June 2007

Local Leadership

I ran across an interesting line in today’s letters to the editor: "Great leaders push their citizens in the right direction and let them figure out how best to get there."

That’s a certain reversal of the way I’ve always thought it works.  By definition, shouldn’t great leaders lead their citizens in the right direction, hopefully having researched some in advance to know how to get there?

It’s a relevant question in the coming days, because on Monday night, City Council will elect from among themselves a mayor and vice-mayor.  As of today, two have declared their interest in the mayor’s job (Beehan and Golden), and two for the vice-mayor’s job (Miller and Mosby).  Unfortunately, Golden — or maybe his head cheerleader — has chosen to play the race card.

This is beneath Willie.  I’d like to think he’s better than such cheap tricks… but what I’d like to think is sometimes more optimistic than reality.

However, now that the race card is on the table, it introduces yet another interesting twist with Mosby’s declaration.  Will the selection of mayor and vice-mayor hinge on trade-offs to ensure that one of the two is selected for a leadership position?

Long-time Oak Ridgers should remember the year that Jerry Kuhaida was elected mayor, where Roy Pruitt experienced an an "et tu, Brute?" moment.

Tom Beehan has the knowledge, experience, and time to ably serve as Oak Ridge’s next mayor, and Jane Miller has the makings of a good understudy for the job.  Monday night should be interesting.

WiFi Willies!

Last week, one of my work-tasks was to set up a wireless network in a client’s new office.  Before I even turned it on though, I was picking up a wide-open Linksys-g signal from somewhere, and the possibilities of where it was coming from were limited to just a couple of places.  I went ahead and set up the office I was working on, then on my way out, knocked on the neighboring office doors to see if I could identify who was leaking free wifi.

No one was home.  All the possible candidates were businesses with an identifiable need for security — the kind of businesses with records they wouldn’t want the public just browsing through.

Today, I was back ironing out the kinks in my client’s print system, and the mysterious free wifi was still broadcasting strong as before.  So, on my way out after straightening out the printer problems, I again knocked on the nearest door.  Someone was home, and verified that indeed they were the office with a problem.

The secretary had no idea how to fix it,  so I paused for a few minutes to walk her through setting up WPA security.  Just about the time I walked away from her computer, my client called — they’d been kicked off the network! 

You know what happened: they were picking up the free wireless from next door instead of their own.  Once the problem next door was fixed, they went offline.  I patched in the proper security code for their network, and all’s well again.

Good deed for the day is done.

*  *  *
You know, I’m completely on board with the need for municipal wireless, and businesses offering free wireless are definitely more likely to have me as a customer than those that don’t.  I’ll choose Panera over Starbucks, Krystal over McDonalds, and any hotel with access over any hotel without, every time.   Hint: the Time Out Deli in Grove Center is going to find me hanging out more often, since AT set them up last week.  Good beer, good food, AND wireless!

But, free wireless as a perk to attract customers is entirely different than just leaving your network open because you don’t know how to secure it.  The latter is dangerous for businesses (or people) that don’t intend to open their network to the world.  There are plenty of folks out there who are both smarter and more devious than myself… and they’ll exploit these weaknesses for fun and profit.

  1. Make sure your router password is not the factory default;
  2. Through your router, turn security (WPA is good) on and use a password that someone won’t guess;
  3. Don’t share anything you don’t have to.

I haven’t practiced any "wardriving" to see just how many open networks there are around here, but I’d be willing to bet we’re not far from having muni-wireless now — just unintentionally.

What to do with the kids:

A blip from Gannett News reminds us that summer break can diminish academic skills, and lists suggestions for avoiding the summer backslide.  I have to admit that I would have written it differently, since their list sounds as "not fun" to me as it would to my kids.

Summer school?  Plan a trip with an educational theme?  Ick.

Summer is a time for kids to kick back and be kids, but that doesn’t mean there can’t be learning or academic exercise involved; as a parent, though, you just shouldn’t make it seem so overt.  Working a child too hard, for too long, can build a resentment toward academics in general, and will backfire.

Younger children in particular are into modeling the behavior of adults.  If my child sees me stretched out in a comfy chair on the deck with a good book, the odds are pretty high that she’s going to look for a book of her own and join me.  We started a long time ago calling that "mom and baby read time," although given that she’s almost as big as I am and has fully grown into my shoes already, she’s hardly a baby.  Still, as the youngest, that’s how she thinks of herself — the baby.  A couple of summers ago I let her get her own library card as a reward for accomplishing some task, and we’d go as often as she needed to stay intrigued.  Last summer, I think she read every book about dragons ever written.

Last weekend when we made a quick trip to DC and back for our niece’s graduation, we took a few hours to tour some of the museums at the Smithsonian.  The lure to Natural History was that we could see the Hope Diamond, but that naturally involved the rest of the gems and minerals exhibit, as well as a cruise through the dinosaur bones.  It certainly wasn’t planned as an "educational trip," but we worked in as much educational activity as anything else. 

A few years ago, a leisurely trip to the beach brought us the opportunity to see the baby sea turtles hatch.  The kids spent hours that night scooping up the baby turtles who crawled toward the beach houses, carrying them to the water’s edge, and beating back more than a few sand crabs trying to get the baby turtles.  While there, we made a trip to an estuarium, where they could learn more about the sea turtles, as well as about the jellyfish we unfortunately encountered.

Math is one skill that does need refreshing over the summer, but it shouldn’t seem like a chore.  Fractions are easily worked into cooking or baking, geometry into building things, and there are an abundance of computer games and puzzles that are math-based, but seem like games.  Sudoku is a favorite around here (and the geometry teachers at ORHS regularly assign these puzzles as homework).

Scrabble and Boggle are a couple more family games that are definitely academic skill-builders, but also seem more like games than study.  Yet, they build vocabulary, spelling, and arithmetic skills.  You’d be amazed how quickly a child can multiply  in her head when putting a word with a "Z" in it on a 3X tile in Scrabble!

Everyone needs a break, and summer is the time for relaxed schedules and more family fun time.  There’s no reason for it to seem like work.

Joys of Summer

With school and the election now behind us, the simple summer pleasures are setting in:

  • Cucumber salad for lunch
  • Reading just for fun (currently, The Wrong Hostage — $3 for the hardcover library edition at Books a Million)
  • Listening to the music of my youth on my little gadget — Heart, Genesis, Styx, the Eagles, Kansas, etc. — and having 14-year old Gamma remark that these oldies are better than the current stuff.

BTW, all of those tunes were purchased; I don’t want to hear from Whitey McNoDownLoady, even though I do tend to agree with AT that the industry needs to update itself and that peer-to-peer sharing is nothing more than the "geeky man’s civil disobedience." For some of us, it’s even more innocuous: if I already own the vinyl, why can’t I have it in a format that works on the different entertainment-delivery devices that I use?

In a single day at the pool, Gamma deepened her tan to surpass that which I’d acquired (unwillingly, by the way) over three weeks of campaigning in the sun. She has her father’s skin.

Speaking of entertainment, there’s an excellent bit of cinematic art posted on YouTube by a young lady who hits at the heart of what’s probably the only thing wrong with Oak Ridge. Watch, and think about it.

Now Breathe…

Everybody: just breathe.  No more speeches, no more waving of signs, no more antagonism — at least for a little while.

As AtomicTumor said last night: "Time to take the freaking signs down now."

I spent the late morning and early afternoon taking down my signs — feeling intensely grateful that I only put up a hundred or so, as opposed to the thousand that some candidates put out.  I ran into Ray Evans at my first stop (Glenwood Elementary), where he was finishing up his sign collection, having started about 6:30 this morning.  Tom Hayes must have gotten an early start too, because there were precious few of his left anywhere in town.

My sign man still has the list of signs in people’s yards, but those I could remember to check were mostly already down.  I took the ones that weren’t, and hope that everyone else who has one will just put it away.

*  *  *  *  *
HWTFM was (being a numbers geek, much like yours truly) intensely interested in knowing how many people cast single-shot votes in the City Council race.  Given that he hangs with a slightly different crowd than I do in his civic activities — much more in touch with the environmentalists than I am — it seems he’d heard quite a bit about a single-shot undercurrent.

6,414 people voted; there were 16,304 votes cast in the City Council election, leaving an average of 2.5 votes cast in that race per voter.  There’s no way to assess how many cast only one vote, since some may have voted only for two… but it’s enough of a discrepancy for me to believe that there was some of that going on.  In the school board race, the average was 1.6 votes cast per voter.
*  *  *  *  *
Early voting hit a new record this year: 3,005 of 6,414 (46.8%).  However, it was only a 32.6% voter turnout — perhaps high for city election standards, but dismally low overall in my opinion.

For the rest of the day, I will take my kids to the pool, read a book, and prepare a nutritious home-cooked meal for my family — something they haven’t had much of lately.  It’s good to be back to normal.

Commencement

Delta asked today what commencement means; she knew it was the end of something, but also that it literally means "beginning."

That’s sort of what I feel like tonight was — the end of a reasonably short but rigorous campaign, yet the beginning of a brand new four-year term.  When this term ends, I’ll have only one child left in K-12.

To each of you who voted, wrote a letter, prodded or encouraged me along the way, put up signs, and everything else — thank you very much.  It’s humbling, and I owe you all.

Now, a bit of sleep is in order.

Election Sunrise

Today is the last day: I’m thoroughly ready to go back to being wife, mother, and friend instead of "the candidate."

There was a little problem last night with my signs "falling over" — yes, the ones on a big wooden stake that SignMan drove into the ground with a sledge — so I made another trip to all the precincts early this morning to make sure they’re all still up.  They are.

While making my rounds, I heard on the radio that the 42-cent cigarette tax finally cleared the house last night (I had been listening to the debate for hours, but went to bed before they finished), and is on it’s way to the Governor’s desk.

In summary, the BEP 2.0 legislation passed the House and Senate last week, and now the funding mechanism has passed both houses, meaning that positive education funding reform is just a signature away.  And, since both were the Governor’s proposals, that signature is a sure thing.

Driving home to get ready to spend the day at the polls, it occurred to me: win or lose this evening, I’ve accomplished some things to be proud of in these last four years.  I’ve learned, I’ve taught, and I’ve built relationships both within the city and across the state that give me both joy and insight. 

I will be happy when this day ends, and however it ends, I have no regrets.

Election Day Tomorrow

For those who didn’t take advantage of early voting, election day is tomorrow for the City of Oak Ridge.  Polls will be open from 9 a.m. – 7 p.m., at precinct locations as follows (courtesy of the Oak Ridger)

• Emory Valley: Jefferson Middle School cafeteria

• Glenwood: Glenwood Elementary School entry foyer

• Hendrix Creek: Senior Center’s large meeting room

• Highland View: Children’s Museum gymnasium

• Oak Ridge City Hall: City Hall’s administration entrance

• Pine Valley: School Administration Building’s gymnasium

• Robertsville: Robertsville Middle School front lobby

• West Hills: Linden Elementary School gymnasium

• Woodland: Woodland Elementary School’s fourth-grade wing atrium

• Oak Hills/Lawnville (all Roane Co. Oak Ridgers): Oak Ridge Country Club’s meeting room

The Oak Ridge Observer published their endorsements at the beginning of early voting, and re-ran the information last Thursday (so it’s still on the newsstands).  The Oak Ridger’s endorsements came out today, and their election tabloid is available online for anyone who’s still undecided.

Early voting turnout topped 3,000 this year; even if the early voting percentage climbs to 50%, that would predict an overall turnout approaching 6,000 voters — very good for a city election, by the usual standards.  It could be somewhat higher.

Without question, Crestpointe has dominated the discussion in this election… even in the school board race.  While I’m grateful that something drove voter interest, I also feel a bit sad that there has to be a divisive issue to drive voter turnout.  But, it is what it is.

Come Wednesday morning, the face of City Council will have changed.  By the end of this month, we will have a new mayor.  We may have approval for the City to go forward with improving retail in Oak Ridge (the referendum is not specific to Crestpointe, and could just as easily be directed to a better proposal if one should emerge), or we may be branded as the city that calls a referendum on everything — making it far more difficult to attract the investors for needed developments.

If you live in Oak Ridge and haven’t already done so, stand up and be counted tomorrow.

Lots to Celebrate

Whomever was in charge of praying for good weather Thursday evening for the ORHS graduation deserves a promotion.  The event was flawless, the rain held off, and the cold front was like natural air conditioning for our outdoor ceremony.

Immediately afterward (well, with minimal dithering to get suitcases packed and loaded, doors locked, pets fed, etc.), we piled in the car and headed for Gaithersburg, Maryland,  for the 10 a.m. Friday graduation of a special niece.
Anniken (right in cap and gown) graduated at the DAR Constitution Hall in Washington, DC.  It was a tough all-night drive to get there in time, but we made it — even with time to get to PJ’s house and change clothes first.

Afterward, we rounded up Beta, Gamma, and Delta, along with Anniken, her friend, and her brother (both of whom live in Michigan, not DC) to tour a museum or two.

The Museum of Natural History was a big hit — dinosaur bones for cousin J. and Delta; gems and minerals that fascinated myself and Gamma, space rocks, and so many other things.  At right, Gamma poses with the T-Rex.

This afternoon, we went to the Air & Space Annex out by Dulles Airport, where there are full-scale planes, space capsules, missiles, and a variety of things far too big to display at the Air & Space museum on the Capitol Mall.

I enjoyed seeing the Enola Gay, and explaining the significance to the kids.

HWTFM and PJ seemed to be cruising through the smaller prop planes picking one out for me.  Yes, I’ve always wanted to get my pilot’s license.  I grew up in with a father who forbade it, then shortly thereafter married a man who forbade it until the kids are grown.

Six more years, and I’m going to do it.

Tonight, we’re headed homeward… but it was a joy to be here for Anniken.  She’s been through a lot, and deserves a great party.

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