Tuesday, January 31, 2006
Monday, January 30, 2006
Don't try this at home.
Saturday, January 28, 2006
The way to a geek's heart is through his keyboard.
Three for David
Today's N&O obit.
Always funny, even when he shouldn't have been, his constant curiosity and questioning, especially of authority, inspired all those who came in contact with him. He was an amazing chef and the consummate host who loved to bring people together to share his culinary creations, laughter, and life. As an important advisor, mentor, and confidant to many, David's perspective and insights helped all, but were an especially calming and important influence on his family. He believed strongly in the creation of a just society, one free of discrimination and where opportunities were widely available.
News story in yesterday's N&O.
"He was the great liberal who never gave up," said Joe Lowman, a professor of psychology at UNC-Chapel Hill. "He was [like] one of those irascible adolescents who never gave up on his rebellion and never gave up on what he believed in."
. . .
A great cook who served up meals of soft-shell crabs and smoked salmon [which he smoked himself --SG], he couldn't resist a bargain. On Thursday, several turkeys still sat in his freezer -- a steal at 13 cents a pound right after Thanksgiving.
Obit in yesterday's Daily Tar Heel.
"He lived life with such gusto, energy, compassion, and honesty," said professor Don Baucom, a former student and colleague of Galinsky.
"He was one of those people who are willing to tell you the truth," Baucom said. "At times he left you wondering if you wanted to hit him or hug him."
There will be an informal memorial at his house tomorrow afternoon.
UPDATE: Pictures from the memorial.
Friday, January 27, 2006
Missed opportunity: GSK-Carrboro High
"My approach is Leave No Dollar Behind," said Paul Vallas, chief executive of the Philadelphia schools, although he added that a school board review of each transaction would weed out undesirable donors, which he said included tobacco and liquor companies.
It's real clear how you feel when you're in a space where every nook and cubby is named for somebody. You feel like a guest in somebody else's house. This is how the Nasher Museum felt to me. A private museum is a private museum. This is not how a public school is supposed to feel.
Last year the Chapel Hill Town Council declined to endorse the concept of selling advertising space on the outside of our buses. We easily said no to our financial consultant's suggestion that we sell naming rights to our Lot 5 development. There will be other opportunities to think about negotiating the line between private and public, though, and soon.
Thursday, January 26, 2006
Pedestrian deaths, one very close to home
This is the third pedestrian fatality in Chapel Hill in
The thought has often crossed my mind that it might take a death at that deadly intersection to get the attention needed to make a real pedestrian-accessible crossing there. So now here it is.
Tuesday, January 24, 2006
Finally he was clean and I helped him put on fresh clothes. Whew! He was sweet, and thanked me for our trip. He told me "it makes me feel like..." What he meant was it makes him feel like he is a "real boy." That is a reference to Pinocchio he used to use when his verbal skills were better. He feels that his dementia has turned him into a wooden marionette, and he wants to be a "Real Boy.” He has started to get the idea that being at Britthaven is like being in jail. There are always new problems, things that I have to work through with the aides, the Floor Nurse, The Director of Nursing. As soon as one is solved, another one pops up. There is no way Dad can get the personalized care he had at home. Still, the worst prison he is in is the prison of this disease, whatever it is.
Monday, January 23, 2006
Dump & grind
Sunday, January 22, 2006
How quickly we forget.
Actually my search started over a year ago. I called Martin Middle School (as it is now known). Was told that they have no records and no idea. So this time around, I started with the Wake County School System. First I was told that I'd have to know her social security number. For information that was at one time common knowledge? Please. I didn't want her salary or her job evaluations. I just wanted to know what everybody knew in 1969, if it were true: that she taught seventh grade history. I was kicked up to human relations. A glimmer of light! This woman said she'd go look something up. It sounded hopeful, but I was disconnected. Three callbacks and every time I got put to the same voicemail of the wrong department. (I left a message, for what little it was worth.)
So I thought I'd try again with Martin Middle. A more creative phone-answering person said I should talk to the media center; said they could look it up in a yearbook. Yes! The media center person, though, said it wasn't so easy; no yearbooks that far back, and she might not be able to give me this "personnel" information. But she promised to look into it.
I was about ready to file a FOIA request when she called back to say oh yes, Ann (sic) Kennedy was much beloved; she taught here for many years. We have her picture right here on the wall.
Oh, yes, indeed.
Midwinter spring is its own season.
Thursday, January 19, 2006
Do daylighted schools make kids smarter?
Larry Shirley, director of the State Energy Office, sang the praises of biomass resources: bioethanol (which can be made from switchgrass); biodiesel, which is being produced locally already; and methane, which can be extracted from old landfills. Electricity can be produced from biomass, including hog waste, poultry litter, crop residue, and mill and forest residue. "We think biomass is going to have excellent employment potential through the state," Shirley said, especially in rural areas. North Carolina also has reasonable capacity to host windmill farms, he said.
Tom Henkel got into the nuts and bolts of solar power. Solar water heating is the easiest to accomplish now, resulting in more savings than you might realize. Dr. Henkel even praised the solar clothes dryer. (We used to have one of those till a hurricane took it out.)
Richard Harkrader, policy committee chair of the NC Sustainable Energy Association, is an architect and contractor who has moved into green energy by way of keeping a keen eye on utilities regulation as part of the problem:
Both Duke and Progress predict energy growth on average a little less than 2 percent a year. We can take that down to zero. But unfortunately we aren't going to get there under the system we have now, the system of utility regulation. Green is all of these things. The principal barrier we have to getting there right now is the way the system is set up. Utilities get a franchise, a "natural monopoly." We don't want competing wires down the streets. So they get this and we say, your obligation is to provide energy in this service territory, reliable and cheap. And that's what we've been concentrating on, reliable and cheap. . . . There's a big disencentive for building small power plants close to where people work and live. The mindset is, the population is growing, we're all going to need more energy; therefore build more power plants. Unless we find a way to change that system, that's what we're going to get.
On the positive side, he believes North Carolina is positioned very well right now for an "explosion" of green energy--potentially up there with New Jersey and California and New York.
But architect Mike Nicklas brought the most surprising news: schools built on daylighting principles, like Smith Middle School, which his firm designed, actually make kids smarter. They do better on tests. There is data to show it. Why is that? Two reasons, seemingly contradictory, he said. Students and teacher say they feel both "calmed" and "stimulated." The "calmed" has to do with no fluorescent lights. The "stimulated" has to do with the fact that the weather outside changes, and your body reacts to that.
What a bright idea!
I thought it looked cool. It's modern and honest about what it is.
My colleague Cam Hill said the functional steel beams were fine but he'd like the entrance to be "a little more fun." I said, I don't know--"fun" sounds like turning modern to postmodern.
But here it is . . . modern fun! I love the ^^^^^^^^^ roofline.
Wednesday, January 18, 2006
Being poor or homeless is not a crime.
Our town is not unusual. There are more homeless people lately. Some of them turn to panhandling. And for every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction.
Billie Guthrie a housing coordinator for OPC Area Program, calls our attention to a new report by the National Coalition for the Homeless, "A Dream Denied: The Criminalization of Homelessness in U.S. Cities." It begins,
The housing and homelessness crisis in the United States has worsened in 2005, with many cities reporting an increase in demands for emergency shelter. In 2005, 71 percent of the 24 cities surveyed by the U.S. Conference of Mayors reported a 6 percent increase in requests for emergency shelter. Even while the requests for emergency shelter have increased, cities do not have adequate shelter space to meet the need. In the 24 cities surveyed in the U.S. Conference of Mayors Hunger and Homelessness Homelessness Survey for 2005, an average of 14 percent of overall emergency shelter requests went unmet, with 32 percent of shelter requests by homeless families unmet. The lack of available shelter space – a situation made worse by the Gulf Coast hurricanes - leaves many homeless persons with no choice but to struggle to survive on the streets of our cities.
Too often, the response to this crisis is to criminalize the homeless. Atlanta's draconian anti-panhandling ordinance is one example. In some cities you can even get into trouble for feeding the homeless:
refined this ordinance with designated official feeding sites. The idea is to cut down on litter. Also, volunteers have to register and take food-handling classes.
Cities have been further targeting homeless persons by penalizing those offering outdoor feedings for homeless individuals. These city restrictions are frequently aimed at preventing providers from serving food in parks and other public spaces.
In Dallas, beginning in September 2005, a new ordinance penalizes charities, churches, and other organizations that serve food to the needy outside of designated areas of the city. Anyone who violates this ordinance can be fined up to $2000.
The panhandlers are virtually regulated out of sight and yet if you feed them you have to be certified? Something doesn't add up.
Dallas is one of the top 20 meanest cities for 2005. The criteria are "the number of anti-homeless laws in the city, the enforcement of those laws and severities of penalties, the general political climate toward homeless people in the city, local advocate support for the meanest designation, the city’s history of criminalization measures, and the existence of pending or recently enacted criminalization legislation in the city." These are cities in which "punitive practices . . . impede true progress in solving the problem."
I'm not proud of our nighttime panhandling ban and would not have voted for it. It was supposed to solve the problem of aggressive panhandling. But it hasn't. Instead, it's just made the situation confusing. How is a person on Franklin Street at night supposed to know that it's against the law for him to ask out loud for money (but that it would be OK if he put it on a placard)? It's not working here any better than it has turned out in Fort Lauderdale.
I am proud of our Community Initiative to End Homelessness for its recent receipt of a HUD grant of more than $270,000 to fund housing and basic services for the homeless.
The Community Initiative is associated with, but is not the same thing as, the Orange County Partnership to End Homelessness (which needs a better web site). The Partnership is in the data-gathering stage, and focus groups are being organized. I think one of the first steps on the way to getting those nagging panhandlers off the street has to involve thinking seriously about why they are there, about real ways to tackle their problems. Surely there's at least some small relationship between the homeless and the excessively homed.
Saturday, January 14, 2006
I was there too, Kirk. Sorry I missed you.
It was the 20th anniversary of that day in 1963 when the world got its clearest glimpse to date of the essence of the man and the truths he shared with us all--truths that still had the power to stir souls and cause those gathered to stop and listen.
It is a stunning experience, and a strangely personal one, to stand among a half-million people who suddenly go silent and still. For many of us it was the biggest crowd we'd ever seen or may ever see, and yet for those few minutes--a speech in a day of speeches--we were all alone with our thoughts.
I was quite literally alone in the crowd--I wandered up from my Alexandria home, whether by bus or car I've forgotten, but it was an ordeal to get there. I may even have missed the playing of King's speech, for what I remember most clearly is something else: Stevie Wonder singing his heart out in "Happy Birthday, Martin," with tens of thousands of us singing along. Knowing me, I am sure that I cried.
For me, living and working up there, the day was remarkable for its out-of-time strangeness. This was Reagan's Washington. I'd been clerking for a corporate law firm, where it seemed that most often I was asked to research the question of "whether a savings and loan company is allowed to do [x]." Invariably, I found the answer to be yes. Not till much later did I understand my small role in the S&L crisis. My once and future boss, Ross Perot, not a man long on abstractions, was challenging Maya Lin's phenomenal Vietnam Memorial, installed the previous year, with the idea of a representational one. He had help from interior secretary James Watt, who hated Lin's design so much that he had refused to issue a building permit for it until the plan for the "Three Servicemen" memorial was added as a compromise. And the very idea of a national holiday in honor of King was still, after John Conyers had introduced it 15 years earlier, being hotly debated: the 20th anniversary celebration of the March on Washington and indeed Stevie Wonder's "birthday" song were contributions to the cause. It wasn't until early 1984 that "a fiercely reluctant President Reagan inked the law that made Martin Luther King Jr.'s birthday a national holiday," and only then under threat of veto. Jesse Helms had filibustered the bill.
For an aspiring yuppie like me, daily life meant three-piece suits with big shoulders, lunches at lovely exotic restaurants, and tedious commutes up and down the beltway. The Washington Mall on August 28, 1983, seemed a long way from 1963. And so, I'm very sure that I cried.
Thursday, January 12, 2006
Tami Atwater Mitchell, r.i.p.
Last June, I attended a "Unity Day" celebration at Freedom House in Chapel Hill, the first reunion of alumni of the DTC program. I heard Tami's moving story. She was by then married, with a son. She had a job, and she owned her own house and car. She had her life, a life that was almost thrown away.
Tami died yesterday in a collision with a school bus. Her name isn't mentioned in the story below, but I'm told by the DTC folks that it was her. I'm so sorry.
Car driver dies in school bus crash
UPDATE: Fuller story from N&O.
Wednesday, January 11, 2006
Brundage, "Top young historian," tells history in black and white.
For Triangle area folks, perhaps the most interesting section is the discussion of the history of the Hayti section of Durham. We generally understand that it fell to the dreaded forces of "urban renewal" (see Yonah Freemark's nice site), but what came as a surprise for me was that the residents of Hayti bought the program: they believed the promises that the resulting new landscape would be better for everybody. It wasn't, of course. To the expected range of emotional responses to having your neighborhood wrecked, anger at that betrayal has to be added.
It was a 1954 Supreme Court opinion, Berman v. Parker, that opened the way for municipalities to exercise eminent domain in the name of "cleaning up" the "slums." Making a broad sweep, it was the first to say that a "public use" under the 5th amendment takings clause could be found when the resulting use was not strictly public, if the result--the specific result in this case being planned urban renewal--was for a public purpose. It even allowed the destruction of buildings that were not run down if they were in the midst of what the city considered a "blighted" area.
So this is what happened in Durham. Beautiful, important buildings--which we would now surely consider "historic"--fell to the bulldozer along with the "slums." One of them was the White Rock Baptist Church building, a handsome Gothic structure that was a frequent meeting place for civil rights workers. This is where Martin Luther King, Jr. spoke in February 1960, just after the Greensboro sit-ins.
The Berman opinion, in turn, served as key precedent for Kelo v. City of New London. Kelo has generated plenty of outrage. Where was the outrage 50 years ago?
But I digress. Congratulations, Fitz, on a well-deserved recognition!
Monday, January 09, 2006
MLK all over again
UPDATE 1/11: No decision last night. More process.
Friday, January 06, 2006
Thursday, January 05, 2006
What's your type?
It's too bad that Alec Wilkinson's wonderful feature on Carter in the Dec. 5 New Yorker is not online. Here's a clip from a snippet that somebody else posted; it's about the work of coming up with an online typeface for Microsoft.
"The heavy lifting begins when the alphabet is finished," Carter says. "I begin then to see how the letters go together to make words, how they line up next to each other, how they sit on the page or the screen, how they work with the punctuation and the symbols. I print up forty or so pages, and when I first see them I feel suicidal. Nothing is working. If it isn't working, I don't necessarily know why it isn't. It simply looks bad. Then starts the long process of going back and making changes here and there. You change something one day, and the next day you change it back, because you realize it wasn't the problem. Nothing gets better, you despair, until one day you're looking -- you've changed something small -- and you're looking at a typeface."
Here's Microsoft's page about Carter and the typeface called Verdana that he created for the company.
And here's another take on the New Yorker piece, with a link to a classic essay on typography, "The Crystal Goblet, or Printing Should Be Invisible."
All of which is by way of introducing Typographia's favorite fonts of 2005 (part 1).
Trivia question: What was the typeface of Jimmy Carter's 1980 presidential campaign literature?
Answer: Souvenir. I thought it didn't seem serious enough.
Wednesday, January 04, 2006
It can't be precedent. The facts are different.
In 1803, Chief Justice Marshall, speaking for a unanimous Court, referring to the Constitution as "the fundamental and paramount law of the nation," declared in the notable case of Marbury v. Madison, that "It is emphatically the province and duty of the judicial department to say what the law is." This decision declared the basic principle that the federal judiciary is supreme in the exposition of the law of the Constitution, and that principle has ever since been respected by this Court and the Country as a permanent and indispensable feature of our constitutional system.
If the governor's move was called "interposition," what do you call it when a member of a state Supreme Court recommends against following federal Supreme Court precedent that he believes is wrongheaded?
In a capital case for which he was recused, having been involved in its prosecution before joining the court, Tom Parker of the Alabama Supreme Court claims that his fellow justices should have felt free to ignore Roper v. Simmons, the recent case that declared it unconstitutional to sentence a defendant under the age of 18 to death. Writes Parker in an amazing op-ed (via How Appealing),
I am not surprised that the liberal activists on the U.S. Supreme Court go to such lengths to usurp more political power. I am also not surprised that they use such ridiculous reasoning to try and force foreign legal fads on America. After all, this is the same Court that hs declared state displays of the Ten Commandments to be unconstitutional. [Parker is Roy Moore's stalwart defender; he introduced Moore recently at a conference called "Confronting the Judicial War on Faith."]
But I am surprised, and dismayed, that my colleagues on the Alabama Supreme Court not only gave in to this unconstitutional activism without a word of protest but also became accomplices to it by citing Roper as the basis for their decision to free Adams from death row.
He avoids the nasty little thing called "precedential authority" by raising the philosophical issue of whether the concept of "precedent" works at all:
State supreme courts may decline to follow bad U.S. Supreme Court precedents because those decisions bind only the parties to the particular case.
Maybe realizing that that doesn't quite do it, he continues,
Judges around the country normally follow precedents in similar cases because they know that if those cases go before the Court again they are likely to receive the same verdict. But state supreme court judges should not follow obviously wrong decisions simply because they are "precedents."
It would have been a well-calculated dodge, he predicted, for if the cards were to fall right, the Alabama court would have set in motion the very end of Roper itself:
The proper response to such blatant judicial tyranny would have been for the Alabama Supreme Court to decline to follow Roper in the Adams case. By keeping Adams on death row, our Supreme Court would have defended both the U.S. Constitution and Alabama law (thereby upholding their judicial oaths of office) and, at the same time, provided an occasion for the U.S. Supreme Court, with at least two new members, to reconsider the Roper decision.
But isn't he count his eggs prematurely? Are Chief Justice Roberts and the presumed Justice Alito actually going to overturn Roper?
Maybe not, Parker concedes, while holding his point: "the Alabama Supreme Court would have been none the worse for standing up against judicial activism."
While it might seem unseemly for a sitting supreme court justice to lash out against his colleages in a newspaper column, we should note that he has made the same point from the bench. The first item on his web page is a concurrence in a recent case in which he expressly takes on the statement quoted above from Cooper v. Aaron. In short, he just thinks it's plain wrong.
Tuesday, January 03, 2006
Should J. Edgar be Hoovered from the FBI Building?
Monday, January 02, 2006
Marker dedications were big deals as I remember them, occasions for much speaking and congratulating: the 1882 Greek Revial Alexander Cook house, the site of the Dixon Orphanage, the exotic O'Byrne plantation (the only National Register listing in the county), and on and on.
I don't think my grandmother would ever have imagined that within 40 years these "permanent" markers would begin to disappear. Mostly they're still where she left them, and mostly, I think, the explanations will turn out to be innocent. But a distressing lack of respect for the markers and the histories they report is evident right on the courthouse lawn, where at least two markers are simply no longer there.
One recited a general history of the county as "Civil War supply and activity center." The other marked the place where Sam Houston spoke twice, both times against secession.
Upshur County Courthouse lawn, September 1964. Ralph Yarborough went on that fall to hold his seat in the U.S. Senate against challenger George H. W. Bush.
Upshur County Courthouse lawn, December 2005. Colorful Christmas trees disguise a chain-link fence around some air conditioning equipment.
I've asked County Judge Dean Fowler to invetigate. He shares my hunch that the Houston marker was taken down when the air conditioning equipment was installed many years ago, but he has no idea. Meanwhile he said the county had just received a grant to have the 1930s courthouse restored to its vanishing glory.
Sunday, January 01, 2006
"Metropolis now": the audio files
The future of television
Happy New Year
Here's my new year's discovery: the site of an interesting poet and translator, George Szirtes--and his blog.
Found via wood s lot, who cites Szirtes' 1999 "New Year Canticles":
The new government is the old government,
The new year is the old year in new shoes,
The new testament is the old one reversed,
The new man is the old man newly cursed.
The new poor are the old poor plus a few.
The new itinerant is the old bum.
The new lie is the old lie, and then some.
The new Titanic steams on through old scum.
. . . [go here and scroll down for the whole poem]