Monday, November 29, 2004

the slow death of the greco-latin plural

A generation ago (or was it two?), Marshall McLuhan could write a book called The Medium is the Message, and most people then pluralized "medium" as "media."

A bunch of loan-words from Latin and Greek used to be pluralized with "a," since that's the way it was done in those languages (for some words).

But we can no longer make up our minds about whether media is singular or plural. So also with bacteria (when was the last time you heard someone refer to a bacterium?). And lots of people treat the Greek loan criteria as singular (though it used to be the plural of criterion), even to the extent that they've invented a new, English-friendly plural for it: criterias.

It used to be that you could count on the NY Times to be futzy about stuff like this, but it looks like they've given up:

[The scientists] hope that a better understanding of how Arctic climate has varied over the millenniums will help them project the implications of the region's recent warming trend . . . Read it all (registration required).
Millenniums? I guess you can't say millennia without infringing Mazda's trademark.

Not that I'm complaining. I don't go around saying stadia or auditoria, though that's they way stadium and auditorium would be pluralized in Latin. And even though the Romans had a Colosseum, I don't mind going to the Greensboro Coliseum.

UPDATE: media (singular) has an English-ized plural, too: medias.

Google is a great resource for linguistic research into English as she is spoke!

"ewww, and I shook your hand and everything"

I went to hear Gary Jacobson's post-election analysis over at UNCG, and enjoyed it very much.

I was intensely aware of being a little drop of red amid a sea of blue in UNCG's Virginia Dare room, and never more so than during the question-and-answer period after Jacobson's talk.

The tenor of most of the questions from my faculty colleagues was something like, what hope is there for civilization now that the barbarians have stormed the gates?

The pretty and vivacious young assistant professor next to me asked how we could make sure that people just didn't hear "one voice" -- I think she meant that red voices were drowning out blue ones, which I thought was amusingly ironic, given the demographic of the room we were in.

Jacobson's response was refreshing: "Don't exaggerate. If you want to hear other voices, go someplace else and talk to people who are different from you."

I took that as my cue, and after the questions, I introduced myself to my colleague as a Republican and a native midwesterner. That's when she said, "eww, and I shook your hand and everything!"

Bad start.

But I persisted, and scolded her. (I never do that to people who disagree with me politically. if I did, I wouldn't have any friends at work).

She apologised, and we went on to have a great conversation. Not about politics, but about academic life, encroaching middle age, and about faculty classroom attire as costume (she's a drama professor, and I wear a jacket and tie to class). She later e-mailed me to wish me a happy Thanksgiving. Maybe we'll talk about politics someday.

My point?

If you're really worried about the country being divided, take Jacobson's advice. Don't exaggerate. Go someplace new, and talk to someone who's different from you.

I like both the red and the blue parts of my life, and the tension between them keeps me thinking hard.

Read this for better insights than mine (via Instapundit.)

UPDATE: Thanks to Glenn Reynolds for the link. And thanks to Instapundit readers for stopping by.

Sunday, November 28, 2004


I was in Barnes and Noble at Friendly Center last night, waiting as my daughter browsed around in her new favorite books, the Artemis Fowl series.

I picked up Harold Bloom's anthology of English-language poetry, and opened at random to Whitman's When Lilacs Last in the Dooryard Bloomed, which I don't think I've read since high school, when it meant absolutely nothing to me.

I was moved by his ability to love his country -- his whole country -- after the bitterness of the Civil War and in the midst of his overwhelming grief over Lincoln's assassination.

In those circumstances, only the greatest of souls could have written,

Lo, body and soul—this land,
My own Manhattan with spires, and the sparkling and hurrying tides, and the ships,
The varied and ample land, the South and the North in the light, Ohio’s shores and flashing Missouri,
And ever the far-spreading prairies cover’d with grass and corn.

Lo, the most excellent sun so calm and haughty,
The violet and purple morn with just-felt breezes,
The gentle soft-born measureless light,
The miracle spreading bathing all, the fulfill’d noon,
The coming eve delicious, the welcome night and the stars,
Over my cities shining all, enveloping man and land.

Read it all.

Saturday, November 27, 2004

sex makes the city

Steve Sailer talks about how reproduction patterns drive urban geography in Chicago:

In 1982, when I moved to Chicago as a young single man, I sought out detailed advice on where the greatest density of pretty girls lived, and there rented a 21st floor apartment with a stunning view of Lake Michigan. I became engaged three years later, and so, mission accomplished, I moved to a less chic neighborhood with more affordable rents. Two years later, when my bride became pregnant, we relocated to an even more unfashionable spot where we could buy ample square footage. (To my satisfaction, [U. of Chicago sociologist Edward O.] Laumann's team just this year published a categorization of Chicago's neighborhoods entitled The Sexual Organization of the City.) Read it all.
Greensboro's sexual geography is a little different. Since we have relatively little truly urban real estate, our young, single hipsters tend to be scattered through neighborhoods like Glenwood, Fisher Park, College Hill, Westerwood, Lindley Park, and my own neighborhood, where cheap rental housing is still available mixed in with single-family homes.

Although these "ring" neighborhoods have quite a few families with children, the baby quotient definitely keeps rising as you move away from the center, through College Park, Sunset Hills, Hamilton Lakes, etc. By the time you get out to Adams Farm or Lake Jeanette, kids are swarming the cul-de-sacs like gnats on a warm summer night.

The people at Action Greensboro, Downtown Greensboro, Inc., et al. have been working really, really hard to develop an urban geography that's fashionable enough to attract the young Steve Sailers of the world, and then to integrate them into our professional-reproductive-real-estate life cycle.

But I wonder whether these young fashionistas can afford to live in our new urban enclaves like Southside, Governor's Court, or Smothers Place. And I wonder whether they're going to like Ken Mayer's elegant new ballpark, or the Center City Park as much as I do.

After all -- if I like it, can it be that hip? A lot of these places have the feeling of what a weathly suburbanite would like in a downtown. Do young singles go to minor-league ballgames to conduct their mating rituals? All of the 20-somethings I see downtown seem always to be at Natty Greene's or at Joey Medaloni's places on South Elm, rather than in the Center City Park.

At any rate, I hope that some of those hipsters will keep coming to live in my neighborhood. I like to think that their coolness will ward off my creeping fogey-ness.

Friday, November 26, 2004

deranged turkey

We did something this Thanksgiving that every book on entertaining tells you not to do -- we experimented on our guests. Of course, we wouldn't have tried it if we didn't know that our guests would be tolerant of culinary failure. Our oldest Greensboro friends, Stephen Ruzicka and Camilla Cornelius, and their daughters Avery and Madhu, have shared many dinners at our table, not all of them successes.

The experiment this year came in the form of an heirloom turkey from Heritage Foods USA. This turkey is not the white-feathered, large-breasted, so-stupid-it-drowns-in-a-rainstorm variety you get frozen at the supermarket, nor even its fresh, organic cousin you can order at EarthFare or the Fresh Market.

This is your great-grandmother's turkey, the American Bronze Turkey. There are apparently only 500 of them surviving (oops -- make that 499).

We ordered the turkey on-line from Heritage Foods, and it was delivered via UPS on Wednesday. When it came out of the packaging it looked very . . . thin. If your typical grocery store turkey is Mae West, this one was Twiggy. The breast was definitely small in proportion to the legs and thighs, which were quite well-developed.

That's because this turkey was not only an heirloom turkey, but also a "free-range" one as well, meaning it had the run of the barnyard. My kids amused themselves making fun of the "deranged" turkey for a couple of days.

I was a little worried about it, though, because I've eaten some locally-grown free-range chickens, after which I coined my own term of derision: "schwarzechicken." "Tough" doesn't begin to describe them. They gave me warm feelings for Frank Perdue.

But all turned out very well. It browned and roasted perfectly. One of the advantages of the smaller breast is that the turkey cooks evenly throughout, unlike modern turkeys, in which the dark meat tends to get overdone before the over-sized breast is fully cooked.

The dark meat was a deep, almost purplish hue (don't worry -- it was fully cooked to 165 degress), and the white meat was tender and cohesive. All was very juicy with a concentrated but not gamey turkey flavor. It retained its moisture even on the platter, and overnight.

Was it worth it? With shipping, it cost us well over $10 a pound. That's expensive turkey. But if it's just once a year, I think I'd do it again. As my daughter said,

"It's good turkey. And it had a happy life."

And a beautiful afterlife:

Tuesday, November 23, 2004

living downtown

Allen McDavid of the Greensboro Center City Marketing Alliance:

In my personal quest to fully claim this community as my own I relocated my residence and my business interests to downtown Greensboro. That was three years ago. Never before have I experienced such community spirit, such a strong sense of place.
Read the whole thing.

historic preservation and real estate values

This comes to me via Stefan-leih Kuns, who labors tirelessly in the vinyards of Greensboro's Historic District Program. It's Donovan Rypkema's take on how local historic district designation affects property values (Rypkema makes his living studying this kind of thing). He says,

In most cases properties in local historic districts appreciate at rates greater than: a) the local market as a whole, and b) similar neighborhoods that are not designated.

With almost no exception, the worst case scenario for properties within a local historic district is that they will have appreciation rates equivalent to the overall local market.

There seems to be a pattern of properties within local historic districts being less volatile in the downside
of real estate ups and downs.

Now, please note this says Local Districts. They have that impact because of the protections that are typically provided. (i.e. I have some assurance that the lunatic across the street won't be able to do things to his house that will have an adverse impact on the value of mine).

The protections are central to the value enhancements.

When Rypkema says "protections" he means the regulations that govern local historic districts, such as Greensboro's Historic District Design Guidelines.

Lots of free-marketers -- and I'm one -- are regulation-phobic, and plenty of people in Greensboro have complained about historic district designation trampling their property rights. But there's another way of thinking about it.

The local historic district program offers me an economic choice that I wouldn't have if the program didn't exist: namely, the ability to trade some of my property rights for increased capital appreciation. If I don't like it, I can move.

Works for me.

Sunday, November 21, 2004

"they're not going to like that location"

When Laurette and I were house-hunting in Greensboro 11 years ago, we saw an ad in the paper for the house we now live in, and asked our real estate agent about it. She said she wasn't familiar with the street or the Aycock Historic District, and called another agent to inquire about it.

"They're not going to like that location," was the agent's response.

Well, that piqued our interest. We hate it when people tell us what we're supposed to like.

It turned out that the house we were interested was less than half a mile from our real estate agent's house in Fisher Park, which is also one of Greensboro's three locally designated historic districts.

How did it happen that one experienced realtor didn't know about the existence of Aycock, and another, who knew about it, was actively steering homebuyers away from it? I suppose it might have something to do with the neighborhood's demographics: about 50% minority, with lots of multifamily housing mixed in with renovated single-family. But I never found out for sure.

It turned out we did like the location -- a lot. Here are some reasons why I like it today -- November 21st, 2004:

The crepe myrtles in the neighborhood burn like fire in the fall. I translplanted this one myself two years ago.

The maples look pretty good too, especially when they're surrounding a beautifully restored classic American foursquare:

You just won't find the kind of architectural variety that's typical of Greensboro's older, urban neighborhoods in the new developments. So you'll see some pre-Victorian styles like this "triple A"

within a block or two of a Craftsman-style bungalow,

which is just across the street from one of Greensboro's few remaining Queen Anne Shingle Style homes:

Nobody is building houses like these any more.

Was it a good investment? Realtors, take note: in 11 years, our house has appreciated in value by about 150%.

But architecture and money isn't the half of it. It's the people who live here who make our neighborhood really interesting, fun, even exciting. There's always something to do here, and someone's always doing it. Like last night -- check out what Hoggard has to say.

Saturday, November 20, 2004

happy birthday!

Today is Hero's 1st birthday. She (the one on the left) is a Belgian Malinois.

Hero is not a female name, you say? Then read this and this (Kate Beckinsale doesn't look like a man, does she?).

Next to Hero is her two-year old pal, Trajan. No, not Trojan, Trajan. He's named after this Trajan. (What do you expect a Classics professor to name his dog -- Spot?)

They're excellent dogs. But don't try to pet them without an introduction.

Friday, November 19, 2004

gays and dolls

Guilford County Commissioner Linda Shaw was quoted in this morning's News and Record as saying she didn't want "Dockside Dolls" or those "gays and lesbians" on billboards around Greensboro's urban loop (sorry, no link). Her "gays and lesbians" comment refers to some Triad-area billboards promoting political rights for homosexuals.

Wow. In one sentence, Shaw turned a zoning issue into a constitutional one.

Disliking commercial advertising in the public right-of-way is one thing. But prohibiting signage because you don't want certain political opinions expressed is quite another.

Linda: here's a link to the First Amendment. You might want to brush up.

Thursday, November 18, 2004

on the sunny (south) side of the street

If you're depressed by all those new roads and taxes, ignore my previous post and read this one. Greensboro's South Side development just won a national Smart Growth Award from the EPA. Here is Amy Dominello's N&R story.

SouthSide is the brainchild of Sue Schwartz, The City of Greensboro's Chief Neighborhood Planner. Sue is the current president of the American Institute of Certified Planners. And she's the creative force behind the East Market Street Pedestrian Scale Overlay. And she worked on the Lindley Park Neighborhood Plan. And she is a guiding light in my own neighborhood's Summit Avenue Corridor Study.

Greensboro novelist Fred Chappell wrote a novel entitled Brighten the Corner Where You Are. That's what Sue does.

Mr. Ed Kitchen, please give her a big raise. We need her to stay in Greensboro.

Tuesday, November 16, 2004

visual effluvium

In Sunday's News and Record, my friend and colleague Keith Debbage urged moderation from all sides on the hot-button, billboards-on-the-urban-loop debate. The Guilford County Commissioners will be holding a public hearing on Thursday.

I, along with a bunch of other people, talked to the Commissioners about this issue in May, and I managed to enrage both Pat Short (who wanted to put billboards on his urban-loop property) and Rhino Times editor John Hammer by asking whether Guilford county was ready to live with billboards like those Dockside Dolls beauties on I40/85. (John likes billboards.)

David Hoggard had a good post on this, and the Rhino's Scott Yost covered that meeting, although he didn't note that Pat Short bought the property in question after the loop had gone through. That is, Short bought it as an investment property, betting on getting it rezoned for billboards.

Here's the thing. Billboards are the effluvium of commerce, just like manure is the effluvium of hog farming. Commerce and hog farming are both good things, but communities reserve the right to tell businesses and farmers where -- and where not -- to dump the waste.