March 31, 2007
Down on Main Street
I had occasion to be at T-Bone's a few weeks back (it was No Big Deal – not completely my style, but can be fun, and one of my good friends is playing bass with them), and I drove home via Main Street (all the way up the Ridge to Seminole). A few blocks away from Finley Stadium, the scenery abruptly changes from signs of renewal to the all-too-familiar decay.
Now that the waterfront is in darn good shape, I hope we as a community can spread some of that wealth and beauty to other fine areas. There's a front-page picture on today's TFP, and a Metro section article that follows, about sculpture installations and the faint promise of an artist community taking shape in the area right around Main and Market. This is promising, but is also susceptible to being exclusive.
I understand the annexations that have taken place over the past couple of decades, like the one all the way up to the Soddy-Daisy line, in terms of the tax base. But instead of reaching ever outward to snag taxpayers in the hinterlands, why not concentrate on areas already in the city limits, and grow the neighborhoods and small businesses and greenspaces and schools there? The revenue to sustain our city's core operations would surely follow, in my admittedly oversimplified view.
I dream of the day when Main Street, Chattanooga, USA is glorious, unique, fun, safe, prosperous and healthy all the way to Eveningside, and beyond to Dodds. I guess it's smart to plan it one leg at a time, but let's not lose sight of the goal. There are plenty of areas to work on (including Brainerd Rd, for one), but the flame of revival has to be sparked somewhere, and Main seems as good a place as any.
March 28, 2007
The Pileated Piper
Or, "where's the politics, man?" Sorry. Falling down on the blog.
But seriously, I have a daily adventure with my new camcorder, the two-year-old, and this Pileated Woodpecker that haunts the wooded hillside behind the house, and that means there's little time to sit at the screen and type. Plus, all the work I've been doing has made my eyes weary and my fingers cramped. [Quit whining and get back to work.]
I hope to have video soon of the bird that I swear laughs at me every time I miss a shot. It's like Moby Dick out there.
March 24, 2007
9:35 — I'm at the Chattanooga State auditorium, where the Hamilton County Democratic Party is holding its biannual convention. The doors are locked, so it's too late to come down now. They're going to elect officers without you.
Stuart James, the outgoing Chair, is delivering opening remarks. He mainly delivers a roll call of the newly elected and re-elected, with a few condolences for those who lost.
According to James, U.S. Sen. Bob Corker, on the local majority vote for opponent Ford, said: "There will never be another Republican mayor of Chattanooga because of what [Chattanooga Democrats] did."
A standing ovation was ordered for Terry Lee, James' chief advisor.
10:25 — The precinct officer election was slightly awkward, and the format for adopting changes to bylaws isn't exactly rigorous, but the business got done.
County party officer elections are on..
10:42 — ..and the slate of four that ran as a ticket won unified approval from all in attendance. The new HCDP officers are:
John Bailes, Chairman
Jeff Wilson, Vice-Chairman
James Carpenter, Treasurer
Alice O'Dea, Secretary
March 21, 2007
The man on the fence gets hit from both sides
The Tennessee Senate felt another shift in its teetering balance last week when former Speaker Pro Tem Micheal Williams (Maynardville — and that’s his spelling, not mine) announced his departure from the Republican Party and declared himself an Independent. For those keeping score, but behind on the scoreboard, that leaves a 16-16 tie between Democrats and Republicans in the state’s upper legislative body, with the ever-enigmatic Williams potentially holding a deciding vote. Committee chairs are not changing.
I don’t exactly mean this the way it will sound, but there ought to be more people like Sen. Williams. And U.S. Senators Jim Jeffords and Joe Lieberman. And President Theodore Roosevelt. Let me be clear: I am not asking for acts of spite or betrayal or egotism, but for conscious release from partisan rigor. It doesn’t do to merely switch teams mid-game. Independence, either to the individual degree or, as in Roosevelt’s case, as a new party, is too often undervalued, even scorned, but is a vantage point for unparalleled leadership. I remind you, Abraham Lincoln’s Republican party was close to brand-new when he acted as its titular head. Its founders declared independence from the era’s two political giants, the Whigs and the Democrats.
The arguments for a bilateral party system are many, and are at times convincing, from a practical perspective. Independent and so-called “third party” candidates who run today are at best unnoticed, and at worst considered spoilers for one major-league team by the other. Therefore, I do not necessarily criticize those who choose to work within the establishment in order to advance goals for the public good. I simply admonish all to avoid getting sucked in by the power trip, so that when the conscience sounds an alarm about any conflict evident between one’s personal outlook and that of the party, the appropriate action may be taken.
Mike Williams’ defection was far from sudden. His position can be described as “waveringly moderate” over the past couple of years. What made him quit the GOP exactly right now is not important. His motives, though we may suspect them, are still his alone to judge. The real message here is that the entrenchment that the two major parties currently enjoy needn’t be considered the default setting. A coalition-based legislature is possible, even preferable. Would that more independent-minded politicians openly declare their un-partisanship, or work with like minds to help our political ecosystem evolve a bit.
Finally, how will this event shape the 2008 election? Though retribution by Williams’ former party members has been forecast, threatened, and even planned, it will be a sad process to watch. If the constituents of Senate District 4 decide on their own to make a change to their representation, fine; but it will disappoint me to see them led down the walk by a bloated, strutting political entity (really, one half of a two-headed monster) that is more interested in advancing its goals than it is serving the people.
[Cross-posted from the Pulse.]
March 16, 2007
friday pelican blogging
This is more of a test than anything else, so keep that in mind. You may want to turn down sound, as the original audio is merely slowed down. Enjoy.
March 14, 2007
It's Time for New Country Commission Meeting Times
Discussion has begun anew over what time of day the Hamilton County Commission should hold its regular meetings. Some of us may not even know what time the meetings are, currently. (They’re at 9:30 a.m. on Wednesdays.) Many might not care.
Citizens should remember that these are not the commissioners’ meetings, but ours. Though it’s obvious that all 350,000 of us can’t go — you think the jail is crowded (and it is) — it’s good that some are pointing out the inconvenience inherent in the current arrangement. Whether your cause is more money for schools, or less money for...well, less of something, it’s hard to be a decent petitioner before lunch on a weekday.
The existing schedule even places limits on who is able to run for the office. Few employers can be flexible enough to allow members of their firms to participate in commission or committee meetings. The local situation is similar to that of the General Assembly’s membership: only the independently wealthy, self-employed, or retired are eligible, practically speaking, to hold an office that is theoretically filled by the common people. It appears, therefore, that the elected representatives and their audiences all consist of people who have plenty of free time, while the rest of us work. That can’t be right, can it?
In fairness, there simply won’t be a perfect time. But we should look for what will serve more of us. Maybe Friday afternoons would be better, as they hold some of the least fruitful hours at area offices anyway. Nope; the commissioners are technically at work at that time, and we don’t want them being unproductive. (Or do we? Remember the fiasco involving commandments on the courthouse?)
Finally, if work isn’t what creates the conflict with the current meeting time, bear in mind that also prevents those of us without a DVR from keeping up with the latest controversy on “The View.” Something must change, and soon.
[Cross-posted from the Pulse.]
[Third paragraph updated for accuracy.]
March 13, 2007
Fly like the Wingate
These days, the list of amenities at a travel residence must include internet access. With that in mind, I have found that Wingate Inn offers free wireless and ethernet connections, in every room, for the duration of your visit.
Furthermore, at least at the one here on the outskirts of Savannah, there have been no issues with getting or staying connected. I have two laptops on the desk right now, one with no wireless enabled, and the other my WiFi-happy MacBook Pro, and both are connected at quite decent speeds.
March 11, 2007
The sun is warm on my skin
We finally made it to Tybee Island yesterday, but after the parade was over and after the lighthouse/museum had sold its last tickets for the day. The wind off the ocean was brisk, and we were dressed for — well, for weather more like today. More on that in a minute.
I've noticed that drivers here are either very rude or extremely polite. I somehow think it's the latter, which probably makes me seem like a short-tempered Yankee. (I do have it on good authority that folks around here consider Tennesseans, along with anyone north of Atlanta, "Yankees.") Whatever the case, the practice for entering intersections, highways, or whatever around here seems to be to pull halfway out, then look. It's not in the impatient, northeastern way, though. It's a calm, unhurried, "they (my fellow polite Savannahans) will stop for me" kind of thing. I can't stand it.
Dang that Congress for taking an hour of our vacation. Today has flown by as a result. Still, we found time to tour the Fort Pulaski National Monument, stop at the Crab Shack for lunch (since you had to ask: yes, I did have the sampler platter, and can barely write as a result), and get in some beach time. The boy was a hoot as he dug sand with his fingers, cringed at the cold surf, and tried to befriend the seagulls that everyone else wished would go away. By the time we got him back into the car, he was so tired that he fell asleep before we left the beach parking area.
All in all, it was a beautiful day, and there is an evening yet. I think the stress I've been collecting followed me into the first couple days of this venture, but as of today I feel its absence more than not. (How's that for a double negative?)
March 10, 2007
Red clay gives way to white sand
Our mini-vacation to Savannah is underway, though pretty much all we did on Friday was get here ("here" being an outbreak of common hotels and restaurants beside I-95, as we haven't yet seen the city).
I am always amazed by the scented air in rural Jawja, but I think this time through was extra special due to the early Spring sun warming the long pine needles as the sap moves up the trees. This is not a pungent, bitter pine smell, but a wide, warm aroma that some might say is akin to magnolia. I would guess that the locals don't even notice, but if you turn down I-16 out of Macon, and the air is just right, you can't miss it.
We happened through Dublin at just the right time to see a bevy of hot air balloons floating over the area. The bright, striped pears in the sky were magic enough to take the young one's eyes momentarily off the portable DVD player that was hastily purchased and strapped to the back of the seat on our way out of town. We bought the very cheapest one, but so far it works. The boy is too little yet to manage headphones, so our only sacrifice is turning off the car stereo and listening to the tinny output from whatever animated feature happens to be playing. Plus, we can keep talking to him. I balked for a while at buying one at all, because I don't believe in shutting kids up and forgetting they're there. There are compromises all through life.
Today we will drive east to Tybee Island, where there's a week-early parade scheduled (we think it's probably more our speed than the big Savannah blowout). I spent some time last night getting to know the new camcorder, which had arrived at the house just in time for us to bring it. I mean, I was pacing the floor, because our street is on our UPS guy's last leg. If the shipper hadn't decided to wait until Tuesday (I ordered it Saturday and paid for 2nd-day air), much anxiety would have been avoided. I hope to get some shorebird footage. I thought a SDHC card was included in the shipment, but I was wrong, so thankfully I have my father-in-law's Fuji FinePix camera along for still shots.
That is, I'll take pictures if I can wrangle all of these things at once with a toddler in tow. He's a two-person job, this guy.
March 8, 2007
We're Number 1!
Chattanooga has the highest gas prices in the state, according to research cited by Michael Silence.
While the recent spike has been noted around here, it's all too easy to assume it's happening elsewhere, and worse so. What's up?
March 6, 2007
I'm Going to Blog on Capitol Hill
By now you know that the once-selective "Blogger Day on the Hill" event organized by the House Republican Caucus has been opened to all Tennessee bloggers. What that means is that I am free to decide to attend, and as of right now, that is my plan.
I have written in defense of a partisan organization's right to include whomever they please, but as it turns out, I'm glad that they further extended the invitation. After all, in a state without party registration, how exactly were they planning to credential a blogger as "conservative," or even "Republican"? As a friend asked at lunch today, were interested parties supposed to enter some kind of tryout phase where they wrote "Republican" posts for the next three weeks? I know Brian Hornback would be able to get in, and Rob Huddleston; but what about Roger Abramson? Kleinheider? I consider Michael Silence a conservative, in essence, but would he have passed muster?
Likewise, if the Democrats were to respond with their own blogger event, I would have honestly felt shut out of both, as an independent. This way, I get to go and cover the proceedings with all manner of writers and thinkers whose opinions vary on "the issues," and whose styles of "covering" things are different, but whose superseding impulse is a common one.
And yes, the legislature is open to the public, of which I'm a member, any time it's in session, but this is a special invitation to a particular group, and let's not confuse the two ideas. I'm excited about this upcoming couple of days, and look forward to reporting to you all just what I find there.
March 5, 2007
In Which My Naiveté Shows Like a Schoolgirl Bookstore Denizen's
The latest missive from Billy Blades is up, and underneath the main storyline, which is interesting enough, is an assertion that I hate to admit I hadn't really considered that much:
Now, I think my readers are hipper to the political scene than most, but for those who aren't I need to drop a little knowledge on you: 80% of the LTE's (letters to the editor) that you read during a political campaign are arranged, and often written by, the campaign being endorsed....[A]n LTE presents itself as an organic, spontaneous opinion generated by an excited, engaged or enraged citizen who [simply] had to communicate his or her feelings to their fellow citizens via their local paper or news website.
I can't say I wasn't aware of this, yet I must live in a state of denial. You see, I am "an excited, engaged or enraged citizen" who wrote letters to Chattanoogan.com (or the Village Voice, wherever) before I discovered the ease and wonder of writing my own blog. Without giving it much thought, I would have innocently assumed that all those other people are acting on similar impulses.
Wrapped inside WME's neat little exposé of a cheap publicity trick (as alleged) is the dirty little secret that even some media content not explicitly produced by editors and publishers is manufactured, homogenized fluff meant to mislead.
I've sent my share of letters to Congress that were written by some activist group or another, and sometimes I didn't even include a little personalizing note in the form provided. But mark my word, if you've seen my name on something in print, those were my thoughts, and mine alone.
For more on form letters to and from government officials, check this little dust-up.
I'm also interested as to whether we'll see a response from either Ms. Phifer or Mr. Waterhouse. Maybe they don't read WorstMayorEver.com, but they should, if they want to ensure the relative hipness of the audience. Apparently I'm not much help there.
March 4, 2007
Who Will Run for Mayor in 2009?
Recently I spoke with someone close to 2005 mayoral candidate Ann Coulter (the nice one, not the one who calls people names), and, even though I already knew the answer, I had to ask whether or not Ms. Coulter would consider making a second try for the position.
Though I was disappointed anew by the avowed negative answer I received, the reasons given made sense. It does get me to wondering, though, who the candidates will be in the next election.
It's too early to be thinking about it, sure; or is it? Preparing to administer our city's government isn't something that should be hastily undertaken. I know it's not as big a deal as, say, trying to be the next President of the United States, but let this serve as a reminder that we should not let an opportunity — to field a well-qualified slate of candidates — slip away from us.
This morning's papers carried the story that has been zipping round the tubes in various forms, wherein the devout on the political left and right are wishing Al Gore and Fred Thompson would enter the presidential race. It's quite interesting that none of those already declared garners an overwhelming amount of enthusiasm. Even Barack Obama, arguably the most magnetic of the bunch, has plenty of skeptics to win over. Senators Clinton and McCain merely elicit groans from a great many of us.
So, with that in mind, who are Chattanoogans' wish-list candidates for Mayor? Also, will his Honor, Mayor Ron Littlefield run for a second term?
March 3, 2007
Thanks for Helping Me Pick Out A Digital Video Camera
One week from today, we will be in lovely Savannah, Georgia for a much-needed break. I just booked the hotel. We haven't really taken a vacation since the boy was born over 2 years ago, and the UTC semester break seems like a good time to get away for a bit. ("Break" is relative, since I had to ensure hi-speed internet access in order to maintain a modicum of support for two projects at work that can't delay.)
I've been putting off buying a video camera for a couple of years now, but I have this thing about the boy's first visit to the ocean, and wanting to document that experience.
Since I've never owned any type of camcorder, I'm starting from a blank page here. That's why I decided to come to you, my wise, tech-savvy readers, for some quick help.
Can you put aside your scathing critique of the fact that I am just now getting this going less than a week before we leave town, and offer me some aDVice? I'm sorta-kinda looking at the Canon
ZR800 ZR830 or ZR850, or something like that; but I don't know what I'm doing.
I will want to edit my video on the MacBook Pro, so if there are any parameters to steer clear of (or make certain are covered) with that in mind, there's that. And the only other limits I know of are the typical quality/price boundaries. For example, I saw one offered for $75, and then there's the other extreme of professional Hi-Def. A couple, three hundred bucks should get something pretty decent, but which one?
Thanks to each of you for your help.
UPDATE: Edited due to finding that the ZR800 doesn't seem to include an internal mic, whereas higher models do. Bill's comments and user reviews seem to sway me further toward this Canon line. Now it's just down to the two models listed above, where for $40 I can get an SD HC card and a video light. Oh, and the sensor on the ZR850 is 1.07 megapixel.
UPDATE II: I went with the ZR850. Bill, and others with whom I conversed offline, are hereby appreciated for their help. A good neighbor suggested a place to get cheap miniDV tapes. My Mac has a FireWire 400 (not 800) port, but the same neighbor feels that this will be sufficient for what I'll be doing.
This website will be embellished with photos and videos in the near future. Watch out!
March 1, 2007
Google Gossip for 3/1/2007
What is Nashville Mayor Bill Purcell planning next? Will he attempt to follow Phil Bredesen's path to the Governor's mansion, as some have speculated?
Well, this afternoon, someone on a Metro Nashville computer searched the web for 'purcell senate tn'. The search landed them on my 2006 candidate page for the US Senate; but the visitor then clicked into the State Senate page and appears to have stayed there for a bit.
It may mean nothing at all.
"It all sort of reminds me that things have become a mega-miniature James Joyce-like stream of fragments and fractals, mash-ups of memories and moments blended to make some easily-digested smoothie of experience." -- Joe Powell
Say, that reminds me: I'll be at Bonnaroo on Bloom Day.
It certainly got my attention when I scrolled through my news feeds and saw a headline from Knoxville TV station WBIR's website that read "TN Guardsman on border patrol receives letter from employer threatening job loss."
What conclusions would that make you draw? I can't think of many people that wouldn't immediately be a little outraged by what they inferred.
It turns out that the National Guard member is part of a strike against his employer. Now, there are still questions regarding whether or not this particular worker should have received the letter explaining the company's replacement process, but — and be honest — is the headline itself just a little deceiving, or am I being oversensitive?
Obviously, the whole story can't be included in a headline. And it goes without saying that a news outlet should do what it can to attract readers with well-worded titles. However, this one feels a little over the line to me.