Monday, September 22, 2008


Recently, a friend sent me a link to a US geography puzzle that required you to properly place the states where they belonged and without benefit of their names. He aasumed that I knew the shapes because I had been to every state and lived in 15 of them, so he challenged me to complete the puzzle in under two minutes.

Using the Great Lakes as the fixed landmark I was off to a great start --- but it took longer than two minutes. Of course, it was the fault of my mouse because it slipped a few times. You know the state is properly seated when the abbreviation of the state appears, but sometimes the mouse just didn't make it happen. Well, of course I did the "Type-A" thing and did the puzzle several more times until I could do well under two minutes!

Go to and try for yourself. Don't feel bad it your mouse does you wrong like mine did! And no fair using another map as a guide.

Even though I had studied US geography, as I studied the completed map, I wondered about some of the quirks in the various state borders. So I "Googled" the question and was directed to a new book, How The States Got Their Shapes by Mark Stein (Smithsonian Books, 2008). It's a quick read and does a great job explaining all four of each state's borders. It also reminds you of some US history you might have forgotten. For example, did you remember that Oklahoma got its panhandle as a result of the Kansas-Nebraska Act of 1854 that modified the Missouri Compromise of 1820 on the issue of slavery in new territories?

I was also interested in the explanation for some of the border quirks with our state of North Carolina. I now understand the southern border with South Carolina and the western border with Tennessee. I now also understand the straight line northern border that originally ran clear across the nation, and why there is some deviation in that straight line, especially in Tennessee and Missouri, and then the new line in Oklahoma New Mexico, and Arizona.

It's just facisinating, even if you aren't willing to ring in on the $2000 US geography question on Jeopardy!

Tuesday, September 16, 2008


Did you know that September 17th is a US holiday? Don't feel bad, most don't! On September 17, 1787, all 12 state delegations approved the Constitution and 39 delegates of the 42 present signed it and the Convention formally adjourned.
The law establishing the holiday was created in 2004 with the passage of an amendment by Senator Robert Byrd to the Omnibus spending bill of 2004. Before this law was enacted, the holiday on September 17th was known as "Citizenship Day." In addition to renaming the holiday "Constitution Day and Citizenship Day," the act mandates that all publicly funded educational institutions provide educational programming on the history of the American Constitution on that day. Just in case you might have just thought that you missed it, this holiday is not observed by granting time off work for federal employees!

In May 2005, the United States Department of Education announced the enactment of this law and that it would apply to any school receiving federal funds of any kind. Teachers and schools are free to design Constitution Day programming that best addresses the needs of their students. Federal executive employees observe the day with some sort of edifying lesson, program, or distributed materials about our Constitution.

For me, who as a commissioned officer took an oath to "support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic," understanding these words was an important part of our education. Gaining understanding begins with the Preamble:

We The People of the United States, in order to form a more perfect union, establish justice, insure domestic tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general welfare, and secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.
We are fortunate that some governments offices and others have several handy links to resources that can be used to enhance learning:

Also, Constitution Day, Inc., a tax deductible, non profit, and non partisan organization maintains a website,

Happy learning, and Happy Constitution Day and Citizenship Day!

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

KUDOS! (WCHL Commentary)

WOW! We sure were lucky with the intruder named Hanna, and even more so when you think about her relative named Fran who was very unkind to us that terrible 5th and 6th of September 1996. Fortunately, Hanna did nowhere near the damage, and for that, we should be very thankful.

But Hanna was clearly wasn’t a non-event for everyone.
For our governments, significant time and resources went into planning for the storm. Some folks after the storm called it about much ado about nothing, but sanity dictates that we plan for the worst and hope for the best. After all, predicting the exact track that an unpredictable storm will follow just isn’t possible.

We had a lot of water fall on us and we did experience flooding, fallen trees and power losses. We received great information and I think that we owe a debt of gratitude to WCHL for what they did during the storm. Once again, they proved the value of a community radio station by providing the kind of LOCAL coverage that they did. Not only did they air field reports and updates from their staff, Duke Energy and Town officials on the conditions in the local area Saturday morning, they also had listeners call in and share what they were seeing.

We as a community are truly fortunate to have a resource like WCHL to provide accurate, timely and useful information on what’s happening as a result of these weather events. Kudos to you WCHL and all of the members of the 1360 family; you are a true asset to our community.