Miss Ruth moves away

Miss Ruth Gartrell poses with the Turner family, February 2016.

Miss Ruth Gartrell poses with the Turner family, February 2016.

I knew the day would ome day come and about two weeks ago it did: the day our wonderful next-door neighbor “Miss Ruth” Gartrell moved away. Her once-bustling home is now empty and it makes me sad.

We first found out about her impending move over New Year’s when a for sale sign appeared in her yard. She told me that she was unable to keep up with her large home the way she used to and also felt she should move back to California where she could be closer to more of her family. A few months then went by before her packing began in earnest and one morning about two weeks ago she and her family left for good.
Contine reading

The mystery of place memory

Yesterday, I was leaving my desk for a meeting when I realized I had my high-tech, shiny Macbook Pro in one hand and a low-tech notepad in the other. There was no reason I needed a notepad when I had my laptop and yet it didn’t seem right not to attend a meeting without it.

After pointing out my absurdity to my coworkers for a laugh, I pondered how writing something down with a pencil or pen seems to strengthen my recall of it. I could easily type whatever I’d be jotting down and do it much faster with a computer, yet I’m certain I would not retain it as well as if I had used a pen or pencil.

Watching my dog make his rounds to all of the neighborhood pee spots got me thinking of how a dog’s world must be organized. Smells act as a dog’s map. If a dog finds a treat somewhere in the house, the dog will continually check that spot long afterward. Even if that treat was there only once. Dogs seem to create memories based on place (and reinforced with one of the strongest memory-making senses, the sense of smell).
Contine reading

Russia’s military rejects U.S. criticism of new Baltic encounter | Reuters

The USS Donald Cook (DDG-75) was buzzed earlier this week by a pair of Russian SU-24 Fencer bombers as the Cook transited the Baltic Sea. The Fencers flew an attack profile and flew within 100 feet (and some say within 30 feet) of the Cook in what the Cook skipper CDR Charles Hamilton called an unsafe and unprofessional manner.

While the incident was unusually unsafe, this kind of response from Russia is no surprise. Russia has long been irked by the U.S. Navy’s stubborn insistence on exercising its right of free passage through international waters, including the Baltic and Black Seas near Russia’s coast. Russia has a history of aggressively challenging the U.S. Navy as it operates in these areas, behavior which has sometimes resulted Contine reading

How I almost invented Wikipedia

Wikipedia Logo

Wikipedia Logo

I sold one of my domain names this month, reliablesources.com. I had that domain longer than I’ve had kids, registering it on 17 January 2000. Two months ago the domain became old enough to drive.

I remember just where I was when I decided to register the domain. I was in my entrepreneurial phase at the time, working with some extremely talented friends at NeTraverse and while I was on a business trip to Austin I dreamed up what I thought would be an innovative website.

I was a regular reader of the Slashdot (which was recently sold) nerd news website back then and was intrigued by its “karma” system of ranking posts. I wanted to apply this karma ranking to the people in the news, giving users the ability to rank what someone in the news says based on that person’s known credibility.

It was inspired by President Bill Clinton’s time in office. The Office of the President carries a lot of built-in credibility, for instance, so right away you’re going to listen to what the President says. But what if the President is caught lying (i.e., “I did not have sexual relations…”)? That should make one skeptical of whatever that President says, knocking down his or her karma score.
Contine reading

Hillary’s “tough bitch” problem

Democratic Presidential Candidate Hillary Clinton Campaigns In Las Vegas
Hillary Rodham Clinton had some big wins during yesterday’s Super Tuesday primary elections, including North Carolina. Last night, a female Clinton supporter had this today about her on a Facebook thread of a mutual friend:

[A friend] asked me today if I thought HRC could take on Putin. I told him “Oh yeah, she’s one tough bitch. No problem!”

This is precisely my problem with Hillary Clinton, that this would even be a consideration. Clinton’s desire to be “caught trying” often means she skips right over the “speak softly” part to the “carry a big stick” part. The last thing our country needs is a leader far too eager to look tough.

I wore the uniform in the early 1990s and served during Desert Storm. Since then I have cast a jaundiced eye towards unnecessary military adventures with dubious goals and shadowy benefactors. I’ve also become a parent of two kids. Maybe that makes me little more sensitive than others to the possibility of dropping bombs on somebody else’s kids, usually for the benefit of the arms industry, the oil industry, or some other big-bucks special interest group that sees nothing but dollars in destroying foreign people and places.
Contine reading

Does Raleigh make room for innovation?

Now that I’ve lived half of my life in Raleigh I’ve been thinking more about how Raleigh grows. There seem to be two fundamental camps, one that welcomes innovation and the trying of new things, and the other that is very cautious about new things.

I’ve always been the kind who prefers when people play by the rules. But what if the rules aren’t really necessary? What if the rules make a situation worse?

My wife and I recently spent a delightful weekend alone in the City of Savannah. Savannah has long recognized the value of tourism (being a sea town. Duh.) and allows people to carry their open containers of alcohol anywhere they please. Savannah apparently does not have restrictions on outdoor seating at restaurants. Now, I was only there for one weekend but it seemed to me that chaos had not broken out. No souls were apparently lost. In fact, people seemed to be getting along just fine. On the other hand, Savannah does have strict laws against panhandling, which seemed to be respected. Overall, though, Savannah seems pretty laissez-faire about rules and restrictions and it looks like it works for them.

I couldn’t help but think of Raleigh while we walked the streets of Savannah, and how “loosening the reins” and seeing what happens doesn’t really come naturally to Raleigh. It’s like we have to be against something before we can be for it. This does not help to spur the innovation that we need to attract and grow world-changing businesses here. We are more reactive rather than proactive.

I imagine what Raleigh could accomplish if, rather than asking “why?”, instead asking “why not?”

Raleigh’s accent

Some friends were discussing accents the other day. A buddy who was born and raised in Raleigh was told his accent sounded Midwestern. As a Raleigh resident who was raised all over the South, I have to say I don’t hear much of a Southern accent around Raleigh.

Maybe it’s because of the way Raleigh draws residents from all around the country and world. Companies like IBM set up shop here in the early 1960s, bringing new residents in from all over (and particularly the North). As these groups assimilated the accents all blended, too. Raleigh is a melting pot of people and accents. So I suppose one could say that Raleigh does have its own accent but it’s indistinct. Maybe boring. And boring might not be a bad thing.

On a related note, last night I met with a group of very friendly transplants from the North. For all the grief my daughter gives me about suddenly sounding Southern when I’m around my Southern friends, last night I caught myself actually slipping into a New England accent. 🙂