Archive for the ‘Questions of the Day’ Category

NC National Guardsmen are the subject of a media project

February 11, 2009

homefront-hamlet.jpegC.M., who has a son in the Guard, had heard about this Associated Press project and wanted to know more. That’s the lead subject in today’s column.

company-e-of-the-120th-combined-arms-battalion.jpegAP will be following a number of members of this Guard unit for the next year, as well as the family, friends and neighbors they left behind at home, in the small town of Hamlet, N.C., which is in nearby Richmond County. The unit recently deployed back to Iraq — again (as is the case for so many service members).

Click here to check out the interactive AP project — and be aware it’s in its early stages so you’ll want to keep checking back. You’ll always be able to find the link here.



January 24, 2009

encyclopedias1.jpgI’ve written before about the weighty problem of disposing of a set of encyclopedias.

And I’m writing about it again in today’s paper. E.S. has a set she doesn’t want any longer and she’d rather not throw the books away. After all, they’re full of useful and interesting information. She just prefers to use the Internet now.

Other times I’ve answered this sort of question, I usually get calls from at least one and often more people who would love to have the encyclopedias and I try to hook up the two parties accordingly.

As I suspect there are probably a number of people out there who’d like to have a set of encyclopedias — and others who have sets they’d like to get rid of but ideally without trashing them — I’m setting up this post where they can indicate as much if they want.

How about it? Anyone?

The Lincoln Bible

January 7, 2009

Here’s the Bible on which Abraham Lincoln took the oath of office in 1861. Barack Obama will use the same Bible when he takes the oath on Jan. 20. That’s the subject of today’s column.


According to historians at the Library of Congress, it’s not known what Bible Lincoln used when he took the oath in 1865, for his second term.

Not every president has actually taken the oath on a Bible.  For example, Teddy Roosevelt didn’t the first time he took the oath, following the death of William McKinley. Roosevelt did use a Bible the second time he took the oath.

Some presidents have sworn on closed Bibles, others on randomly opened Bibles and still others on Bibles opened to specific passages. You can see some of these details here.

Meanwhile, if you’d like more info on the Lincoln Inaugural Bible, check here and here. Below, on the left, you can see the Bible’s title page and, on the right, the 1861 note on a back page, along with the Supreme Court seal, attesting that this was the Bible that was used by Lincoln when he took the oath of office.

               lincoln-bible1.jpeg   lincoln-bible-annotation.jpeg

On the ball — the Red Ball

January 6, 2009

red-ball-express-sign.jpgToday’s column is about a huge World War II convoy operation called the Red Ball Express. It was created to get gas and other vital supplies from Normandy to the Allies’ rapidly advancing front lines, which were up to 400 miles away.

Without the supplies — and, accordingly, without the express and the drivers who manned it — the Allied war effort would have stalled. Who can say what might have happened then?

The express operated ’round the clock for three months, using thousands of trucks — and men — to ferry tons of supplies to the front. It used specific routes, which were off-limits to all other traffic.  Routes were all one-way. Some took the express to the front. The others led back to Normandy.

red-ball-express-drivers.jpgMeanwhile, because the U.S. military generally restricted blacks to noncombat roles in those days, many black service members drove supply trucks. Nearly three-quarters of the drivers in the express were black.

The Red Ball Express was the subject of a 1952 movie and a 2001 book. You can also find more information about it at this U.S. Army Transportation Museum site, at this U.S. Army Quartermaster Museum site, as well as here and here.

Below is a circa WW2 news clip about the express.

And now here’s a clip from the 1952 movie about it. Hang on ’til the end for an appearance by the young Sidney Poitier.

Judging the judges — on TV

December 19, 2008

gavel.jpgI’m not sure we have enough TV judges appearing on the local airwaves.

For the lead item in today’s column, I perused the Observer’s TV listings and saw that a mere 12 different TV judge shows air on the television channels in the region each weekday.

And they occupy just 23 hours of daily programming. (Since most of the shows are 30 minutes long, you can tell that some of the TV judges are on several times a day — and on various channels.)

Wow! Until now, I hadn’t realized the extent of TV judgedom.

Today’s column notes that TV judges aren’t analogous with real judges — though many viewers may think they are. Not all of them have experience as real judges, either. But most do seem to have real law degrees.

Legal commentators think TV judge shows are eroding our view of, respect for and knowledge about how the real legal system does and should work. Go here and here to read a couple of articles on that subject.

But doggone it, TV judge shows are entertaining — to some. Or, uh, judging by the proliferation of the shows, to a lot of people.

Below: A rogue’s gallery of the TV judges now on our airwaves, plus one who was just pretending to be a real TV judge. Can you pick that person? If you can, click on the pic to go to a video spoof of a TV judge show.

judge-alex.jpg  judge-cristina-perez.jpg  judge-hatchett.gif 

 judge-jeanine-pirro.JPG  judge-joe-brown.jpg  judge-judy1.jpg

judge-karen.jpg  judge-lynn-toler.jpg  judge-marilyn-milian.jpg

judge-penny1.jpg  judge-phil-hartman-on-snl.jpg  judgedavidyoung_2.jpg


Tub talk

December 16, 2008

bathtub1.jpgIn today’s column, L.R. wanted to know who in the area could reglaze a porcelain bathtub.

I listed a number of businesses that do this work.

But I also wanted to provide some links here to more information about this procedure for anyone who wants to understand it a little better before they either go shopping for a contractor or consider doing it themselves.

It’s not an easy process and it really needs to be done correctly — and safely.

To learn a bit more about it, check out this info at the This Old House site and these two lengthy posts by contractors — this one and this one — at Bob Vila‘s message board.

Meanwhile, because my brain just works that way, this tub talk post reminded me of another old SNL skit — Celebrity Hot Tub with James Brown (Eddie Murphy). I always remember this fondly — not least, because I got to see James Brown perform at the Cape Cod Melody Tent in the ’80s and he was almost exactly like this — minus the hot tub and Dr. Joyce Brothers.

SNL doesn’t have the skit at its site. And it’s been yanked off YouTube several times for copyright infringement. But I found a site where it’s posted, until the SNL legal peeps show up. Watch it while you can. And shhh.


Yeah, that’s the ticket

December 12, 2008

In today’s column, B.K. asks whether there’s anyplace in the area where a private person can get a lie detector test done.

Indeed there are, as the column explains.

moepolygraph1.jpgI didn’t go into the arguments about the validity of lie detector tests. Some believe the tests can be beaten. Some question their reliability. But, if they’re administered by qualified examiners, they’re accepted by authorities in many places, including North Carolina.

They can certainly produce uncomfortable moments. I think you probably know that if you ever saw “The Moment of Truth” on Fox, which is returning next year. While I like plenty of trashy shows and reality TV, I didn’t like what I heard about this one and I didn’t watch it.

But this question did remind me of another memorable bit of TV from the much more distant past. I took the title of this post from it. I’m talking about Tommy Flanagan, the Pathological Liar, a recurring Jon Lovitz character on “Saturday Night Live” back in the ’80s. He told lies of hilariously monumental proportions.

SNL is pretty thorough about getting clips from the show taken off YouTube as fast as they’re put up so there’s no Tommy Flanagan there.

But at least the show has some old clips at its site and, if you could use a laugh, you absolutely should watch this bit in which Tommy Flanagan and Pee-wee Herman meet up in jail and start blithely lying to each other. I wonder what a polygraph test would make of them.


Space heaters

December 9, 2008

space-heater.jpegWhen it’s cold — and when money’s tight — they can help you cut costs and keep warm.

But, if you go this route, be sure to get a quality heater and be sure to operate it correctly to limit your risk of fire (from any heater) or carbon-monoxide poisoning (from heaters that burn fuel, such as kerosene).

In fact, if your home isn’t already equipped with smoke detectors and a carbon monoxide detector or two, you’d do well to invest in these devices, too. If you already have them, go check them to make sure they’re working properly. Go! Do it now. If you procrastinate, you’ll forget and it’ll never get done. I’ll wait right here…

…All right.

space-heater1.jpgToday’s column gives a brief rundown on what to look for in an electric space heater. Here are some other resources to check for info on all sorts of space heaters:

*Even if you’re not a subscriber to Consumer Reports, you can access the nonprofit mag’s basic information about space heaters. That includes advice on how to choose a space heater and information about safety risks.

What you can’t see, unless you’re a subscriber, is its ratings and quick recommendations about space heaters. If you keep it on the down low, I’ll sidle over and say the mag gives good marks to some DeLonghi, Pelonis, Honeywell and Holmes heaters, whose prices range from $30 to $110.

*The U.S. Department of Energy has information about both electric and combustion space heaters.

 *The Consumer Product Safety Commission has detailed information about both sorts of space heaters.

*There’s a good feature on space heaters at the This Old House site.

Meanwhile, some safety highlights

If you get a portable electric space heater, make sure it will turn off automatically if it tips over. Plug it directly into the wall or, if you must use an extension cord, make sure it’s a heavy-duty 14-gauge cord.

kerosene-space-heater.jpgIf you get a combustion heater, it must be vented properly. Never, ever, ever fill it with gasoline. Never fill it while it’s hot. Don’t overfill it with fuel (because the fuel may expand). And don’t store unused fuel inside the house.

With any sort of space heater, don’t go to sleep with it on. Keep it at least 3 feet away from flammable objects such as bedding, furniture and drapes. Don’t put it in a place where something flammable might fall on it, such as a towel.

Recycling during the holidays

December 8, 2008

lotsa-christmas-presents.jpgWe’re coming into what has to be considered the equivalent of leaf season for recyclables: Christmas and its landslide of gift boxes and wrapping paper that could be recycled — if you could get it picked up.

bottles.jpgThat’s not to mention likely upticks in discarded glass and plastic bottles, aluminum cans, paperboard food boxes, food cans, and other recyclable packaging related to holiday parties and feasts.

In the case of many — most? — households, it’s bound to amount to more than your blue bin can handle. For one thing, gigantic cardboard boxes cannot be made to fit in the blue bins. (I’ve tried.)

Couple all that with these facts:

1. If your recyclables are typically picked up on Thursdays, you’ve got an extra bad situation over the holidays.

That’s because Christmas falls on Thursday this year and, understandably, the recycling trucks won’t be working that day. Note: Recyclables aren’t picked up by the city, but by Waste Management under a contract with the city.

But, unlike the city with its garbage trucks, Waste Management won’t make up that recycling day’s pickups on Friday or Saturday. It doesn’t have the manpower or equipment. Instead, that day of pickups is lost forever, leaving you with all those recyclables for another week. (I feel your pain; my recycling is picked up on Thursdays.)

I can hear some of you calendar-minded folks now: Agh! New Year’s Day is the very next Thursday.

But! They will be picking up recyclables on New Year’s Day. Note: This will be the deal in the future, too: If your recycling pickup day falls on any holiday except for New Year’s Day, you’re out of luck that week.

blue-bin-is-full.jpeg2. But what if you have more recyclables than your blue bin can hold?

This is already a routine problem for some households. And it’s why the city’s acquiring bigger “super” recycling bins that it will sell to interested residents. But these bins won’t be available until January, at the earliest, according to a city spokeswoman. She didn’t know what they might cost.

Meanwhile, if your recyclables don’t fit in your cart, you’re typically out of luck. They don’t have to pick up stuff left beside the cart, even if it’s in a recyclable paper bag.

one-arm-reycling-truck.jpegAnd they can’t pick it up if they’re — well, he’s — in the one-person truck. That’s the truck that has a special arm that lifts the blue bin waaayyy up in the air and shakes it out over the truck. Just one person mans that truck and, even if he had the inclination or the time, he doesn’t have the ability to toss extraneous stuff to the opening on top of the truck. I don’t know if there’s some other way to toss in extra recyclables but the guy’s on a schedule.

So… Whaddaya do?

flattened-cardboard.jpgFortunately, as in leaf season when they have loose-leaf pickup, there’ll be some slack afforded recyclers immediately after Christmas. If you flatten your cardboard and set it beside your bin on your pickup day, they’re supposed to pick it up, too, even though it won’t be in the bin.

That just applies to cardboard, though.  Other out-of-the-bin stuff will be ignored. (Supposedly.)

If you’re so inspired, you can cart other excess recyclables to a recycling center. See this post for info on where these are and what they accept. There are both county- and city-operated recycling sites. The county sites take more sorts of stuff.

reuse_reduce_recycle.jpgAll of this might put you in mind of a couple of other ways to deal with potential Christmas trash — create less of it (that way you have less to dispose of) and reuse parts that are reusable (save gift bags; reuse good wrapping paper; wrap stuff in newspaper or cloth; or use some to make a cozy fire). Those are the first two R’s in equation that includes recycling.

And they’re not bad ideas, especially in light of this disheartening news about recycling — as with the rest of the economy, markets for recyclables are slumping terribly.

Thanksgiving eats

November 24, 2008

With the holiday nearly upon us, I’m going to post some FAQ info — what restaurants are open Thanksgiving Day (that I know of) and where good-hearted folks can donate their time that day.

First: restaurants.

thanksgiving-meal.jpegAs per this recent column, they include Cracker Barrel on Jim Johnson Road, open from 6 a.m. to 10p.m. Thanksgiving Day; Georgia Brown’s Bar and Grill on Raeford Road; Golden Corral on Skibo Road and Ramsey Street, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.; K&W Cafeteria on Village Drive, 10:30 a.m. to 8:30 p.m.; Ryan’s on Skibo Road, 10:45 a.m. to 8:30 p.m.; and Sandpiper Seafood Restaurant on Eastern Boulevard, 10:30 a.m. to 3 p.m.

And Waffle Houses are always open, 24/7, whatever the day. Mmm, Thanksgiving waffles.

Next: Volunteering.

Per this column, you can lend a hand at the annual Thanksgiving feeds put on by the City Rescue Mission and by the Caring 7.

rescue-mission-thanksgiving-2007.jpegThe rescue mission expects to feed and provide clothing and toiletries to 400 homeless and needy people at its 331 Adam St. location on Thanksgiving Day between 11:30 a.m. and 5 p.m. Call 323-0446 for more information.

caring-7-getting-ready-in-2007.jpegThe Caring 7, a charitable group of local men, expects to serve about 1,000 turkey dinners to any and all comers in the parking lot outside Vick’s Drive-In at 506 Rowan St. from 11 a.m. to probably about 3 p.m. Show up anytime after 7 a.m. to help them set up or however you can and want to.

salvation-army-thanksgiving-helpers-in-2007.jpegOther groups, including some churches and the Salvation Army, serve Thanksgiving meals, too, but the ones we know about are already set for volunteer help. But Christmas is coming and many would welcome help for efforts centered around that holiday.

And many, such as the Rescue Mission and the Salvation Army, provide help year-round to the needy — and thus need help from volunteers on non-holidays, too.

Let me know if you have more info — or questions — on either subject.