sam's notes

notes on government, sports and popular culture

Friday, December 31, 2004

 
Happy New Year, family, friends and fellow bloggers. No promises, but I will attempt to blog the Panthers game from the viewpoint of one who will be in attendance. But things might get too crazy.


 
ACC Hoops: Herb Sendek's job is in danger. A coach simply can't lose control of his team the way he did against St. John's.


Thursday, December 30, 2004

 
Skip Bayless sacrifices a few trees (figuratively speaking) with a debate that's been going for years, with no resolution in sight: Are cyclists, swimmers and runners better athletes than football, baseball and basketball players?

Bayless objects to those that have crowned Lance Armstrong is the world's greatest athlete, not only by virtue of his cycling prowess but by the many awards he has won during his run of six straight Tour de France victories. Over the past few years, Armstrong has been named A.P. Athlete of the Year, Sports Illustrated's Sportsman of the Year and Sportsnation's Male Athlete of the Year.

While he respects Armstrong's accomplishments on a bicycle, Bayless argues that, as an all-around athlete, Armstrong can't measure up to, say, Michael Jordan:

"Seriously, in their primes, Armstrong was a better all-around athlete than Jordan? Right, and Bill Murray is a better actor than Anthony Hopkins. No one can play that funny-sad Bill Murray character as brilliantly as Murray routinely does. But Hopkins has astonishing range."

Bayless also argues that Ichiro Suzuki, who posseses "sensationally better hand control, gymanstic body control, speed, quickness and throwing ability" could, if he trained on a bike for a year, "be much better at Armstrong's sport than Armstrong could be at baseball."

That's a bold statement, even if it is technically true. Ball sport skills can't be taught at an advanced age. But Bayless' argument also depends on the defintion of "much better." Surely Bayless isn't suggesting could compete in the Tour, which has laid to waste pro cyclists with a lot more than a year's experience.

Bayless doesn't explore how Jordan's baseball experiment reflects on his athleticism. Granted, hitting a baseball is the most difficult thing to do in sports. But Jordan washed out not at the major-league level, but at the Double A level.

Which makes me wonder: Could a fit, 30-year-old guy off the streets not take batting practice for a year and hit at least .202 in Double A ball? If he did, would that make him a comparable athlete to Jordan?


 
Jerry Orbach's best role, in my opinion, was in what I consider to be Woody Allen's best movie: "Crimes and Misdemeanors.

He played Martin Landau's thug brother who "took care" of Anjelica Huston when she threatened to blow the whistle on her affair with Landau's character, a rich Jewish eye doctor.

I thought Allen did a very effective job of blending comedy and drama in "Crimes." He also got an outstanding performance from Alan Alda as a narcissistic movie producer.


Wednesday, December 29, 2004

 
I went and checked out the county commissioners' committee meeting as this deal with the developers in Alamance County drags on. Nothing was decided; the committee directed county manager Willie Best to contact Alamance County's manager in an effort to work out a deal to get the final certificates of occupancy issued on a couple of half-million dollar homes caught up in the whole mess.

Commissioner Billy Yow again pressed the issue of getting the COs issued on the two houses so they can go on the market and the contractors can get paid. But county attorney Jonathan Maxwell`is concerned about liability issues. If, for instance, Guilford County signs off on Alamance County doing the final inspection and the house burns down three years later, then Guilford will be on the hook, Maxwell said.

But Yow makes the point that Guilford's already on the hook. Alamance has already done the inspections that truly matter. The final inspections are just a walk-through. Guilford County inspectors won't be looking behind the walls to see if the wiring is run right.

"Is Guilford County willing to accept the liability of everything else?" Yow asked.

Besides, Yow added, do not Guilford and Alamance operate under the same state inspection regulations?

The remainder of the property- 21 lots- more than likely will remain in Guilford County. Even Yow seemed resigned to that outcome. It's a target market, and the revenue is just too sweet. But the developers want the entire subdivision in Alamance County. The way Guilford County is approaching this situation, it seems clear that's not going to happen. And they're going to make sure it doesn't.


 
You put it out on the curb and they pick it up...

Hogg's got it right about Greensboro garbage service. If you see your garbage men today, wish them a Happy New Year.


 
Is there doubt in anyone's mind? Hillary in '08.


Tuesday, December 28, 2004

 
While we're on the subject of piles......

Virginia Tech coach Seth Greenberg on his team's 67-54 win over Morgan State last night:

"That was painful to watch. I think I passed a freaking hemorroid."


 
Paper route day.

I'm not going to complain about the Eagles pulling their starters last night and giving the Rams an unfair advantage in the hunt for a playoff spot, because the Panthers just need to win on Sunday.


Monday, December 27, 2004

 
So if the Panthers make the playoffs, who's going to want to play them? Especially with a defensive line that makes like Julius Peppers did against Atlanta and Kindal Moorehead did against Tampa Bay.

Philadelphia? They suddenly look vulnerable, especially since they've lost their not-so-secret weapon, T.O. It will be interesting to see how they perform against the Rams tonight.

Atlanta? Despite the heartbreaking loss, the Panthers will definitely not be scared. Michael Vick took a beating despite pulling the game out, so he'll be hearing footsteps.

Green Bay? The first game of the season seems like a decade ago. Green Bay's offense is inconsistent, and their defense was way too porous, even against the top-rated Vikings offense.

Minnesota? Figure it out: Tampa Bay has the NFC's second-best defense. Minnesota has the NFC's second-worse defense. So the Panthers would be able to match the Vikings point-for-point and make some key defensive stops.

St. Louis and Seattle? Both teams are struggliong to get into the playoffs, while the Panthers are at the top of their game.

The Panthers have to get there first. I don't see them losing at home agaisnt the Saints.......


Sunday, December 26, 2004

 
I spent a good bit of Christmas Eve and Christmas day trying to finish up last week's N.Y. Times before the current issue hit my porch last night.

In his review of three books on the 1960s, Christopher Hitchens, who has expressed his contempt for fellow baby-boomers in many essays, says bah-humbug to the Age of Aquarius:

"...The days of love and peace had their sordid and nasty side, too. The Haight-Ashbury section of San Francisco was idyllic for about five minutes before the following famous flier was distributed:

"'Pretty little 16-year-old middle class chick comes into the Haight to see what it's all about & gets picked up by a 17-year-old street dealer who spends all day shooting her full of speed again & again, then feeds her 3,000 mikes & raffles off her temporarily unemployed body for the biggest Haight Street gang bang since the night before last. The politics of ethics and ecstasy.'

"The '3,000 mikes' there are micrograms of LSD...and represent 12 times the normal dose. I still know people who undertook such voyages of the imagination, or had them inflicted upon themselves, and who never quite came back."

When reviewing Eleanor Agnew's "Back From the Land," Hitchens is equally cynical toward communal living:

"Countless educated young Americans went off the map, in pursuit of Walden or some other version of bucolic utopia. They learned to chop wood and sometimes to grow crops, and they got hypothermia and piles."

I had to look "piles" up in the dictionary: Another term for hemorrhoids.

Despite this denunciation of the era in which mass liberalism took hold upon society, a time when the "crazy lean-to of the Unabomber began to take shape," Hitchens, as usual, refuses to show his political hand:

"Conservatism cannot, and does not, despite itself, remain static. It mutates into something far more reactionary than anything from which the hippies were ever fleeing."


Friday, December 24, 2004

 
Merry Christmas!

Next year's blogging resolutions:

To keep it shorter and more to the point. If I try to deal with a complex topic, I'll sit on it until I have it worked out.

To carefully read over my posts before I hit "publish."

To not be so hard on the N&R. They're just trying to do a job. Hey, I'm out there on the sidewalk in my pajamas every morning picking up my copy.

To continue blogging hard news. As Hogg points out,, there's a need out there.

It's been a great year. I've learned a lot and met some great people through the blogosphere.


Thursday, December 23, 2004

 
Cone weighs a bit on FCC chairman Michael Powell. Coincidentally, Reason online just did a one-on-one (well, a three-on-one) with chairman Powell.

Mind you, this interview is more about the intricacies of the telecommunications industry than indecency issues.

When asked to define his politics, Powell replied:

"I consider myself moderate, slightly left of center. It depends on the issue. I'm a big believer in individual entrepreneurship and innovation. I think American capitalism is the finest economic system ever invented. It has crushed- not beaten, crushed- every alternative deployed in the history of the world, and we should be proud of it instead of embarrassed by it."


 
I'll briefly weigh in on air quality one more time and, in the process, take another potshot at the N&R. Then, in the spirit of Christmas, I'll cease and desist.

In her letter to the editor, Amy Parsons writes "right now, 4 million North Carolinians live in counties where the air fails to meet standards for human health. That statistic is shocking and frightening, and worse yet, some lawmakers want to make that number grow."

Parsons does not cite where she got those statistics. Nor does she qualify the term "standards for human health." As I posted earlier, the most recent air quality standards released by the EPA were for particulate matter. Three N.C counties were cited for non-attainment: Guilford, Davidson and Catawba. When you combine the population of those counties, then just over 700,000 North Carolinians are, technically speaking, living with substandard air.

She must be referring to ozone levels, more counties exceed the eight-hour ozone level, which is a stricter standard than the 1-hour ozone level, with which the majority counties comply. In fairness, if you're talking about the eight-hour ozone standard, then you are talking about just over 3 million people. But, as Joel Schwartz told me, once you comply with the one-hour standard, then you're already talking about pretty low ozone levels. On top it all was the fact that 2004 was the lowest ozone year in history.

Now, a couple of questions: Why was this letter published? Although letters the editor are opinion pieces by ordinary citizens, what responsibility should they, and the newspaper that publishes them, take for statistics cited in those letters?

OK, this is an absurd example, but it illustrates my point: If I were to write a letter to the editor saying that the war in Iraq was going fine because only 500 American soldiers had died, would that letter be published? Would that figure be challenged by the N&R editors with a tag line?

I just get concerned when I read alarmist statistics in the newspaper. Perhaps my attitude is a bit callous. But I just have trouble believing we have bad air in North Carolina.


Wednesday, December 22, 2004

 
More on Monday night's county commissioners' meeting:

For the fourth meeting in a row, some Alamance County developers have pleaded with the commissioners for a resolution to a border skirmish involving some high-dollar houses straddling the Guilford-Alamance line. They’ve tried without success to get their problem on the agenda, so their only recourse has been to address the commissioners during the public speaking portion of the meeting, when they’re allowed three minutes to plead their case.

In a nutshell, developers Gail and Eddie Boswell have been working on a subdivision in Alamance County, part of which spills over into Guilford County. The Boswells claim they received permission, in the form of a letter, from a Guilford County clerk for several lots and two completed homes, valued at $500,000 each, to be listed in Alamance County. The Boswells reason that the only entrance to the development is in Alamance, so it makes sense that the entire development be listed there.

As she had at previous meetings, Gail Boswell expressed her frustration at not being able to get any redress from the commission. She said she’s provided commissioners with an affidavit outlining the dispute, but has trouble getting a response.

“I don’t seem to be getting very far,” Boswell said. “We’re not going to get anywhere until 11 commissioners read the affidavit.”

Eddie Boswell made the case that Guilford County was trying to reclaim parts of the development that are clearly in Alamance County.

“How is it legal that Guilford County to take back property that has always been in Alamance County?” he asked.

Further complicating matters is the fact that subcontractors who performed work on the two completed houses are caught in the middle of the situation.

Albert Freeman, owner of Freeman Electric Co., spoke out, saying he pulled his permits in Alamance County in good faith. But now he can’t get a final inspection because a hold has been placed on the houses while the dispute drags on.

“I think it’s a very poor operation,” Freeman said. “We’ve got no confidence in the government. In the middle of the ballgame, you’ve said, ‘Whoa, we want those tax dollars.’”

Best said that Guilford County has offered to perform the final inspections, but the Boswells won’t allow inspectors onto their property. To do so would give Guilford a legal advantage down the road, Gail Boswell said later.

County attorney Jonathan Maxwell said the clerk had no authority to cede the property to Alamance.

“The law is extremely clear that that (the Boswells) cannot rely on such a letter,” Maxwell said.

Commissioner Billy Yow presented what seemed like a reasonable solution, at least for the time being. He made a motion (which Arnold seconded) to grant Alamance the authority to complete the inspections so the subcontractors can get paid and the houses can go on the market. The two counties can hash out who gets the tax revenue at a later date.

“We can at least free up these subcontractors and allow them to be paid,” Yow said. “It’s crucial that they collect their funds so they can pay their hired help.”

But Davis did not allow Yow’s motion. Instead, he asked that a committee be formed to study the matter, not only to come up with a reasonable solution, but also to prevent such a dispute from happening again.

Yow volunteered to serve on the committee. But his colleague Skip Alston, now sitting at the other end of the table, protested.

“Wouldn’t you want someone from a neutral position to bring back unbiased information?” Alston asked.

Some things never change.


Tuesday, December 21, 2004

 
The D.C. stadium deal is given new life, while
the three-way Randy Johnson deal is officially dead.

The way I see it, the Yankees should forget about including a third party in the deal. If they want Johnson that bad, they need to trade straight-up for him.


 
Hey, did you guys hear? Target banned Salvation Army bell ringers this Christmas. I just heard about it on CBS News.


 
Come on, guys. Just keep blogging and forget the friggin' N&R.


Monday, December 20, 2004

 
County commissioner Steve Arnold on board retreats:

"They're used for nothing but a bunch of touchy-feely group therapy."

Board chairman Bruce Davis didn't help matters any by suggesting next month's retreat be held at a Chapel Hill think tank.


 
N.Y. Times obit: Henny Backus, actress, author and widow of Jim Backus, who played Thurston Howell III on "Gilligan's Island."

Interesting note:

"Together Henny and Jim Backus wrote several blithe books about their marriage, including 'What Are You Doing After the Orgy?'"



 
It depends on what you're into....

Porn foes lament Ashcroft record on prosecutions

As John Ashcroft's tenure as attorney general winds down, "anti-porn advocates are deeply disappointed with the Bush administration's record- under Mr. Ashcroft's guidance-for pursuing peddlers of smut."

Ashcroft secured 37 prosecutions during his tenure, most of which were child pornography and, as one official put it, "excrement-type porn."

Some say not only is 37 a low number of prosecutions, but they are for the most extreme type of porn. In the meantime, Paul Cambria, a lawyer who represents pornographers, said he has "not seen any mainstream product prosecuted."


 
Just returning from the land of skinny blondes driving huge SUVs.

Panthers, continued: Everyone who needed to lose yesterday lost. They are by no means dead.


Sunday, December 19, 2004

 
The Charlotte media is not making much of John Fox's decision to play it safe in regulation. Getting the ball back with 1:30 to play is the perfect situation for Jake Delhomme, and why Fox took the ball out of his hands by calling that horrible pitch back to Nick Goings is beyond me.

Was that impressive performance all for nothing? Perhaps not, because 8-8 will still get a team into the playoffs. The Panthers showed last night they are a good football team. Unfortunately, they were handcuffed by their coach. Let's hope they still play deeper into January.


Saturday, December 18, 2004

 
Above the fold: Guilford, Davidson cited for soot

Local officials didn't comment on the impact non-attainment will have on the Triad because they're not sure yet.

More Schwartz:

"....Each area must develop a State Implementation Plan (SIP)...Hundreds and thousands of people around the country will spend much or all of their time developing, reviewing and maintaining these plans.

"And it is virtually all process. Failing to have an approved SIP or to demonstrate conformity on paper carries far worse penalties than failing to actually clean the air. Only the former can result in loss of highway funds and other costly sanctions.

"Furthermore, all of this planning is irrelevant to future air quality improvements. The actions necessary to eliminate almost all remaining air pollution have already been taken through regulations for all types of motor vehicles, for power plants and for industrial facilities."


Friday, December 17, 2004

 
Sure enough, the EPA announced today that Guilford and Davidson Counties have been found in violation of federal particle pollution standards.

Here's the N&R's version, which received prominent placement on its home page. I'll be interested to see where the article is placed in tomorrow's print edition.

But before you get too freaked out, check this article by Joel Schwartz, an air quality expert with the American Enterprise Institute.

Schwartz argues that exceding the EPA's particle standard "isn't nearly is bad as you might think," especially when you consider the health effects of current particulate levels "have been greatly exaggerated by EPA and activists."

Interesting bullet point in the EPA's fact sheet on particle designations:

"The Bush administration has made the reduction of fine particle pollution a critical element of a comprehensive national clean air strategy."

I'm glad we have an environmentalist in the White House.



 
Can't help but notice:

A lot of letters to the editor in the News & Record from students at Kernodle Middle School.

Let me guess: An eighth-grade social studies project, much like the one at my high school when I wrote the letter to Jesse Helms about Christmas decorations.

Do students get a better grade if the N&R publishes their letter?


 
EPA:

"Levels of fine particle pollution were the lowest since nationwide monitoring began in 1999."

Still, areas of the Triad will officially be declared non-attainment areas in a report expected to be released today. More about that later.


Thursday, December 16, 2004

 
I had a feeling the Braves would pull the trigger on more pitching. I thought it would be Randy Johnson, but he's just too expensive. Only the Yankees can afford him.


 
While we're the subject:

Abraham Lincoln was gay.


 
I don't understand Jeff Armstrong's "outrage" over the doggy nuptials. I see his point about the bride wearing white, but at least they're giving their puppy a stable home, even if it is after a very important fact.

But at least it was a male dog and a female dog. If it had been two guy dogs getting married.......


Wednesday, December 15, 2004

 
MLB statement on D.C. stadium deal, released earlier this evening.


 
The deal to move the Expos to Washington is in extreme jeopardy. Thomas Boswell of the Washington Post says it's dead.

It's a complicated situation, because the D.C. city council actually approved funding measures for a new stadium in Washington's Southeast district.

But councilwoman Linda Cropp inserted an amendment to the stadium-financing bill that stated at least half the cost of any new stadium be built with private funds.

But there's no source of private funding on the horizon. That's a problem.

"If private funds are not found," writes The Washington Times' Eric Fisher, "the entire authorization of the new stadium for the Washington Nationals would be null and void."

The Post's Boswell says the odds that Major League Baseball will find a buyer for the team without full stadium financing from the city are slim and none.

"A stadium in search of hypothetical funding, funding that may never be found, is not a stadium at all. It is just a convenient political lie. The entire purpose of baseball's long search for a new home for the Expos was so the sport copuld sell the team. Who's going to buy a team to play in a stadium that isn't funded and may never be? Nobody. Nobody on earth.

"The question of whether baseball will now jerk its franchise out of Washington is not a question at all. It is a foregone conclusion."

In my view, there are still two options: The Nationals can go ahead and start play in RFK until funding for a D.C. stadium is found or an ownership group in another city is found. But moving a team twice in a short period of time is not a solid option, unless the team takes the field as the Washington Expos. All MLB would have to do is fork out for new hats with a "W" over the bill.

RFK also requires basic renovations for a team to take the field this spring, and the city wouldn't fork over those costs if it knew the team would take off after a year.

The other option is MLB could just fold the Expos. I suspect the only hearts that would be broken are those of fans looking forward to baseball's return to D.C. But their elected representatives killed the deal.



 
Interesting letter to the editor from Nora Anderson, a graduate of Northwest Guilford:

"In high school, I was never suspended, I actively participated in school clubs and I now attend one of the top universities in the country.....

"...I felt as though the vast majority of my teachers were ridulously unintelligent. If I had a dime for every time I thought, 'I could teach this class better than this teacher is,' I could buy myself a very nice dinner at Lucky 32.

"During my senior year, I worked in my school's office, which only led me to believe that it was not only the teachers who lacked intelligence......I realized that the administration pool could use a little chlorine.

"Also during my senior year, I became a virtual role model for a group of underclassmen. They respected me because I treated them as intelligent individuals and never talked down to them."

Nora Anderson
Champaign, Ill.

I deeply regret our region's loss of this brilliant mind.


Tuesday, December 14, 2004

 
N.Y. Times analysis of the Vikings.

I may have been too hasty in ceding them a playoff spot.

I thought they paid Randy Moss to catch the football.



 
Interesting article in the December print version of Carolina Journal (PDF: scroll to print version, or take my word for it).

The article discusses the different downtown woes faced by Greensboro and Chapel Hill. It starts out with the increased vandalism as the result of downtown Greensboro's revitalization before talking more at length about Chapel Hill's downtown redevelopment efforts:

"Despite the presence of thousands of students within walking distance and a growing permanent population, Chapel Hill's downtown has been in decline for several years. Numerous storefronts sit empty along Franklin Street in the heart of the city as shoppers increasingly head to Durham to make their purchases."

The part I found interesting: A major component of that redevelopment is parking decks.

"A key element of the plan is adding 1,289 parking-garage spaces; a lack of parking is cited as the reason people go elsewhere to shop...Plans to construct an underground deck on Franklin Street are also likely to cost more than originally projected."

The liberal mecca embracing the automobile society. Don't they realize air quality will suffer?


Monday, December 13, 2004

 
While we're on the subject of football:

Chiefs-Titans: Not the most intriguing Monday Night Football matchup of the year. I thought ABC was supposed to rig it where it could switch the games around in case the scheduled matchup turns out to be not so hot. Still, it's 21-14 Titans at halftime, and both teams have pulled off some long pass plays.

Al Michaels and John Madden have done a good job highlighting the two owners, Lamar Hunt and Bud Adams, who, along with the Bills' Ralph Wilson, are the lone charter members of the AFL.

Here's a piece of trivia offered up by Al: the Bills were originally slated to be a Miami fanchise, but Wilson couldn't work out a deal so he took his team to Buffalo. Miami, of course, would go on to become an AFL expansion franchise in 1966.


 
Hadn't noticed: Playoffs are within Panthers' reach.

We'll concede Minnesota's in, even though they're unpredictable. So that leaves the Giants, with a rookie quarterback, the Cowboys, who lost to the Saints yesterday, and the Rams, with an injured starting quarterback and a backup who, well, didn't look so good.




Saturday, December 11, 2004

 
In this morning's letter to the editor, Valentina Gnup says that 40,000 nonsmokers die from exposure to secondhand smoke.

Find that number hard to believe? So does the Heartland Institute.

Gnup uses those very debatable figures to call for a city-wide indoor clean air law. But I have a question: where in this city, besides a bar, is anyone involuntarily exposed secondhand cigarette smoke? I like to think I get around town quite bit. In every business I deal with, not to mention in every office I've worked, the smokers are banished outdoors. With that in mind, I would say that exposure to secondhand smoke in Greensboro is already greatly reduced without a clean air law.

Here's a funny footnote: I once had some business dealings with the N&R where I had to drop a packet of materials by their office. It was a cold day, with snow still on the ground. As I approached the main entrance, I saw an older lady standing outside the front door bracing herself against the cold and smoking a cigarette. It was none other than my favorite N&R columnist, Rosemary Roberts.

Somehow I had her pegged as some sort of anti-smoking Nazi. I introduced myself and told her I hardly agreed with anything she wrote. She smiled and said that was OK, just keep reading. Though I still rag on her columns, I found her to be a very nice lady. I smoke and drink with a lot of people with whom I disagree politically; maybe I'll have a chance to do so with Ms. Roberts some day, although I doubt we frequent the same establishments. But I was wrong once, perhaps I'll be wrong again.


Friday, December 10, 2004

 
ESPN has a pretty cool feature: The Ultimate Scorecard. You key in a number, 00-99, and it tells you the greatest player who ever wore that number.

In the process of promoting its Dale Earnhardt movie, ESPN asks the question, who's the better '3' — Dale Earnhardt or Babe Ruth?

It's an interesting list. True sports fans will disagree on more than a few.

'4'- ESPN says Bobby Orr, but Lou Gehrig was pretty damn good, too.

'5'- For me, it's Johnny Bench, but I'll give way to Dimaggio. Packer fans would say Paul Hornung.

'8'- ESPN says Cal Ripken. My gut reaction was Yogi Berra, and Joe Morgan was way better than Ripken. And they didn't even mention Morgan.

'10'- Pele. That's soccer, who cares. How about Fran Tarkenton.

'12'- There's no doubt Namath is the ultimate 12, but they choose Bradshaw's accomplishments over the Broadway Joe mystique. Probably because of Bradshaw's battle with depression, but Joe's been down in the dumps, too.

Unlucky '13'- Wilt Chamberlain. He was pretty lucky from what I heard. Dave Concepcion automatically popped into my mind, but Wilt's the man.

'32' is a tough one. Who would you guess? Magic Johnson? OJ? They go with Jim Brown.

Have fun.


 
Mean streets, part II

N&R sidebar:

"A Greensboro man died Thursday of injuries suffered the previous night when he was struck by a southbound car on North Church Street.

"Kenneth Herman Cales Jr., 34, stepped in front of rush-hour traffic Wednesday south of East Cornwallis Drive.....Cales was wearing dark clothing and was in a dimly lit section of the road....No charges were expected to be filed in the accident."


 
I've loved watching the two blondes go at it in the boardroom on 'The Apprentice.' It's the corporate version of a Miller Lite commercial. Last night, Trump just let them go at it for a while before firing the one on the right.

I didn't miss it because the N&R's forum on school discipline let out on time. Was anything accomplished there? I don't know.

In a way, it was like a glorified school board meeting, because Terry Grier and Alan Duncan did most of the talking. The issue was also discussed in the abstract. Still, the views of the other speakers, which included a principal, a teacher, a couple of students, not to mention N&R editor Allen Johnson, were valuable.

In fact, Johnson spoke very straightforwardly about the discipline problem:

"We're sending problems to the schools, and we're expecting the schools to deal with them."

That was basically the theme of the night: Discipline problems in schools reflect the "coarseness of society," as Duncan put it.

Questions were taken from the audience and , in my opinion, each questionner took too much time telling the panel how much they knew before asking the question. So each question and its response took on a philosophical tone.

But probably the question that seemed to draw a buzz from the audience was this one, which was e-mailed:

"Do you see a correlation between a lack of discipline and a lack of faith-based activity?"

Debbie Gamble, the teacher from Southeast, was the only one weughed in seriously. She definitely saw the connection.

"When we don't know what our morals and values are, we can't teach them to our children."

Gamble, who was featured in the N&R's series on school violence. She said the photo and caption of her presented imagery of school as a police state. she was photographed talking to two students, and the picture was shot from behind the bleachers, making it look like they were behind bars or something.

The caption read, "Debbie Gamble corners two students at Southeast Middle...."

"I've never cornered a student anywhere," Gamble replied. "I don't like that issue being portrayed as what we do at Southeast Middle."

Grier had problems with a coule of headlines, saying they "seemed to be more sensational than the content."

He's got a point. I was a little surprised at the N&R's front-page, above-the-fold headline after Tuesday's meeting: "Discipline big concern, parents say." Technically true, except there were all of four parents speaking out.

In fact, it was pretty funny because all the TV media was at the meeting waiting for the board to address school violence. They got pretty impatient when the board slogged through attendance policy, new attendance zones and magnet school assignments.

Then, when they finally got around to it, the board discussed it for maybe 30 minutes.

Anyway, just a few highlights. It seems to me that the schools are now challenged with reforming society from the inside out, instead of the individual coming in from the outside and being reformed by school.

One last quote from N&R editor Johnson:

"If I got in trouble in school, I was the one who had to prove my case."



Thursday, December 09, 2004

 
I was disappointed in George Will's tepid response to baseball's steroids scandal.

The way I read Will's column, which sometimes is tantamount to translating a foreign language, baseball fans need to concentrate not only on the majority of players who don't use steroids but on the great players of the past, namely Hank Aaron who set records without cheating.

It's clear Bud Selig is going to turn his back on this matter. Okay, they're going to set up a testing plan — big deal. I still think Barry Bonds and Jason Giambi should be banned from baseball. At the very least, Selig should call Bonds into his office and invite him to retire. Then they'll just call it even, and Bonds will take his place in the Hall of Fame.

When Will asks if you would cross the street to watch him break Aaron's home run record, he's suggesting that the fans will be have to be the final judges on the matter. Once again, our only recourse will be to give the sport up.

But it's not that simple. My buddy Dave can't understand this, but baseball is an addictive pastime, one that has had a "durable hold on the country," as Will writes. No matter how much baseball fans get slapped around, we always come back for more. We can't walk away from the sport.

So instead of letting rage against steroid users get the best of us, we'd just better focus our thoughts on the positive aspects of the game. It's going to be hard as we watch Bonds hits home run 715 next season and creeps closer to 755.


Wednesday, December 08, 2004

 
Red-letter day: I heard the leaf truck coming down the street and was able to get both cars out of the way. Now the curb is nice and clean.


 
Like many fans and pundits, I'm over the BCS. College football has screwed up the bowl system beyond repair, and there's still a good chance we won't have a definitive national champion.

What I hate is we're being denied a great New Year's day of football under the traditional bowl alliances. Here's what it would look like:

You'd start out flipping between Texas and California in the Cotton Bowl (yeah, I know there's no more Southwest Conference, but I'm pretending). Next, the Rose Bowl with USC and Michigan, which is generally a pretty good game. Then, to top it all off, the evening would be spent flipping between Auburn and Virginia Tech in the Sugar Bowl and Oklahoma and either Georgia or Miami in the Orange Bowl. If you're industrious, you'd set up two TVs in the living room so you wouldn't have to flip.

I realize this leaves Utah and Boise St. out in the cold, but they're being left out anyway. Does anyone care?

Not perfect, but as good as we're getting anyway. Besides, who wants to watch a bowl game on Jan. 4?


 
I have a theory: Fonzie is a metrosexual. In yesterday's episode of "Happy Days" he was ironing his T-shirts; in today's episode, he's shining his boots.


 
Checked out the somewhat-new Guilford County Board of Education tonight. The meeting was such a snoozer I don't know where to begin.

To illustrate my point:

"We need to make a decision about whether or not we're going to make decision tonight," said school board chairman Alan Duncan.

Duncan was re-elected chairman. Board member Deena Hayes abstained, saying Duncan had not "been attentive to the needs regarding racism. Many of the needs that I have brought to you both publicly and privately have not been addressed."

Like his predecessor Garry Burnette, new board member Walter Childs was pretty quiet. But the other new member, Amos Quick, was pretty active on his first night, asking superintendent Terry Grier some direct questions about the school's proposed work-study program for troubled students.

But he did use the "d" word earlier in the evening. Quick was worried that student assignment plans for next year were resegregating the schools.

"Moving minority students into traditional minority schools does not respect diversity," he said.

Those comments, of course, sparked a discussion about how the board would define diversity.

But with at least 80 languages being spoken in Guilford County schools, is it not fair to say there's plenty of diversity there?

But here's the other thing: Students themselves have more mobility within the school system.

The board's poised to set a pretty liberal attendance policy regarding change of domicile. So a kid could move from a black school district to a white school district but still choose to go to the school in his old neighborhood.

Furthermore, as board member Nancy Routh pointed out, more and more students are allowed to opt out of schools that don't make Annual Yearly Progress under the No Child Left Behind act.

"When you get into that situation, trying to define diversity is going to be more difficult," Routh said.


Tuesday, December 07, 2004

 
Trying to help Packers fans cheer up ....

In his N.Y Times review, Joe Queenan says Lou Sahadi's "Johnny Unitas: America's Quarterback" is a little too rah-rah for Johnny U. at the expense of other Hall of Fame QBs.

Queenan writes that in the 10 years between the Colts' legendary 1958 championship victory and its equallly-legendary 1969 Super Bowl loss,

"Unitas compiled innumerable statistical records, but the Colts were forced to cede pride place to Vince Lombardi's Packers, generally thought to be the greatest football dynasty of them all. The Packers were led by Bart Starr, who set few, if any, records. He merely won."


Monday, December 06, 2004

 
One more bellyache, and then I'll be back to normal.

For me, playing with computer language is like plumbing. I just don't say to one of my buddies, "Yeah, I'll go mountain biking with you as soon as I fix the sink." It doesn't work that way. Once I shut the water off, I'd best settle in for the afternoon.

As a result, got nothing done today, and I have work that pays this week. I still don't know why previous posts change to a different font and get more narrow on the page. Any help out there?


 
Ronald Curry's breakout season ends with a torn Achilles tendon.

Curry was "having a career game" with nine catches for 141 yards and two touchdowns vs. Kansas City when he took a hard hit from Chiefs' safety Willie Pile.

Curry was leading the Raiders with 50 catches and six touchdowns for the season.


 
One more, absolutely last, test to make sure things are going the way they should. I'm concerned that earlier posts are going to go to the narrow-line format, and that bothers me.


 
One more test post to see if things are going right. Hopefully, things will be back to normal from now on.


 
Now here's the question: I've spent so much f***ing time trying to install Haloscan comments, will I be able to make any money at my "day" job?

Oh, what we do for blogs.


 
One more test post to see what's going on. Hopefully, things will be back to normal.


 
Finally!


 
test xi


 
It was definitely worth the perilous journey, navigating the river of onrushing vehicles, to watch the Panthers keep driving toward a playoff spot.

But as I watched the Packers get spanked, hard, I thought to myself: I might die on the way home for this?


Sunday, December 05, 2004

 
Biathlon.....

My buddies diss me and go mountain biking early to get back in time for the 1p kickoff. Due to prior commitments, I'm held up here at the house.

That's OK, I'll pedal over to Dave's house later with a pannier of Ice House. I wander if it'll be safe, considering we live in the seventh-most dangerous area for pedestrians and bicyclists?

I'll risk it.


Saturday, December 04, 2004

 
So the Triad is rated dangerous for pedestrians. As a veteran Greensboro pedestrian, who has been walking and cycling around this city for 16 years, I had to check it out and see if it was really that bad. I personally have found Greensboro to be a very walkable community.

My problem with Mean Streets,, the report issued by the Surface Transportation Policy Project, is it places responsibility for pedestrian safety on everyone but the pedestrian.

Granted, a lot of pedestrians die in this country:

"A total of 51,989 pedestrians have died over the ten years from 1994 to 2003. In raw numbers, pedestrian fatalities have declined over this period by approximately 12.8 percent. This is good news, except when you consider that the rates of walking have declined over this period by approximately 12.8 percent."

Of course, the problem is funding:

"STPP's analysis shows that the states are not investing enough of their federal transportation dollars to protect people who walk....No state spends more than 2.5 percent of their federal transportation funds on sidewalks, crosswalks, traffic calming, speed humps, multi-use paths or safety programs for pedestrians or cyclists."

But the problem there is the only place where those expenditures are feasible are streets where it's already safe to walk. Besides, a sidewalk doesn't do a whole lot of good if some nut jumps the curb and nails you. Yes, that happens, but now you're talking about idiocy behind the wheel, a problem no one knows how to solve.

The report also doesn't provide any context to complement the numbers on pedestrian deaths. I find it hard to believe that all these deaths were exclusively the fault of drivers. Were the pedestrians drunk? Jaywalking? (We have laws against that in this city, you know.) Walking down the wrong side of the road at night wearing a black shirt? Trying to cross Wendover Avenue at rush hour?

But here's what gets me: To help improve the situation, transportation agencies should "promote walking by emphasizing the public health, economic development and transportation benefits of walking, including more focused attention and greater resource commitments to encourage people of all ages to walk more."

Are they kidding? A person could get killed.





Friday, December 03, 2004

 
Now comes this breaking story on Bonds.


 
While we're on the subject of baseball.....

The Baltimore Sun's Laura Vescey is all worked up over Jason Giambi, calling for his banishment from baseball:

"Banished, expelled....That what the commissioner of baseball ought to declare for the New York Yankees' steroid-slugging slugger."

I'll take it a step further: Ban Barry Bonds, too. Bonds obviously hasn't admitted using steroids and, as of yet, there's no hard evidence he has. But Giambi has admitted he got the steroids from Greg Anderson, Bonds' personal trainer. If anderson was passing them out to Giambi, is it not logical to assume he was dispensing them to his own client? That's enough evidence for me.

People don't realize that Major League Baseball is not a court of law. There's no innocent until proven guilty. Remember, the Black Sox were cleared of all legal charges relating to 1919 World Series fix before Commissioner Landis banned them for life.

Then there's Pete Rose. OK, we know now that Rose did indeed bet on baseball abd his ban from the game was justified. Whether or not he should be reinstated is still a matter up for debate, even though baseball pundits seemed dead set against it in the wake of his admission.

But would the charges against Rose have held up in a court of law, where baseball would have had to present hard evidence that Rose bet on baseball? Would a jury have found that Rose was guilty? That's debatable, as well.

So I say that Giambi's admission is more than enough evidence to ban Bonds as well. Let him prove his innocence.


 
Everyone seems to be taking for granted that the Expos are going to be the Washington Nationals next season. But some research reveals the situation has become quite complicated .

Legislation financing the stadium project is working its way through the D.C. city council. The final reading is due Dec. 14. At the last reading, three Democratic council members abstained from voting in order to add amendments to the legislation, which basically seek concessions from both Major league Baseball and the ballclub that would protect the city financially in case of cost overruns

With those amendments added, it is expected the three abstaining council members will support the legislation.

MLB hasn’t seen any legislation, so it is “unenlightened,” as VP of administration John McHale Jr. put it. MLB also has to deal with Orioles owner Peter Angelos. Owners still have not officially approved the move, but are expected to do so today. But they have not settled on compensation for Angelos. The key here is Camden Yards was built with bond funds, so Angelos and the Orioles have the state of Maryland behind them, which could make legal opposition to the move quite formidable.



Thursday, December 02, 2004

 
You could've guessed: Yow and Arnold are the only votes against the Dell incentives package.


 
Go Triad is a regular Thursday morning read just so I can marvel at the straight-faced political correctness of its content.

In this morning's "Saturdays with Sage" column, Vishal Khanna bemoans the evil corporate influence of Krispy Kreme inside the Children's Museum of Winston-Salem.

"Although we parents nearly always think our children are the cutest beings in the world, there is nothing cute about this......

"The last thing I need is for the Children's Museum to validate this corporate sponsorship of my son's education and entertainment. He's 3 years old, for God's sake. Let the kid be a kid, not a future target market.....

"I'm sorry, but the Children's Museum of Winston-Salem can keep its throwaway replicas of deep-fried flour."

Maybe I'm weird, but I think a little corporate indoctrination is good for a kid. With any luck, little Sage will grow up to become an executive for Dell.


 
Anybody get a look at the cover of today's Go Triad? (No online version yet.) I hope the young lady on the left didn't go out dressed like that on such a chilly morning. She'd catch her death of cold.


 
Where there's smoke, there's fire: Jason Giambi testifies he used steroids, and he got them from Barry Bonds' personal trainer.


Wednesday, December 01, 2004

 
This is really weird. I know I saw an article on the Charlotte Observer's Web site where the Panthers had released kicker Jeff Chandler. I thought this was odd, since John Kasay needs probably just another week to rest his calf.

When I didn't read anything about it in the News & Record, I figured I'd fill my readers in since the N&R's coverage has shifted to college basketball. But when I clicked on the article in my history bar, nothing came up.

Nothing on the Observer's Panthers page, either. Nor on the NFL's transaction list.

Am I in the Twighlight Zone?


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