Balloons Drifting Across the Stratosphere

I love my cell phone. It makes my children seem closer to me and makes me feel more connected to my friends and family. I have been a mobile phone user since 1992 and have rarely gone over my pre-paid allowance of minutes. Back then I only had 15 minutes a month to use, then the minutes were over 50 cents each, plus roaming charges if I were out of my "home area". I'm not one to chat on the phone for endless hours. I just like knowing that I have a phone nearby.

When I moved from Savannah to NC, it was a big deal to call home and talk to my mamma. She thought long distance telephone calls were an extravagance and was never really comfortable talking long distance. She only called when she had something special to say. She usually said it and then got off the line. She wrote lots of letters and I have kept most of them. Letters make great keepsakes and reminders of life a while ago, but telephones are so convenient and easy.

Today, I communicate with my children almost every day. Some days we e-mail or speak on the phone several times. And it's not always a call from me to interrupt their busy days. They call me regularly. And I love it. And with call phones, they can reach me almost any time because I usually have my phone with me.

I have found that I cannot use my cell phone in certain parts of South Carolina and in the Mountain areas of North Carolina and Georgia. In my family, we refer to these non-cell-phone-accessible areas as the bowels of South Carolina and the hilly mountains.

Some people might like this, but I'm not one of them. That is why I was excited to read in today's News & Record about a new technology that might someday help my phone work almost everywhere. A story from Bismarck, ND tells me that there is a plan by a company called Extend America to use balloons to fill gaps in cell service areas. How wonderful! I hope it works. The article says that it works in the lab and cost a lot less than building cell towers. According to the article, 3 balloons could cover the same area as 1100 towers.

Ain't Technology Wonderful ! ? ! ?

Alternative Fuel Discussion

Lex (blog on the run) provided a good feed to a discussion about bio fuel for cars. It is a post byEzra Klein. I must stop by that blog again. It was an interesting read.

More Nukes in North Carolina ??

Users of energy in North Carolina use about twice as much energy produced by nuclear power as the national average. More nuclear reactors may be coming to our state. The Raleigh N&O reports that "Progress Energy announced last week it would seek a license to build up to two new reactors at Shearon Harris in southwestern Wake County . . . . . . Progress Energy's announcement follows a similar decision by Duke Power in October to seek a license for two reactors."

There are several reasons for the requests for more nuclear reactors in NC. The population is increasing and the demand for energy is increasing. Regulations requiring less carbon in the air mean changes must be made in the way energy is produced. Nuclear reactors do not release carbon into the air. Federal incentives for nuclear power last year make it more cost-effective for the power producing companies than redoing old coal-burning facilities or building new gas burning ones. And, of course, the rising cost of gas is certainly a consideration.

The N&O reports that about 45 percent of electricity used in NC and SC comes from nuclear plants owned by Progress Energy and Duke Power. Both are planning to build more in the area.

previous post

Can nuclear ever be safe?Can nuclear ever be safe?

Solve 2 problems with one good idea
Crowded conditions can lead to violence. Although these incidents happened in a state prison in California, overcrowding in any jail or prison is a condition that could lead to violence.

From the LA Times:,0,3590654.story?coll=la-headlines-california

2 Inmates Killed in Lancaster
Some prisoner rights activists say crowding may have been a cause of the deaths.

By Amanda Covarrubias, Times Staff Writer

Two inmates have been slain over the last three weeks inside a cellblock at the Lancaster state prison, renewing concerns about overcrowding at the institution.

Can Nuclear Ever Be Safe? ? ?

I generally try to direct my comments to local and state concerns; however, I think that this announcement about nuclear waste is a concern to all of us. Especially, since North Carolina is in line to receive at least two new power plants very soon and nuclear power is a big consideration in developing these plants.

The Raleigh N&O reports that President Bush wants to spend $250 million to research a process that would produce a mixture of plutonium and neptunium.

From AP on-line: "The plan is part of an effort to take a fresh look at how to deal with the thousands of tons of used reactor fuel piling up at U.S. commercial power plants, while also gaining control over future nuclear materials in developing countries where the demand for nuclear energy is expected to grow."

The United States stopped all reprocessing of used reactor fuel in 1979 when President Carter banned it because of proliferation worries. The present system produces pure plutonium that could be used in a nuclear weapon.

(I don't understand this, but the Bush Administration thinks that this combination waste product would be harder to handle and that would make it "more secure.")

Previous Post on this site

Department of Energy

What do you think?

Hurray for BB&T

The Business Journal reports that BB&T will not lend money to developers for building private projects on land taken from citizens using eminent domain.

Read about it here:

What do you think?

Powerful Power Companies

North Carolina and the rest of the Southeast need more power.

Where will the power be produced? The debate seems to be between Nuclear Powered and Coal Powered facilities according to the Raleigh N&O

Where are the supporters of alternative sources of electricity? They are often portrayed as crackpots or dreamers. They are not.

There are cleaner, more eco-friendly sources of energy that need to be included in the mix of energy sources.

Americans will continue to use more and more energy, The source of this energy should be a concern to us all. Think about it.

According to the N&O "Nuclear waste remains radioactive for tens of thousands of years. When it is removed from reactors, it must be kept under water for at least five years. When it has cooled for five years, it can be stored outdoors in stainless steel casks."
Where will this waste be stored. Probably in NC near the new proposed plants.

New Trash Department ???

I have been a little behind in my observations of local current events. In my attempt to catch-up I read in theBusiness Journalthat the City of Greensboro will be adding a new department to handle solid waste in the city.

Of course, this new department will need a new director and probably other additional people to operate it. I wonder what happened to the City Council's budget promise to cut spending by not hiring new employees and by letting vacated positions go unfilled for extended periods of time.

I really need more information on this. I don't think this is the only position that the city has added lately. I know that solid waste is a bigger problem in Greensboro every day, especially in the Central Business District Downtown, because I have been serving on a city initiated task force to look into the problems and help find solutions. I did this as an unpaid volunteer on the committee. I must have missed too many meetings. I will post any information that I can find out about this department, as soon as I find out what's going on.

Some definitions for your consideration

|ikˈstôr sh ən| noun:
the practice of obtaining something, esp. money, through force or threats.
DERIVATIVES extortioner noun: extortionist |-ist| noun ORIGIN Middle English : from late Latin extortio(n-), from Latin extorquere ‘wrest’ (see extort ).

noun; racketeer, extortioner, extorter, blackmailer; informal: bloodsucker, vampire.

extortion noun: arrested on a charge of extortion
blackmail, shakedown; formal exaction.

|inˈsentiv| noun: a thing that motivates or encourages one to do something : there is no incentive for customers to conserve water • a payment or concession to stimulate greater output or investment : tax incentives for investing in depressed areas | [as adj. ] incentive payments. ORIGIN late Middle English : from Latin incentivum ‘something that sets the tune or incites,’ from incantare ‘to chant or charm.’

incentive noun: only financial incentives will curb the polluting activities of major industries
inducement, motivation, motive, reason, stimulus, stimulant, spur, impetus, encouragement, impulse; incitement, goad, provocation; attraction, lure, bait; informal: carrot, sweetener, come-on. antonym deterrent.

|brīb| verb: [ trans. ] persuade (someone) to act in one's favor, typically illegally or dishonestly, by a gift of money or other inducement : an undercover agent bribed the judge into giving a lenient sentence | [ trans. ] you weren't willing to be good to your sister without being bribed with a lollipop. | [ intrans. ] he has no money to bribe with.
noun: a sum of money or other inducement offered or given in this way. DERIVATIVES bribable adjective briber noun ORIGIN late Middle English : from Old French briber, brimber ‘beg,’ of unknown origin. The original sense was [rob, extort,] hence (as noun) [theft, stolen goods,] also [money extorted or demanded for favors,] later [offer money as an inducement] (early 16th cent.).

verb: pay off, suborn; informal: grease someone's palm, fix, square. noun: she accepted bribes
inducement, incentive, payola; informal: payoff, kickback, boodle, sweetener.

noun; racketeer, extortioner, extorter, blackmailer; informal: bloodsucker, vampire.
Just a reminder that Pricey Harrison will speak at the League of Women's Voters "Lunch with the League" Tuesday. Check out the details or look at Local League of Women Voters website

There is also information on the site about an ongoing study of the Guilford County Jail system that the league is conducting.

Bryan Park - Answers Please??

I have some questions about the contract that the City of Greensboro renewed with Bryan Park Golf LLC for maintenance of the Bryan Park Complex for an additional three years. According to the information I got at the council meeting last night the city will continue to contribute $125,000 annually toward the complex's operation,. The city's contribution will be used for capital improvements only.

The Inside Scoop blog wrote: "The city had spent between $300,000 and $800,000 annually on the complex's operations before reaching the agreement with Bryan Park Golf LLC, City Manager Mitch Johnson said."

I have been told that the green fees and facility rental fees have increased since BPG LLC took over maintenance of the Complex and I think that I have read that if one has an event there no outside company can provide catering for food or drink. Is this information correct?

Another question concerns the net operating cost to the City of Greensboro. Was the total cost to the city of operating the Bryan Park Complex between $300,000 and $800,000 a year, after any income received from operations?

Also, there was a request to the Greensboro City Council during budget negotiations to pay for some work on the grass around some of the golf holes. I think that the council did not include that amount in the current budget. Is grounds work considered a capital improvement?

I am not questioning the wisdom of the decision to sub-out the maintenance, just trying to clear up some questions that I have about the details. I did not get a copy of the additional information packet last night, so there might have been an explanation in it.

Will someone who understands better than I, please explain it to me. I'm just curious. Thank you in advance for an explanation.

Comic Relief

I was glad to see a little fun thrown into the mix in today's N&R's The Inside Scoop. We all need little dose of good humor in our day and I enjoy reading it in the morning.
Thanks, Inside Scoop

Glenwood Rezoning may be postponed

Former Greensboro City Councilman and local lawyer Don Vaughn, who appears on the Dusty Dunn morning show every other Tuesday, mentioned this morning that he thinks that no decision will be made at the City Council meeting tonight about the controversial rezoning on Freeman Mill Road.

Mr. Vaughan, who apparently represents the Glenwood Neighborhood Association, has another obligation tonight and will not be able to attend the Greensboro City Council meeting.

This item is still listed on the official city council agenda, with a note that the public hearing has not been closed. I know that there has been at least one meeting between the neighborhood association and the potential developer of this property since the last City Council meeting. I received an e-mail from a Glenwood resident saying that the developer's lawyer proposed to the neighbors that instead of an apartment complex, the developer would build condos instead. The buildings and layout would be about the same, but the buildings would be put up for sale to individual buyers.

The neighborhood association thinks that most of the property, as proposed, would be bought by investors for rental because of the appearance and location of the buildings.

One of my major objections to building approximately 60 living units on this property is that it will be a private cul-de-sac type road with one entrance/exit point onto a busy road with a median limiting left turns and the exit/entrance point will be on a blind curve. Because of the right in, right out limits at the entrance, traffic heading into downtown Greensboro will be required to make a U turn at the nearest intersection or drive onto Freeman Mill Road, then turn right and drive through the neighborhood to make its way back to Freeman Mill Road. I have other objections, but this traffic problem bothers me.

Many residents of the area and other concerned citizens have attended meeting after meeting about this rezoning application. I hope a ruling against this request will be forthcoming soon.

This rezoning decision will be a defining example of things to come in the area and of how the new City Council defines "Smart Growth."

What do you think?

Neighborhood Centric ???

During a recent planning session City Manager Mitch Johnson told City Council Members that one of the things he has heard from them is that the city needs to be more "neighborhood centric." The upcoming City Council Meeting will be an opportunity to do just that. One of the issues on the City Council Agenda for the Tuesday, Jan. 10 meeting is the rezoning of a piece of property on Freeman Mill Road. This rezoning decision will be a defining example of things to come in the area and of how the "new" City Council defines "Smart Growth."

Will the council overturn a decision by a planning board and zoning commission that seem to be primarily dense-development-oriented and don't seem to give a ******about the neighborhoods hurt by certain kinds of development?

During the 2005 City Council election campaign I was asked questions from several groups. Here is one of the questions and my answer.

Q. Low-density development does not pay for itself in taxes, is harmful to the environment and is an inefficient use of land. What specific policies and regulations would you suggest to reduce urban sprawl?

A. I disagree with the premise of this question. Controlled density is preferable to unregulated sprawl; however, each of us has an idea of the ideal home place. Forcing high-density living will only accelerate the sprawl problem because outlying land is usually less expensive and some people (like our own hero Daniel Boone) want “elbow room”. Mixed use development of housing and commercial land can help solve some of the problems of sprawl.
Using public and private resources to obtain and conserve natural areas and green environments around water supplies and to provide public land where no development is allowed should be encouraged.


City Council Planning Meeting/Jan. 2006

FIRST POSTED JAN. 2006 - Has Anything Changed ?

From notes and observations of the City Council meeting to plan the City Council Retreat:

From the meeting - not necessarily in this order with my comments in italics:

•Mayor Holliday, City Mgr. Johnson and seven Council Members sat around a big table in the Plaza Conference Room (one arrived a little late). New Mayor Pro-tem was absent. A few staff members and some media folks sat around the sides of the room.

•Mayor Holliday at one end of table, Peg Carlson, facilitator at other end of table. Several plates of cookies and some papers were on the table.

•Meeting seemed to be driven by the Mayor and Council discussion. Facilitator mostly made several suggestions, asked a few questions and took notes. She will make a proposed agenda for the retreat using suggestions from the meeting. She seemed very nice and competent.

•Mayor started off the meeting with the same old worn out phrases about the city being at a cross roads, facing new challenges and wanting to go forth in an efficient way, yatta yatta yatta.

•Facilitator Carlson, who is an organizational psychologist, asked for council members to suggest themes and objectives for the retreat. She had talked briefly to each council member before the meeting and a had made a list of some suggestions for discussion that had been mentioned in those conversations. She wanted to know what issues Council Members feel strongly about.
SOME WERE: Strategic Directions, Long Term Goals, Focus on Issues as a Team, Background Information from staff and city manager, Budget/Bond Issues, Transit, Briefing Sessions, Budget Process, Trends information (What is Trends Information?) and Open-Minded Discussions.

•Mayor Holliday said that everybody knows we need a bond referendum and that we need to know what is essential and what is non-essential for the city to provide with bonds. He is also big on public/private partnerships. In talking about general debt obligtions he asked (I assume a retorical questions because he got no answer) "Are we dedicated to a Bond Issue?"

•There was some discussion about lessons learned from the 2000 Bond Issues and from previous Budget Planning Sessions. Councilwoman-at-large Gatten thinks that some bonds did not pass because there wasn't enough time to educate the voters about the issues. (I think that some bonds passed because there was not enough time to educate voters about the issues.) Councilman-at-large (correction - Phillips is the District 3 Representative, Sorry. He was an at-large member until the last election). Phillips said that the budget and bonds should be talked about at the end of the meeting if there is time. Councilwoman-at-large Yvonne Johnson wants to know more about where Economic Development Money goes. Phillips also suggested that for each item on a bond referendum there should be an explanation such as: "If I vote yes my taxes will be this much more and a time line for the increase." City Mgr. Mitch Johnson quickly responded that not all bond issues increase taxes, but he gave no examples of this happening.

•Tom Phillips suggested that we set goals first and then talk about financing them. He also said later in the meeting that "My concern is being told why we can't." He wants to be told "how can we do this, not here's why you can't." He also suggested that sometimes council members are given quick answers by the staff just to make them go away.
(my thought on this is that's the same thing some council members do to the public)

•Florence Gatten and Tom Phillips voiced concerns that most council briefing sessions are primarily presentations and are not driven by the council. Others agreed that the format for briefing sessions should be discussed at the retreat.

•Yvonne Johnson and Mayor Holliday had a discusion about putting goals into boxes of long-term, mid-term and short-term. Councilperson Johnson also suggested that the retreat should be about, "sharing our ideas about what we want our city to be" and the budget should be discusses at a later date. She thinks that talking about the budget too much can discourage real visions from being expressed.

•District 5 Councilperson Sandy Carmany said that the Budget is the Tool for Obtaining the Goals, so the goals should come first. District 2 Councilperson Goldie Wells agreed.

•Tax Increases, Annexation, Fire, Police, Waste Disposal and other essential services were mentioned as topics for discussion at the retreat.

•City Manager Johnson talked about the city's capacity to provide essential services, and also told the council that changing the way things are done will mean more work and more time spent by the council and possibly more meetings. He also said that he has heard from the council that the city needs to be more "neighborhood centric" and that one size does not fit all.

•Goldie Wells suggested that District 2 needed a higher level of services than some districts and that "Richer" Districts could share some of their resources with "Poorer" Districts. Mike Barber, District 4 Representative suggested that was a philosophical topic and could be discussed at another time. (But it actually prompted a discussion which I found to be probably the most interesting part of the meeting.)

There was a conversation about how well each council member knows the other members of the council and how much each council member actually knows about the needs of each district. (I believe that the best thing that might possibly come out of this retreat is that council members will have time to talk to each other on a personal basis and discuss things in a way that they have not done before.)

Apparently in the mock search for a new City Manager the Council got some insight about how things are done in other cities. District 1 Councilwoman Diane Bellamy-Small said that in some search sessions, "y'all put us in those little groups and made us talk."

Some other stuff happened, but I have listed the things that I found most interesting and important.

The City Council Retreat is planned for Friday, January 27, 9am-9pm and Saturday, January 28, 9am-4pm.

From my observations I think that the theme for the retreat will be Changing the Way the City Council Does Business by sharing visions, having open dialogs about needs assessments and learning more about each other. Ms. Carlson, the facilitator, put it this way: "Where to go without being constrained by the way things were done in the past."

I have High Hopes.
Just received an e-mail from the Nature/Gardening Programs at the Kathleen Clay Edwards Library
1420 Price Park Dr., 373-2923

There are many programs offered for adults and children. Some outdoor programs during the winter when many of us had rather stay indoors look interesting.

Two of the INSIDE programs that interest me are:

Solar Living
Saturday, January 21st, 2:00 – 3:30 p.m.
Learn about solar design and construction.
Jane Lewis will share photos of her off-the-grid solar home. Anita Shaver will show photos of her passive solar designed home which was largely constructed by the Shavers with design assistance from the NC Solar Center. (For more about the NC Solar Center and solar housing)

Sustainable Business Luncheon<
Friday, February 17th  Noon – 1:30 p.m.
Hear from area businesses who can turn a profit and use innovative ways to be environmentally sustainable.
Mylinda Jacobsen from Envision Plastics will share information about plastics recycling and the packaging industry and sustainable business practices utilized by Envision Plastics. Please e-mail to register to attend this program and luncheon,

To receive a regular e-mail for nature/environmental programs:

Good Soup, Good Wishes

Laurie over at is really an inspiration for me to cook up some good stuff. She had another good sounding soup on her site today.

Lowell doesn't like my homemade soups. (Not that he has ever (well maybe once) tasted one. Maybe one day he will decide to try one of my soups. After all, we have only been married a little over 46 years. It's never too late.

Last night for supper, we ate soup. He had Campbell's Vegetable and I had my homemade Turkey, Bean, Carrot with Cabbage, soup. We both enjoyed our own brand of warm, satisfying soup.

Today I made a pecan pie. Some of our children are coming to eat Hopin' John tonight. My son-in-law, who is a converted yankee, is bringing the collards. I will make cornbread and candied yams and probably some other stuff.

I have a cake in the oven. I used one of my mother's recipes. It was just about my favorite cake that she used to bake. I miss her still. She died in 1991 and my dad died in March of this year.

All in all, my family had a good year. Better than most people around the world can even hope for. What a wonderful life!

Happy New Year. Happy 2006 to you all. See ya at the blogs.