Saturday, May 31, 2008

We Have Eggs

The bird who has taken up residence in one of our hanging plants this spring was off the nest when I finished mowing the lawn this morning. I took the opportunity for a peek and found a pair of eggs in the nest.

I must say that I was a bit worried about where the nesting bird might be. I worry that it will abandon the nest, which is quite close to our front door and so sees lots of human traffic. But the bird was back and perched on the eggs just now, so I will not worry.

With luck, we'll soon get a view of very young birds. I wonder what sort of birds these are?

UPDATE: Thanks go out to Rich, our Honest Hypocrite, for pointing out that the bird nesting on our front porch is a Mourning Dove.

Friday, May 30, 2008

What's (Not) Wrong With This Picture?

The News Journal had a story this morning on the possible effect of high gas prices on travel to Delaware's designated 20-something drinking and beach town Dewey Beach. The story ran in the 55-Hours week-end preview section. It was teased on the front page with the picture at left.

I find it troubling.

In Fueling the summer bar wars, Ryan Cormier writes about the possibility that upstate party folks will forgo the drive to Dewey, at four bucks a gallon, and do their drinking in upstate bars. Good news for the upstate bar owners, but bad news for the down-state bar owners.

But, as a down-state driver -- and as the father of a newly minted downstate driver -- I have to say that I'm thrilled to think that the young woman pictured here will not be driving around here.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Well Done, Dover Post?

Several of the newspapers that make up the Dover Post family of publications -- the Sussex Countian, the Milford Beacon, the Smyrna Clayton Sun Times and the Middletown Transcript -- have launched new news sites that are, at least after a quick tour, very nice. Ironically, the Dover Post site itself does not appear to have been updated yet (at least not as I write).

Update (5/29/08): The Dover Post site has made the change!

According to an editorial in today's Sussex Countian, the on-line make-overs came with the help of new parent company Gatehouse Media. It appears the writing was on the on-line wall:
... while we will certainly be printing the same paper we have since 1886 every Wednesday, there is little doubt that news-gathering and news distribution is moving in a digital direction.
These are very local weekly newspapers, and they have for a long time provided a close-focus look at their communities. But things are moving faster than the printing press can produce a tabloid-sized newspaper:
There are advantages and disadvantages to a weekly paper. On one hand, we get nearly a full week to work and develop stories that happen between Wednesday and Sunday. But then again, everything that happens between those days is, well-developed or not, old news by the time it gets to the paper.
I hope this means that these papers will continue their in-depth reporting, but will update on an interim basis. They have included lots of RSS feeds, so we can read along with them. And, when we do, we should take notice of their advertisers. That's how this business works, after all.

Monday, May 26, 2008

We Have Guests, Again

A bird has taken over one of the two hanging flower baskets we have outside our front door this spring. It's the second time we've played host to basket-nesting birds.

We first noticed that the flowers in one basket were looking a bit more stressed than those in the other. On closer inspection, we found the beginnings of a nest and we started to see a bird coming and going.

For the last few days, this bird has been sitting there steadily; I assume there are eggs under there.

I think we'll happily sacrifice the flowers for a few new birds.

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Among the Many Things I Did Not Know: Why 88888 is So Interesting

Back in November, I posted about rolling 88,888 miles on my Prius. I thought it was just a way-station on my journey of obsessive nerdiness, but that post has had something of a life of its own.

The folks over at Delaware Liberal used it to start a "Guess Mike's Mileage" contest. That was cute. But I've also noticed a steady stream of hits on that post generated by Google Searches for "88888." The most recent, today, was by a web-surfer in Chahārmahāl o Bakhtiyārī, in Iran.

I've noticed that a number of the 88888 searchers are in that part of the world, so I finally got curious enough to follow-up and found two interesting facts about 88888 that may explain why that number is bringing readers.

First, the number 88,888 is a mathematical curiosity:
888888 is the only five-digit repunit such that the product of itself and all truncations of itself plus and minus one results in twin primes.
What? Don't ask me, I just work here. In any case, I've seen 88,888 referred to in several places as a lucky number. These two things are likely related.

More recently, 88888 is apparently the account number used by Nick Leeson for the speculative trades that led to the collapse of the UK investment bank Barings in the 1990s.

I just thought it was neat that my car's odometer had 8's straight across.

Friday, May 23, 2008

A Moment of Zen?

I went for a walk along the St. Jones River for lunch on Thursday. There were turtles and boys fishing and several Great Blue Herons. This one here was fishing at the foot of the Silver Lake dam. He was (rightly) annoyed with me for interrupting his angling. But watching him was so peaceful.

Do yourself a favor and turn down your volume before playing this (Assuming the video is showing up for you...). Not much happens, the Heron is just hanging out. But the water running over the dam behind me was load.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

News Journal Update

The folks at the News Journal got back to me and explained that some of their feeds were "generating headlines from the incorrect categories" and that they have fixed it. We'll see. There are, of course, of problems with the News Journal site, but I'm glad they responded.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

News Journal On-Line Makeover Disaster #4

The News Journal, Delaware's top daily newspaper, recently made-over its on-line offerings and I am not very happy with the result. It's still better than the other Delaware daily, which offers essentially no on-line content, but I find the new News Journal site hard to use and off-putting.

There's too much stuff on the News Journal web page, so it takes far too long to load. Some sections aren't well dated; it's hard to see what's actually new. And the site goes too far down the road to trying to be a social site, making things simply more confusing.

But none of those problems, as annoying as they are, is News Journal On-Line Makeover Disaster #4. No, today I want to talk to you about RSS feeds and how poorly they are implemented on the News Journal site.

RSS feeds can be a great way to organize and consume data; they are particularly useful for news and news-related content. Since I can't dependably find news content on the News Journal site, I have subscribed to three of their feeds: News, Politics, and Opinion.

The News feed seems pretty straightforward; it repeats the headlines from the main "News" section each morning. That's good. The Opinion feed doesn't appear to have been updated since May 16. That's bad. The Politics feed seems to be a special case. It updates every few hours and offers a broad spectrum of news headlines. Sometimes, there is even political news.

Here are the latest headlines from the News Journal Politics feed, as found in my reader:
So, out of 10 "political" headlines, 3 are actually about politics. The rest seem to be "latest updates." Further, the politics feed has a tendency to repeat itself, and to repeat headlines found in the other feeds, particularly in the morning.

Am I being picky? Yes. But the News Journal is a business. It sells ads based on readers/viewers and I am one of those readers. My attention to the site -- my clicking through from my RSS reader -- is crucial to the business model of the News Journal site. If they make that progressively harder, they will lose readers and they will not be able to sell ads as well.

So, as a fairly polite fellow, I left a comment on the new site's readers' forum , in the section titled "Redesign Feedback." That was two weeks ago. I have had no response. I did send an e-mail to the on-line editor and got a polite, but not very helpful reply suggesting that I might be getting repeats in the RSS feeds if I've subscribed to both the "sports" feed and the "Phillies" feed. That might be an issue if they had an "Orioles" feed, but they don't.

So I decided to complain to you, and potentially, to everyone who searches the web for information on "News Journal RSS Feeds."

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Congratulations, Lady Ravens

The Sussex Tech Women's Lacrosse Team posted a 6 and 6 record for the season that just ended. Considering that this was the first season that this school has had a Women's Lacrosse Team, that's not at all bad. And, as a team parent, I am proud.

At the start of the season, their inexperience showed. They had a core of girls who had played field hockey and knew both hustle and field strategy but lacked ball-handling skills. They were augmented by a group of girls, including Colleen (my eldest), who had been part of a lacrosse club last year and had some stick and ball-handling skills, but lacked game experience. They featured lots of sprinting towards the goal and plenty of shots, but little passing and strategy. Good teams beat them easily.

By the end of the season, though, the team had come together and found a nice balance. They still had a breakaway threat, but as often as not these girls made skillful passes, set-up plays, and manufactured goals with a touch of finesse. In their second-to-last game, they fought Caesar Rodney, one of the best teams in the league, down to the wire in a see-saw game that they lost only by one, last-minute goal.

So, congratulations, Lady Ravens. I'm looking forward to next year.

Saturday, May 17, 2008

What is the Heart and Soul of Sussex County?

There's a new web site up to try to answer this question. The University of Delaware's Coastal Community Enhancement Initiative created the site to gather a wide range of descriptions and thoughts about what makes Sussex County, Delaware, special.
We believe that when a community takes the time to get to know itself, its Heart & Soul elements - it will gain a sense of identity and purpose that will empower its citizens to make strong enduring decisions and take right action to protect and strengthen who they are.

Only by going to, listening to, and learning from everyone - the influential and the forgotten, old timers and newcomers, young and old, rich and poor, business owners and workers, professionals and tradesmen, the noisy and the quiet, the caregivers and the gatekeepers - can shared purpose and identity live in and guide a community.
I thought I would try to help out and, after consulting with one of the Initiative members, I created a new flickr group to try to collect photographic input into this question. If you are a photographer, and have or would like to join flickr (it's free), please join Sussex County (DE) Heart & Soul and add some shots of what you think is special about this place.

I think this will be worth some of our time if only as an experiment in a crowd-sourced gazette of what a particular place means.

Friday, May 16, 2008

"Delawarisms" Get Some National Attention

One of the blogs of the National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL) has a piece today on some of the linguistic tics unique to Delaware's political scene. The blog, The Thicket, selects a few bits from a post this week by proto-blogger Celia Cohen on her Delaware Grapevine.

In Leg Hall Lingo, Celia offered a brief glossary to help watchers of Delaware's political antics keep up with the local dialect. Many were words and phrases familiar to legislature-watchers everywhere, but a few were new to the NCSL writer, including "Thurman's Office," "Body Parts People," and the "Big Head" committees.

The legislature is a community unto itself and, like any community, it has its own customs, its own norms and its own language. Ours is not the only one with its own words, The Thicket offers a neat little lexicon: Sine Die and Other Vulgarities.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

RIP: Mayor Al Stango

I've lost another Mayor, I'm afraid. Al Stango, who led Lewes for (I think) 24 years, passed away over the week-end at age 93. We lost Mayor George Smith, who followed Al in office, in 2005.

Al Stango was Mayor when I first moved to Lewes in 1987. He ran a tight town. Al was in charge and he was not shy about it. But he was effective.

When I first came here I was a reporter and news reader at a local radio station. I quickly learned that a fill-up at the Mayor's gas station on the way to work was a great way to get a fresh morning's story. Al would come out and pump your gas and if you had a tape recorder, or a curious ear, he was perfectly willing to tell you just what was new in the city of Lewes.

Al Stango was a big part of why I fell in love with Lewes. He was a character and I am thankful I got to know him.

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Spring Has Sprung in All Its Glory and It Is Making Me Feel Like Crap

Spring is a time of growth and rebirth. The world wakens from its winter slumber. Flowers, grasses, and trees burst into color and life. Spring is when we are made new.

And it is making me utterly miserable.

The pollen content of this spring air is as high as I can remember. I'm one of the Hay-Fever sufferers sneezing and hacking through this week.

I'm glad that spring is here. I love the new green and all the flowers. But I am tired of feeling like crap.

Sunday, May 4, 2008

Third Golf Game of 2008

Andy and I walked on at Old Landing Golf Course, outside of Rehoboth Beach, this morning. The course was not too crowded, but there was a large group, several foursomes, just ahead of us. So we started on ten. That is an odd way to play that course. You usually finish with holes 17 and 18: a long, turning par-4 and a huge par-5 that ends across a pond. The eighth and ninth, on the other hand, are a straight par-4 a short par-3.

The course was in somewhat rough shape. The greens are in fine shape, if slow, but the fairways are a mess; fair in name only. It's still a fun course, with mature trees and natural topography. It is well worth the cost.

I played poorly and carded a 110. There were a few good drives and putts. I had a par or two. And I felt I was making some progress with my new driver. All in all, a good way to spend a morning.

"Getting to Know You....." (Sing with me)

The Cajun has pulled me into another of those games of blog-tag. This one with a "getting to know you theme." I've tagged others, and recently, so fair is fair....

Here are the rules:

  1. The rules of the game get posted at the beginning.
  2. Each player answers the questions about themselves.
  3. At the end of the post, the player then tags 5 people and posts their names, then goes to their blogs and leaves them a comment, letting them know they’ve been tagged and asking them to read your blog.
For the tagging part of this, I have decided to randomly pick bloggers from states and places I've lived or that interest me.

And the questions:
  1. What was I doing 10 yrs ago?
    I was just starting my current job, trying to coordinate the use and sharing of geospatial data in the state of Delaware as a staffer at the Office of State Planning Coordination (now part of the Office of Management and Budget).

  2. What are 5 things on my to-do list for today (not in any particular order)?
    • Empty the dishwasher.
    • Play 18 holes of golf.
    • Squire my daughter on a visit to her horse, Jazzy.
    • Take a nap.
    • Convince Karen and the girls to go out for dinner with me.

  3. Snacks I enjoy:
    • Sun chips
    • Hummus
    • Almonds
    • grapes

  4. Things I would do if I were a billionaire:
    • Purchase land that might otherwise be developed in my county.
    • Fund scholarships.
    • Walk across the US staying at really nice hotels and Bed-and-Breakfasts.
    • Play more golf.

  5. Three of my bad habits:
    • Too much snacking
    • Too much web-surfing
    • Too much talking.

  6. Five places I have lived: (in no order whatsoever…)
    • Bethesda, Maryland
    • Waterville, Maine
    • Germantown, Maryland
    • Rehoboth Beach, Delaware
    • Lewes, Delaware

  7. Five jobs I have had: (in no order whatsoever…)
    • Busboy/Dishwasher
    • Drugstore clerk
    • Radio Announcer
    • Public Relations Specialist
    • Data Coordinator

  8. Five bloggers that I wanna know more about:
So. Tag, you're it.

Thursday, May 1, 2008

New Traffic Pattern

new traffic pattern
Originally uploaded by mmahaffie
We have new stop signs at the intersection outside our office in Dover. We had had stop signs one way, but there were loads of accidents at this intersection. So they (whoever they are) have added stops signs on the cross-street.

It's remarkable how much a small change seems to freshen the streetscape.