Sunday, May 31, 2015

Really? Fourteen weeks of ACC Football previews

It’s Sunday, August 30, just a few days before North Carolina opens its football season in Charlotte against South Carolina  and Duke’s season opener at Tulane, both on a Thursday night. It’s six days away from NC State’s season opener at home against Troy. And, in The News & Observer, college football sports writer Joe Giglio is focused on the Virginia Cavaliers, Giglio’s choice for finishing last in the Atlantic Coast Conference’s Coastal Division.

His quest to get to that point began today with a 14-week series on ACC football, writing about each team in the league based on his pre-season predictions of order of finish. He started today with Florida State, his choice to win the Atlantic Division. NC State’s profile will come on June 14; UNC’s is August 2; Duke’s is the next week, each profile running in a Sunday edition.

In this neighborhood of Raleigh, Durham and Chapel Hill, where the loyalties run Red and two shades of Blue, will this series grasp the attention of the few rabid college football fans, those who want to know all about every team, especially the ACC teams? That’s really doubtful, that grasping of attention, but it’s something to take up space in the newspaper that goes to bed early.

Giglio has improved a lot as a writer over the past few years, not that he needs my blessing. His stories appear in The N&O and The Charlotte Observer so his coverage is more than just the circulation in this area, but the fan base in Charlotte is similar to Raleigh-Durham-Chapel Hill. So, the June 28 preview on Boston College, the July 26 look at Georgia Tech, and the August 23 writing about Miami should receive cursory reading.

It’s a challenge for any writer to be creative enough to put together a 14 week series on anything. It’s tough to write something every day for this blog. Maybe as the summer doldrums progress, Giglio will be inventive in his effort, keeping our attention as we march toward that August 30 edition to learn just how the Cavaliers will place last in the Coastal Division of the ACC.
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Dictionary.com word of the day
moonbow (noun) [moon-boh] a rainbow caused by the refraction and reflection of light from the moon

Saturday, May 30, 2015

New NCAA freshmen eligibility standards are good

New NCAA eligibility rules will take effect next year which will determine if incoming freshmen are eligible to compete that first year in college. There’s a new organization of minority coaches who dislike the new standards which will require better grades throughout a student’s high school career, specifically the first three years. The NCAA simply wants incoming college students to be better prepared for college.

The new rules require a minimum grade-point average of 2.3 in 16 core course and 10 of those core courses must be completed in a student’s first three years of high school. Retaking a course to improve the grade in the first three years will not be allowed or, if retaken, not counted toward the 2.3 GPA. All of this has to do with being eligible to participate as a freshman in college.

Members of the National Association for Coaching Equity and Development think the rules are unfair to minority students. The members—led by basketball coaches Tubby Smith of Texas Tech, John Thompson III of Georgetown, and Paul Hewitt, formerly of Georgia Tech—of NAFCED think the college entrance and eligibility requirements are too high and will prevent some students from playing college athletics. Thompson, representing the group, said: That dream could be taken away after six semesters in high school. So for someone that’s a late bloomer, someone that the light bulb doesn’t go on until later, not it’s too late. And just the disproportionate number of minorities that’s going to affect, the number of people in general that’s going to affect, is not good.

The GPA is not too high for the 16 core courses. And, to progress and succeed each year of high school is a good way to go for anyone who wants to be a college athlete. And, if the rule is as it seems, it does not prevent a coach from signing the player. The student would have to sit the first year. Those who are part of NAFCED need to focus on making sure the students they recruit can make it through college, and the NCAA’s new rule pushes that thought to new levels.
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Dictionary.com word of the day
extemporize (verb) [ik-stem-puh-rahyz] to speak or perform with little or no advance preparation

Friday, May 29, 2015

Thank goodness Governor McCrory stood up to silliness

North Carolina Governor Pat McCrory is due a huge round of applause for his veto of two bills that passed both houses of the General Assembly and landed on his desk for signature. Or for veto, which he swiftly did, saving face for North Carolina as well as hundreds of thousands of dollars the citizens would have paid to defend the law all the way to the United States Supreme Court. The adult in the room is McCrory, not those in charge at the General Assembly.

Today, the Governor (a Republican), who is seeking re-election next year, turned his back on close to three-fifths of the NC House of Representatives (mostly Republicans) and sixty-six percent of the members of the NC Senate (nearly all Republicans) when he vetoed Senate Bill 2. The law, if he had signed it (or not and let it become law without his John Hancock), would have allowed magistrates to opt out of performing marriages on religious grounds. In other words, it the magistrate disagrees with marriage between two men or two women (strictly on religious beliefs, of course, which is a lame excuse), the magistrate could have legally refused to perform the civil ceremony. McCrory also vetoed a bill that would have slowed undercover investigations in the workplace.

With the veto of the magistrate bill, McCrory did the smart thing by putting laws of the United States above Biblical interpretations behind which many people live to avoid whatever they want to avoid and disagree with whatever they wish to disagree. Despite his personal conviction that marriage should only be between a man and a woman, McCrory sided with laws of the state. “Whether it is the president, governor, mayor, a law enforcement officer, or magistrate, no public official who voluntarily swears to support and defend the Constitution and to discharge all duties of their office should be exempt from upholding that oath,” said the Governor prior to vetoing Senate Bill 2.

Good for Governor McCrory who could see his veto overridden. He could also see a near halt come to some of the good ideas he has for North Carolina, ideas which need to be passed as legislation by the General Assembly which prefers to deal with social issues instead of issues that will help grow the economy of North Carolina. There’s another social issue that will probably land on his desk, and that’s about abortion (requiring a woman who has thought and thought about aborting a birth being made to wait another three days though her mind was made up three days earlier), a word that could easily be applied to actions by the General Assembly. Thank goodness the Governor stood up to the silliness this time, and let’s hope he keeps the stamp available to use again.
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Dictionary.com word of the day
agog (adjective) [uh-gog] highly excited by eagerness, curiosity, anticipation. Etc.

Thursday, May 28, 2015

Birthday cakes, favorite cakes and maple-bacon donuts to savor

Yellow Cake
Homemade Chocolate Icing
So, my 63rd birthday was a couple of days ago. Read all about it in my May 26 post. For my birthday, and not mentioned two days ago, my wife, Nancy, made my favorite birthday cake, a simple two-layer yellow cake with chocolate icing. It was delicious and what made it more delicious than ever was that Nancy made the icing from scratch. It was scrumptious, especially the piece offered to me the day before my birthday. Our neighbors also enjoyed it.

Duck Donuts
Maple Bacon Donut
Today, on my way to the United States Post Office in Cary to mail a package to our daughter to make sure she receives it prior to her birthday (June 8; she’ll be 30!), my car veered into the parking lot of the new Duck Donut location where they make the donuts before your very eyes. They drop dough into the vat of whatever they cook it in. The donut, keeping its shape, moves along until it is done when it exits onto a conveyor which drops it into a pan. The cooked donut is then topped with whatever topping you desire that is offered. For me it was a maple frosting that was then covered in bacon. Yum, yum! FYI: No donut holes at Duck Donut.

Annie Laurie's Oven Pound Cake
My favorite cake, though, has always been my mother’s Cold Oven Pound Cake. Here’s the recipe.

Annie Laurie's 
Cold Oven Pound Cake
  • 3 sticks (1.5 cups) butter 
  • 3 cups sugar 
  • 6 eggs (Cold) 
  • 3 cups sifted cake flour
  • 1 cup whole milk (VERY Cold)
  • 1 teaspoon vanila extract
  • 1 teaspoon almond extract
  • NOTE: eggs & milk should be cold right out of the refrigerator (not room temperature)
  • Prepare large tube pan by either spraying with bakers spray (and wiping gently with a paper towel to remove excess) or greasing with soft butter & dusting with flour. Set aside.
  • Cream butter and sugar together.
  • Beat in eggs, one at a time.
  • Beat in flour, one cup at a time, alternating with milk.
  • Add vanilla extract and almond extract.
  • Beat on medium-high to high speed of hand mixer for two minutes, scrapping down sides of bowl.
  • Carefully pour batter evenly into tube pan – use all that is in the bowl (a rubber spatula will help).
  • Place on middle rack in COLD oven and bake at 275F. for 2 hours.
  • Check it towards the end in case your oven cooks fast or slow.
  • Remove pan from oven and place it on a cake rack on the counter for about four minutes.
  • Run a dinner knife around the middle and edges.
  • Turn cake out onto dinner plate and then upright onto a cake plate.
  • Let the cake cool before cutting – best to use a serrated knife, at least while cake is somewhat warm.

Annie Laurie's Cold Over Pound Cake is good plain, but it's also good with your favorite ice cream or covered in fresh strawberries. You should bake one and try it!
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Dictionary.com word of the day
middling (adjective) [mid-ling] mediocre; ordinary

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

A walk through nature is a good way to start the day

The daily treadmill walk has yielded to an outdoor stroll that’s twice as long in distance, time and much more enjoyable, especially when walking with my wife, Nancy, early in the morning just as the sun comes up in the east and the humidity is low enough with the warming temperatures but high enough to develop sweat to drench my shirt. We try to start each day by 7 a.m. or earlier.

From our home, we walk uphill for about three blocks, elevating about 30 feet, and then it’s relatively flat for a long block before walking downhill to Apex Lake, a drop to a lower elevation than the driveway to our home. The Town of Apex many years ago created a nice asphalt path around the lake. It’s over two miles long and meanders through wooded areas within a few feet of the lake. We encounter other walkers as well as ducks, geese, hawks, and other animal life.

There are toddlers being pushed in strollers; there are pregnant women trying to keep from adding pounds; there are elderly couples (present company NOT included) walking slower paces than we. There are the path hogs, a group of more than two people who walk shoulder-to-shoulder and refuse to yield space to oncoming traffic usually forcing the approaching twosome to change to single file. The path hogs are oblivious to everyone else using the public pathway. 

About halfway around the lake, there are paved paths leading to another Apex Park which includes youth baseball fields (bringing back memories of coaching youth baseball for about 12 years including mentoring one unfeated team of 12 and 13 years old boys), tennis courts, basketball courts, sand volleyball courts, and a nice playground for those toddlers being pushed my their mothers. This park includes picnic shelters. This detour loops from one intersection of the lake path to another just a few yards away, adding about three-quarters of a mile to the overall walk.

When walking counterclockwise, the second half of the lake path is hillier than the first, giving your legs a better workout. But as the fast-paced stroll makes its way to just below the lake’s dam, the walk home is back up that hill that took us down to the lake to start our trek. Then it’s flat and finally downhill to home, offering an easy cool down for the last minute. It’s about four miles and takes about an hour. There’s no Morning Joe or Golf Central or any other TV program; we don’t listen to music unless we walk at different times. The twosome outdoor meander is a great way to start the day. You should try it.
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Dictionary.com word of the day
gainsay (verb) [geyn-sey, geyn-sey] to deny, dispute, or contradict

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Sixty-three years old today and still going along!

Today is my 63rd birthday. No big deal; just thought you should know. The day has passed as this is being written, just prior to bedtime, not too early for a 63-year-old, but going to bed a little earlier seems to be a good thing, though sleeping through the night is not so easy. Going to bed later usually results in waking up later. The sleep time may be the same, but for some reason, starting the day at 6:30 a.m. is better than 3:30 a.m.

The day was to include a round of golf at Lonnie Poole Golf Course, trying to follow yesterday’s round of 77 from the Red Tees (course rating of 70.3/slope of 131) with something similar. But when told of the second aerating of the greens for the year was to start today meaning only nine holes were open and that a typical three hour 18 hole round would be extended to four and a half hours, the decision was made to skip it. So much of the morning was spent sending emails to customers.

Then, with my wife, Nancy, it was off to the seafood restaurant at the Farmer’s Market for the lunch portion of fried shrimp. You know those three-section Styrofoam to-go food containers with one large section and two small? The fried popcorn shrimp overflows from the large section. It’s enough for two people, especially with the hush puppies, fried potatoes and slaw. Delicious but not something to eat daily! After lunch, we strolled through the Farmer's Market, sampling strawberries and blueberries before buying some of the latter and a bunch of onions. We had purchased strawberries there on Saturday.

It was time to visit ManMur Barbershop on Hillsborough Street in Raleigh, across from the NC State campus where there have been regular haircuts for me since the mid-1970s. The birthday special was requested. After Richard, my regular barber offered congratulations on my birthday, he cut my hair and then charged the standard $16.

We returned home for more work before we went to Pittsboro to have dinner with Nancy’s brother, Rusty, and his wife, Robin, and a table of several others at Bella Donna, a wonderful small Italian restaurant. The food was generous and scrumptious especially the cheesecake. By 10 p.m., it was lights out to get some sleep before possibly awakening at a too-early hour. It was a good birthday.
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Dictionary.com word of the day
quidnunc (noun) [kwid-nuhngk] a person who is eager to know the latest news and gossip; a gossip or busybody

Monday, May 25, 2015

It was Decoration Day; it's now Memorial Day

My Dad was born on Decoration Day, Wednesday, May 30, 1917. Decoration Day was the day set aside for the laying of flowers onto the graves of soldiers who died in the line of duty, specifically the Civil War or the War Between The States, the title determined if you were from the North or the South. Decoration Day was the forerunner to what we know today as Memorial Day which is now celebrated on the last Monday of May, which could be May 30 if May 1 falls on a Sunday. Next year, Memorial day will be on Monday, May 30; my Dad would have been 99 years old. 

From the US Department of Veteran Affairs comes this historical note about the establishment of Decoration Day: Three years after the Civil War ended, on May 5, 1868, the head of an organization of Union veterans — the Grand Army of the Republic (GAR) — established Decoration Day as a time for the nation to decorate the graves of the war dead with flowers. Maj. Gen. John A. Logan declared that Decoration Day should be observed on May 30. It is believed that date was chosen because flowers would be in bloom all over the country.

The first large observance was held that year at Arlington National Cemetery, across the Potomac River from Washington, D.C. The ceremonies centered around the mourning-draped veranda of the Arlington mansion, once the home of Gen. Robert E. Lee. Various Washington officials, including Gen. and Mrs. Ulysses S. Grant, presided over the ceremonies. After speeches, children from the Soldiers’ and Sailors’ Orphan Home and members of the GAR made their way through the cemetery, strewing flowers on both Union and Confederate graves, reciting prayers and singing hymns.

Today, we know this remembrance as Memorial Day, observed on the last Monday of May instead of always on May 30. Unfortunately the theme of the day for most Americans focuses more on the beginning of summer vacation and a holiday than on the honoring of the brave service men and women who gave their lives while serving our great nation in all wars fought by the United States. 

On a sign at a small grocery/gas station reads “Happy Memorial Day.” What’s so “happy” about it? It’s a day of mourning; it’s a day of respect; it’s a day to say thank you to those who served and lost their life doing it. It’s a day to decorate their graves with flowers and flags and lots of praise. It’s not about vacations, or grilling hot dogs, or fireworks. It’s Decoration Day. Maybe the day should be renamed to give it and those who lost their lives the respect deserved.
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Dictionary.com word of the day
eternize (verb) [ih-tur-nahyz] to make eternal; perpetuate

Sunday, May 24, 2015

Hey Chris Moody! “When did you stop beating your wife?”

Someone needs to ask CNN Politics Senior Digital Correspondent (now that’s a mouthful of a title that means little) Chris Moody the age old question, “Chris, when did you stop beating your wife.” Whether he’s married or not, there is no good answer to that question, but he deserves to be asked on the record for public consumption. That’s because he seems to have a mission of asking politicians questions that are just plain stupid.

Recently, he asked several of the Republican presidential candidates to name who they think is the United States’ greatest living President. The aspirants didn’t come off as the brightest bunch when trying to answer the question. Remember, there are only five “living” Presidents: Jimmy Carter, George H.W. Bush, Bill Clinton, George W. Bush, and Barack Obama. That’s three Democrats and two Republicans.

The GOPers would never pick a Democrat. And going with either H.W. or W. would have opened the way for fun-poking and some serious stupid commentary from the predominant Democratic-leaning media. When all was said and done, most mentioned Ronald Reagan as their top choice, even though he’s not living. Obviously, they weren’t listening to the question. Ted Cruz, who represents Texas, home of the two Bush men, didn’t pick anyone and said, “I’ll leave that for the people to decide.”

The media has quit covering issues of campaigns, preferring to ask Democrats running against Hillary Clinton, “Why are you running when you have no chance? How do you expect to win if you can’t raise the money to be competitive? What do you think of the polls that have you at 3% while Clinton is at 47%?” The media rarely asks candidates at any level about issues and where the candidates stand. And when they seem to be asking an issue question, it’s twisted to push the candidate in answering in a way that fits the predetermine story being pursued. The media is more interested in asking gotcha questions, such as “When did you stop beating your wife?” Doesn't the voting public deserve better?
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Dictionary.com word of the day
yestreen (adverb) [ye-streen] during yesterday evening

Saturday, May 23, 2015

After many years, the Sudoku numbers finally aligned

May 22 2015! Victory at Sudoku!
Do you ever play Sudoku, a numbers game that tests your ability to complete a 9 square by 9 square puzzle with numbers (obviously) from 1 to 9 horizontally (rows) and vertically (columns) within nine different 3 squares by 3 squares squares? There are 81 overall squares and 9 3x3 squares within the 9 x 9 square. Lots of squares. That explanation may confuse you even if you are a Sudoku player.

Not sure when the game came first came to my attention. It may have been on an airplane in the back of the airline magazine found in the chair back in front of you. You forgot to bring your favorite weekly magazine, usually Sports Illustrated, or the daily newspaper which in my case is usually The News & Observer if the beginning of the trip is from the Raleigh-Durham International Airport, or USA Today if departing from some other city headed to RDU (FAA code for Raleigh-Durham International Airport). Maybe you have work to do but you’re not motivated to get out the laptop or a pad and pencil, so you reach for that magazine which tries to lure you to take more trips on the same airline to interesting destinations.

You thumb past the articles, lists of the top psychiatrists or steak houses in American, or a map of the destinations your airline flies and the layout of all the terminals eventually landing (pun intended) on the pages with crossword and Sudoku puzzles. If it’s any day other than the first of the month when the new monthly issues arrive, there's no chance to complete the puzzles because everyone before you has already attempted and failed to do so. Lots of partially completed puzzles.

My favorite Sudoku supply is in the back of The Week, a weekly news digest magazine, that’s been arriving at our home for the last three years or so as a subscription given to us by someone who must want us to be frustrated trying to complete the crossword puzzle and Sudoku as well as coming up with some funny answer for the weekly contest which asks for funny answers to funny questions, maybe. If McDonalds wanted to rename a signature item using pretentious foodie terms, what would they call it?” Second place that week was Gluten Freedom Fries.

So, for the last three or more years, the Sudoku has been second on my list of features in The Week. (First is the two page spread of “Best properties on the market” which are multi-million dollar homes in specific categories such as “Homes in college town.” Interesting, that spread didn’t include homes in Chapel Hill NC. And there is usually a deal included such as a 100 year old Colonial Revival in a town you would never think of move to.) And, until the May 22 issue, the Sudoku has never been completed at my house. It took me a couple of nights of bedtime effort. When completed correctly, a burden was lifted, leading me to say, “Of all the Sudoku attempted, that was one of them.”
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Dictionary.com word of the day
apothegm (noun) [ap-uh-them] a short, pithy, instructive saying

Friday, May 22, 2015

Bob Luddy should take his ball and go home

Bob Luddy, the well-to-do very conservative businessman, sounds very much like the playground basketball court bully who when he doesn’t get his way with who is on his pick-up team or how many time he gets to shoot decides to take his ball and go home. And he readily admits to that characterization, or so it seems, and he doesn’t care.

He announced the other day he is withholding $25,000 in political donations to Republicans in the North Carolina House because they refused to go along with how he prefers the budget be structured. His objections included too few tax cuts and too many tax breaks for specific businesses. “I had planned to donate $25,000 this year to the House Republicans Caucus to help re-elect a conservative supermajority,” he wrote. “Unfortunately, after seeing the $1.3 billion in additional spending and no across-the-board tax relief in the proposed House budget I had to reconsider.”

So, instead of giving to the Caucus, he decided to increase his funding of an ultra-conservative group that prefers ultra-conservative legislators. He wants the General Assembly all to himself to promote ultra-conservative ideas and ideals. He wants nothing to do with anything that isn’t what he wants, so he’ll withhold campaign contributions and moving them to candidates that will kiss his ring.

Funny thing about this is Luddy’s criticism of lobbyists who roam the halls on Jones Street in Raleigh, seeking votes in their favor. He is no different than the lobbyists; he’s just not registered as one. He votes with his pocketbook without giving legitimate reason behind his unreasonable thinking. He’s not the only one like that; big donors on both sides of the aisle withdraw funds from favored candidates and legislators who don’t walk the straight and narrow (minded) of the donors. If Lundy wants to take his ball and go home, the members of the Republican Caucus should thank him for his past involvement and tell him to find different players on a different basketball court.
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Dictionary.com word of the day
sudser (noun) [suhd-zer] any movie, play, or the like that is designed to provoke a tearful response

Thursday, May 21, 2015

In the end John Fennebresque will get who he wants for UNC chief

John Fennebresque, the Charlotte attorney who is Chairman of the University of North Carolina Board of Governors, can’t be as complicated a person as he comes off as being in recent newspaper reports. It was his idea to dismiss UNC President Tom Ross earlier than Ross had intended to stay before retirement. Fennebresque couldn't grasp the push-back Ross gave to the "early retirement" otherwise known as a dismissal.

There’s no doubt the Chairman will have his fingerprints all over the selection of the next President. Oh, he’ll listen to his fellow BOG members, probably thanking them for their input. He’ll have a direct hand in hiring a search firm to solicit possible replacements, but there’s no guarantee he’ll take their suggestions. He says he’ll not be pressured by those who appointed him to the BOG, the Republican members of the NC General Assembly, but that seems far-fetched as well. It seems he doesn't report to anyone but  someone out there has his ears.

Fennebresque has an interesting background which sounds familiar in that he didn’t really care enough about higher education to excel until he met his future wife and went to law school. To get to where he in his profession and in civic volunteerism (if that’s what we call being a member of the BOG), he made all the right moves, worked hard and took advantage of the right situations.

At this point in the search process, potential search firms and the BOG at large are seeking more guidance in what type of person is being sought: educator, business person, politician, all of the above, none of the above. However, there is little discussion about those goals to be attained by the new President. Here’s what Fennebresque said recently: “We want an agent of change, but we don’t know the specifics of what we want to change. Do I think the board ought to get together and be able to talk back and forth about what they’re looking for? Yes. Do I think there will be a precise itemization of the factors or traits of a new leader or a new job description coming out of that? Probably not.”

And, that’s because Fennebresque is firmly in charge. He’s not as complicated as he seems. He just sounds that way. He’ll let the board get together and develop guidelines for changes to the system and for selecting the person to make the changes. Then he’ll thank the members of the BOG for their work, he'll take a look at the suggestions by the search firm, and then he'll make the final selection. In the end, you can bet he’ll get the person he wants.
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Dictionary.com word of the day
geminate (adjective) [jem-uh-net, -neyt] combined or arranged in pairs; twin; coupled

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Duke basketball coach wants more NC spending for education

Even with his well-know accomplishments, this space is usually short on compliments for the basketball coach at Duke University. When all is said and done with today’s post, there are some readers who will disagree with the praise heaped for what the coach did Tuesday at the North Carolina General Assembly. They need to reconsider their objections.

The Duke coach was in Raleigh to be praised by elected representatives from across North Carolina for his team winning the 2015 NCAA National Title this spring. Isn’t it great when elected officials suck up to overpaid college basketball coaches? Puts them all in their place, doesn’t it. Elected officials are fine people; well, some of them are. It’s good when bill-making is halted to hail college basketball. That means the citizens of North Carolina are a little safer for a few moments.

Tuesday, the Duke basketball coach spoke to a joint session of the North Carolina legislature. It wasn’t a session where the legislators got together with joints even though they would do a service to our citizens if they would legalize the use of the stuff that usually goes into joints. This was a session where the members of the House of Representatives crowded into the Senate chamber where the Duke coach lectured the esteem combined body.

“We need to be the leader in education,” he said with his normally whiney voice. It was at that moment everyone there knew who was talking. “Please, please, always have an open heart and an open mind and never put a ceiling on what is most important, and that is educating our youngsters.”

For a man who is keen on hiring high school graduates for one year of college before encouraging them to drop out of school to get a job, he did an admirable thing Tuesday. Like him or not, he sent a strong verbal message to those who control educational spending in North Carolina. We all should be thankful for his wanting to increase spending on education.
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Dictionary.com word of the day
schism (noun) [siz-uh m; skiz-uh m] division or disunion, especially into mutually opposed parties

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

2015 Wolfpack football: 8-4, 4-4 worst case; 10-2, 6-2 best case

With 14 weeks, 4 days before NC State’s football team opens the 2015 season, now is as good a time as ever to make a prediction for the season. The basis of this guess is based on the optimism coming from the 8-5 overall record of last season after a 3-9 record in 2013, coach Dave Doeren’s first year with the Wolfpack. Much of the optimism used for predicting comes from the return of senior quarterback Jacoby Brissett along with a stable of returning running back and some incoming freshmen who should play. There are weaknesses along the offensive line and in the defense which should get better as the season moves along. Without further ado, the regular season mark will be no worse the 8-4 overall and 4-4 in the league. On the no better side, go with 10-2 and 6-2. 

The opening four games should be kick-in wins. The Wolfpack opens at home against Troy, Sept 5, and then hosts Eastern Kentucky a week later. If either of those two games is lost, the entire season is as well. There is no way at any time in the history of the NC State football program that the Wolfpack should ever lose to either Troy or Eastern Kentucky. The same should be said of the third and fourth games, both away, one at Old Dominion and the other at South Alabama. Actually, NC State should never ever travel to either of those two locations for football but by contract, it’s a must. But, at the end of September, the Wolfpack should be 4-0.

Atlantic Coast Conference teams, four at home and four on the road, make up the remainder of the schedule, the final eight games. In the worst case scenario (8-4; 4-4), the Pack wins two on the road—at Wake Forest, Oct. 24, and at Boston College, Nov. 7 (even though the Eagles give the Wolfpack fits)—and two at home—Syracuse and North Carolina, the last two games of the season Nov. 21 and 28 with State’s back against the wall to get to a .500 conference record, not yet achieved in Doeren’s two year career at State. Unfortunately, a 4-4 league mark puts the Wolfpack in a Tier 2 or Tier 3 conference tie-in bowl game, no better than last year.

The worst case four losses are to Louisville, Oct. 5, at home; to Virginia Tech, Oct. 9 (a Friday night game in Blacksburg); to Clemson at home on Halloween night; and to Florida State, Nov. 14, in Tallahassee. To get to the best case of 10-2 overall and 6-2 in the league, the Wolfpack will have to win two of these four, and the most likely candidates are the two home games against the Cardinals and the Tigers, but dropping one of those and beating the Hokies is a possibility. The Florida State game will be interesting because the Seminoles should have a down year, losing at least two games, three if NC State pulls the upset on the road. Is this an optimistic prediction or a realistic forecast?
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Dictionary.com word of the day
tatterdemalion (adjective) [tat-er-di-meyl-yuh n] ragged; unkempt or dilapidated

Monday, May 18, 2015

What did you shoot? Birdies at the 9th and 18th! Nice finishes!

My late uncle the golf pro once told me and anyone else who he instructed that no matter how tough you play all the holes of a golf course, it’s the last hole and how well you play it that will keep you coming back for more. If that’s true, after a mediocre overall round at Lonnie Poole Golf Course Saturday, there will be plenty of additional rounds of golf in my future. There were two last holes to recount at the 19th hole.

Because of a terrible winter, the fairways and fringes of the Raleigh course at NC State University are not in very good condition. Some of the tees are suspect primarily because of the amount of play there. The greens with bent grass surfaces are actually in good condition except for the pitch marks that many players simply refuse to fix. It’s a public golf course, and for some reason, the public doesn’t care to help take care of it. That’s also obvious with footprints in the sand bunkers which were renovated recently and are much more playable than previously.

Iif you play the ball as it lies year-round, while it would be nice to have a solid base of Bermuda under the ball on ever shot from the fairway, while it would be nice to have closely mowed grass encircling the greens, hitting from bare spots or from dead (not just dormant) grass is not an issue, at least not for me. Hit it, find it, hit it again. You learn to pick the ball from the turf or just make sure you connect with the ball before the ground. You make the best of it, running the ball onto the putting surface instead of landing it short and expecting a bounce. That’s just not going to happen with the current fringes. It’s a grind out there with those conditions, hitting ball to the best positions you think are there and proceeding to do the same with the next shot. 

Saturday, playing with my two brothers and a brother-in-law of one brother, was a fun day. Approaching the 9th tee, my score was a fine 3-over par. A drive and a 58 degree wedge on the 395-yard par 4 placed me just a couple of feet from the cup. The putt went in for birdie 3 and a 38 on the front. The back side was not so kind to my scoring. Approaching the 18th, a 441-yard par 4, the total score was not important. A very good drive placed my ball about 190 yards from the green. A five iron shot to the left of the green took the slope just perfect and my ball rolled onto the green and stopped about 7 feet beyond the cup. With a slight break to the left, my putt was smooth and there was a second birdie on my card. “What did you shoot?” was asked of me later. “Birdies on 9 and 18!” was the only answer. There’s more golf ahead for me.
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Dictionary.com word of the day
bucolic (adjective) [byoo-kol-ik] of, pertaining to, or suggesting an idyllic rural life

Sunday, May 17, 2015

Elliot’s Nest, Beach Music, Jimmy Buffett, Cameron Village Subway

Much has been written and reported in recent weeks and days about the Cameron Village Subway, an underground Raleigh nightclub spot that was the place to go from 1971 when it opened to its closing in 1984. Its location was under the current location of the Fresh Market in Cameron Village and will soon be a food prep area for the grocery store. A charity benefit was held there Saturday and for a price you could get in to see the old place one more time.

Going to see old space is far less appealing to me than just remembering what was there when it was thriving. Much of the focus of the stories and reports was on a few of the clubs and some of the entertainers, many of both which are far from the style of music and entertainment a huge list of patrons to that space preferred. From the articles, one might think the Subway was much about hippies and music of the day but that’s far from the whole story. For instance, one of the hottest spots in the Subway was Elliot’s Nest, a private/membership club heavy on Carolina Beach Music with lots of shaggin’ going on, not the British kind of shaggin’ but the popular dance of Ocean Drive Beach and Cherry Grove Beach SC.

At Elliot’s Nest, the best nights were Wednesdays starting about 9 p.m. and Fridays for happy hour when the doors opened at 5 p.m. and the line to get in snaked down the hall toward the Subway entrance on Clark Avenue. The footwear of the day was the Bass Weejun for men and women alike with plenty of shuffling on the small, raised dance floor in the middle of the room. The bar was located at one end, and on those two nights, the customers were usually five deep asking for Schlitz, Miller and Budweiser beers. It was a great place for dancing and for finding a date for the evening.

Across the hall was The Pier where one of the greatest nights was when Jimmy Buffett and the Coral Reefer Ban performed to an energetic audience. This was early in his career as he played favorites such as Come Monday and My Head Hurts, My Feet Stink, and I Don’t Love Jesus as well as other hits from his early albums A White Sport Coat and Pink Crustacean; Living and Dying in 3/4 Time; and A1A. Reportedly, this was not his first visit to Raleigh or the Cameron Village Subway. Reportedly, prior to appearing at The Pier, prior to forming the Coral Reefer Band, Buffett played solo in the Frog and Nightgown, a small coffee-type house where Elliot’s Nest eventually took over.
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Dictionary.com word of the day
rubberneck (verb) [ruhb-er-nek] to look about or stare with great curiosity; (noun) a sightseer; tourist

Saturday, May 16, 2015

Making a speech short on words, long on interaction

Have you ever been asked to make a presentation to a group of peers? Usually such a request is for the group to gain knowledge or insight that will benefit those in attendance. It’s not a lecture but an information sharing session during which the listeners are either fully engaged or absolutely bored. They are attending a conference of sorts at the request of their bosses to learn new and more productive methods in their work, or they are the bosses thinking they need a different perspective on their business practices.

It was many years ago when a request came for a sales presentation. The subject could be just sales, or sales and service, or how to overcome objections in the process of selling, servicing, or troubleshooting. The speech was to be made to an audience of businesses in competition with each other. They loved to go to meetings together but not share secrets. The request was granted. The conference was a combination of owners, sales managers, salesmen, customer service agents and other company personnel. At the appointed time, with a thick folder of pages (which looked like a speech) in hand, there stood the lecturer—me—behind the podium.

The folder was opened to page one, voices were cleared and the room fell silent. “Today the topic is…” the speech started. Then, abruptly, the folder was closed, and, “Let’s forget that a moment and ask a general question of the audience. Would someone, anyone, in this audience please offer a problem that's been tough to solve? It could be a sales problem such as closing the sale, or a service issue. Anything?” The room remained quiet for what seemed like many minutes but, in a few seconds, one man raised his hand. He was asked to state the issue.

“That’s a very good dilemma to discuss. Would anyone in this room who has had a similar problem like to try to solve the problem?” And soon thereafter another attendee raised his hand and made a suggestion of how to  unravel the crisis. Then another person chimed in until that subject was exhausted. “Okay, let’s move on. Is there another concern someone would like to broach?” And the session continued with statements of problems and answers of how to overcome the topic. This went on for the next 60 minutes. After a short pat on the back to the audience for being so attentive, a thank you was made to an extremely thankful applause. Afterwards, the participants remarked that had been one of the best speeches on sales, service and solving problems they had ever attended. In reality, there was no speech but a lively discussion. The speech was a huge success.
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Dictionary.com word of the day
legerity (noun) [luh-jer-i-tee] physical or mental quickness; nimbleness; agility

Friday, May 15, 2015

Today is politics day, a time for discussion of a few issues.

First up are audits and reactions. It was a couple of weeks ago that State Auditor Beth Wood declared she would seek reelection. Considering her thoroughness in audits and that she doesn’t care if the department is run by a Democrat or a Republican, her decision is a good one. This week, she released two audits; the reactions are night and day.

An audit report on the Department of Health and Human Services found one of the employees was doing favors for friends and families, costing the taxpayers lots of dollars through the hiring of these friends and family members. The audit explanation seemed to be thorough, complete and accurate, but the reaction from DHHS was one of dismay and objection, saying the amount of dollars in the audit was overblown and that the people hired didn’t work directly for the department headed by the person responsible therefore nepotism wasn’t true. Hah!

On the other hand, there was an audit of the NC Treasurer's Office and some of the policies and procedures there. The reaction was 180-degrees from DHHS. Treasure Janet Cowell, also seeking reelection next year, was quick to thank Ms. Wood for the audit, agreeing to the findings and saying changes would be made. While Ms. Wood is not the end-all to beat-all in determining what is right and wrong within State government, she has done well during her first two terms and deserves a third. DHHS should have smiled and agreed changes need to be made and move ahead instead of fighting.

It was also announced this week by Attorney General Roy Cooper that he will appeal a ruling by the FCC that allows city-owned internet services to expand beyond their borders. If the ruling is tossed out, it will be a victory for big business and a kick in the teeth for people who want broadband service that companies such as Time Warner and others will not supply, and if they do, it will come with a large amount of dollars on the invoice. Cooper is running for Governor, so siding with State Government this early in the campaign may not do him damage, and he's not willing to fight the legislature on this one but hopefully the FCC will be upheld.
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Dictionary.com word of the day
scroop (verb) [skroop] to emit a harsh, grating sound

Thursday, May 14, 2015

"Pitching and wooing" with cynosure for readership

Usually the Dictionary.com word of the day is not consulted prior to writing for this space. Today is no different. The topic was determined prior to accessing today’s word on the Dictionary.com app on my iPhone 5, but the word and the topic go hand-in-hand. The topic is about writing headlines, specifically in newspapers where space is limited and creativity is required. Unfortunately, with the rush to produce newspapers earlier each day, the art of headline writing is being lost.

In Thursday’s edition of The News & Observer, the paper of record in my household, the front page story about an audit of the state Department of Health and Human Services, led by Secretary Aldona Wos, did not go unnoticed by the editorial writers who for the umpteenth time told us the wealthy Republican Wos needs to go. The editorial, which rehashes today’s lead story as well as other missteps during Wos’ term of less than three years, is headlined DHHS woes. A little creativity would have produced Wos’ DHHS woes, somewhat of a tongue twister but more imaginative.

Headlines are supposed to grab your attention to read the article, but also to quickly tell a story. For instance, in the mid-1970s, when the outfield fence at NC State’s Doak Field was only about 48 inches tall, if that, and a simple picket construction with openings between slats, a Wolfpack baseball player hit a ball that appeared to clear the fence, but in reality. Or did it land on the warning track and bounce over? The umpire thought the former and called it a home run. The story in the Technician, the student newspaper, highlighted the call and the headline was: 2B or not 2B? That’s the question.

Story titles should be pithy of word, but in the Technician April 1, 1975 edition the lead story was about the selection of United States Senator Jesse Helms to replace retiring Chancellor John Caldwell to lead the campus. The story said it was a sudden selection and the headline read: Helms cops top State post in flash pick.

In a small business newspaper in Raleigh there was a story in 1976 about Lillian Woo, a North Carolina Democratic politician running for State Auditor. She was at an annual Party fundraiser in the northeastern part of the state. The article discussed her efforts to raise the money needed to run for office and was headlined Pitching and Wooing at the Nor’easter. For the unknowing, that headline was taken directly from the title of  the book Pitching and Wooing published in 1973 and written by major league baseball player Bo Belinksy. He pitched and wooed as did Lillian Woo but in a completely different context.
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Dictionary.com word of the day
cynosure (noun) [sahy-nuh-shoo r, sin-uh-shoo r] something that strongly attracts attention by its brilliance, interest, etc.

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Five minutes? Expand the school day by 30 minutes!

The Wake County Board of Education is thinking about adding five minutes to the instructional day to accommodate the opening and closing days of traditional schools. Start and stop dates come from the General Assembly in an effort to protect tourism, primarily beach tourism. The later public schools open for the year, the later parents will schedule beach trips for their family, and the earlier the schools dismiss at the end of the year, the earlier the beach trips will take place. In other words, not really caring about the overall education of the attendees (children), the legislature voted in favor of beach trips.

The 2016-17 calendar is causing problems with the number of hours required for attendance, so the Wake County BOE is considering adding five minutes to the day-long schedule, which should be an easy fix. But this is a slap in the face for education. Five minutes? Give me a break. That’s adding less than one minute to the length of a class which will do nothing to further education. It just helps satisfies the annual requirement of 1,025 hours of education. Over a full year, an additional five minutes a day is about two full days of instruction, but the extra 45-seconds for a class for 183 days is lip service when it comes to instruction. How much more can be taught in 45 seconds?

Hands are tied at the local BOEs (Mecklenburg County is considering the same as Wake County) because of the legislature in the name of tourism instead of education. But, instead of just trying to satisfy a requirement, the Wake County BOE should doing something to better the education of the students? Suggestion: Add 30 minutes to the day instead of just five minutes. That makes the day about six hours of instruction. That reduces the total number of days to about 170 which means the traditional calendar schools could start later (after Labor Day) and end school earlier (before Memorial Day). Or spread the 170 days of instruction over the maximum days available and allow for more teacher work days or allow for more weather make-up days and still get the school year in under the legislatures start and stop dates.
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Dictionary.com word of the day
syzygy (noun) [siz-i-jee] an alignment of three celestial objects, as the sun, the earth, and the moon

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Will Duke play Maryland if Sulaimon is a Terp? No way!

While the national sports scene seems to be focused on the New England Patriots, quarterback Tom Brady and what has become known as “Deflategate” for the lowering of air pressure in footballs used by that team making it easier for Brady to throw it, especially in bad weather, the local sports focus remains on Duke—former Duke—basketball player Rasheed Sulaimon and his pending transfer to the University of Maryland. Sulaimon, as you might recall, was dismissed by the Duke coach (to remain nameless in this space) for various reasons including alleged sexual misconduct, allegedly pushing an assistant coach, and, most importantly, definitely not fitting into the Duke coach’s scheme to win the NCAA basketball title this year, or any year, for that matter.

Word comes yesterday Sulaimon will transfer to Maryland and play for the Terps during the 2015-16 season as long as he graduates from Duke this August, prior to enrollment at Maryland. On the heels (no pun) of the announcement, there’s a rush by local columnists to pair Duke and Maryland in the coming season’s Atlantic Coast Conference-Big Ten basketball challenge. The Duke coach has said he will never schedule Maryland, which bolted the ACC last year for greener ($$$) pastures of the Big Ten, leaving the ACC after a lifetime. With challenge sponsor ESPN pulling the scheduling and match-ups chain, pairing Duke and Maryland is not just sexy because of its long-time heated rivalry, not just because Maryland left the ACC, but because of the pending Sulaimon transfer. ESPN would love to promote "Duke coach vs Sulaimon in player return to Cameron."

Two things about the possible match-up: Either it could happen with Sulaimon not as part of the Maryland roster or it will not happen with Sulaimon as part of the Maryland roster. The Duke coach has too much influence to allow the game to proceed with Sulaimon on the Maryland roster as an eligible player, not this year, not next year, not any year. The Duke coach doesn't want to face Sulaimon on campus much less on any basketball court. Prediction: If there’s an announcement before the end of the summer that Duke and Maryland will meet in the ACC-Big Ten challenge this coming season, Sulaimon will fail to graduate from Duke but not because of grades or failure to qualify to graduate. There will be some other reason. The Duke coach has the power at prevent it just to keep Sulaimon off the Maryland roster for a game against Duke.

Most interesting about all of this is that Sulaimon will someday soon, maybe as early as August of this year, be a graduate of Duke University, a proud moment for anyone. He will have endured the rigors of getting a Duke education while putting up with the harshness of the Duke coach. But in the long run, to paraphrase one of my closest advisors: Sulaimon will be a Duke graduate, yet Tyus Jones, Justise Winslow, and Jahlil Okafor, all with just one year (maybe just one semester) of a Duke education, will be held in higher esteem by the school. Think about that instead of pondering if the punishment for Deflategate fits the crime or lack thereof.
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Dictionary.com word of the day
hidebound (adjective) [hyhyd-bound] narrow and rigid in opinion; inflexible

Monday, May 11, 2015

Writing “Thank You” notes: Use pen, paper, envelop, stamp, USPS

My daughter-in-law is the Queen of the “Thank You” note. She sends us one when she, her husband and our two granddaughters visit our home. She sends us a Thank You note when we visit their home. She’s quick to write and send Thank You notes when she and/or her daughters receive any type of anything from us. (If there’s been something for her husband, she leaves Thank You to him.) One of these days, she’ll probably send a Thank You note for us sending a thank you note to her.

In today’s electronic age of email, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and the somewhat out-dated telephone, she opts for an actual note card, a hand-written note with an ink pen, and delivery through the United States Postal Service. These Thank You notes are wonderful to receive and mean more than receipt of such via any of those electronic forms listed above.

Writing a Thank You note is relatively simple and follows the popular three-step form used by the most effective speech-makers world-wide: tell the audience what you are going to tell them, then tell them (elaborate on the subject), and then tell them what you just told them. For the Thank You note, it’s just as easy: Tell the person “Thank You.” Then tell them for what you are thankful. Then thank them again. Oh, you might add a note or two about something else positive in your life or on your mind, but that’s the basis of a thank you note. Short, sweet and to the point.

Many years ago, my administrative assistant was asked, using the computer, to write a generic Thank You letter that could easily be modified, printed and mailed to customers, prospects, and anyone else who called our office for information about our products. This was before email and such and was a proven method of gaining and keeping their attention and interest in our company. She returned with a first draft that started, I just wanted to write to tell you thank you for… but that was quickly edited all the way down to, Thank you for… There was no need for the introduction to saying “Thank You.”

Writing a Thank You note, an actual hand-written short essay telling someone you are appreciative of something he or she did for you, is simple, easy and quick, usually taking about five minutes. The time you use to do so along with the cost of the paper, ink, envelope and stamp will be much more appreciative by the receiver than any other form of “Thank you.” It will have a greater impact. Try it; there’s enjoyment realized the moment the envelope is sealed and mailed.
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Dictionary.com word of the day
bibliomania (noun) [bib-lee-oh-mey-nee-uh] excessive fondness for acquiring and possessing books

Sunday, May 10, 2015

Visiting Mother on Mother’s Day

One of my brothers-in-law will leave his immediate family today to visit his Mother, less than an hour’s drive from his home. He’ll leave his wife behind to be attended to by their children on this Mother’s Day. His wife, the mother of his children, is not his Mother so he takes leave to honor his own in person. It is indeed Mother’s Day in the United States and many other countries, and a day for children to honor their Mother, though that should be the case every day.

My Mother passed away nearly eight years ago, but memories of her remain with me in spirit and in belongings. For instance, her baby grand Steinway which she played wonderfully for most of her life sits in our living room, and, on the wall next to the piano is a photo of her when she was a student at Meredith College in 1940. There are remembrances of Mom everywhere in our home. Thoughts of her and her impact on me move me to seek the physical remembrances and seeing the physical pushes my mind to consider my life when she was physically with us.

Visiting my Mom after leaving home for college in 1970 was not as often as it should have been. For most, the bond between mother and child is usually stronger than that between father and child, especially when growing up Mom was at home while Dad worked all day and was businesslike upon his return in the evenings. But, there were plenty of visits to see Mom, especially after Dad passed away in 1997. She loved to see her children arrive, to talk about family and to consider daily issues of government, politics and upkeep of the yard. She was always upbeat in her conversations.

Mother’s Day in the United States is one of the busiest for the telephone providers. Just prior to the special day, Hallmark shops are ultra-crowded, and florists see an up-tick in orders, especially long distance, delivery orders. Restaurants are busy as great grandmothers, grandmothers, mothers and mothers-to-be are rewarded with an over-priced meal will being joined by great grandchildren, grandchildren, and children in tow by the dad of the family.

Above all the flowers, cards, phone calls and meals, most mothers want just one thing. They want the door bell to ring, and when they open the door, they want to see their children standing there, smiling and telling mom of their love and thanking her for all she has done for them. It takes an effort for many children to travel to see their mother on Mother’s Day, but it’s the one day of the year that many mothers would prefer their children to be in her home. My mother-in-law is lucky to have that son who visits her every Mother’s Day. And he is lucky to have his Mother to visit.
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Dictionary.com word of the day
frabjous (adjective) [frab-juh s] wonderful, elegant, superb

Saturday, May 9, 2015

Hillary Clinton has “no comment” so the media reports it, regularly

Sometimes the media can be funny even when it thinks it’s being serious. There’s a McClatchy Washington Bureau story in today’s The News & Observer about covering a subject without assistance from the subject of the story. In this case, the article is about former First Lady Hillary Clinton, her campaign for the 2016 Democratic Nomination for President of the United States, and her reluctance to talk to or answer questions from the media.

Though many political observers, not to mention the general public, would enjoy hearing from Hillary on a variety of subjects, it’s somewhat refreshing to see a major candidate shunning the media which prefers to ignore her rhetoric about her campaign issues to engage in flashy stories and questions about how she is running her campaign. In fact, many of the writers and reporters are just trying to make a name for themselves, to sell newspapers and to increase viewership. There's more to covering a campaign than covering the mechanics of the campaign. There's more to covering a campaign than discussing past transgressions by the candidate and her husband. In that story, written by Anita Kumar, about Hillary not answering media questions, there’s actually a really funny line.

Ms. Kumar sets up the funny line by discussing the availability of other candidates, all chasers of Hillary. She uses quotes from the past about Hillary’s relationship with the media. The former First Lady would prefer a “new relationship” with the media. Of course, she does. She wants a relationship that forgets the past and concentrates on the future if and when she is President. A politics professor at American University points out that reporters prefer to ask “gotcha” questions instead of policy queries and therefore the reason Hillary isn’t taking media questions.

The funny line of the article is this: Clinton’s campaign declined to comment for this story. Really? No comment about not talking to the media?!?!? Why was the campaign has to comment at all knowing the answer would be "no comment." That answer is not surprising, especially since this was a story about something other than issues, except for the issue of Clinton not answering questions from the media. While the public may expect to hear from the candidates on a regular basis, there are more ways to skin a cat than through media. She prefers to deal direct to the voters. 

If Clinton and her campaign will not engage the media, the media should quit covering the campaign. It really is that simple. The media should ignore the candidates that ignore the media. What Hillary and her campaign have to say is not that important at this point and the space in the newspapers and on the television could be used for more meaningful and more interesting subjects. But the media in general feels it must report her every move and that it is entitled to ask any question and will continue to press Hillary and her staff even if it is to receive “no comment” and issue another such story.
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Dictionary.com word of the day
credence (noun) [kreed-ns] belief as to the truth of something