Dec. 7th, Forewarned, Not Forearmed?

Thursday, December 7th, 2006

I’ve been interested in the World War II Japanese Internment travesty since I learned of it as a near tot. Living in Chapel Hill I’ve had the chance to know some interesting folks, Eric Muller for one.

Eric, self-publisher and UNC Law professor is an internment expert. He often posts his research on that, the Holocaust and other WWII related issues over on isThatLegal.org. Fascinating, if at times disturbing, reading.

Today he’s talking Dec. 7th, 1941 and the trail of bread crumbs leading up to the foreseen attack on Pearl Harbor and the collateral damage it caused the Japanese-American community.

Bus 734’s Act of Kindness

Thursday, November 16th, 2006

Say what you will of “Chapel Hill values”, but it can be quite nice when you’re on the receiving end.

This morning I watched the driver of Bus 734 pull over for a moment to let a young man, already wheezing from running up MLK to the Kron Building stop, jog the next 20 yards to clamber on. Sure, the driver could’ve kept on going – answering to the demands of the clock – like many drivers do in other jurisdictions. But, hey, this is Chapel Hill.

Thank you Bus 734, for your act of kindness.

Sign, Sign Everywhere a Sign…

Tuesday, November 7th, 2006

This time last year I was catching 14 winks in preparation for election day.

Earlier in the evening I had made the rounds collecting my outlying signs for redeployment. About 3 hours from now, I was leaping out of bed to fill some balloons, say a hasty goodbye to the family and rush to pick up local activist Tom Jensen ( thanks again Tom for kindly assisting with the last round of sign deployments at every municipal polling station).

It was the start of one of the longest days in my life. Exhilerating, enjoyable, extraordinary, engaging – the hospitality and good cheer of the citizens of Chapel Hill made the long hours fly by.

The beautiful fall weather was an incredible bonus.
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A Measure of Transparency in Local Government

Wednesday, October 11th, 2006

Mark Peters, one of the founders of Orange County political forum SqueezeThePulp and a school-focused activist, created this report card to publicly track local governments fulfillment of their stated goal of greater online efforts to promote e-democracy .

Mark’s site, OrangeRecordings, serves as a clearinghouse for podCasts of school board, council, board of alderman and other public meetings. The archival value of audio recordings and the ability for “time shifting” concerned citizens to “listen in” on proceedings should spur any elected body interested in greater transparency to deploy them.

Unfortunately, while Carrboro leads the way with a %90 rating, Chapel Hill has laid a big fat goose egg (%0).

Chapel Hill’s Town Council is still dragging their feet on using the simplest of technologies to draw citizens into the governance process. Quite unfortunate.

Great work Mark.

Chancellor Moeser: It’s good to be good

Thursday, September 7th, 2006

Chancellor Moeser’s main thesis from his September 6th State of the University remarks [via WCHL1360]:

…we can aspire for greatness … move from good to great … and be both great and good…

The speech was replete with references of being good, of moving from good to great both as an University and community member.

  • We have also talked about being good – good in the context of maintaining high ethical and moral values – goodness as critical to achieving greatness.

  • Over the past several years, we have talked about what it means to be a great university – to be the leading public university in America – striving for greatness.

    Jim Collins, author of the best-selling book Good to Great, defines greatness not as a function of circumstance. Greatness, he says, “is largely a matter of conscious choice.”

    Collins describes Carolina’s approach. We have made tough decisions and instilled discipline in our budget. Our priorities mark the way. We are driven to be better.

    Like Collins, we have a conviction that greatness is a journey, not a destination. The moment we think of ourselves as great, he says, we will have begun our slide into mediocrity. 2

    We have also talked about being good – good in the context of maintaining high ethical and moral values – goodness as critical to achieving greatness.

    The single most distinguishing feature of this University is its goodness – its core values of commitment to the people of North Carolina and the betterment of humankind. Charles Kuralt nailed it in his 1993 Bicentennial remarks when he said:

    “… Here we found something in the air. A kind of generosity, a certain tolerance, a disposition toward freedom of action and inquiry that has made of Chapel Hill, for thousands of us, a moral center of the world.”

  • Good enough is never good enough – not for an institution that aspires to be America’s leading public university. Going from good to great.

  • Leading with innovation. Going from good to great.

  • A University with a Strong Moral Center: Great and Good

    I turn now to the second part of my thesis, the noble idea that Carolina can be both great and good – in Kuralt’s words “a moral center of the universe,” a great public university committed to access and affordability, to service and engagement, and to the conviction that our mission includes the development of the heart, as well as the mind.

  • Today, we are the stewards of that great venture at the dawn of a new century and a world as new and daunting as the one Davie faced. We are called upon to make this University even greater – to go from good to great. We are also called on to nurture and nourish what it means to be a public university, to be both great and good. And we must adapt this great and noble institution to the 21st Century.

Why enumerate Chancellor Moeser’s calls for greatness?

Oh, a small attempt to remind UNC’s Carolina North Leadership Advisory Committee that they’re supposed to produce a plan that is more than “good enough” – that, instead, is great and worthy of our world-class research University.

Ernesto Visiting Chapel Hill?

Thursday, August 31st, 2006

One of the hurricane projections has Ernesto tracking right over my home in less than a day.

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Aug. 31st, 2006: From Ernesto to Fran

Thursday, August 31st, 2006

Friday, September 6, 1996 – Fran!
Friday, September 1, 2006 – Ernesto?

Fran snuck up on the Triangle 10 years ago. Ernesto is days away.

I stayed up until 1am nearly a decade ago waiting to see what track Fran would take. WRAL’s ever reliable Greg Fishel predicted a hit between Rocky Mount and Raleigh. Even though the wind on Barclay Rd. was whipping up – the rain starting to “fall” horizontally, I went to bed unworried.

Next morning we awoke with trees down, little knowing we’d go days without roads, weeks without power.

Ten years on I don’t have to depend on Greg (though I’ll be checking in with him). The web offers an incredible smorgasboard of realtime sources for hurricane data.

One of the neatest is a “mash-up” of GoogleEarth and “glootons” hurricane tracker.

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Hot Spot U.S.A.

Tuesday, August 1st, 2006

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

where

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.

06/06/06 Hill Hail Hell

Tuesday, June 6th, 2006

When: 6:06PM, 06/06/06.
Where: Mid-town Chapel Hill.
What: Horizontal sheets of blueberry-size hail.

A rapid moving storm front dumped up to an inch of pea to blueberry size hail in our yard.

Not wanting to bike MLK in a tonight’s downpour, I called my wife for a ride home. While on the phone with her, all hell broke loose. All I could hear over the phone was a general din as she and my son ran through the house closing windows – yelling to each other about buckets of rain, pounding hail and tornadic winds.

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Utility Commission on the ball…

Wednesday, May 17th, 2006

Kudos to the folks running our NC Utilities Commission!

When the USA Today story fingering Bellsouth’s complicity in the NSA scandal broke I called our North Carolina Utilities Commission to lodge a complaint. The receptionist told me a “consumer specialist” would call within the hour to get details about my case. “Sure,” I said, pretty much expecting I’d have to call back over several days to reach the right person – that’s what we’ve grown to expect from all levels of government, right?

Within the hour, I got that call. The gentleman was direct, knowledgeable and filed the complaint without hesitation. He also said he’d follow up with any developments.

Today he did.

The case has been forwarded to the FCC, which is acting as a clearinghouse for a number of states. In addition, my case will continue at the State level until resolved by the FCC investigation.

This level of competence and service by the Utility Commission folks gives me confidence that they’ll be able to handle any fastballs the communications monopolists throw Chapel Hill’s way as the community forges ahead on the municipal network project.

More than a nickel…

Wednesday, May 10th, 2006

From today’s eventually-to-be-paywalled HeraldSun

The town of Chapel Hill figures it spent about $134,700 on hosting this year’s Apple Chill street fair and handling events both during and after the official hours of the festival.

That total includes about $85,700 in costs for police, although Town Manager Cal Horton said the figure for police costs still could change.

That’s a chunk of change.

Surely we can “recover” some the arts events that have slipped Carrboro-way with an investment of just $65K?

NextBus Recap – The story so far…

Monday, May 8th, 2006

[UPDATE:] The proposal.

What would it take to build our own bus ETA notification and Internet hotspot system?

Twenty-four hours into blogging about the NextBus system, what have we learned? What’s the alternative? How large of an opportunity have we missed?

What have other folk said about NextBus?

Why is the town concerned about cellphone charges? What kind of deal did we make?

Alameda California’s ACTransit signed a deal with NextBus is January, 2006. Did we get as good a deal?

May 8th I had an opportunity to speak with one of the folk from ACTransit who negotiated their great deal.

ACTransit got for their $1M:

  • NEW: 54 signs, 125 vehicles, 13 routes
  • EXISTING: 46 signs, 74 vehicles, 12 routes
  • 7 years of support for their existing and new infrastructure.

Chapel Hill?

  • 14 signs, 83 vehicles, 26 routes, unknown warrantee.

What does the Daily Tar Heel have to say?

Why NextBus? What about the strange coincidence involving NextBus’ 2002 campaign contributions to Rep. Price?

[ UPDATE: ]

Bob Avery, the town’s IT director, came through this evening with additional documentation of the Real-Time Passenger Information System and Automatic Vehicle Location system for Chapel Hill Transit.

Affordable Downtown Housing? Pfah!

Friday, May 5th, 2006

Just heard the local Chamber of Commerce’s executive director Aaron Nelson on WCHL 1360AM describe, in jubilant terms , how soon-to-open Rosemary Village is ” the impetus for a downtown renaissance”.

Aaron further proclaimed this development would give us “great downtown living we haven’t had in a long time.”

Really? I know folk living downtown that might disagree with that sentiment.

Further, while the Chamber’s Nelson has gone to bat on behalf of this project several times, this latest praise for:

Rosemary Village…38 luxury condominiums within a short walk of UNC’s campus…from $350s – $700,000

rings a bit discordant along-side Nelson’s recent observation on Habitat’s fight with local neighbors, Chandler Green:

“The character of our community is to build unaffordable homes,” said Nelson, who reported that the chamber board of directors unanimously endorsed the project. “[Habitat is] building affordable homes. That is out of character.”

Aaron’s right, our community tends towards expensive housing.

The lesson of Rosemary Village, I think, is that the planned downtown developments whether private or public, in spite of the best intentions, will follow that trend.

Dang gum!

Thursday, May 4th, 2006

Wonder what those dark mystery splotches are downtown? Tired of dodging sticky detritus?

Good news:

…there’s nothing like a bit of cleaning to give downtown denizens a better feeling…

The crew from Gum Busters pulled into town in a white Dodge van full of equipment, intent on turning the splotches into ABC gum — Already Been Cleaned.

The town’s Public Works Department hired the Maryland-based company to remove the gum from high-traffic stretches of sidewalk along Franklin and Columbia streets at a cost of about $4,700. When the crew finishes in the next couple of days, Public Works will come back through to wash the sidewalks — kind of like a rinse after the soap cycle.

HeraldSun’s Rob Shapard

$4,700 seems quite reasonable. Now if we can just divert the $35-40K the Downtown Partner’s want to spend on holiday signs to downtown Wifi….

May 2nd: 6:30am. 7:30pm. Call 5. Drag 3.

Monday, May 1st, 2006

Polls are open 6:30am to 7:30pm.

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