Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Glenn Beck And Re-Routing A Dream Ride

Glenn Beck pontificating about American values got me thinking about re-routing my dream to one day ride my Harley-Davidson Cross Bones the 2,000+ miles across the United States from my home in Durham, North Carolina to visit my daughter in Salt Lake City, Utah.twain

This year seems particularly intriguing because it is the 100th anniversary of the death of author Mark Twain known to his friend, my great-great grandfather Thomas K. Messersmith as “Sam Clemens.” They were born a year apart in Missouri about 175 years ago.

When they were age 5 or so, (same as my youngest grandson is now) the governor of Missouri issued an “extermination” order on people like Glenn Beck.

“Extermination” sure puts Arizona in perspective, right Glenn?Thomas K Messersmith

Observers, including kids that age, would notice 10,000 people, stripped of their property, fleeing through the cold, rainy and snowy countryside across the frozen Mississippi River just north of Hannibal to the safe harbor and kindness of citizens of Quincy, Illinois.

Puts “Sanctuary City” in perspective, doesn’t it Glenn?

The people who had been ordered “exterminated” were close-knit Christians. But they were different. Missourians, then pro-slavery (an American value at the time, Glenn,) wanted to exterminate these people because they were mostly either immigrants and/or northern abolitionists.

Prior to the order to exterminate, they had already experienced mob violence such as tar and featherings, beatings, rapes, destruction of homes and barns and after the order, a massacre of 18 men, women and children.

It made no difference that many of these people marked for “extermination” came from families who had been Americans since the early 1600s and had fought and died for Independence. They were different and insular. They were members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day-Saints, nicknamed Mormons.

By the 1860 census, my great-great grandfather had left Missouri for Virginia City, Nevada as a 25 year old miner in the gold rush. Mark Twain joined him there as a partner, after stopping in Utah to visit those same Mormons who had eventually been forced to flee Illinois as well. Twain mentions my great-great grandfather in several letters home.

When they didn’t strike it rich, Thomas joined the Union Army and served in the cavalry 3rd California Volunteers during the Civil War under General Patrick O’Connor (saving the General’s life in one skirmish) guarding the Central Overland Mail Route and peacekeeping between settlers and Native American Tribes like the Shoshone. This is the route previously made famous for a brief time by the Pony Express but operating then as a Wells Fargo Stagecoach route on which another of my great grandfathers was later a driver and on which Twain had made his way to Nevada.

And Mark Twain, well he went on to be Mark Twain. I’m not sure he and Thomas stayed in touch. When the war ended, my great-great grandfather settled near Cedar Fort, Utah between Utah Lake and the Oquirrh (Oker) Mountains, 45 miles south of Salt Lake City. Like Glenn Beck, he became a member of the Mormon Church in agreement with his soon-to-be wife.

But different than the gregarious Twain, Thomas Messersmith (also called Tom Smith and Tom M. Smith both by Twain and in subsequent census) remained a loner much of his life, preferring to be out herding sheep, especially after his wife died. His youngest son Ralph was my mother’s maternal grandfather.

On my planned motorcycle trip west, I think I’ll skip Missouri and cut north along the Mississippi after crossing Kentucky, carving along the edge of Illinois and then following The Mormon Pioneer National Historic Trail for the remainder of the trip across Iowa, Nebraska and Wyoming.

I had three ancestors on the first or vanguard wagon train of 147 people and 72 wagons in 1846-47 that cut the trail more than 1,000 miles west so nearly 70,000 others could follow over a 20 year period.

Charles A. Harper, a carriage maker, served as a wheelwright and mechanic, keeping a journal of which I have a photocopy. Two others included Charles Shumway, a captain of ten and his son Andrew.

Still another ancestor, Sebert Shelton, along with 500 others, answered the call of their country and enlisted instead in the Mormon Battalion, heading south and west to serve in the war with Mexico. You can’t say these folks weren't loyal and resilient.

I was raised in and have a deep regard for that culture and its place in my heritage, even though it hasn’t been an active part of my life for nearly 40 years now. But I don’t agree with how far right wing many members of that faith seem today. Nor do I agree with most of Glenn Beck’s inflammatory and often hypocritical rhetoric.

To me both would do well to remember with humility those people of the same faith who endured that dark period in history and hopefully become much more tolerant and accepting of other people who are different.

Now, Glenn, that's an American value to which you really do need to return!

Toolkit Pioneered To Better Equip DMO Governing Boards

Known nationwide for innovations, Durham’s official marketing agency, the Durham Convention and Visitors Bureau (DCVB), has created an online toolkit on behalf of the Destination Marketing Association of North Carolina.  The toolkit will help its other member Destination Marketing Organizations (DMOs) across the state provide more consistent and thorough orientations for governing board members.tda toolkit

The toolkit (click here or on the image to see four sample screens) can be guided or self-guided and provides governing boards (known as Tourism Development Authorities in North Carolina) an overview of not only the roles of a DMO in general but also the nature of tourism as demand-side economic development and the various types of organizations involved.

The toolkit also offers a consistent way to aid governing board members with an understanding of the responsibility to safeguard the North Carolina General Assembly’s legislative guidelines and restrictions when local option room occupancy and tourism development taxes are enabled to self-fund visitor centric economic and cultural development for cities, towns and counties.

The sample screen captures linked here are but a very few of the pieces of the toolkit which is being rolled out as one of many benefits to membership in DMANC.  The toolkit, the latest DCVB collaboration on which ABC 11 WTVD provided voiceover, is destined to be just the the latest of the Bureau’s ever-expanding list of well more than 120 recognized innovations and best practices.

Congratulations to DCVB and DMANC!

Monday, August 30, 2010

Shouldn’t the 30% Mark Up For Paying Parking Tickets Online, Actually Be A Discount?

Clancy Systems, a private company that manages street parking and fines here, is doing the City of Durham a disservice, it seems to me.  In my experience Clancy does a good job of street parking enforcement, especially at the start of the day when people are having an early coffee.parking-ticket

But Clancy has it all wrong when it charges a 30% fee for online payment.  The company actually saves money on handling by not having to have someone manually open envelopes, post payments and then deposit them in the bank and/or transfer payments to the City.

Ironically, Clancy doesn’t charge a handling fee at all when you pay by check, which does actually require handling.  Not sure this current approach is doing the City or the person with the ticket or Clancy a service.  This kind of thinking seems clearly basakwards!

If anything there should be a discount on the amount of the ticket for paying online, not a 30% mark up.  There is a monthly fee for an online merchant account and a transaction fee but it doesn’t work out to the 30% mark up Clancy is using.

Most businesses and organizations absorb the fee or build into the cost of doing business overall because it is both a convenience and a cost savings in the end, just as they are doing by not charging extra for the handling required when payments are made the old fashioned way.

Clancy’s website prides itself on technology and “taking your parking agency to the next level.  And the City already does a good job of taking payments via its own website for water bills etc.

The City needs to work with Clancy Systems on a much fairer system for online payment.  Come to think of it, Clancy should make it so you can scan a bar code off the ticket and pay it on the spot with your smartphone.

Friday, August 27, 2010

The Future Is Bright and Green

I confess to being a gadget guy but then I come from at least five generations of gadget folks.  Favorite reads like Popular Science Magazine , Wired Magazine or gizmag make me very hopeful about the future.solarpanel

For instance, I’ve read recently about roadway coatings that capture 45% of carbons from the air and solar panels built into roadways to feed the grid and  lightweight solar panels the size of leaves that mimic wall-crawling ivy on homes and office buildings to generate power.

We’ve got really creative people and market forces focused on very promising solutions to these problems.  And that’s very energizing, so to speak, pun intended:)

Author Dan Heath and I knew we had something in common the day we met a few years ago when we both happened to be visiting another city.   We have Durham connections.

He is a senior fellow at Duke’s Center for the Advancement of Social Entrepreneurship here and the DCVB where I worked at the time was  about to honor several social entrepreneurs and innovators at Durham’s Annual Tribute Luncheon.

Dan and his brother Chip write often about the process of innovation and how it is often more about adapting ideas from one context and applying them to another.  The solutions above are good examples of this type of innovation and why I believe the future is so hopeful.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

“Unexpressed Anger Colonizes The Emotional Life” But Just Acting Angry Is No Substitute

People who feel superior because they are suppressing anger should read an outstanding, jam-packed little paperback entitled The Forgiving Self, by renowned psychotherapist Dr. Robert Karen.

Almost lyrical, the book is so loaded with thought-provoking insight that I had to put it down and reflect after every few sentences. Here for instance are a handful of quotes on the importance of expressing anger found on 209, 210 and 211:reality-tv1

  • “If we're not free to be angry, if we don't allow ourselves our aggression, we are not free to be, and we're certainly not free to love.

  • Unexpressed anger colonizes the emotional life. Its like a cancer, sapping our vitality, aggravating our feelings of shame, weighing us down with depression and secreting a steady stream of bitterness throughout our being.

  • The hardest thing about anger is to have the freedom to feel and express it and still hold on to our caring.

  • People need to be fully expressed, in all their feeling, positive and negative, even if they go overboard at times. Somewhere in their rage is an important message that needs to be heard and made sense of, by themselves as well as others.

  • Anger, like any other form of protest, can be expressed with an openness to the other person's point of view, in combination with other feelings, in various intensities, with an acknowledgement of one's uncertainty.

  • It's possible to say I'm angry, without acting angry. The important thing is to be able to allow ourselves the full complexity of who we are."

But Karen isn’t writing so much about the kind of “anger” that is actually more a kind of “hostility,” the subject of several books by Durham author Dr. Redford Williams who heads behavioral medicine at Duke.

Nor is he talking about the “enacted” anger or hostility fueled if not spawned by co-called “reality television shows.” I can’t stand to watch them but in surfing on an occasion or two, I’ve noticed that the people who are showing so much rage are often shown moments later hugging. They are either hypocrites or their anger wasn’t that “real” after all.

Is it just me or is “enacted” anger becoming epidemic in real life now? I’m not just referring to the fight at the end of a night of wedding anniversary celebration in which 8 were shot and 4 killed including the groom as recently happened in Buffalo, NY.

I’m talking about the young lady I witnessed acting out her anger with lots of body language when as she was turning out of Sam’s Club, she had to suddenly stop when an elderly gentleman almost pulled into traffic from the area where he had had been refueling his car.

It was though she had to go on and on and really put on a show.

Or the panhandler at Geer and Roxboro one day who, after I had politely guided her to a shelter instead, spun away in a huff and almost walked right into the car that had pulled into the left turn lane beside me. She let loose on the driver and then the driver who, also a female, had to get out of her car and make a big show of body language that she might chase the panhandler down in anger.

I know this artificially fueled strutting and chest thumping and “you can’t disrespect me” B.S. is making its way down into pre-schools across the country.

Maybe reality TV shows and even news reports of this behavior should include points illustrated by the bullets above from Dr. Karen’s book as “warnings.” Of course, this would include reality TV commentary like Boehner, Rush or Beck, no?

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Two of My Goals Are Up In The Air This Fall

Okay, its been week now that I’ve been “smelling” and “feeling” the coming of the Fall season. Temps are still in the 90s in Durham, North Carolina but the angle of the sun, the smell of organic matter, the slight tinge of crispness in the air all tell me my favorite season is imminent.Carolina Barnstormers

I have two primary goals this year during what has always been the best time of the year in my opinion. One is to get my sports pilot license and the other to take a take a ride with Carolina Barnstormers.

From mid-September through mid-June, Mike Ratty flies people over Durham in his very cool WACO biplane taking off and landing from a grass air strip here called Lake Ridge.

Originally WACOs (pronounced Wah-co, not Way-co) were manufactured from 1919 and 1947 and used as trainers for WWII but you can still buy new versions today. My favorite from that era is the simpler Stearman (kind of a Ford, Chevy thing.) But neither airplane is in my sights.

I do plan to learn to fly a tail-dragger and hope to learn in today’s update of the famed Piper Cub now manufactured by Cubcrafters. But I’m very partial to the very cool little amphibian in this link. So watch out Sis, this may be how I arrive at the lake next summer:-)

Oh no, I’m not giving up riding the Cross Bones. That’s how I get back and forth to the airfield (although I did recently switch to a seat with a backrest that makes all the difference for longer rides.)

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Durham’s Big Surprise For First Year University Students

Several years ago, when I was with DCVB, we worked through Dr. Mitch Javidi at NANOPHRADES and Dr. Larry Moneta VP of Student Affairs to conduct a series of focus groups with Duke First Year Students (appears freshmen is no longer PC.)Interactive Connector Map

The feedback helped pinpoint sources of many misimpressions or misinformation and most importantly unwrap what would help first year students experience more of Durham during their brief four-year tenure (and hopefully longer if Durham continues to “brain-gain”.)

I’ll never forget how one group indicated that the biggest problem they had with getting out and doing more in the community is that everything seemed like a “silo”, e.g. Duke, Downtown, Northgate, Southpoint, RTP etc.

Sometimes they weren’t even sure what locations were in Durham vs. surrounding communities.

Remember, students aren’t permitted to have cars during their first year and they must live on campus, specifically, Duke East Campus, one of three arching around Downtown.

Results from that experience tell me that one of the greatest gifts for the new class of 2014 which just settling in today, will be the Bull City Connector. Everyone, including students, can just hop on or off one of the BCC coaches fare-free, every 15 minutes M-F from 7 am to 6 p.m., then every 20 minutes from 6 p.m. to Midnight. Saturday and Sunday, the buses run 7 a.m. to Midnight, every 20 minutes.

First year students will have easy access now to eight different dining, entertainment and shopping districts (click on the image above to open the interactive map) including the two that bracket the campus - Ninth Street District and Brightleaf District, not to mention the majority of Durham’s nationally recognized festivals and more than a dozen performing arts and sports venues.

Students from North Carolina Central University connect fare-free via a bus route from that campus to the Durham Transportation Center.

No more silos! Welcome to Durham – Where Great Things Happen!

Three Practical Reasons For Pervasive Child and Afterschool Care

I have always appreciated the challenges that single-parents face but that was from a workplace perspective. From that vantage point, I was always impressed over the years as I observed how several single-parents who were working with me raised children on their own from birth or pre-school all the way into college.

I was pleased when DCVB, for whom I was chief executive for 20+ years was recognized nationally for being family friendly and workplace flexible.States That Have Passed Afterschool Care

But a recent, more up close and personal experience, has given me an even deeper empathy, particularly about the need for high quality, affordable childcare and extended afterschool care.

Childcare alone takes more than 26% of “living income standard (LIS,)” an estimate of the various expenses for a family of four in Durham. This is a much thorough analysis than the outmoded Federal Poverty Level and worth a read.

To put the 26% for childcare in Durham in perspective, that’s more than housing and healthcare or transportation expenses combined. Of the poor families in Durham, nearly 50% work and 32% own their own homes and I don’t have it at my fingertips but I’m certain a disproportionate share are single-parent households.

Now before you go getting all judgmental on me and thinking to yourself, “here goes another bleeding heart,” or “didn’t these people bring this on themselves,” or that “you shouldn’t have to pay for it.”

Just think this through with me. I don’t think this is time to be judgmental or “holier than thou.” Here are just three of many pragmatic reasons why I believe the need for universal childcare/after-school care, especially for single-parent households is about much more than just household expenses:

  • It is pivotal to productivity in the workplace. Working parents must be assured their children are in good hands in order to flex with the demands of the workplace and the workplace needs single-parents.

  • It is vital to mental and emotional well-being. Single-parents in particular rarely have the backstop care-givers and that they need as respite so they can function both as a good parent and in the workplace.

  • Most important, it is absolutely critical to “closing” the achievement or student performance gap between advantaged and disadvantaged children, something crucial both for humanitarian and economic reasons.

Those of us who have studied “apples to apples” breakdowns of achievement weren’t surprised at all by the recent Durham Herald-Sun analysis indicating that things have begun to slip in Durham after years of hard fought gains. Personally, I think we took our “eye off the objective” as a community.

We allowed the intensity and focus DPS had underway for several years to be traded for quieter, more civil school board meetings. Frankly, we need to get back to what former superintendent Ann Denlinger meant by keeping the “main thing, the main thing.” If that means we need to deal with less than civil elements during school board meetings then so be it.

And we need to challenge those who don’t want to pay for better childcare and afterschool care because they are all hung up on some moralistic, down their nose judgment. “But for the grace of God…”

We can either stay preoccupied with judging and stereotyping people we don’t know and circumstances of which we know nothing about or we can make things more productive at work, in the home, in school and in society.

We’re already paying for it in societal costs anyway, we just as well pay for it on the front-end to make society better and more productive.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Are You With Us, Or Against Us?

Karl Albrecht wrote a great post a couple of days ago entitled the “Tyranny of Two.”  It reminded me of when a former Mayor and friend of mine explained why it always seemed that no matter how hard we tried, we could never get the head of another community organization to be on the same page.polar-bears-about-to-fight1

“With that guy,” he said, “you’re  either on his team or you’re not.”  Or a guy I know who calls to whine if a source ever tries to give balanced feedback to a reporter’s questions but is only partially quoted.  He believes news reports about his interests must be exclusively Pollyanna.

Karl’s review of current brain research indicates we don’t always have to be what he terms “dichotomous thinkers.”  He also uses another term, “polarized thinkers,” which is an apt description it seems to me for what one former Republican congressman noted in an interview Saturday discussing how these days the Republican Party is deriding anything proposed by another party but purposely refusing to put any ideas on the table.

They are able, I surmise, to pull this off because unfortunately, as Karl points out in his blog, “bipolarized conflict is the very essence of most of the news” these days, making “dichotomizing their religion.” 

And as the authors of the book The Big Sort note, one of the reasons people all over the country are sorting into places populated with “people just like them” is to avoid having to hear any information with which they disagree and polarization is a convenient way to be able to dismiss anything else.  Karl refers to it in his blog as “option fatigue.”  They just don’t “want” to hear any other sides to an issue.

Noting near the end of his blog, that if “we’re predisposed to polarize…And not all polarization is dysfunctional…"How can we improve our thinking and reacting, so as to liberate ourselves from the extremes…” Karl gives 7 mental tricks to keep dichotomization from sapping our creativity. 

I chuckled both to and at myself as I read them because not one of the 7 comes naturally to me.  Most I had to learn the hard way over the years.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

In Durham, At Duke!

People are justifiably very envious of Durham, North Carolina as the home of Duke University. Time and again people in surrounding communities have tried to either appropriate Duke’s identity or insinuate that the university should somehow be “above” Durham.DP “Bless their hearts” as we say in the Southeast when people are being ridiculous.

But fortunately, Duke’s leadership hasn’t fallen for that crap although there may be commuters from these other communities who work there and reportedly try to perpetuate it.

Duke Performances’ Director Aaron Greenwald is one of many including Coaches Krzyzewski and Cutcliffe who set a great example of how to leverage both the identity of a great university and its hometown.

Duke Performances’ slogan for its series is an example of how easily and smoothly it can be to link community and university, “In Durham, At Duke, A Nation Made New!”

It is one thing to be home to a world renowned university but what makes Duke University unique is that it has always understood that it takes a great community to make a great university.

By the way, Duke Performances are made accessible to every part of the Durham community as its tickets are offered as much as 30% below the cost of comparable events elsewhere and click here for ways to help ensure it can continue to do that.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

63 Other Families Deserve To Have This WWII Era Image

When my Dad was going through basic at Camp Roberts in the latter years of World War II, they took a graduation photograph (click on the image to enlarge) culminating 17 weeks of training.  Fortunately, on the back of my copy, someone took time to write the last names  row by row of all 64 people in the photo including officers (click second image below to read the names.) 00102_p_10aeuyf6sw0669_r

It even looks like the handwriting of my Mom, who moved from Idaho to Paso Robles CA to be as close as she could to Dad until he shipped out for Europe.  When he could, a soldier identified on photographs as Andy gave Dad a lift into town to see my Mom.Camp Roberts Roster





Unfortunately, the unit ID isn’t fully captured in the photo.  I’ve searched and searched but can’t find the numbers that do show on that pennant anywhere in the units that went through Camp Roberts but then again, Dad was only one of more than 400,000 soldiers trained there as U.S. Army Infantry replacements during World War II.

I hope by just posting this, I can make it available somehow to some of the people pictured who, unlike my Dad, may still be alive and probably in their early to mid 80s.  But mostly I hope someone(s) searching the Internet can help me get these images to their children, grandchildren and great grandchildren who may not be as fortunate as I am to have this photo with the names handwritten on the back.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Seeing Wildlife Still Makes My Heart Go “Boom, Boom!”

Even growing up in Idaho, I was never much into hunting. My Dad had given it up after WWII before I was really of age. So on the few times I went with friends, I was much more likely to be shooting with my camera than my inherited twice, hand-me-down 1892 .32 Winchester Saddle Ring Carbine.Alvin Amason

Viewing the 1978 movie The Deer Hunter , as I turned 30, I found myself identifying both with Robert De Niro’s character “Michael” who deliberately misses shooting an Elk near the three minute mark in this clip and Christopher Walken’s character “Nick” who was always “more into the trees.”

If you haven’t seen the film, it is a classic (AFI’s 53rd on its 100 greatest) set both in a small Western Pennsylvania mill town (‘66-‘74) before, during and after some friends serve in Vietnam. Although the spectacular mountain hunting scenes were actually filmed in the North Cascades National Park in Washington State (shown below.)

Years ago, while living in Alaska, I saw a painting by a Native Sugpiaq or Alutiiq artist Alvin Eli Amason who is my age, and the irony for me wasn’t lost.fury0006

It is the one (shown above) of a huge bear’s head and the words below it, “My Heart Went Boom, Boom, Boom.” And that describes the exhilaration I still feel whenever I see wildlife as I often do these days during motorcycle rides.

Earlier this month (August) I was riding slowly down through a tree canopied Durham residential neighborhood backing up to the Eno River to drop off a friend after an incredible morning Harley ride through North Durham countryside. Suddenly, but like it was in slow motion, a harem of 7 or 8 deer, led by a doe and a 6 or 8 point Buck bound across the road right in front of the bike, while another four or five froze in a yard.

That’s one of many reasons why I want to mount a GoPro camera on the Cross Bones. The deer are common here, some think overpopulated, but seeing that many all at once and so close is unusual. They had probably been lunching on a “salad bar” someone had carefully planted as a garden or landscape.

Just family artifacts now, the Carbine is permanently mounted on my wall resting across two sets of points from Mule deer antlers, not far from where half of an incredible 10 point Elk rack rests tilted in a corner.

The antlers aren’t trophies, just souvenirs the animals had shed prior to me discovering them on forested Rocky Mountain hillsides during those long ago hunts in my youth. They will pass down to my grandsons if they are interested in family history.

I frequently see roadway signs cautioning that deer might cross the roadway just like the ones I used to see for moose on streets in Anchorage.

No matter how often I see wildlife, my heart still goes “boom, boom, boom!”

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Finding Your Spirituality

I grew up on a ranch in Idaho, like three generations before me but my Grandpa took me to New York City and the Opera every Saturday afternoon. I realize now, those matinees via radio grounded me in my own spirituality far more than any scripture or hymn or sermon or place of worship.00254_p_10aeuyf6sw0385_b

I was in my mid 20s when it dawned on me that places of worship actually distract me from my spirituality. So I turned back to Opera. There has always been something in an Aria like Puccini’s soaring Nessun Dorma (Turandot, his last) that gets right to my core (click to to see if it is the same for you.)

And for decades now, every Sunday morning possible, probably well over 1,000 now, I turn up the volume and listen to five favorite Opera Arias to feed my spirituality and my faith. They strike deeply into my soul and renew me and literally bring me a tearful sense of perspective.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not really into full Operas or the even the modern equivalent, Broadway Musicals. Just Arias and just Sunday mornings. The rest of the week I pretty much listen to country or country folk or country rock or blues or Americana.

Ernest “Mel” Bowman gave me a lot of gifts, as you can imagine a grandpa might, being the only son of a rancher who was also an only son, and in that world, where things patriarchal are a little over the top, you know I was a most “Fortunate Son.”

But maybe his greatest gift was sharing the weekly Texaco-Metropolitan Opera broadcasts and quietly teaching me there is more than one place you can worship.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

It Only Took 48 Years To Learn The True Story

It is probably just as well that I didn’t learn the truth for 48 years. I was doing the dishes with my Mom after a mid-90’s Thanksgiving Dinner at her house, surrounded by my daughter, niece, nephews, sisters and brothers-in-law and repeating a story I’d told a zillion times.

That story is even more poignant today because the events took place back when I was between the ages my grandsons are now and they so love dogs.

The version of the story I believed for 48 years goes like this.

My grandparents gave me my first dog, probably a Border Collie/English Sheep Dog mix, picked from a litter belonging to some old Basque sheepherders who grazed a flock near the ranch each year.Reyn, Raem & Mickey

I named him Mickey. Soon after coming to me, he began to shake more and more and soon he went deaf, then blind. It didn’t dawn on me at that age that this wasn’t just part of his nature or that he was suffering.

In those days, we only used large animal vets on the ranch and never for pets.

Mickey was a very loyal and enthusiastic companion and in retrospect taught me a lot about resilience.

I learned to clap as I came out the door and he would come running from wherever he was. He learned other commands which always involved varied claps of the hands. Then one day I found him laying dead on the path leading from the horse barn to a stream we crossed to go up over a hill and down into the meadows.

My Dad, who didn’t seem at all sentimental to me then, explained while hugging away my tears that Mickey had been hit by a car going down the road past the gate and had crawled to the barn to die. We took Mickey’s body up the hill to an old cellar dug into the earth and buried him in the soft dirt and sand that was the roof.00033_p_10aeuyf6sw0498_b

My Dad and I sat together next to the grave for what seemed like a long time. He told me that when he was my age his family had a wonderful German Shepherd that they trained to herd cattle.

One day the dog came across a carcass that had fallen from a tree where it had been hung to poison magpies, ate it and died.

That day, over the kitchen sink, my Mom, who was no longer married to my Dad, listened intently to the story she had heard many times and then said in the way she often sheds startling new information, “You know, your Dad shot that dog.”

Through the shock, it all suddenly made more sense. You see, Mickey had probably come down with distemper shortly after he came to me which would cause the shaking and the blindness. He probably got it from coming into contact with wolf or coyote feces. We were always wandering the ranch and often came home after having encountered a skunk or porcupine.

My Dad loved animals but couldn’t stand to see them suffer. So you can imagine how much he loved me, knowing how much I loved that dog and the dog loved me for him to postpone the inevitable. He was also probably still carrying the torment his family had over what happened to their beloved Shepherd when he was a boy.

At that time we were preparing to move to another place, half way through my 8th year, which is another story. But Dad obviously knew we couldn’t take Mickey and did what he did to put him out of his misery.

I probably happened to come along before the job was done or the story might have been that Mickey had run off and met another fate.

Either way, 48 years later, I was better able to realize my Dad was courageous to do what he did. He was also much softer hearted than I ever realized growing up. And it’s probably best we don’t know the full story about some things, even if it takes 48 years.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Newest Collaboration - Updated Downtown Durham Guide & Walking Tour

First published nearly 20 years ago with nearly 1 million copies in distribution, the newest annual update of DCVB’s Downtown Durham Guide & Walking Tour is also the newest collaboration with Downtown Durham Inc. (DDI)DTWT Masthead a private, non-profit, advocacy group partially funded by the City and County.

Along with many other improvements, the update includes a route map of just-launched Bull City Connector, a fare-free bus route running from Duke University to Golden Belt, which was also created by DCVB in another collaboration with the City of Durham and the Durham Area Transit Authority.

One of many reasons DCVB stands out in the minds and hearts of Durham residents as benchmarked in scientific public opinion polls is because it has always worked hard to leverage its mission with partnerships and collaborations.

BCC SnippetLike other editions, DCVB’s in-house graphics designed and produced the updated Downtown Durham Guide & Walking Tour, as it did helping DATA and the City of Durham with marketing the new Connector . DCVB will also include 65,000 copies of the new Downtown Guide and a flyer about the Bull City Connector in bi-weekly distributions of its other literature to more than 100 outlets including all hotels, shopping malls, healthcare and transportation centers.

As an aside, for those interested in how an “overarching community brand” works, notice both the overall Durham brand signature and the Downtown neighborhood signature on the cover of the Walking Tour. Individual logos for the two sponsoring organizations are on the back.

An even clearer “best practice” use of a community’s “overarching” brand is the way the City of Durham and the Durham Area Transit Authority deployed the Durham brand signature, “Durham-Where Great Things Happen, on the website, literature and transit coaches (click to enlarge image above) for the Bull City Connector.

The term “overarching” means the brand is an umbrella that stretches over or encompasses all individual brands in the community including businesses, non-profits, universities, agencies, neighborhoods, faith communities etc. The signature is just an element distilled from the community’s distinct core values and personality traits.

Naturally DCVB, as Durham’s marketing agency, is the facilitator for the community’s overarching brand, which in a few short year is now showcased by nearly a thousand other Durham organizations in tens of thousands of applications.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Recognition For Durham Wait Staff Rock Stars

In the just-out August/September issue of Durham Magazine, editor Matt Dees made a brilliant decision in recognizing several of the stalwarts of Durham’s nationally recognized foodie scene.img079

Few careers are more difficult than those in restaurants and none are more critical to the success of Durham’s celebrated restaurants than rock star wait staffs.

In an excellent article by freelance writer, author and DM contributor Emily Matchar with excellent photography by Briana Brough, I was delighted to see three people recognized with whom I’ve struck up friendships over the years.

Graham and Brad Weddington at Nana’s, just down the hill from where I live, are both friends with whom I visit several times a week. And for years now, I’ve been friends with Alison Martliew during her time at several restaurants in Durham including now both at Pop’s old and new locations.img080

One of the obvious perks of my former position as CEO of Durham’s official marketing agency, was becoming colleagues as well as good friends with many in Durham’s colony of nationally recognized chefs.

But equally pivotal to bringing Durham its foodie reputation are the many individuals and “first responders” represented by the folks in this excellent article.

Kudos to Durham Magazine, now in its third year, and publisher Dan Shannon who previously founded Chapel Hill Magazine. Tough to launch in a downturn but it is a testament to Dan’s commitment and determination.

Like most “city” magazines, Durham Magazine, as noted on its website, is very narrowly cast every other month, to 15,000 upscale households and businesses. Subscriptions and sales through selected newsstands and grocery stories bring the total bi-monthly distribution to 40,000. Hopefully, in time, it will be much more broadly distributed.

I receive mine at home through paid subscription.

Will Today’s “Ideological Road Rage” End as Tragically!

Those of us raised by “The Greatest Generation” came up during a brief respite of bi-partisanship. Experts mark the period from the end of WWII until 1964 as a truly unique period in this country’s ideological history. Many of us who came up during that period mistakenly thought it had always been that way and we’re fogging our view of today thinking it still “should” be.

Maybe as some experts believe, “The Greatest Generation” valued bi-partisanship, having been tested like none other first by the Great Depression and then while facing down the unfathomable inhumanity of extremist ideologies.Civil%20War%20Dead%20Antietam

More than any before or since, that generation’s value for bi-partisanship came closer to embodying what many Founding Fathers hoped for the political process in this Country.

But almost immediately elected officials fell into what some term “boarding house” silos as witnessed by Thomas Jefferson when he bemoaned a Congress that failed to grasp even then “the necessity of accommodation and mutual sacrifice of opinion for conducting a numerous assembly.”

As widely noted, and well documented by this recent article in the Wall Street Journal, the rancor and rhetoric and partisan gridlock was with us almost from the beginning and obviously reached its extreme some 60 years later with the tragic Civil War.

I’m persuaded that today’s partisanship is “bottom up” not “top down” as it is vogue today for some to intimate by demonizing others as Washington “insiders.” Our current divide is evidenced by a dramatic decline in the number of “moderates” elected to Congress, dropping from 45-53% in 1949 to less than 10% today and many of those cowered into block voting with the extremes. We the “electorate” have made it hard to be a moderate and hard to compromise.

Fueling today’s divide is the compressive, effect of insatiable 24/7 news which offers little additional insight while hardening any dissent into a fight to the death while demanding absurdly simplistic solutions to very complex problems.

Unlike that 1860’s War Between The States, the country today isn’t divided up by section of the country. It is much more complicated and to me more dangerous. Salt and peppered around the country are more and more counties and some entire states that are dominated by majorities, eager to cower any other thinking with more and more extreme ideology.

This is best exemplified by the current, block voting-incalcitrance within a Republican Party, where it seems once moderate politicians are now in the “closet,” so to speak. Historians have documented that Its growing extremism took root in 1965 and deepened throughout the 1970’s and since.

Predictable and increasingly extremist statements now by that party’s leaders after every vote in Congress is nothing more than a reflection of an increasingly inflexible and extreme electorate back home.

Today’s civil war of words, like the violent Civil War of the 1860s, is again about culture and economics. On one side are descendants of the era of “social gospel” believing in acceptance of differences and a salvation anchored by creating a better, more tolerant society.

On the other side of this civil war of words is an increasingly extreme and inflexible, sometimes violent group believing everything is a war of good and evil in the fight for individual souls, making every text book, social safety net, court ruling and every “requirement” for the commonweal, an all-out, angry battle.

The two sides, increasingly, only read what reinforces hardened opinions, only speak to those who fully agree, only live around “people just like them.” The vitriol of some talk show hosts and easily angered movements, is what Big Sort authors Bill Bishop and Robert Cushing might term a type of “ideological road rage.”

I sense in extremists today, the same incalcitrance that led to this nation’s tragic Civil War over slavery and other cultural and economic issues a little more than 60 years after its founding.

Ironically, that one was triggered by the election of a Republican President vowing change just as today’s civil war of words and vitriol, in my view, has been triggered by the election of our nation’s first African-American President because it symbolizes a public acceptance that “ideological road ragers” apparently can’t accept because it means other divides can be overcome.

I so hope I’m wrong. Maybe a new generation coming up will repopulate our Congress with moderates who will again be unafraid of bi-partisan dialogue and accommodation and compromise and rescue us from what we know from experience is the result of unchecked “ideological road rage.”

I’m an optimist by nature so maybe it is an alarm that comes with age but I must admit I don’t have a good feeling about this one. God Bless America and I, oh, so hope I’m wrong.

Note: Some of the ideas expressed above evolved or emerged from my recent reading and re-reading of The Big Sort, a must read for anyone who cares about the future of this Country, Republican or Democrat, Conservative or Liberal (or Moderate,) passionate or dispassionate, young or old…

Saturday, August 14, 2010


I jokingly refer to people as “techno-curmudgeons,” who use the Internet but complain, it seems incessantly that they “feel overloaded” with information. In my definition, these are people who ostensibly use the Internet but complain about having to use it or keep up with it.Technocurmudgeons

In the workplace, you’d think these folks make up a significant share of the population, both because they complain a lot and because they are typically the people who also don’t read.

But an updated snapshot by the United States Travel Associations of Internet users and those who travel at least 50 miles one way on trips includes some secondary research. It sheds some light on how large this group really is.

Approximately 168 million adults use the Internet now or about 74% as of November 2009. Of these, 72% or 122 million also take trips of 50 miles or more one way from home for purposes other than school or work. Clicking on the image above to enlarge it reveals that 16% of these people (1 and 1/2 people out of every 10) who both travel and go online, complain about feeling overloaded with information.

That’s not many for the fuss they make and the cost they run up in lost productivity because others must continually circle back to make sure they took in something that was circulated or to get them up to speed. In particular they slow the work of governing boards to a crawl.

And then if one of them happens to be a politician, well, all I can say is, oh boy!

Of course, who is to say the 46 million people who are online but don’t travel might not also be techno-curmudgeons or that the quarter of all adults who don’t access the Internet at all might not be techno-curmudgeons.

My guess though based on the size of this sample is that the 16% holds true for those groups as well. My philosophy is we need to stop coddling these people. Life is full of challenges and the least of our problems is “too” much information.

In today’s world, eagerness to access information should be a “must have” requirement to be elected to office or serve on governing boards of any type.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Where The Tetons Lean “Left!”

A hero of mine is Emanuel J. “Mutt” Evans. He was Jewish and elected Mayor of my adopted home of Durham North Carolina from 1951 – 1963, guiding the community through desegregation.

My favorite story about Mayor Evans is when a Judge ordered him to segregate seating at his downtown lunch counter, he just took out all of the seats, letting people comingle. He was obviously very “Durham.”Tetons From the Idaho Side

But you’ll never guess which State was first to elect a Jewish Governor? Pivotal word is “elect” (earlier a Jewish person had become Governor of Georgia through resignation.)

Yup, my birth state of Idaho. As it it is today, from well before statehood, Idaho has always seemed very “Republican” politically, maybe in allegiance to President Abraham Lincoln, under whom it first became a territory.

It is ironic then that the State has produced a number of famous Progressive/Liberal politicians on both sides of the aisle, such as Republican William Borah and Democrat Frank Church. And shortly after statehood in 1890, Boise, the capitol elected a Jewish mayor, Moses Alexander (he had already served two terms as a mayor of a town in Missouri.)

In 1915, elected as a Progressive Democrat, Governor Alexander was seated in the first of two terms as Governor of the State of Idaho, a decade or so after my family homesteaded a ranch and farm over in the Teton-Yellowstone corner.

By the way, you can always tell the “Idaho” side of the Tetons because they curve “left,” I’m sure, just to remind the Gem state that some of its greatest elected leaders have leaned in that direction.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

The Future of Urban Forestry Is Far Prettier Than Mulch

Coincidence I’m sure that the morning after I drove by some great street trees that had been chopped down along Hillandale for several blocks, I came across an article in the New York Times about two guys in Seattle, Seth Meyer and John Wells, who harvest urban trees like these and turn them into furniture. Back Camera

I don’t mean just ordinary furniture and they have nine employees and do about $1 million a year in revenues. They also have commissions from Starbucks and the University of Seattle.

The business is named Meyer Wells.

Very cool! This business doesn’t just just harvest street trees like those I saw cut down to widen the roadway which I suspect will ultimately become mulch. They also use trees cut down during developments etc.

Very cool indeed!

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Fairway’s Future Is Looking Down

The Cincinnati Reds gave away 10,000 skateboard decks at a game this year.  The depiction below shown on one of Fast Company’s blogs, illustrates a far less obtrusive alternative for Fairway Outdoor Advertising’s future.  These rolling billboards won’t clutter up cityscapes and view-sheds and piss off 70% of the population.  Great replacement for outmoded outdoor billboards, digital or otherwise.

Skateboards As Billboards

Spencer Mittan Should Be Vice President

One major element of customer service seems to have vanished. Ever try recently to get a front line employee to pass along a suggestion?

No matter how polite or low-key, clear or humorous a request is made, it typically gets one of three responses:att-iphone

  • Oh yeah, like that’s going to happen.
  • Or a vacant, helpless stare.
  • Or reverse delegation “You can call this number.”

Customer service isn’t easy and I know it can be overwhelming and people can be difficult. But corporations, no matter the size, need to do a better job of making sure front line people have the means and feel empowered to quickly and easily pass along suggestions to higher ups from customers.

When I went into an AT&T store while traveling, on two different occasions, I had two polar opposite experiences. The first time, the guy was polite enough but didn’t even listen to the problem or see if he could fix it, he just dialed a number before I had finished and handed me the receiver.

When I suggested he file a suggestion, he preferred to argue with me.

The second time I went into the same store, a couple of days later, I encountered Spencer Mittan, who should be immediately promoted to a Vice President. He listened carefully, gave me an alternative solution, quickly took my phone and tested it several ways including one way the other gentleman had swore was impossible.

In the end, he gave me his card, wrote a number and an email on the back and told me to call him whenever I needed anything from AT&T. He also volunteered to report my problem up line.

I took full responsibility for what happened to the phone. I wasn’t trying to do anything but get information and assistance. But that my friends is how customer services is supposed to work.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

North Carolina Readies For Fair Resolution for OTC’s

Beginning January 1st, 2011, all commercial lodging properties in North Carolina must begin collecting and remitting taxes levied on the rates for guest rooms sold by Online Travel Companies (OTC,) sometimes referred to as OTAs or Online Travel Agents.

Until now, OTC’s have notoriously refused to pay their full share, robbing state and local governments and their residents of the very revenues used to make destinations appealing, the reason visitors rent the lodging rooms in the first place.fairness

Until now, OTC’s have bought guest rooms at deeply discounted, wholesale rates, from lodging companies, but have paid taxes only on the discounted rate not on the rate at which they ultimately resell the rooms, pocketing the rest.

Under the new law, enacted recently by the NC General Assembly, full state sales tax and local room occupancy and tourism development tax will apply to the services provided by OTCs. Designated as guest room “facilitators” OTCs will now be responsible for remitting taxes based on the full sales price of a room, including the fee charged by the OTC for its service (defined in the law as “facilitation fees and any other charges necessary to complete the rental.”)

OTCs will be required to remit the taxes to the local North Carolina lodging property where the room is occupied, both the taxes they collect on the discounted room rental (as they do now) plus sales and occupancy tax on their compensation or “facilitation fee” which is the rate for which they resell the rooms.

This will mean travelers renting through an OTC will pay the same taxes (no more, no less) as those renting directly from the hotel.

Upon receipt of these taxes, each individual hotel property will be responsible for remitting the sales tax to the N.C. Department of Revenue and the occupancy tax to respective local governments (as they do now for the taxes on just the discounted room rate.)

There is liability protection for local lodging properties in the legislation - if they do not receive this new tax revenue from the OTCs, they are not responsible for it.

The new law applies to guest rooms rented by OTCs after January 1, requiring them to remit the additional sales and occupancy tax to the lodging properties located in North Carolina for payment to the State and local government.

Lodging properties harvest demand from visitors drawn to North Carolina communities which are developed in part as destinations by reinvestment of tax revenues levied on visitors to make them appealing and to provide the services they need.

The new law corrects a gross inequity.

Monday, August 09, 2010

Another Blow To Big Game Hunting For Mega-Events!

It is getting harder by the year to ignore the reality that meg-events such as the Super Bowl, World Cup and conventions like the Republican and Democratic party events just don’t add statistically significant impact economically or in terms of image.

The most recent of many to come to my attention is this excellent analysis of major political conventions from the 1960’s through the ‘04 events was conducted in 2008 but only came to my attention recently.Stuffed_wild_adv

There may be other cultural or political reasons to pursue them but it is impossible now with any credibility to play the economic impact or image cards, at least with a straight face.

I understand why many in the tourism-industrial complex remain loathe to acknowledge these well proven realities but what puzzles me is the number of DMO execs who still appear oblivious.  Hubris may be a factor but how far will that get you.

Growing the number of visitors to a destination has never been about more, more, more, bigger, bigger, bigger.  It is about prospecting for those visitors or visitor related events that can be feathered in to complement existing demand without dislocating (or distracting in the case of resident consumption) more impact than they generate.  Pure and simple.

But those subtleties are also lost on far too many in corporate American and far too many elected officials, especially if they live on a “one way street.”  So I know it isn’t always easy to have the courage to stand up to big game hunters.

But that’s part of the job and sooner or later, there won’t be room for DMO execs to remain in denial.  It will be a step forward when we get to the point where even internally we can have an honest and open discussion of these findings.

Regardless how you feel personally, you owe it to your community to read reports like the one linked above.

Sunday, August 08, 2010

Durham’s Fairntosh Shows How Tourism Can Steward Unique Sense of Place!

One of the very unique parts of Durham, North Carolina’s unique sense of place is that while it anchors a four-country metro area west of RDU International Airport, the top third of the community is protected as rural area including several rivers and lakes, scenic byways, farm districts, waterfowl impoundments and now there is a new way visitors can experience that way of life.Fairntosh Slide Show

At one time, Fairntosh Farm, a historic landmark, was off limits.  Now as Durham has emerged as a visitor destination, it has become a perfect way to stay in a cottage and experience a long weekend in North Carolina countryside and still be within minutes of Durham’s nationally renowned foodie side.

Fairntosh Farm is a working cattle operation and stables.  It is adjacent to the Stagville State Historic Site.  Both were part of the largest plantation east of the Mississippi.  The house at Stagville was an earlier home, Fairntosh was later.

The countryside is great for motorcycle excursions or bike trips.  There are boat rentals at Lake Michie or guided paddle trips ands canoe and kayak rentals for rivers and lakes through Frog Hollow Outdoors.

Fairntosh also offers to arrange private wine tastings or a chef or a massage.  Or book around dinners on the porch at nearby Elodie Farms, part of Durham’s slow or locally sourced food reputation.

This part of Durham will always make the fourth largest city in the State distinctive and visitors are definitely part of of making it sustainable.

Saturday, August 07, 2010

Why Are We Still Not Able Leave Tips On Debit Transactions?

There are many reasons debit cards are a godsend and not just for people who like me who have “essential tremor” and handwriting is increasingly difficult. Debit transactions passed credit cards in ‘08. By the end of ‘09 I believe there were 36 billion debit transactions compared to 20 billion with credit cards.tipping-table-money

It is like writing a check but without the paperwork and it makes tracking expenses much easier. Debits are now accepted for common transactions like fast food places without even a signature.

So I find it increasingly annoying that restaurants and/or debit card issuers haven’t found a way for you to leave a tip. At one restaurant where I often go for breakfast, they finally started letting patrons use debit but then if you ask to leave a tip, they print it out and have you tally and sign anyway.

Seems to me leaving a tip should be as easy as they make it to get cash back. Just have an option that pops up before approving that asks if you want to leave a tip for service and gives you several virtual buttons for 10%, 15%, 20%, 25%. They could even note under 20% “average.”

This would make it easier for the customer, good for the business because of much faster check outs and it would give the uninitiated or cheapskates an education in tipping. Seems like a win-win-win-win.

As fast as things evolve, I’ll bet this begins to happen even as you read this.

Friday, August 06, 2010

The Key To Relevance Is Courage

There is a reason that in surveys, the relevance and esteem with which Durham residents view DCVB as the community’s marketing agency, is two and a half times greater than the national average.CVB Relevance

A lot of the discussion since the issue of relevance surfaced a couple of years ago has centered on things that DMO’s should have figured out long ago e.g. focus on visitors, all visitors, not just room-nights in hotels, take leadership in planning for the community’s tourism future, make information based decisions etc.

To me, though, a DMO like Durham’s has achieved more relevance because it hasn’t been afraid to tackle tough issues head on. Yesterday’s release of the annual crime comparative is a good example. Crime Comparative 3

It’s obviously a DMO’s job to promote a community’s brand including identity and image. But that’s the easier part. Residents know Durham’s DMO also takes point in defending and protecting the community’s brand, identity and image.

This includes unwrapping misperceptions and finding ways to put things in perspective. DCVB unwrapped years ago that Durham was the only community in the state covered by two major daily newspapers and this resulted in twice the coverage of troubling issues.

But the Internet drove misperceptions by making twice the coverage appear to be twice as much problem. But DCVB took it further, as a founding member of the Durham Crime Cabinet and spearheading the 20-organization Durham Public Information and Communications Council, both now “best practices.” Then DCVB used its expertise in benchmarking to team with the Durham Police Department on a report to put Durham in perspective.

I’m sure DCVB still hears the occasional person or two, who work in Durham (typically not a resident,) that “other CVB’s don’t deal with crime” (the insinuation being that DCVB should be ignoring or covering up the issue instead of being so forthcoming.)

But that’s exactly why DCVB has successfully led the charge to improve perceptions, by tackling them head on and in the process emerging with as much higher level of relevance to residents and other internal stakeholders.

That’s how, I sense relevance is a lot about courage.

Most DMO’s just step up in a Pollyanna-istic way. But truly standing up for your community through thick or thin, is what really resonates with residents.

And guess what, Durham’s crime rate is the lowest or next to lowest quartile compare to communities similar in size and make up.

Thursday, August 05, 2010

If They Thought Billboards Touched A Nerve…

I was amazed that elected officials were amazed at the number and ratio of emails they received opposing a change in the Durham billboard ban, prior to the Durham City Council taking a unanimous vote against a request by Fairway Outdoor Advertising.

Maybe some hadn’t fully grasped the results of a poll conducted to inform discussion by NANOPHRADES as part of DCVB’s annual survey. It clearly showed strong community support to retain the ordinance as is.Appearance

But if elected officials were surprised that element of community appearance touched a nerve, they should recall now how important overall appearance is to residents in scientific polls.

Thinking it superficial I suspect, local governments here have steadily cut back on beautification, litter removal and mowing and maintenance of medians, right-of-ways, roadways so much over the years, they’ve probably forgotten what “best practice” was.

And I understand some administrators had quite a chuckle at a proposal by one of their own results-based citizen groups to make clean-up and beautification an overarching strategy since it has been well proven to impact assessed valuation/revenues, crime reduction and prevention, public health, economic development, neighborhoods, code enforcement and several dozen other public responsibilities.

It must be tough to keep a finger on the pulse of a community. But everyone knows it takes much more than watching your inbox or counting noses at a public hearing.

Maybe the real legacy of this drawn out debate and drama but failed billboard issue will finally connect some dots that overall appearance issues are a top priority for Durham residents.

Outmoded Technologies Infect The Web And Undermine Community Identity

Ever wonder why your computer thinks you live in another city? You can thank Nielsen and/or Time Warner and now Google for that.

You see, the media still likes to think we live in huge multi-county conglomerations they call DMA’s or designated market areas like the one in the first image encompassing where I live in Durham.Map of Raleigh-Durham-(Fayetteville) DMA

Then they get frustrated with how long the official names for these designations are so they truncate them to a name where only a small percentage of the people in the designation actually live.

Seems strange that Nielsen would persist with this approach in the day and age of Internet x/y axis but even more strange that Time Warner with cable ability to reach specific homes in specific cities would revert to it and even more ridiculous that Internet giant, Google would revert to such an ancient approach.

But that’s why advertising on the Internet or sites that try to customize to my location think I live in Raleigh when I live in Durham and its why ads streaming across the top of my GMAIL inbox gleefully herald what’s available in Raleigh…even though I’M NOT IN RAALLLLEEEE!

Really weird that a company can ID where I live on a map, show me a street view or aerial of my house and yet uses outmoded market ID’s to send me ads? The purpose of the Nielsen ADA’s is supposedly to help media set ad rates, based on how far signals reach.Idaho Falls-Pocatello DMA

Using the Idaho Falls-Pocatello DMA (shown left) for example, this approach assumes someone up in Jackson Hole Wyoming or Salmon, Idaho might travel all the way to Pocatello to find a Walmart? Are you kidding?

Even the market designations for Anchorage and Spokane shown below are inconsistent with any consumer reality. And we’re to believe the entire state of Utah and part of Nevada are one place called Salt Lake City?

I’ve lived at some point in all of these so-called market areas and they have no relevance to where someone lives. Map of Spokane DMALets hope the geniuses at Google quickly swallow up this old marketing thinking and deep six it. In the meantime, if you’re an advertiser on the web, you’re just pissing people off by using these designations.

Map of Anchorage DMA

Wednesday, August 04, 2010

A Harley In My Archeology

When my Grandfather and Great-Grandfather first homesteaded in the Yellowstone-Teton corner of Idaho, only stagecoaches with big teams were permitted to take visitors into and through Yellowstone Park.

Several years after my Grandparents Mel Bowman and Adah Neeley were married, cars were permitted after lobbying by motor clubs and and a few years later saw the end of stagecoaches when it became too complex to keep them separated.00447_p_10aeuyf6sw0579_b

I learned two things from a photograph of my Grandmothers that I recently scanned along with 2,000+ others. One, I may not be the first in my family with a Harley and two, Harley’s were used for a time around the 1920’s by rangers patrolling Yellowstone.

Click on the image to above/left and it should open larger.

Harley’s as early as 1926 resembled what I can see of the one here. If my Mom isn’t able to identify “Laurence and Regis on their way to Missouri,” maybe someone who sees this blog will.1926_model_B_harley_jpg_w560h420

I believe I spot a “spud” cellar in the background so I assume the photo was taken in that mile-high part of Idaho along the Henry’s Fork of the Snake River which at that time was first experimenting with what became a world-wide reputation for seed potatoes, that and “Gateway to Adventure.”

The Yellowstone Park banner may indicate it was a promotional trip of some kind. All I know is it was no easy trip. Most of the roads from LA to Kansas City weren’t paved back then. The Yellowstone Trail, an association founded in South Dakota in 1912 to promote roads and travel to the Northwest was active then as well.

Half the Harley’s sold during WWI went to the US Military. In fact the first American to enter Germany after that war was on a Harley-Davidson. So sidecars were more common then than they seem to be now.

People have been teasing me to get a sidecar so my English Bulldog, Mugsy could don goggles and go out with me to see my Grandsons. As they would say, WOW – Yeah!

You can see one just like it at the American Classic Motorcycle Museum over in Asheboro , south and east of Durham.

In the meantime if anyone can give me more information on the people in my Grandmother’s photograph, or the era when Park Rangers used motorcycles, please comment on this blog.

Bull City Connector Is Unique In Scope & Leverage

Emerging from a sketch 20 years ago on a cocktail napkin, Durham’s Bull City Connector, launching this month, goes far beyond the typical complimentary downtown circulator found in many cities.  It also illustrates how local government can leverage organizations including the relevance of a Destination Marketing Organization as a community’s marketing agency.Capture

The Bull City Connector, thanks to funding in part from Duke University will provide jump on/off connections (click on map to enlarge) to:

  • A string of 8 dining and entertainment centers,
  • Several medical centers, campuses, government and office centers and,
  • Venues such as ballparks, theaters, festivals and outdoor markets and the Durham Convention Center and,
  • North Carolina Central University (NCCU) via a connection at Durham Transit Station and DATA Route #5 (fare-free with ID for students and faculty.)

Scores of organizations and neighborhoods collaborated on the project.  As Durham’s destination marketing organization, the City and DATA engaged DCVB for marketing assistance and “overarching'” brand integration as well as other marketing services including:

  • Design of the map and collateral
  • Design and integrate the website
  • Train drivers (new staff and uniforms, more like tour guides etc)
  • Collateral distribution to 130 visitor outlets in Durham
  • Promotion in all official literature and websites for visitors and newcomers
  • Promotion through Durham News Service, eNews and other publicity avenues
  • Development and launch of a Facebook Fan Page
  • Other marketing assistance

Astute communities like Durham understand and leverage the roles, relationships and relevance of their Destination Marketing Organizations.

Tuesday, August 03, 2010

Can Liberals Be Christians?

You get the impression from man Conservative commentators that Liberals don’t believe in God and Conservatives do. Personally, I know they both do. It all became much more clear though in a cover to cover reading the latest edition of The Big Sort, subtitled “Why The Clustering of Like-Minded America Is Tearing Us Apart.” My edition included an afterword updating the premise through the ‘08 Presidential election. When read, the book is much more revealing than what you hear from folks who just talk about the basic premise based on reviews etc.

The authors describe one significant sort that began in the late 1800’s that distinguished “private” and “public” Protestantism. Think of the “private” approach as symbolized today by the religious right and conservative mega-churches and the rational for Republican Conservatism which has effectively purged the party of its moderate and progressive elements since the 1960’s.littlebook

Private Protestantism, according to the authors, “promoted individual salvation and promised that personal morality would be rewarded in the next life.”

Public Protestantism was on the other side of the sort in religion and forms the basis for Democratic liberalism, that “the way to God required the transformation of society.”

The authors use the views of drunkenness or alcoholism as an example and you can frequently hear this on talk shows where some callers argue it is a sin or lack of responsibility and others argue it is a disease.

Private Protestantism views alcoholism as a personal failing. Public Protestantism also known as the Social Gospel views it as a social ill. One group promoted “blue laws” as a solution and the other promoted minimum wage and eight hour work days to use just one example.

One viewpoint focuses on missionary work to convert the individual, the other focuses on societal reform. One views itself as the only true religion, the other is more open to ideas and diversity. To use a term used by conservative columnist David Brooks, one group “cocoons” with only what the book terms “people like us” and the other is more open and liberal.

To me, the two viewpoints, provide explanations about non-Christian groups as well, e.g. the liberal tradition among Jewish Americans and the unyielding nature of extremist Islam fueling terrorism across the globe.

Just one tiny example of the richness of this excellent book. Everyone needs to emerge from our respective information cocoons and read it. It won’t hurt or try to demonize one side or another, I promise.

Non-readers beware it is 300 pages not counting acknowledgements and index. But it is sprinkled with charts, very well documented and written and includes charts etc.