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Archive for September, 2007

Reporters are always supposed to admit their errors, so it’s time to owe up. For several stories unrelated to the upcoming city commissioner election, I printed the name of candidate Twyla Maxwell Sickmiller with a hyphen separating Maxwell (her maiden name) and Sickmiller. My mistake. I was foolishly relying on one source — her filing data from the Surry County Board of Elections.
Turns out the hyphen was added as a way to bump the candidate’s name up on the ballot, since the M in Maxwell comes before S. Given the well-documented impact of visual cues on votes (think, the invasion of campaign signs), I view this as a shrewd and potentially brilliant campaign strategy. Almost.
The tactic came up short when Scott Lowry and Deborah Cochran, with their names at the front of the alphabet, filed to oppose Maxwell-Sickmiller …. I mean Sickmiller. But it was worth a try. Makes me recall a host of other subtle (or not so subtle) visual strategies political candidates have employed to get those extra votes.

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Just curious. I know Mayberry Days is a big thing for the community from a tourism standpoint. But if you’re from around here, is it something you eagerly anticipate, or take part in, or do you find something else to do outside the area to avoid the crowds here?

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So we’ve been waiting for YEARS for the last installment of the Halo series. How many will actually show up to get the one million copies of the game? And is the $130 version worth that much money? I say no, but obviously a lot disagree. I’m one of the people that had a copy reserved the day they became available, of course, I was a manager of GameStop at the time so I had the advantage of knowing that we could reserve it. But I’ve had it paid off for months now, and I don’t know about you, but if it’s not everything I want it to be and more, I might just cry. So, for those who’ve played it, what do you think? For those who are going, video what, how do you feel about the obsessive nature some of us have with video games? Anyone want to voice an opinion on how they feel about first-person shooters? (i.e. a game where you are looking out from the point-of-view of the shooter) Or just video games in general?

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The real rivalry

Already folks are looking ahead to next week, figuring on the Mount Airy-East Surry football game being a battle of the unbeatens (thanks to the Cardinals getting a forfeit win in a game they lost on the field). Is Mount Airy-East Surry really “the” rivalry? Or is it Mount Airy-North Surry? Or Mount Airy-Elkin? You make the call.

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So, at the agriculture celebration on Saturday, I received one of those crazy new light bulbs that are supposed to last ten times longer and use less energy, all while putting out cleaner light. I like the lights, if for no reason other than they look like they came out of a science-fiction story. And I cannot complain about possibly reducing my electric bill, especially since my husband doesn’t understand turning off lights when he’s not using them. Hence why our power bill keeps going up. We also got the new energy efficient windows and I’ve traded in my SUV for a gas-efficient car. A lot of people these days seem to be keen on using less fossil fuel (even if it’s only to save them dinero) and upgrading the energy efficiency of their homes (again, even if it just saves them money). I’d like to be optimistic, but does anyone really care about the planet these days? Can anyone really do anything to “save” it or is it too far gone? What are you doing to try and keep the planet clean and leave this gorgeous county just as beautiful for our grandchildren, great grandchildren, etc?

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After complaining for weeks that there wasn’t anything going on here during the weekends, I got overwhelmed with options Saturday. The Grape Jam, Latino Fest, Agriculture Festival, SCC benefit concert and Shelton concert series all piqued my interest, but there was hardly time in the afternoon for any more than one (to say nothing of Rockford’s sweet potato festival or Elkin’s art in the park). Anyone have any recollections, good or bad, regarding these events? Any you’d recommend for next year?

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Ringtones in the workplace

When you’re working in a small, open area everyone else’s ringtone can begin to really grate on your skull. There are several people in our office whose ringtones match the person’s personality far too well. One would be Phil Goble, who has a really cheery Super Mario Brothers kind of ring tone on his phone. Then there is the most obnoxious ring of all time – the Cingular Sound. Or how about the “Hello Moto” of the Razrs? That one I’ll find myself humming later. I’m not really sure why. Do you have obnoxious ringtones in your office? Or does someone have a ringtone that just always cracks you up, makes you smile, or leaves a song stuck in your head?

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Most maddening machines

On Monday i wrote my column about hating vacuum cleaners. They’re an appliance we desperately need, but their designs create more frustration than anything else. Now my son Owen has chimed in, saying that what a vacuum cleaner is to the home, the copier and fax is to the office. “No two work the same way. They all jam, or produce too many or too few or no copies at all.” Which machines, at home or work, would you like to dropkick out the window?

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It seems so damning at first glance. Five of Surry County’s 16 schools have “failed.” And one of them, Westfield Elementary, for the second straight year. The thing is, that’s not really the case. Some small segment of the student population didn’t achieve some arbitrary goal, so the entire school is judged a failure. The small sample might not even have been statistically valid, but it makes no difference. And unfortunately the standards get more unattainable in the years to come, until they reach a point where the slightest misstep by one student can label a school a failure. No Child Left Behind sounds good on paper, but there’s little evidence it’s really improving the delivery of education.

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So the Flat Rock/Bannertown water extension has only half the customers it needs, and they’re only using half the water they need to. That all adds up to a financial mess. The water district is on the hook for the cost of the new lines, $2.5 million to be paid off over 40 years. If things don’t improve really, really quickly the county commissioners, who ultimately hold the purse strings, will have to take some drastic steps, such as forcing people to hook on, raising rates drastically or assessing property owners in the district. None of those are particularly palatable. And yet the extension is necessary — as is an eventual countywide system. But optimistic projections that they can be done on the cheap only make it more difficult the next time around.

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