Tuesday, January 30, 2007

I want one!!

A tram, that is. Is that cool as shit or what? We need a tram! I want a tram! Build me a tram!

Monday, January 29, 2007

Satire or not?

That is the question.

Ant any rate, I almost spit green tea on my keyboard when I heard the lyrics:

"Read the Bible
You'll be sure
To enter heaven
There's no back door

Righteous man
get on your knees
There lies no virtue
In Sodomy"

Get on your knees!! Ha, now that's humor!

(Thanks to .:DataWhat?:. for the link.)

UPDATE: I was looking into this Donnie Davies guy a little more, and I found this website that has a list of "Gay Bands" from which parents should protect their children. Another tea-spitting incident almost occurred when I read: "Elton John(really gay)."

Friday, January 26, 2007

Catless

For the first time in 20 years, I'm living with no cats. This evening we said goodbye to Battlecat, who was somewhere around 16 years old (she had been Mr. Pants cat for several years before I met him). Her kidneys were starting to fail, and over the last few weeks her appetite seems to have been dropping. She was becoming skin and bones, and it's been harder and harder to interest her in even yummy wet cat food. There were things we could have done to keep her going a few more days--maybe even a week or two--but there's only so much you can do if a cat won't eat. (Plus, if you've ever given a cat subcutaneous fluids you'll know that it feels like you're torturing the animal to keep her alive. No fun for the cat or the humans.) We decided that euthanasia would be a more pleasant way for her to go than slow starvation punctuated by needle sticks. Sixteen years seems like a reasonably long cat life--she lived longer than any other cat we've owned.

Now it will be weird not to have to keep telling Mr. Gomez to leave the cat alone.

Condo-monium update ...

Yeah I've been busy and stuff, but since I've got nothing better to write about I'll post an update on the humongous condo project some developer types want to build in my neighborhood, aka "The Chancellory at Trinity Park." There was supposed to be a hearing on Tuesday in which the Board of adjustments was going to consider the developers' request for a "special use permit" so they could build a 7-story 48-unit building on a plot of land zoned for 3 stories and between 12 and 13 units. Lots and lots of people showed up at the hearing, and it seems the developers were very afraid their request would have been defeated (I think it probably would have), because they asked for a continuance. The new hearing will be Feb 27.

Meanwhile, an appeal has been filed challenging the developer's density calculations (in which they use a parcel of land they no longer own to claim they have a right to build higher and denser--I explain it in more depth here if you're actually interested). If this is successful, it seems extremely unlikely that the project will proceed as currently proposed. Instead it seems more likely that they could get for or five stories and maybe 24 or so units.

It also appears that opinion, in both the neighborhood and around City Hall, is really shifting against the project as proposed. And here I'm dealing with anecdotes, rumors and conjecture, but it's my blog and I'm allowed to do that. Based on things I hear (from little birds, of course--I put out a feeder and they come sing to me) it seems that the developers would have done well not to be so greedy and pursue something so massive that even fans of density were taken aback by its size in relation to the surrounding neighborhood. They've also made a few other mistakes that are now making them look a bit foolish to some of the birds. At any rate, we may end up getting something decent on that corner after all.

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Now you have an excuse ...

I almost forgot the traditional early warning: Radio tonight; 88.7 FM or wxdu.org, whichever works for you.

The ankle is much better, thanks for asking.

Saturday, January 20, 2007

Hold the sleet, please

Although my flyball tournament this weekend is indoors, the weather could still ruin it if it turns icy on Sunday. If it does I'll boycott. No more weather for me!

Anyway, if you're near Raleigh and want to experience the raw power of several hundred dogs all barking at once, come on by.

Thursday, January 18, 2007

OK, you got us ...

Yes, it's officially snowing now. I'd say there's about a quarter of an inch accumulated on the top of my fence.

The really wonderful thing about snow in NC is that a mere flurry can bring life as we know it to a screeching halt. Everyone panics. Traffic stops. Grocery stores become battle zones as the frightened masses squabble over the remaining bread and milk. You see, I think there is one lone plow-and-sand truck to be shared amongst all the cities and towns in the eastern half of the state, and no one is quite sure how to operate it correctly. Also, no one here seems to know how to drive in the snow, so they slip and slide all over the place and just make a mess out of everything. And we don't have a train. I wish they would just build us a damn train already.

Anyway, even if I were determined to get to my job in Raleigh this morning, I'm not sure if I would actually arrive. Oh OK, I probably would, but no one is expecting me to at this point so what's the hurry?

Monday, January 15, 2007

The ankle is already getting better!

I still can't run, and in fact I'm walking rather slowly, but the ankle is doing much better. It's still a bit swollen and stiff, but it doesn't hurt most of the time and I can more or less walk on it. I wrapped it up well and took Lucy to flyball practice, where my friend Judi practiced running her in case I'm still gimpy by this weekend's tournament. As long as I'm standing in the runback Lucy will probably do fine. I may even be able to do the small amount of running necessary by Saturday if I tape it up well and wear my hiking boots to keep it stable. We'll see. I'm going to have to miss Mr. Gomez's agility class tonight, though, and that really bums me out. Oh well--looks like it might rain anyway, and those are my least favorite classes.

What a gorgeous day, though! I'm glad I got to get out and enjoy it. Getting to run--or in my case, limp--around in a T-shirt in the middle of January feels great. I just got a call from someone in Chicago, and she said "Is it snowing?" No, and I think I'm going to need to mow the back yard soon ...

Sunday, January 14, 2007

Crutches needed!

I should have followed my initial inclinations ... yesterday afternoon I was relaxing on the sofa, alternating between reading (Patricia McConnell's For The Love of a Dog) and doing sudoku puzzles, and I felt like staying there would be a lovely way to pass the rest of the day. But it was such an absolutely gorgeous day out that I felt like it woulf be criminal not to take advantage of it and go get some exercise. Never mind that I had already had an agility class with Lucy and taught a flyball class and was a little tired, I decided that I neede th take Lucy for a nice walk through the 'hood. (Mr. Gomez was out with Mr. Pants ... Mr. P says they went hiking but for all I know they were at Hooter's. Wait, do we even have a Hooter's in Durham? I don't think so ... yet another thing to love about Durham.)

So off we went on our usual route up and down the streets and alleys of Trinity Park--Lucy loves the alleys ... I think there are lots of critter smells from the various urban wildlife. I was briskly strolling along, admiring someone's spinach garden, basking in the springline air, when I stepped on a bit of uneven pavement that caused my foot to tip sideways. CRACK! went my ankle and I fell to the ground. I think the first word I said started with an F.

I managed to get up and hobble home (Lucy was very confused by my stange pace) and I started the RICE regimen. I guess I will be spending some time on the sofa (good thing I get tomorrow off work). But there are a few things I really need to get out and about for--one of which being the new music show tonight on WXDU--and for that I need crutches. ANy locals got some I can borrow? I suppose I could send Mr. Pants out to buy me some, but it would be great to borrow a set. Most the locals know how to reach me ... if you don't leave a comment (it won't get published thanks to comment moderation) eith your digits and I'll call you.

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

There's always something there to remind you ...

Radio tonight: 8-10 pm eastern. 88.7 FM and/or wxdu.org.

Also, Rakka done flung a meme upon me. I'll play if and when I can think of five things. Do they have to be interesting things?

Monday, January 08, 2007

Fear and loathing in Trinity Park

condo buyers beware ...

Go grab a beer, this is a long one.

I've got more thoughts and opinions about the large, unattractive condo development, aka, "The Chancellory at Trinity Park" (or as one member of my neighborhood listserv called it, the "massive erection,") proposed in my 'hood. I've learned so much about it that I've gotten to the point where I don't even know where to begin.

My first impression upon seeing the rendering was that the design is completely out of character for the neighborhood and, well, just plain ugly. The house-like roofs grafted to the tops of the 5-, 6- and 7- story sections are too generic to register as a reflection of the actual architectural flavor of the surrounding houses, so they call attention to the falseness of the whole building, as if it's shouting out "Hey, I'm new around here!" It's not what a design destined for a tree-lined, historic neighborhood should do. Quite frankly it will loom as an enormous, boorish, uninvited guest--a bit of a party-crasher. It would be far better if the architects had done a little research into the history and architectural styles of the area--similar to what was done with the houses and townhouses in Trinity Heights. Or, they could have easily ripped off a few ideas from a handsome building that once sat across the street from the proposed atrocity--The Beverly Apartments:

Beverly Apartments

After noting the condo project's ugliness, the next thing I thought was that the building is astonishingly tall for the location. Nothing in the surrounding three or four blocks is more than three stories tall, and while I don't think that four or even five stories would be awful for the site, seven is definitely a few too many. Plus, at 48 units on a .8 acre lot across the street from what will soon be a 101-room hotel-plus-retail-and-dining complex (more on that below), the density and resulting traffic will possibly overwhelm that corner of the
neighborhood. It's a high-end luxury development, so I'm envisioning lots of huge luxury SUVs, maybe a bunch of Hummers, all spewing their carbon monoxide ... quite frankly I'm glad I live in the slums of Trinity Park, where I'm more likely to see folks trudging up the street to the bus stop every morning because they don't have a car.

If the building were going to feature groundbreaking energy-saving technology or perhaps offer affordable mid-range housing so that people likely to really appreciate it could live within walking distance of things like Brightleaf Square, downtown, and American Tobacco, I'd be more inclined to think that the possible social good might be worth the trade-off to the neighborhood. But these are going to be high-end, luxury units, and the people who will buy them are probably the least likely to take advantage of being within walking distance of ... well anything. Instead they will whisk in and out of the safe underground parking in their Land Rovers on their way to and from places like the Streets of Southpoint. I have some doubts as to whether this project will do as much as some people think to revitalize this part of Durham. Unless maybe they build a Nordstrom downtown. But it better have valet parking.

There had been a year or so of meetings between the neighborhood association and the developers (none of which I was able to attend), and I had been under the impression that neighborhood folks were happy with the design/size. After seeing the rendering, however I wondered what's in the water supply. I also wondered how such a dense, tall building so completely out of the character was allowed under zoning rules. Well, I quickly discovered that many people in the neighborhood were not happy at all with the project, and that as far as the zoning issue is concerned, the developers used a bit of ... oh, I can't decide which word best expresses it, so I asked thesaurus.com for some suggestions (pick your favorite): bamboozlement, beguilement, blarney, boondoggle, cheat, circumvention, cozenage, craftiness, cunning, deceit, deceptiveness, defraudation, dissimulation, duplicity, equivocation, falsehood, flimflam, fraud, fraudulence, guile, hokum, insincerity, legerdemain, lying, mendacity, pretense, prevarication, sophism, trickery, trickiness, trumpery, untruth. ("Cozenage" is one I had never heard before. I'll need to work that one into a sentence whenever possible).

It turns out that the proposed height and density far exceed what zoning laws actually allow for the .8-acre parcel. The developers (Durham's Park City Development, fronting for a Maryland-based corporation called Landex) are applying for a zoning variance, and they claim that "by right" they would be allowed to build up to four stories and 38 units on the lot. A look at the Durham Zoning Atlas (sheet 0822), however, shows that the parcel is zoned under Downtown Design Overlay 3 (DDO3), which allows a maximum height of 45 feet and 16 units per acre, meaning that this lot would be allowed 13 units. (The actual number is 12.8, so one of the units would have to be built without a kitchen. Yeah, I'm making that part up.) So how did the developers come up with the 4-stories-and-48-units figure? That's where the aformentioned "cozenage" comes in.

You see, when they first proposed the project, PCD also owned the parcel across the street, which was once McPherson Hospital (it went through a few changes and was last known as North Carolina Eye and Ear and the North Carolina Specialty Hospital). They had proposed that the hospital be turned into a small "boutique" hotel with something like 73 rooms, a nice restaurant and some retail ("Phase One"), with the condos occupying the hospital's former parking lot across the street ("Phase Two"). PCD sold the neighborhood association on the idea by granting a few concessions (which PCD later tried to renege on, causing some residual ill-will). The developers needed the support of neighbors because the whole thing would involve some zoning variances, and they would have a tough time obtaining them without such support. So they had meetings and such to get the neighbors on board and then once everything seemed good to go, they promptly sold off the "Phase One" hotel parcel to Concord Hospitality Enterprises Co., a large hotel chain. Concord soon made changes to the hotel project (it will now be an extended-stay hotel with 101 rooms instead of a "boutique" with 70-odd rooms) and the site plan, including the addition of a large parking deck that will abut the property line of a neighboring home.

Although PCD/Landex now do not own and have no control over what happens on the "Phase One" hotel site (something they repeatedly emphasize when faced with criticism for what many people feel was a bit of the old bait-and-switch) they are still claiming that "Phase One" is part of their "multi-use" development for the purposes of calculating allowable density of their "Phase Two" condo project. So instead of using just the .8-acre figure of the actual lot, they are adding the acreage from the hotel site (I think it is a little over 1-acre), and then doing the 20 units-per-acre math to claim that "by right" they can put 38 units on the site. This way, they can argue that in their zoning variance they are "only" asking for 10 more units over what is allowed. What was that new word I learned again? Oh yes, cozenage.

All combined, the "creative" density calculations, changes to the hotel project, previous attempts by PCD to wrangle out of promises and the sheer size of the condo project, in addition to some hints that Landex Corp. may have a bit of a checkered past as a slumlord, are making some people in Trinity Park very nervous and inclined to speak against the zoning variance when it comes before the Board of Adjustments on January 23.PCD/Landex has responded with hardball tactics: at a neighborhood association board meeting last week, they repeatedly threatened that if the zoning variance was not passed, the neighborhood would get "the box," i.e. a plain four story building with no parking provided so that it would be guaranteed to go rental. The word "rental" scares the hell out of a lot of people who live one block from Duke's East Campus.

Anyway, the whole thing makes my head spin, and I've just got to stop writing for now. Yes, abruptly, just like that. But there's more to be read, for anyone who isn't sick of the topic: A great history of the site, including lots of photos and a different opinion of the project from mine, can be found at Endangered Durham. There was also an article by Jim Wise in last Saturday's Durham News. Lots more reading about Landex can be found here.

Friday, January 05, 2007

It's not you, it's me

So I was really excited to find the audio edition of John Hodgeman's "The Areas of My Expertise" for free on iTunes, particularly because, as a subscriber to the Time-Warner "Ghetto cable" plan I never get to see all the Comedy Central stuff the cool kids watch. So I figured listening to a free book would be a cheap way to keep up with what's hip, happening and now. It took forever to download, but download it fianlly did, and I eagerly donned my headphones ... only to tear them off about 10 minutes later to keep myself from clawing off my own ears. Annoying doesn't even begin to describe the experience ... I guess sometimes you actually get what you pay for.

Thursday, January 04, 2007

Work really cuts into my blogging time ...

I hate it when I've got too much to say and no time to blog about it. Last night I went to a neighborhood association board meeting, which is not my usual idea of a good time, I assure you, but the topic was "The Chancellory at Trinity Park," that hulking pile of pastiche with a ridiculous name that Park City Development wants to build in my neighborhood. After hearing from the developers, I'm more against it than I was before. They repeatedly threatened that if they did not get the special permit they need to build their development so high and dense, they were going to put a very unattractive four-story "box" with no parking on the site instead. Essentially, they are resorting to bully tactics in the face of opposition. I'll talk more about it later (I have plenty to say) ... or maybe tomorrow, because I've also been dealing with another issue that's on my mind ...

Remember the puppy with a problem? Well, my flyball teammate had gotten him into a foster program, but it was sort of under a deal where she was going to be his foster home. She took him to the vet where she works, however, and discovered that his little problem (urinary and bowel incontinence) is almost definitely medical, possibly from separated vertebrae. While the problem may not be permanent, it means he really can't be kept indoors and potty trained, which was her goal. She doesn't have a yard to keep the puppy in, so she can't foster him. Unfortunately, no one else in the foster organization can keep such a dog right now either. But today I was able to find him a sanctuary at Adolescent and Animal Resource Fund," in Benson, NC, a no-kill shelter that, although almost always stretched to the limit and filled to capacity, happened to be able to to take this puppy in and will try to rehabilitate him. They have helped me before (by neutering and vaccinating a dog we found) and I know they will be there to help again.

In addition to the animal sanctuary they also help people--children in particular but they certainly don't turn away adults in need. They help homeless people, handicapped people, families who have been burned out of their homes ... they have even recently become the main benefactors of an orphanage in Guatemala. Simply put, if there is a creature in need, AARF will do what they can to help. So I try to help them out when I can. Money's the best, of course, but they are always thankful for whatever I can swing their way--I once hooked them up with an old bathroom sink a neighbor wanted to get rid of, because they really did need a sink to meet hand-washing regulations (they are inspected regularly by the NC Department of Agriculture for compliance with the NC Animal Welfare Act).

Anyway, I'd like to make a pitch for donating to AARF if you have something that needs donating. Chances are that thing you don't need anymore--even if it's an old sing--could possibly be something AARF can use (especially if it is a post-1995 model vehicle with working heat and air-conditioning, large enough to carry two full-size dog crates and able to pass inspection in Johnston County, NC. They really need one of those). They have a list of material needs on their Petfinder page (if you want to adopt one of their pets you should just call them--they are stretched so thin they haven't had time to update the Petfinder listings in a while) and it's all tax deductible. You can also just send them a check: AARF, 555 Goosehole Rd., Benson, NC 27504.

I suppose it will be tomorrow before I get around to discussing "The Crapulancy at "Trinity Park.

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

A bit of a "pupdate" ...

In order to get Mr. Funky Puppy to his uncertain fate at the animal shelter, I had to take the morning off work. I had just sort of assumed that The Durham APS opened at a normal and reasonable hour like say, 9 am, and that I would be able to drop the poor little fluffball off and then still make it to work while the day was young. But a little fact-checking revealed that they actually open at the ridiculously late hour of 10:30 am. No wonder Durham has such a severe stray dog problem (seriously, there are always have feral dog packs roaming thew city killing people's cats and such)--only someone as crazy as I am would use up a precious half day of vacation time to take a found dog to the shelter. It's far easier just to let them roam. Maybe it's a tactic by the shelter to keep their euthanasia rates down--it's got to be far cheaper and easier to just let all the little puppies get hit by cars.

But the delay proved beneficial for Mr Funky Puppy: a flyball teammate who volunteers at (neighboring county) SPCA was able to make a call and get him accepted directly into their foster care program, stinky little problem and all. So instead of taking him to the Durham shelter, I met my friend at a gas station and passed the pup on my way to work. I had to ride the whole way with my windows down because his stench filled the vehicle, but at least he now has more of a chance than he would otherwise. I know that in a world where problem-free dogs are routinely euthanized because homes can't be found for them, a puppy with a weird potty-training problem is at a real disadvantage. But he has such a sweet and gentle disposition that he would be worth someone's effort.

Monday, January 01, 2007

2007 came in on little puppy feet ...


This is what happens when people think of you as a "dog person" ...

Last night the mister and I were getting gussied up to go out to a couple of New Years Eve parties when two little neighborhood boys showed up on our front porch with a puppy. They said they had found it running in Gregson Street and had rescued it from almost getting hit by a car. They brought it to us because they figured we would know what to do with it, seeing as how we were dog people and all. Damn, I thought to myself, it's New Years Eve and I just showered and I want to go drink egg nog and eat nibbly things. But there was no way we could turn down these boys' request for help--they live in some apartments down the street that don't allow dogs, and their parents are from a country where few but the rich bring dogs inside their homes. Their only alternative would have been to turn the puppy loose again.

The puppy was a little puff ball--the first thing I thought was "chow mix," although now that we've cleaned him up he looks a little bit more like a rough collie. There were waves of powerful stink coming off of him--I couldn't even get close enough to see if it really was a him and not a her--and he had poop-encrusted mats of fur all around his backside. He looked and smelled exactly as if had been confined to a crate for a long time and had been sleeping in his own waste. There was no way this cute little stinkball was coming into my house.

We decided to rig up some outdoor quarters for him--it was not a cold night and as long as we could keep the rain off of him we figured he'd be OK. We set up our x-pen and covered it with a tarp. We gave him a patio cushion to lie on, gave him some food and water and went out to party in the new year. He was fine until halfway through the night, when his crying woke us up--the wind was blowing rain on him, so we had to move the x-pen into our shed.

This morning we gave him the equivalent of four baths--two with antibacterial dog shampoo and two with a flea shampoo (he was covered with them), and I cut off all of the poop-mats from his hindquarters. I used a trick I've seen on TV and the movies, and put a glob of Vicks Vapo-Rub under my nose to maks the stench--it works!! But alas, even after all that bathing, the puppy still stinks somewhat. We brought him in the house and put him in Mr. Gomez' crate to dry, but the stink was just too powerful. Plus, we have discovered that he has absolutely no concept of bladder or bowel control (very common in puppies that live their entire early lives in cages, i.e. puppies purchased in pet stores) so he just poops as he goes, sort of like a horse. I have no idea what I would have done if we'd had normal winter weather right now, but since it's unseasonably warm, poor little poopy puppy has been staying in the shed (we've had him out running around in the back yard some, so he's not completely deprived of exercise and interaction). It may get down to 35F tonight, so he may need to come indoors. Tomorrow, first thing, he's going to go to the animal shelter because I don't know anyone up to the task of taking care of a pup with severe potty-training issues.

He's a really cute little guy, and very sweet. When I've had him out in the back yard he just wants to stay by my side and he'svery appreciative of attention. But he seems to have underdeveloped back legs--doesn't walk so much as bunny-hop, and he has a hard time going up steps. He also seems to have a problem with his tail--I don't know if it's broken or deformed, but it hangs limply and I don't think he can wag it. I'm wondering if he has some sort of nerve damage in his hind end, either as a result of injury or a congenital problem. Or it could just be that he's been confined to the point that his muscle development is poor and he's lost his proper elimination insticts. At any rate, I'd like to think that someone with loads of time (and possibly money) on his or her hands will step forward and figure out what's going on with this pup, but I think chances may be slim. Even though he looks to be only 10n weeks old and puppies often get adopted quickly, puppies with problems aren't in such high demand.

Happy New Year. I hope it's not all this depressing ...