Saturday, June 30, 2007


At 10:35:20 p.m. today, Senate Bill 89 passed in the Delaware House of Representatives. It now goes to Delaware Governor Ruth Ann Minner for (I hope) her signature.

I have been working over the last two years to get this legislation, AN ACT TO AMEND TITLE 29 OF THE DELAWARE CODE RELATING TO GEOSPATIAL DATA, enacted. It formalizes the Delaware Geographic Data Committee, the community of geospatial data users I have worked with for many years. It adds a high-level Executive Committee and sets out some serious goals and objectives.

This brings Delaware closer to the standard for state GIS Coordination set in the NSGIC Fifty States Initiative. It will mean more work for me, but it is work I welcome.

So, You Want One of Them iPhone Thingies?

I don't know if you noticed, but there was a frenzy yesterday. A frenzy over a new product.

Folks from all around the nation lined up, camped out, waited sometimes patiently for a chance to spend a good deal of money on a shiny new tech-toy.

Was it worth it? Time will tell.

I do understand the desire for an iPhone. It's smaller. Faster. Shinier. Packs lots of other products into little space.

But do we really need it? We already have tools that serve the functions found in the iPhone. We just don't have them all in one small place.

The iPhone may be like the iPod. Eventually, we may all have one. But I think I will wait for a bit. I don't need to spend that much money for functionality that I already have. And I'm put off by the fact that the iPhone only works with ATT; their monthly plans for the use of the thing seem pretty steep.

I can wait.

Friday, June 29, 2007

Well Said, Sir

There was a workshop yesterday focused on the effects of growth and land-use change in Sussex County. It was put on by a new group at the University of Delaware and brings together two of my several professional interests, land-use planning and geospatial data tools. It might have been interesting to attend, but it was scheduled against the quarterly meeting of the Delaware Geographic Data Committee, the statewide gesospatial data users' group that I run.

Molly Murray was there, though, and wrote about it for the News Journal. In her story, UD work targets Sussex growth, she quotes the guest speaker Thomas Hylton, of the nonprofit Save Our Towns Inc., on the value of dense development with dedicated open space over the sort of sprawl patters that we often see.
"Sprawl is incredibly expensive to build and maintain," he said. And as people move outside of already developed areas, "they don't live in the countryside. They live in their cars."
I suppose that description somewhat fits me, and the way we live here in eastern Sussex County, as we discussed here, and over at Delaware Liberal, last week.

I comfort myself with the knowledge that, living inside the town limits of Lewes, I can (and do) walk to the public library and to downtown Lewes.

Still, though, it makes you think.

Monday, June 25, 2007

An Evening of Art

Saturday evening, Karen and I attended the opening of an art show at CAMPRehoboth, in Rehoboth Beach. The show is stilllife(in motion) by our friend Murray Archibald.

We usually see Murray's work at Epworth United Methodist Church. He and his partner Steve Elkins are quite active in the church. Murray creates art to decorate the church. His stations of the cross, for example, are remarkable.

The new show includes flowers and apples and hearts and motion and color and depth and a wonderful vibrancy.

We had a chance to chat with Murray and Steve and Rev. Jack and April Abel. We met some new folks too.

Art. Culture. Society. Friends. Life can be wonderful.

Sunday, June 24, 2007

Fourth Golf Game of 2007

Andy and I played a round at Old Landing Golf Course this morning. We walked, carrying our bags. It was good exercise, but it did wear me down by the end of the back nine.

As a result, my last few holes were horrendous blow-ups. When tiring, I tend to stand up during my swing. I was topping the ball badly. And, with my hands tired, I was letting the grass turn my club head, resulting in severe slices.

My front nine hadn't been too bad, but the back nine breakdowns left me with a total score of 119. My worst this year.

Old Landing is our area's most mature course. It has fully grown trees, and some small hills. There is water, some blind drives, and a small squadron of horse flies to distract you. I like the place, in spite of the flies.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Lucky Sevens?

This evening I reached 77,777 miles on my Prius. I knew I'd reach this point today; I could see it coming last night. I rolled into all those sevens a bit past 5:00 p.m. I was just north of Milford.

I pulled over, with flashers on, to take the picture.

It has been just over four months since 66,666.

Blogging From a Government Perspective

A story in Federal Computer Week, GSA showcases agencies' blogs, takes a quick look at the growing use of blogging software by federal agencies.
Blogs have become increasingly popular among federal agencies as they try to bolster their online presence and become more user-friendly. Many of the blogs featured on GSA’s new Web site are hosted by senior agency executives and address some of the more pressing challenges the agency faces.
I think this is an important development. I'm in government, at the state level, and I see a real opportunity for government agencies to improve their communications with (not to or at) the public. I have bookmarked and plan to spend some time with a Guide to Blogging (for government types) from, an on-line resource for government web managers from a group of federal cabinet agency web-masters.

There may be lessons there that we can apply at the state level.

The FCW site also points to a short list of federal blogs; I'm already reading the Library of Congress blog on that list (I'm a nerd-wonk, sue me). I think I'll also start tracking the Big Read Blog from the National Endowment for the Arts Literature Director.

The first post I found there had this promising opening line:
Bloggers are a gaggle of ignorant blowhards.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

One of My Favorite Web Companies is Tweaking My Favorite Car

I saw a posting on the Official Google Blog yesterday that got me excited about what might be my next car.

In a posting called "A clean energy update," Google launched an effort to enable the development of a plug-in hybrid. As regular readers may know, I love my 2005 Prius and am waiting with some anticipation for the next really cool new green car. This might be it, though it's not yet at "regular product stage."

I thought about posting on the topic yesterday, but held off. This morning, however, I have found another write-up in the project. This one lists the grants that Google is making under its RechargeIT project. One of them will go to the University of Delaware's Will Kempton "for megawatt scale vehicle-to-grid research and implementation planning."

That's one of the cooler aspects of this approach; the idea that excess electricity from the hybrids could be sold back to the grid. And, it's neat to know that part of that work will be done here in the First State. And I think I probably have met Professor Kempton, somewhere along the line. (The name is certainly familiar.)

Too bad this wasn't on the market in time for Father's Day. Maybe next year.

Sunday, June 17, 2007

Third Golf Game of 2007

Andy and I played golf for Father's Day this morning. We were back at The Rookery again. The place was filled with guys and their young sons, older men and grown sons, and grandfathers too.

I actually played fairly well. Not great. I still can't putt worth a damn. But my drives are getting better and my irons aren't too bad. There's hope.

And, as Andy noted, it's a bit more exciting when its competitive. For a while there, before I blew up on a par three , we were neck and neck.

Afterwards, we joined our wives and kids at the Jungle Jim's water park outside Rehoboth.

It was a good Father's Day.

Thursday, June 14, 2007

No Longer Endless, Just Repetitive

You know how some stores seem to always be "Going Out of Business?" The State Legislature out in Oregon has noticed, and they've come up with a law to deal with those never-ending business endings, according to a story in The Oregonian.
The measure would require merchants to submit a notice of intent to conduct such a sale with the Secretary of State's office. The notice, including the beginning and ending dates of the sale, would have to be displayed in a prominent place at the sale location.
That way, the endless "going out of business" sales have to have ends.

But they apparently can re-start their endings:
Going out of business sales could last no more than 90 days and merchants would be limited to one such sale a year under the bill.
Yup. You can only go out of business once a year in Oregon.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Why Don't We Write This Way Anymore?

I'm still rooting around in the past, looking for ancestors. This evening I have been reading through portions of William G. Cutler's History of the State of Kansas, published in 1883. He gives an early history of the town of Olathe, where parts of my family settled and prospered generations back.

I love the way Cutler describes events from what was, for him, only a few decades ago. For example, in his section on early inhabitants of Olathe, he has this to say about one gent:
John P. Campbell, a cousin of James K. Polk, came here from Nashville, Tenn. He was looked upon as a brilliant and promising lawyer in the State, but he impaired his faculties by the use of alcoholic stimulants, and died of consumption in the early years of the war.
Later, in his section on newspapers in Olathe, he recounts the effect of an attack by Quantrill's raiders on the town's only Democrat newspaper at the time, the Olathe Herald, which had been a growing and healthy concern:
Quantrill paid the office a visit September 6, 1862, after which John M. Giffin, its editor and proprietor, gathered up its debris and sold it for $306; original cost having been $3,500. In addition to his newspaper office, Mr. Giffen also lost through Quantrill's efforts, accounts and notes to the amount of $13,000, and the manuscript of an algebra, for which he had been offered $5,000, and fifteen cents royalty on each book sold.
My favorite, though, is his description of the "Reformed Presbyterian, or Covenanter Church." A congregation formed in Olathe in 1865, and split into two in 1871:

This denomination wherever founded is radical in its character, forward in reform movements, and never received into, nor tolerated slaveholders in its communion. While its members have borne arms in every national conflict for right and liberty, yet they refrain from the exercise of the elective franchise--believing the National constitution to be, though in many respects most excellent, yet in some things infidel and immoral.

Seems like I've read similar sentiments on modern day blogs as well.

Monday, June 11, 2007

Where I'm From

I've been spending a lot of time lately looking into my genealogy, playing around on a site called Geni which is an on-line family-tree tool. I've looked into family past before, of course, but now that I've started working on the family tree I've found a great deal of material on-line.

As part of this, I've put together a map of the birth-places of my direct ancestors; at least those whose birthplaces I could determine.

The earliest Mahaffies I could find -- they were Mahaffeys back in the 1700s-- were from northern Ireland. There were Beckers, from my Mother's side of the family, born in Germany in the 1800s.

In the US, there was a steady progression west by my branch of the Mahaffie family. They were in Pennsylvania, then Ohio, then Indiana. My Great-Great Grandfather JB Mahaffie started his family in Indiana and then settled in Olathe Kansas in 1857. He was one of the original settlers.

My Great Grandfather George Mahaffie had been born in Indiana. He started his family in Olathe, where my grandfather Charles was born. George took his family west to Oklahoma as homesteaders.

My grandfather was a Rhodes Scholar, studying at Oxford for a time. He became a lawyer and lived and practiced in Oregon before going to Washington DC, where my Father was born. My Grandmother had been born in Washington State, but raised in New York City, where many of her forbears were born.

On my Mother's side, Farrars, Beckers, Bartletts, and Redmonds were mostly around New York. I also had forbears in upstate New York and in Vermont.

If any of these names and dates match names and dates in your family tree (and you are not already part of my family tree), let me know. I'm always eager to expand the tree.

Friday, June 8, 2007

On Beach Plum Island

Conch 2I took a walk on Beach Plum Island the other evening. It's one of the Delaware beaches I'd not been to before, and I wanted to have a look. It's very nice, in a quiet, remote sort of way.

Beach Plum is a nature preserve, managed by State Parks. It is a sand spit between the Broadkill River and the Delaware Bay. It runs south from Broadkill Beach to the Roosevelt Inlet.

There are opportunities for fishing, both in the Bay and in the River, and a calm bay-front beach.

Wednesday, June 6, 2007

Field Trip!

I took a day off work today to go along with Christina's fifth-grade class on a field trip to Fort Delaware State Park.

Fort Delaware 1

Fort Delaware is one of the few Delaware State Parks I had not yet been to. And it was fun to go along with Christina and her friends (though I was under strict orders not to embarrass her). And take pictures.

We took a school bus up to Delaware City and rode the Delafort ferry over to Pea Patch Island. We had a picnic lunch and the kids saw presentations on what school was like in the 1860s and on how to fire the big guns of the fort.

Scientific Minds Want to Know

Are you a politi-blog junky? There's a researcher down in Louisiana who'd like your input on a survey on political blogs at the state level.

Emily Metzgar explains that the impact of national-level political blogs has been studied; she'd like to do the same at the state-level.
My observations about the impact of bloggers on state policy and politics in Louisiana have triggered my interest in looking at that dynamic in states around the country.
The survey is up through June 30. Go take it now.

Tuesday, June 5, 2007

Sometimes the Timing Just Works Out

In HawkseyeState officials opened a new section of the Junction and Breakwater trail on Monday, completing the walking and biking connection between Lewes and Rehoboth Beach. I had an appointment with my eye doctor in the middle of the morning today and had to take the morning off. That meant I had a few spare hours first thing in the morning.

I headed out for a quick hike; I wanted to see if I could reach the section of trail that had already opened and that I hiked earlier. I was just able to make it that far before I had to turn back.

I first had to walk out of Lewes on Kings Highway, to the intersection with Gills Neck Road. The new section starts there and runs along Gills Neck to the entrance of the Hawkseye subdivision. It runs through Hawkseye, including down a segment of the median shown above, and then picks up the old railroad bed and crosses Wolfe Glade, where it joins the existing trail.

This is a great addition to our area. It's now possible to walk or bike from Lewes to Rehoboth without having to go out on the highway. That might work out well if one of the girls gets a summer job down that way.

It might also be a great excuse for Karen and I to get new bikes.

Monday, June 4, 2007

Say What?

The head of the FCC was pretty upset about an appeals court ruling that criticized FCC for its handing of some recent indecency complaints. The court ruled that the FCC had been arbitrary in its handling of what were more or less accidental droppings of several common expletives.

So FCC Chairman Kevin Martin dropped a few of his own in his statement in response. The Wall Street Journal's Washington Wire has several quotes in a post called FCC Warning: Explicit Anger.

Don't worry, the Journal has obscured the "**k" and "**t" in Mr. Martin's many uses of “f—” and “s—”.

Sunday, June 3, 2007

This Makes Me Feel Good

There is an organization known as The Association for Applied and Therapeutic Humor (AATH). That makes me feel better about life.

I got an e-mail today asking for nominations for the 2008 AATH Book Awards. The awards are set up to honor authors of books that further the mission of AATH: "to advance the understanding and application of humor and laughter for their positive benefits."

I was tempted to scoff at this as simply self-evident. But, while laughter in itself is good for you, it is also the case that, with training, one can build therapies on that fact and enhance the power of the smile.

There is a similar therapeutic effect with music. The Lovely Karen is a trained and certified Music Therapist. Music Therapy appears to be a bit further along as a profession, but I see a role of Humor Therapy as well.

Our neighbors Charlie and Nancy were involved in humor therapy for many years. They volunteered around the community as the clowns Happy G and O Lucky; we would see them in parades and at street festivals. We always thought it was simply their way to have fun.

Colleen interviewed them for a school project one evening and they explained to us about the deeper work they were doing, visiting the sick and dying and bringing cheer into hospitals.

I think that's pretty cool.