Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Conceptual Inflation

I realize that I am just a cranky literalist, but there are a few instances of "conceptual inflation" that have been bugging me lately.

Riding to work this morning I heard a character in a radio commercial say that she "would be more than happy" to do something. How can you be "more than happy?"

I also keep hearing that people are "110 percent" in support of things, or "120 percent behind" something. That's just not possible.

The problem is, I think, that we have debased our conversational currency to the point that we feel a need to inflate what we say. We've been too happy to do things. We've been too much in support of each other.

So now we have to be "more than" what is reality just to keep pace.

I'm happy to say that I think it's time for a market correction. I would be 100 percent behind that.

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

I Think I Like This, Sam I Am

Dylan-parody, as an art form, is about played out. But I've never heard anything like this: Dylan Hears a Who!

Why didn't anyone else think of this? Bob Dylan (classic 60's voice version) singing the words of Dr. Seuss.

I think this version of Green Eggs and Ham is definitive. But that's just me.

Have a Cookie

CookiesChristina made peanut butter chip cookies this morning. She's home sick with what I hope won't become a serious sore throat. I've taken a sick day to nurse her away from ill health. It doesn't take much; she's a sensible kid and knows when to chill out.

My work day was to be heavy with conference calls and on-line training. I've actually been able to take part in most of that, using my cellphone, a hands-free ear-piece, and the "mute" button.

I can report that the dozen or so state GIS coordinators who took part in training for the RAMONA GIS Inventory Tool were all jealous of these cookies during this morning's call.

Friday, February 23, 2007

Thursday, February 22, 2007

A Visitor from 1919

headsI got a thin, well-worn penny in change at the Safeway this noon when I bought my little salad. It looked elderly to me, so I shuffled the other quarters and dimes out of the way with a slight shake of the hand that cupped the change. When I saw the coin clearly, I was looking at the "tails" side and saw the twin wheat sheaves. I knew I had an early one. This coin is from 1919, which makes it one of the oldest I've seen.

Oh, For Jack's Sake!

Sometimes a headline is just perfect:
Suit tries to put the 'Christ' back in 'Halloween'
This was the headline on an AP story on the News Journal web site this afternoon. A family in suburban Philadelphia are suing school officials because their 10-year old wasn't allowed to dress as Jesus Christ for Halloween.

The school has a policy against promoting specific religions, according to the story, and "the boy and his mother are Christians who object to the pagan elements of Halloween."

If I may be multiply politically incorrect for a moment, let me say that here we have dueling stupidness.

Christian fundamentalists, please calm down. It's Halloween. Just a day when kids put on costumes and ask for candy. Grow up and let the kids be kids.

School administrators, settle down too. If the boy wants to dress as Christ, let him. If he's proselytizing and annoying the other kids, I suspect they'll sort the little prick out in their own way. There's no reason to let this escalate into a media case.

This is just so stupid. And now we have a story for everyone to comment on. This will not go well.

Though it does give me a great example of what depresses me about the anonymous commenting on the News Journal web site. Someone calling him- or herself SaneHatter had this to say:
GOOD! About time people of Christian faith stood up to the anti-christian morons in this country with their hypocracy and whinny crybaby I'm offended crap. God bless you son, may you win many times over.*
I followed the links back to the whole wonderful collection of SaneHatter's thoughts. This is a very unpleasant and angry person.

* (No, I did not bother to edit for spelling or grammar)

Monday, February 19, 2007

SiriuXM? I Say "Yes!"

There's word this evening that Sirius and XM, the two satellite radio competitors, plan a "merger of equals." Looking at this from a purely personal standpoint, I think this could be a very good thing.
Sirius and XM said as a result of the merger it hoped to offer listeners an "a la carte" option, allowing them to pick and choose the channels they wanted, such as Sirius' "Martha Stewart Living Radio" or XM's "Theme Time Radio Hour" with music legend Bob Dylan.
I like this idea. I chose Sirius based on their jam-band and NPR offerings. I regret the fact that all the baseball games are on XM, now maybe I will have a chance to get those as well.

Some object to this merger based on the idea that it would create a monopoly which might result in higher costs to consumers. That's a valid concern, but I think it would be worth it if we, as listeners, get a wider range of choices.

Our First Husband/Wife Blogging Combo?

I was pleased last month to discover Dino's Journal, a blog by an Indonesian gent who has moved to Newark to work on his MBA at the University of Delaware. This week-end, my internet drift-net caught a post by Dina Hakimi, who had posted a photo of Lehigh Road, in Newark.

Her "About Me" includes a note that she is from Yogyakarta, Indonesia. How many Indonesians, and from that city, I wondered, can there be in Newark?

So I read on and discovered that Ms. Dina is married to Mr. Dino. He refers to her as Mita and includes her in his blog-roll.

It has me wondering whether there are any other husband/wife bloggers in Delaware.

Meanwhile, it will be interesting to read the impressions of two very new newcomers to our little state.

Saturday, February 17, 2007

Photo-Haiku #1

Three ShellsOcean Beach, Winter.
Three shells washed onto the sand.
Wind blows. Time passes.

Friday, February 16, 2007

Is It Something About Places Called Delaware?

My standing Google search for Delaware mentions turned up a posting from a blog called "I Live in Delaware County" today that had me fooled for a moment. I thought I'd discovered a new Delaware Blog.

The title -- Sounding off on "Sound Off" -- threw me off.

One of Delaware's two daily newspapers, the State News, features a regular "Sound Off" column in which readers can call in, anonymously, and comment. It's a good example of just how foolish you can be when you are speaking anonymously.

It turns out that the Daily Times in Delaware County features that same low level of public input. At least according to one Delaware County blogger:
Sound Off is supposed to be a part of the paper that gives a chance for the "people" to speak. The problem with that concept, however, is that the average person is completely stupid and misinformed and basically just wants to read their messages in the paper the next day.
That sounds so familiar, though I will admit that I haven't read the Sound Off column in the State News for years. I can't take it. I do still read some of the comments on the News Journal's web site, though it pains me.

Here's an example:
What a friggin moron. Gives a false name, most likely an undocumented alien, and a total moron to boot. Why is it that the second I read " a Georgetown man", did I suspect he was going to be hispanic. Go figure.
If nothing else, having a look at some of the comments in Delaware County's paper makes me feel a bit better: it's not just here.

Wednesday, February 14, 2007


I rolled 66,666 miles on my Prius yesterday during the Commute from Hell. I knew I would. But I also knew that I was not going to want to try to catch the moment of sixes with my camera, given the weather and the state of the roads.

66652So, while I sat, stopped dead in traffic, south of Dover, I took a blurry shot of 66,652 miles. I figure we can all agree to mentally add 14 when we see this photo.

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

The Commute From Hell

Something bad happened on Route 1 where it crosses the St. Jones River this evening. As a result, my Dover to Lewes commute -- usually 45 minutes -- took about three and a quarter hours.

I knew it was going to be a slow ride when I was leaving Dover. There had been an inch or so of wet snow during the day. As the afternoon turned to evening, there was sleet and freezing rain. The roads were slick.

Coming up onto State Route 1 from Route 113, there were two spin-outs. It looked like some folks had tried to go too fast. By the time I passed the main entrance to the Dover Air Base, it was clear that things were slowing way down.

TrafficI was behind a tallish pick-up truck, so I couldn't see ahead. Soon we were nearly at a full stop. Half an hour, we had crept forward until I was at the big sweeping right-hand bend, just past the airbase. That gave me a view ahead. I could see flashers on the bridge and traffic just squeezing by in one lane.

An hour later, just as I was approaching the bridge, I found that the Fire Police were turning us back and sending us north again.

I made a pit stop near the base entrance -- bathroom, dinner, and a cup of coffee -- and compared notes with other roadfugees. A state commuter van-full of DelDOT folk had heard that it was a multi-car pile-up, with injuries and maybe a fatality. I hope not.

From there, I joined a slow crawl of commuters headed down Alternate 113 towards Little Heaven. When we rejoined the main highway, there was plenty of traffic. I couldn't tell whether the bridge had re-opened or not.

As I headed south, the road got less slick. It was clear that the weather down this way was more rain than snow for most of the day.

I walked into my house at about 7:45. I had left the office at 4:30.

Sunday, February 11, 2007

Incorrect? Incorrect Like A Fox!

Like many other people in attendance at the Lewes Fire Hall the other night for a public meeting on the update of the Sussex County Comprehensive Land Use Plan, I was astounded by a claim made by Rich Collins, the sunnily optimistic conservative spokes-speaker of the pro-development lobby in Sussex County:
Mr. Collins, who also represents the Positive Growth Alliance, said the problem may be that Sussex County isn’t growing quickly enough. He based that on estimates that show the county population is rapidly growing older and the death rate is exceeding the birth rate. (From Sussex’s land future debated, by Michael Short, Sussex Post)
This report, while accurate, doesn't convey the full extent of what Mr. Collins claims. What he said was, "growth may not be our problem, maybe the lack of growth" is the problem.

If you listen to the county's MP3 of that part of the proceedings (About a minute or two in), you find Rich quoting from the latest Delaware Population Consortium population projections series. He points to the projected amount of population growth, which the Consortium reports in 5-year increments, and says, accurately, that the amount of new population added to the county is projected to drop from 17,867 new residents added between 2000 and 2005 to 12,055 new residents added between 2020 and 2025.

Mr. Collins' conclusion? "Now, I don't have my calculator, but thats, what, about a 33 percent decline in growth."

Rich is either very adept at math on the fly, or he did the calculations before-hand and his aw-shucks act is just that.

What those numbers represent is a 32.5 percent difference between the rate of growth over the last half-decade and the projected rate of growth 20 years from now. The difference is largely due to the fact that, as a retirement area, eastern Sussex County will continue to have a declining birth rate and a burgeoning death rate. That's just demographics. What will keep population change on the positive side will be continued strong migration into Sussex County.

In fact, if you look at the whole of the Consortium's projections, you see that Sussex County is expected to grow by almost 73,000 people between now and 2030. That's a 40 percent growth in population and equal to moving all of the current population of Wilmington, plus a few neighborhoods worth of Elsmere, into Sussex.

I hesitated to write about this. I'm employed by the State Planning Office, which is often at odds with Mr. Collins. I would have let it go had it not made it into the news reports. My motivation to address this is mostly because I also serve as the secretary of the Delaware Population Consortium and take some pride in the work that that group does. I feel a responsibility to step in when it looks like the Consortium's projections are being mis-used.

Mr. Collins may simply be mistaken; he may simply not understand the data he is looking at. But I don't think so. I think Rich is trying to muddy the discussion and sow seeds of doubt about the extent of the problem facing Sussex County.

Saturday, February 10, 2007

Searching for Bay Ice and Finding, Again, a White Deer

As we went through another in a string of very cold days today, I started wondering whether there might be ice anywhere in the Delaware Bay. Driving up and down the state this week, I have seen ice on the ponds and some of the slower rivers. And there were ice chunks in the Chesapeake and Delaware Canal.

So I decided to pay another visit to the point at Cape Henlopen and take a look.

Bay Ice 4I found some ice; thin floes blown ashore on the inside curve of the point. The ice was a few inches thick, and spread out into the shallowest part of the bay, towards the lighthouse.

I also found the white deer that I'd spotted on my last trip to Cape Henlopen Park.

White Deer ReduxThis time I got a clearer photo of the deer's head, which is brown. That suggests that this is a deer in moult, and not an albino, as I had first thought. In fact, this may be another animal entirely.

In any case, it was fun to see this. I just wish my camera was better suited to long-range telephoto work.

Evidence That There Is Hope

Spelling BeeWe spent this morning at the Indian River School District Spelling Bee where Christina was a contestant in the fifth grade division. She was one of the top four spellers in fifth grade at the Southern Delaware School of the Arts and so was sent to the District-wide contest as one of the representatives of her school.

I was loosely familiar with this event. Christina's older sister Colleen was a contestant herself one year.

Christina did well; she lasted past the preliminary rounds but stumbled on a word that, without the pressure of competition, she would have spelled correctly. She came out into the audience to sit with us and spelled almost every subsequent word in the contest correctly in a whispered aside to her mother and me.

An SDSA classmate of Christina's was the winner. He was a strong speller, though the young man who placed second seemed the more confident. I think that confidence proved to be his downfall. Almost all the others took advantage of their right to write down the word to see the spelling before answering to the judges. This kid never touched pencil to paper; in each round he simply paused in thought and then spelled his words. I believe the lack of the letter he dropped from "influence" would have been obvious to him had he written it out first.

I was pleased to see that the final five spellers were all boys. It may be an erroneous stereotype, but I would have expected the girls to be the better spellers. I'm glad I was proven wrong.

Thursday, February 8, 2007

(Some of) What I Like About snow

Winter, Legislative Mall 2
We got a moderate amount of snow in Delaware this week. It was very cold, so our snow was wonderfully fluffy. We're more used to heavy wet snow.

Not this time. This week's snow was more like what they see well up north. As a result, our scant two inches gave us maximum visual pleasure.

We have gotten so little snow of late that it doesn't take much to satisfy my snowfall jones. For a while.

Tuesday, February 6, 2007

Brief Praise for a Few Politicians

I've noticed two neat news briefs out on the web that give me some hope for our political class.

Let's Talk
Out west in Utah, a state representative has a wiki site up to bring the grass-roots folks into the legislative discussion. Politicopia uses wiki pages to allow for pro and con discussions of bills before the Utah legislature. It's getting some national attention; I found it via the NCSL blog The Thicket.

Representative Steve Urquhart says the idea started to develop some years ago:
Because I wanted to change the fact that people-related-to-me often outnumbered people-not-related-to-me at town meetings, I invited my constituents to join me in a hayfield for hot-air balloon rides and donuts.
That didn't really get him any more input, but he kept thinking about ways to get more feedback from folks. A chain of friends, contacts, brainstorming and lucky breaks eventually led to the use of a wiki site to allow for community discussions of bills and issues.

I think this bears watching. And maybe adopting. Rep. Urquhart's blog is worth a look as well.

Does He Have a Prayer?
Presidential handicappers aren't too sanguine about Mike Huckabee's chances to get the Republican Party's nomination for President, but I like the guy. I have several colleagues in the GIS world who worked in his government in Arkansas and report that he is practical, no-nonsense sort. In the several interviews I've heard, Mr. Huckabee sounds like a decent and smart guy.

I found more evidence in a posting on the Wall Street Journal's Washington Wire blog: Huckabee: Families, Not Schools, Should Teach Prayer.
The family that prays together doesn’t have to worry about the absence of government-mandated prayer in public schools, Republican presidential candidate Mike Huckabee told a group of reporters today.
A good point. And:
Huckabee said he never could understand why so many people “railed against (the absence of) prayer in schools when they didn’t even pray at home.”
Governor Huckabee was formerly a Southern Baptist Minister.

Thursday, February 1, 2007

Wanted (Desperately): A Sense of Humor

I've been missing Molly Ivans, and I didn't even know it.

America needs to lighten-up. We take ourselves far too seriously. We're losing the ability to laugh at ourselves, and we need that ability, lest we forget how truly foolish we all are.

Attack of the Cartoon Goofies
A guerrilla marketing campaign for a TV cartoon paralyzed parts of Boston this week. As part of a marketing campaign for Aqua Teen Hunger Force, panels of LED pixels portraying a pair of pusillanimous characters from the cartoon were placed around several cities over the last few weeks. Flickr-user xjohnpaulx found them in Philadelphia earlier this month. Only in Boston was this seen as a possible terrorist attack.

From the close-up photos of one of the devices that I've seen, it should have been pretty obvious that these aren't any sort of bomb. But I suppose someone spotted one, thought it suspicious, and called the authorities.

And if anything is clear these days, we take stuff terribly seriously.

The devices were blown up. The two young men who put them up were arrested, charged, and released on bail. Luckily, they see the humor. They refused to talk with reporters about anything but the history of hair styles. Watch the second video in this link. It's worth it.

Politician, Stifle Thyself
Can Joe Biden be elected president? He's certainly qualified, but some people are worried about his electability. Other people hate him with an astoundingly unreasoning passion.

Senator Biden got in all sorts of trouble this week; as far as I can tell it was because he speaks like me. Joe Biden forgot to measure, focus-group-test, and vet his words before he made what he thought was a flattering remark about Barak Obama.

I can understand how those words could be construed as insulting, but their intention was so incredibly clearly not insulting. Senator Obama didn't seem insulted.

But our political culture demands that we take any utterance at its worst, with no sense of humor whatever.

This is Where I Miss Molly Ivans
Molly Ivans was as sharp a political observer as this nation has ever seen. Her columns, looking at the wonderful world of Texas politics and later at the odd reality of national politics, were biting, but funny.

Back in 1993, she wrote a column (The Fun's in the Fight) in which she encourages activists to keep their sense of fun as they fight for their causes. She tells about great characters and how they spiced up their times. She describes the reaction of Austin progressives to a march by bussed-in KKK folks (Mass mooning).
So keep fightin' for freedom and justice, beloveds, but don't you forget to have fun doin' it. Lord, let your laughter ring forth. Be outrageous, ridicule the fraidy-cats, rejoice in all the oddities that freedom can produce. And when you get through kickin' ass and celebratin' the sheer joy of a good fight, be sure to tell those who come after how much fun it was.
We need to find this spirit again.