Wednesday, 16 August 2017 07:44

Talk of the Towns for Aug. 16, 2017

Blame all around
Talkers can’t pretend to comprehend all the forces and factors that intertwined to trigger the senseless death of a 32-year-old woman in the chaos of Charlottesville, Va., last weekend.

Talkers don’t know the difference between protesters and counter-protesters, unless it’s all just a matter of who started shouting first.

Talkers don’t know how groups formed and encouraged to sing, chant, march and hold signs supporting their particular views about a highly controversial subject deteriorated into opposing forces resorting to, or forced to respond to, violence.

Wednesday, 09 August 2017 08:13

Talk of the Towns for Aug. 9, 2017

Just don’t strain yourself

Talkers know progress comes in many forms, and that most of the projects ever imagined, invented, produced and marketed are targeted toward one common denominator: making human life easier.

Dating back to the wheel, geniuses have devised ways to make survival less stressful, chores less demanding and even exercise less taxing on our bodies and minds. Electricity might have powered mankind into a magnificent manufacturing marvel, but it also allowed men who wanted to enjoy light, heat and cooked food to avoid the hassles of cutting firewood and building fires.

Railroads may have helped connect the country from coast to coast, but they also made it possible to order a dress from the Sears & Roebuck catalog and walk down to the depot to pick up the package in less time than it took to learn to sew.

The steady stream of progress and products has been constant, from canoes to cruise ships, bows and arrows to ballistic missiles, with the objective to make it much easier to do much more with significantly less effort.
So when does it end? What will be the pinnacle of man’s efforts to make the physical aspect of man’s existence superfluous? Pretty deep topic for a Talker, huh, but rest assured this subject would never have been broached if the answer was not securely in hand.

Ladies and gentlemen, that day has come. In one simple device, we have reached the point where all our efforts to basically allow ourselves to waste away in a glob of gooeyness, with nothing but thumbs to punch in our next diversion, have achieved ultimate success. Without further ado, meet the Sock Slider.

The plastic device looks like a cross between a child’s toy microscope and a Pecan Picker-Up-Er (another actual piece of equipment, no joke). Its purpose is to greatly simplify and remove the physical and emotional challenges affiliated with putting on socks. Instead of trying to extend one’s arms all the way down to their feet, a Sock Slider user — it’s not clear whether a Sock Slider grabber comes in the standard package — can place the device on their lap, position the mouth of the sock around the rim of the convenient holder (like a garbage bag around the edges of the container) and then, using the handle to place the device on the ground, simply step into their socks.

And, lo and behold, after the completion of that arduous task, users can then take advantage of the Sock Slider’s “long handle with teeth” as a shoe horn to make another Mt. Everest climb-like task, putting on shoes, less demanding.

Now Talkers know the device is designed for those with injuries or ailments irritated by uncomfortable movements, but Talkers also know those are not the people making the majority of the purchases. If it makes life easier — even trivial parts of life most folks manage to achieve each day without really much effort — there is a buyer eager to own it, and a savvy entrepreneur nearby equipped with the knowledge that nobody every went broke overestimating the laziness of the average human.

But now that the sock dilemma has been resolved (and yes, the Sock Slider can also be used to take the shoes and socks off), Talkers are ready for someone to tackle a real problem. It’s time someone designed a tool that makes the top of the ice cream in a carton look exactly like it did before a few spoonfuls were pilfered. Something like that could really go a long way to assure longer lasting relationships.

Wednesday, 02 August 2017 07:20


The evolution of mankind has made another dramatic leap now that the DNA testing of dog droppings has been implemented to help track down societal deviants who fail to police behind their pets and provide a pristine poop-free path for other folks to follow.

Wednesday, 02 August 2017 07:19

Take my stuff, please

A few Talkers around here are in that stage of their lives when kids have flown the coop and it’s nigh time to enter that glorious next life phase as empty nesters. One Talker in particular has their home on the market and is going through the process of sifting through more than a decade of accumulated stuff as they shift gears from a rather spacious family home to a lovely little ranch built for two.

Although it’s a pretty lively seller’s market at the moment, it’s always a good thing to find that amenity or two that makes one’s home stand out from the others, and this Talker in particular thinks they’ve found it.

Apparently, there is this delightful vortex at the end of their driveway where things no longer wanted and not worth the cost of advertising for sale can be placed — and in no time, they magically disappear.

Too many faded out beach towels from those endless summers at the neighborhood pool? A low-budget computer desk that not even IKEA would put on the market? A massive workbench that’s done nothing but act as a place where useless household items go to die?

No problem. Simply place the unwanted detritus at the end of the driveway, type any description of the items into the subject line on (as long as it begins with the word “FREE”), and darned if those things don’t vanish in a matter of hours — sometimes even minutes.

Neighbors and complete strangers alike seem happy to oblige in the disappearing act by repeatedly taking one Talker’s cast-offs. Hmmm. It’s almost as if they want that Talker gone, pronto.

Wednesday, 26 July 2017 07:10

Talk of the Towns for July 26, 2017

Flat-out fun

Talkers admit to usually having fun with these items and to usually approaching them with the same crystal-clear commitment that one exhibits when berating the neighbor’s rooster for crowing at four in the morning on a Saturday after a late Friday night.

But this one has us stymied, at least a little bit.

It seems the Flat Earth International Conference is: A) a real event; and B) coming to Cary in November.

Tuesday, 18 July 2017 18:19

Talk of the Towns for July 19, 2017

Who did it?

It did seem too funny — or at least too unusual to ignore — to be true (and apparently it was), but the headline-making news that a gassy passenger brought down an American Airlines plane Sunday afternoon does provide Talkers with another opportunity to wag a finger at media types so worried about getting things first, they forget to get them right.

The item was a low-profile part of The Charlotte Observer local news round-up (credited to WBTV) in Monday’s edition, but by mid-morning the national television network talk shows and, of course, the Internet were tooting left and right with renditions of exactly what went wrong on an American Airlines flight forced to rush its passengers down to fresh air in eastern North Carolina.

Tuesday, 11 July 2017 17:24

Talk of the Towns for July 12, 2017

Childbirth anyone?

One Talker eats, breathes and plays tennis, and no doubt pays particular attention to televised major tournaments such as the French Open, Wimbledon and the U.S. Open. Other Talkers are ambivalent about the sport, and at least one believes the golden age of the professional game ended along with the era of John McEnroe, Jimmy Connors, Bjorn Borg and Boris Becker on the men’s side; and Chris Evert, Martina Navratilova and Evonne Goolagong on the women’s. 

Dr. Renee Richards fell somewhere in between there, but we, and possible even she, isn’t quite sure where. Don’t know who that is? Google it.

The homogenous dominance of Sampras followed by Federer in men’s tennis and the failure of anyone to emerge from the muscular shadow of Serena Wlliams in the women’s game, and Steffi Graff before her, contributed to Talkers’ laissez faire attitude toward the sport. 

Or maybe it was something else. 

This past week, with no other sports events other than Wimbledon to serve as background noise were available during the midday, weekday hours, one Talker was reminded of one reason he quit watching tennis. While the men generally go about their matches in the quiet dignity befitting of the sport, the women, on the other hand, loudly grunt, squeal, shriek, screech and otherwise howl with every stroke.

If Talkers wanted that kind of entertainment, they’d surf the dish for the Natural Childbirth Channel.

 A current event

As a general rule, the dismalness of a sweltering July traditionally coincides with a break in “breaking news.” And the fact that many legislative bodies take a prolonged pause in the middle of summer usually enhances that situation as elected officials on their own are much less likely to wreak the type of havoc they do when ensconced among their colleagues in chambers.

But the drawback to the doldrums is that many news organizations find themselves in the desperate position of still having to scream about something that appears startling — often introduced with a self-promoting phrase like “we have learned” (industry code for “somebody told us”) — when, in truth, the “news” they report is anything but to the people who actually know what’s happening.

The “magical emergence” of an “island” off Cape Hatteras along North Carolina’s Outer Banks is one of those summer news-making miracles. Television personalities, including those from local affiliates, a Good Morning America crew and even the Weather Channel’s own legendary posterboy Jim Cantore, have flocked to the fresh land mass posing as modern-day Christopher Columbuses.

But don’t be confused. This isn’t a permanent rock formation spewing to life from an active undersea volcano, it’s a compost heap of sand, shells and sea-life remnants swirled into a temporarily visible pile by the ancient, angry and unpredictable waters that have earned the region it’s reputation as the “Graveyard of the Atlantic.”

It doesn’t mean some enterprising entrepreneur hasn’t already cashed in by marketing “See Shelly Island” T-shirts to the tourists, but rest assured the folks who live there — those who understand the volatile nature of colliding currents and constant waves — view this as absolutely nothing new. It’s sand, bullied, battered and, for now, buffered by the ocean.

It’s a sandbar. As common as dirt. And only in the midst of a real news drought would this age-old interaction between sea and sand be deemed newsworthy.

Monday, 03 July 2017 15:38

Talk of the Towns for July 5, 2017

Silly season

Talkers are sometimes asked why this newspaper doesn’t publish a feature story, announcement, blurb or any other kind of publicity when local folks announce their intent to run for public office. They also wonder why we don’t cover campaigns, such as this upcoming election season running up to this fall’s ballots. It’s simple ... and it’s complicated.

Back in the early days of the Citizen, a bitter battle for the office of mayor of Huntersville ensued between incumbent Jill Swain and sitting Commissioner Brian Sisson. Feature stories of equal significance were published on each, yet throughout the campaign, Swain supporters were convinced the paper supported Sisson and some Sisson supporters accused it of the opposite.

Campaign coverage — unless it’s done correctly — is bad journalism. And it can’t be done correctly in a format with limited space, limited word count and limited capacity.

First, it is the philosophy of Talkers that nobody is a candidate for office until he or she drives to the Board of Elections in Charlotte and officially files, which must occur between July 7 and July 21. Would-be candidates — particularly incumbents — will sometimes announce their intention to run in order to dissuade others from filing and use the media to implement their strategy. Others can announce a candidacy in order to gauge the level of public support for their effort ... and likewise use the media.

It’s virtually impossible, in any format, to provide everyone who announces equal amounts of airtime or column inches to trumpet the coming of their campaign, even when they do officially file. If a TV station, for example, provides 2.5 minutes of air time to one person announcing an intention to run, in order to be fair, it must provide that same time to each and every individual who does the same for any town, city or county election within its coverage area. But they won’t. They probably can’t and, if you can’t provide coverage for all, you shouldn’t provide it for any.

The media can all too easily influence the outcome of elections, even unintentionally, by actually trying to cover campaigns. Talkers don’t cover multi-candidate forums and debates, either, for the same reason. Imagine the likelihood of a forum of a dozen candidates garnering equal coverage — more importantly the perception of equal coverage — in print.

Instead, the Citizen prints the names of candidates after they officially file, and as close to election day as possible allows each the opportunity to use the same amount of space to state their own case in their own unfiltered and unedited words.

Talkers believe campaigns should be won the old-fashioned way: knocking on doors, greeting potential voters in public places, holding rallies, etc. Candidates also have at their disposal the ubiquitous social media to state their case.

Likewise, voters should do a little legwork of their own. Study the issues, get to know the candidates and learn not just what they claim to stand for, but what they’ve actually done to prove, or disprove, it. Go beyond the emotional first reaction to an issue and learn about why something is the way it is, not just that it is the way it is. You may be surprised.

Above all else, don’t allow which candidates get the most media attention, or the lack thereof, to influence your decision. There are operators behind the curtain whose mission it is to get their candidates elected, and they will work for whomever pays them. They have friends in the media and they will secure for them unequal coverage. That’s not to say their candidates aren’t qualified or altruistic in their desire to serve, but don’t forget the candidates who don’t garner as much attention.

And don’t let newspapers, TV stations and radio stations make the decision for you. Freedom isn’t free. Sometimes you have to do a little work to earn it ... and keep it.

Tuesday, 27 June 2017 16:26

Talk of the Towns for June 28, 2017

“This is not what the normal applicant calls and says. They’re trying to work with me.”

— Former Davidson College pitcher Durin O*Linger about his request to the University of Florida pharmacology school, requesting a delayed admission while playing baseball in the Boston Red Sox organization.

“School will always be there whether or not it works out, but this is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.”

— O’Linger on his surprise professional baseball career.

“If I’m throwing an 88 mile-per-hour fastball on the corner at the knees, that’s a tough pitch to hit. If you locate a pitch at 88, it’s the same thing as someone throwing a 96 mile-per-hour fastball right down the middle. It’s similar to hit. It’s all about just trying to challenge guys and seeing what they can do. If you miss your spot, you’ll probably get punished, but that’s the name of the game.”

— O’Linger, on his lack of Major League Baseball speed and his ability to control his pitches.

“What a great exclamation point for Durin’s stellar career after an epic post-season run. I am very proud for how he’s represented Davidson and the baseball program. ”

— Davidson College baseball coach Dick Cooke.

“I’ll just keep on going until they tell me I can’t go any more or until the arm gives out, one of the two.”

— O’Linger on his baseball ambitions.

“To me, as an engineer, seeing this type of exposure would be a reason for concern.”

— Chemical and environmental engineer Stewart Simonson, co-author of a new report highlighting the presence of microwave radiation in parts of Huntersville.

“After surveying the area of Southwest Huntersville, it appears the TDWR radar beam is obstructed and reflecting off two very close cell towers at the lower scan angles, which is concerning due to the high power densities of microwave radiation at those distances and the public buildings in the local area such as schools and shopping centers that the radiation is reflecting into.”

— The opening statement in the ※discussion and recommendations§ section of the report.

“It’s pretty obvious voltage paths and radar signals are continuously reaching the ground.”

— Simonson summing up the conclusions he and retired electrical engineer Pellervo Kaskinen reached after months of ocular melanoma-related research on the radar signals radiating from the Charlotte Terminal Doppler Weather Radar near southwestern Huntersville.

“People have reached out to us. Through the articles in the newspaper, social media discussions and other avenues, they learned about the research and made contact to tell us about their own cases or other people they knew.”

— Dr. Michael Brennan, an ophthalmologist from Burlington helping lead research into an ocular melanoma cluster in Huntersville, on how the pool of patients involved in the probe has grown.

Tuesday, 27 June 2017 16:04

Talk of the Towns for June 28, 2017

Red Sox kind of guy

When the Boston Red Sox finally broke the 86-year “Curse of the Bambino” by winning the World Series in 2004, they did so with a raggedy-looking bunch of long-haired, dreadlocked, long-bearded, unkempt, untucked baseball rebels on their roster. It was that tight-knit yet loose approach that helped them overcome a 3-0 deficit to the New York Yankees in the ALCS and win games four through seven, propelling them to a four-game sweep of the St. Louis Cardinals and the World Series championship.

Talkers’ Major League Baseball allegiances are divided among the Red Sox, Pittsburgh Pirates and Chicago Cubs (sensing a pattern here?) but for one of us that World Series win was particularly satisfying. Then, outfielder Johnny Damon had to go and start the break-up of that particular group of lovable hooligans and sign a free agent contract with the Yankees — a traitorous move in the eyes of Red Sox fans — and in doing so was required to cut his hair and shave his beard in order to fit in to the Steinbrenner family’s considerably more corporate culture.

But there’s hope for the future. As the Red Sox linger near the top of the American League East standings so far this season, they have added to the fold Durin O’Linger, the big-hearted, bigger-bearded Davidson College pitcher who captured the imaginations of college baseball fans with his post-season endurance on the mound as the Wildcats stormed onto the national scene, and were really just a couple of breaks away, from earning a berth in the College World Series in their very first NCAA Tournament in 115 years of existence.

A Red Sox kind of guy, O’Linger is a veritable caricature of that group who broke Babe Ruth’s curse. He even has an Irish-sounding last name. He’s starting off where non-drafted players usually do, in the lowest levels of minor league baseball, but Talkers wouldn’t be surprised to one day see him take the mound at Fenway Park.

The only thing missing in that first appearance will be the beard. He had to shave it off. Similar to what legendary actor John Houseman proclaimed in investment firm Smith Barney commercials back in the late 1970s, if you want to wear a big, bushy beard while in a Red Sox uniform, you have to do it “the old-fashioned way.” You “earrrrrn it.”

Tower of (radar) power

Some two years ago, Talkers first raised the possiblity that the FAA’s ultra-powerful weather radar just off Beatties Ford Road near I-485 may be worth looking into regarding the ocular melanoma cluster in and around the area of Hopewell High School. As you can read in this week’s Citizen, some enterprising engineering types are taking that prospect seriously. If it actually becomes something, at the risk of sounding like a TV station, you heard it here first.

Tuesday, 20 June 2017 16:21

Talk of the Towns for June 21, 2017

An artful correction

Although it rarely happens, Talkers are not afraid to admit when they’re wrong. It happened in last week’s edition, when the omission of a single word in the first sentence of a story caused no small amount of heartburn for the ubiquitous Cornelius PARC Director Troy Fitzsimmons. The lede of the story about the hiring of Cornelius’ new art center Executive Director Justin Dionne read, “The Town of Cornelius doesn’t have an arts center yet, but it does have an executive director.”

The gaffe was pointed out to Fitzsimmons by his wife who saw the story first, and he described his reaction to Talkers in the form of a brow rub and a groan. Now, Talkers know that Cornelius does indeed have an arts center, the town operating its cultural programming inside historic Oak Street Mill. The single word omitted in the story was “new,” as in “The Town of Cornelius doesn’t have a new arts center yet ...”

Fitzsimmons and his staff labor tirelessly to provide athletic, recreational and cultural experiences in less-than-adequate space as the town has fallen behind the established standards of facility space per capita as a result of its unending quest to retain lowest tax rate bragging rights. And the effort to bring a new arts and cultural facility to the downtown area — which is anticipated to help usher in a new era of economic vitality along with pursuing PARC’s core arts mission — is being led largely by a volunteer committee-turned board of directors backed by $4 million in bonds approved by town voters, which in reality is only the start of the money that will be needed.

Talkers hold Fitzsimmons in high esteem and admire his efforts, and they lament his discomfort as a result of the goof. So for now, rest assured the PARC Department is working to whet the town’s artistic and cultural appetite at a makeshift arts center inside a former milll that was central to the establishment of Cornelius itself, just a few hundred feet away from the site of its eventual replacement. Pay it a visit sometime.

‘We’re here now, so stay out’

Nearly every time a plan is presented to a local government to convert woods, pastures and any kind of vacant land into a development, you can count some kind of opposition from citizens who simply want to keep things the way they are.

Typically, they site traffic concerns, but the reasons for that opposition run the gamut from nature preservation to overcrowded schools to lack of adequate infrastructure to crime — and so it goes.

The recent opposition to the Town of Davidson proposing to sell town-owned property on Beaty Street for development serves as the latest example, but Talkers wonder if protesters, in any way at all, recognize their own hypocrisy.

How many protesters, Talkers wonder, moved into the area in the last 10 years, five years or even 12 months? And how many of them live in houses that now stand on what was undisturbed nature? How many of them enjoy restaurants built atop farmland and drive on roads to get there widened through what was someone else’s property?

And before their own homes were built, how did people who lived here before they did feel about plans to develop neighborhoods on open land next to their homes?

The eastern Lake Norman population has tripled since the 1980s because people want to live here. And they still do, just like the vast majority of those who oppose growth yet played a key role in creating the challenges that accompany it.