Tuesday, January 30, 2007

When the Music Hits Me Just Right

I had another one of those great runs of music today. There are times when, as I flip around among my favorite channels on the satellite radio in my car, I find song after song that I love. And occasionally, something new and delightful.

This evening was like that. Song after song after song. And then David Dye, of the World Cafe, presented me with Josh Ritter's Girl in the War.

I know I've heard music from this guy before, and I remember thinking him pleasant, but I hadn't heard this song.

He has a pleasant nice voice, accompanied by delicate acoustic guitar picking. It was the lyrics that hit me:
Peter said to Paul you know all those words we wrote
Are just the rules of the game and the rules are the first to go
But now talking to God is Laurel begging Hardy for a gun
I got a girl in the war man I wonder what it is we done
Paul said to Peter you got to rock yourself a little harder
Pretend the dove from above is a dragon and your feet are on fire
But I got a girl in the war Paul her eyes are like champagne
They sparkle bubble over and in the morning all you got is rain
Peter and Paul (the Apostles?) seem to be discussing great metaphysical issues, but keep coming back to "I got a girl in the war." That does two things. It brings us back to what's most important on a basic, personal level. And it spins the old war-time, homefront cliche from the "girl back home" to the "girl in the war."

Looking into this song this evening led me to a video (quicktime) of Ritter performing this song at a Center for American Progress event last fall.

"I came 2000 miles to play you this song," he says. "I meant to write about this country, and it came out sounding like a love song."

Monday, January 29, 2007

Our Land Is a Bit Less Delmarvalous Today

Scorchy Tawes has died. He was 86.

For years, Scorchy was a local television personality; the kind you are proud to have on your set.

He produced and narrated human interest and nature stories for WBOC television, out of Salisbury. His stories were folksy and sappy. He focused on the small joys of small town life. And on the grand beauty of the Delmarva Peninsula. He talked about "wandering this delmarvalous land of ours."

When he retired they tried to replace him, but the new guy, though competent, just wasn't Scorchy.

Scorchy did a story on the Lovely Karen once. It was back when she was working as a music therapist at Stockley Center. She had a bell choir of made up of some of her clients and Scorchy came in to film them playing Christmas carols. It was sweet.

There's irony in the timing of Scorchy's death. He'll be upstaged in the news cycle by the death of Barbaro. But he would have been all over that story; it's just the sort of story that he loved.

Rest in Peace Scorchy Tawes. You helped define life in Southern Delaware and the Eastern Shore of Maryland.

Sunday, January 28, 2007

Delaware's Unique Border

A blog called Strange Maps has started looking at Delaware's rather unique border. There are two posts, so far. It's interesting to see the various oddities of my state's boundary discussed by an "outsider." I advise bringing along a pinch of salt to take when you read the Strange Maps posts, there are a few very minor mistakes.

My day-job involves mapping, geospatial data, and working with things like the border in Geographic Information Systems (GIS) software. I also work closely with my friend Sandy Schenck of the Delaware Geological Survey. Sandy's first job, many years ago, was finding and maintaining the 179 stone boundary monuments that mark the Delaware border. He wrote a wonderful monograph on the boundary. That's my authoritative source on these issues.

The images I've used in this post, by the way, were created using the Delaware Data Mapping and Integration Lab -- The DataMIL -- which provides a digital base map of Delaware, replacing the old paper topographic map series with a more frequently updated, web-based, topo map.

The first Strange Maps post is Where Delaware Met Pennsylvania (1): the Twelve Mile Circle. It looks at the odd border issues caused by the decree in colonial times that a circle with a radius of 12 miles, centered on the town of New Castle, be used as a boundary.

Strange Maps describes this as "the only US boundary that’s a true arc." That's sort-of true; it's the only one that is circular. It is not, in fact, a true arc. The chain used to measure the 12 miles and so to survey that part of the boundary, had to be stretched out over and over again. The links started to stretch, just a bit, throwing off the measurements. Somewhere along the line, the surveyors got themselves a fresh chain, at least once.

The result is a boundary that is a compound of degraded arc sections. Subtle, and maybe even silly. But true.

Strange Maps also points out that the boundary was described as everything within the 12 miles up to the shoreline of what is now New Jersey. The result of that, and of a 1930s Supreme Court decision, has been that the state boundary is, in fact, the mean-low water line as it existed in 1934. There are places where the shoreline on the Jersey side has filled-in and moved out, by accretion, to where it now lies within Delaware.

We try not to point this out too explicitly; it upsets our neighbors in New Jersey. That, and the fact that Delaware regulates what happens over the river bottom, which has so far stymied a proposed Liquid Natural Gas terminal in the Camden area.

The second "Where Delaware Met Pennsylvania" post looks at the "Wedge". This is a wedge-shaped bit of land that for a time was not in Delaware, not in Pennsylvania, and not in Maryland. It was another anomaly caused by the 12-mile circle and by a disconnect between what 17th-Century cartography expected to find and what 17th-Century surveying actually did find.

It's that bit beneath that "shelf" where the three states meet. Just above Newark.

I understand that it was briefly a haven for outlaws, who would flee there because no lawmen had jurisdiction. At least, until the states got together and decided to make it part of Delaware.

This almost forgotten bit of history lives on in some of the place names north of Newark like "Top of the Wedge" or "Wedge Hills."

These are just a few of the many strange truths about the Delaware border. For example, many of us in Delaware actually live east of the Mason-Dixon line. They drew our western boundary before turning west to create the part of the line that they are most known for.

Also, the Delaware boundary is the only one in the marked, in part, with boundary monuments made of stone from a different country. Mason and Dixon used a "light buff oolitic limestone cut on the Isle of Portland, Dorsetshire, England" to mark parts of the line.

The Delaware Geological Survey maintains a database of the boundary markers, some of which can be visited.

Thursday, January 25, 2007

Can I Have One? Please?

An Electric 3-Wheeled CarHere's what greeted me when I left my office building at lunch today: a purple, three-wheeled, all-electric vehicle. I had to check it out.

The Myers Motors NmG is technically a motorcycle, but drives like a car. It is said to have a range of around 30 miles and an ability to go up to 70 miles per hour. NmG? Stands for "No More Gas."

The car was in Dover, visiting from its home in Ohio for a meeting of the Governor's Energy Advisory Council. They wanted hear a bit more about it, apparently.

Poking around on-line this evening, I find that the NmG is a resurrection of the Corbin Motors Sparrow. A few hundred were built out in California in the early part of this century, but company didn't make it.

Now, apparently sensing a renewed market opportunity, the Myers folks have bought out the Sparrow and redesigned/re-designated it as the NmG.

This thing looks very cool. It is a single-seater, but looks comfortable and has a cargo capacity of one shopping cart-full. I was intrigued by a set of golf-ball-style dimples on the backs of the front wheel covers and on the back of the vehicle itself. I assume they perform some aerodynamic function.

A range of 30 miles is not quite enough for my life in Delaware, but if I lived and worked in the same city, I can see this as a perfect commute-car. I can also see it as a courier car in a city.

I am tempted, though.

I've long wanted an electric car. I bought my first gas/electric hybrid Prius in 2001. I'm now on my second Prius.

I love my Prius, but there's still a spot in my imagination for a completely electric vehicle.

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

I Just Hope the House Doesn't Sink

I started a new approach to exercise today: swimming. And I have learned that I have some way to go before I can call myself a strong swimmer.

At the start of the new year, I made a promise to myself to make the lifestyle changes it will take to get into better shape. I've not made a resolution to lose weight; I think it more useful to resolve to change the way I do things in a way that may result in weight loss.

I started strong, adopting healthier eating habits and increasing my levels of activity. My sciatic troubles, though, have reduced the activity side of that equation. I just can't stay on my feet as long as I'd like. At least, not yet.

Instead of my habitual walking lunches, therefore, I've decided to jump into the 8-lanes and try swimming for exercise at the Dover YMCA. I've been a member for years and I've tried to get into the weight room for the treadmills or the weight machines at least a few lunches each week.

Today, I took the the pool-exit from the locker room and joined the ranks of the swimmers.

Not without trepidation, though. The pool is a whole new place, with its own rules and traditions. I was ever so slightly worried that I might offend the regulars.

In the locker room, I ran into two older gentlemen who I have often seen at that time of the day, coming out of the pool while I get ready for the weight room. Today, I asked them for any tips on the etiquette of the lane-swimming set. They were most helpful, outlining the "way to be" in the lane-pool in a few short suggestions.

And they were inspiring. One of these fellows is probably in his 70's. He suggested picking a number of laps and keeping that number in mind. Start slow. Rest when you have to. But keep going. Eventually, that number will increase. He had just finished 70 laps, he said.

So I, like fool, started fast, going right into a lap of my old head-up, life-guard style Australian crawl. Too fast. I slowed down a bit, mixing in a slow breast-stroke, some relaxed back-stroke, and a sidestroke.

I swam for 20 minutes. My arms felt like lead. My legs were tired and my heart rate was elevated. But I was able to get some exercise without aggravating my sciatic nerve.

And I didn't drown. That's important.

Sunday, January 21, 2007

If Ya Can't Beat 'Em?

Delaware's public discourse is increasingly moving into the world of blogs.

Kent County realtor Phil McGinnis has started a blog called Kent Delaware Land Use Issues. He's used his first post to posit some arguments against the subdivision moratorium enacted last week by the Kent County Levy Court.

I imagine that he noticed the effectiveness of blogs in the recent election, which brought new Levy Court Commissioners into office with a mandate to do something about the pace of growth in the county.

Have You Noticed All The Hype About "Second Life?"

This guy has. He's created Get a First Life to mock the hugely successful Second Life, in which players lead a whole new "virtual life."

It's just comedy, but I think it serves as a gentle reminder that we do have a life in the real world, and we do need to pay attention to it.


I've expressed my appreciation of Delaware's growing blogosphere, and I stand by that appreciation. But I also think we should remember to play active roles in our actual lives -- the Delaware-osphere -- as well.

Saturday, January 20, 2007

Gus Gets Elected

GusI was pleased to see (on First State Politics) that WG Edmanson has won the special election for the 5th District seat on Kent County's Levy Court.

I ran into Mr. Edmanson at Spence's Bazaar back the end of October. I was charmed by his choice to campaign at that flea market so I stopped to chat and ended up using this photo in part of a post on the fall election.

Someone told me that Mr. Edmanson goes by "Gus." I have no idea whether that's true or not, but it worked for my headline, so I decided to go with it.

At that point, Gus was running for the at-large seat. He lost that election, but decided to run again for the seat left vacant by Don Blakey's win in a race for a seat in the General Assembly.

Don and Dolores BlakeyOf course, I also have a photo of Mr. Blakey (with his lovely wife Dolores) from Returns Day. I got to know both Blakeys years ago when we performed together in a community theater production of Big River.

It was fun to watch his run for General Assembly and great to see him celebrate the victory at Returns Day. I saw him again a few days later coming in the front door of Legislative Hall to check out his new office.

It's funny how these things line up sometimes.

Snow at Last!

First Snow
It snowed in Lewes, Delaware, this morning. Unless I'm forgetting something, this is the first snow we've seen this season. And it wasn't much, just a healthy flurry of big, fluffy flakes. And we're still within about a week of seeing mid-January temperatures in the mid- to upper-sixties. Odd weather.

It has been a strange winter. Our temperatures have been above normal, and much of the rest of the nation is seeing devastating ice-storms, which may be a result of higher winter temperatures. I believe that colder temps would have made much of that mass of ice simply snow instead, which the American heartland can deal with rather well.

I should say that this is not the first snow I've seen this winter. There were some flakes mixed-in with a very cold rain up in Dover on Thursday. And I understand there were flakes in the skies of New Castle County this week.

Indonesian blogger Dino, newly arrived to study at the University of Delaware, saw what seems like his first snowflakes on Thursday in Newark:
It was beautiful seeing the tiny white snow flake falling from the sky. I tried to take picture of it but my camera can’t capture the tiny white snow flake in the air. It’s too bad because I want to show it to my family in Indonesia.
I did manage to capture a few flakes in a photo this morning. But that may just be because they were the very large, slow-moving sort.

The two snow shots I posted this morning, by the way, are the first photographs that I have posted on-line since January 5. That's a long dry spell for me. My lower back problems, and the resulting sciatic pain, have kept me from my habitual wandering-with-camera walks around Lewes and Dover. I haven't even really felt like photo-exploring from behind the wheel of my Prius, either.

I need to get past that.

The snow fell here between about 8:00 and 8:30 a.m.. As I write this, a bit past nine, the skies are bright and sunny, though a cold wind is blowing.

Thursday, January 18, 2007

Bragging About My Niece

I have a large family. I am one of seven siblings. Each of us is married with at least two kids. I have nieces and nephews ranging in age from their 30s to their halcyon pre-school days.

I like to brag about them almost as much as I like to brag about Colleen and Christina. You may remember my posts about my nephew Nick and his appearance in the movie Rent.

Today, my sister-in-law Jane sent a link to an article on the web site of Walt Whitman High School about the freshman members of Whitman's swimming team, including our niece Jenna.

The story (Talented freshmen swimmers bring promise to team) starts with a fanciful retelling of the day when a very young Jenna came face to face with destiny:
When six year-old Jenna Mahaffie saw the Merrimack Swim Team after practice, holding their bathing caps and goggles as water dripped off their bodies onto the pavement, she felt an instant connection. What began as a playful visit to the pool turned into something more for Mahaffie, as she decided then and there to join the swim team, marking the beginning of her competitive swimming career.
To her credit, Jenna calls this "exaggerated" and laughs at it. Good for her.

The story goes on to discuss how Jenna is part of a contingent of young swimmers adding strength to Whitman's swim team. She's rather a good swimmer.

It was something of a trip down memory lane for me to read this. I graduated from Whitman in 1980, a few years after Jenna's Dad, my brother Jim. And I swam at Merrimack as a kid. I even attended a few swim team practices there, though that clearly wasn't my sport. (I wonder what was?)

I occurred to me, as well, that Jenna reminds me of a swimmer I knew when I was at Whitman. Shelley was a swimmer and lived next door to a surfer we knew named Murray. One of the guys in my band, the Ramblin' Beach Guys, had kind of a crush on Shelley, so we wrote a doo-wop song called "I'm in Love with Murray's Neighbor."

It was our only sort-of hit. Not that we ever recorded it, or that it was ever heard very widely.

So now, there's Jenna; another Mahaffie wandering the halls of Walt Whitman High.

Monday, January 15, 2007

Echos of A Delaware Story

I've stayed mostly out of the Representative Atkins story, but I can't help noticing that it is starting to spread.

I think it is appropriate that the aspect of this story that has spread most is the backlash against Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) after they issued a statement supporting Ocean City Maryland police who apparently released a driver they considered too impaired to continue driving without charges.

I note that they did not let him get back behind the wheel. That's important.

On Saturday, January 13, DelawareLiberal posted the story on DailyKos. He was interested in getting the word out beyond the Delmarva Peninsula. I haven't found any blog postings that credit that DailyKos posting as a source, but I'm seeing the story elsewhere.

The story was also on the Libertarian Reason Magazine's Hit & Run blog on Saturday. Reason editor Randy Balko, a FoxNews.Com columnist, wrote MADD at Drunk Drivers, but Not Influential Ones, in which he questions MADD's motives in taking the position they took. In this he is supported by his commenters, who almost unanimously are angry at MADD.

(As I'm working on this, I see that Hube, at Rhodey, has picked up on the Reason post. And so has DelawareLiberal.)

Balko credits a DUI lawyer named Lawrence Taylor as his source. In a post on his DUI Blog on January 12 (OK to Let .14% Driver Go -- If He's Politician), Taylor wrote:
MADD has apparently developed a separate standard for politicians and police in its War on Drunk Driving.
Taylor, it is worth pointing out, spends most of his time on "Bad Drunk Driving Laws, False Evidence and a Fading Constitution." At least, that's the subtitle of his blog.

In a post on January 6, he wrote:
For many years now I've written and lectured extensively on drunk driving litigation --on the science of blood and breath alcohol analysis, the flaws in breathalyzers, the ineffectiveness of field sobriety testing. In recent years, however, my focus has increasingly shifted to the gradual erosion of constitutional rights in DUI cases.
Taylor is not the only DUI lawyer to chime in.

Atlanta attorney George C. Creal Jr. had the story on his DUI Weblog on January 11 in a posting titled "Benefit of Clergy? Ocean City Delaware Cops let drunk Republican Legislator Go!" I note that Mr. Creal has not picked up on the fact that Ocean City is in Maryland, and not Delaware.

Mr. Creal says, of the Ocean City Police Department:
It is waging a public relations campaign to explain to the public that field sobriety evaluations are relative and not pass/fail. This is testimony that you would never hear on the witness stand from a police officer and should provide excellent fodder for able DUI attorneys in the area.
What I don't understand is Mr. Creal's reference to "Benefit of Clergy."

On Sunday, January 14, Chicagoan Mark Draughn picked up the story from the Reason Hit & Run blog and wrote Not So MADD About Some People... on his WindyPundit blog. Here is another blogger, by the way, who missed the "across state lines nature" of the story. (Please, people, we don't want Ocean City. Maryland can keep it.)

It has been fascinating to watch this story unfold. It was Delaware bloggers who stayed on it and forced the traditional media to pay attention. That's good, as I think this is not an issue that should be swept aside. On the other hand, I think some folks have gone too far in using this to hammer Representative Atkins. He has issues to deal with, to be sure, but the more important aspect is the notion that some drivers get breaks that others do not.

Also, as in most stories of this sort, the real questions arise from the participants' reactions to, and efforts to manage, the story.

Meanwhile, Jud Bennett sent an e-mail to his extensive Coastal Conservative e-mail list yesterday asking for a pause in the invective:
The story seems to have taken on a life of its own with no end in sight and has turned into one of the most vicious, malicious, and cruel witch hunts in the history of the State of Delaware.
I'm not sure that this e-mail was intended to serve as a "Jud's Rant." As of this writing (10:25 a.m., 1/15/07), it has not been added in the traditional Jud's Rant spot on First State Politics. It was, however, appropriated by Dan Gaffney and posted on the WGMD blog. I don't know whether this was Jud's intention or not.

I can't fully disagree with Jud, but I think Hube puts it well in his comment this morning on the WGMD blog:
Yes, there has been ridiculous speculation and hyperbole about Atkins; however, the anger amongst the laymen results in knowing that if this was THEM, they’d have been arrested, lost their license, and would now have a record.
Finally, let me point to a MySpace posting (of all places) for one of the most thoughtful reactions
I've seen to this story.

RudeBwoy381 is a 25-year newspaper editor in Georgetown. He says:
The singular focus on Atkins' particular case, however, obscures a larger and more-dangerous problem, in Delaware and, really, all over the place.

DUI is practically a sport in Delaware. Start thinking of people you know who have a DUI on their record.. the list is probably longer than you think.
He suggests that bars be provided with Breathalyzers and that they take the lead on keeping drunks out of their cars. That might help. He goes further, though, and points to a larger problem of our perception of alcohol:
This is what truly bothers me: from the time you are young, it is beat into your head that alcohol is not really a drug. Remember MADD presentations in elementary school? They always talked about "drugs and alcohol." Drugs and alcohol?

Think about what this means. Reasonable, educated people are coming into classrooms and telling your children that alcohol is somehow separate from other drugs. So is it any surprise that kids aren't that concerned about drinking? Look at some of these MySpace surveys that ask when you took your first alcoholic drink. I didn't until I was 18, and I think I held out the longest of anyone whose survey I read, besides possibly my sister, and I'm not even sure about that.
He concludes:
With all of the damage that alcohol does to people, how can it be the least-regulated drug in the world?
RudeBwoy381, please move your writings to a platform less odious than MySpace. I'd like to read you more.

Sunday, January 14, 2007

I Find This Very Sad

A lawyer from Maryland has written a column for today's News Journal criticizing Delaware's efforts to preserve open space and encourage "New Urban" and village-style development.

In his column (If you want green space, buy your own), Thomas Beach argues against state efforts to purchase the development rights of farmlands by saying that the price is not high enough and "because the farmer uses up the money and then is stuck with a farm."

While I'm sure this may sometimes be the case, I think this oversimplifies things. The prices are negotiated and based on fair market appraisals. And the goal of the state's Farmland Preservation Program is to maintain the agricultural sector of the economy as much, if not more than, to maintain open space.

Mr. Beach also scoffs at the idea of village-style development, saying that people prefer to live on large lots in large houses.
It seems the only people who choose to live in cities are a few yuppies and the elderly who may need public transportation and easy access to services.
This statement seems absurd, if not insulting and condescending.

But here is the part that stood out for me:
Except for my time in the Army, I haven't done any serious walking since I turned 16 and got my driver's license. I have never ridden a bus or subway and don't ever plan to.
I find that simply sad.

Saturday, January 13, 2007


I'm having a lazy Saturday, nursing my sciatic nerve and limited to gentle activity. This seems a perfect time to try for a new look for the old blog.

I'm particularly keen on adding a third column.

Please pardon the virtual dust.... Things may look goofy now and again as I work through this.


Friday, January 12, 2007

Delaware's Blogosphere Continues to Grow

I wanted to take a moment to highlight, in no particular order, a few new Delaware blogs that have come on-line recently.

Woody's Solutions was a New Year's resolution by Mark, a network administrator in Dover. It's early yet, but Mark looks to me like a dependable generalist.

The BrianMannBlog is a blog by, well, Brian Mann. Brian is step-son to Jud Bennett, who guest-posts on First State Politics. I had just left a comment there recently wishing wistfully that Jud had his own blog when someone pointed me to Brian's.

Brian played a small role in the recent Abramoff scandal, and he has started working though that experience on-line. Brian is an imaginative fellow; his retelling mixes fact and fantasy as he imagines dialog with Abramoff and others to explore issues, thoughts and feelings that grew from his experience. I look forward to the rest of the story.

Brian is also a nice fellow, who has had great advice for me in my recent bout with sciatica.

The Delaware Curmudgeon is a new blog by Shirley Vandever, whose comments I've noticed from time to time on the News Journal's StoryChat section. I think she is a fairly dedicated libertarian. That should make for some interesting commentary.

And there are a few other blogs that are not particularly new, but were new to me.

The Lone Haranguer is an homage to Daffy Duck, from Mic, of Wilmington.

Dover Citizen
is from David Anderson, a politician in Dover.

Mac & Cheese is a vegetarian foodie blog, from Wilmington.

I'm probably missing some others, but wanted to recognize a few. I'm having great fun reading thoughts from all around the First State.

Thursday, January 11, 2007

On The Road With Dino

Dino has begun his trek from Indonesia to Newark, Delaware. He's blogging his way around the world.

At last posting, Dino was in the airport at Singapore, having come from Jogja via Jakarta. He's got Tokyo, Detroit, and Philadelphia ahead.

I guess it would be too much to ask for "Around the World in 80 Blog Posts," but maybe in 8?

Tuesday, January 9, 2007

Mr. Burris, Re-Name That Blog!

I stopped by Dave Burris' First State Politics this evening and found a new feature: The Conservative Corner, a new, apparently to-be-regular, guest-post by pro-development activist Rich Collins.

This is Rich's first foray into the world of modern blogging and his bid to stake a claim to be the voice of Sussex County Conservatism. It joins the regular "Jud's Rant" feature in which former Lewes Councilman Jud Bennett has been tracking and commenting on Sussex County issues for some time now.

As I read through Rich's opening essay, I found myself thinking (in the voice of James Earl Jones and with ominous tympani and horn accompaniment), "And so, the battle for the soul of the Sussex County Republican Party begins in earnest."

For those of who don't follow the growth and development issues of Sussex County, Jud and Rich have been often on opposite sides of the argument.

Jud, who ran for County Council some years back and very nearly won, argues for growth control and land-use planning.

Rich fronts an organization known as the Positive Growth Alliance, which campaigns forcefully against state environmental regulations and land-use planning initiatives that it sees as threatening the free market. Or something like that.

Dave Burris is about to become the Chair of the Sussex County Republican Party (once college football is done). His blog has been a well-written, usually clear and respectable voice advocating Republican positions on Delaware and national issues. I give him a great deal of credit for opening his blog to the verbal food-fights of the Sussex Rebublicateria.

But now, as he gets ready to take on a leadership role, I wonder if Dave shouldn't re-name his blog. Something like "Sussex Republicans Gone Wild?"

Monday, January 8, 2007

May I Just Say, For The Record: OUCH!

My leg hurts. Not as much as it was hurting on Saturday, but enough. I'm just coming out of a bout with sciatic pain. I don't like it.

I have chronic problems with my lower back. They have something to do with my being 45 years old, over-weight, and out of condition. Every once in a while, over the last few years, things have flared up, causing discomfort. This week-end, I got the full effect.

It is my own fault, of course. I had been feeling some sciatic pain for a few days, but I volunteered to drive Christina and some of her fellow dancers up to Newark on Saturday for a Dance-School audition.

When I got out of the car in Newark, the pain came on in full. From then on, I was unable to find a comfortable position, standing or sitting. I spent the day leaning on the backs of chairs or hobbling along with burning daggers twisting in the back of my thigh.

Luckily, Karen had come along and was able to drive home. The ride home was rough. When we pulled into Lewes, I asked Karen to just head over to the Hospital so I could beg the ER doctor for some relief.

I must have been a sight in the waiting room. I was completely focused on enduring. When they took me back to the treatment room, I was shuffling along feeling very sorry for myself -- until I saw the various broken bodies already in the ER.

They took me to a room and asked me to strip to my skivvies and put on a gown to await a Doctor. That was tough; I was having trouble bending and reaching down. But I got it mostly done. Soon I was leaning on the back of a chair with the gown, untied, hanging from around my neck. Waiting.

When the doctor came in, he had two Sussex County Paramedics in tow. The EMS staff were shadowing the Doctors that night.

The Doctor took one look at me and made a sign for me not to say anything. He turned to one of the Paramedics and asked if he could tell what my problem was.

The Paramedic looked me up and down very briefly and said something like, "The way he's having to stand like that, I'd say it's sciatica."

I guess I'm not very original.

The Doctor was very nice. He made sure that I understood what was going on and how to treat it.

Sciatica is not a disease but is a set of symptoms that occur when the sciatic nerve, which runs down the leg, gets pinched or compressed. Short-term treatments can address either muscle-spasm or muscle and nerve inflammation. Or both.

In my case, they gave me a muscle-relaxant shot and prescriptions for a muscle-relaxant, a pain-killer, and an anti-inflammatory. I didn't like the muscle-relaxant; it just made me woozy. The anti-inflammatories, however, work fairly well.

So here I am, two days later, still sore and walking gingerly. I don't much like it.

Saturday, January 6, 2007

Taking Action Against Abuse of the News Journal's "Comments" Web Section

Like many Delaware bloggers, I have by turns been horrified by, and fumed about, some of the comments that are posted in response to stories on the News Journal web site. I've just sent an e-mail to the supposed monitors of the site, calling their attention to one problem. We'll see if they fix it.

The News Journal, like many newspapers, has added commenting to its on-line offerings so that readers can react to, and interact about, news stories. Theoretically, this might increase knowledge and foster constructive discussions. In reality, that's only sometimes the case.

Regular commenters on the News Journal site have proven to include some vicious and hate-filled individuals. Stories about fatal shootings of persons who were engaged in criminal activity, or were suspected of being criminals, routinely generate responses such as "It's a shame he didn't kill the other two as well. Would've been 3 less pieces of scum the taxpayers have to support instead of just one!!"

Many of the comments reveal a deep and nasty strain of racism in Delaware society. And the venom directed at those commenters who might suggest compassion, mercy, or restraint is disheartening.

The News Journal does have a link to "report abuse" on its forum pages, though not on the News Story pages, where comments are tacked on at the end. I have sent a few of these reports in the past, but I don't know if action has been taken on any of them. I have seen occasional markers that indicate a post has been removed by a moderator, but the volume of anger has not abated.

This morning, I spotted a comment that looked fishy to me, rather than hate-filled. In response to a story on a potential new subdivision, a user calling him- or herself "Rix" posted the URL of what purports to be Delaware "Business Rating" web site. The comment was worded in such a way as to slightly relate to the news story, but I was suspicious and so I clicked on the "profile" button to see what else this Rix has posted.

The profile pages include a link to "Find all posts by [user]." Rix has posted eight comments on the News Journal site in the last two months, all of which suggest visiting this same web site. It looks like Rix has added his comment-ad to any story that has anything to do with consumer complaints.

This is a form of comment spam. It's not as evil as the automated and often nonsensical comment spamming that hit blogs a few years back. And it must be said that the site that Rix links to may in fact be a legitimate and useful site. But spam is spam and the best that can be said of these comments is that they are noise.

So I have sent an Abuse Report to the News Journal. And I have specifically, though politely, asked that I be notified when an action is taken.

I will be curious to see what happens.

Friday, January 5, 2007

I'd Know That Stone's Slouch Anywhere

Rooting around in the cut-out bin of the internet this evening, I came across a video of a performance including Ray Charles, Jerry Lee Lewis and Fats Domino posted on a Swedish site called "Mr. Dante Fontana's Visual Guidance LTD." (Really)

Hearing three of the great rock piano bangers playing all together was worth a click. I thoroughly enjoyed it.

There's no information with the clip. It looks like a television show, or some sort of benefit concert. The band is led by the ubiquitous music-elf, Paul Shaffer, who earns equal measures of my respect and my eye-rolling. He's a sometimes annoying presence, but no one puts together all-star pick-up bands as well as Shaffer.

What surprised me in this case, though, was how quickly I was able to pick Rolling Stone Ron Wood out of the dark, out-of-focus background. Other than Shaffer, and the three legends, the rest of the band is mostly in shadow and fuzzy.

Ron Wood, however, stands in a distinctive slouch over his guitar. It's a stance he shares with his band-mate Keith Richards and it goes with their loose-limbed, loping style of rock and roll.

I recognized him by his outline and his lazy grooving behind a piano-pounding Jerry Lee Lewis.

Thursday, January 4, 2007

One More On Transitions

David A., who blogs semi-anonymously and quasi-regularly as "The Delaware Right," is terribly upset at the Democratic take-over in Washington. He calls today "A Dark Day in Our Country's History."

I would respond to his doom-seeing on his blog, but Mr. A. has his comments turned resolutely off.

Welcome, Weary MBA Student

When you have a chance, pay a visit to Dino's Journal.

Dino is a young man from Indonesia who will be arriving in Delaware this month as an MBA student at the University of Delaware.

He recently tried out PlaceBlogger and found Newarking. He was pleased to learn a bit more about the place he'll be studying.

I've added him to my blog-roll and look forward to his impressions of our small state.

Staying the Same, the More Things Change

I've been watching the change-overs of various governments around the nation this week. There are a couple of things to note.

In Congress
The big story in Congress, of course, is Nancy Pelosi taking over as Speaker of the House. That she is our first woman speaker will be well-covered elsewhere. I like Martha Burke's take on that on TomPaine.com when she writes "This Just In: Pelosi Is A Woman."

I was planning to post about the symbolism of Rep. Keith Ellison (D-Minn.) using a Koran once owned by Thomas Jefferson for his swearing-in. Dana, at Delaware Watch, beat me to it.

Dana points to an article on Forbes.com on the use of the Jefferson-owned Koran copy. I saw the story this evening in a news release on the Library of Congress site (Thomas Jefferson's Copy of the Koran To Be Used in Congressional Swearing-in Ceremony). The book, an English translation that dates from 1734, is now part of the Library's collection.

I like this quote from the Librarian of Congress, James H. Billington:
Jefferson believed that there was no subject to which a member of Congress may not have occasion to refer. As the nation's library, and as a symbol of the central role that free access to information plays in a knowledge-based democracy, the Library continues to collect internationally, on all subjects, and in more than 470 languages.
In the States
There were a few notes from the change-overs of Governors that also caught my eye.

In Massachusetts, outgoing Governor Mitt Romney apparently did bit of patronage-packing on his way out of the Governor's Mansion and into the Republican Presidential Primary fray. The Boston Globe reported yesterday:
Governor Mitt Romney, despite his stated opposition to patronage appointments, installed more than 200 Republican activists, current and former state employees, and others to boards and commissions in December, including departing Lieutenant Governor Kerry Healey.
Apparently, Romney had complained back in 2002 when his predecessor did much the same thing. He was quoted back then as saying "I will look for people to get jobs based on what they know, not who they know."

Things change.

Meanwhile, down in Florida, new Governor Charlie Crist signed his first Executive Order yesterday. As reported in The Ledger:
Charlie Crist's first move as governor is tackling bureaucratic language and barriers to public information that he criticized Wednesday as an "arrogance" in state government that intentionally distances itself from citizens.

Surrounded by TV cameras and reporters, Crist signed an executive order Wednesday morning that requires each state agency to "adopt a plan to implement Plain Language guidelines" to "communicate in a clear, easily understood manner."
I wish him, and all my friends in Florida state government, the very best of luck with that. Honestly. I know I am a word fan (Lexiphile?), but I do think that, in communication from government agencies, simplicity and clarity are important.

I just don't think they are very likely.

Wednesday, January 3, 2007

Cold. But Sunny and Quiet.

Lighthouse 6
I had an extra day off for New Year's because of the National Day of Mourning for President Gerald Ford. Delaware State Government offices were closed. I took the opportunity to walk around the Point of Cape Henlopen in the afternoon. With my camera.

It was cold, but not as cold as it should have been in January. The sun was shining strongly and the sky was appropriately blue.

The beach was empty, but for a few seagulls. It was wonderfully solo out there.

There were untouched, newly blown dunes. The tide was low, offering me shallows to explore and offering snacks for the gulls.

The winter air was clear, offering a glimpse of Cape May on the northern horizon.

A walk around the point features two historic lighthouses. The Harbor of Refuge Light is on the outer breakwater off the point of the Cape. The East End Lighthouse is on the inner breakwater, within the inner arc of the Point. I take lots of pictures of these.

Crossing the dune, back to the Point Parking lot, I noticed one of the Delaware River and Bay Pilots Association boats headed out into the Atlantic. As I reached the top of the dune, I could see a large container ship waiting just off Hen and Chicken Shoals.

I took much this same photo walk with Christina late last January. I think it should become a tradition.

Tuesday, January 2, 2007

An Albino Deer? Or An Echo From the Distant Past?

Driving past the old parade ground in Cape Henlopen State Park this afternoon, I saw a small heard of deer grazing by the tree line. This is not unusual; the Whitetail Deer feel safe enough to graze there most of the year.

Are There Albino Deer?What caught my eye, though, was an apparently all-white deer. I had to try for a photo.

This was taken at a distance and with a bit of zoom. It is not as sharp as I would like. In addition, the white deer seemed to shine in the late-day sun. I was not able to get it properly in focus.

Are there albino deer? There seem to be. From my quick research, I'm guessing that this was either an albino or a piebald deer.

I was also fascinated to find references to a legend of a Great White Deer from the Lenape people who first lived in this area.

Looking Ahead to 2007

I've been thinking about New Year's Resolutions.

Mine are simple. I plan to pursue health: physical, mental and spiritual. They are connected.

I've also been looking around the Delaware blogosphere to see what other folks are thinking as they look at the year ahead.

I'm collecting links to "New Year Thoughts" on my flickr account. Here are a few things that jump out at me.
  • Joe, at Merit-Bound Alley, has a clear-eyed view of how he can use his blog to help affect change. We're not all going to be the leading political bloggers; some of use are supporting voices.
  • Guest-ranter Jud, at First State Politics, will continue to be one of the leading voices. That's appropriate; he has been and probably will again be a candidate. I think Jud needs his own blog in 2007.
  • Taylor, at Mac'N'Cheese, offers a recipe for Hoppin' John And Collard Greens. I don't plan to make that dish, but I will be tracking healthy recipes from Taylor this year.
I'll be adding to my tag-list today, and may update these bullets as well.

Monday, January 1, 2007

Looking Back on 2006

As we head into what is starting out as a very rainy 2007, I thought I'd take a few moments to look back on my on-line life in 2006.

I posted 1,491 of my photos on flickr in 2006. In 2005, my first year there, I had posted only 656. I only started in April of that year, though, and didn't hit my stride as a photo-hobbyist until around July of 2005.

Flickr in 2006 - http://sheet.zoho.com
My busiest month in 2006 was July, when I posted 212 pictures. That's not surprising, as that is the month we in which we spend time at the Tyler Place, in Vermont. On the way up to Vermont this year, we also played tourist at the Statue of Liberty and at Mystic Seaport and Aquarium.

The irony is that, because I traditionally swear-off on-line life while on vacation, July is also the month when I spent the least amount of time at my computer.

I posted 247 entries to Mike's Musings in 2006. In 2005, I had posted 272 times. Perhaps I'm getting more selective? More busy? Less creative?

Blog Posts in 2006 - http://sheet.zoho.com
My busiest blog-posting month in 2006 was August. I have no idea why.

In looking back on 2006, I thought I'd take a tour through all 12 months, to see what was uppermost in my mind in each. I've tried to pull a representative post from each month:
  1. January: I recorded A Walk Around The Point of Cape Henlopen. This was a photo-walk with Christina.
  2. February: I reflected on driving at night in a post titled Snowy Fields, Full Moon.
  3. March: Another photo-walk, this time recording Some of What We Found at the Botanical Gardens. I visited there with my colleague Sandy while we were at a conference in DC.
  4. April: Another memory post, now looking back to my college days, visiting a frozen lake in Maine, Midwinter.
  5. May: At the end of the month, we were already back on the beach. Which led me to the thought "And So We Begin Again."
  6. June: One day I saw a person I could only describe as a Senior Delinquent.
  7. July: A story in the local paper had me reflecting on guest workers and that notion that We Do Welcome Guest Workers in my city of Lewes.
  8. August: We attended A Symphony Orchestra Concert at Lewes.
  9. September: I reflected, as I often do in September, on my incredible luck in finding and marrying Karen. I wrote Our Marriage Turned 18 Today.
  10. October: I found A Cause Worth a Donation in a scholarship fund set up in memory of former Lewes Mayor George H.P. Smith.
  11. November: I started noting rants from out-of-state bloggers about Delaware's stretch of I-95. That had me wondering, "Does Delaware Need a better PR Firm?"
  12. December: The phrase "The Curve of Your Laugh" set me off into another memory of life with Karen
I think it was a good year, at least in my efforts to find art in life. There was much to mourn in the world around us, but I always try to find beauty.