First Big Hurdle Tonight:

TargetOkay, the picture pretty much says it. The City’s said it much more precisely, but the deal is that a Super Target and associated stores could be reasonably expected to generate about $60M in sales in Oak Ridge.

That’s a lot of money for our schools, but it’s about more than money. It’s about making our town more desirable, both for ourselves, and for others who may be moving into the area.

As AT said so well, we have to shop somewhere, and what we have locally clearly isn’t enough.

Here’s hoping that City Council says AYE to the first step in this process tonight.

I recognize that means there will likely be a petition drive for a referendum, and I don’t know whether GBT and Target would stick it out until June 5.  They’ve already invested a lot of time and money, which it seems would go to waste for naught if they walked away.

Trouble is, their option on the land expires on April 15.

I’d rather have no referendum, but if we must, I hope at least to retain hope of this development going forward.

Anniversary 1

Forgot to mention: today marks one year of posting. Welcome!

Wow — there was even a gift: a link from the venerable AC Kleinheider.  Have to admit that he’s probably right about scattering the primaries out more, rather than less.   I just don’t like the idea of the whole thing being perceptually decided before some get to vote.

Of Primary Importance

Tennessee’s Republican and Democrat party chairmen have found an issue they agree on — and they’re working on it together, the City Paper reports.

They want to make our Presidential Primary earlier, so that Tennessee voters have a greater say in the outcome. The states with the earliest primaries or caucuses really have more influence, because some of the candidates inevitably drop by the wayside after losing the early contests.

The downside though, is that maybe the field of candidates is winnowed too soon, leaving the two major party contenders to duke it out for too long in the post-primary season. It invariably gets ugly, and people are left wondering if they really have the best set of choices.

Can someone remind me why we don’t just have one nationwide primary day for the presidential election? Is it to allow the candidates to devote more individualized attention to smaller states like Iowa, New Hampshire, or Tennessee, rather than just hanging out in New York, California, and Texas?

We’ve all seen the problems associated with calling election results before the polls close; how is this nutty, staggered primary system any different?

Weekend Wrap

Gamma-JrSince Fat Tuesday approaches and we really can’t be hanging out late on a weeknight, we kinda-sorta had a taste of Mardi Gras last night.

Gamma and her godbrother (who doesn’t have a cool blog name yet, but soon will) posed in front of the Mardi Gras tree…

mudbugsas the mudbugs contemplated an escape. They were unsuccessful, and promptly devoured.

snowhouse This morning brought a peaceful scene, which made for a lovely drive to an uncrowded church service.

In the sermon, our minister told a funny story of a young bride who hadn’t reviewed their wedding vows prior to the ceremony, and when it came to the part about promising to obey, the bride faltered… whereupon the minister quickly resumed the ceremony.

I sat trying to contain my laughter, remembering that I had Cal Maas, who married us, take out the word “obey” and substitute “honor.”

I usually obey, except when he’s wrong.  But even when I disobey, I do try to honor him.

He who tames flying monkeys has admitted that a more docile type might not have been the best match.

Blue Screen of Death

It could be much worse, I’m sure, but this problem is getting on my nerves.

BSOD This is only one of many over the last couple of weeks, and I’ve logged most of them.

Contacting Dell Tech Support via e-mail isn’t the fastest way to resolve a problem, but it’s the way that wastes the least amount of my time, allowing me to send the relevant information in writing. And, since it’s not to the point where it’s more than an inconvenience, not wasting my time takes priority over venting frustration to a real person.

Actually, it got escalated to a fairly high level support technician — and one who writes as though English is actually his native language — by the second exchange. That’s pretty darn fine.

The latest has narrowed it down to one of four potential causes:

1) a corrupt operating system;
2) a virus or malware;
3) bad memory;
4) bad hard drive.

Based on this Microsoft Support Bulletin, option 1 looks like a good guess. So, downloading the hotfix should help, except that it doesn’t appear to be available for download; the link points to a phone number for Microsoft to have them send it to me. Calling Microsoft only took me to a message directing me to call my hardware manufacturer.

In programming, this is known as a circular reference, and tends to be fatal. If only it were so in customer service. So, I’ve replied to the Dell tech’s e-mail, asking him to get the hotfix for me.

Having earlier seen a ZDNet warning that a TrendMicro flaw could cause the Blue Screen of Death, I’ve manually updated my virus patterns, run a full system scan, then gone to Symantec to run a second, online scan as a backstop. Both came up completely clean, but I realize that there are new bugs, or variations of old bugs, that aren’t yet in the antivirus patterns. It could be a bug… I have to keep checking all possibilities.

I don’t have any of the usual indications that there’s a memory or HDD problem, so although the Dell rep offered to send out new memory and a new HDD, I’d rather rule out the other two first.

For the hardcore geekiest of you out there, a sampling of the error codes is as follows:

STOP 0x0000007A (0xC0546B08, 0xC0000185,0xA8D61C74,0x07DC0860)
cdfs.sys – Address A8D61C74 base at A8D5E00, DateStamp 41107eb1


STOP 0x0000007A (0xE1D408F8, 0xC0000185, 0xBF916582, 0x36234860)
win32k.sys – Address BF916582 base at BF800000, DateStamp 43446a58


STOP: 0x0000007A (0xC07BAE90, 0xC0000185, 0xF75D2000, 0x26662860)
mountmgr.sys – Address F75D2000 base at F75CD000 Datestamp 41107b05


STOP: 0x00000077 (0xC0000185, 0xC0000185, 0x00000000, 0x00ABE000)


STOP: 0x000000F4 (0x00000003, 0x8628E8E8, Ox8628EA5C, 0x805D117A)


STOP: 0x000000F4 (0x00000003, 0x86049340, Ox860494B4, 0x805D117A)


STOP: 0x000000F4 (0x00000003, 0x861A3368, Ox861A34DC, 0x805D117A)


STOP: 0X0000007A (OxC07B9C48, 0xC0000185, 0xF7389DAD, 0x2BD50860)
ntfs.sys – Address F7389DAD base at F7334000 Datestamp 41107eea

# 0xC0000185 (which appears several times) signals a STATUS_IO_DEVICE_ERROR, caused by improper termination or defective cabling on SCSI devices, or two devices attempting to use the same IRQ. Well, this lappy doesn’t have any SCSI devices… so that’s a bit baffling.

Hope that hotfix arrives soon.

Higher Ed

The Commercial Appeal this morning covers a new approach to developmental (remedial) courses in our state’s community colleges and universities.  I was shocked, however, at the opening statement:

More than half of all students who enter college in Tennessee are not academically prepared and require at least one remedial course, according to the Tennessee Board of Regents. The problem is growing.

Further down, the article clarifies that 70% of the students enrolled in remedial courses are at community colleges, which is really the appropriate place for such instruction.  Given the increase in enrollment in our universities due to the lottery scholarship, most of the state’s  4-year programs can be more selective in their admissions process.

The News-Sentinel reports this morning that one-third of UT’s applicants last year carried a 4.0 GPA in high school.  Some with a GPA as high as 3.5 were turned away.  At the same time, enrollment is up — so we’re getting not only more students into college, but more of the most able students are staying in-state.

There is a place for developmental coursework, which may be particularly necessary for people who start or return to college after several years in the workforce.  However, technology should be utilized wherever possible to assist in the remedial instruction, since it ought to be a refresher course for anyone enrolled.

Assuming it’s true that the skills for college-readiness and workforce-readiness are the same (as oft-stated by Gary Nixon, Executive Director of the State Board of Education), high schools are going to have to improve the delivery of instruction in the areas where remediation is most needed.  Usually, that’s math; sometimes English.  In order to do so and still graduate these students in four years, it seems rational that some of the currently required courses (wellness, for example) should be waived for those needing additional instruction in a college-readiness area.

The good and the bad

By now, many who know me in real life have figured out my secret.

goldstar goldstargoldstargoldstarFor four days (and 47 minutes) I have been smoke-free. But please, don’t treat me any differently than before. I don’t want any special accommodations.

I live in the real world, and in the real world, some people do smoke. I will NOT become an anti-smoker nazi, and I will not harass other people for smoking – in my presence or otherwise. If someone wants to quit for their own reasons, I’ll be supportive – but I won’t nag anyone who doesn’t ask my advice.

Truthfully, once I get a few weeks behind me, it is very likely that I will occasionally enjoy a big, fat cigar with a fine single-malt scotch. Since I quit for a year once before, I remember the good things: food will taste better; I don’t have to go stand in the cold several times a day (I haven’t smoked in my own house for 11 years); I won’t waste $90/month on something unproductive; I won’t have to be an outcast in public, hiding outside the door. Some of the lines on my face will soften. I can carry a smaller purse — or maybe not carry one at all.

I also remember the bad parts: my sense of smell will come back, and there are a lot of people out there who just smell bad. It’s likely that I will struggle not to regain that 30 pounds that I gained last time, which made me feel like my skin was too tight. I just hope that I can keep the bitchiness at bay, because that’s what bothered me the most. I just didn’t even like myself anymore — even a year later.

In case you’re wondering, I didn’t quit for my health (which is just fine, thank you very much). I quit because it’s inconvenient, because I’m tired of being an outcast, and because I can find better uses for the time and money that I used to spend on that habit.

This country is changing though, and I’m not at all comfortable with our movement toward a nanny state.

Next time you stop at a Golden Corral (especially the one on Clinton Highway), count the number of adults under 300 pounds – the last time we were there, it was limited to our family, and the place was packed.

This year, it’s banning smoking in “the workplace.” How long before obesity is targeted? Diabetics who eat things they shouldn’t? People who don’t eat their vegetables?

I know you don’t believe me now, but just watch and see. We seem to be forgetting what it means to be the land of the free and the brave.

Falsely Accused

On Sunday, I wrote rather harshly of Sen. Jamie Woodson’s sponsorship of a bill that would abolish the BEP Review Committee. I also e-mailed Sen. Woodson, and yesterday received her response (which I will post in its entirety if she gives me permission to do so).

It seems that I falsely accused her of filing this bill because she didn’t like the outcome of the BEP Review Committee’s recommendations this year. However, she informed me that she sponsored the bill in the Senate at the request of Rep. Winningham, her counterpart (Chair of the Education Committee) in the state’s lower house. Apparently, it is common practice for the chairs of respective committees to sponsor each other’s legislation in the other house.

I admit that I didn’t know that. Naively perhaps, I thought that one only sponsored bills that one actually supports.

Sen. Woodson said that the bill will open a legislative conversation about whether the current method of advisement on education funding is the right one, and I agree that that is a conversation that might be useful. What I do not know — and do not want to speculate on at this point — is whether she feels that TACIR (specifically, Harry Green, the executive director of that body) is sufficiently unbiased to develop a new formula on system-level fiscal capacity.

I do agree that a system-level model would be more accurate in determining the fiscal capacity of local governments with school districts. However, I also recognize that local governments compete for growth on the basis of local tax rates, and that my city is in a disadvantage in that regard because of the money we put into education. For the State to make up the difference in those communities (ahem, Knox County) that could tax themselves at a higher rate but choose not to, is equally wrong.

I do hope to continue this discussion, as I believe that the answers can be found.

Why do we do that?

Women are pretty bad about scaring each other with tall tales and horror stories, when it seems we should be a little more supportive.

From 1988 to 1994, I was either pregnant or toting an infant virtually all of that time, and I think I’ve heard every possible rendition of the terrors of labor and childbirth, not making it to the hospital in time, etc. From my experience, it’s not nearly as traumatic as the storytellers painted it (although I do have a friend who delivered her third child in the bathtub, quite by accident. Mom and baby were both fine.).

Although everyone’s experience is unique, for me, childbirth was not even close to the worst thing on the pain scale. It wasn’t as bad as a migraine, and I’ve survived a number of those.

This morning, I went in for my first mammogram, and the technician seemed very anxious to dispel the myths and stories to put me at ease. No need really; I wasn’t worried. In retrospect, it’s nothing to fear — it’s less of an issue than getting your teeth cleaned.

The only bad part is that the machine is cold — but that’s not a big deal.

* * *

goldstar goldstarBTW, I’ve earned two gold stars this week for another healthy endeavor… Daco knows, RealtorChick knows, but I’m keeping it quiet for a bit longer for the sake of good luck. It just seems unfair that just about the time I finally get around to healthy self-improvement, I caught that awful cold that’s going around.

Grrrr… Traffic Lesson

Either folks on the road between 4-6 p.m. are substantially less intelligent than most, or common sense and courtesy just goes on strike at that time.

TrafficLesson Where Illinois Avenue meets the Turnpike, there are TWO left-turn lanes. Those needing to turn left can only do so during a green arrow on the traffic light.

The red cars are in the rightmost left-turn lane, and will turn into the right lane on the Turnpike. The blue cars are in the leftmost left-turn lane, and will turn into the left lane of the Turnpike.

The green arrow in the picture shows where the lanes split off, and behind that point, it’s unlikely that any of the cars will get to turn during the relatively brief green arrow turn signal.


The little yellow car would like to turn left, wouldn’t mind a bit to be in the left lane, but can’t get into the leftmost left-turn lane because all the red cars are blocking the entrance to the nearly empty side of the left turn lanes.

Why? If there’s plenty of room in one of the lanes and almost none in the other, why not move over and make efficient use of the available left turn lanes?

The lady in the little yellow car is getting pretty angry as she watches the light cycle through, missing the whole thing, as the left lane sits empty. Not a good way to end the day.