Tarheeltalker

What do you think of Food Lion?

Food Lion is the primary place for grocery shopping in our community. Almost every time I go there, I  maintain that I am not going back. To backtrack a bit, we have three Food Lion stores locally and one is not too bad, one is terrible and one is sort of in the middle. Of course, the most convenient one is the worst of the three. Admittedly, in a town our size, none of the three is that far nor are my other options, Wal-Mart (aka the evil place) and Farm Fresh.

So, my wife wonders, why do I continue to torture myself by returning to my worst option? Believe me, I wish that I knew. Other than  force of habit and proximity, there is no discernible reason.

I suppose I should at the least attempt to justify my somewhat negative feelings toward Food Lion before I mail back my MVP card, ironically one of my smaller peeves. I have come to believe that customer service is either a misnomer at Food Lion or that they just do not care. There are often too few checkout lines open and those that are  often do not have  someone available to bag one’s  groceries.  Cashiers routinely come very close to completely  ignoring the customer or they  carry on a running conversation with  someone nearby, often a non-customer.

I suppose that a case could be made that the things are irritating to me reflect the fact that my  first job was in a grocery store and if my memory serves me correctly we were held to a higher standard. But my wife is also irritated from time to time though not as regularly as I seem to be.

I have wondered if the behavior at Food Lion reflects the fact that they feel they are either the only available choice or the default choice, in a  sense, for most shoppers. Perhaps that is why that purchased the locations of a former grocery store here in town to prevent their being occupied by a competitor. Ironically, one of these sites has finally been sold and the other is on the market. This action came after along period of vacancy for these buildings.

And to help in my decision, one of other shopping options gives us old folks a small discount  at certain times. Seems that it is time to move on.

September 13, 2011 Posted by | economy, Shopping | , , , , , , | 4 Comments

The Free $1.7 Million Bridge

If the old saying that the best things in life are free has any  validity, here in Elizabeth City we must have one of the best bridges in the world. Perhaps  a bit of elaboration is in order. Several days ago the long anticipated replacement bridge over the Charles Creek was opened. Miraculously the bridge came in on time and slightly under budget. The new bridge replaced a structure from 1970 and was just the latest incarnation of bridges in that area going back to around the 1870s.

So there was of course much fanfare with the mayor and other local officials in attendance, as it probably should be. The thing that caught my attention was the mayor’s statement that the bridge cost Elizabeth City absolutely nothing. Our beneficient federal government had picked up the tab for the entire cost. Well isnt that just hunky dory. We  now have a shiny new bridge and it is free! Driving across the bridge just I get all warm and fuzzy inside thinking of  how it was free.

But there is just one think that nags at me. Who actually paid for it? It came with federal money that had to come from somewhere,right?   I know one should never look a gift bridge in the span?( Shucks I don’t know.) But maybe when another small community gets their  “free”  bridge we can rejoice with them knowing that we just might have helped them pay for it!

P. S. Another great reason to pay your taxes.

May 20, 2011 Posted by | Technology, Transportation | , , , | Leave a comment

Am I insane?

I have heard it said that a sign of insanity is doing the same thing repeatedly but expecting  a different result. Based solely on that criteria I may be crazier than I  sometimes seem to be. I shall attempt to illustrate my situation by virtue of three examples, two of which can be grouped together.

          Exhibit A

From time to time while delivering mail, I will stop at a fast food establishment for some refreshment. Today was one of those days. My mistake, alas,  was in the place I chose. Hardee’s  and  I have not had a very good relationship in recent years primarily due to the excruciatingly service that seems to be their trademark . And so it was today. Here I am,the only customer  in the building and I waited almost 5 minutes, finally departing with no beverage. Having had these experiences several times, it begs the question, why do I continue to subject myself to this?  See title.

Exhibits B & C

Our next two examples fall into the same category. In our little town of Elizabeth City one is frequently encouraged, nay admonished to shop at home. The  multiple benfits to the local economy are extolled, etc. However, although I agree with this sentiment to  a point, I have had two instances  withinh the last severral days that  are changing my opinion, On the verge of runbning out of  ink on our computer printer, we went to  our local Office Max only to discover that they had every kind of Dell ink cartridge imaginable save the one we needed. Wal-Mart, same result, Ordered it from Dell, got it in 2 days. The secpnd example concerned my faothful companion, The World Almanac and Book of Facts, which I have bought the last few years. Lo, and behold, no one locally seems to have it, Yet another, aarrgh!!!

So, do my behaviors indicate a  problem severe enough to require me to never shop again? Or, do I resort exclusively to the online world( except for food)? Yet another unfathomable dilemma.

January 29, 2011 Posted by | Business, Culture | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Taking the Plunge

I  guess that I would not qualify as  much of a collector. As a little person, I faithfully collected baseball cards for a while. i even reached the lofty status of over 500 hundred cards, which  I actually thought was a significant number. Big lol there, huh?  And I do have a horror story of sorts about their demise but it was completely self inflicted. Upon reaching the ripe old age of 15 or 16  i decided I was too old for such tomfoolery and threw them away. Only years later when I met a fellow who put his son through college by buying and selling said cards, did I realize the error of my ways.

Since that  ill-fated effort I have done little if any collecting, until now. As  I make mention of from time to time, I am a big fan of the late Robert B  Parker and in particular, his Spenser series of novels. There are  39 in print with a few more in the pipeline. I have read most of them and reread several. Finally, I decided to take the  plunge and begin to acquire my own collection. For now, I plan to eschew the online approach and instead make use of a delightful local resource.

We have in Elizabeth City an establishment known as  The Recycled Reader. It is  a small used book store that has been around since 1997. I have visited on occasion but not purchased prior to yesterday. Now, I find myself the happy owner of my first 3 Spenser novels. Welcome to  Cold Service, Potshot and  School Days with more to follow. Maybe there is something to that collecting thing after all!

May 4, 2010 Posted by | Literature | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Money Well-Spent or Just Spent?

Just a few days ago, some 10 people affiliated with our local school system attended a conference in Tampa,Fl sponsored by the  Schlechty Center, based in Louisville,Ky. This is at least the second trip to a Schlechty conference, as a delegation went to Albuquerque,NM  last year. Final numbers are not available but the costs will  exceed $14,000 since the  registration fee alone was $1,400 per person according to a Daily Advance article by Kristin Pitts.

Finances are tight in our local system as they are in most school districts. So, how does one justify the costs incurred on this trip? Of those who attended, four were school board members( out of six total members) , 2 were elementary school principals and four were  administrators, including the superintendent and assistant superintendent.

Frankly, I do not know, although I would like to give the attendees the benefit of the doubt. Only one of those attending was available for comment and he acknowledged that  cost was an issue. But, he added, if you talked to any who attended this year or last they would say that the conferences were beneficial. That may be true but one wonders no one else could be reached for comment.Don’t you just hate it when that happens? Nine people, several of them school system employees and they could not be reached? Amazing!

Throw this comment in from a member who went to New Mexico last year but not to Tampa this year. Quoting from the Daily Advance, Board member Bill Luton said that last year’s conference stressed transparency and the value of listening to the public.  Maybe the transparency part did not sink in so well. A quote from Luton stated,” I can certainly understand why in this economic climate people might be at least concerned about expenditures.” Ya think?

As some of the online comments said, if the system were flush with money, costs would not be an issue. But the system is not flush, the teachers are in a constant struggle for needed supplies and costs are an issue.

When public money is spent, accountability is of the utmost importance and oh yes, transparency. Maybe next year when conference time  rolls around, the entourage could be  a bit smaller?

Any conferences any closer to home?

March 21, 2010 Posted by | education | , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Amazed Yet Again

As I write, it is a balmy 25 degrees, wind chill 16, in northeastern North Carolina. The sun is shining and there is a brilliant blue sky overhead. And, yes I am amazed. Why is there a blue sky overhead? How can it be so? You see, the Tar Heels fell on their sword last night down in Charleston, SC  in trying to be nice to an old friend in Bobby Cremins.

Cremins used to hang out at Georgia Tech but now coaches at the College of Charleston. Yesterday’s  Raleigh paper had a nice article about Cremins and the game, adding that there was no chance Cremins team could win last night. Shoulda seen it coming after that. Carolina had 2 starters out with injuries and their guards ended up shooting percentages equal to today’s  temps.

Yes, there were late game snafus, a miracle shot at the end of regulation, etc that should have never mattered. Did I forget to mention the 11 point lead that vanished in the last 4 minutes? How could I forget that?

I could wax eloquent and wonder what fate will befall us when the games arrive versus Duke (ugh) and others. Will  there be an ACC victory this season- sure-  How many- good question.

One last aside. On my Tar Heel collectible shelf, there stands  a soft drink bottle  commemorating the 1982 National Championship. It fell off the shelf today, all by itself. Must have been in shock.

Things will improve, right? And probably even before next season, right? Well, there is always last year to remember!

January 5, 2010 Posted by | Sports | , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Why Vote?

Short question that could generate  a virtually  unlimited number of answers, I guess. Because we are supposed to, I don’t know, it’s the American way, use it or lose it, to get my candidate elected, to defeat the candidate I don’t like, etc. I know there are many more, some very meaningful and others not so much.

I read one yesterday that I don’t think I had seen before, but upon reflection, it may be all too common. But I hope that it isn’t.

There was  a meeting or forum, I guess here in our community a couple of days ago at Elizabeth City State University. The event was hosted by the N.C. Legislative Black Caucus and featured 9  state legislators addressing  and listening to  a packed auditorium of ECSU students. Brief historical reference here. I applaud the legislators for holding the event  and the students for attending in such good numbers. i am not so sure that a similar event held when I was  a college student would have done nearly as well.

So, the meeting was  agood idea and  a good opportunity for give and take between the legislators and the assembled students. One question and its answer intrigued me just a bit. One student asked what was one supposed  to do when the local community did not support his university? His question was apparently based on his statement that the local Wal-Mart stocked apparel and  merchandise from East Carolina University in Greenville (about 2 hours away) and the University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill (about 3 hours away). Ok, a legitimate question for him. But the answer which I might have expected would deal with retail or economic issues, was  a surprise.

The answer came from Rep Alma Adams of Guilford County. This is what she said.”You can control everything that’s going on by making sure that you vote.” She added that “if you sit down, if you don’t vote, people will continue to do what they want to do.”

Perhaps, I mis-interpreted her answer but it seemed to me that she was saying the reason to vote is control. If you want to control what is going on you vote. If you choose not to vote, you relinquish that control.

Very interesting response, I thought.

November 1, 2009 Posted by | Culture, economy | , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Election Sloganeering

Sans national  and even statewide elections this year, I am devoting  my attention to the  Elizabeth City, NC  election scene. It is rather interesting and is becoming more so  as the campaigns unfold. One particular aspect that I notice as I usually do with campaigns, are the signs that candidates post. They seem to fascinate me every election that comes along.

So, as I wander around our fair city, I try to notice the signs. You remember the song, Signs, by the Canadian group, Five Man Electrical Band, from te 70’s. Sign, sign everywhere a sign, etc. That is the state we are approaching and I so enjoy it. Politics a its most basic, the local election.

I shall try to avoid naming candidates, at least for now. So many interesting things We have 3 candidates for mayor, one of whom has 0 signs that I have seen. Almost half of the candidates, including city council and have very basic signs. Name and position for which they are running. Call it the Dragnet approach. You know, Jack Webb, “Just the facts, ma’am.”  Or, all you need to know is my name.Others choose to tout their experience; still others  focus  on the concept of change. Guess that is opposite of experience. That worked rather well in the 2008 presidential race, did it not? But this local politics, so I digress. Anyway, it intrigues me that the newcomers use such basic signs. The incumbents have the advantage of name recognition, so it would seem desirable for a challenger to attempt a catchy, memorable slogan. But, alas. there are no catchy  slogans.

experience or change or a voice of or for the people. So many even used the same color scheme; navy blue on white. That must be in this  season. Two signs did make me think a  little. One incumbent has a sign saying leadership for  a change. Seems hard to be for change when you are already there. My favorite though was one that used  a play on words. The candidate’s last name is the make of a vehicle. Without using a name it is hard, so I’ll make an exception. Her last name is Hummer and the sign was “Move forward with…Hummer.”‘ Not bad. If I were voting just based on the signs I have seen, I wouldn’t.

But, then again, What do I know? I have only run one campaign for office, vice-president of my 8th grade class, Joe Biden wannabe, huh? My catch slogan  was derived from Hitchcock’s movie, The Birds, The slogan, the birds will get you if you don’t vote for me. Needless to say, I lost.

One last tidbit for the separation of church and state folks. We have an ordained minister running for office. The individual is using the title reverend in their campaign ads. Violate separation of church and state or not? Just wondering.

September 28, 2009 Posted by | Local Politics | , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Farmer’s Markets

Here in Elizabeth City, we have a nice , little farmers market that runs from  mid April through the end of October. This is the second year for this open air market on our downtown waterfront. The primary focus is baked good  and  fresh veggies in season, at  least as far as I am concerned. Mrs THT has brought  home some of the best baked breads one can imagine. Other vendors  display non food wares as well. You will even see the local animal shelter with a booth trying to find homes for some canines and that other 4 footed  pet. They know who they are. It is  a nice little event when the weather co-operates.

My son and his wife  live in the great city of Atlanta which has  a huge farmers market that sells things that I would probably would not even recognize. That’s alright. A big city must have a  big  approach.

Apparently, the First Lady has heard of one or both of these markets. For, lo and behold, she wants one near the White House. Not on the grounds, mind you, as the President was quick to point out. What, no big crowds on the grounds? I thought Andrew Jackson tried that way back when. Anyway, back to the First Lady’s idea. There is an organization called Freshfarm Markets that is asking that Vermont Avenue be closed from 1-8 pm on Thursday  (weekday, mind you, rush hour etc)

DDOT spokesman  John Leslie says the traffic people are studying the request. It was just last month that the President put his  support behind te idea of a farmers market.His comments made reference to the garden that the First Lady had  set up at the White House.

Well, there you go. The market has its first vendor and the proceeds could go to any one of a myriad of things. Hint, hint, healthcare.

Seems that the sponsor for the market has already invited Ms Obama to its grand opening. Must know the approval  s forthcoming. The Freshfarm folks are apparently  the umbrella organization for farmers markets in the D.C. area. That would be helpful for outdoor markets, I guess. Oh, since the  White House is just a few blocks from the  proposed market, it would be easy to get a selection from the White House garden for display and sale.

I must admit my lack of knowledge on farmers markets in the nation’s capital. But, then again, it probably should not be surprising. Is there not a lot of manure in that part of the country that would be  good  fertilizer? Just asking.

September 8, 2009 Posted by | economy, Food | , , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Coastal Visitors

Living close to the Outer Banks, we are somewhat familiar with tourist season. Lots of folks go through Elizabeth City on their way to and from the beaches. On occasion, I actually will make a brief pilgrimage to the land of surf. It is kinda neat to see the varied places from which people come  to vacation  in our area.

However, it seems of late that we are having a return of some visitors who used to come in days gone by. Lo, and behold, they have returned unannounced to our coastal waters. Yes, we are talking about  your friendly neighborhood Russian submarines. Been quite a  while  but they’re baaaccck!! Bear in mind that this comes shortly after Russian ships went through the Panama Canal for the first time.

Relation between the US and Russia are in a chilly state as it is and one  must wonder what these nuclear powered attack subs are doing. They have yet to enter into  our territorial waters but they have to know that we know and are watching their  movements. So says  our Northern Command through spokesman Michael Kucharek.

To me it reflects the persona of one Vladimir Putin and perhaps signals an intent to resume a bigger role on the world stage. That is when he isn’t diving into the world’s deepest lake in a submersible.

Gotta love this quote  by the Northern Command and the  North American Aerospace Defense Command. “We have been monitoring them during transit and recognize the right of all nations to exercise freedom of navigation in international waters  according to international law”. We know how the Russians have always loved international law. Oh, by the way, they conveniently forgot to tell us about this exercise in advance. Sneaky rascals are they not?

So at  least, we don’t have to search for Red October-yet.

From Russia with ?
From Russia with ?

But the Pentagon says not to worry.

August 8, 2009 Posted by | International politics, military | , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment