At the end of 2010 I posted 30 of Raleigh’s biggest needs. Items from a tidied CAT bus system and event shuttle buses to fast Indian food and quick downtown taqueria still stand as idle problems. Thankfully we have seen improvements in the non-country concert schedules, better sanitation monitoring of food trucks, and the availability of fresh corn tortillas. However the remaining 27 needs still blow in the wind. A few of these are major projects, however many are simply a matter of will.
What would it take for the City of Raleigh install mileposts along Glenwood Avenue for better wayfinding all the way to the Durham County line? Why must CAT’s buses remain so dirty and why can’t that system tighten up their brand? Why can’t they offer special event shuttle buses from Moore Square to Walnut Creek and Booth Amphitheater? Why can’t we have a DPAC shuttle from downtown Raleigh?
The economy has been sluggish over the past few years, however many of the items on the list are not expensive, speculative ventures. We need an injection of spirit in Raleigh, and it wouldn’t help if that came from our elected leaders. Let’s get moving, Raleigh!
It’s grilling season, and Triangle residents are doing a little spring cleaning and getting their equipment ready. For most, having a good portable propane tank is key. There are several options to consider, however, regarding how one supplies the gas.
The most convenient method for keeping stocked with propane is a tank exchange program. The customer takes their tank to a home improvement or grocery store, and takes home a different, filled tank. If there are any problems with the tank itself, the tank exchange vendor will pull the tank from circulation. The tank refills at Home Depot run in the $22 neighborhood, but the customer doesn’t have to purchase a tank, pay a membership fee, or pay a tank deposit fee.
Another option is refilling an existing tank. Places like U-Haul on Capital Blvd (just beyond Peace Street) and Costco can fill a tank, as long as it is in working condition and hasn’t expired. Tank refills are $10.50 at Costco, and are in the $15 neighborhood at U-Haul. This is a considerably less expensive option thank trading, but there are risks and difficulties.
In order to get propane at Costco, you park near the tire center, and take your tank to the propane island for inspection. (There is a call button if the attendant is not present). Once the tank passes inspection, you go into the store, wait in a cashier line, and tell the cashier that you are buying a 20 pound propane refill. After paying, you present your receipt outside at the propane station, and take your tank home.
Tanks can only be filled if they pass inspection, however. The valve must appear to be in working condition, and the tank should not appear rusty. The handle of the tank has a date imprinted, and this date must not be more than 12 years ago. Any tank that fails the inspection is denied and the customer must find another solution.
That risk doesn’t seem so great, however, when one considers the long term costs. Comparing a season of using an exchange program vs. Costco’s refill program, the Costco program is staggeringly cheaper. I use roughly 3.5 Blue Rhino tanks per year, which ends up costing around $77. Even though the tank is a 20 lb tank, Blue Rhino and RapidXchange only put 15 lb worth of material in the tank. Therefore I have used 53 pounds per year at a cost of $77, or $1.47/lb.
Costco’s refill delivers 20 lb of propane at a price of $10.50, or $0.53/lb. This would cost me $27.83, resulting in an annual savings of about $50. That’s almost enough to buy two brand new unfilled tanks ($27.50 each) inside Costco. Each tank has its own gas gauge and has a 12-year lifespan. Over that 12-year lifespan, a tank exchange program would likely cost me $924 while a pair of Costco tanks with refills would likely cost $389.
The Costco system of selling propane is a hassle, for sure. However the long term costs are so much less, they are worth considering versus a tank exchange program.
Summer is just around the corner, and that means another great concert season in Raleigh. From now until the end of September, there is a slew of music and comedy shows guaranteed to ramp up the fun rate in the area. Once again, there are very few dates between now and mid-June that have no event scheduled, so save up, and get out of the house!
There are 100s of good entertainment options coming this summer. The best 85 of the music options (as of today) are assembled below. All of these events appear individually in the gogoraleigh Do-It Calendar with venue information, so you can easily add any event to your personal calendar.
Now that basketball season is over, it’s time for some Durham Bulls baseball! The Bulls’ home opener begins at 7pm tonight against Gwinnett. Now you can follow their home schedule as a Google Calendar or download it to your device. All you do is point your device to the Calendar tab at the top of this page, scroll down to the Durham Bulls calendar, and follow the link/instructions there. Go Bulls!
Wake County School System has compiled their official calendars for the 2013-2014 school years in PDF format. In fine fashion gogoraleigh has converted all of these calendars into numerous downloadable formats. Now readers can easily import their favorite school calendars into Android phones, iPhones, Outlook, and more. The set includes calendars for the Traditional, Track 1, Track 2, Track 3, Track 4, and Modified schools. Even better, if you already subscribe to any of these calendars, then all of the new dates have been automatically added for you. For more information (and of course, the 2012-2013 WCPSS calendars) see the Calendars tab at gogoraleigh.
The shot…or was it a pass…that stopped the hearts of millions of Americans on April 4, 1983…needed help. It seemed improbable that Dereck Whittenburg, having almost had the ball stolen, against one of the greatest college basketball teams ever to play the game, on his own, could complete a miracle with a wild desperation shot. He needed help…
The ‘83 season had been a long, complicated one. In the previous year State saw their archrivals win the National Championship, but Jim Valvano’s second squad gained momentum. With a 21-8 regular season mark and a first round NCAA Tournament exit, the Wolfpack felt like they could continue building on solid foundation in ‘83. They had some pretty darned good players returning; one of the nation’s best backcourts (Lowe/Whittenburg/Gannon) and a strong frontcourt trio (Bailey/Charles/McQueen).
The Pack went into that first game in ‘82 against Virginia with a 7-2 record. That was the game in Reynolds where UVA’s Othell Wilson came down on Dereck Whittenburg’s 5th metatarsal, and seemingly doomed the Pack’s hopeful season. While a determined Whittenburg pushed himself through rehab, the Pack needed help, and got it as freshman Ernie Myers rose to the occasion. While the team’s overall results were mediocre in that stretch, they played well enough to keep a glimmer of hope for a successful season alive.
* * *
1983 was the first year that the ACC Tournament was played in Atlanta. Ever fans of visiting Atlanta, my family got tickets for the tournament. We were en route while Lorenzo Charles’ free throws disposed of Wake Forest just a week after blowing out those same Deacs 130-89. It was also the first time that perennial cellar-dwellers Georgia Tech were able to win an ACC Tournament game. Behind a little rookie named Mark Price, seemingly the entire Omni crowd got behind the Jackets and showed the evil Lefthander and Maryland a first-round exit.
We only had two tickets for Saturday’s session, so we hit the plaza with two fingers held high to the scalpers; we had to get two more tickets. The team needed our help! We found a pair and Saturday provided one of the tournament’s great historic games, as NCSU overcame a late 6-point deficit to win in OT over the Tar Heels. Once Jordan fouled out, I knew the Pack had it. My family made sure that on Sunday (assuming we could find two more tickets) with the Pack facing Ralph Sampson and the mighty Virginia Cavaliers, we would sit in the same pairs, with our programs in our laps, eating more Omni nachos, and drinking out of the Omni-labeled Coca-Cola paraffin cups.
When UVA went down and the Pack cut down the nets, we vowed to take our paraffin cups home and keep using them. We also whimsically paraded through the concourse holding 4-digits high pleading,”FOUR FOR ALBUQUERQUE!” (I made darned sure that Matt Doherty and his family standing by the exit doors heard me). We needed those tickets because in the tournament, they needed help!
The Cardiac Pack was born in that tournament. The Pack, seemingly always down by 6, was able to scoot by coaches named Harrick, Tarkanian, and Holland. For each game, we sat in our den holding those Omni programs and Omni cups, and pulled that team through. They needed help, right? The team didn’t even come back to Raleigh after the second game because their West Regional assignment led them from Corvallis, Oregon to Ogden, Utah. No problem for us, though; because as limp as they were getting, we had those cups!
The team won the West Region and returned to Raleigh and staged an open practice. Of course my family attended. The team needed help! It was a great week in Raleigh. While it was the school’s first trip to the Final Four since the Thompson era, everyone just enjoyed the ride. The Cardiac Pack was the favorite against Georgia in the semis, but a vast underdog to the other side of the ticket. To win a championship, they were going to need a LOT of help.
April 4th, Championship Day, rolled around and I was in knots. It was Spring Break, luckily, because there was no way I could have concentrated in my 8th grade classes. We didn’t get tickets to Albuquerque, but we still had our seat assignments, our programs, and our poor Omni cups. The cups were so limp, we put them inside larger stadium cups fearing a blowout (of the cup, that is).
At halftime State was BEATING Houston by 8! EIGHT! That’s four possessions, my friend. This was unbelievable. Little did I know…
Houston came out of the gates on all cylinders and the Pack found itself late in the game down by, you guessed it, SIX. They needed help…big time. However the Pack tied the game and found themselves in a position to pull off one of the biggest upsets in the history of sports. Whittenberg was a master of the catch-and-shoot, especially from the ACC’s ridiculous 17’9” 3-point line that year. However this desperation heave from 40’ with :04 remaining in the National Championship? He needed help.
* * *
Lorenzo Charles came to Raleigh from Brooklyn as one of Valvano’s first recruits. Valvano, hailing from Queens, always felt like he could give inner city guys a chance, and Lorenzo would be one of his first projects at State. Charles got in trouble his Freshman year, ‘81-‘82, for robbing a Domino’s Pizza man. It was a bad way to start his tenure in Raleigh, taking things from people. That isn’t help. Charles hit the weight room and matured quite a bit in the ensuing 12 months. The Cameron Crazies were still waving pizza boxes at him that Sophomore year, but Lorenzo was past that, and his game was starting to connect. In his Senior season, Charles earned First Team All-ACC honors, and that was against some of the league’s all-time greats like Kenny Smith, Brad Daugherty, Len Bias, Adrian Branch, John Salley, Bruce Dalrymple, Mark Price, and Johnny Dawkins. These are players who went on to have good, solid NBA careers.
The NBA game was probably too fast for Charles, but he had a nice pro basketball career in Europe for several years before returning to the Triangle. For years Charles did what he loved; driving people. He mostly drove limos, but also drove buses, including several jaunts for the Duke basketball team. Everywhere he went he was an instantly recognizable celebrity. However Lorenzo Charles was just doing what he learned under Valvano, helping people.
He only scored 4 points in that championship game, however those final two were timeless. It was a miracle in the making, and Whittenberg’s short shot, that seemed to hang in the air for an eternity, along with that miraculous run could never have become legend without a little help…from Lorenzo.
The ‘83 team’s legacy still lives strong in Raleigh. The lessons learned about perseverance, focus, fundamentals, second-chances, teamwork, and, oh, yeah, help live deep within Raleighites. The 1983 story isn’t one about basketball. It’s one about life; how to live it, how to love it, and how tragically it can suddenly end.
Lorenzo Charles was driving an empty bus on westbound I-40 in moderately heavy traffic on June 27, 2011 when his bus inexplicably ran off the road and into an embankment. Charles’ life ended instantly, adding more complexity to the Cardiac Pack story. I erected a small monument to #43 today at that site (map it). It stands as a symbol that Lorenzo’s legacy survives. He may have completed a miracle in far away Albuquerque, but that spirit we all had in 30 years ago today still survives right here in Raleigh, especially when we need a little help.
…The Cinderella Team has done it…The glass slipper fit…The Wolfpack has won the National Championship!
Growing up in Raleigh I’ve had several occasions to do things in Greensboro, especially in the Coliseum area. During my lifetime Greensboro seemed to get all of the great concerts, got great stores before Raleigh, and got to host the ACC Tournament. For many, many years there were real reasons to not only visit Greensboro, but to live there over Raleigh.
Greensboro was a thriving mill town in the first half of last century, which led to the prolific growth of gorgeous classic neighborhoods. Hayes Barton is the bastard child of Irving Park in that regard, but even in the middle income areas there is a prodigious number of houses that were built before Suburbia kicked in. In that era Greensboro invested smartly in their road system, implementing many Wade Avenue type arteries around the older parts of the city. Around Greensboro’s city streets, traffic problems really only exist out in the Suburbian Battleground Avenue, a US1 North-esque sole artery north out of the city. When I-85 was planned, it was a no-brainer to include Durham and Greensboro, as they were thriving, productive cities, unlike Raleigh, the sleepy government town. As Raleigh quickly grew through the 70s and 80s, the two cities were relatively the same size and seemed to have a remarkable number of similarities.
We went to Greensboro for the Friday evening session of the ACC Tournament. Knowing that the Coliseum food is expensive and terrible, we opted to stop at a gas station for beer and stop at a downtown restaurant for take out before tailgating before the game.
While driving around downtown on a beautiful Friday afternoon we got to see downtown Greensboro at its most vibrant. “Dull” probably exaggerates the experience. I was stunned by the comparative lack of interesting restaurants, the lack of downtown bars, and the overall lack of people. There is definitely a vibe in downtown Raleigh, and there is definitely no vibe in Greensboro. This was the first time that it really struck me how much further along downtown Raleigh’s vitality is than Greensboro’s. The number of young people making something to do, creating a sense of place, and moving the city forward is just, scant. The difference is quite palpable.
The point isn’t to beat Raleigh’s chest and flame Greensboro at all. Rather, it struck me on this trip; where is Greensboro headed? Ultimately the I-85 spine will keep all of the cities on the string in fabulous shape. Asheville and Wilmington will exist as creative outposts, and the rest of the state will become severely depressed. I like to call the string of cities the “Carolina Crescent”. Charlotte, Greensboro, Durham, and Raleigh will be linked by better and better rail service, and the spine will be a magnet for all important growth moving forward. Much like our current thinking of the Triangle, the crescent will eventually be thought of as a “macrometro” as transportation improves.
So Greensboro has that going for it. The tech and information job push that is filling Raleigh’s sails currently will continue for a good while, but we have to be prepared for another wave; a wave that could change the economics of the city as much as the exodus of the textile industry changed Greensboro and Burlington.
The Triangle is the educational and technological center of the state. It has a strong Liberal voice with a strong interest in environment and humanism. Charlotte will continue to be the strongest financial center in the state, and seems to be the Conservative core of the state. What identity will Greensboro develop? Will industries polarize their presence in North Carolina to Charlotte and/or Raleigh and skip Greensboro even more than ever? It’s looking that way, and the lack of an interesting market sector to ages 25 to 35 has to be the deepest concern for Greensboro in the next 50 years. Much like Richmond, Greensboro stands as a city of yesterday, with no ascertainable uniqueness to tomorrow’s economy. Its future is seemingly more loaded with questions than with answers.
* * *
Oh, BTW, we got food to go from OPA!, the Greek restaurant. The lettuce from the salad was basically from a food service, the olive oil they used was cheap, the pita bread for my wife’s sandwich was stale, the marinade for my chicken kabob was extremely uninteresting, my accompanying vegetables were bland, and my platter did not come with pita bread. This restaurant definitely needs to pick up a copy of The Grecian Plate (Durham Greek Orthodox Church’s cookbook)! An astonishingly better meal for the same price can be had a Taverna Agora; just so you know!
Yesterday the ACC released the complete schedule for the upcoming football season. In typical fashion, gogoraleigh has compiled the schedules into formats that are easy to import into almost all calendar applications. Included are not only downloadable files for the UNC, NCSU, and Duke schedules, but also files for the entire ACC conference schedule.
Google Calendar users will find that the existing feed for each of these schedules has been updated, so there is no need change anything if you are already subscribed.
Note: TV has not had a chance to affect the schedule, so the dates are not final and times are not set.
Oh sure, the next couple of days will be a welcome respite. For snow lovers, however, don’t give up hope. Last night WRAL’s Greg Fishel presented a graph he made. It’s a normal distribution of local annual snowfall since 1940. The statistics are interesting, as 50% of the snowfalls fall between January 11 and February 18. Tomorrow marks the midway point of the snow season, and the historical odds of having measurable snow decrease quickly as February progresses.
Don’t lose hope, though, in March. The ~14” we got in 1980 were an anomaly, but the atmosphere during that time of year is still capable of imposing itself plenty (1992 ACC Tournament, anyone?)!
Happy New Year, everyone! 2012 was an fascinating year, with the Olympics, the Election, and a little bit of economic traction, the year turned out to be more interesting than expected. With the close of the year, it’s time to pull out the old crystal acorn and make a few quick predictions (30 to be exact) for the upcoming year. (Don’t take these to the bank, though! If this thing were any good, I’d be in Vegas with it.)
Publix will begin construction on their first Triangle store…in Cary in the Davis/54 area.
Publix will pick Creedmoor/Millbrook for their first Raleigh store location. The new owners of Falls Village will make a strong play for Publix, offering to raze half of their center to accommodate a large grocery store.
Raleigh will begin discussions to tear down Memorial Auditorium – with the dominant bookings of the DPAC, Raleigh people are increasingly irked by having to go to Durham for so many good events. Leaders in Raleigh will talk about removing the center section of the performing arts complex and replacing it with a stacked, 3-tier facility to compete with the DPAC.
Violence will be an increasing problem in Glenwood South, and patrons will start seeking another focus for nightlife, most likely in…the Hillsborough Street area, which will be the next wave of downtown revitalization.
Orvis will close in Triangle Town Center and seek space in a part of the Triangle where their patrons actually live. Perhaps Kidd’s Hill behind Crabtree?
Development of both Kidd’s Kill properties will finally begin, but the Soleil Center/Westin land will remain an empty lot.
A new mall will be announced for the I-40/42/70/540 area between Clayton and Fuquay. It will focus on serving the Johnston County market.
Best Buy will close at least one Triangle location. My bet is the newest store, Brier Creek.
Between Liles, The Varsity, and Nowells, Raleigh will only support two, and one will close.
As brick & mortar retail continues to struggle, Crabtree will add another restaurant in its mall proper
While Washington policy will grow much more liberal than we’ve seen in the previous 4 years (increasingly hostile fiscal policies toward the wealthy, increased spending on social programs, and a stark increase in liberal social policies and transit expenditures), North Carolina policy will become more conservative, but not by much. In the next four years issues like Gay Marriage, Legalization of Pot, and Gun Control will stay put in this state, unless there is federal mandate…
…The Supreme Court will rule that Gay Marriage must be recognized by all states, and Federal Legislation implementing more stringent gun control will override North Carolina’s stance.
North Carolina will get an increased amount of funding for transit (regional “high” speed and local light rail), but the State of North Carolina will decrease expenditures in these areas, and no real progress will occur in the next four years, especially with light rail.
Raleigh will continue its oppressive assault on drivers in neighborhoods by reducing the speed limit on Glen Eden to 25 mph. They will also erect more of those contrived islands meant to annoy and slow drivers.
UNC and NCSU will field bubble teams in football, once again, that will get absolutely no national attention.
If the NHL season is cancelled, Backyard Bistro will close.
T-Mobile will be bought by one of the other carriers, most likely AT&T, reducing the number of carrier networks to three in the Triangle.
Free Wifi will be everywhere by the end of the year. In the malls, the restaurants, and in grocery stores. Most importantly, I predict that free wifi for every fan in the building will be implemented in the PNC Arena. (yay!)
The number of restaurants with tablet menus will grow quickly. In fact, only cheap or snobby restaurants will be without a tablet presence by the end of 2013.
Buca di Beppo will announce their first Raleigh/Cary location
PDQ will announce two more locations. One in the Southpoint area and one in Cary.
One of downtown Raleigh’s Indian restaurants will close. Will it be Blue Mango or Mantra that survives?
BJ’s Brewhouse will announce their first North Carolina locations – on in Charlotte, one in Cary.
The next big culinary ethnicity, after Mexican starts to fade, will be South American. Restaurants like Machupicchu and Guasaca will have excellent years, but will see more competition, too, especially in the casual dining space.
Guacamole variations will be the next trend within the Mexican food space
The IHOP on Hillsborough Street will close, but will be replaced in 2014 by a mixed use apartment building that will have street level retail, including a new IHOP. (This is a planned project. The prediction is that execution will begin this year)
The Triangle will be selected as the site for filming a nationally prominent movie.
No significant changes to Raleigh’s skyline will be introduced in 2013.
A MakerBot-like 3D printing business will open in Raleigh, allowing people to create functional and artistic plastic items just-in-time.
Here’s the big one: 2013 will be the Year of Durham, and the crowning moment will be an announcement by Google that their second Google Fiber city will be…Durham.
Local basketball fans with iPhones, Android Phones, Blackberrys, Outlook, Palm devices, and more are in luck! Gogoraleigh’s Calendars Tab is your home for free 2012-2013 ACC basketball schedules for the entire ACC in .CSV, .ICS, and Google Calendar formats.
gogo has gone all out again, offering schedules for each individual ACC team, as well as one giant calendar which includes all 279 games. Events on the calendars include not only the game time, but also links to ESPN’s team pages and the name of the venue where the game is being played. On some devices, like Android phones, the location becomes a link to Google Maps showing the venue’s location.
For those already subscribed to the Google Calendar version of the ACC Complete calendar or any of the other supporting Google Calendars from gogoraleigh, you don’t have to do anything. All 279 events have been added automatically. As event details change, you’ll see automatic changes in your calendar.
And wait….there’s more! Gogoraleigh decided that these 13 calendars aren’t enough, and added home-only calendars for UNC and N.C. State. All for the low low price of ZERO!
Outlook-Based Blackberry/iPhone/Palm Users
After downloading the appropriate CSV file (see below), create a new folder in your in Outlook calendar (Bball13, for example). Use the File | Import and Export… to import from “another program or file”, then “Comma Separated File (Windows)”. Be sure to pick your new calendar folder as the target. This will set up the schedule in your new sub-calendar where you can make whatever changes you want.
iPhone Users – Open iTunes with the iPhone connected and sync (you may have to specify your newly added calendar in the “Info” tab’s Calendars section.) Now you can view the basketball schedules as their own sub-calendar or as a part of all calendars.
If you have a device which doesn’t support subcalendars (like Treos and older Palm devices), you’ll need to copy the imported basketball events into your main calendar. When you are happy with the way the subcalendar looks, change the calendar view to “Events” (instead of 7-day or 31-Day or whatever view you’re using). “Select All” from the list, and drag them over to your main “Calendar” (The Treo and other Palm Handhelds only sync to the main calendar – time for Palm to get with the program on that one!). If you want to keep your sub-calendar intact, use Ctrl-drag instead of plain drag. That will create a copy of each event to the main Calendar and keep the Bball08 calendar in place. Sync your handheld to copy the events to the handheld.
Google Calendar/Android Users
My favorite way to follow the ACC’s basketball calendar is to add it to my Google Calendar set. The Google Calendar is a dynamic, subscribable calendar that offers much flexibility. For instance, several game times have not been announced. As soon as they are set, actual game times will magically appear in your calendar. Also, Google Calendar offers a map link for quick viewing of the game’s venue location.
Additionally, Google has created a simple interface through mobile phone browsers. It allows one to view and implement ACC Calendar events. It also recognizes hyperlinks in the event’s description, so easy access to the team files is achievable by using the online Google Calendar app. To view these add the calendar using the link below, then visit http://calendar.google.com from within Safari on the iPhone or your Android browser.
(Note: Gogoraleigh will also carry the home-only calendars as an integrated feature of its normal Gogoraleigh Do-It Calendar).
To view a Google Calendar, go to the gogoraleigh Calendars page and click on the appropriate calendar link. Once the calendar is displayed, you can add it your set of Google Calendars by clicking on the “+Subscribe” bottom on the bottom right.
There are two options:
Use iCalTextImport to import the .CSV version (linked above) of the schedule.
Download the .ics file from the Calendars page and import it into iCal.
Palm Desktop and Yahoo! Calendar Users
My brother-in-law taught me a neat trick. In order to get a CSV calendar into Palm Desktop, one can use Yahoo! Calendar as an intermediary. After downloading the .CSV file from gogoraleigh, open Yahoo! Calendar and click “Options” in the upper right. Then select “Import/Export”. Go to “Import From Outlook”, selected the filename, and click “Import”. Yahoo! Calendar users are done at this point. Palm Desktop users need to verify the import, then return to the “Export to Palm Desktop” section. Pick your target and hit “Export”. The resulting .DBA file should then be ready to import into Palm Desktop.
Beware! It appears easy to lump Yahoo! Calendar events that are unrelated into one calendar. If you are simply using Yahoo! Calendar as a conduit to Palm Desktop, verify that your calendar is clean before originally importing the .CSV file, otherwise unrelated events will get lumped with basketball dates in your resulting .DBA file.
Each of the Google Calendars carries an RSS feed. This might be an interesting addition to your RSS Feed collection because each calendar change will appear in the feed. This is most useful as an alert to a game time changes in the schedule. The RSS Feed for each calendar can be found when viewing each individual Google Calendar.
Calendars are apt to change, so check back occasionally for updates. To determine the version of your schedule, open the note associated with any event, and look for the version number. If your calendar is older than those listed above, simply delete the events in Outlook in your old one and import the events of the newer file. Google Calendar is dynamically updated on the back end, so you always know you are up to date when using Google Calendar.
Use at your own risk. I do not accept responsibility for any consequences resulting from errors in the schedule.
Today at 3pm the doors opened for the N.C. State Fair’s preday. Known for the rides, food, and livestock, the fair also features nightly concerts which require a modestly priced special ticket to get in. (Scotty McCreery’s shows Monday and Tuesday are sold out, but tickets are still available for Jake Owen, Matthew West, Hot Chelle Rae, Jason Michael Carroll, Brian McNight, Michael W. Smith, Billy Currington, and Corey Smith.
While the State Fair is not my favorite food event of the year, there are several items to which I am look forward, including Cary Methodist Church brunswick stew and ham biscuits, Al’s French Fries, and N.C. State ice cream. A complete list of new foods is available, including deep-fried Girl Scout cookies. These freak-show foods aren’t what really excite me, though. I’d rather find some neat marinated meats cooked in a pit or over coals. I’ve always wanted to run either a kebab truck, a pizza in a cup truck, or a soup truck, (but it will never happen). Nevertheless, I am looking forward to the Cajun Grill (to the right of the Grandstand entrance) featuring some absolutely delicious seasoned fries and Crawfish Etoufee. In your search for food, the new Food Finder at the State Fair’s website looks like a good resource.
I’ll likely be heading out there on Monday, sending Twitter updates as I go, using the hashtag #ncstatefair. Feel free to comment on your great finds here, and be as specific as you can about the location.
Wayfinding at the State Fair is extremely poor, and the fair is unfortunately ignoring this growing problem. For too many years people have said that some neat attraction was “near a sign that says pizza” or “near Dorton Arena”. Because these vague directions only leave me frustrated, I wrote the fair a couple of years ago asking for a signage system. To me the easiest solution would be to name the four or five zones of the fairgrounds and assign them colors. Take a look at these three maps:
Notice how the theme parks have assigned names and colors to their regions. The fairgrounds definitely has at least five regions:
the old midway, expo building, Graham building
the kiddieland midway and old expo buildings
the area next to the Scott Building extending back to the pig raceway
the new midway
The Village of Yesteryear, the flower show, lake, grist mill, etc.
Each of these areas could be named after a part of the state or a piece of our history. Zone names could be something like: Piedmont, Appalachian, Coastal, Banks, Croatan, Dare, etc. Then do what Disney did: assign colors to those zones on the maps, and put up signs at the entrance/exits of these zones. Now, to keenly address the original problem: put up signs on the existing light poles with numbers, perhaps, so that people can say "The best corn dog at the fair is BETWEEN lightpoles 12 and 7, in the Piedmont area", or "between lightpole 9 and Gate 6 in the Mountain area". That way people have pinpoint markers to plot where they are. Meet me at lightpole #12 at 3pm…. Of course, the numbers should be mounted high enough to be seen for a couple of Fair blocks and should match the color of that zone on the map. Eventually formal gateways could be added to signify the entrances to certain zones, but for now, colors on the lightpoles would suffice. Poles with numbers could also be mounted on the corners of some buildings, like Restaurant Row, for added distinction.
The new big rides Powers Great American Midways is bringing to the fair are The Rockstar and the Genesis. Both are “choir slingers”. I fail to see how the Rockstar is any different than The Rainbow. The Genesis looks like a side-facing DaVinci’s Cradle. The good news is the Skydiver makes its return to its place on the Old Midway. However there are three pitiful Ferris wheels. It’s a head-scratcher that in 1985 we had the Skywheel (double Ferris wheel), the Giant Wheel, and the front-facing Ferris wheel, yet in 2012 we have only three tiny bucket wheels.
The best times to go to the fair are Monday and Tuesday, and it isn’t even close. The crowds are very manageable, parking is better, and the ride times are decidedly longer. As far as parking goes, We have found success parking in the weekday afternoons on Beryl Road (access from the Waffle House on Hillsborough St.), but the Carter-Finley lot is a sure bet and has a dramatic entrance. In order to get by with the least amount of walking, however, ride the CAT bus. Routes run from downtown, Cary and the old Westinghouse site on Capital Blvd. Fare is $4 round trip, and the bus stop at the fairgrounds is at Gate #1 (at the edge of the Education Building).
The Fair has printed an excellent booklet with the schedule included, and they are available at all of the entrances to the fairgrounds. That same schedule, however, is available online in html format,PDF format, and via the mobile platform apps.
While the NC State Fair has done a wonderful job with their website, they have also attempted to reach out to new platforms with mobile apps which include event schedules, maps, news, and more. The apps could use a lot of work, but they can still be helpful:
Faithful readers should know by now that I get on kicks from time to time. Whether it is paperless office goals, continuing my education, or some other type of growth, I tend to make advances in waves. Recently I’ve noticed a lot of personal information security breaches in area businesses. In the era of stiff fines for HIPAA compliance breaches, security breakdowns are still rampant throughout medical communication. These problems aren’t limited to just medicine, though. The lack of security for non-medical transmission of sensitive, personal information remains a dangerous problem, too.
I have always heard that one of the biggest vulnerabilities to identity theft we have is the use of checks. The bold checking and routing numbers can easily be read through envelopes in the mail, and can be used with no authentication to purchase items online. While many banks have created convenient methods of online payment, there are still some situations which require the use of a check. For our convenience, vendors enclose a return envelope, however in many cases those envelopes are not “security envelopes”. It’s time for businesses and government agencies to wake up and stop tempting us with these insecure methods.
Security envelopes have a printed pattern on the inside that obscures the visibility of enclosed information. Because these envelopes require a printing process before folding in the assembly process, they are more expensive. However the use of these can greatly improve the security of an envelopes information. Because of this I am discarding the non-secure return envelopes and printing my own return envelopes when security is warranted.
I recently received a routine notice from the Employment Security Commission of North Carolina. Occasionally they will check the recent employment records of citizens of this state to verify the information on other paperwork in the system. I hire many temporary employees through the year, and they are treated as true employees while they work here (that’s another big irritation I have with NCESC, but that’s another post). Today I received a notice about a former “employee” which clearly states the citizen’s full name and social security in the header of the document. The letter asks me to verify the salary paid to this person, and return the document in the enclosed NON-SECURE return envelope!
When the completed form is correctly inserted into the envelope, this person’s full name and social security number are CLEARLY LEGIBLE from outside the envelope. This is unacceptable, especially from an agency that routinely handles some of the citizens’ most sensitive information while carrying the word “security” in their own name.
You can help spread the word with your business. If your business encloses return envelopes, make sure that information cannot be seen through the envelope. Also notify your vendors that you would like them to use secure envelopes by notifying their billing department by phone or in writing. In the least enclose a slip of paper with a such notice with your payment. For example:
Due to identity theft concerns, we are now asking all of our vendors to refrain from sending non-security return envelopes for payment. Any non-security envelopes will go unused, so please reduce waste by either utilizing a different, secure envelope design or excluding return envelopes altogether.
Perhaps such notices will help businesses realize the risk they are creating for their own customers. The fines for HIPAA breaches can be $50,000. Reprimands for personal information leakage in non-medical entities certainly aren’t as severe, but their information leaks can have just as devastating effects on customers. Let’s work to reduce these errors in the private sector before the legislature/congress is prompted to use their inaccurate, brute-force methods. In the meantime it would be nice if government agencies would adopt safe practices, too.