Sunday, February 26, 2006

Friends In Trouble

Brian Clarey shares the story of a close friend in trouble in the current YES!Weekly. His piece is well written and personal.

One of my best friends was in trouble 15 years ago. I did not realize how serious things were until I got the phone call that she had taken her own life, so I identify with Clarey's (and his friend's) story. I bet many other readers will, too.

I often enjoy Clarey's columns, particularly the personal ones. One year in, I am glad to have YES!Weekly on my weekly reading list.


Olympic Propaganda

I have read and heard several commentaries about the increased American medal counts at the last two Winter Olympics. The central point of these commentaries is chest thumping about America's rising prominence in winter sports.

While it's true that the U.S. has performed better recently in some sports, particularly speed skating, it seems to me the real reason for the increased medal counts is inventing sports that our athletes can dominate initially.

So if we really want to win the medal counts at future Olympics, perhaps we need to enlist the help of the ESPN super-hype machine and turn the Winter Olympics into the X-Games.


The Constant Gardener

Kristen and I just saw one of the best films we have seen in a while, The Constant Gardener.

The film is a smart political thriller and classic love story, a hard combination to do well. Brazilian director Fernando Meirelles mixed the two just right to create a moving and haunting film. He shot much of the film in Nairobi and incorporated the Kenyan landscape and people as important additional characters.

Ralph Fiennes plays the earnest and heartbroken Justin Quayle, and he is at the top of his game. Feinnes plays conflicted characters as well as anyone in the biz, and Rachel Weisz sparkles as his wife, a free-spirited and passionate political activist.

Most movie buffs agree that the overall quality of films has been dropping for the past few years. The Constant Gardener bucks that trend by a film that grabs you by the throat and the heart.


Low Return On Investment

NBC paid $613 million for the American television rights to the Winter Olympics in Turin. I have to believe when they determined their bid, they did not foresee the low budget American Idol kicking their ass repeatedly in the ratings.

NBC claims it made a profit of $75 million on the last Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City. I seriously doubt they will see any profit this time.

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Happy Birthday, Herb

NC State had every reason to be on fire in tonight's game with Carolina. They had not lost a conference game at home all season. They were playing their arch-rival Tarheels, and a win would all but sew up a #2 seed in the ACC tournament. The stars of NC State's 1974 and 1983 national championship teams were also on hand. Hell, it was even coach Herb Sendek's birthday.

So why did the Wolfpack not show up? It's baffling.

Carolina beat State to the ball to claim 15 offensive rebounds, and they shot lights out for a couple significant stretches. State had no answer for David Noel, Reyshawn Terry, or Tyler Hansbrough. Each scored at will.

Now that Carolina has swept the season series from State, even with a very young team, Roy Williams should be named the ACC Coach of the Year. Oh, and happy birthday, Herb.

Saturday, February 18, 2006

Shuffle Up And Deal

I played a Texas Hold'Em tournament this afternoon. We started with 29 players at five tables, and I was at the hot table.

The action was aggressive and fast, and eight of the first 18 players knocked out fell at my table (other tables had to keep sending us new players as others went broke). I was the last charter member left at our table, but I was knocked out by a friend who had pocket rockets.

It was a fun time and a good way to spend a semi-snowy day. I had never played before, but I hope I get to try it again sometime.


Holding Pattern

Kristen is 37 weeks along with our next child. She has reached the point of fairly consistent discomfort, and this baby is definitely nocturnal, so good sleep is out of the question, too.

The good news is that an ultrasound two days ago calculates the baby's current weight at 6.5 pounds, exactly at the 50th percentile. Our first baby checked in at 38 weeks a little under 5 pounds, at the second percentile.

The bad news is that this baby's size is stretching Kristen in places she didn't get stretched the first time, so her discomfort is now giving way to some pain.

It's old news, but we guys get the good part of this deal.

We don't know the gender of this baby, which causes a lot of people to think we are dinosaurs. But we are looking forward to the surprise when junior arrives, and I will be pleased with either gender.

We have had a boy's name picked out since before our daughter was born. Just like last time, though, we are still struggling with a girl's name. Maybe we should sell the naming rights on ebay.

Friday, February 17, 2006

More Myths About Bloggers

Last week's article by Marta Hummel about the supposed decline of local blogging was thoroughly dissected by Roch Smith and others. That article served as a strange closing chapter for Hummel, who finally confirmed the rumors that she was resigning from the N&R this week.

Later last week, new business reporter Michelle Jarboe provided an even stranger column about bloggers in the weekly Vexed in the City feature. She admits she doesn't get blogs, which is no biggie. Hell, my wife doesn't get blogs either. What was so odd was that Jarboe painted such a hostile portrait of those of who do enjoy blogs.

"For some, it has become a staple -- a substitute for food, water, love, sex and sunlight. Gone is the intimacy of a personal phone call. When I want to find out what friends are doing, I have to read their blogs."

Hmmm. I think Jarboe revealed more about her friends and herself than bloggers.

"I want to shake these people and drag them out into the sun. I want them to take a moment to go for a swim, rub their feet through hot sand and look into someone else's eyes instead of a high-resolution screen. And then I want to turn to them and tell them how great it is, really, that they've found something they love so much, even if it is an online substitute for life."

Blogging has been an integral part of recent community building in Greensboro. I have at least a dozen new friends as a result of blogging, and HoggFest was a great example of the community, bloggers and non-bloggers, coming together to support a family. Bloggers even ventured into sunlight at that event.

I have friends who are war reenactors. I don't particularly understand that hobby, but I am glad they enjoy it and certainly feel no reason to demean them for their participation. And that is what is really bothersome about Jarboe's column. She's downright mean in dispensing her blogging myths.

At least she finally got around to a true statement in her column, "Maybe I'm just bitter."

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

Cheney Is A Pinata

Is there anyone more opportunistic than a politician in Washington, D.C.?

Dick Cheney is taking arguably his biggest beating in all of his years in Washington. And for what? A hunting accident? I don't think so.

Sure, Cheney could have released the news of the accident sooner. A more savvy decision maker probably would have made that choice. But that doesn't justify the feeding frenzy taking place now. This cannot be the biggest news story available.

This mess is nothing more than a reflection of President Bush's relatively low approval ratings. It wasn't that long ago that Bush had high approval ratings, and all Republicans and many Democrats took their orders directly from the White House.

Now that the President has lost much of that public approval, more than a few Republicans and many Democrats are criticizing everything from the his domestic spying program to his recent budget proposal to the White House's actions during Katrina's aftermath. And of course, they are criticizing Cheney.

This reminds me of one of the few candid moments in Newt Gingrich's life. After acknowledging that an impeachment of President Clinton would almost certainly not yield a conviction, he was asked why he would pursue it anyway. His reply was simple - "Because we can."

I am no fan of the Veep. I think he has done a lot of regrettable things in Washington, but this hunting accident is not anywhere near the top of the list. It's sad that many of our elected leaders only grow balls when the White House is somewhat weakened, then squander their indignation on something as unimportant* as a hunting accident.

* unimportant in the big scheme of things, not to Whittington, of course


Joey Cheek Is A Class Act

It's hard not be proud of Greensboro native Joey Cheek's recent rise to the top of the speed skating world. It's impossible not to be proud of the classy way he has handled the spotlight after winning the gold in the 500 meters.

The USOC gives $25,000 to American gold medalists, and it took Cheek about three seconds to announce he would donate that prize to an athlete-supported, non-governmental African charity. In addition, Cheek has displayed none of the look-at-me attitude prevalent among many athletes. Instead, he has expressed his gratefulness for his gifts and good fortune.

I spent a little time with Cheek a few months after he won his bronze medal in Salt Lake City in 2002. He was incredibly well grounded, particularly for a guy who had just made a splash in the Olympics. He passed his medal around to anyone who wanted to hold it (it's heaver than it looks), and he spent time speaking with anyone who wanted to chat. He was particularly kind to small children.

Hopefully, Cheek can add to his medal stash in the 1,000 and 1,500 meters. But even if he falls on his face, I am sure he will handle the disappointment with as much class as he has his victories.

By the way, NBC deserves a raspberry for waiting a full day to show Cheek's medal ceremony.

Sunday, February 12, 2006

Nice Shootin', Tex

VP Dick Cheney accidentally shot Harry Whittington while on a quail hunt yesterday. Although Whittington was only 30 yards away and wearing blaze orange, Cheney apparently did not see him.

Whittington is in ICU at a local hospital. No word yet on the quail's condition.


Sad, Sad Betty

The 130th Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show gets under way tomorrow. Just like last year, Betty is distressed that we are not in New York for the show. I had to explain that she is neither a pure bread beagle nor a show champion.

I can't blame her for dreaming about being a champion dog, though. It seems to have its perks.


Michelle Kwan Drops Out

Michelle Kwan has withdrawn from the Winter Olympics, citing an injury she has had for most of the last year. Kwan has been unable to compete recently and missed the US Nationals a month ago. That competition serves as Olympic qualifying every four years.

Rather than acknowledge her career was over, Kwan petitioned for a spot on the Olympic team. A committee of five showed all the spine of a slinky and awarded Kwan an Olympic berth, bumping Emily Hughes from the team. To her credit, Hughes has been classy throughout this ordeal, never disparaging Kwan or her selfish move to bump Hughes out of the Olympics.

With Kwan's withdrawal, Hughes will move from alternate to Olympian, and I suspect she is on a plane to Turin right now. It took Michelle Kwan way too long to do the right thing and let go of her gold medal dreams. I hope that Emily Hughes will be able to step in and perform her best on short notice.


Let's Watch A Bunch Of Left Turns

How big has NASCAR gotten? So big that NBC is showing qualifying for the Daytona 500 for three hours this afternoon instead of the Winter Olympics. I think it is safe to assume that NBC will provide even more coverage to the actual race next Sunday, too.

I have been hearing for years that NASCAR is America's fastest growing spectator sport. NBC paid $613 million for the rights to the Winter Olympics and is providing 416 hours of television coverage, so diverting three hours of prime weekend time to Dayton Qualifying is pretty good evidence that NASCAR is in fact king.

Friday, February 10, 2006

Mr. Kettle, Meet Mr. Pot

Yes! Weekly's editor Brian Clarey apparently made a mistake about the founding of the Boy Scouts of America in a comment at Ed Cone's place. I suspect that Brian would be the first to acknowledge the mistake if pointed out to him in a constructive way.

But the Gate Keeper decided that he was not content simply to comment "Do some bloody fact checking before you end looking very foolish....Good God, Clarey, could you look any more ill informed on this subject? " at Cone's place. He decided Clarey's error was so egregious he had to compose an entire post taking Clarey to task and impugning Clarey's abilities as an editor, writing "Brian Clarey statement is completely false and is embarrassing to someone who calls himself and editor. How can he edit other people when he cannot even edit himself? "

I don't have to point out that Gate's post is completely over the top. What is funny is that Gate added some unintentional humor by posting his own urban legend about Jane Seymour below his post on Clarey. Sorry, Gate, but Jane Seymour was not the model for the Gerber's baby. That baby picture was sketched 23 years before she was born.

I will refrain from subjecting Gate to the same abuse he heaped on Clarey, but this might serve as a lesson to provide a little softer criticism in the future, even if it is anonymous.

Wednesday, February 08, 2006

Mike Krzyzewski Is A Bully

Kudos to CBS Sportsline's Gregg Doyel for saying what need to be said: Duke head coach Mike Krzyzewski is a bully.

Coach K has the foulest mouth in basketball, and he beats on officials from the time the ball goes up until the final horn. I have seen many games at Cameron, and it's not pretty.

Most hoops fans accept that home teams get a few extra calls, but Duke does better than that. They not only get most of the calls at home, they get them on the road, too. When they won a tough game at Boston College last week, Duke took 20 more free throws than BC. No team can overcome that disadvantage.

You might be wondering about allegiances. I graduated from NC State, and I am a loyal Wolfpack fan. However, I was reared a Duke and Maryland fan - my grandfather graduated with both his undergraduate and divinity degrees from Duke, and we used to live next door to Maryland head coach Lefty Driesell.

What I really like is teams that play well, play hard, and are classy. I even found myself really liking last year's Carolina team, and that started with Roy Williams. Coach K used to complain about Dean Smith's behavior. Now K should look to Carolina and try to emulate the fiery, but classy, Roy Williams.

(Nod to buddy Brian for the Sportsline article)

Sunday, February 05, 2006

When Students Cheat

I read with great interest the article on cheating in the News & Record earlier this week. The article focused on plagiarism and the ways that teachers, professors, and administrators are dealing with the problem in high school and college.

I was glad to read that new ways of dealing with cheating are being developed, but the article resonated with me for other reasons. My mother was a member of the UNCG nursing faculty for many years. She loved teaching, and she was honored with just about every award available at the school and in the nursing profession, but she eventually left UNCG because of rampant cheating and the nursing school's refusal to address the problem.

During her last few years, she had at least one student plagiarize work each semester. Her policy was very clear: cheating of any kind produced a failing grade. She and I talked about it many times, and I always stressed that she was training people who would make life and death decision on a daily basis. Not only was it imperative they learn the material, it was equally important they display high integrity at all times.

During her last few years at the G, she found that when she assigned a failing grade for a cheater, it was routinely overturned. In several instances, the students actually admitted to cheating, but the grades were still changed to passing. My mother was dismayed and disheartened that the nursing school would willingly and knowingly allow and promote cheating by sending a clear message that no honor code was in effect in its program.

The final straw for my mother was a conference with her last cheating student. The student acknowledged cheating on a paper, then told my mother "You don't understand. The inmates are running the asylum here." Although true, the students words felt like a two by four between the eyes for my mom, and she resigned a few weeks later.

I am good friends with a number of professors and one dean (no longer there now) at UNC-G in other academic programs. When I would ask them about their policy on cheating, they all made it clear that they did not tolerate it, and they started with the assumption that the instructor was correct in cases where teacher and student disagreed about whether academic fraud had occurred. When I explained why I was asking, they often admitted the nursing school was fostering an environment that encouraged cheating.

My mother still teaches nursing at a local community college. She has found cheating to be less common at that level, probably because more than half of her students are adults who have children and have jobs in addition to the rigorous nursing curriculum. There is also an environment there that encourages honesty and integrity.

It is disappointing that some students deprive themselves of the opportunity learn when they cheat, but it is even more depressing when those we entrust to teach create an environment that encourages students to cheat.


Turn Down The Volume On Madden

I am convinced more people watch the Stuper Bowl for the clever commercials than the game itself. Never is that more true than when John Madden is in the booth calling the game.

Dude may have just been elected to the Hall of Fame as a coach, but no one on air can blow more hot air while saying absolutely nothing than Madden. I would rather listen to Frank Caliendo lampoon Madden than Madden trying to say something intelligent.

At least ABC has given up Monday Night Football, so presumably that will keep Madden out of prime time.

Friday, February 03, 2006

One-Two Punch For NC A&T

Chancellor James Renick and Provost/Vice Chancellor Carolyn Meyers both announced today that they are leaving North Carolina A&T State University. That is a serious blow to a university that has been moving rapidly in a positive direction over the past few years.

The campus enrollment has increased dramatically, and the university has seen its share of facilities growth thanks to its cut of the $3 billion dollar university system bond. Both Renick and Meyers can be proud that the university now offers dozens of Masters programs and five doctoral programs.

Greensboro and NCA&T will miss both of these leaders.


Morning News Blooper

Just before their local news signed off this morning, WXII ran a story on Guilford College's proposed plan to allow opposite gender roommate assignments in dorms. They must have been running short on time before they signed off at 7am, because they appeared to truncate an in-studio plug for Go Red For Women Day.

Instead of a fully formed feature on the special day, a reporter excitedly asked "Does everyone have a Hard On?"

That sure got my attention. Replaying her question in my mind, I think she probably asked if everyone had a Heart On (their lapels), but my mind might have been elsewhere after the Guilford story.

Or perhaps WXII is taking cues from the marketing wizards at LL Bean.

Thursday, February 02, 2006

Rocketboom on CSI

Rocketboom hit the big time tonight when it was featured on CSI. They showed the rapid montage that opens each Rocketboom segment, followed by Amanda giving what appeared to be her normal report on a killing in the episode.

Someone on the writing staff at CSI has good taste.

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