June 2007

The Boat!

Although most of the Ridge’s better read have already been made aware by bloggers here and there that there’s a new boat in town, I, alas, was in Nashville for the maiden voyage. 

Thus yesterday, RealtorChick allowed me the honor of being the first to actually ski behind the beast.  In the "if you’re going to do it, do it right" category, she supplied me with an honest-to-goodness ladies’ slalom ski for this adventure… the first time I’ve ever used a water ski specifically designed for someone like me.

Every idiot knows that there are differences between men and women; smaller feet (usually), lighter weight (usually), lower center of gravity, etc.  I’ll admit that, slipping into the water, it occurred to me that I’ve only water skied about once in the last ten years, though it used to be a several times per week activity for me.  I was sure that I hadn’t forgotten how, but not at all sure that I still have the strength and poise to pull up on the first try.

But I did.

Dang, that’s the boat to ski behind!  With the rope tethered about 6′ off the water in the center, there’s no difference in crossing the wake from one side or the other, as was always an issue in my ancient little tri-hull craft.  The beast of a motor will put out enough horsepower to go far faster than I was willing to try being as out of practice as I was, but I can still lean out and skim the fingers of my left hand across the water. 

We also planted the idea with the nice folks at the Flatwater Grill that they should prepare for a brisk dockside to-go business; we were the first to have our order delivered to the water, and yum, it was tasty.

Thanks, PunkHP and RealtorChick.  I’ve never known luxury like that on the water.

Car Stuff

Delta raced her little car today — it went straight up the ramp, not touching either side, and made it all the way to the top.  That alone puts her in an elite class of racers today.

I don’t know whether she’ll place, but this IS nationals, and it’s her first year in TSA at all.  That  she completed four events is an accomplishment by itself.  I hope that her enthusiasm is not diminished if she goes home without a trophy (which will likely be the case); I hope that I can convey the purpose of this event, which is experimentation and learning.

However, the fact that she received several compliments from the judges lifted her spirits quite a bit.  We learned this morning that they didn’t finalize in Cyberspace… and don’t know why.  That’s one of the things this organization could do better — to provide some sort of feedback to the kids so they know what someone else did better, so they understand what to improve next time.

Even the Transportation event (the little car pictured) isn’t judged on time trials alone; there’s also a notebook which constitutes 60% of the point value. 

In any case, it’s been both fun and educational.  And, since this morning’s BEP Review Committee meeting was canceled (with no notice to us), at least I got to be here to watch the races.

The Long Wait

Most of the competitive events here at the TSA National Conference have a finalists process, given the huge number of students (about 4,500) involved.  Generally, the finalists’ lists have been posted within a few hours of the event, so that students may arrange their schedules accordingly.  For example, if a team makes the top 10 through judging of their display and notebook, they then go on to an interview process where the judges ask them questions about their entry.

The event that I coach, Cyberspace Pursuits, is a web design challenge.  The kids spent most of the school year building and perfecting a web page about their TSA chapter; the page was uploaded to the www and the URL e-mailed to the event coordinator about six weeks ago.  It’s my understanding that the judging was supposed to take place two Saturdays ago… but something is wrong.  The results aren’t posted yet… and they’re the only team that isn’t.

Trouble is, the interview is scheduled for 11:30 today, but several of the kids have conflicts — two of the three on the team have conflicts beginning at noon.  IF they make the finals, they would have to be there for the interview promptly at 11:30, skip lunch, and go on to their next events.  At this point though, we have no idea whether there’s a conflict or not.

I won’t even be here to shuttle them between events, as I’m taking advantage of being here in Nashville to attend a BEP Review Committee meeting today with one of our new City Council members, Charlie Hensley.  It’s very nice to have City Council members interested in education issues, so I’m not going to pass up the opportunity to show him around.

Keep your fingers crossed for these kids.  There’s some serious competition around, but it would be nice to make the finals so they have the experience of the interview process.  Most of my team are 6th and 7th graders, so they’ll have another opportunity next year… but we’re still hoping for the best.

The Lightshow

One of the many wonders of the Opryland Hotel is the "dancing waters" show in the "Delta" section of the hotel. I didn’t bring a tripod, but managed to capture a halfway decent shot by balancing my camera on the bricks.

Today was a day to oversee the kids getting their exhibits set up, get everyone registered for the competition, and generally make sure all the last-minute details (like going out for duct tape) were managed.

Tomorrow starts the convention and competition in earnest; after the opening session, little Delta has two written exams, 90 minutes each, back-to-back. She’s not worried in the least.

Back home, it’s a relief to know that some of my favorite people are working on a new project — a fun one — that will give the online community in the Atomic City a new gathering spot. It’s too early for detail, but suffice it to say that the days of our having only one market for the free exchange of ideas is nearly over.

Meanwhile, I’m here watching the next generation of inventors and innovators show off their efforts. That’s pretty cool.

&*@#$%!

In addition to her learner’s permit and some golf accessories, Gamma got a cell phone for her 15th birthday last Sunday. With the freedom and privileges that come with age and responsibility, she’s out without parents or older siblings more often these days.
She’d asked for an MP3 player for her birthday (having been told that she couldn’t have a cell phone until her 16th — a diversionary tactic on my part), so I splurged and got her one with the MP3 player built in. It uses a MicroSD flash card for song storage, which arrived via UPS today.

Every day when she goes to the big municipal pool, I tell her to lock it in the lockers. I’ve made sure she has quarters. And she has, every day, except that after she called me about a quarter of six this afternoon, she just stuck it in her pool bag and jumped back in the water, one last time.

When she came back, it was gone. She found the plastic belt clip two tables away, stuffed under a pile of trash. Her friends dialed the number over and over, wandering all around the pool to listen to it ring, but nothing.

The thieves had left the pool by then — it only takes a minute.

She had it for all of five days.

Signal insurance from US Cellular is a notorious rip-off, so it wasn’t insured. She was warned on Sunday that I will not replace it if it’s lost, broken, or stolen… so it’s a good thing she starts her summer babysitting job next week.

It’ll take her nearly three weeks to earn enough to replace it. That’s a helluva hard lesson — just about all of her summer’s earnings to replace a gift that she had for five days.

Although yes, it was her fault for leaving it unsecured, I’m absolutely fed up with the thieving little illegitimates who’ve taken up residence (or visitation) in our fair town. One of these days, they’re going to steal from the wrong person at just the wrong time, and meet up with a Louisville Slugger (or worse).

Lucky Shot


Leaving the Breakfast Rotary meeting this morning, I noticed a beautiful Blue Heron (I think) in the water.  At the same time I bent down to retrieve my camera from my purse, he ducked under the water, coming up with breakfast just as I brought him into focus.

Sort of puts a different spin on an otherwise ordinary summer day.

Fair Warning:

Yet another of my offspring have attained that Holy Grail Dixie Cup of teenagerdom: the official, state-sanctioned learner’s permit.

A few months ago, we purchased the Tumormobile with the purpose of it being the car that Gamma will learn to drive, as well as the one that she will drive once attaining the official license next summer. Henceforth, it will be known as the Mousemobile, though it still bears the BlueBerryFarm URL on the back window — a tradition that will continue simply because I think Damama and Bisc are a couple of cool folks who raised some really good kids, so I don’t mind advertising for them.

We’ll be beginning driving lessons this afternoon, so you might want to stay clear of the ORHS parking lot.

I admit to having a bit of fun tormenting her on the way to Clinton, noting that she’d studied so little that she was bound to be the first of our family to flunk a driving test — written OR road. That said, her father does still hold the record in his hometown as being the only one to ever put the driver’s ed car on two wheels — WITH the instructor inside.

I hope Gamma would never do such a thing.

UPDATE:

Okay, the Volvo must have the most forgiving clutch on earth.  She only killed it twice — and both times not trying to start moving, but forgetting to clutch when stopping.  We lapped the ORHS parking lot enough to wear some new grooves in the pavement, then made a left turn onto  North Tulane, another left onto Providence Road (behind the high school), and parallel parked (okay, we were the only car, but still…) in front of the pool, where she got out and went on her merry way.

Perhaps tonight, we’ll head out to Horizon Center to drive the wide, smooth vacant roads.

Liveblogging the New Council

Mosby moves the election of Mayor and Mayor Pro Tem to the beginning of the meeting; it was seconded, and passed.

Paper ballots were filled out and collected; Golden votes for Golden; Smith for Beehan; Miller for Beehan; Mosby for Golden; Hayes for Beehan; Hensley for Beehan. Tom Beehan was elected mayor with four votes.

Ballots were collected for the election of Vice-Mayor: Golden votes for Mosby, Smith for Mosby, Miller for Miller, Mosby for Mosby, Hayes for Miller, Hensley for Miller. Following the 3-3 tie, a second round of ballots were collected.

On the second ballot, Golden marked his own name, then asks to correct it voting for Mosby. The second round of ballots ended up exactly the same; Mosby says they’ll vote one more time, then if the tie is not resolved, the election of Vice-Mayor will be put off until the next meeting when the presence of seven members (Beehan is absent) will break the tie. On the third round, the votes remain at a tie.

Upon clarification by City Clerk Jackie Bernard, Mosby suggests that perhaps they should elect a Mayor Pro Tem just until the next meeting. Tom Hayes moves to cast two more ballots, then to elect a temporary Mayor Pro Tem until the next meeting.

A fourth round of ballots is collected, resulting in exactly the same tie. The fifth ballot is exactly the same tie. A motion to delay the election of Mayor Pro Tem until the next meeting passes unanimously. Mosby entertains a motion by Smith to elect Willie Golden temporary Mayor Pro Tem until the next Council meeting, which passed unanimously on a voice vote. A brief break was called to change seats.

Willis is sworn in as the Mayor Pro Tem until the July Council meeting, and takes the center chair.

Moving back to the agenda from the beginning, Councilman Mosby notes that there are several items to be added: one repealing ordinance #13-06, a resolution on bids and contracts (awarding a $42k contract to a landscape service, and a third that I didn’t get.

Dan Barnett of Blue Ridge Development appears to speak to the rezoning of a parcel in Commerce Park. Their intention is to develop the parcels, or sell them for development similar to the existing businesses in the area. He proposes to rezone a parcel at the corner of Bethel Valley Road and Scarboro Road to provide a convenience store, bank, or other retail and service operations. Charlie Hensley notes that the Planning Commission recommended UB-2 rather than B-2, and asks why the change. Barnett replies that UB-2 is "use on review," which would require extensive review for each individual business. B-2 is a more business-friendly zoning. O’Connor notes that this site does not have access back to the rest of the industrial park.

Tery Mullins, owner of the adjoining property, says that they moved to Commerce Park so that they would be separated from commercial and residential development. He would like to see the adjoining properties remain Ind-1 or Ind-2. Mullins owns all adjoining property. There seems to be a bit of disagreement over whether either party refused to meet with the other. Barnett lists the other developments they’ve done including some along Northshore Drive, Pellissippi Parkway, and others.

Hayes asks if it’s acceptable to mix retail and industrial, but O’Connor replies that Commerce Park is really mixed use — it’s more office than industrial, and it has been rezoned to include one church. Because of the traffic volume and the location of the parcel, O’Connor says they feel that it would not have an adverse impact on Commerce Park.

[It seems to me like a decent opportunity to capture some sales tax revenue… let’s do it!]

Item E, adoption of a resolution authorizing the City’s continuing participation in ETEDA, is removed from the consent agenda by Ellen Smith.

The first reading of the ordinance discussed by Barnett and Mullins comes up for first reading. Ellen asks if the access needs of business use are different from the access needs of industrial use. O’Connor says that the City must provide access from the public road, but also has the right to designate certain limitations, such as right-turn in and right-turn out. The motion passes with only Mosby in opposition.

Hensley moves to move the Youth Advisory Board meeting up, so that the young people present may learn their fates. There are six candidates for five positions. Jasmine McKamey and Ethel Bonner (?) are present, running for the Freshman and Junior representatives, respectively. A tie was reached for the fifth position, between Robinson and Shire, with Hayes, Hensley, adn Mosby voting for Robinson, and Smith, Miller and Golden voting for Shire. A second round of ballots were collected, yielding another tie. Smith moves to postpone the election of this position until the next meeting. Hensley asks if this would pose any hardship. Matt Reedy, YAB representative, notes that they do plan to meet twice before than the next Council meeting. He points out that Ms. Shire has taken the initiative to attend a couple of YAB meetings to familiarize herself with the process, while he has not met Ms. Robinson. Business can continue with a quorum. Golden asks that they vote twice more, and calls the question (to postpone),and the vote tied, meaning that the motion fails. Two more ballots will be taken (if not resolved by one). On the third ballot, they tied again on the same lines. They only have one more piece of paper, and it tied again. Mosby moves to move this election back to the regular place in the agenda, given that neither candidate is present. The motion passed, so it will be moved to later on tonight’s agenda.

An ordinance to amend Title 15, Chapter 5, to allow for speed limits lower than 25 miles per hour based on design speeds and roadway plans. This is intended for some of the new high-density neighborhoods. Streets in Rarity Ridge may be affected. The ordinance passed on first reading.

After approving a grant resolution, Council next takes up adopting a new salary schedule for City employees, designed to keep employees from topping out, and to remain competitive with surrounding market labor rates. Essentially, it just moves the entire salary schedule up 1%, and it passed.

A resolution to purchase the National Guard Armory for not more than $40,000 is next; Girls Inc. and the Kennel Club have expressed interest, but it is the City’s jurisdiction to dispose of the property as they see fit. O’Connor’s plan is to transfer the property with full restitution (so one or both entities would purchase it from the City). If sold to a nonprofit, the City could build in a restriction saying that if the nonprofit(s) ever decided to sell the property, the City would have right of first refusal, for the same price as sold to the nonprofit. The resolution passed.

The next resolution would appoint a seven-member Charter Review Committee (per the Charter) on July 16, provided that sufficient candidates are available at that time. Rick Chinn, who served as Vice-Chair of the Charter Commission which put this item in place, spoke to the reasoning for putting that provision in place. They put this provision in to allow for housekeeping items, so that future Charter Commissions will not have to spend so much time on aligning the Council with State law. The resolution was approved.

The next resolution authorizes the City to submit a grant application for operating assistance for public transportation (operated by ETHRA). About 5,300 trips per year are taken in the ETHRA van. They don’t have the numbers available on the taxi coupons.

Lastly, the ETEDA resolution (pulled from Consent by Ellen Smith) was reviewed: to pay ETEDA dues in the amount of $26,116 annually — half of which is paid by TVA. Smith asks what relationship ETEDA has to the other economic development organizations — like ETEDA, the Chamber, and others. O’Connor clarifies that some are more Oak-Ridge focused than others. The Oak Ridge Economic Parnership is primarily involved in industrial development; the Chamber on business and retail. We work with adjoining economic development entities (Roane Alliance, for example) for joint efforts like tenants for Horizon Center. ETEDA is a sixteen-county effort. JobsNOW! is another arm of the 16-county region — sort of a marketing/branding entity. After much discussion, the motion passed unanimously.

A contract for tree-trimming was approved for $856,543.03 to Seelbach & Company, the lowest & best bid. Their price is 69% of the next lowest bid, probably because they already have the people and equipment in place. Smith notes that EQAB has fielded a lot of complaints about the tree-trimming, and that Seelbach is less interested in "retail" customer service — making the homeowners happy, rather than the electric department. Nonetheless, it was approved unanimously.

Diversified Service Industries was awarded a mowing contract for $115,837.60 for Parks & Recreation. They were the sole bidders. Since the work is seasonal, it’s hard to hire (and train) the personnel to perform the service. They’ve done the work for 22 years, which may be why there was only one bidder.

A second contract to Diversified Landscape Industries (part of the same company) was awarded for litter pick-up. A 10-minute break was called. I’m going home.

 

Justice

Mike Nifong has been disbarred.  A fit ending for a man who pandered to the worst of racial politics when he buried evidence of non-guilt in his quest to hang three white college boys in a town where there’s some feeling of resentment on the part of the minority townspeople toward the more affluent student population.

It was political pandering at its worst.

I’m glad he can’t do the same to anyone else.

Gas Savvy

Trying to keep track of the best gas prices — within my normal driving range — has become challenging, but I found a neat tool to help in that quest: GasBuddy. There’s not a lot of monitoring in Oak Ridge yet, but two of the four stations that usually have the lowest price are on there. When I go out next, I’ll add Eddie Hair Firestone and the BP across from First Methodist.

What Gas Stations Won’t Tell You (smartmoney.com) was an interesting read, too. I’d always wondered why two stations of the same brand within just a few miles of each other could have dramatically different pricing — the best example being the Weigel’s on the west end of the turnpike, and the Weigels on Hwy. 58 near the I-40 on-ramp: gas is nearly always 7-10 cents cheaper out by the interstate. Yet, the one in west Oak Ridge is said to be the highest-grossing Weigel’s in the Knoxville area.

Lastly, there is no hard-and-fast rule about grade of gasoline and miles per gallon. On my old Mazda (the one that Alpha fatally overheated last summer), I got enough improvement in gas mileage with premium to save money any time regular gas was above $1.65/gallon (been a few years since I ran that test, obviously). In the Mustang though, there’s no appreciable difference in mileage between grades, and the owner’s manual says to use regular. So, know your vehicle, and save by using what works best for it.

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