. But I think we all agree that we followed our format, we treated everyone with respect, and we did our best.

I think the meeting went well and I am proud to have been able to Chair a meeting that dealt with serious and contentious issues in such a gentle, polite way.

Monday, June 19, 2006

Third Golf Game of 2006

At Least I'm Consistent
I played a practice round of 18 holes at the Midway Par Three this evening. Karen surprised me with new clubs for Father's Day and I wanted to get a feel for them before a game I plan to play upstate on Friday. That will be on a fairly long course, with real golfer-type guys. I don't want to be too embarrassed.

The Midway course is all short par threes, but there is a variety of lengths and the greens are in very good shape. It's a good place to work on your short game. I'll try to get out to a driving range at lunch some day this week as well.

For many of the holes, I was hitting two balls. On the 15th hole, 105-yards, I tried the 8-iron. Both shots were pin-high, but both were hooked a bit left.

I was astounded out how similar the two shots were. They ended up about a foot apart!
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Sunday, June 18, 2006

Tracking the Jacaranda

As I noted last month, I have been nursing a Jacaranda tree in a pot on my front deck. This is a tree that my friend Sandy had started and passed along to me. I let it get too tall for comfort, so this spring I pruned it rather drastically. Now, I'm pleased to see it growing again.

Being obsessive by nature, and blessed with a digital camera, I have started photographing this tree each week and posting the results in a flickr photoset.

Starting this small project reminds me of a project I thought about, but never started, back before digital photography. There's a lovely old Sugar Maple tree that stands alone in a field on my commute from Lewes to Dover. Years ago, I took a photo of this tree and thought about taking a regular series of photos, over time, to track its growth and changes.

But I put off starting that project. Then came the great ice-storm of some winters ago, which hit that tree hard. It was greatly reduced for a few years. Just as it started coming back, work began on Sugar Maple Farms, a development in that field. They've preserved the tree, but the view is not quite the same.

Ah, well.

Friday, June 16, 2006

More on the Update

As I mentioned the other day, the folks who run the web portal for Delaware State government are looking for opinions as they think about ways to improve the services.

They have announced a Focus Group meeting for next Wednesday (6/21/06) and invite users to take a quick Online Survey about the existing portal.

I've had a few good comments on my earlier post on this subject, which I will pass on to the portal team. Other thoughts?

Is This Legal?

Sign 4

It is tacky, I know that much.

There are at least four of these truck-mounted billboards on my commute. They seem to be a way to get a billboard up without getting it properly permitted as a permanent sign.

I wonder of these are regulated? Or are they a way to take advantage of a loophole?

I imagine Fritz, over at Sneaking Suspicions, would know the answer.

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Thursday, June 15, 2006

Tags? Yes, Tags

I'm experimenting with adding tags to my blogger posts. I'll be playing around with formatting for a bit.

I feel it is important to try to grow. Or, I was getting bored.

Busy, Busy, Busy

Good heavens, I've been getting sparse in my blogging lately. I'm not really sure why.

We've been busy. We're in the transition from school-year to summer schedules. The girls have been out of school for a week now. Karen's year-end in-service sessions ended yesterday. We're not quite into our summer groove yet.

The girls are in final rehearsals for their dance recital on Saturday. Karen was at the Seaford Senior Center for a concert with her church bell choir this evening. It gave me a small amount of alone time.

I haven't been entirely sure what I want to blog about lately. Political posts seem out of my league; the Delaware political blogging world has become quite heated recently. Much of the arguing is about the race for State attorney General this fall. I'm not sure I care that much about that race.

I've not had a lot of time to take new photos, though I hope to get back into the groove soon.

I guess I'll have to do better.

Sunday, June 11, 2006

Second Golf Game of 2006

Things You Never Expect to See on the Golf Course
Things You Never Expect to See on the Golf Course

I played 18 holes with Andy Southmayd this morning at Bethany Bay. We were surprised by this dead fish on the first fairway. Despite that omen, we had a good round.

I surprised myself with some decent shots and scored a few pars. We were fairly even through the first 9 holes, but Andy puled away over the second 9 and beat me by several shots.

Bethany Bay is a pleasant, though little, course. We had to play through some random sprinkler activations.

We were also interested to note that the one par-4 on the course is being shortened to a par 3. There is a row of garages that back up to the present seventh fairway. They appear to take something of a beating, though, so the hole is being re-configured.

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Saturday, June 10, 2006

What Do You Suppose is Next for this "Internet" Thing?

This week I took part in a focus group for the Government Information Center (GIC), a small office in the Delaware Department of State charged with managing the state's internet portal: They are studying ways to improve the usefulness of the internet as a tool for communication between government and constituents.

I maintain a web site for the Office of State Planning Coordination, Livable Delaware, and the Delaware Geographic Data Committee. I believe that the web can be a very useful tool, but it takes work and thought. I was pleased to see the guys at the GIC putting resources into this effort and I will be interested to see what they come up with.

Some of the things we discussed included taking advantage of the growing "social networking" phenomenon. Weblogs are a big part of that movement. I think that the kind of direct citizen involvement represented by blogs could be a benefit to a government web presence. Communication, after all, should be at least two-way.

I do see a potential problem in the trend towards anonymous blogging. Government leaders are going to be nervous about letting people comment anonymously; they'll be worried about what sort of things gets posted. As I have noted in the past, I share some of that concern, but I do think there are ways around the problem.

First, I'm beginning to see degrees of anonymity. Some of us, of course, are out here entirely as ourselves. Anonymous folks with their own blogs will at least have a fairly consistent nom-de-web. Though we may not know who they are in the flesh and blood world, we at least have a sense that we know the web personas like Hube, Del, delathought and others by their writings. Further, we know where to find them on-line if they start to get abusive in other people's blogs.

But there are also readers and commenters who are completely anonymous and feel no compunction about posting derogatory, abusive and unhelpful trash. To some extent, the community of weblogs and bloggers will self-police, controlling the anonymous trashers with a collective moral authority. But there will always be those who pollute the webways.

Any moves towards a more collaborative state government portal will have to take that into account. There are collaborative sites out on the net that have made strides towards enabling collaborative on-line work while keeping the trash to a minimum. My gold standard are sites like MetaFilter, Flickr, and, though these require strong moderators to police them.

I think we can find ways to open up the state's web presence to get more feedback from the public, but it will take careful planning by the state government folks and forbearance and help from the on-line citizenry.

As a start, I'd like to ask my fellow Delaware bloggers, many of whom are listed in my blogroll, for their ideas. What would you like to see on the Delaware portal? What would be useful? What are we doing right? What are we doing wrong? What can you add?

Thursday, June 8, 2006

Yes, Tears Were Shed

Colleen graduated from eighth grade this evening. Today was the last day of school for the year for both girls. This evening, we gathered in the lunchroom/auditorium at the Southern Delaware School of the Arts (SDSA) to watch Colleen and her classmates graduate.

Colleen is one of the two dozen or so who have attended SDSA from first through eighth grade. They have been a part of the school for its entire history. Their first grade year was the first year SDSA was open.

I remember visiting the first grade classrooms to show the kids my hand-drum collection. In second grade I read to the class. I remember watching a lesson or two in third grade. For fourth grade, I visited the Smithsonian with Colleen's class. I think it was in fifth grade that I showed them the Delaware DataMIL. About then, I started adding visits to Christina's classrooms, and they all start to melt together in my memory.

Original SDSA principal Tim Fannin returned from Florida for the ceremony this evening. He gets great credit for starting the school, as does Indian River School Superintendent Lois Hobbs, who had the original idea. Both of those educators deserve our thanks.

It was an emotional night for the kids. For Karen and I, it was a very, very proud night. We were pleased to have my folks and Karen's parents sitting with us as we watched Colleen make short speech and walk away from eighth grade.

Next up: Sussex Technical High School. Ironically, one of the strongest academic schools in our area.

Sunday, June 4, 2006

More Beachcombing

Colleen was away on a trip to an amusement park today with the Junior Honor Society. Karen, Christina and I spent a few hours on Lewes Beach; the Bay Beach, up the way from the public city beach.

Christina and I took a beachcombing walk up the beach to Roosevelt Inlet. Along the way, we found pebbles and shells and boats. We got to watch Horseshoe Crabs mating and we visited with a pair of whelks.

Another beautiful Sunday on the beach.

Saturday, June 3, 2006

Monthly Blogroll Cleanup

It's time to once again go through the blogroll and clean out the sites that have stalled out. I have a general "one month" rule; no updates in a month (or so) and I remove a site. I reserve the right to violate that rule, of course. I am the decider.

Delmarva Dealings
, which kept up a sometimes angry response to the politics of Salisbury, in Maryland, seems to have folded.

McLefty, out of Milford, may have left.

More useless yet interesting info from Delaware, from Wilmington, has been quiet for more than a month.

Jeff, the stay-at-home Dad from Bear, hasn't had anything to say on his No Ma'am, this IS my job for a while.

Posts at the first slate were down to about once a month. Not much happening there.

There are a few others that I'm sometimes tempted to remove because of their general mean-spiritedness, but I haven't. Yet.

Thursday, June 1, 2006


I am very tired this evening.

Today was the 2006 Delaware GIS Conference: Patterns of Change. I am, if only unofficially, the State GIS Coordinator for Delaware; I serve as host and emcee for this conference each year. I also serve on the Conference Planning Committee.

We started with a series of GIS workshops on Wednesday, followed by a Vendor's Reception/Conference Social Wednesday evening. It was nice to be able to have all the set-up done and have the vendors in place the night before the conference.

We had a bit more than 200 people registered and a nice crowd actually showed up. We had many interesting presentations and speakers and lots of great vendors.

It was great fun, but the few days before are always a time of great nervousness and spurts of work. The day of the conference itself is a marathon. My job is to be the public face of things, start the plenary session with a sense of energy, meet, greet, glad-hand and take photos.

By the end of the closing plenary I was dragging, but I think our event was once again a success.

So now I am worn out, but happy.