Tag Archives: greensboro

Traffic

Until 11 years ago I’d lived my entire adult life in Northern Virginia and had spent my time commuting to work in some of the worst traffic the United States has to offer. When we moved to the Winston-Salem area it felt like I’d gone to traffic heaven because rush hour literally didn’t exist. We kind of have a “rush quarter hour” but even that doesn’t feature the gridlock you find in most metro areas. Still, it’s all relative and I would regularly hear locals complain about the busy highways and I’d just shake my head and mutter to myself, “You have no idea how good you have it.”

That’s why I felt vindicated by this article relaying the news that our area has the second-best traffic experience (behind only Phoenix) according to data from Google’s WAZE traffic app. Here’s an excerpt:

You’re not just getting there, Friend. You are having a world-class automotive experience — at least according to a newly released study that suggests Greensboro, Winston-Salem and High Point offer some of the best driving scenarios on the planet.

The metropolitan area finished second, just behind Phoenix, Ariz., in overall driving satisfaction in the study by analysts for Google’s WAZE travel app who compared driving experiences in 32 nations and 167 of the globe’s most mobile communities…

The Triad finished first among the various metros for minimal traffic delays.

Motorists in the region average less than a half hour on the road in a commute that averages about 26 miles, the WAZE study found. A pittance compared to some places in the United States where commuters average more than an hour each way,

Interesting that it ends up my commute is almost exactly the average.

Cool Recognition for Some Greensboro Folks

The excerpt below is from a press release from Gov. McCrory’s office announcing the 2016 North Carolina Heritage Award winners. Many folks in Greensboro are familiar with the Montagnard community, but it’s probably a safe bet that folks outside of Greensboro would be surprised to learn about how large the community actually is. I need to make a note to myself to try and see some of the work of the award recipients – it really looks stunning.

H Jue Nie and H Ngach Rahlan

Calling themselves Dega, more Vietnamese Montagnards settled in North Carolina than in any other state, due to their fellowship with Special Forces units during the Vietnam War. Dega weavers H Jue Nie and H Ngach Rahlan of Greensboro mastered the ancient spinning, dying and weaving traditions of their people while growing up in the central highlands of Vietnam. Once a part of every highland woman’s knowledge and practice, women wove to clothe their families, decorate homes and altars, and to keep everyone warm at night. Originally Montagnard weavers grew their own cotton, spun their thread by hand, and used dyes from the indigo plant and other natural sources. Decorative elements such as beads were once made from plant materials that grew in their rice fields. War and displacement has reduced the numbers of skilled weavers remaining in Vietnam. H Jue Nie and H Ngach Rahlan moved to Greensboro 20 years ago, bringing their backstrap looms and an immeasurable knowledge of the designs and techniques that make their weaving traditions unique.

Explore the work:

Montagnard Weaving: The Women
Backstrap Weavers

Montagnard Weaving: Overview
Backstrap Weavers

Montagnard Weaving: BacksStrap Loom
Backstrap Weavers

The Guilty Mumble and Run

The Greensboro News & Record’s Joe Killian had an interesting interaction in downtown Greensboro last week:

As I was handing it to him and he was thanking me, a guy walked past who was dressed basically as I was — dark, pressed suit; button-down collar; well-shined shoes. He looked at me and at this homeless man and stopped in front of us suddenly.

“You really shouldn’t do that,” he said to me.

“I really shouldn’t do what?” I said.

“You really shouldn’t buy them food,” the guy said, speaking to me as if the homeless man wasn’t there.

“If you give them money, they buy drugs,” he told me. “If you buy them food, then they spend the money they’d spend on food on drugs.”

“OK,” I said. “Thanks for the input. Have a nice day.”

I began to tell the homeless man good luck and to take care when the other guy broke in again.

“No, really,” he said, more insistently now. “You don’t know how they are. Giving them food isn’t your smartest option.”

Finally, I just ran out of patience.

“Your smartest option is to mind your own business and get out of my face,” I said to him.

Apparently surprised that one guy in a suit would speak to another like that over — you know, just this homeless guy — he looked spooked and quickly moved on.

The homeless guy thanked me and went on his way.

This is the kind of story that will strike a cord with everyone, but not in the same way. Most, if not all of us have had to make the decision on whether or not to help a person who is asking for help. Personally it used to be a lot easier for me: if I had money, I gave some and if I was buying a meal I would just add an item for the person who said she was hungry. It never occurred to me that the person asking might not need it and that I might be getting taken for a ride.

As I got older that changed. Partly that was the result of bad experiences, like the multiple times I was asked for money, offered to buy the person food and was told in no uncertain terms that I could keep my f***ing food if I didn’t have any money for him. Then there are the incredible number of times I’ve been approached at a gas station by someone with the same sob story we’ve all heard about needing to borrow a dollar or two to help buy “just enough gas to get home to <fill in the blank city about 100 miles away>.” Some of the change was the result of hearing from multiple sources, including experts who deal with the homeless, that giving them money was a bad idea because it just enabled their addictions. The end result is that I became hesitant and that hesitance has often led me to do what I call the Guilty Mumble and Run.

The Guilty Mumble and Run is exactly what it sounds like in that when I’m asked for help I divert my eyes, say something like, “Sorry, got nothing on me” and then speed up my walk to escape the situation. The guilty part is the following time period where I feel guilty about it, but it’s not for not giving them anything, but for not having the guts to just say I don’t want to or don’t feel I should and instead lying to the person and not giving them the common courtesy to look them in the eyes.

Quite frankly this didn’t use to bother me that much because I let myself believe that my actions were justified, that I didn’t owe these people anything, and that they were actually being rude to me by coming up unbidden and asking me for something. But that changed over the last few years when I started doing things that brought me into contact more often with people who had hit hard some hard times, but who had an incredibly difficult time asking for or accepting help. It made me realize that as hard as it was for me to handle being asked for help it had to be infinitely harder for the person asking for help to find themselves in that position.

So that’s what has sealed the deal for me. Sure there are the folks out there running a scam like the folks at the gas station, and there are those who are on the street who will take whatever I give them and turn it into their next fix, but that doesn’t mean that I can’t at least do the right thing for me. That is to help those I can and look the others in the eye and tell them exactly why I can’t. At least then I can live my life without ever having to do the Guilty Mumble and Run again.

Where the Buck Stops

A big part of being a good leader is doing the right thing when things don’t go right. Today I’d say the chief of the UNC-Greensboro campus police department is providing a small example of how to react when things go wrong. Here’s the story from my particular point of view:

Last night there was a shooting at an off-campus student apartment community. My son happens to attend UNCG and lives in an off-campus apartment, but not in the community where the shooting occurred. Knowing that his parents might hear about it and might be concerned for his safety he sent me a text saying that a shooting had happened near his apartment, but that it wasn’t in his particular apartment community and that he was fine. We definitely appreciated it, but it also caused me to start monitoring the news about the shooting. As always I turned to Twitter because that tends to be where I get news the earliest, including from the various local news outlets, and sure enough that’s where all the freshest info was coming from.

That’s why I was able to see these Tweets from UNCG:

UNCGTweet

See that top Tweet that includes a suspect description of “B/M, 6′-6’2″, Red Shirt, Red hat, Goatee and a large bottom lip”? Well that predictably struck many as a racist description and generated the responses you’d expect online. So what did the chief do? Well, among other things he sent a message to the UNCG community which my son received by email and forwarded to me:

To the UNCG Community,

On behalf of the UNCG Police Department, I want to apologize for what many considered a racially insensitive description included in one of the alerts last night. We give our staff a great deal of latitude in crafting emergency messages because safety often depends on timeliness.  Sometimes that means just repeating descriptions provided to us, as we did in this case.  However, we know our community and should be able to filter information in a way that reflects our values but still provides the information you need to stay safe.  One of our core values is Accountability, and, ultimately, I am the head of this agency, and I am accountable for the actions of those who serve you at the Police Department.  For that reason, I apologize to those who were offended. We can do better, and we will.

Jamie Herring
Chief of Police
UNCG Police Department
P.O. Box 26170
Greensboro, NC  27402

I truly can’t tell you anything about the department or the chief outside of this event because I haven’t had cause to pay any attention to them, but I can tell you that this is a very good response to a screw up that happened on his watch. It’s nice to see a leader accept the buck instead of passing it along.

The Friendship 9

For those of us who live or work in Greensboro, NC the story of the Woolworth sit-in, an event that is generally considered the beginning of the Civil Rights Movement, is very familiar. Subsequent events in the movement may not be as familiar to those of us who aren’t experts on the movement so it’s always interesting to read or hear about them. That’s why this story about The Friendship 9 caught my attention:

Fifty-four years ago this week, nine young black men sat down at the whites-only counter of McCrory’s five-and-dime store on Main Street in the town of Rock Hill, South Carolina. After ordering burgers and cokes, the men were asked to leave; after they refused to leave, they were arrested for trespassing.

The Civil Rights Movement was, relatively speaking, in its infancy at the time. Less than a year after the sit-ins in Greensboro, North Carolina, the Friendship 9 were arrested on the same day that James Meredith submitted his college application to then-segregated Ole Miss.

On Wednesday, the eight surviving members of the Friendship 9⎯most of the nine men had been students at nearby Friendship College in 1961⎯were back in a Rock Hill courthouse to see their sentences vacated and their convictions overturned. “We cannot rewrite history, but we can right history,” Circuit Court Judge John C. Hayes III told the courtroom to high applause as he threw out the cases⎯a poignant flourish given that Hayes’ uncle had originally sentenced the men in 1961.

As NBC News noted, the men “were represented in the hearing by Ernest A. Finney Jr., the same man who defended their case 54 years ago,” who later served as South Carolina Supreme Court’s first black chief justice since Reconstruction.

Quite frankly it was refreshing to read this story because, of late, the news in Greensboro has been about the managerial and financial problems faced by the International Civil Rights Museum which is housed in the former Woolworth building where the sit-in occurred. At least one of the museum’s principal players has accused the city, which basically holds the financial future of the museum in its hands and has proposed taking over management of the museum, of wanting to whitewash history:

Earl Jones, one of the founders of the museum, said he was “outraged” by an offer from Mayor Nancy Vaughan on Monday to have the city operate the museum. Jones called the offer “disrespectful.”

“It’s my speculation that there’s a part of the mayor’s group that would like to see the museum taken over so the history and integrity of the civil rights movement can be undermined and whitewashed,” Jones said. “I think that’s what it’s about.”..

Vaughan said she and the City Council just want to be sure the museum stays open. That will require more professional management, she said.

Given the context of what Judge Hayes said – “We cannot rewrite history, but we can right history.” – it seems ironic that Greensboro’s history continues to be one in which color divides people. In this case green.

News and Record’s Weak Pricing Logic

The Greensboro News & Record announced a new digital subscription model that its editor explained in a front page piece of today’s paper. After explaining that all 7-day print subscribers will get digital access for free he described the digital subscription model:

After a special introductory period with rates as low as $9.99 per month, a digital-only subscription will cost slightly more than a seven-day print subscription.

The reason for that variance? A print subscription permits us to subsidize the cost of content by providing access to your home or business for preprinted advertising circulars. A digital-only subscription lacks that advertising subsidy.

Readers who have no subscription may view up to 20 articles or photo galleries every 30 days at no charge. There is no limit on viewing selected content, such as many wire service stories and classified ads.

Here’s the thing: consumers don’t give a sh** why you’re pricing your digital subscription at whatever level it’s priced, they only care that the product is worth the price. What matters to them is whether or not they are getting bang for their buck. Is the content that the N&R is producing worth the price of admission? If so then people will gladly pay it, if not then they’ll find what they need elsewhere or just go without.

I’m willing to bet that part of the thinking is that people will just decide to get the print subscription, and thus opt in to the advertising subsidy, if they price the digital-only higher than the print+ option. That’s logical in a way, but ignores the reality that they have to produce content that’s compelling enough for people to pay for it whether it’s print or digital. They might think they’ve lost a ton of subscribers because those subscribers believe they can get the N&R’s content at the N&R website, but it’s more likely that they lost subscribers because much of the content readers used to get exclusively from the paper – stuff like syndicated columns, wire reports, classified ads, national news, etc. – is now available from a variety of sources. That means the N&R’s only unique product offering is local news/data/information and the last time I looked they hadn’t expanded their local coverage or deepened their editorial bench, which makes it hard to imagine the product being perceived as worthy of the price they’re asking.

The Blogfather

Ed Cone was blogging before "blogger" became a pejorative. The Greensboro dead tree product carries a story about his decision to quit the blogging scene.

From his office three floors above South Elm Street — where he has an action figure perched on his window and a framed handwritten response from gonzo journalist Hunter S. Thompson on his wall — Ed wrote about it on Word Up.

Will it return? Who knows? Ed doesn’t. But there is this story I heard once about Ed’s great-grandfather, about how he used to row out to the middle of a lake in Maine and sit.

I ask Ed about it. He tells me he understands it now. It’s that need for quiet, for some contemplation. That’s what Ed is doing. For now.