Thursday, February 28, 2008

Be Nice... Or Go to Hell

There's an interesting commentary on the web site of the Guardian newspaper today about maintaining some sense of proportion and decency in on-line forums.

In "How do you deal with the trolls and idiots on comment boards?", Andrew Brown starts by quoting Keith Richards (Johnny Depp's pirate Dad for you youngsters) and goes on to suggest that the model that is starting to develop around the web calls for a bit of slack, some trust, but also a firm hand when needed:
All of this requires unending effort. It is like gardening, a constant watch against pests and the bindweed of organised stupidity.
Words of wisdom that the News Journal may want to heed in managing their on-line comments. They say they don't moderate discussion forums about their articles, but that message is most often seen in noting deleted rudeness. They should probably bite the bullet and make that a full-time job for someone.

I get a few nasty comments here from time to time. Most I can ignore. A few have to be removed. It's part of the deal.

Wondering about that "go to hell" above? Mr. Brown points to the Christian site Ship of Fools, which maintains a section of its forums called Hell -- "the refuge of the irascible, the contentious and the just plain pissed off."

So if you don't like it here... you know....

Say it Sadly: "Yoi!"

Myron Cope has died. The gravel-voiced sportswriter and broadcaster was a tradition in Pittsburgh, where he was remembered by an editorial writer at the Tribune-Review:
Myron was made in Pittsburgh. Unabashedly a hometown fan, he parroted no one's ideas or sports cliches and copied no one's broadcasting style. He was, for good and occasionally for bad, true only to himself.
I'm a Redskins fan, but I appreciated Myron Cope, and I'm sorry to see him go. (Via: My Blog is Your Blog Too)

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Glad That's Over?

The News Journal has a story up this evening reporting partial settlement of the Indian River School District prayer lawsuit. This has been going on for a while now.

The district was sued some time ago for making non-Christians feel explicitly unwelcome. The school board got fairly defensive about the whole thing. In fact, according to this evening's article, the part of the suit that spoke to the Board's own public prayer was left unresolved.

Otherwise, there is a financial settlement (to be paid by the District's insurance) and "an extensive list of new policies and procedures that the school board must adopt." I'll be very interested to read that list.

Ironically, the Indian River District made, if not the news, the Letters to the Editor page in the last few days for a similar complaint. That one is too young, and a bit in doubt. But the echoes are chilling.

UPDATE: The News Journal now has a more detailed story on this settlement.

Monday, February 25, 2008

We Need to Think About Changing Our Sex Offender Laws

The headline from the News Journal web site tells part of the story: Ailing sex offender chokes to death at Dover clinic.
A 22-year-old Huntington's disease victim who was denied a bed in a state health care facility because he was a registered sex offender choked to death today at a Dover mental health clinic.
We, as a culture, have a tendency to over-react and write sweeping laws in response to problems. Our sex offender laws may be causing problems we could avoid.

Saturday, February 23, 2008

Down Memory Lane

Good heavens! I'm not that old. No, this photograph, from 1928, has sparked memories for me from the early 1970s (Okay, I'm a bit old).

The old-photo blog Shorpy (a personal favorite) has a few photos up today from the 1920's in Glen Echo amusement Park, just north of Washington DC and near Bethesda, Maryland, where I grew up. There is this one, of the roller coaster entrance, and one of the bumper cars, in 1924.

Later in life, Glen Echo was a National Park site where, as youngster, I volunteered along with many of my siblings.

Glen Echo started in the late 1800s as a National Chautauqua Assembly site.
The Chautauqua was an educational movement that sought to unify the Protestant churches by bringing people together for classes, discussions, entertainment, and physical activity. (From History, Town of Glen Echo)
It became a straight amusement park in 1899 and continued as one until the late 1960s when it closed after declining attendance and problems with vandalism. The park came under the control of the federal government in 1971 and the National Park Service started working towards recreating the Chautauqua ethos by establishing an artists' colony.

When I worked there, there were potters and painters, a children's theater, and performances of all sorts. I think I first saw the Muppets at Glen Echo Park; a group of puppeteers performed under the pavilion that once sheltered the "cuddle-up." There was a green frog; I think it must have been pre-Sesame Street Jim Henson and company. I also recall a lovely summer-evening performance by a symphony orchestra. I think they played Appalachian Spring.

A collection of slant-wall yurts was erected and used for studio space. My mother took pottery lessons. There was a shop that sold arts created at the park. My sister Margaret managed that for part of our time there. At one point it was in one of the yurts. There was a refurbished traditional carousel, several Mahaffies helped run that from time to time.

My job, at least the one I remember best, was sitting at a beat-up surplus metal government-issue desk near the entrance to the park and serving as a public information source. That's where my vocation as an information-pusher began. I was all of maybe 12 years old, pointing people towards the pottery studio, the theater, the carousel, or the bathrooms.

I first met my eventual brother-in-law Lou Church at that desk; he sauntered up one afternoon asking where we kept the white elephants. I knew then that he was a wise-ass and would fit well into my family.

At some point, I transferred my volunteerism to the children's theater that occupied an old arcade building in the Park. Somehow I went from information desk in the sunlight to running a follow-spot from the back of a darkened Adventure Theatre. That started my avocation for theater, performance, and eventually broadcasting.

But that is a distant memory for another blog posting. For now, it was fun to see a bit more of Glen Echo's past.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Sussex County Delaware Land Use Issues Smack-Down! (on public radio)

Friday morning will see a one-hour (I think) forum on Sussex County Land Use issues on the Salisbury, Maryland, public radio station WSDL (90.7 FM). The Public Radio Delmarva news staff plans to discuss the pending proposals for housing and commercial developments at the corner of Gills Neck Road and Kings Highway, just outside of Lewes, with two gents who are "fer it" and two who are "agin it."

This proposal has stirred up local concern like no other has lately. Opponents are organized and angry and have peppered the local paper with letters to the editor on the subject. Two of the leaders of that movement will be on the WSDL panel. Dave Ennis, a former State Representative who has a house just outside of Lewes, and John Mateyko, an architect and Lewes resident with strong (and usually informed) feelings about development issues, will face off against two who support development interests. Those gents will be Dave Kenton, a local real estate broker who has written several recent editorials extolling the benefits to be gained from letting developers work more freely, and Rich Collins, who recently read a book by Alan Greenspan and lately likes to whip that out at public meetings.

Rich Collins is Executive Director of the Positive Growth Alliance, a local pro-growth advocacy group that he has made his full-time job over the years. I've had occasion to doubt Mr. Collins' accuracy before.

This should be interesting.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Here's a Fun Headline...

Abu Dhabi trounces Delaware in license-plate auction

Saeed Abdel Ghaffar Khouri bought Abu Dhabi license plate number 1 for 52.2 million dirhams ($14 million) at a charity auction this week. That beats the $675,000 paid recently for Delaware's Number 6.
"We wanted to be No. 1," Khouri's brother Hamdan Khouri told reporters after the sale. "Who doesn't like to be the best in the world?"
Indeed. (Right you are, Ken)

I like the implication that Delaware is a natural competitor for Abu Dhabi and the United Arab Emerites.

Update (2/21/08): The car-focused AutoBlog has taken notice of the recent series of high-price/low-number license tag sales. They have a post up today about Delaware's sale of number 6. They also point to a sale, for $870,000, of the "F1" plate in Great Britain, and have a post about the car-chic in the UAE. In all three cases, the car-conscious readers at AutoBog are mostly critical of this form of investment.

Saturday, February 16, 2008

First Golf Game of 2008!

It was cold but sunny and clear today and I got to play 18 holes at The Rookery with Andy and Rich. Rich and one of his daughters were down from Connecticut for the week-end to visit Andy and family; their visits often include golf and they are kind enough to invite me along.

I did worry about the cold, but a warm shirt, partnered with a sweater and a fleece vest, kept me warm enough. The sun helped and the lack of a strong wind made it all work.

The Rookery had other players, but they were few and we generally felt like we had the place to ourselves.

The course was in tolerable shape for February. There were a very few rough patches and some of the greens were hard and fast in the cold. The lack of leaves meant we could look more deeply into the woods than usual; they held a few surprises.

My game was worse than usual. I was not surprised to be rusty after a few months off. It always nice to have an excuse. My short game was roughest, I think. I was having trouble judging just how much force to use and as a result found my self watching my ball lofted well over a few greens that I should have landed gently on.

I carded a 126 with generous Mulligans.

I was trying out a new driver today. It was a Christmas gift from Andy; a broad, flat fat clubhead that felt somewhat like winging an overstuffed sandwich on a stick. I had some success with it, mostly after Rich wisely suggested moving the ball up in my stance.

I think that's why golf is always better with friends and is best with people you've long played with -- they see things you miss, but know your game well enough to know which of the things they see are most important.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

I'm In Sync With Delaware Public Libraries!

When I started my 2008 Reading Log at the New Year, I had no idea that I was pre-joining a new program about to be offered by the Delaware Public Libraries.

The Delaware Division of Libraries' Center for the Book has announced "Between the Lines," a journaling program designed to help readers use journals to "help them direct their free-choice learning to achieve self-awareness, self-improvement and self-empowerment." The program includes hard-bound spiral notebooks that participants can use to record their reading and their thoughts about their reading.

That's pretty much what I've been doing with my Reading Log. I swiped the idea from Jessamyn West (a librarian), but it's a fairly standard blogging approach.

I plan to stick with my on-line journal, but I think I'll try to attend the workshop the Libraries folks are offering later this month at Lewes Public Library about Between the lines. It's one of a series they plan (PDF).

I'm a big fan of the public library, especially my library here in Lewes. It's where I find so many great books.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Rather Than Re-Typing the Whole Thing Here...

Allow me to direct your attention to a post I wrote this week for The NSGIC Blog. The post, Boundaries Matter, is about the Delaware vs New Jersey boundary kerfuffle and a somewhat similar boundary dispute between Georgia and Tennessee.

I'm a member of NSGIC -- The National States Geographic Information Council -- and one of the authors on that group's blog. We try to highlight stories and issues of interest to the people in the various states who create and share geospatial data.

Stories about boundaries -- state boundaries -- are definitely of interest.

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Down on the Corner...

I had an opportunity this week-end to go visit a spot I've wanted to visit for some time: Boundary Monument 0, the Middle Point. This is the southwest corner of the state of Delaware, where the boundary between Delaware and Maryland turns north.

My older daughter had plans Saturday evening for a sleep-over at a class-mate's house. Because she attends the county-wide technical high school, and has since middle-school gone once a week to Academic Challenge classes at the local community college, my daughter has very good friends in all corners of Sussex County. Her sleep-over this weekend was at a farmhouse west of Seaford, almost at the state line near Woodland Ferry.

After I dropped her off, I took advantage of the sunlight and did a bit of exploring. I wanted to see the Woodland Ferry, which has recently shut down and will be replaced with a larger boat. The ferry crosses the Nanticoke River at a small old settlement called Woodland, south of Seaford.

From there, I followed a small road along the west bank of the Nanticoke River, heading downstream towards Maryland. The road got smaller and smaller, following the edges of farm fields until it turned abruptly west, crossed a marshy creek, and entered Maryland. I had planned to use the smaller roads to cut through Galestown, cross the Nanticoke at Sharptown, and head south to pick up Route 54 at Mardela Springs, and so head back into Delaware at the Corner.

I came around a sharp bend in the road to Galestown, however, and came upon a pile of dirt, a parked crane and a clear denial of entry into town. Apparently, the Spillway at Galestown Millpond was washed out, blocking several routes through town. I had to backtrack north to Reliance and head west and then south the long way around.

A pleasant surprise of this detour was a visit to Eldorado, Maryland. It included this noble church. That part of Delmarva has great wide-open fields and a slight roll to the landscape. Very impressive on a clear winter afternoon.

Eventually, I found myself rolling east on Route 54. Up ahead I spotted a small half-circle pull-off and the pavillion that protects the monument that marks the boundary. The Monument was placed by Mason and Dixon, to mark the start of the line they surveyed north and then west. They started their line at the Middle Point of a line surveyed across the center of the Delmarva peninsula by an earlier team. Their stone, inscribed with the coats of arms of Lord Baltimore and William Penn, joined several other boundary stones placed by earlier surveyors. In modern times, a Benchmark was added and officially recorded.

This is a part of Delaware 's history, and geography, that fascinates me. Part of my job is to work with the digital version of the boundaries and data that were started by Mason and Dixon, and folks like them, hundreds of years ago. Their chain of stones marking a north-south line up the peninsula is a part of the geospatial data that we rely on today and that I help to make available to Delaware's citizens.

So it was very cool to finally get a chance to go visit the first one.

Saturday, February 9, 2008

Photo Archive Memories #4

In 1990, Karen and I took a trip to Washington state, visiting Snoqualmie, Mt. Ranier and the San Juan Islands, with a brief side-trip into Canada to Victoria. It was still early in our marriage and we were childless and adventurous. As usual, I took a healthy number of photos, a few of which I have lately scanned to my flickr pages.

We had booked ourselves into a guided bicycle tour of the San Juan Islands. Before joining that group, we planned a quiet few days in the nearby mountains.

We started at Snoqualmie, where we acclimated and took a hike in mountain woods. We visited Snoqualmie Falls, where we watched a man fight for what seemed hours with a Salmon that he eventually hiked away with. We visited Mt. Ranier and hiked on the upper trails for a few hours. It was foggy and overcast, but we caught a few glacier glimpses when the wind cleared things out.

We then joined a small group of tourists on bikes, starting from the port of Anacortes and traveling by Ferry from Island to Island in Puget Sound. On each we toured by bicycle and stayed in various inns and hotels.

Neither Karen nor I were (or are) accomplished cyclists. We had some time to train, but riding around coastal Sussex County, Delaware, where highway overpasses are the highest hills, is not truly sufficient training for even the moderate rolling hills of the San Juan Islands. So, it was a challenge. We faced it bravely though, and while we weren't the fastest or strongest riders, we had a great time and saw mountains and water and boats and countryside. And that was why we had come.

On one island, we visited a hippie-run resort that offered sea-kayak tours. We paddled out into the Sound and saw eagles' nests and more cliffs and natural beauty. On the way back, we were paced by seals, that liked to pop up behind us and watch our backs. A guide showed us a way to fool them by paddling backwards. I wish I had had my camera, but it seemed wiser to leave it on shore.

I remember changing from my bathing suit back into biking clothes in a nathroom near the kitchen of this resort's main building. There was some truly tasting-sounding live Dead being played by the kitchen staff. This was in the days before the internet archive Dead collection and even before the Dead's "From the Vault" series, so it was a rare and enticing treat.

To end the trip, we crossed into Canada at Sidney, on Vancouver Island, and rode to Victoria by way of Butchard Gardens, a played-out quarry converted to a very floral garden. It is a lovely spot near Tod Inlet and Brentwood Bay.

Victoria was very nice as well. It was the first place I've ever been where drivers stopped for pedestrians trying to cross the street. That was a level of politeness that surprised and pleased me.

Victoria was our final stop. From there we took a high-speed ferry back to Seattle, flew from Seattle to Chicago where we spent most of an uncomfortable night in O'Hare Airport before a final flight home.

Sunday, February 3, 2008

Pinewoods Walk

I took a walk on the Pinelands Nature Trail in Cape Henlopen State Park this afternoon. It was a warm day and I felt the need to get out and tromp around.

The rain we've had lately had pretty much closed the entrance to that trail that I used to use. There was a stretch of trail about ten feet long where there was four to six inches of standing water. That's not what you're seeing here. This is a wet spot in the pine woods.

I took the bike trail out towards the beach and jumped onto the pinelands trail from there. I took the whole loop around and came back along the beach. It took a bit more than an hour.

It was dark and quiet in the woods. Though there were patches of bright sunlight here and there.

I took a moment to climb one of the old Fort Miles bunkers now covered in trees and shrubs.

Coming out, I saw the white deer I've seen in the Park in the past. It was well-across the old parade ground and too far for my camera to get a clear picture. But it was cool to see it again.

Then home, a nice dinner and the Superbowl.