Thinktrain has moved! Redirecting…

You should be automatically redirected. If not, visit and update your bookmarks.

Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Tennessean will be 24/7 within six months

Tennessean Senior Editor Deborah Fisher mentioned during her presentation to the Nashville PRSA chapter yesterday that the paper plans to operate a "24/7 newsroom" within six months that will publish local updates to its Web site around the clock.

Currently, the paper publishes about 100 breaking news updates each day beginning at 6 a.m. Fisher's goal is for the site to be "dynamic and refreshing constantly." "Update, update, update is our mantra," she said.

I'm glad to see this move by the paper. As a media junkie, I say the more news, the better, and it's always encouraging to see additional local content arriving online.

Shoot the messenger, not the message

If you have a problem with Al Gore living in a colossal Belle Meade Mansion and generating high electric bills while traveling the world to discuss the dangers of global warming, that's fine. Whether or not Gore is a hypocrite, we need to be aware of our energy consumption and consider how we can change the way we generate the power we depend on.

As today's Tennessean reports on Gore's MTSU address yesterday, scientists aren't questioning whether we need to change our habits. They're looking for ways to solve the challenges we face:

A 10-year University of California study found that essentially zero percent of peer-reviewed scientific journal articles disagreed that global warming exists, whereas, another study found that 53 percent of mainstream newspaper articles disagreed the global warming premise.

He noted that recently the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change released its fourth unanimous report calling on world leaders to take action on global warming.
In my opinion, it's not worth abandoning strategies for smarter, greener energy just because Gore may--or may not--be saying, "Do as I say, not as I do."

Sports Illustrated's Farber checks out Preds

Want to peek inside the Preds' locker room? Sports Illustrated writer Michael Farber has written a great story that includes plenty of details about the team's behind-the-scenes atmosphere:

[Barry] Trotz, the only coach in Predators history, mixes realism with an inveterate optimism. In the days leading to Saturday's game, Predators' coaches were forbidden to bring up their Thursday-night loss to the Montreal Canadiens, in which Nashville squandered three two-goal leads and lost in a shootout. Anyone caught talking about how Nashville had kicked away a precious point would have been expected to contribute to the Negativity Fund -- a so-labeled plastic container in the coaches' office that staff members pay into for spreading bad vibes. On Friday associate coach Brent Peterson wrote energy and patience on a whiteboard as coaching guidelines for practice. Then he began to write NO S-A-R.. before stopping. "How," he asked, "do you spell sarcasm?"
The stakes will be high over the next few weeks as the Preds continue their playoff run, but Farber reveals that the team engages in other matchups with nearly the same intensity:
The most riveting pre-Red Wings activity came on Friday at the clubhouse Ping-Pong table at which Forsberg, who says he was unbeaten during his season and a half with the Flyers, dropped games to winger Martin Erat and to goaltender Tomas Vokoun, before avenging the loss to Vokoun as teammates yelped. When the table tennis ended, hockey practice began: a sprightly, energetic session. No negativity anywhere.
Forsberg may have his hands full on the ping-pong table, but it looks like he's starting to fit in just fine in the locker room and on the ice. I've loved watching this team on the ice since year one in 1998, and it's great to hear a little bit about how things play out away from the rink, too.

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

New business section for The Tennessean

Senior editor Deborah Fisher mentioned today during her presentation to the local PRSA chapter that The Tennessean will launch a redesigned business section sometime in March. The section will feature more local content and include regular features such as "How I solved it" for business challenges, "How I started it" for new businesses, more columns by local business people and an increased focus on entrepreneurs.

Alongside this new content, the paper will include "real, practical information" such as tax deadlines and an expanded calendar page with an emphasis on networking events and opportunitities because, as Fisher noted, "Nashville is a heavy networking city."

The section will feature a different "niche" page each day with reporting on the following areas: development, Music Row, real estate, automotive, health care and small business. People in Business, the paper's current weekly business announcements section, will appear on a daily basis corresponding to the day's niche page. Movers and Shakers, which Fisher mentioned as a popular item, will remain on the section's front page.

Fisher hopes that the section will reveal more of the "flavor of Nashville." In my opinion, this is good news for a section that frequently has more stock listings than editorial content. It will hopefully provide increased information about the local business community.

Tennessean's Deborah Fisher discusses News 2.0

Tennessean senior editor Deborah Fisher spoke to the Nashville chapter of the Public Relations Society of America today and addressed the current and future direction of the newspaper. Fisher became senior editor this past December and has been heavily involved in the recent content changes in the print edition and the paper's significant embrace of its Web site and social media in the past several months.

While The Tennessean isn't announcing any major personnel changes or abrupt shifts in its focus, this presentation came in the wake of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution's February 21 announcement that it will shift its content for younger readers to the Web and focus its print edition on an older audience. Fisher explained The Tennessean's reasoning behind its changes in content strategy:

"The Tennessean wanted to restructure because the way people get information has changed so much... It's not just the paper reaching people any more ... So many people have moved online. Many use PCs or PDAs to get breaking news online during the day. Our goal is to provide news when they want it and how they want it."
Fisher acknolwedged the organization's concerns about recent downsizing and acquisition trends in the industry and specifically mentioned the AJC's unexpected announcement. As the Poynter Institute's Rick Edmonds recently said about the Atlanta announcement, The Tennessean is yet another paper trying "to find the magic balance between print and online."

While The Tennessean is not abandoning its print edition or altering it on the drastic level that the AJC is proposing, Fisher acknowledged that the paper's print circulation is declining, as it is for nearly all papers across the country, and that online page viewing is booming: "The web is definitely seeing a double-digit increase. It's huge. There has been a phenomenal growth in page views and unique visitors. There's a whole set of metrics that we look at."

In discussing strategy, Fisher returned consistently to variations on the following talking points, including references to "getting information to people in different ways" and "continuing the conversation." These phrases and the messaging below echo the mission and values of The Tennessean's parent company Gannett:
"Everything in the world of journalism eventually comes down to the reporter. Good journalism really does start with the reporter, and it comes down to the reporter's passion for his or her beat. That passion ends up leading to a good story."
When asked, Fisher said that she did not foresee a time when the newspaper would abandon its print edition:
"As long as people want to consume information in different ways, I think there will always be a print product. There are some limitations to the Web. Newspapers will go away when books go away. I think there will be a print edition for a long time. We will have to continue editing it for what people expect. I don't think the print edition will entirely go away."
I will share more details from Fisher's presentation today later this afternoon.

Gore and everyone else: walk your green talk

The Tennessee Center for Policy Research is right to question Al Gore's personal energy consumption in the wake of his well-publicized efforts to raise awareness of global warming. In my opinion, anyone advocating a strong public policy position or philosophy ought to be willing to subject himself or herself to this kind of scrutiny:

[TCPR president Drew Johnson said,]"We went into this just asking the question, 'Is the leader of the environmental movement basically living up to his word? Given that he's a Tennessean, I thought it's a question we should ask."
I'm sure the Gores can do more to save their own little corner of the world, and they should, but it sounds like they are doing a decent amount, despite reports yesterday to the contrary. In addition to voluntarily purchasing blocks of green power from Nashville Electric Service in recent months, the Gores also have done the following, according to The Tennessean's Anne Paine:
They use compact fluorescent light bulbs and are in the midst of a renovation project that includes having solar panels installed on their home to reduce fossil fuel consumption ... Their car? A Lexus hybrid SUV... [They also participate in a process known as carbon emissions offset, which] means figuring out how much carbon is emitted from their power use, and vehicle and plane travel, then paying for projects that will offset that with use of renewable energy, such as solar power."
Could the Gores do more? I'm sure they could, and so could I.

[Asides to TCPR: Thanks for hiring Trent Seibert and keeping him around. How about an RSS feed for your Web site, too?]

MTSU prof: The kids are all right

According to researchers involved with the latest results in the annual Narcissistic Personality Inventory (link leads to PDF with detailed info), which has published an assessment of college students' sense of self since 1982, today's college students are more self-centered than their predecessors. The experts blame a "self-esteem trend" that began in the 1980s and technology innovations such as MySpace and YouTube.

Maybe they're right, but I wonder how people of all ages would fare on such a study these days. If we are becoming more self-centered--and there's plenty of evidence to support the theory--I wonder whether it has less to do with being in college and more to do with being a 21st-century American. I have a feeling that college students from the 60s, 70s or 80s would answer the survey similiarly if they were exposed to today's me-focused pop culture.

The Tennessean didn't post this Associated Press story online, but it did run it on today's front page and included an interview with MTSU vice president of student affairs Bob Glenn, who has worked on campus for 36 years. He disputes the findings:

"Everybody wants to make out this generation as worse than previous generations ... I don't see this particular group of students as much more narcissistic than those in the 60s, who were engaged in a whole variety of interesting behaviors ... I see a surge in a lot of things that are optimistic ... I see them doing a lot more service activities. I see these students being much more inclined in doing things that have positive impacts on their communities. I don't want to be too quick to label them and hesitate to write them off because of what one group of researchers said."
I'm sure this study is worth noting, but I'm also weighing it with a grain of salt. Why? I remember very well the outcry over my own "Generation X" in the early 90s: We were slackers who were apathetic about everything, and we were going to ruin America. Well, at least that was the most exaggerated of the criticisms leveled against my generation, and in my opinion they've turned out to be wrong.

It seems to me that generations in American society tend to have a natural rivalry that evolves over time, and it's a common pastime for older ones to call out rising successors for their ills. Sure, my generation has its shortcomings, and so do the Boomers and even the Greatest Generation.

There may well be some validity to the study, but I think we'd all be better off looking at how we can change ourselves for the better than trying to nudge our older or younger peers a little further down the generational hill.

Monday, February 26, 2007

Road trip will boost Preds

I agree with Coach Trotz that the current Preds road trip is likely to only help make Nashville an even better team as it enters the stretch run before the playoffs:

One of the plusses of the Predators' longest road trip of the season — five games over 10 days — is that the team will get some bonding time with recent acquisitions Peter Forsberg and Vitaly Vishnevski. "You can say all you want while you're at home, but you don't bond as well," Predators Coach Barry Trotz said. "Over the next 10 days, we're going to be on the road and it's a bunch of guys together on the road, sort of against the world. We just have to bear down and hopefully pull together."
One benefit of having all eyes on Forsberg since the trade is that Vishnevski has likely been able to integrate with his new team that much more easily. He isn't the one who's every move is being watched, and so far he appears to be fitting in well.

Good timing, Pete

I was encouraged over the weekend not only by Peter Forsberg's excellent play and game-winning goal against Detroit, but also by reading the following further explanation in The Tennessean about his decision to decline Coach Trotz's request that he participate in the shootout at the end of Thursday night's game with Montreal:

Forsberg explained Friday why he told Trotz he'd prefer not to be one of the top three shootout participants in Thursday's game against Montreal. Forsberg wound up shooting fourth and slipped to the ice before getting off a quality attempt. "To be honest, I don't think I'm the best goal-scorer in the league," Forsberg said. "If you look at the statistics, I've got more (assists) than goals. I think this team has a lot of breakaway guys."

I was admittedly being a little hard on Forsberg, but I suppose that's because of the level of expectations that superstars tend to generate. As I mentioned on Friday, we're all human, even athletes and other people who excel at a high level of performance, but one thing that distinguishes superstars is that they tend to outperform the rest of the field sooner or later and on a regular basis. Two things that distinguish great athletes from great leaders is the ability to acknowledge one's strengths and weaknesses and the ability to see how one's skills can best align with the rest of the team's talents.

Forsberg broke out of what might be considered a mini-slump and recorded his first two points as a Predator as Nashville downed the Red Wings 4-3 in overtime in front of a sellout crowd. Keep in mind that this is the second consecutive week that Forsberg has downed the Red Wings by scoring the clinching goal:
In his final appearance with the Philadelphia Flyers last week, Peter Forsberg scored the game-winning goal in a victory over the Detroit Red Wings. It might not have been a showdown game — the Flyers long had fallen out of playoff contention — but it did provide yet another example of Forsberg sticking it to the best team of the last decade.
Keep in mind that this appeared in an article that ran in Saturday's paper, prior to that night's heroics by Forsberg. I'm not expecting that Forsberg--or any other Pred--will score every game, but I'm glad to see him begin to contribute. I imagine that we'll see a lot more assists, goals and, hopefully, wins in the near future, thanks to Forsberg and the rest of the Preds.

Friday, February 23, 2007

Does Forsberg want to be here?

It's not really fair to be questioning this so soon after such a huge trade, but last night's game has me wondering a bit. Consider this item from John Glennon's recap of the Preds' 6-5 loss to Montreal last night:

Predators Coach Barry Trotz asked center Peter Forsberg whether he wanted to be one of the top three shootout participants against the Canadiens, but Forsberg declined."He said he didn't want to go as one of the first three,'' Trotz said. "He just said it wasn't something he didn't feel real strong about, so I listened to him.''Forsberg was the fourth Predators shooter, but slipped as he neared the Montreal crease and failed to get off a quality attempt.
Peter Forsberg is reportedly a humble locker-room leader, so maybe he's just deferring to the team's established leaders. I attended the game last night, and it was a little disconcerting to learn after the fact that Forsberg turned down Coach Trotz's first request to participate in the shootout. Putting him on the ice in the sudden-death round with the game on the line added even more pressure, and even NHL superstars are human and can't make a spectacular play every time.

The trade is already paying dividends in the stands and around the city, and the team can afford the steep price it paid because it didn't require a big departure from the current roster. There are rumblings around the league that Forsberg may already have it in mind to return to Philadelphia in the offseason, but some of those rumors are from Flyers fans who are disappointed about an unexpectedly awful season for their favorite team.

Forsberg has made no promises to the Preds, but he did waive a no-trade clause in his contract to allow the deal to happen. He was serving as Philadelphia's captain, though, and perhaps he sees this move as a way to help the Flyers' future because he has been limited so far this season for them on the ice.

I hope he will at least give Nashville the honor of keeping an open mind about our team and our community. This could very well be a great place for him to earn another championship, whether this year or thereafter, and it could be a great and welcoming place for him to complete his career, too.

Playing in two quick home games after arriving as the savior via a blockbuster trade will put pressure on anyone, even a premier athlete. The long road trip that starts next week will be a big challenge for the team, but I have a feeling it will be a very good thing for Forsberg's Predators tenure.

Thursday, February 22, 2007

Good thoughts from Garrigan on English-first

As happens more often than not, I agree with Liz and her ode to Councilman Eric Crafton in this week's Scene:

We do conduct our business in English and always have. Not once, as editor of a newspaper that makes frequent requests for public information—and roots around daily in the recesses of government offices for documents and other city goings-on—have we encountered an arrest record, a legal filing, a personnel file, an interview with a bureaucrat, or any other manifestation of municipal business in a non-English format. Well, except for the usual Metro-mangling of the English language—e.g., “let me have him to call you,” “you can quote me per beta,” or the classic plea for secrecy, “I need this to be unanimous.” (And there’s always the Metro Council favorite: “I have a qwerstion….”) ...
That said, you have accomplished wonders in uniting some of the city’s most fragmented factions. There could not be a more widely assorted, contradictory cast of characters who find your intention repulsive. The Scene and Bishop David Choby…on the same side? Liberadio! and the Nashville Area Chamber of Commerce? Bizpigs and African American clergy? The list of multifarious hand-holders who have come together for what may be the first and last time goes on and on—a testament to how spurious and ill-motivated your scheme truly is ...
Here you are, assuming that others who find themselves needing to learn a new language don’t have the same willingness and eagerness you did. It’s unfounded. No doubt when you were in Japan you tried to speak the language the best you could, but you probably needed a little sympathetic assistance from time to time—a stranger recognizing your effort, and reaching to meet you halfway. That’s all your mob of critics is saying.

Instead, by saying you’ll back the effort to put the measure on the August ballot, you’re assuming the worst of people in (or off) the same boat. And by trying to create a law where none is required, you’re diluting the good nature of Nashville’s citizens.

The last point here is the one that bugs me the most. This is a great place to live with a lot of kind-hearted people in it. We're consistently named the nation's friendliest city (although occasionally not to the homeless), and there are wonderful and amazing things taking place here as people continue to discover and explore Nashville. Yes, we have problems, but our ability to communicate in English is not one of them. How does this help us when we have bigger problems, including Dickerson Pike, to tackle?

Mercy, not sacrifice

Sam and Dixon 's idea is catching on, judging from this morning's Tennessean.

Instead of giving up soda, chocolate or swearing for Lent, some Midstate Christians are planning to volunteer at senior centers, spend five-minutes-a-day on social activism or pledge to crush their used Starbucks coffee cups to be more ecologically conscious...

The Rev. Thomas Hotchkiss of Church of Advent Episcopal is encouraging congregation members to combine the act of personal penance with charity work. "Giving up chocolate is something beneficial to oneself, which may OK, but taking all the money that everyone spends on candy bars and sending it to relief of children in Northern Uganda has an impact," he said. "That's what we're trying to get people to think on."
Someone who woke up very early on the wrong side of the bed disagrees:
Let me get this str8 (pun intended)... For 40 days, which ends at Easter, these people are no longer burdened with denying themselves chocolate (or other self indulgences), lying, swearing, buying soda, leaving a tip, recycling or anything else which would make them a 'better' christian? So on Easter Sunday, praise the lord, they can now curse, lie, eat diet cokes, leave no tips etc? No wonder this is their biggest holiday!

Frankly, I doubt Jesus is impressed. If I were Lord and Savior, I sure wouldn't be.

What a wretched religion. What a trite concept and up something for 40 days which one shouldn't be doing anyway. If y'all were serious about this, I propose something different...instead of 40 days, the following should give up or practice the following forever:

-Catholic Priests should give up molesting children forever, and confess to law enforcement about the ones they did abuse. Catholic Bishops shouldn't cover things up.

-Baptists should go to a gay bar and embrace every gay guy there, not as an abomination, but as another one of God's creations.

Eh, nevermind, these things ain't gonna happen. In Jesus name we burp, and hold off on self-indulgence, swearing, lying and not-tipping until Easter morning, amen.
I can't argue with the sentiment, only the presentation. Regardless, Jesus is quoted in the Bible as saying "I desire mercy, not sacrifice." I have no issue with the traditional practice of Lent, observed sincerely, but I think this alternative take on 40 days better matches the God's hope for us.

Digital Camera lust

Digital cameras keep getting smaller, better and cheaper. Canon is introducing the Powershot SD-1000 (two designs above), and it is more than double the megapixels (7.1), half the width and a third of the weight of the still great Powershot S230 I bought in 2002. It has a bigger LCD viewscreen on the back, too. At $300, it's also $100 cheaper than the S230 was when I bought it. Wow. [Source: Engadget]

Dickerson Pike: The name isn't the problem

Tennessean reporter Kate Howard is correct that this is what I think of when I hear the words "Dickerson Pike:"

Let’s do some word association. First thing you think of when I say… Dickerson Pike. Was it crime? Prostitutes? Drug dealers, or spray painting graffiti artists? If it was, you might understand why Metro City Council members want to give it a new moniker.

The city is considering a resolution telling the world they to be on “Skyline Boulevard” next time they’re riding down between Spring Street and Trinity Lane. The General Assembly would have to approve the change for the state route.

In my opinion, this is a shortsighted mistake that will only serve as a quick fix to a major issue. How long do you really think it will take until people realize that Skyline Boulevard equals Dickerson Pike?

The name isn't the problem: The activity on that street is. I hope the council will stop spending time on another resolution that has no practical value and look for real solutions that will help permanently revitalize a blighted and dangerous part of our city. How about expanding the East Police Precinct and hiring more officers to work there? How about adding better and more streetlights? How about dedicating funds toward building future city agency locations there? How about providing incentives for businesses to relocate there?

Maybe none of these ideas make sense for Dickerson Pike. Maybe some of them do. Unless we keep thinking about how to improve the reality of Dickerson Pike and stop worrying about what to call it, though, it won't be long until we read about the next prostitution sting or drug bust on Skyline Boulevard.

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Appearances, plural, of impropriety

In my opinion, this is the risk Nashville runs if it elects a career politician, such as Bob Clement, as mayor this fall. Nashville has been fortunate since Bill Boner left office in 1991 to have chief executives in office who, regardless of one's opinions on their initiatives and decisions, have generally gone out of their way to avoid controversy and the appearance of impropriety.

To be fair, Clement is probably known more for being bland than for being scandal-ridden, but hints of impropriety and corruption even prior to taking office are not encouraging signs. Let me say in alluding to Boner that Clement isn't likely to embarrass us on national television by playing harmonica with his mistress, but I still think his election would be a step backward, not forward for the city.

This also is not the kind of availability and responsiveness that, in my opinion, we need out of a future mayor: "Clement did not return calls for comment Tuesday."

Larry Woods, Clement's campaign manager, did respond when contacted by the City Paper: "There’s absolutely no involvement of those PACs on any level in the Clement campaign. They have not given us a dime and are not going to give us a dime."

In today's story, The City Paper also cited Woods' and Clement's explanations last July regarding a related incident:

“But Bob’s got the highest ethical standards of any public official I’ve ever worked with and rather than have questions about it, he wants to meet those high ethical standards,” Woods added. “And so that’s what the campaign’s doing.”

In a statement last summer, Clement said he believed the donations were legitimate.

“While I have been assured and advised that these committee donations are appropriate and proper, I think it is important for those of us who are privileged to seek and to hold public office to avoid even the appearance of anything that is less than the highest moral, ethical and legal standards,” Clement said.
This is one "appearance" that has not been avoided. Maybe this is all much ado about nothing, but I'm not hearing anything here that makes me think that Clement is the best candidate out of a crowded field to be our next mayor. Better and more informed takes on this issue are available here, here and here. Thanks to Kleinheider for raising awareness of this development.

Touche, Erik Cole

Hats off to Council member Erik Cole for his motion at the council meeting last night, as reported in today's City Paper:

District 7 Council member Erik Cole, who last week voted against the English First bill, motioned for the council to override Purcell’s veto. On a vote, the motion failed 12 – 14, with four members abstaining. The bill’s original sponsor, 22nd District representative Eric Crafton, made an immediate motion to reconsider. His motion was denied by the Council Chairman, Vice Mayor Howard Gentry.
Thanks to Vice Mayor Gentry for preventing Council member Crafton from avoiding the vote, too. The Tennessean reported Cole's reasoning for the motion, and I fully agree: “The intent was to dispatch with the discussion,” Cole said. “This has been a purely political exercise, and the citizens of Nashville are ready to move on to more important matters.”

Please let this go, Councilman Crafton. In my opinion, you are wasting our time and our money.

Titans' Jones has a decision to make

If this kind of news is going to go away, Titans cornerback Adam "Pacman" Jones is going to have to decide that he wants to stay away from trouble more than he wants to party:

The aftermath of a weekend in Las Vegas is ugly: three people shot at a strip club, with one still in critical condition. A combination of celebrities with money and strippers fighting over it started a melee that led to the bloody scene. It happened Monday at 5 a.m. at Minxx Gentleman's Club off the Vegas strip.

Pacman Jones was in the middle of it all, though on Tuesday his lawyer [Worrick Robinson] reiterated that the Titans cornerback is not a suspect ... "[Las Vegas police Sergeant Jon Sott] told me he was really disgusted at the way there were attempts to implicate Pacman," Robinson said. "But they said again he is not a suspect, and they don't see anything changing. He said they have a description but it's not Pacman. … I think this chapter is close to being closed..."

After a judge dismissed a case against him earlier this month, Jones said he had learned his lesson and would try and do a better job of picking his spots to hang out. [emphasis added] "Maybe I'll chill out as a jazz bar or something with some older folks,'' he said. As for what Jones took out of Monday morning's incident, Robinson said: "It scared him. Pacman said he was scared and he'll tell you he heard the gunshots and they stepped it up and got out of there. I think this is pretty much behind him now, but yeah, it scared him.''

I'm not convinced yet that this incident or ongoing trouble is "behind" Jones. The problem, in my opinion, is that trouble continues to be "in front" of him. When you are trying to overcome negative public opinion, being confirmed as a non-suspect is not enough.

Gail is right

Tennessean columnist Gail Kerr applauds Mayor Purcell for his recent veto of the English-first bill in this morning's paper.

"I have never been more proud to be a Nashvillian and to call Bill Purcell my town's mayor than I have been this past week. Well done, sir, well done, indeed."
I wholeheartedly agree. Despite Councilman Eric Crafton's plans to continue his quest for this legislation with a public referendum, I think Purcell's veto was a noble action in the best interest of our city. Thanks again, Bill.

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Tennessean wants to air your dirty, er, jewelry

Yikes. This is not why I left my ring on the bathroom shelf this morning:

It’s over. Now, what will you do with that ring? What did you do with your wedding ring or engagement ring once you finally broke up for good? Share you story with our readers. E-mail your story, in 100 words or less, to Please put ‘ring’ in the subject line, and include your name, hometown and daytime phone number.
Maybe Ms. Lopez did not want her class ring back after all. ;)

Lights out Down Under

Well, more accurately, the bulbs are on the way out Down Under. After meeting with mayoral candidate David Briley, who is advocating for a greener city government, yesterday, I think this might be a noble goal to add to Nashville's future to-do list:

While some US cities like Raleigh are already planning steps to cut back on energy wastes by converting to more efficient lighting systems, it looks like the entire continent of Australia could be following suit. Claiming to be the "world's first" national government to phase out incandescent light bulbs in favor of the more "fuel-efficient, compact fluorescent bulb," environment minister Malcolm Turnbull is hoping to "cut Australia's greenhouse gas emissions by four million metric tonnes a year by 2015." Citing the "climate changes" the world is facing as a "global challenge," Turnbell also urged other nations to follow suit in making a difference, but didn't exactly open up his personal wallet to stock our households with those uber-pricey bulbs. Interestingly, some environmentalists feel that the bulk of greenhouse gas emissions come from government and business-related activities, which should presumably take priority over swapping out a country's light bulbs.
I also found it interesting that the article makes the point about governments needing to lower their greenhouse gas emissions because Briley, as Kleinheider pointed out yesterday, make the point that governments are often behind the private sector these days when it comes to environmentally friendly practices. (By the way, there are much cheaper options for green bulbs out there than the $65 LED versions Engagdet mentions above.)

Lost and Found: Global Edition

Is this a bad time to mention that I left my wedding ring on a shelf in my bathroom this morning? It's been bugging me because I can feel it "missing," but now I'm especially interested in returning it to my finger ASAP after reading this amazing CNN story:

A college ring lost more than 20 years ago by a former undercover officer for the CIA has been found in an underwater cave off the coast of Africa. Steve Ruic, a writer on staff at Notre Dame College [in Ohio], received an e-mail about two weeks ago from a professional diver from Germany. Wilfried Thiesen wrote that he had found a class ring bearing the college's name while diving off Mauritius.

The ring was engraved with the year '76. The ring was missing the thin portion on the underside that ordinarily carries its owner's name. Ruic publicized the discovery in both an e-mail to college staff and a newsletter to alumni, but no one came forward to claim it. Then, while interviewing a member of the class of 1976 for an unrelated alumni magazine story, Ruic asked Dr. Maryellen Amato Stratmann if she'd ever been to Mauritius.

"I couldn't believe it," Ruic said. "She said, 'No, but Clare Cavoli Lopez has."'

Sure enough, it turned out to be Ms. Lopez' long-lost ring. I experienced a more believable, less astounding version of this story while I was in college. I discovered while home here in Nashville one summer that my missing high school ring had been found in a softball glove at my church gym. I'd borrowed a glove from someone the summer after I graduated in 1991 and left the ring inside accidentally. Nearly four years later, the ring turned up. I can't claim that any strangers tracked me down, and the ring barely crossed Davidson County, much less an ocean, but I was still pretty amazed to find it.

When it comes to my wedding ring, I'm likely to be in sight of my bathroom shelf a little sooner than my next (and first) trip to Mauritius, but I'll still be heading straight there after work. Gulp. [Image: AP via]

Monday, February 19, 2007

Lunch with Briley

It's been a good week. First off, my wife and I were seated next to Mayor Purcell for our Valentine's Day dinner on Wednesday, and today I participated in a lunch along with several other local bloggers hosted by mayoral candidate David Briley. Even better, unlike Purcell, Briley and I actually had a conversation while I was there.

My general impressions were that Briley is a well-spoken, open-minded person who would like to make Nashville a better place to live. I haven't made up my mind yet, but he appears to be someone I could vote for. At the very least, I don't think I would be upset to see him serve as mayor, and that's not insignificant with five months or so still remaining in the race. (In other words, that's a compliment with so much campaigning left to go.)

Thanks, Sean, for setting this up, and to everyone else for participating (Brittney Gilbert, Adam Kleinheider, Sarah Moore, Ned Williams and John of Salem's Lots). Here are some collected thoughts from today's discussion, which I found to be respectful and good-natured throughout despite a wide variety of thoughts and opinions on the issues:

Regarding fellow progressive mayoral candidate Karl Dean, Briley said, "Karl Dean is a friend of mine, and I have nothing negative to say about him." He did go on to say that he considers himself "better prepared after the past [nearly] eight years on the council" to serve as mayor, citing "broader experience" with budgeting, tax concerns, legislation, juvenile justice, crime and education compared to Dean's fairly targeted tenure as the city's director of law and as an adjunct professor of law at Vanderbilt.

When asked how to support Nashville's improving but still ailing public schools, Briley quoted Lamar Alexander's three keys to a successful school system: A good prinicipal, good teachers and good parents. He emphasized that involvement by parents is a major deficit right now and pledged to offer "unprecedented support" to encourage involvement by parents and by other role models. According to him, where our schools struggle most is in middle school. We do a decent job in elementary and high school, he argued, but not nearly as well for grades five through eight. Briley promised to get "every possible organization engaged in middle schools to get students through high schools in four years." He also noted that 10,000 young adults ages 16 to 24 in Nashville are responsible for 80 percent of our crimes, and that taking measures now to reach out to struggling students may help change this.

Briley acknowledged that reforming an organization large enough to serve 70,000 students will take some work. At the same time, he said that the school system "can't be one size fits all" and that it must be able to adapt to meet the needs of a diverse body of students. He emphasized the need for greater parental choice in the school system, stopping short of widespread adoption of charter schools but still acknowledging that parents are choosing now, for example, by moving to satellite counties when their children lose out in the lottery for magnet school slots.

Briley did say that he would like to see a "more objective" method for selecting charter schools and that the current system, where the school board has the primary say, is like "asking Wal-Mart to decide about putting a Target nearby." He would also like to provide more choice for parents within the public school system by allowing different categories of schools and granting parents the option to choose among them: He mentioned schools with uniforms, single-sex schools and Montessori schools as possible options.

When asked specifically about the fact that he did not vote in the final tally for the Metro Council's recent and controversial English-first bill, Briley explained that he voted against the bill on its second reading and had "nothing to gain by flip-flopping on the final vote." Even though he stepped out during debate for the legitimate reason of checking on his children by cell phone, he acknowledged that it was "a mistake on my part" and "I would have voted against it." He also claimed that he would have vetoed the bill, as did Mayor Purcell, if he had been mayor when it passed the council.

Explaining his stance on what he described as a merely "symbolic" bill," Briley noted that Nashville is "not a homogenous place" and that legal immigrants are "here to stay whether we like it or not." "We can't as a community act in a way that pushes everyone into a corner by label," he said. "We must empower immigrant communities to be a part of the culture." Briley also said that the bill "does zero legally" and went on to say that Nashville is "an inclusive city where everyone is expected to conduct themselves appropriately."

Philosophically speaking, I have the impression that Briley and I are in the same ballpark of many of the major issues. I did not have the impression during lunch that he ducked any questions, even tougher ones, but I will say that he has his talking points down pat. He did a good job of staying on his message without straying into territory that he didn't want to address, such as whether his tenure on the council would make him more or less effective as mayor. On that issue, he answered by saying, "It's up to the mayor to develop leadership in the council and to allow proactive, intelligent leaders [within the council] to raise issues ... Changing term limits alone won't solve the council's recent problems."

I'll close with what I thought was a genuine and respectable statement by Briley that I would say sums up my impressions following lunch: "I won't pretend to have all of the answers, but I will open up the doors for those who do." Thanks, David, for inviting a few of us in the blogosphere to sit down with you and for letting us fire away today.

Thursday, February 15, 2007

Dinner with Bill

I had dinner with Bill Purcell for Valentine's Day last night. OK, well, not exactly, but he did sit about four feet from my wife and me for about two hours yesterday evening. We had reservations at 6:30 at Eastland Cafe (which was excellent, by the way) and sat down at a cozy and candlelit little table for two. (We were about where the bald waiter is standing in the above stock photo from the Eastland Web site.)

As soon as we sat down, a friend of mine said my name and said hello. She was sitting at the table on the far side of the mayor from us, not that we had even noticed that his honor was in the room at that point. After thirty seconds or so of conversation across the mayor's table with my friend, I sat down and began looking at the menu. Sure enough, Eastland Cafe has a beautiful set of mirrors at about eye level running the length of one wall, and there was Bill in the reflection right above my wife's shoulder.

Unless I someday sit down across from Bono, I'm going to continue to try to not be "that fan" or "that guy." You know, the one who makes an ass of himself by fawning all over a public figure. Granted, our mayor is a bit more local a celebrity than, say, a philanthropic rock-star who has won multiple Grammys and has been named Time's Man of the Year, but it was still an awfully fun surprise. I managed to (hopefully) subtly steer my wife's gaze in the mayor's direction with my own eyes, and we did our best the rest of the evening to leave him alone.

I'm happy to report that it was the mayor, not me, who broke out his Blackberry during dinner to check e-mail, though my wife notes that, as mayor, he stood a lot better chance of getting away with that on Valentine's Day than I did. (I kept my Treo in my pocket the whole time.) It should also be noted, for the record, that as far as I could tell, the mayor spoke almost entirely in English the entire evening. Then again, there were several French and Italian words on the menu, so I'm not sure whether Bill ordered by pointing at the menu or if he embraced his recent veto by pronouncing every single word. I hope it was the latter.

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

AJC notices, applauds Purcell's veto

Atlanta Journal-Constitution editorial page editor Cynthia Tucker has a great column in today's paper regarding Mayor Purcell's veto of the Metro Council's English-first bill:

Profiles in political courage are rare, indeed, but there's an early contender for the awards Caroline Kennedy hands out every May: Nashville Mayor Bill Purcell. On Monday, defying the xenophobes, know-nothings and nativists, Purcell vetoed a local ordinance that would have enshrined "English-only" as official city policy and dictated that virtually all government communications be in English.

"This ordinance does not reflect who we are in Nashville," the mayor said at a press conference. Wow. Rather than taking the easy path to cheap acclaim, Purcell took the high but rocky road of leadership. Will his gesture be widely emulated? Probably not. Politics is too much about popularity, and Purcell's stand against the nativism that has taken hold among so many Americans certainly won't be popular.
I have no issue with continuing to monitor how our country is changing as new residents arrive and begin to contribute to our culture, but I do have a problem with passing legislation that accomplishes little except increasing divisiveness, which is one thing we don't need to encourage. Tucker goes on to note that this is not the first time that xenophobia has been an active force in American politics:
Some demographers believe that widespread access to TV and the Internet is helping current immigrants learn English faster than immigrants of the late 19th and early 20th centuries. The immigrants of yesteryear — Italians, Germans, Poles — often lived in contained neighborhoods where granddad and grandma never learned English. And they, too, were resented by WASPy native-born Americans who thought they'd ruin the country. They didn't. Neither will the current crop of immigrants. We need more courageous politicians such as Purcell to say so.
Some pundits argue convincingly these days that media, technology and industry together have made our country more homogeneous, not less so. The regional differences that used to distinguish one part of the country are not as pronounced as they once were. That sounds a lot like a melting pot to me, and I see no problem with celebrating the unique elements of our culture while welcoming new arrivals. Thanks again, Bill. Your actions on Monday are already paying dividends.

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Right on, Bill and Phil

I'm grateful to see that Governor Phil Bredesen has publicly praised Mayor Bill Purcell's decision to veto the Metro Council's much-debated "English-First" bill today. As the City Paper has quickly reported, Bredesen called the veto the "right thing to do:"

I think a lot of that stuff has way too much of a posturing aspect about it for my taste... I always thought that English-only stuff was kind of a very un-American way of going at things... I think this has always been, at its best, an open and accessible country that values everyone who lives here.
There's no denying, as Councilman and bill sponsor Eric Crafton has mentioned, that there is significant public opinion in favor of this bill. Illegal immigration has been a major point of discussion over the past year locally and nationally. I personally oppose this legislation because I think it's small-minded and a significant waste of time when the council would be better suited addressing issues that impact a larger share of its constituents. I also believe that this bill does very little in terms of practical changes for city communications, and I'm left to wonder what allowing it to pass really accomplishes other than subjecting the city to the possibility of future lawsuits when the bill eventually gets in the way of delivery of legitimate city services.

Thank you, Mayor Purcell, for taking this stand. Thank you, Governor Bredesen, for shedding additional light on what in my opinion is a very sound decision by the mayor. It's no secret that Bredesen and Purcell haven't always been able to agree, but I respect both men for taking firm action in this instance. I am much prouder of our city and our state today than I was last Tuesday when this measure passed the council. To the 14 council members who voted against the bill when it passed, thank you for voting as you did. Please remain strong in your commitment to a more welcoming and diverse community when this legislation is addressed again next Tuesday.

Friday, February 09, 2007

Karl Dean has landed!

Mayoral candidate Karl Dean has launched a Web site for his campaign. I've mentioned more than once that Dean was the lone major candidate lacking a presence on the Internet, and that is no longer the case.

I've taken a short glance, and in my opinion this is a useful and aesthetically sound site. It appears to have been reasonably well-organized and contains timely, relevant information, including brief information about Dean's platform, a short bio, a snazzy photo gallery, recent mayoral news from outside sources (a nice touch) and a YouTube video embedded on the front page of Dean's campaign announcement from December.

Dean included links for Facebook, YouTube, MySpace and LinkedIn (though the latter two are inactive as of this morning), so my take is that he or someone on his staff "gets it" when it comes to including the Web in his campaign approach. As Kleinheider and others have recently noted, the Internet won't win this campaign, but it can't help but raise visibility.

Well done so far, Karl. I'm especially pleased to see a lack of "under construction" verbiage on any pages, and I hope your staff will follow this initial entry into cyberspace with frequent updates.