Saturday, January 31, 2015

It’s the weekend; better yet, it’s the end of the month

It’s Saturday morning, and there are lots of items ahead for the next couple of days. Today is the 31st straight day for writing and posting on this website; and today is the 31st straight day of walking at least 30 minutes a day.

Subjects of this column have varied and the response has been all over the board, more so than the issues discussed. Some readers have taken exception to opinions and statements laid before you. Others have agreed and urged more of the same. The column on Duck Coach F..uh..K had a large readership and interesting responses. The bit about the UNC Board of Governors dismissing Tom Ross was widely read and enjoyed by many, especially the part about nominating Randy Woodson, the Chancellor at NC State, to take Ross’s place. Of course, taking a jab at BobLeeSays had an impact on readership and response.

Walking 30 minutes minimum a day has been excellent for my mental and physical well-being. Most of these last 31 days have been on the treadmill in front of the television watching Morning Joe but switching to Golf Channel and others every now and then. A couple of days, the treadmill was skipped and replaced with an 8,000 yard, three+ hour walk around the Lonnie Poole Golf Course, pushing a cart holding my clubs, good exercise, even with the stopping every few hundred yards to swing a club.

One day included a walk around a nearby lake, about three miles and 40 minutes. In total, for the month, the walk has been for 28 hours and 75 miles in 31 days. Estimated calories expended: 10,000. Clothes fit better and after starting off the year at 211+ pounds, the weight is now around 210. Lost 1.6 pounds in a month; just under 11.5 to go for the year

In addition to many other items on the year to-do-list, there is one thing that’s difficult for writers to do, but it’s been completed or attained every day thus far. It’s not something to share now. Maybe at the end of this 2015: Day to Day journey. Maybe you’ll figure it out. See you next month.
-------------------- word of the day
comminate (verb) [kom-uh-neyt]: to threaten with divine punishment or vengeance

Friday, January 30, 2015

It’s not how; it’s how many in golf and football wins

NEW FLASH: With the release of the 2015 football schedule, NC State coach Dave Doeren will probably say the Wolfpack was screwed once again by the Atlantic Coast Conference commission John Swofford, a UNC-Chapel Hill graduate? Remember, State beat the Tar Heels, 35-7 last year in Kenan Stadium, so payback is hell, greater than before. Doeren’s complaint, of course, will be justified. Here’s the deal: After four non-conference patsies, two home and two on the road, the Wolfpack hosts Louisville (Sat, Oct 3) and then has a quick turn-around, playing at Virginia Tech (Fri, Oct 9). After that, State has an open date. Virginia Tech plays at home October 3, a distinct advantage for the Hokies. John, will it never end?
Unfortunately, the old golf idiom that says, “it’s not how but how many” can also be applied to football. To explain to the non-golfer (if you are one, you’re missing out on a real joy in life), a birdie is a birdie, one under par, and it doesn’t matter if you smack a drive down the middle, hit your approach onto the green and make a short putt for birdie; or if you hit your drive fat, sending it 150 yards off the tee, then advance the ball into a green-side bunker and then hole out for a three on the par four. Both are the same score achieved differently.

In 1973, NC State’s football team was 9-3 for the season, winning six Atlantic Coast Conference games in the seven-team league, , and, in non-conference games, defeating South Carolina and East Carolina at home, and losing on the road at Nebraska, Georgia and Penn State. The ninth win came in the Liberty Bowl against a strong Kansas team.

In 2014, NC State was 8-5 overall. Two of the wins were against Wake Forest and Syracuse, two 1-7 conference teams (3-9 overall) that in a combine standing of all 14 ACC teams would finish dead last. A third ACC win was against North Carolina which was 4-4 overall (tied for sixth) and 6-7 overall. The five additional wins were against Georgia Southern, Old Dominion, South Florida, Presbyterian and Central Florida, not exactly the caliber of the five non-conference teams the Wolfpack played in 1973.

Athletics Director Debbie Yow admits to scheduling “wins” to help her selection as football coach, Dave Doeren, win games in his early years at State. But that continues in future years as noted yesterday with a line-up of who’s who among non-Major 5 conference teams. Though the schedule is sprinkled with Notre Dame (forced on the Wolfpack by the ACC: 2016, 2017, 2023, 2025), East Carolina (forced on the Wolfpack by the General Assembly: 2016, 2019, 2022), West Virginia (forced on the Wolfpack by the ACC’s desire for conference members to schedule teams from the Major 5 leagues: 2018, 2019), and Mississippi State (same reason as WVa: 2020, 2021), the schedule will always have easy games which not only should be winnable but also should be won. Maybe it just doesn’t matter who you play as long as you make birdie.
-------------------- word of the day
indemnify (verb) [in-dem-nuh-fahy]: to compensate for damage or loss sustained

Thursday, January 29, 2015

$o, why not NC $tate-Duke non-conference football game$

Yesterday, it was kudos for North Carolina and Wake Forest for scheduling non-conference football games with each other when the Atlantic Coast Conference doesn’t. So, the question asked of those two schools is: What took so long? (Not to be answered. Kudos for doing so.) And the question for NC State and Duke: Why don’t you do the same? The answer: Win games; Follow the money!

Football coaches have one mindset: Win games, which is good in itself. Why? To keep their job. Sometimes, though, winning will not keep the coach. Case in point is Tom O’Brien who did a fine job at State but Athletics Director Debbie Yow and the powerful fans wanted better, more exciting teams. Why? To continue the flow of money required to pay the coaches and support the program.

State has six or seven home games a season, sometimes eight. In that mix, there will always be four conference games. With the current rotation, the Wolfpack will host Atlantic division foes Clemson, Louisville and Syracuse along with North Carolina one season and Florida State, Boston College and Wake Forest along with one from the Coastal division the next year. With each lineup, sales of season tickets reach the 35,000 +/- level annually. With parking and tickets running about $350 a seat, that’s an income of $12,250,000. The payout to the non-conference teams except Notre Dame and East Carolina run no more than $750,000 a school, sometimes less than that.

Games against conference teams, including a non-conference game against Duke, will cost a lot more for NC State, and it’s doubtful Duke would want reciprocate in kind when State plays at Duke simply based on attendance. The dollars just don’t make sense for State to play Duke when it’s not necessary. But there’s also the possibility of losing to Duke instead of defeating South Alabama or James Madison. It takes six wins to get to a bowl, and having a slate of non-Major 5 teams makes it that much easier. And, with Notre Dame and East Carolina in the mix, why chance it?

One more thing, that’s hard to dig up. Do the football coach and the athletics director get a bonus if the Wolfpack plays in a bowl game? It’s been part of past contracts. If it’s true, neither should be involved in the scheduling process or the bonus threshold should not include number of wins or getting into a bowl. Only pay out extras for winning conference titles and beyond. More tomorrow.
-------------------- word of the day
sodality (noun) [soh-dal-i-tee; suh-dal-i-tee]: fellowship; comradeship

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Thanks goodness for the Tar Heels and the Demon Deacons

One might think Hell has frozen over if this writer is praising the University of North Carolina (at Chapel Hill) for anything in athletics. Lump Wake Forest into the story and someone might think this writer is up to something. You would be wrong in both cases. This is to congratulate the Tar Heels and the Demon Deacons for scheduling football games with each other as non-conference games, something that other schools in large conferences should do.

For example, NC State and Duke, which annually played each other through the 2003 season, should come to an agreement to resume an annual game as a non-Atlantic Coast Conference counting event during the seasons the two schools are not scheduled to meet as set forth by the ACC schedule makers. If Wake Forest and North Carolina can take that step, the first of its kind in any of the Major Five conferences, then the Wolfpack and the Blue Devils can too. It just makes sense.

The State-Duke game has always been competitive, for the most part. Duke holds the overall advantage with 41 wins to NC State’s 36. There have been five ties. Wolfpack fans travel well to Durham to support the team away from home, helping to fill Wallace Wade Stadium, and no Blue Devils fans are necessary for a full stadium when the game is played in Raleigh. It would reestablish an old rivalry which has seen many good games; both teams are at competitive levels these days.

The 2003 game was the last time the two met other every season. Since then, State and Duke played each other during the 2008, 2009 and 2013. Only once between now at least through the 2024 season are the two scheduled to meet; that’s in Carter-Finley Stadium in 2020. Beyond 2024, who knows? That’s as far out as the conference has scheduled games and a game between the two is not on the list. Unfortunately, the Wolfpack's non-conference schedule is full through the 2019 season with: Troy (twice), Eastern Kentucky, Old Dominion (twice), South Alabama, Notre Dame (twice), East Carolina (twice), William & Mary, Furman, Marshall (twice), Georgia State, West Virginia (twice), James Madison, Western Carolina, and Ball State. And, Duke is nearly full with non-conference opponents for the next five seasons.

After 2019, both Duke and State have plenty of space on its non-conference schedule to come to some agreement. Better yet, each team could move a game or two over the next five seasons to resume an annual meeting. If Duke would agree, State should offer to drop or push out further a couple of those nonsensical games to make space for the Blue Devils. It’s a rivalry that should not die just because of conference expansion. Congratulations to Wake Forest and North Carolina. Thank goodness those two schools took that scheduling step.
-------------------- word of the day
cabotage (noun) [kab-uh-tij, kab-uh-tahzh]: navigation or trade along the coast

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

As Wake County grows, so grow your taxes

Bond issues have a way of passing votes by the electorate. Tax increases usually lead to tossing the tax collectors (the elected tax collectors such as county commissioners) out with the bath water. The question on the latter will always be: Is the essential your throwing out the increased tax revenue and the non-essential the leaders who raise the tax rates. Or is it the other way around?

Wake County continues to grow. The population here is already more than a million, and estimates are that will double over the next 40 years, if space is available. It’s doubtful space will be available in the Wake County schools system for that increase, but those who control the schools and those who control the money for the schools are going to try to make that space available with the same tired way: Increase property taxes and build more buildings.

Whenever a single group controlled by Democrats has a meeting to discuss money, it smells of trouble for the tax payers. When two groups controlled by Democrats get together, the possibility of proposing a tax increase increases exponentially, if that’s possible. The latter happened Monday. The Wake County Commissioners and the Wake County School Board met to discuss the financial plight of the school system, to figure out how to build more schools. Nearly immediately, with a wink and a nod and a smile and a pat on the back, there was a consensus: Let’s raise taxes!

No doubt that Wake County is one of the more progressive counties in North Carolina, but why does progressive have to mean more taxes? When will it mean better ideas, better than raising taxes? The prospect of a tax increase looks good at this point for several reasons including a General Assembly that has taken payments from the State away from counties and cities. Prediction: Taxes will increase to pay for more buildings, or another bond issue will pass, both of which will call for higher property tax rates which will hit the low and middle income taxpayers harder than the rich, such as some of those in tax-raising positions. Then the school system will need an increase in operating funds to hire more teachers at lower salaries so there can be more complaining about under-funding of the schools so there can be another discussion of increasing taxes to bring pay scales up to higher averages.

As Wake County grows, so grow your taxes. Maybe it again time for new bath water and those who bath in it.
-------------------- word of the day
dalles (plural noun) [dalz]: the rapids of a river running between the walls of a canyon or gorge

Monday, January 26, 2015

Hopefully the hype is over: Coach F..uh..K wins his 1,000th!

Excuse today’s post for its length. The subject is Mike Krzyzewski, and the coverage here needs to parallel that published today in The News & Observer, and probably several other “homer” publications.

There is a friend of mine who has known Mike Krzyzewski, (a.k.a., Coach K because it’s easier to pronounce and spell, especially for the Dook fans who have Yankee backgrounds and accents) for so long that he can tell you the many meanings of the F-word Coach K starts spouting in times of trouble and not. That F-word, for Coach K more than anyone else, has been a noun, a verb, an adjective, an adverb, a preposition, a conjunction, a pronoun, and , of course, an interjection, to name the obvious. According to my friend, Coach K has used it outside those basic parts of speech. He directs it at players, fans, game officials, the news media (usually in private) and probably his family as a term of endearment.

It is estimated that, during just the 1,000 wins he has accumulated during his coaching career, Coach K has used the F-word at least 25,000 times, an obvious average of 25 times a game including pre-game, during the game, halftime, and post-game. If you count his 308 loses when it is estimated he used the F-word double the number of times in a win, add another 15,400 times for more than 40,000 F-words, and that’s just during the games. My friend tells me Coach K uses that word as a regular part of his vocabulary, in the office, at home, during business meetings, with friends and enemies. So, let’s add another 150,000 times based on his 40 years of coaching, adding in more than 10 times a day for 365 days a year. This means, with all accounts, Coach K is approaching 200,000 F-words in his coaching career. The question is: Will the media cover that milestone just as it covered his 1,000 career wins? Maybe not because the media probably thinks Coach K’s mentor, Bobby Knight, holds that record at double the number of F-words. Of course, Knight may not know the parts of speech the way Coach K does and probably limited its use to a verb and adjective.

Actually, there is no ill-will here for Duke basketball Coach K. Thankfully the Duke Blue Devils—“playing like Duke and not like Dook”—rallied from down 10 Sunday to beat St. John’s and give Coach K his 1,000th coaching victory. Hopefully the hype from the local sports media will subside but that’s doubtful. The coverage has been overkill for someone who has coached 40 years and averaging 25 wins a season, no doubt a great accomplishment. But, it’s expected, the media hype that is. Coach K has had the media in his (bad) hip pocket for years, except during and after one game last year when Coach K was hit with a technical foul against Virginia and no one in the media came to his defense. Coach K then took the media to task and the minions have fallen in line ever since, especially the local beat reporter. Today’s N&O is a great example with countless stories proclaiming Coach K as the exalted ruler of winning basketball games, which, of course, he is, but the coverage was excessive, set up to do nothing but stay on Coach K’s good side until he retires. The coverage will not sell any more newspapers. It was difficult to read—yes, NC State graduates can read—the newspaper this morning without getting all that crap on my hands, and we had to disinfect the kitchen island, the regular resting place of the print edition each morning. The coverage did serve as a successful laxative for my morning constitutional, and that was without reading the Coach K Coverage!

Coach K’s 1,000th win means two things: He has coached a long time (40 years), and he, in addition to defeating lots of conference teams, has defeated a lot of patsies. That’s the norm of college basketball and football scheduling. Yes, his Dook teams have finished at or near the top of the ACC many times, but he has also chalked up wins over many of those Sisters-of-the-Poor (or maybe the Sisters-of-the-Pour) along the way. Again, that’s college basketball in a nutshell; play your conference opponents and the fill the schedule with six to eight UNC-Greensboros or Elons. And, to his credit, he’s won a lot of NCA playoff games.

Also, to his credit, here’s a note worth mentioning: It took Duke 68 years to rack up 1,000 total wins, doing that on Wednesday, February 13, 1974 in a home win over Virginia, 88-78. Since then, in the last 41 seasons, the Blue Devils have increased that total to 2,041 wins, most of which were by Krzyzewski coached teams. No doubt he’s one of the best to ever coach the game. If he could refrain from using the F-word so much, the honor would carry much more significance, but that would mean even more flacking by the media, something none of us desire.

If Duke had not played like Duke—if they had played like Dook—in those waning minutes Sunday in Madison Square Garden, the 1,000th Win Watch might have gone on for a couple of weeks more with games at Notre Dame and Virginia ahead before a home game against Georgia Tech. Hopefully, after today, Krzyzewski’s public relation firms—The News & Observer sports staff—will get back to writing meaningful stuff. All in all, congratulations to Coach F..uh..K.
-------------------- word of the day
subrogate (verb) [suhb­-ruh-geyt]: to put into the place of another; to substitute

Sunday, January 25, 2015

Deflategate: Good for QBs/WRs but not for punters/kickers

Let’s face it. The New England Patriots are blatant cheaters when it comes to trying to win football games. They were caught several years ago video-taping the opponents sideline signals calling plays on offense and alignments on defense. Most recently, someone on the team deflated 11 of the 12 footballs supplied by the Patriots in their game against Indianapolis. It was a wide-margin win and cheating probably was not necessary. But the Pats did. In all likelihood, they’ve probably done it other times, just not been caught.

Patriots coach Bill Belichick supposedly is one of the all time great mentors of any sport. Dick Vitale has him his third best among active coaches behind Duke’s Mike Krzyzewski (gag me!) and San Antonio Spurs coach Gregg Popovich. Actually, gag me about such a list at all, especially by Vitale who thinks the best all-time college basketball commentator is probably…uh…Dick Vitale. If you don’t believe me, just ask Dick Vitale. Anyway, Belichick has been successful but the most recent cheating casts long shadows of doubt on his abilities to win without cheating. Maybe he’s cheated in every game he’s coached.

Belichick and his “American idol” quarterback Tom Brady claim to know nothing about the deflated footballs. Wink, nod, wink, nod. What do you expect them to say? “We cheated.” Heck no. That will never happen. The evidence is 11 of the 12 footballs used on that rainy day only when the Patriots were on offense were found to be deflated from the legal 12.5 to 13.5 pounds per square inch to something just lower to allow for better grip on the ball by Brady and for easier holding onto the ball by the receivers.

In all likelihood, that 12th ball probably was used only when punting and kicking. Except for this: the Patriots kicked one FG that traveled 21 yards, a chip shot for a deflated ball, and averaged only 32 yards on punt from a punter who averages 39 yards a punt this season. In the Super Bowl, let’s allow the Patriots to deflate all 12 balls to 10.5 pounds per square inch instead of the regulation 12.5 to 13.5. When the game is over and the Pats lose because of missed field goals, ask their placekicker if deflated footballs are good or bad.
-------------------- word of the day
fiddlestick (noun) [fid-l-stik]: anything; a bit; something unimportant or worthless

Saturday, January 24, 2015

Politics as usual: forcing positions on issues

Those who want to really do something about climate change should concentrate on doing that and quit trying to box the opposition into a corner. If the reason for that—cornering a person—is to stake that person to a campaign issue, try tax increases or going to war. The issue of climate change and trying to do something about it will not make or break an election in my lifetime and then some. It’s low on the totem pole of issues of major concern.

This week, in the United States Senate, a resolution stating that “it is the sense of the Senate that climate change is real and not a hoax” passed by a 98-1 vote. The 15 minutes later a resolution failed that said climate change is real and caused by humans. Then, an amendment to the Keystone Pipeline authorization bill came up. It said “climate change is real and that humans contributed to it.” That passed 50-49 but failed to meet the 60 votes in the affirmative to add it to the Keystone bill, therefore it failed. So, 50 Senators believe it, and 49 Senators don’t. If this is the least bit confusing the way it’s explained here, read the account at “CLIMATEPROGRESS” from which this information was lifted. It’s funny reading.

When election time rolls around for any of them neither side will benefit from the ridiculous political play that took time from real legislation all in the name of forcing Senators to “be on the record” on this issue and the way the resolutions and amendment are worded. It is a non-campaign issue. Just introduce legislation to slow global warning and not define it and how it happened. Yes, it’s politics as usual in Washington.
-------------------- word of the day
alight (verb) [uh-lahyt]: to settle or stay after descending

Friday, January 23, 2015

Writing/Publishing a book is gratifying but not an easy project

Several years ago, sometime in 2002, the idea of writing a book came to me in a weak moment. Some might call that a brain “cramp” but it didn’t hurt and didn’t stop me. After 12 years of typing more than 130,000 words into a computer, then re-thinking the project and re-writing the original, then editing, then having someone else edit, then more re-writing after the editor suggested the scope was to broad, then more editing by a professional editor, then more re-writing, then employing a designer to format the words into pages and to design the cover—after all of that, it’s done! (Can you see the smile on my face?)

1973-74 Reliving the NC State Wolfpack’s Title Run is about the wonderful adventure of winning the national basketball title. The subject is the 1973-74 NC State basketball team led by coach Norman Sloan and players David Thompson, Monte Towe and Tommy Burleson, to name the stars but not all of their teammates. It’s been more than 40 years since that championship season which has been NC State’s best-ever team, better than the 1983 team led by coach Jim Valvano and the well-known threesome of Sidney Lowe, Derrick Whittenburg and Thurl Bailey. The team 40 years ago was awesome and accomplished what was expected. The 1983 team was interesting, fundamentally excellent and over-accomplished during a nine game post-season winning streak.

To write the 1974 story, permission was sought and granted to use stories published in that year’s student newspaper, the Technician, to bring back to life articles written at the time of accomplishment. Fortunate to be the Sports Editor that spring gave me get-up-and-go while writing the book. Being part of history and writing about it was fun. The final product is 316 pages and includes an extensive interview with David Thompson for the first ever ACC Basketball Handbook published by Ivan Mothershead who asked me to do the interview.

To buy a copy, go to CaryTownPress  or send me an email. One last thing about the book: Publishing is not an easy project, but there’s a tremendous amount of pride and satisfaction when you see more than 12 years of effort arrive in the mail as a published book. Enjoy.
-------------------- word of the day
railbird (noun) [rail-burd]: any kibitzer or self-styled critic or expert

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Get out of your seat and do something

It’s amazing which subjects draw attention and which do not. The last three posts—two about the UNC System presidency, one about the USA presidency—drew huge readership. BobLeeSays takes credit for yesterday’s surge in circulation because he thinks he was being attacked. It’s interesting, though, that none of his boosters left a response. Maybe they enjoy his writing but not his thinking. Understanding that thought process is easy. It happens to all of us. Thanks to BobLee for his note.

A few posts back, the Wake County Board of Education was the subject, in particular an idea of year-round high schools; the members of the BOE gave hard push-back to the idea. Their responses were not encouraging, even though year-round high schools would reduce the need to build more high schools in Wake County and that fund is short several million dollars. The BOE members refer to laws that are hurdles to the concept. Laws are written to be changed; the BOE does not want that challenge. The BOE should seriously consider all ideas, not just refer to legal barriers.

Tom Benton, vice-chair, wrote: … the calendar laws … presently do not allow what … you are proposing although I don’t know the details of your proposal.  So … this is somewhat of a moot point unless the state changes it calendar laws to allow more local flexibility.  This very request is in our legislative agenda which was adopted on December 16, 2014.  As a retired multi-track year-round principal I am always intrigued by alternate calendars.  I honestly thought in the mid-nineties that all schools would eventually move to some form of year-round calendar.  However, there was much more resistance—socially and legally—than I anticipated.

So what if there is social and legal resistance, more than expected. That should not stop you. With high school in the late 1960s and college in the early 1970s, we saw resistance to social and legal change which pushed us harder for social and legal changes. Our nation is better today because of those in leadership heard the calls and worked to make a better nation. There’s still a long way to go, and those who see a blockade and go the other way do not help moving us further ahead. They want to get by and get along, looking ahead to another election. To those we say: Get out of your seat and do something!
-------------------- word of the day
babelism (noun) [bey-buh-liz-uh m]: a confusion, as of ideas, speech, etc.

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Just say “No” to Art Pope as UNC System President

Two days ago, Dr. Randy Woodson, the NC State University chancellor, was touted to be the next President of the UNC System. The endorsement drew responses all over the place. A lifetime yet wise newspaper man who has been living in the Raleigh area longer than Thad Eure served as Secretary of State exclaimed that Woodson would be an excellent choice, in the mold of Dr. John T. Caldwell, NCSU chancellor 1959-1975. The newspaperman referred to Caldwell's personality and his abilities to listen, learn, and take positive action. He was a consensus builder.

A response from someone of importance on State’s campus said NC State could not afford to lose Woodson to the other 16 campuses which is one way of looking at it. But, another way to look at it is that Woodson would be in a position to make sure NC State and UNC-Chapel Hill continue their climb up the national ladder of superior academic institutions in their fields of study instead of yielding valuable budget dollars to the other campuses. Amen to that.

A former member of the UNC Board of Governors was more inclined to support Tom Ross and Erskine Bowles and other “progressive” Democrat-supported Presidents. He also said the BOG will lean toward Art Pope, the “5 & Dime” executive who served as and recently resigned from being Budget Director for NC Governor Pat McCrory. Pope is outspoken, to say the least, about the UNC system budget and the educational direction of the system. He seems to dislike both. For his faults pointed out by newspaper editorial writers (not the newspaperman noted above), Pope is a good manager of money and has the political clout required to dance through the halls of the General Assembly when it comes budget time.

Pope is not the choice here. He’s too political, too abrupt, and a lightning rod that would take the focus away from academics and place it squarely on politics, not about what the UNC System should be. Woodson remains at the top of this early list. One reason for not going with Pope is that he is vocally supported by the face behind the mask known to many as “BobLeeSays,” a nationally “acclaimed” (in his mind) blogger who thinks he's funny and disrespects most everyone about whom he spews forth. Why would anyone select a person "nominated" by a fictional character?
-------------------- word of the day
pyrophoric (adjective) [pahy-ruh-fawr-ik]: capable of igniting spontaneously in air

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

A Republican will win the White House in 2016

With yesterday’s tip-toeing into state politics and the Republicans running the UNC BOG their way, and with President Obama making his annual State of the Union political statement tonight, let’s dive into shallow water about the next election cycle. We just finished the 2014 elections, but the politicians have turned to the 2016 national races: the Presidency, a third of the United States Senate, all of the seats in the House of Representatives.

The posturing for the next two years is obvious: The Democrats, especially the President, will work to regain the Senate and House while retaining the Presidency. The Republicans will seek to retain control of the House and Senate while taking the Presidency from the Democrats. Many observers and much of the educated electorate believe the Presidency is Hillary Clinton’s to lose. That is not necessarily the case. She may have a harder time winning than the assumption today.

President Obama will tell us tonight that we need more taxes from the rich to support programs of and by the government. The Republicans have already told us that during the Obama administration, the rich have gotten richer and the poor have gotten poorer and the middle class has expanded. Both sides are correct. If we indeed need to expand government, to keep Social Security solvent, to make sure Medicare continues to work without draining the Treasury coffers, to fill the potholes across America, and to repair other infrastructure, then, yes, more money is required. Mr. Obama will be asking for the money by raising taxes on the rich, and it will not be forthcoming from the Congress, the Republicans. Maybe there are other solutions to the continuing ills of the United States. The Republicans will tell us there are ways to “fix” everything but will not give us solid answers to “how.”

The saga of Washington DC and the federal government will continue to play out over the next two years, after which, in my humble opinion (the same one as yesterday when lauding the qualifications for Dr. Randy Woodson to be the President of the UNC system), the Republican candidate for President will be the next President and Congress will remain a GOP stronghold and with a super-majority in the Senate. Then the election cycle will begin again.
-------------------- word of the day
stour (noun) [stoo r]: tumult; confusion

Monday, January 19, 2015

Choice for UNC President should be Dr. Randy Woodson of NC State

No matter the claims otherwise, Tom Ross was fired from his position as President of the University of North Carolina system. He was fired by the Republican dominated UNC Board of Governors who didn’t want to wait for Ross to retire next year when he reaches the age of 65. To wait meant Ross would serve at least two more years, and that just wasn’t acceptable to the GOPers for fear of losing the power to appoint that position and to influence the direction of the UNC System.

The forced departure of Ross should not be a continuing issue for anyone. Politicians and academicians who belabor the situation need to look ahead and not back. There’s little reason to believe that the BOG will reverse the decision and keep Ross until he wants to leave on his own terms. Criticism in the public will diminish the Presidency and could hurt the hiring of his replacement, scaring away well-qualified candidates. Those who criticize instead of being constructive as the UNC System lives on will hurt their effort of installing someone who will lead the system to even greater heights.

The national search for a replacement has begun if only in the minds of the decision-makers, the members of the Board of Governors who will be looking at potential candidates but also charting their course for the 17 system campuses. This course may involve eliminating Elizabeth City State University which has longtime financial and academic issues (merge it with the College of the Albemarle community college), or the path could mean combining UNC-Greensboro and North Carolina A&T State University which are only separated by a few miles. There’s more down-sizing available for a leaner but better UNC system.

As those who are upset simmer down, as the search begins, there’s a local choice that should be vetted immediately and then selected. He’s the Chancellor at NC State University, Dr. Randy Woodson, who is a business executive, an academician, a researcher, a politician in his own low-key way, and a very strong leader. Since arriving at NC State in 2010, he has quietly weathered the storm of budget cuts while leading NC State to greater heights. He has managed a highly-successful fund-raising effort during a time of economic down-turn and recovery, nearly doubling an endowment fund to over $900 million. He has kept NC State out of the spotlight of trouble. He has a national and international reputation as a superb University administrator. He would be a wonderful President of the UNC System and the BOG would be wise to place him at the top of the list of candidates. Woodson would be an excellent choice, non-political at that. He’s an “unaffiliated” registered voter. The only downfall is that NC State would lose a magnificent Chancellor.
-------------------- word of the day
afflated (adjective) [uh-fley-tid]: having inspiration; inspired

Sunday, January 18, 2015

Response to free healthcare, free legal advice, free accounting

A couple of days ago, after it was suggested that all healthcare be “free” a “heart surgeon” friend responded. In its entirety, here is that response:

As an endocrine and oncologic surgeon (subspecialties of General Surgery), I did about 350-400 cases a year. Most full time heart surgeons probably do 200-250 per year. Don't know where you got your information that heart surgeons do fewer than 20 cases a year -- wouldn't even be able to pay for your med-mal insurance doing that number of cases. Also, that heart surgeon may actually save 150 patient's lives per year while the GP saves one or two. Which is more valuable when you consider that dynamic?

You can find countries where all of those services are provided free of charge-- North Korea and Cuba come to mind. Are you really going to trust someone from the Federal government to write your will, for example? Your family might be surprised to find out that your entire estate had been left to the IRS/ John Koskinen personal fund. Would those sent to provide those free services have your best interests in mind?

You are correct about there being no such thing as "free" health care. In those single payer systems, it is the government which is most invested in keeping costs down and they do that by rationing care. Reimbursement to physicians constitutes only about 8% to 9% of total health care costs in this country and is NOT the driving force or primary cause of rising health care costs.

NOTES/QUESTIONS: A couple of days ago, the reference to heart surgeons being able to count their cases on fingers and toes was not to belittle heart surgeons or the numbers of annual patients. John Koskinen is the current IRS Commissioner. What about the medical providers also being the insurers? Wouldn’t that keep healthcare costs down? And, in disagreement, we do not know how many GPs actually save lives a year, especially if they do all the things necessary to keep patients healthy. Usually, the heart surgeon is a specialist who treats the patients when the GP has done all he/she can do.
-------------------- word of the day
totidem verbis (latin) [TAW-ti-dem WER-bees; Eng . TOT-i-dem VUR-bis]: with just so many words; in these words

Saturday, January 17, 2015

It’s the weekend, so relax, get out of bed, enjoy!

So you work all week and expect to have a little time to relax when Saturday and Sunday get here. There’s sleeping late, casual breakfast and coffee while reading the newspaper, if you still subscribe to a print edition. Maybe a you’ll visit the local farmers’ market for home grown produce or you’ll drop by a local bakery, even if it’s a chain, for sweet rolls and something other than the standard loaf bread in the grocery store.

There’s tinkering in the garage, tidying up the place left in disarray during the week because all you have to time do was to find the screw driver to tighten a draw knob or locate a hammer and a picture hanger because a picture needs to be relocated and there was no time to return the tools to the right place.

The grass might need to be cut and trimmed and an application of fertilizer or crab grass preventer needs to be spread across the yard, the result of which will mean more grass cutting at a later date. The last leaves of the season need to be raked before grass is cut and trimmed and before the chemicals are dropped. It’s also time to trim a few bushes and cut back a few tree limbs, shaping the foliage to come so it looks nice later.

But there are also sports events to watch: college basketball, NFL playoffs, the PGA tour is underway. So a visit to a local eatery with large screen TVs is possible, especially if the food is good such as at Natty Greene’s in Raleigh where the Railyard sandwich beats any other Reuben you’ll find: 8-ounces of corned beef, capicola and salami with coleslaw, melted Swiss cheese, Dijon mustard and Thousand Island dressing on grilled rye bread.

And maybe there’s another local brewery or two to visit, to meet new people, taste different beer offerings and simply have fun, not worrying about work or house chores left unattended or bills to pay or what the grown children are doing. This is a time to relax and have fun. It’s the weekend. Well, actually, it’s just Saturday.
-------------------- word of the day
astir (adjective) [uh-stur]: moving or stirring; up and about; out of bed

Friday, January 16, 2015

“Free” health care? What about free legal and accounting advice?

In a recent conversation, the issue of health care came up. Reference was made to an article in Time magazine in which the author talks about spending $190,000 on heart surgery. He didn’t pay all of that. Insurance covered some. In the article the author discussed medical centers which basically self-insure the patients. In other words, hospitals are the insurance company. For instance, instead of going to Wake Med and filing insurance with Blue Cross Blue Shield, Wake Med would be the insurer. By being both, the management would do everything to keep costs down on both entities. Competition for health care and health insurance would come from Duke Hospitals and UNC Hospitals. Competition should drive down prices.

“Health care should be free,” the other person said. “If other countries can do it, so can the United States.” He was reminded that nothing is free. Even if the services were at no charge, someone would be paying for it through taxes and fees. Nothing is free, so if someone starts talking about a single payer system or free health care, please remind them that someone someplace must pay, so it’s not free.

If making healthcare free or, let’s say if controlling it through government would be better, let’s do the same for other items of necessity such as legal advice and accounting services. Everyone needs legal advice probably as often as medical care, and with the cost of legal services skyrocketing as healthcare services are, why not have a single payer system for legal advice? Same for accounting services, especially when it comes to estate planning, filling out and filing tax returns, and other reasons to hire an accountant, even if it’s to figure out what to do when you win the $250 million Powerball or MegaMillions lotteries.

One last thought about controlling healthcare costs: While it takes more “education” to be a heart surgeon than it does to be a general practitioner/family doctor, who is worth more? Is it the heart surgeon who can count on fingers and toes the number of surgeries performed annually or the GP who sees and keeps healthy 10 to 100 times that many patients a year? The GP is, no doubt, of greater service to mankind than the heart surgeon and therefore should be rewarded so.
-------------------- word of the day
internuncial (verb) [in-ter-nuhn-shuh l]: serving to announce or connect

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Answers to Wake County BOE Year-Round High Schools responses

Yesterday’s column included responses from members of the Wake County Public Schools System Board of Education about the idea of year-round high schools. Today, answers to the responses:

Christine Kushner, Chairperson of the BOE:We have had discussions with staff on this idea, and I will be glad to forward to facilities and academic folks to consider.”  A request was made for the notes coming from the discussions with staff. No response as of this date but hope to receive soon. This falls under Freedom of Information Act request.

Bill Fletcher, member BOE:
  • One of the challenges of having multiple calendars is the lack of alignment across grade configurations.  Any trimester strategy would need to have K-12 application.  And then there is the concern about alignment with college calendars.  So, what’s the problem with aligning the calendars, staring the year August 1 for all schools? This is an issue that can be overcome.
  • Companion question is the employment schedule for teachers.  Will teachers work two trimesters, or all three trimesters?  Do they get vacation or time for professional development?  All of the above can apply. Being flexible is important. These are not issues too difficult to overcome. It’s possible that teachers will have at least one two-hour period of not teaching a class, so that time can be used for professional development.
  • Could students go to all three trimesters?  If so, capacity gains evaporate. Preferably students would attend only two of three, but, depending on the desired maximum capacity and if desired courses are available, yes.
  • There is movement to provide "credit by demonstrated mastery" for high school students, so seat time could become less relevant for some students. “Credit by demonstrated mastery” was tried at UNC-CH with the AFAM courses and with horrific consequences. Actually, this doesn’t have any relationship to year-round high schools. But good try, Bill.
  • Observers of our typical student assignment discussions will point to the extreme difficulty of changing a calendar, even a modest change from traditional to an existing year round track. Thinking and living outside the box is key to better education. Those who stick with traditional year-round schedules are stuck in the mud. Reduction in building new high schools will be for at least 10 years. Enrollment goes down 33%. Instead of spending money on new buildings, invest in the current facilities, in the resources for the teachers and students, and in teacher salaries.
  • Would such a dramatic change in schedule improve educational outcomes for kids? That is ultimately the bottom line. Yes, no doubt. Three core courses per trimester will allow for more intensive study on those subjects, giving the students a better learning opportunity. Teachers will have a chance to be more creative with instruction. Teachers will probably have fewer papers to grade each trimester. School environment will be better with fewer class changes and less chaos.

Tom Benton, Vice Chair, BOE: “Do present calendar laws allow for these types of calendar changes?” Tom, you’re on the BOE and can determine that yourself with a call to your staff, or was that a rhetorical question? If not on the question, change the law!

These three members of the Wake County Schools BOE are offering objections without full thought, consideration, research and investigation. Maybe naming new schools, renaming existing schools, moving students each year, planning to build new schools and running for reelection are getting in the way of broader and innovative thinking. Additional questions and comments are encouraged.
-------------------- word of the day
mackle (verb) [mak-uh l]: to blur
mackle (noun) [mak-uh l]: a blur

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Year-Round High Schools? The Wake County BOE responds

Sometimes these columns write themselves. Today’s is an example. Last Thursday’s post, How about year-round high schools in Wake County, drew response from members of the Wake County Public Schools System Board of Education, the elected leaders whose primary responsibility is to keep parents happy over re-assignment and to plan and build more schools. That’s a joke, of course, but the feeling of many. So, without further ado, little fanfare and no responses:

Christine Kushner, Chair of the BOE:We have had discussions with staff on this idea, and I will be glad to forward to facilities and academic folks to consider.  I appreciate your continued interest in our school system, as well as the creative thinking.  Please do stay in touch!”

Bill Fletcher, the only Republican on the BOE: “I appreciate your commitment to an idea.  Let me share a few other thoughts.
  • One of the challenges of having multiple calendars is the lack of alignment across grade configurations.  Any trimester strategy would need to have K-12 application.  And then there is the concern about alignment with college calendars.  
  • Companion question is the employment schedule for teachers.  Will teachers work two trimesters, or all three trimesters?  Do they get vacation or time for professional development?  
  • Could students go to all three trimesters?  If so, capacity gains evaporate.  
  • There is movement to provide "credit by demonstrated mastery" for high school students, so seat time could become less relevant for some students.  
  • Observers of our typical student assignment discussions will point to the extreme difficulty of changing a calendar, even a modest change from traditional to an existing year round track.  
  • Would such a dramatic change in schedule improve educational outcomes for kids?  That is ultimately the bottom line.
Tom Benton, Vice Chair, BOE: “Do present calendar laws allow for these types of calendar changes?”

More on this subject tomorrow including responses to these puzzling questions and comments.
-------------------- word of the day
periphrasis (noun) [puh-rif-ruh-sis]: the use of an unnecessary long or roundabout form of expression; circumlocution

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

So, what’s worthy of front page news?

Last week, the day after the brutal killing of 12 people at the Charlie Hebdo offices in Paris, The News & Observer did not run the story on its front page though the shootings were a horrific international incident. A few months ago, the management of The N&O decided to refocus the news sections to concentrate more on local and state news, pushing national and international stories inside and usually as far back as page 5, sometimes page 7 of the newspaper. The Charlie Hebdo story was pushed back, not front page news.

Letters to the editor took the decision to task; the writers of the letters couldn’t understand how the events of Paris didn’t warrant front page coverage. The newspaper’s readership which didn’t write to voice that opinion thought the same thing. Shortly thereafter, coverage of that murderous activity and the hunt for the perpetrators reached the front page, a good move by the newspaper. Nothing justified not playing it as a lead story the day after it happened. Along with other acts of terror related to the Charlie Hebdo shootings as well as with the show of disdain for those behind the killings through protests, it was an international incident that needed to be placed front and center.

What happened in Paris could happen anywhere, and the public needs to know about it. By publication time most of the readership of The N&O and other newspapers were well-versed in what had happened, but the newspaper owes it to the public to remind the readership of the dastardly deed if for no other reason but to tell everyone it could happen to them at any time. Newspapers and other media outlets are not our bother’s keeper but, no matter how far away from government and political life they try to distant themselves, they are not immune to terrorism. Just ask the remaining staff of Charlie Hebdo.

Sunday more than a million people gathered in the streets of Paris to show solidarity against worldwide terrorism. The pictures on television and those printed in newspapers offered an impressive reminder of the power people have when concentrated in one place. The staff of The N&O must have struggled Sunday evening about what to show on its Monday front page. The choice was either a photo of those million plus people in Paris or a photo of a few hundred rabid Wolfpack fans filling the basketball court at the PNC arena in Raleigh after NC State defeated Duke in basketball. Thank goodness the editors decided to go with the international focus instead of the local story.
-------------------- word of the day
catchpenny (adjective) [kach-pen-ee]: made to sell readily at a low price, regardless of value

Monday, January 12, 2015

Holding the words in my hands

Yesterday, it was noted that the print edition of The News & Observer is a key component of my morning schedule. When it’s not in the driveway as the day begins causes delays in the schedule. There’s fretting about a delivery person who takes the early morning commitment with a you’ll-get-it-when-it’s-delivered attitude. Usually, though, it lands before six in the morning Monday-Saturday and by seven Sunday morning. The previous carrier his customers with delivery before three a.m. unless the newspaper presses were held for a late night story, but that’s not been the case lately.

When the paper doesn’t arrive in timely fashion, the e-reader format on the iPAD is a substitute but it’s not the same as turning the newsprint and looking at the big photos, especially when NC State defeats Duke in basketball. For the younger set, a few days or weeks of holding and reading an actual printed newspaper while sitting in a Starbucks instead of of getting the news from an iPhone or some other electronic device would be good for you. You might actually read about something you otherwise would not seek out and you may learn something you didn’t already know.

There are several publications in printed form read at our house: Time, Sports Illustrated, Southern Living, to name a few. They are also available for the iPAD but not accessed that way. For the longer stories, reading the printed version allows starting and stopping by picking up or putting down the magazine open to the story. And again, having the printed publication in hand encourages the reader to peruse other articles which upon first glance might not be a subject of interest. It’s a learning process every time one of these publications arrives.

While electronic instruments such as smart phones, tablets, and laptops offer a wider window to the world, there is a lot to learn from reading a publication that’s in printed form. One may search through the newspaper just for stories of interest but then find a column that offers a differing opinion that helps to open the mind of conservatives and liberals. If it weren’t for a laptop and the internet, what you are reading now would not be available to read and probably not written at all, unless it was in print someplace as a column which is probably not going to happen. But that would be okay as long as you’re reading something that’s in printed form, even if it hits the driveway later than desired.
-------------------- word of the day
glut (noun) [gluht]: an excessive supply or amount

Sunday, January 11, 2015

A routine for health, wealth and wise

It was New Year’s Day when the routine started, an early morning stroll on the treadmill. At first it was a 211.8 pound body walking for 31 minutes for 1.7 miles, a pace of 3.9 miles an hour. Today, it was 2.3 miles in 36 minutes, an average pace of 3.8 miles an hour. That along with less caloric intake reduced my weight from 211.8 pounds to 209.4.

Some will say that dropping a couple of pounds in 11 days is too much too quickly, especially when the goal is to drop 12 pounds by New Year’s Eve about a year away, but it’s a challenge to be kept, especially the walking. It has made me feel better than the somewhat sedentary style of sitting at a desk most of the day, working on the same machine used to create the stories for this website.

As a salesman, use of email and telephone supplements in-person visits to customers and prospects. Getting caught up in a daily grind of typing and talking can lead one to lose any idea of time and space. This part of work, especially requiring a computer, can be mind-numbing and can remove one from a daily routine. For anyone in sales, a daily routine is better than allowing external forces to take over and dictate life as it comes.

Thus the morning exercise schedule. It’s up at various times, usually between six and seven in the morning, make a pot of coffee, retrieve the print edition of The News & Observer from the driveway or yard, pour a cup of coffee, head to the water closet for the daily constitutional using the sports section as a laxative before reading the remainder of the newspaper over a second cup of coffee. Then it’s off to the treadmill for 30+ minutes, a shave and shower, and then to the office to work.

For some, a routine is not necessary or desirable. Look at it as more than a daily custom or schedule. Look at it as a road to success, such as walking on the treadmill as part of an effort to reduce weight and stay healthier than previously determined.
-------------------- word of the day
cicerone (noun) [sis-uh-roh-nee]: a person who conducts sightseers

Saturday, January 10, 2015

Short writing, to the point, grammatically correct

It is an art to write short and to the point. Many writers believe a lot of explanation of what is being said is required. In other words, as something is written, the writer digresses or goes off the point or deviates or wonders or rambles with more words than required to explain what is being written.

The “Thank You” note is very much an art and is a lot simpler than writers of “Thank You” notes usually produce. The most common issues with standard “Thank You” notes is when the writer starts with “I just wanted to write to you to say thank you for…” The writer is writing so why tell the reader “I just wanted to write…”? Then there is the “to you” which is obvious because the “Thank You” note is being read by the person for which it was intended in the first place as well as the second, third and fourth places. And, why “to say” thank you when it’s “thank you” that’s being said. The best way to start a “Thank you” note is with two simple and obvious words: Thank you. From there the writer of the note should say for what the “thank you” is.

Recently somewhere someplace was an article about today’s English language usage and how it has digressed from correct English form. The writer of that critique said understanding the intent of the writer or person speaking is far more important that the writer or speaker using correct English form. Example: “I am smarter than him.” That’s incorrect. It should be “I am smarter than he.” Would you say, “I am smarter than him is smart” or would you say “I am smarter than he is smart.”? That’s a good rule of thumb to determine if word usage is correct.

Athletes are notorious for butchering the English language. Turn on nearly any edition of SportsCenter on ESPN and you’ll get the idea that athletics in the limelight for the most part do not think about correct grammar, a lost art on today’s youth, especially athletes. On the other hand, who cares if they can speak correctly as long as those on your favorite team perform well enough to help your team to victory? Enunciation so listeners have any understanding of what is being said is a different story.

Incorrect grammar usage is not just reserved for athletes. The other day at a funeral, a Baptist preacher told his church full of mourners that he had been laying around all day. One wonders what or who he had been laying.
-------------------- word of the day
dowie (adjective) [dou-ee, doh-ee]: dull; melancholy; dismal

Friday, January 9, 2015

Mass transit that works not just pass through

For $142 million, a connector road will be built from NC 147 (aka the Durham Freeway) to US 70 just west of Durham. Included in the price is establishing US 70 from that point west (though it feels north) to connect to Interstate 85. Turn right and you head north toward Oxford; turn left and you’re going to Greensboro. It’ll be a freeway from Research Triangle Park to I-85.

The benefit will be to better route traffic through RTP from Interstate 40 to I-85 and the other way around. After traveling through that area to and from Washington DC over the holidays, the improvement will be beneficial. Google maps routed us via US 64 from Cary through Apex to Toll Road 540, then to Toll Road 147 to NC 147 to NC 55 through Durham and onto I-85 north. We took an alternate route via the Cary Parkway to Evans Road to Aviation Blvd to Interstate 540 to US 70 (near the RDU airport) to I-85. The return plan was just as complicated but the time we traveled had low traffic volume.

However, with improvements for travel through RTP will come other issues, primarily the dumping of more traffic onto I-40 from RTP to Raleigh and from Raleigh to NC 147, then to I-85. This brings up mass transit and the ongoing discussion of light rail between Raleigh and Durham with stops in various places including RTP but not at RDU airport. Studies have shown there is little chance of ever completely paying for such rail with rider fees, but that’s okay. And, with better roads, while the train may be full, so will I-40.

Wake County recently hired a manager who has a great reputation for design and implementation of transportation systems including light rail. This is good for Wake County and Raleigh, but instead of laying track from city to city and primarily serving the RTP business community, the effort should be to ferry Wake County citizens from out-lying areas of the county to downtown Raleigh and back. It’s the wheel and spoke method. Going from Raleigh to Durham will happen but Wake County transit should be first priority.

With North Carolina government and NC State University the largest employers in downtown Raleigh and with many of those employees living outside the city in Knightdale, Garner, Cary, Apex, Wake Forest and other areas, such a system would do more to reduce road travel as well as boost the economy of Wake County.
-------------------- word of the day
interosculate (verb) [in-ter-os-kyuh-leyt]: to form a connecting link

Thursday, January 8, 2015

How about year-round high schools in Wake County?

For more than 20 years, an idea of year-round high schools has been a personal project that’s gone nowhere. Members of the Wake County Board of Education, administrators of the Wake County Schools System, teachers and principals of Wake County Schools, and parents of students in Wake County have been approached. No dice.

Those groups, in general, have run in the opposite direction, staying in favor of traditional high schools while year-round elementary and middle schools are well received, for the most part. Objections range from: class and subject scheduling; to participation in extracurricular activities; to classes that last nearly two hours; to time in school running from 7:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. or later; to teachers objecting to two-hour classes. Issues can be solved but no one wants to discuss it.

Year-round high schools would reduce enrollment in high schools by one-third, decreasing the need to buy more land, build more buildings and add more trailers. Divide the academic year into trimesters: September to mid-December, January to mid-April, and May to mid-August. Students would attend two of the three trimesters, and taking three two-hour core courses, and one one-hour extracurricular course, and have an hour for lunch each day, each trimester. At seven hours a day, the requirement of 1025 hours a year would take 147 days a year or about 15 weeks per trimester. A school enrollment of 2100 would be reduced to 1400 for a trimester.

Participation in athletics, always a primary concern, can be solved. Teachers would have to adjust methods, teach for 120 minutes instead of 60 per class, and keep the students interested. There would less disruption in the schools with fewer class changes each day. Instead of an entire high school population looking for a summer job, only one-third of the students would look for a job for a four-month period; jobs could be shared by three students year-round.

It could work, but no one seems to be interested. Running for the Wake County Board of Education fell short a couple of years ago. The election, after an interview by the entire board, was by a vote of the board members. The winner was well-qualified, or maybe the voting members did not want hear about year-round high schools on a regular basis. The topic deserves serious consideration.
-------------------- word of the day
fritter (verb) [frit-er]: to squander or disperse piecemeal

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Binge watching The West Wing

For our 32nd wedding anniversary, my wife bought me the complete set of DVDs for the hit television show, The West Wing. Our anniversary is November 27, Thanksgiving Day in 2014, so on that day there was something to be thankful for in addition to having most of my wife’s relatives invade my house to eat. We hosted 23 people, all on her side.

The West Wing TV series is much like Thanksgiving Day. It’s about life/work in the West Wing of the White House with various characters interacting as relatives do on Thanksgiving, sometimes agreeing, and much of the time disagreeing but always loving each other before the day is over and showing it by not speaking to at least one character or relative. NBC-TV ran the series 1999-2006.

Martin Sheen is the president in The West Wing (TV series; some other guy is there now). In 1995, Sheen played the part of Chief of Staff to Michael Douglass in the movie, The American President. It was easy to move Sheen to President because, as we’ve discovered in The West Wing, the Chief of Staff is second in command behind the President, a position most people believe is reserved for the Vice President. Isn’t that what’s in the Constitution, the COS being second in command?

The West Wing was must-see TV when it was aired live on tape. While there was little chance here to see all episodes, 1999-2006, remembering the characters as the series develops is easy as we watch episode after episode with the DVDs. We started viewing just before Christmas but then we traveled to—get this—Washington DC, to spend a few days, including Christmas, with our daughter who lives amidst politicians and staff members thereof. She’s been in the White House but never to the West Wing. She been in the Blue, Green and Red rooms as well as the State Dining Room, the bowling alley and a reception room upstairs for a holiday party.

Back home, we’re hooked, viewing several episodes at a time; we’re nearly through the third season. President Jeb Bartlett (Sheen), who has MS and withheld it from the public in his first presidential campaign, is running for a second term. With five seasons remaining after this one, you can pretty well guess the outcome but we’ll watch each season to see how the TV series ends. It’s enjoyable, intriguing, addictive, and actually educational, if what they do in the TV show is what really goes on behind the scenes in the West Wing. The TV series would make a decent civics class lesson if indeed civics is still taught in public schools.
-------------------- word of the day
cogitation (noun) [koj-i-tey-shuh n]: concerted thought or reflection