Sunday, August 26, 2007

A Question For Joe Killian

News & Record reporter Joe Killian held today's Sunday front page with a story about Greensboro's gang culture, based on interviews with 40 gang members.

"Gangs give these kids status, a self-identity, and they call that their family ... More than anything, that shows they come from poorly structured, fractured families. That leads them to have a skewed perspective."
I have a question for Joe: of the 40 gangbangers interviewed, how many had a father living at home?

Update: Joe Killian responds in the comments, and links to more on the story that he put in his blog.

I should clarify that my question to Joe was not a criticism of his excellent article. I just wanted to know more, and he has obliged. Thanks, Joe.

Friday, August 17, 2007

Summer Job

I've spent this week closing in on the completion of my bedroom renovation project. Apologies to my small cadre of DIY cineastes; no time to make videos, since I'm trying to actually finish the project.

The room I'm working in isn't air-conditioned, and temperatures have been in the high 90's every day, but I can't say the heat has bothered me much. I wear my favorite heavy canvas work pants (Carhartts) and a t-shirt, and I drink a lot of iced tea. I'm dirty and dusty and sweaty most of the day, and it feels good.

I've been thinking of this as my summer job, since my academic contract only runs 10 months, and it reminds me of summer jobs I had in college. My dad got me a job with a transportation company in Davenport, Iowa, and I spent two summers loading grain barges on the Mississippi, and two summers fixing tires for a truck fleet.

Both jobs were hot and dirty. The barge terminal I worked at was right next to a flour mill that had blown up spectacularly a few months before I started, from a dust explosion, something that I often thought about as I was awash in grain dust. I met a lot of truck drivers and farmers selling their grain, and did a lot of nasty, hard work that I'm proud of.

And at the truck terminal, the mechanics were always amused at the way I handled a tire hammer for breaking the tire bead, since I was such a skinny kid and the hammer weighed about 9 pounds ("look like ya need a counterweight on yer butt, Davie!"). But they liked me OK, and I liked them too.

I suppose it would be trite to say that I learned the value of a dollar at those jobs. I did learn how hard a lot of people have to work for their dollars. But most of them seemed to like their jobs, and took satisfaction from their work. And this summer, I've been taking satisfaction from mine.

So I've been enjoying pretending to be a working-class guy, wearing the costume and doing some of the same kinds of work. Doing different jobs does change the way you see yourself, and the way others see you, too.

I had to go to the grocery store yesterday, quite dusty from working on plaster, and I ran into a woman whom I've known from my kids' school for over a decade. She was dressed in classic southern style: blond hair pulled back simply, full makeup, summer blouse, expensive pants, good shoes. She was in the checkout line.

She looked straight at me. Not even a glimmer of recognition. I'm quite sure she wasn't snubbing me -- she's not a snob -- she just didn't see me. That is, she didn't see the me that she knew. She just saw a common worker, probably stopping in to pick up a six-pack of Bud.

Interesting experience.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Back From Vacation ... Thanks Be To God

If you should ever consider taking a beach vacation that involves watching over four teenage girls between the ages of 13 and 16, let me give you some advice.


I think the girls had a pretty good time, but it's hard to know because they're not speaking to me much. That's not a result of any conflicts on the trip, though -- it's just the state of play in our lives right now.

Many of the girls' vacation activities seem to have taken place between the hours of 1 and 5 a.m. For example, one night Laurette and I went to bed as the parents and temporary guardians of three redheads and a brunette, and woke up the next day looking after three brunettes and a blond. Good morning, Miss Clairol, how nice of you to join us.

Another vacation high point: one of the girls fainted while waiting in line for the services of an Albanian henna tattoo artist. Called her mother, who advised us to make her eat some meat (she's a vegetarian), which she did, with surprising relish. Even had some bacon the next day. Tattoos acquired: two butterflies, a heart, and an anchor. Ahoy, boys!

I'm sure L & I are a big hit with our guests' parents, what with their girls coming home with dyed hair and tattoos. But, as I said to L, no big deal. It's not as if we got invited to their parties anyway.

Glad to be back home at work. Here's a little song that L found which seems funny to me right now:

Monday, August 13, 2007

What's Your Walk Score?

Quantum of Wantum found a site that calculates how walkable your address is.

My house got a walk score of 69 out of 100 -- not bad, but not great. If I lived in Southside, my score would have been 88. If I lived in New Irving Park in Greensboro, it would have been 14.

Its algorithm works by calculating how many things like stores, coffee shops, libraries etc. are near your house, but I don't think it knows if there are actual sidewalks between you and them.

One nice feature -- it showed me things near me that I can walk to that I didn't even know about!

Update: since Jason Hardin linked me in this morning's Fast Forward, I've moved this post to the top of the heap. Welcome, N&R readers!

Saturday, August 4, 2007

Plaster and Sheetrock

A few before and after shots as I begin to put our bedroom back together.

I've felt a little like an indentured servant working on this project this week. 95 degree heat, no AC, and still a seemingly endless list of tasks to finish.

So I'm taking a week off at the beach. Back soon.