August 2006

You know your brand is in trouble when tonight’s opening skit on David Letterman features your CEO running around on stage consumed by fire.

Of course, Jeff Jarvis, the ‘blogging bullet that Dell shot itself in the foot with, can personally tell you how hot the flames of Dell hell burn.

Luckily, as Jeff observes (after a dose of Doc Searl’s ClueTrain koolaid), the power curve between consumer and producer is beginning to invert:

We are customers with our money in our fists, spending it wisely and joining together to spend it more wisely. And we are producers who can compete with the companies that thought of us as mere consumers.

So nevermind caveat emptor. This is the age of caveat venditor — let the vendor beware — and caveat creator.

Responding to a Dell PR sock puppet that criticized his criticism, Jeff fulminates thusly,

You — since you to speak for Dell — owe me a product that works. You owe me service that serves. You owe me reliability and value. You are the ones holding me hostage; you have my thousands of dollars and I have your bad products. I not only have the right but the responsibility to tell others about my experiences with Dell.

But I’ll say again that I didn’t organize that mob. The mob organized itself; I merely provided the convenient town square on which to light those torches. This is how the internet works: It brings us together and we learn from each other.

You see, in the old days, you could screw one customer with one bad product or you could insult one customer with bad service. But no more. Now, when you deal with one customer, you deal with all customers.

That, ma’am, is the real public relations. That is dealing with your public as your customers.

And that is the real branding. Your brand is your reputation, your trust, your value. You don’t own your brand; your customers do.

Elected folk of the world, substitute citizen/taxpayer for customer, Chapel Hill/Carrboro for Dell and you might get a sense where we’re going with local governance once we, the self-organizing mob, begin to meet on our new ‘net-based Town Commons.

I posted this quick comment on BlueNC, a state-wide blog that appears to be hellbent on rehabilitating NC Democrats reputation.

I usually keep it local and try not to echo the meme of the moment but I thought Ze Frank was dead on with yesterday’s analysis:

The strategy of terrorism is to use isolated acts of violence to instill fear and confusion into the population at large. A small number of people can incapacitate a society by leveraging our inability to understand risk.

London’s police deputy commissioner Paul Stevenson said that the plot was “intended to be mass murder on an unimaginable scale.” No, it is imaginable: between three and ten flights out of thousands would have resulted in the terrible loss of human life.

Bush today said this country is safer today than it was prior to 9/11. Personally, I don’t think he knows. Whether we like it or not, terrorist attacks on Americans are now part of the global reality. They will continue to happen. Many places around the globe have had to deal with a similar reality for years. India, Ireland, England, Spain, Russia, to name a few. In many cases, these societies have pulled together and not allowed isolated acts of violence to tear at their fiber. Like disease and the forces of nature, it’s a risk that we have to rationally come to terms with. The government’s responsibility is to make sure that fear and terror are not disproportionate to the reality of the situation.

Today the President said, “This nation is at war with Islamic fascists who will use any means to destroy those of us who love freedom to hurt our nation.” Generalized statements like this which instill nebulous fear without specific information are exactly in line with the goals of terrorism.

there comes a time when one must take a position that is neither safe, nor politic, nor popular, but he must do it because Conscience tells him it is right. MLK,Jr. to SCLC Leadership Class

From New Scientist

A nondescript grass discovered in the Oregon countryside is hardly an alien invasion. Yet the plant – a genetically modified form of a grass commonly grown on golf courses – is worrying the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) enough that it is running its first full environmental impact assessment of a GM plant.

It is the first time a GM plant has escaped into the wild in the US, and it has managed it before securing USDA approval. The plant, creeping bentgrass (Agrostis stolonifera, carries a bacterial gene that makes it immune to the potent herbicide glyphosate, better known as Roundup.

Immune to Roundup? Essentially, this grass is bio-engineered so you can dump ungodly amounts of herbicide on it without destroying your beautiful fairways. Small problem. Promoting indiscriminate use of Roundup ends up polluting the local environment.

Over the last year, I’ve written about 300 posts now split between and

Covering my 2005 Town Council campaign, I started with, a hopefully memorable Internet location for the local electorate to find both my platform and analysis of relevant issues.

November 2005, I rebranded the site as Concerned Citizen, shifted the campaign rhetoric to and continued with a focus primarily on local issues, events, governance and politics.

Along the way I’ve added ruminations and digressions covering volcanoes, 2006’s SouthBySouthwest Interactive (SxSWi), the dissolution of our Constitution, our country’s unexamined rush to build an Orwellian surveillance society and a slew of guest editorials from the Daily Tar Heel and Chapel Hill News.

It’s been a wild year for this netizen who originally built a reputation in the blogverse as the prolific commenter WillR (to the extent of getting a Koufax Award nomination!).

A recent Pew Internet and American Life study claims %76 of ‘bloggers concentrate on documenting their personal life with only %11 on government and politics.

I have no interest in publicly documenting my personal life.

Two years ago I asked erudite ‘blogger and local Councilmember Sally Greene, then new to the blog-o-sphere, her thoughts on managing her “personal” and “public” voices.

What about schizophrenic bloggers, like Sally, who have a political blog and a personal blog?

She answered:

That’s a fascinating question, Will. Last year I ran for office; I had never run before, although I had been on the Planning Board. I knew that I needed to get my message out and I too knew that I couldn’t count on the media to do it. It may seem strange since I’m married to one of the gods of the internet, Paul Jones, but I just didn’t know anything about blogs…..While most campaign sites fold after the election, I have maintained mine and I continue to update it with content and links to town-related news stories (which I selectively pick)….Now, for a couple of months I’ve been blogging. But it is separate from my Town Council web site. Each is linked to the other, but they are separate….But on the other hand—and this is something that I haven’t consciously thought about very much, until Will’s question—I think I do want to keep some space that is just my own, my “greenespace.” I mean, there is a difference, although of course they overlap.

Like Sally, I have generally distinct, though sometimes overlapping, concerns. Based on an analysis of a years worth of site visits, so does my readership.

During my March 2006 sojourn to Austin’s SxSWi, following Sally’s lead, I purchased the Citizen Will sites (.org,.com,.net). Why Citizen Will? This punster (yep, sorry about that) couldn’t pass up a small play on “the Will of the People”, “will power” and this citizen’s will for progressive change.

It’s finally time to split my personal, professional and public “brands”:

  • will serve as a gateway to the Will-verse.
  • with CitizenWill , I will continue my activist focus. I’ll also put reprints of my “real world” columns, editorials and letters-to-the-Editor.
  • And will serve as a convenient dumping ground for my occassional ruminations on orthogonal concerns – technology, travel tips and other personal digressions.

Not wishing to confuse my growing audience, not willing to kill my old “brand” and trying to be a good netizen by maintaining my permalinks (the long tail of a years worth of net-based local activism) – I’m mirroring all sites for the next 90 days (roughly until the Nov. elections are over).

Over that time, each site will begin to take on a more distinctive, unique character reflective of their end purposes.

Thank you for your feedback, thank you for your readership and thank you for bearing with me as I make this slow “tri-cameral” transition.

Chapel Hill’s Downtown Partnership is looking for some folks to help welcome UNC students, especially the class of 2010, back to town.

UNC Move-In Weekend will take place August 18-20th. Many downtown businesses offer discounts to students and their families during this weekend and throughout the year, and the Downtown Partnership would like to let students know of these offers. We are creating a flyer that highlights available discounts and are looking for volunteers to hand them out to students during Move-In Weekend. This is a great opportunity for us to show some Southern hospitality to new students in the area as well as an excellent time to support and showcase our downtown businesses! In addition to handing out discount flyers, volunteers will be able to help newcomers find their way around downtown and to learn the great restaurants, retail and services we offer!

We need volunteers for Friday, Saturday and Sunday. Shifts are from 11am-2pm and 4pm-7pm. Please contact Laura Griest at the Downtown Partnership as soon as possible if you are available to help. Thanks for helping us highlight the many wonderful attributes of Downtown Chapel Hill to our incoming UNC students and their families.

Laura Griest
Communications Manager
Chapel Hill Downtown Partnership
308 West Rosemary Street, Suite 202
Chapel Hill, NC 27516

(919) 967-9440 office

If you end up volunteering, along with passing on your tips on the best place to eat (like Bon’s for great BBQ or Bada Wings for the best char-broiled burger) , let us help get them started on, hopefully, a life long habit of local activism.

Would you please suggest to the students to change their voter registration to Orange County?

The simple process is outlined here.

Robin Cutson, a fellow 2005 candidate for Chapel Hill Town Council and, more recently, a candidate for Orange County Board of Commissioners, has decided to spur local change outside of the “established system”.

She say’s she’s frustrated with the inability of our local elected folk to solve problems in a common sensical fashion:

…it appears that citizens are being asked to provide services and functions that once were provided by local governments—in essence, citizens are acting as their own ad hoc unfunded local government—-while at the same time existing local governments are expanding and becoming bloated bureaucracies—adding more government positions and seemingly semi-permanent consultants.

SqueezeThePulp, Aug. 7th, 2006

She doesn’t think the current political process is too effective:

Is there anything that can be done? Well we could vote in responsible elected officials. . .but from the consistently low voter turnout and the continual re-election of incumbents it appears that the majority of people either don’t care, or that the majority of people like the way things are going—or that the majority have simply given up. Or maybe people are too busy trying to lead their private lives and fulfill their duties as an ad hoc citizen government to get organized and effect change.


and has suggested a “fun” alternative:

So maybe its time for a new approach. Not just more guest columns and letters and blogging trying to push change or the election of a common sense political candidate—this obviously didn’t help in the last election cycle. And not just another citizen group or task force—there are so many of these now that no one pays attention anymore.

Maybe it’s time for something more fun. . .something designed to get the notice of busy average citizens who are disenfranchised and disillusioned with politics as usual. Maybe we should start a media campaign to elect a Mayor and council for an ad hoc unofficial citizen government and let them represent our interests and needs to the dysfunctional existing government bodies. It could be fun. . .


Robin and I share some common concerns; preserving our local environment, shepherding local resources wisely, the troubling direction UNC’s Carolina North development is taking, the course our stormwater management utility is charting, the lack of progress in forging ahead on real budget reforms.

We also disagree on causitive factors and suggested solutions.

And that’s OK.

For me, running for Council was an enjoyable and exhilarating experience. I delighted in every opportunity I had to meet with citizens and discuss my vision of Chapel Hill’s future.

Robin, your style of running, of getting your message out, was distinctive – fairly full on – and, I’m guessing, a bit rocky at times. I believe I understand why you “only half” jest in suggesting an ersatz governmental body to “sensibly” rule the local roost.

But you have folks that share your point of view. You have been a strong advocate on their behalf.

Why disengage from the current political process?

…I have personally sworn off ever running again for any office real or imagined and feel my casting a vote in existing local elections and hoping for change is like dropping a feather down the Grand Canyon and waiting for an echo…

Engagement, Robin.

Hands-on engagement. Discovering, discussing, debating the issues – fighting for Chapel Hill’s better future.

Isn’t that why we ran?

David Marshall, Mente Videbor author and 2005 Carrboro Board of Alderman candidate, presents a personal meditation on the recent Avalon tragedy. It’s this week’s Chapel Hill News’ My View.

To be clear, the $500K direct payment + $7.9 million lease “kickback” ($8.4 million) I ‘blogged on earlier, in spite of what the Mayor affirmed today, is not necessarily fixed in stone.

As reported in July 15th, 2006’s Chapel Hill News article “Project Price Rising”

Council members said they’re open to paying more, though doing so would contradict the “memorandum of understanding” that Chapel Hill and Ram Development Co., the town’s private partner, signed in October.

Whom specifically?

Mayor Pro Tem Bill Strom said he’s willing to discuss increasing the town’s cash contribution to the project.

“Personally, I’m willing to go further depending on what the risks of the project are,” he said last week. “From other town projects that are being bid or built, we know in the last 15 to 16 months that construction costs increased 30 to 35 percent. That’s not speculative; we’re satisfied that’s a fact. So it shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone that some elements of the project are going to have to be revisited.”

Councilman Cam Hill said he, too, was open to restructuring the financing.

How might the financing be restructured? Use of often abused TIFs (tax incremental funding) has been suggested.

Some council members, particularly Mark Kleinschmidt, are wary of using this method.

Tax money generated by new development typically goes to pay for services demanded by the project — fire and police protection, for example.

If that money is diverted to pay off debt for a private project, taxpayers will wind up bearing the costs of increased service demands, Kleinschmidt said.

“The truth is, though, as a council member, I’m not absolute on this,” he said. “It’s not a dead letter on my desk. But I think the taxpayers need to be aware of what the truth is about this kind of financial arrangement. I would have to see evidence of significant public support for this.”

So, the financial burden might expand and then shift further onto the citizen’s shoulders.

I respect Bill’s, Mark’s and Cam’s desire to improve downtown. I’ve supported them and their initiatives over many years. I have sided with them on many issues. In this case, though, I think they’ve gotten too close to the project to see that it has “slipped of the rails”.

One example? The predictable request by the developer to rework the financing.

The good news is that all three have rejected an immediate modification of the Memorandum of Understanding for Downtown Economic Development Initiative as originally outlined here.

And, as Cam said here

But the reality is the deal we were attracted to is the deal we want,” he said Friday. “The deal we had was a good deal. I do know I’m not afraid to walk away from it. I’m not wed to building something on Lot 5 to the point of making a deal I don’t like.”

I expect that sentiment is shared by most of the Council. I think the deal, as presently constituted, doesn’t make sense for the community.

Now, what constitutes a deal they don’t like?

Last week, the Chapel Hill News published a column I wrote (What Price Downtown) on the Chapel Hill’s downtown development project.

Today, Mayor Foy responds in a column titled Town prodeeds cautiously on downtown redevelopment.

Prodeeds, interesting typo ;-).

Before commenting on his response, I’d like to highlight an error in my column that the Mayor pointed out:

Will Raymond implied that the town had spent $4 million on the project. That figure is incorrect; the total cost to the town so far is $600,000.

Absolutely correct. Here’s what I said in my column:

Investing $4 million to date in the effort, the project is nearing the public hearing phase. Clear cut and excavated, my beautiful public space will vanish under the private heel of a looming “soft modernistic” behemoth. Rising nine stories, this disproportionate edifice will distort Franklin Street’s current village-like scale.

In an effort to excise a few words (if you’ve read anything I’ve written you know I can go on a bit) to get below the 750 word CHN limit (a limit I maybe should consider on this ‘blog), I completely torqued the sentence.

What I originally meant was, we’ve spent about $500K (the Mayor says $600K) on the process and we’ll have to belly up another “real” $500K. That, with the “kickback” of the $7.9M 99-year lease value on the properties, adds to $8.4 million in future commitments, $9M total. The $500K for digging a hole in lot #5 is already under dispute.

This is based on the recent town 2005-2006 2nd Quarter Report.

In the proposed Memorandum of Understanding, the developer will pay the Town $7.9 million ($4.75 million for Lot 5 site and $3.15 million for the Wallace Deck site) to lease Town-owned property for 99 years. The Town will pay the developer a fixed amount of $7.9 million for the construction of the Lot 5 parking garage and other Town-owned improvements. The Town also will pay $500,000 to support parking for affordable housing units.

Quite embarrassing. I will, if allowed, make a correction in my next column.

Now, on to the Mayor’s response.

This newspaper recently published letters and a column in which citizens expressed concerns about what has been called the Ram project, a proposal to build multi-story
residential/commercial developments at two town-owned sites in downtown Chapel Hill. I would like to address those concerns, give a general overview of the project, and clear up some inaccuracies.

The Town Council has focused on downtown as a priority because, although it’s good now, we know it can be better. We therefore engaged in a deliberate and thorough planning process for the downtown initiative (located at two sites: Parking Lot 5 and the Wallace Deck).

Plans for private downtown development are already moving quickly, with proposed Greenbridge’s ( 180K/sq. ft., 109 condos, $300K-$400K), Shortbread Lofts ( 165 units, 50 reserved as affordable) and the just completed Rosemary Village (38 condos, $350K-$700K). Do we need to convert citizen-owned assets into privately-held condos before we see the effect these planned buildouts will have on the housing market?

This planning began about five years ago and included citizen workshops, design work sessions, and public meetings. Last year, the council began working with a private developer, Ram Development Company, to bring the plans to fruition. In a July 30 column (“What price downtown?”), Will Raymond implied that the town had spent $4 million on the project. That figure is incorrect; the total cost to the town so far is $600,000.

Aside from cost, however, is the issue of whether the development project should be pursued at all. The Town Council is working on this project because we believe it will enhance downtown as the center of our community. We know that downtowns that have a mix of uses and people who live there are more vibrant than those that don’t. And we also know that a dynamic downtown — with people living, working, and relaxing — leads to a safe downtown.

Unfortunately, the plans for boutique shopping and luxury condos don’t really add to the “mix of uses” we need downtown. The privately-sponsored developments will provide housing and we already have plenty of empty commercial space downtown. Worse, the current proposal doesn’t incorporate an “anchoring” tenant, like a grocery store, that the surrounding community can “center” on. Without a kid-friendly plaza, a strong commitment to retain maximum public use, lot #5 lacks a strong focusing element.

But back to the finances. The council has entered into a memorandum of understanding with Ram, which outlines the basic terms and conditions of the proposed development agreement. Under the memorandum, the town’s cash contribution to the development would be $500,000, which would support the cost of parking for the affordable housing within the development. This amount is the limit of the town’s exposure, in a development that is expected to cost more than $80 million.

However, recent news reports are correct in stating that construction costs have risen so quickly that Ram is not now confident that it can develop the project as first envisioned. That means that the financing issue might have to be revisited and revised. But contrary to the assertions raised in a July 23 letter to the editor (“Town has bad record for paying off builders”), the Town Council has not authorized or encumbered any local property tax revenue for the construction of the development.

Additionally, the letter writer, Ole R. Holsti, criticized the town for its management of school construction and a bridge replacement. The town is not involved in any way with school construction, and the town properly managed the bridge replacement. In fact, the town has an excellent record in its stewardship of public funds.

Mr. Holsti picked some poor targets for criticism but he was on to something when he said “The first step in shaking this reputation is to let Ram Development understand that not an additional penny of tax funds will be forthcoming.” The Mayor did not respond to my concern the TIF (tax incremental funding) has come back into play. Debt issued under TIFs is, in the end, secured by the citizenry. We are exposed to significant liabilities.

The council continues to work on the downtown development. We look forward to hearing citizens’ thoughts as we proceed with the discussions this fall. We are fortunate in Chapel Hill to have citizens who are interested and involved in the business of the town, and who hold us to the highest standards. I hope and expect that people will pay attention to the council’s efforts for downtown, and will work with us toward what is best for the community.

I’m glad the Mayor looks forward to input from the tax-paying public. I wish he had addressed the issues of scale – a 9 story beast , the eroding reasons – filling the gap in downtown residential and commercial development, lack of public utility, etc. I raised in my column.

The following is from my first column for the Chapel Hill News. In a strange inversion of most ‘bloggers trajectories, I’m moving, slightly, from electronic to paper media.

First, a quick correction. In trying to trim my column to 750 words I made a mistake joining two sentences concerning the citizen’s financial outlays to-date. The Mayor says we’ve spent about $600K on the project plans. Matt Dee’s, in a Feb. 28th, 2006 News & Observer article, said:

Town leaders have spent about four years and more than $1 million taking plans from vague brainstorms to the detailed drawings shown Monday night.

I bet if you added in all the staff, Council and consultancy time, the real expenditures over the last 4-5 years, the figure would be above $1 million. If you pull in the legal and staff costs associated with the first run at leveraging the Wallace deck for downtown redevelopment, the Rosemary Square project, I’m sure the figure would go much higher.

In any case, it is not $4 million.

What are the true expenditures to-date? I will be doing some additional research to find out.

What about potential cost to the citizen? If we use the Mayor’s figures, we’ve spent $600K to-date, have a commitment to spend $500K more digging a futile hole in lot #5 and will be “kicking back” the $7.9 million earned on the 99 year lease agreement with RAM development. And, already, the $500K for the “hole” is in dispute.

With that in mind, here’s my column:

Over the nearly six years I’ve worked downtown, I’ve watched the nearby parking lot’s tree-lined sidewalks magnificently bloom in spring, shade our citizens in summer and explode with dazzling reds and yellows each fall. One of the few remaining unencumbered downtown public parcels, this human-scale open area visually connects and integrates Franklin Street into the surrounding neighborhoods.

A few months ago, two stately trees across the street were cut down, replaced by the mammoth metal posts of our town’s fancy new-style traffic signals. “How many folks thought about those trees?” I wondered. “Will anyone else miss them? How long will they furnish my memories?”

In 1979, the noxious gridlock of N.C. 54 years away, my first pleasant drive from Raleigh to town’s edge was interrupted only by the route’s sole traffic signal. Through rolling verdant pastures, past the quaint University Inn.

A right at the quiet Old Chapel Hill Cemetery. Under the arched trees of Raleigh Street. A left turn onto historic Franklin Street. An easy park at UNC’s publicly accessible lot in Porthole Alley.

Downtown, though replete with historic ambiance, exuded a youthful confidence. Locally owned record, grocery, hardware, clothes and stereo stores competed for my hard-earned lucre. Three cheap movie theaters within two blocks provided a welcome retreat into air-conditioned bliss. Restaurants ran the gamut of tastes and expense.

Enamored, I regularly spent a few bucks on the six-hour jaunt to Chapel Hill. Smelling of diesel fumes, I’d arrive at the bus terminal thirsty and travel wearied. Exiting onto the delightfully shaded lawn, I’d hop across the street to retrieve an ice-cold brew from Fowler’s Big Bertha (that grocery’s storied walk-in freezer).

I fondly remember that downtown.

Over the ensuing decades the evolving character of our “village on the rise” shifted. Fowler’s grocery closed with no replacement. Huggin’s Hardware, hammered by the pricing pressure of Lowe’s, became a casualty of our town’s first experiment with “big box” retailers. Competing against university and national chains, the Intimate Bookshop burned financially. Both Laundromats washed out. The Carolina Blue & White closed, then opened, now darkened again.

Meadowmont’s broken promise despoiled those welcoming pastures. The Wallace Deck vanquished the starry skies above my friends’ North Street back yard. UNC’s parking policies hampered free access. The Cobb chiller plant disturbed the quiet of the grave. A luxury hotel erased the terminal’s pleasant lawn.

During the same era, well-intentioned leadership, bolstered by developers’ promises, worked to constrain sprawl within our rural buffer, approved developments ringing town and created today’s donut-like topology that draws economic activity to the periphery.

Speculating that increased residency will revive downtown’s economic fortunes, the Town Council entered a private-public partnership with RAM Development to convert citizen-owned properties into mixed-use residential-commercial developments with 230 housing units.

Investing $4 million to date in the effort, the project is nearing the public hearing phase. Clear cut and excavated, my beautiful public space will vanish under the private heel of a looming “soft modernistic” behemoth. Rising nine stories, this disproportionate edifice will distort Franklin Street’s current village-like scale.

Where is the public utility, the community orientation? Why a hard concrete concourse, a “hands-off” fountain in lieu of a grassy sward and a kid-friendly splash park? Where’s the commitment to decent public bathrooms and drinking fountains? Why boutique shops instead of a natural community magnet like a grocery store? With competing private projects proposing hundreds of additional downtown dwellings and current cost projections more than $100 million, why develop the tracts at all?

Over the last 18 months, my disappointment increased, my support eroded. I began to wonder if town was following the failed trajectory of 1984’s $30 million Rosemary Square project as a council once again attempted to reform downtown.

The fires of my opposition ignited the night council discussed the project’s window treatments with more passion than the escalating public cost. Increased outlays to our consultant added tinder. When RAM Development disclosed plans to build 335 luxury condos near downtown, the largest such project in town’s history, and the mayor shrugged off the potential conflict of interest adjudging their development partner’s plans, the flickers swelled.

Finally, with the recent call for citizens to shoulder the developer’s private debt via tax incremental funding (TIFs), those nascent flickers firmed into the flame of resistance.

Council member Cam Hill, a key member of the negotiating team, recently said, “I do know I’m not afraid to walk away from it. I’m not wed to building something on lot 5 to the point of making a deal I don’t like.”

Cam, it’s time to dig out your running shoes and run, don’t walk, to the nearest exit.

Following the fatal shooting of Kedrain Swann last Saturday (Jul 29th, 2006), and with the club’s license to operate under review, Chief Jarvies was asked to evaluate the danger Avalon poses to our local community.

“The number and seriousness of the criminal incidents that have occurred at the Avalon nightclub…. present a grave safety risk to citizens who live, work, travel and visit the vicinity of the club,” Jarvies said. “I recommend that the Avalon nightclub not be licensed to do business in the Town of Chapel Hill.”


Grave risk. Couldn’t be more clear.

I bet Janglin’ Jack Jansen is relieved.

Following Mark K.’s lead in succumbing to some mid-Summer zaniness….

It appears Appalachian State University, located up in the North Carolina mountains [MAP], is also HOT! HOT! HOT!

Click to watch.

On a more serious note, what fearful impulse lead ASU to add a DMCA (Digital Millenium Copyright Act) link to the bottom of each of their web pages? Students are even directed to ASU’s designated DMCA enforcement agent to report on their fellow students violations:

Appalachian State University has designated an agent to receive notification of alleged copyright infringement.

Judith Walker
Academic Computing Services
Appalachian State University
Boone, NC, 28608


There must be an interesting [1] backstory [2] here for an academic institution to knuckle under to an act that the Electronic Frontier Foundation describes thus:

In practice, the anti-circumvention provisions have been used to stifle a wide array of legitimate activities, rather than to stop copyright infringement. As a result, the DMCA has developed into a serious threat to several important public policy priorities:

The DMCA Chills Free Expression and Scientific Research.
Experience with section 1201 demonstrates that it is being used to stifle free speech and scientific research. The lawsuit against 2600 magazine, threats against Princeton Professor Edward Felten’s team of researchers, and prosecution of Russian programmer Dmitry Sklyarov have chilled the legitimate activities of journalists, publishers, scientists, students, programmers, and members of the public.

The DMCA Jeopardizes Fair Use.
By banning all acts of circumvention, and all technologies and tools that can be used for circumvention, the DMCA grants to copyright owners the power to unilaterally eliminate the public’s fair use rights. Already, the movie industry’s use of encryption on DVDs has curtailed consumers’ ability to make legitimate, personal-use copies of movies they have purchased.

The DMCA Impedes Competition and Innovation.
Rather than focusing on pirates, many copyright owners have wielded the DMCA to hinder their legitimate competitors. For example, the DMCA has been used to block aftermarket competition in laser printer toner cartridges, garage door openers, and computer maintenance services. Similarly, Apple invoked the DMCA to chill RealNetworks’ efforts to sell music downloads to iPod owners.

The DMCA Interferes with Computer Intrusion Laws.
Further, the DMCA has been misused as a general-purpose prohibition on computer network access which, unlike most computer intrusion statutes, lacks any financial harm threshold. As a result, a disgruntled employer has used the DMCA against a former contractor for simply connecting to the company’s computer system through a VPN.

Unintended Consequences: Seven Years Under the DMCA

ASU, that’s not so hot, hot, hot…

Rolling back from lunch,1:45pm, I saw a cluster of police on the corner of Church and Franklin handing out blue flyers – and getting their pictures taken by some local media.

“Great”, I thought, “they’re looking for witnesses to the the recent Avalon shooting.”

Unfortunately, that’s not the case. The seven sweltering uniformed law enforcement were there for a PR photo-op to educate folks on the proper usage of the new Franklin St. crosswalk. I believe an additional two staff were across the street at University Square doing the same.

Seven law enforcement. One missing murderer.

No cool down in sight.

With tomorrow’s temperatures forecasted to be above 100 degrees, Chapel Hill is going to be one very hot spot.

As if centrally scripted, local news folks, punching up the drama of the weather story, have been issuing dire warnings not of the “real” heat but of the “felt” heat. “Think it’s going to be hot tomorrow? With the heat index, that 100 degrees will feel like a thousand!” Etc. Ad nauseum.

For the last 35 years, I’ve always assumed the “heat index” was a bit of a bugaboo – a pseudo-science calculation surfing the collective American conscience with little or no factual underpinnings.

Well, turns out there is a calculation:

HI = -42.379 + 2.04901523T + 10.1433127R – 0.22475541TR – 6.83783×10 -3 T 2 – 5.481717×10 -2 R 2 + 1.22874×10 -3 T 2R + 8.5282×10 -4 TR 2 – 1.99×10 -6 T 2 R 2


T = ambient dry bulb temperature degrees Fahrenheit
R = relative humidity
The equation is only useful for temperatures 80 degrees or higher, and relative humidities 40% or greater.
NOAA National Weather Service chart of Heat Index
That looks rather ad-hoc to this curious science guy, so I delved a bit deeper and found this commonly cited article [PDF] explaining the genesis of the equation.

Now that summer has spread its oppressive ridge over most of the Southern Region, NWS phones are ringing off their hooks with questions about the Heat Index. Many questions regard the actual equationused in calculating the Heat Index. Some callers are satisfied with the response that it is extremely complicated. Some are satisfied with the nomogram (see Attachment 1). But there are a few who will settle for nothing less than the equation itself. No true equation for the Heat Index exists. Heat Index values are derived from a collection of equations that comprise a model. This Technical Attachment presents an equation that approximates the Heat Index and, thus, should satisfy the latter group of callers.

The Heat Index (or apparent temperature) is the result of extensive biometeorological studies. The parameters involved in its calculation are shown below (from Steadman, 1979). Each of these parameters can be described by an equation but they are given assumed magnitudes (in parentheses) in order to simplify the model.

  • Vapor pressure. Ambient vapor pressure of the atmosphere. (1.6 kPa)
  • Dimensions of a human. Determines the skin’s surface area. (5′ 7″ tall, 147 pounds
  • Effective radiation area of skin. A ratio that depends upon skin surface area. (0.80)
  • Significant diameter of a human. Based on the body’s volume and density. (15.3 cm)
  • Clothing cover. Long trousers and short-sleeved shirt is assumed. (84% coverage)
  • Core temperature. Internal body temperature. (98.6°F)
  • Core vapor pressure. Depends upon body’s core temperature and salinity. (5.65 kPa)
  • Surface temperatures and vapor pressures of skin and clothing. Affects heat transfer from the skin’s surface either by radiation or convection. These values are determined by an iterative process.
  • Activity. Determines metabolic output. (180 W m-2 of skin area for the model person walking outdoors at a speed of 3.1 mph)
  • Effective wind speed. Vector sum of the body’s movement and an average wind speed. Angle between vectors influences convection from skin surface (below). (5 kts)
  • Clothing resistance to heat transfer. The magnitude of this value is based on the assumption that the clothing is 20% fiber and 80% air.
  • Clothing resistance to moisture transfer. Since clothing is mostly air, pure vapor diffusion is used here.
  • Radiation from the surface of the skin. Actually, a radiative heat-transfer coefficient determined from previous studies.
  • Convection from the surface of the skin. A convection coefficient also determined from previous studies. Influenced by kinematic viscosity of air and angle of wind.
  • Sweating rate. Assumes that sweat is uniform and not dripping from the body.

From Rothfusz, L. P., 1990:The heat index equation (or, more than you ever wanted to know about heat index). NWS Southern Region Technical Attachment, SR/SSD 90-23, Fort Worth, TX.

So, to be as accurate as possible, tomorrow, if you’re 5’7″ 147 pounds, wearing long trousers and a short-sleeved shirt made of %80 air, have an average human diameter (unlike my 46″ waist), plan only to walk 3.1 MPH and sweat uniformally, it’ll feel like a bazillion degrees.

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