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Thursday, October 2, 2008
Ford Announces Water-Powered Automobile

DETROIT -- The Ford Motor Company, in conjunction with Hydrolytics, Inc., announced today that they have produced, in an unprecedented engineering feat, a water-powered car that could end America's dependence on foreign petroleum for vehicle propulsion.

The prototype vehicle, currently code-named the H-2-0, runs completely and solely on pure water. "The H-2-0 gets great water mileage," said Ford automotive designer Brent Sigelbach.  "The latest tests show it gets 42 miles per gallon on the highway and 36 in the city, about the same as the gas mileage of a fuel-efficient Honda Civic."

Minor concerns are all that are keeping the car from entering mass production today.

"As you might expect, you couldn't just take water out of a puddle to fuel an H-2-0. The water can't be tap water or even filtered, it has to be pure -- Evian class or better. And it needs to be cooled, 44 degrees Fahrenheit or cooler, but not frozen," said Ford Chairman and CEO, Bill Ford.

The infrastructure is not there yet to have pre-cooled pure-water pumps at filling stations,  say CEO Ford, so to use existing technology H-2-0 drivers will have to fuel their cars from  half-liter bottles. Fortunately for Ford, and the H-2-0 drivers, most convenience market/filling station stores currently sell acceptable quality water/fuel, keeping it appropriately refrigerated in their "beverage" cases.

Hydrolytics, Inc., originally had been working on a cold-fusion-based vehicular propulsion system, when one of their test engineers, since laid off, hooked up the apparatus backwards.  Rather than cold fusion, cool fraction occurred. While the explosion which took place did destroy the facility and set Hydrolytics research in general back for nearly a year, it also formed the basis for the H-2-0 propulsion technology.

A German efficiency expert working with Ford is trying to reduce several functional inefficiencies and cost-factors in the H-2-0's operation.  According to Dr. Hans Krabbe of Sehr-Sehr Deutsch Consulting, the average fueling time for the typical eleven gallon gasoline or diesel car fuel tank is 4.2 minutes. For the H-2-0, it takes 28.6 minutes, and produces 48 empty plastic bottles and 48 plastic caps, which Krabbe estimates contain the petroleum energy of 9.8 gallons of oil. At current prices, which are expected to rise as demand increases as more H-2-0's get on the road, filling up an H-2-0 costs about $52, or about $4.40 a gallon.

Ford hopes to have H-2-0's on the showroom floor for the 2010 model season, which begins early in January 2009.


 Gary D. Gaddy once owned a steam-powered boat he bought from an ad in the back of a comic book.  It was the first time he really got snookered.

A version of this story was published in the Chapel Hill Herald on Thursday October 2, 2008.

Copyright 2008  Gary D. Gaddy

Authored by Gary G. Gaddy at 10:40 AM EDT
Updated: Sunday, March 28, 2010 9:43 AM EDT
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Chapel Hill to replace Halloween festivities

CHAPEL HILL -- After years of dealing with the growing numbers of people celebrating Halloween on Franklin Street -- and facing the growing headaches that have come along with them, the town of Chapel Hill has decided to move the festivities to the daytime on the day following Halloween.  Town officials say they expect the move to reduce the amount of damage and the number of arrests as well as the total cost of the event to the municipality.

After adopting the proposal, Mayor Kevin Foy said he quickly realized that if the event was held the day after Halloween it wouldn't be Halloween anymore and decided that the town "would need to re-focus and re-package the event."   Foy said that since the event would no longer be held on All Hallow's Eve -- Halloween being just a modern contraction for the name for the ancient holiday, it needed to be reconceptualized.

"We're going to call it 'All Saints Day Celebration on the Hill,'" said Foy. "After all these years of celebrating the Devil, we thought it was time that we brought a little counterbalance," he said.

"A lot of people don't realize it but the name of our town is Chapel Hill, so a nice Christian celebration every now and then would seem in order, if only to commemorate our godly origins,"  said Councilperson and Mayor Pro Tem Jim Ward.

"We are also asking that the town's children, of all ages, stop traveling the neighborhoods on the night before to blackmail adults for candy with threats of 'Trick or Treat!', said Ward. "Instead we are asking them to collect canned goods from their own homes and take to them to their neighbors as gestures of goodwill," he added.

"Although these small gifts may not make up for the egging that they gave to their houses last year and the toilet papering they did the year before, it certainly could help build some good feelings," said Ward.

To keep alcohol involved in the festival, a sunrise communion service will be part of the day's activities, said Councilperson Mark Kleinschmidt.  "While this probably won't help participants get smashed out their gourds, a little nip of Manischewitz never hurt anybody," he added.

Despite the event’s name, Councilperson Matt Czajkowski said sinners as well as saints would be welcome.

Gary D. Gaddy once dressed as Santa Claus for Halloween as a child.            

A version of this story was published in the Chapel Hill Herald on Thursday October 2, 2008.

Copyright 2008  Gary D. Gaddy


Authored by Gary G. Gaddy at 9:07 AM EDT
Updated: Sunday, March 28, 2010 9:40 AM EDT
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Thursday, September 25, 2008
What it was was football redux

Last week my wife's cousin, Bobo Herring, from Traphill up in Wilkes County, visited the University of North Carolina with his eldest son. Willy Bob has been offered a Morehead Scholarship and Bobo wanted to see "what Willy Bob would be gettin' into."  This is Bobo’s report.

* * * *

Right off I got to thinkin', we have made some kinda mistake a-comin' down c'here on a Saturd'y.  There's such a passel a-people, and so many dang cars, all a-goin' somewhere.  These young'uns in bright orange was a-tellin ever'body where they oughta go.  So we did.

We drove right into this building the like of which I ain't never see'd.  They's a-givin' us this little slip a-paper, what for I do not know.  We drove on in and drove around, and around, and around, and around, 'til we ended up right smack on top of that building.  When we stopped, I jump'd right outta that car, and hurried, 'long with ever'body else, 'fore that buildin' commenced to fallin' and kill't us all.

A-where we was a-goin', it did not seem to matter as that there crowd was a-carryin' us like sticks on swollen crick.  Next thing you know we was at some sorta great big gates like what let you into Heaven, where this man in a pretty blue vestment was sayin', "Tickets."

I had that little slip a-paper, so I handed it to him.

He said, "This isn't a ticket, sir."

I said, "Then I ain't got no ticket.  And I don't know why I should."

Just then I hear’d a voice, sayin', "Bobo, that you?"  It was my Uncle Leonard.

After tellin' him of my perdicament, he said, "I got tickets.  You and Willy Bob come on with me to the Pope's Box."

So we get in one them elevators like they got over at Wilkes General, and when them doors open you ain't never seen the like of it.  Ever'thin' was all a-painted blue like a robin's egg.  It was right pretty, if'n you like that sorta thing. 

It musta been some sort of potluck, 'cause they was food ever'where.  Willie Bob and I got heapin' plates full and went and sit down.  I look up and they's fans and heaters and shades and picture tubes ever'where.  I look down and they's thousands and thousands of people all a-lookin' at a pretty piece a-pasture with lines drawed all over it.  What the for, I do not know.

Ever'body was just a-lookin', so we was a-lookin' too.  Then I saw they was a-lookin' at a tunnel at the end of that pasture and it was a-fire, with smoke just a-pourin' out.  I was a-thinkin' somebody oughta douse that fire, when a whole bunch of great big young'uns come a-runnin' outta that tunnel like they was a-fire too.

That crowd they roar'd and whoop'd and hollar'd like nothin' nobody ever heard 'cause they was so glad those boys wearin’ baby blue weren't charr'd.  And you could tell by how fast they ran and how high they jump'd, them boys weren't hurt one bit.

Then somebody was a-settin' off firecrackers and that chased another big batch of giant young'uns all dress'd orange like punkins out the other end of that pasture. But the crowd, they weren't happy to see them atall, commencin’ to a-booin' like they was the Devil hisself.

Next two klatches of them boys, one in blue, ‘nothern in orange, came out to the middle of the pasture and a prisoner what musta escaped from jail went there with'em.  After they all shook hands real nice, they musta prayed with that convict, 'cause when he raised his hand, they all looked up to heaven, then they bowed their heads.

That prayer must not a-been very fervent, 'cause the next thing them boys was lined up ag'in each other just a whompin' and stompin' and kickin' each other and throwin' each other on the ground.

What got it all started -- best I could figger -- was that punkin them boys in orange had brought with'em.  Them other boys, they wanted it too.

It was an awful funny punkin.  They haul'd and dropp'd, throw’d it and kick'd it -- and never did bust it.  This one boy in blue, they kept sayin', "Brandin" wherever he had that punkin, he ran all over that field with them other boys a-chasing’em, and right when you thought they might catch'em, he'd get to the end of the field and throw the punkin down like he didn't never want that thing to begin with.

I told Willy Bob if this was what college was all about it didn't seem much worth the travel.  Willy Bob, who now says I oughta call him William, was too busy watchin' them lanky girls jigglin' 'round down at the end of pasture to even notice -- but he says he's a-takin' that Morehead.

And, you know what, I never did see that Pope.


Gary D. Gaddy hears that fellow UNC alum Andy Griffith may have pre-plagiarized this idea from him.

A version of this story was published in the Chapel Hill Herald on Thursday September 25, 2008.

Copyright 2008  Gary D. Gaddy

Authored by Gary G. Gaddy at 9:00 AM EDT
Updated: Thursday, October 9, 2008 8:59 AM EDT
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Thursday, September 18, 2008
PETA sues McCain and Obama campaigns

RICHMOND -- In a rare display of non-partisanship during this highly partisan political season, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals filed a petition today in United States District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia asking both the McCain and Obama campaigns to cease and desist from "continued animal abuse."

"Putting lipstick on a pig may be funny to some people," said PETA spokesperson Greta van Tingle, "but not to us."   [Editor's note: The crowds at Senator Obama's speech did notably laugh at the "lipstick on a pig" reference.]

"Further, Governor Palin may feel that since she wears lipstick it is perfectly alright for her to apply it to the lips of her pit bull, but we don't.  Pit bulls, despite their outward appearance, can be very sensitive. Their psyche can be damaged as well as their lips, as is the case where they are allergic to any of the substances in the lipstick," said Tingle.

"It's my view that these animals have already suffered enough in being used in the testing of lip coloration products and they should not have to go through the embarrassment of being seen in public in it," said Gloria Finglestine.

"There is only one way to characterize what these campaigns have done: smears," said Finglestine, a PETA volunteer who once worked as a lab assistant for testing for Revlon.  "I can't blame them for that.  Have you ever tried to put lipstick on a Chihuahua or even a Guinea pig?  It's tough.  Let me tell you, it's tough," said Finglestine.

Although the court filing asks that a injunction be placed on both campaigns specifically for "any and all references to putting lipstick on pigs or pit bulls," according to the attorney for PETA, Burt McDonald, the obvious intent is to halt the application of lipstick, lip gloss or other decorative lip appliqués to any animal whether domesticated or not.

A Durham attorney, who asked that her name not be used, said that although she is not a PETA supporter, and is not affiliated with the PETA legal team, said she could understand PETA's concerns as she had personal experience in the area.  Her now-deceased cat, Spooky Bloomberg-Herring, was diagnosed with a condition that could have exacerbated by the application of lipstick.

"When we got Spooky from the animal shelter, the holding pen was labeled 'Male,' however, when we took Spook to the vet to be castrated, the veterinarian said that would not be possible -- but she could be spayed, since Spooky was a female," she said.

The vet also recommended gender identity counseling for Spooky.  "I don't know how physically traumatic lipstick might have been for her," she said, "but I can see how it would have been very damaging psychologically."

Further legal action, said PETA spokesperson Graeme Schmidt, is being considered on behalf of two other animal classes, elephants and jackasses, both of which, PETA maintains, are thoroughly embarrassed by the regular association with the Republican and Democratic parties respectively.

Both the McCain and Obama campaigns refused comment on the suit until the results of current polling were in.


GlaxoSmithKline merges with Smith Barney

RESEARCH TRIANGLE PARK -- In an unprecedented cross-sector merger, GlaxoSmithKline Pharmaceuticals (NYSE: GSK, 43.17) today executed a purchase of Smith-Barney Financial Services division from Citigroup Global Capital Markets Inc.(NYSE: PQU, 9.55).  Pending expected regulatory approval, the new mega-corporation will be named GlaxoSmithKlineBarney.

"There no doubt that the financial services sector is very sick -- but I'm not sure this is the cure," said one noted industry observer, Carl Calcorn of Investics Information Services.  "Popping a pill or two won't make this headache go away," said Calcorn.

History says otherwise, as GlaxoSmithKline appears to be the best situated company in the world to deal with America's financial sector woes, according to University of North Carolina pharmaceutical-sector historian Gilbert A. Hodges.

According to Dr. Hodges, GSK  which began as Plough Court pharmacy, the forerunner of Allen and Hanburys Ltd. in London in 1715, launched the Beecham's Pills laxative business in 1842 -- giving them over 150 years of experience in purging the systems of its bloated customers.

As a historical case in point, parallel to the current acquisition,  Prof. Hodges said, everyone agrees, in retrospect, that Beecham's acquisition of  County Perfumery Company Ltd. in 1939, manufacturers of Brylcreem, a men's hair application, was a pretty slick move.


Gary D. Gaddy, who has never worn lipstick or owned a pig or pit bull but is a reformed vegetarian as well as a charter member of the other PETA -- People for Eating Tasty Animals, played in the USTA North Carolina Senior Mixed Doubles State Championships last weekend, but doesn’t want to talk about it.

 A version of this story was published in the Chapel Hill Herald on Thursday September 18, 2008.

Copyright 2008  Gary D. Gaddy


Authored by Gary G. Gaddy at 7:32 AM EDT
Updated: Tuesday, October 6, 2009 9:37 PM EDT
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Thursday, September 11, 2008
Doughnuts prevent cancer deaths, study shows

CHAPEL HILL -- A diet rich in doughnuts prevents a whole range of cancer deaths, according to a collaborative study released today by the University of North Carolina’s School of Public Health, NC State’s Food Science Curriculum and New York's Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center.

While some dietary experts are befuddled by the results, the study's researchers were not.  "This is exactly what we expected," said Dr. Merc Grubstreet, a nutritionist and the study's lead investigator from UNC.

The long-term, longitudinal study of middle-aged men tracked cancer deaths for two groups, those who ate substantial numbers of doughnuts each day and those who ate one or fewer doughnuts a month. The primary finding was that the "no doughnuts" group was 2.7 times more likely to die from cancer of all types than those in the "doughnut" group.

While most types of doughnuts appeared to have some protective effect, the most efficacious were deep-fried donuts, such as Krispy Kreme®. The effect appears to hold regardless of the pastry's shape. Fillings and frostings seemed to add an extra layer of benefit, said Dr. Grubstreet. Cake doughnuts, such as Dunkin' Donuts®, while less effective, do reduce cancer deaths as well, the study showed.

The experts were careful to note that the study provides little evidence that "a doughnut here or there" does much good at preventing cancer death. "Significant results were only shown for a daily regimen of donuts measured in dozens of doughnuts," said NC State food scientist Fawn Minnion. "The median consumption of our 'doughnut' group was 1.44  gross per month."

"Further," said Dr. Minnion, "there is no evidence that doughnut holes do anything for, or against, one's health status."

The study, researchers said, had opened a series of new doughnut-related questions. An already funded follow-up study is slated to examine whether "hot" doughnuts are more efficacious than the "cold" boxed doughnuts usually sold in retail outlets. Another proposed study hopes to address a problem footnoted in the current one: the higher dropout rate in the "doughnut" group.

"Not many in the older 'doughnut' cohorts died of cancer, true," said a study assistant from Sloan-Kettering, Patsy Sukkard, "but there weren't many left."

Current theories for the high dropout rate include premature deaths related to obesity, diabetes, and hardening of the arteries. At the present no funding source has been found for the dropout study.

One of the Federal Food and Drug Administration's top dietary experts, Virgie Bollix, said she was a "little surprised" at the findings. "Maybe I shouldn't be since the latest studies show getting plastered every night on red wine will make you live forever."

The doughnut study, which cost over $60 million, was funded by Krispy Kreme®, Dunkin' Donuts®, and the Fried Pastries Manufacturers and Distributors Research Institute®.  The study's findings are set to be published in the this month's issue of the Pastry Science Quarterly.

Anonymous Donor top U.S. philanthropist

CHAPEL HILL -- A new study of giving by America's top givers shows that Warren Buffett has been surpassed as America's most generous giver by Anonymous Donor.  Although many have observed the frequent appearance of his name on lists of contributors to various causes, until now no one had ever fully measured the breadth and scope of Anonymous Donor's charity across the many beneficiaries of his largesse.

"Cumulated across the literally tens of thousands of individuals and organizations that Mr. Donor has contributed to, his assistance has benefitted millions of recipients and amounts to billions, and that's billion with a capital 'B,' of dollars, and he has done so every year we studied," said Clive Sinclair of the American Association of Eleemosynary Organizations.

"Although we would like to say that we have captured a record of all of Mr. Donor's generous giving, we know that we haven't," continued Sinclair.  "It seems that he avoids publicity whenever possible," he added.

Gary D. Gaddy’s nephew, 2007 NC State valedictorian Benjamin Gaddy, was one of the early organizers of the Krispy Kreme® Challenge, in which participants, starting at the iconic NC State Belltower on Hillsborough Street, run two miles to the Krispy Kreme® store of Raleigh, eat one dozen doughnuts (totaling 2,400 calories and 144 grams of fat), and run back to the Belltower, all in under one hour. This year's event was so successful that additional doughnuts from a Krispy Kreme® store in Fayetteville, North Carolina were trucked in to meet the day's demands. The 2008 Challenge, in which 3,032 participated, raised over $20,000 for the North Carolina Children's Hospital.

A version of this story was published in the Chapel Hill Herald on Thursday September 11, 2008.

Copyright 2008  Gary D. Gaddy


Authored by Gary G. Gaddy at 9:16 AM EDT
Updated: Wednesday, September 24, 2008 2:42 PM EDT
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Thursday, September 4, 2008
Lyme disease: Seriously, it doesn't come from drinking too many gin & tonics

A WHILE BACK I went to the mountains of North Carolina and got Giardia.  Later I went to Africa and got malaria.  Little more than a month ago I went across my backyard to feed my goldfish and got Lyme disease.  No joke.

You know those pretty little Bambi-like creatures that prance across your yard?  You thought the worst deer could do was eat your Hosta and azaleas?  Well, that's not the worst.  Deer can also cripple you for life -- and I don't mean by coming through the windshield of your car.

Today's column is a public service announcement for those of you here in North Carolina who thought Lyme disease was something they got in Connecticut from drinking too many gin and tonics, because the disease, first identified in Old Lyme, Conn., in 1975, is here in the Tar Heel state -- and you better know about it before you get it too.

I went to the doctor last month because I had a mild headache that wouldn’t go away and I was waking up with night sweats -- and figured I wasn't going through menopause.  I tested positive for Lyme disease.

Lyme disease is caused by a bacterium that is transmitted to humans from deer by the bite of infected blacklegged ticks – tiny deer ticks (adults measure 1/8 inch).  Their nymphs, the even tinier tick babies, can give you Lyme disease without your ever seeing them.  All you have is little spot that looks and feels like a mosquito bite.

Left untreated Lyme disease can seriously disable a person and leave them in chronic pain.  But it doesn’t have to if you avoid the ticks that carry it, watch for and get it diagnosed if you don’t avoid getting bitten, and if you treat it early if you do get infected.

Caught early, most cases of Lyme disease can be treated successfully with a few weeks of inexpensive antibiotics.

How to avoid Lyme disease

You can reduce your chance of getting Lyme disease by avoiding ticks that transmit it by staying out of wooded and bushy areas with high grass and leaf litter.  You can use insect repellent with DEET on exposed skin and clothing.  Or you may apply another repellent, permethrin, which kills ticks on contact, to pants, socks and shoes but not on your skin.

You can perform careful tick checks after being outdoors.  If a tick is attached to your skin for less than 24 hours, your chance of getting Lyme disease is small.   Parents please check your children.

How to know you have it

You can stay on the alert for the symptoms of tick-borne illness.  The first thing that's generally noticeable for Lyme disease is a small lesion with an expanding "bull's eye rash” radiating from the site of the tick bite.  But this rash doesn’t always appear.  I never got one.

We've been told by doctor that even a small rash can be significant.  That's what my wife had and she was given antibiotics, too.

The rash may or may not come with the other signs such as a headache and general flu-like symptoms.  Mine were like the flu -- but the easiest flu I ever had.

The real problem comes few weeks or months later when the next stage begins with rashes not at the site of bite, joint pain, headache, stiff or aching neck and severe fatigue.

Have symptoms?  See a doctor

If you have any of these symptoms, first or second stage, see a doctor.  All I had was a mild but persistent headache, night sweats -- and the memory of removing a tiny mite of a tick.

If the Lyme disease is allowed to progress untreated to the late stage, chronic, difficult to treat symptoms may occur including arthritis of the large joints and seriously disabling neurological disorders.

I don't know what ehrlichiosis and tularemia are but like Rocky Mountain spotted fever they are tick-borne diseases.   (And despite its name, North Carolina has more cases of Rocky Mountain spotted fever than any other state, according to the Orange County Health Department, and it is a serious illness.)

Each of these tick-borne diseases may produce flu-like symptoms, such as fever, body aches and chills.  All can be treated by a physician if identified early.  The earlier you are treated with antibiotics, the better the results.

Due to early treatment, I have probably escaped serious long-term consequences.  I’d like it if my readers would too.

(If you want to know more about Lyme disease, Google "cdc lyme" and get very detailed information.)

Gary D. Gaddy really does have Lyme disease – and usually writes funnier columns when he’s feeling better.

A version of this story was published in the Chapel Hill Herald on Thursday September 4, 2008.

Copyright 2008  Gary D. Gaddy 

Authored by Gary G. Gaddy at 9:36 AM EDT
Updated: Wednesday, September 24, 2008 2:42 PM EDT
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Thursday, August 28, 2008
An Olympic collection of odds 'n' ends

BEIJING, via satellite -- As the XXIX Olympiad has drawn to close, I can now see the many lessons that I have learned from watching the dedicated and hardworking athletes who have endured the rigors of world-class competition.  First and foremost being that if you spend two solid weeks watching TV night and day, even using the modern miracle of TIVO, you don't have time to write a proper column.  So, this is what you guys get:  An Olympic collection of odds and ends, mostly odds.

So, ascend with me to the top of Mount Vesuvius, where the first Olympics were held (and thus the tradition of opening ceremony fireworks), and from there we can look across the glowing moments the Olympic fortnight has brought to us.


Introducing the Chinese calendar

He, Jiang and Yang are young, too young.  This is something we as Americans have a hard time understanding.  We understand too old, as in the faked birth certificates for "Little" League baseball players that we see on a regular basis.  (One year the joke was that the championship Taiwanese team hurried back to Taiwan to be with their families -- their wives and children, that is.)

In female gymnastics, it seems, you do want them little but not too little.

Fortunately, for the Chinese Olympic team, with the Chinese calendar you can be born on one date in 2004, 2005 and 2006 and then on another in 2007.  You can be (as was gymnast He Kexin) reported to be by China’s official Xinhua news agency nine months ago 13 years old, then turn the requisite 16 years old this year.

This calendar system, perhaps, may also explain why the Chinese celebrate New Year's at the wrong time.

He's on first

The Olympics provide us with an opportunity to share common experience but sometimes they can be very hard to explain to those who don't follow as closely as you do.  One example is solo synchronized swimming (sadly since dropped from Olympic competition).  Try explaining that event to anyone -- whether they have seen solo synchronized swimming in action or not.

Another difficulty came recently, for me, when I was watching girls' gymnastics and He was competing and I was trying to tell my lovely and sports-loving wife about it.

Me: "You should come watch this, He's competing."
Her: "Who's competing?"
Me: "He's competing."
Her: "You said that already.  So who's competing?"
Me: "No, He's competing and you need to hurry because He's on first.  Hu's not competing; Hu's the president of China."
Her (still yelling down from the top of the stairs): "Well, OK, so how's he doing?"
Me: "I don't know.  Who are you talking about?"
Her: "The guy you said who was competing."
Me: "There is no guy competing. This is women's gymnastics.  He's a she."
Her: "What?"
Me: "He's not a he, she's a she,"
Her: "I thought you just said He's a she."
Me: "I did.  Just come down and watch."
Her: "I will -- just as soon as you tell me the Panthers-Redskins game is coming on."


. . . And now from behind a desk somewhere

NBC Olympics anchor desk attendant Jim Lampley, looked to be chained to his desk 24-7.  I speculated that he had no legs.  Austin, my Olympics viewing teammate, without whom I would not been able to accomplish what I accomplished during the XXIXth Olympiad, said that wasn't so. "He just doesn't have any pants on."

Lampley, who may or may not have ever been to Beijing, did have, without a doubt, the best quote of the Olympiad, saying, after showing a video replay of a Cuban martial-arts participant, who when he was disqualified sucker punched the referee with a kick-boxing move:  "The first rule of Tae Kwon Do: You can't kick the referee in the head."


. . . And to Ireland goes the gold for vanity plates

The vanity license plate of the week:  UROPEAN

Who, what, where or why? (a) A car owned by a European. (b) A car owned by urologist.  (c) A European car owned by someone who speaks English as second language.

Answer:  All of the above

It's in the Hollow Rock parking lot, on a new BMW sports car owned by Irish-speaking, Duke-trained urologist Niall J. Buckley.  And, if you visit Niall at his office, remember to drink plenty of fluids.


Gary D. Gaddy never competed in the Olympics but did well at field day in the rarely performed 600 yard run at George Washington High School circa 1966.

A version of this story was published in the Chapel Hill Herald Thursday August 28, 2008.  

Copyright  2008  Gary D. Gaddy


Authored by Gary G. Gaddy at 1:56 PM EDT
Updated: Friday, August 29, 2008 12:13 PM EDT
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Thursday, August 21, 2008
Great Dates in "Local Voices" Column History: The Thursday Edition

MANY COLUMNISTS, perhaps due to what some see as undue adulation that columnists receive from the reading public, become vain, self-centered, ego-centric and can only think "I, me, mine."  Well, Gary Gaddy is not like that.  He is not so self-absorbed that he can't get outside of himself and write in the third person.

In his 23 columnar months, Gary Gaddy has had so many gratifying, edifying, immortalizing, self-glorifying, death-defying experiences that it would be hard to select only a few to highlight for his loyal readers, but, with the assistance of his crack team of expert wife, he has done just that.  So, to assist in motivating budding writers, young and old, who may have delusions about becoming the Chapel Hill Herald's leading regular Thursday columnist, Gaddy now brings us "Great Dates in 'Local Voices' Column History: The Thursday Edition."

Sept. 5, 2006 -- It all began with "Get Onboard with".  Gaddy, breaking all the journalistic protocol he used to indoctrinate into his news-writing students, emailed the column to Anson Dorrance for pre-publication approval (mainly because the once-and-future columnist's sweet wife thought it was "mean").  Dorrance replied that he enjoyed the column -- which called for Dorrance’s firing after his team lost its first game of the season unless it continued undefeated and won a national championship.  Dorrance simultaneously emailed the column to his wife and coaching staff – then did right his soccer ship, going undefeated and winning a national championship -- and kept his job.

Dec. 29, 2006 --On their trip to the Orange Bowl, Gaddy's Demon Deacon dad hands out copies of "How Does Wake's Football Team Win?" to nearly everyone he meets (even though the answer was "It cheats").  Later, the editor of Wake’s medical school alumni magazine asks if they can reprint it. Gaddy acquiesces.

 Feb. 8, 2007 -- Not long after the publication of "Fair or Unfair?  A John Edwards Quiz," John Edwards responds to a question from a major media outlet, prefacing his answer by saying, "That's fair."

Mar. 22, 2007 -- The Sunday after publication of "Hooters' Carrboro Encounter," Gaddy is interrupted in his duties as usher handing out church bulletins to end an argument between a couple he knows, who ask him to say, definitively, whether or not a Hooters was coming to Carrboro.  He declines.

May 3, 2007 -- One of his best and most dedicated readers tells him that she made copies of "God Concedes: Atheists are Right" and "gave it to all her atheist friends."  The then-current upsurge in atheism abates.

May 31, 2007 -- Neil Offen, the titular editor of the CH Herald, reports that the chancellor's office had received several calls inquiring whether the "University of North Carolina to Hire Republican" was true. (Gaddy's inference: they were outraged at the prospect.)  He keeps his job.

August 30, 2007 -- Trinity School, in an apparent attempt to discourage unqualified persons from applying to be substitute teachers at the school, sends Gaddy's column "One Long Day at Trinity School" home with every kid in the school.  Gaddy later discovers he is “at the very bottom of the sub list.”

May 4, 2007 -- At 8:15 a.m. on the very morning that "Prophets, Prophecy and Me" was published, which column ridiculed Dr. H. Mitchell Simpson, Ph.D., Gaddy discovered that he had gotten a call while in the shower.  The caller ID said: "Dr. H. Mitchell Simpson, Ph.D."  After taking a deep breath, Gaddy returned the call.  Simpson thought it was hilarious.  Another bullet dodged.

Nov. 1, 2007 -- The next time he sees the eponymous subject of "A Sketchy Portrait of Tom Bordeaux" Gaddy is not killed or even maimed.

Dec. 13, 2008 -- Daniel Goldberg, CH Herald reporter, months after the fact, tells Gaddy, after Goldberg stops himself from laughing, "I can't believe that they let you publish 'Honky's: Just Like Eating at Home.'  It was great."  Gaddy basks in the warm glow of one of the few benefits of being a member of the last unprotected class.

April  17, 2008 -- The mother of named defendant and Girl Scout Clara X. will still talk to him after the publication of "Gaddy v. Girl Scouts of the U.S.A."   Gaddy decides to buy more cookies next year -- and to re-submit the lawsuit.

June 5, 2008 -- Jane Gaede sends Gaddy a handwritten inquiry regarding the "three-mile grade" in "The Wreck of Old (Southern) 97" -- and includes a stamped, self-addressed return envelope -- a practice future correspondents should take note of.

Aug. 14, 2008 -- The Sunday following "Just two songs away from Galax" Gaddy’s wife is accosted at the church door as "Banjo Gal."  She fails to file for divorce.  After he takes her to a bluegrass jam at Benny Greenhill's in south Durham on Sunday afternoon, she says she forgives him.

Gary D. Gaddy is the Chapel Herald’s leading regular Thursday columnist. 

(To see any of these columns, go to the top of this page and click to the listed date on the little calendar in the upper right.)

A version of this story was published in the Chapel Hill Herald August 21, 2008.  

Copyright  2008  Gary D. Gaddy


Authored by Gary G. Gaddy at 9:00 AM EDT
Updated: Thursday, August 21, 2008 9:53 AM EDT
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Thursday, August 14, 2008
Just two songs away from Galax

GALAX, Va. -- No, this is not going to be one of those lame "What I Did Last Summer" essays like the ones you had to write on the first day of school in the sixth grade at Forest Hills Elementary School.  (Although, if Mrs. Duncan asked me to, I certainly would write one, especially after the unfortunate events that could be entitled "What I Did the Next Summer" involving a police officer whose badge read "Sergeant Duncan".)  No, this is one of those lame "What I Did on Vacation Last Week" columns that you might expect from a columnist who gets no paid vacation.

This column recounts our family's recent visit to the most exotic place my family (in the larger sense) traveled this year.

First, let me explain that my oldest brother Cliff, who majored in German in college and works now as an expert on the Russian economy at the Brookings Institution ("America's Leading Liberally Biased Think Tank"), married a very Swedish Swede, Kerstin, who teaches German at the Catholic University of America, and they have three half-Swede children who speak fluent Swedish and whatever it is that they speak in Maryland.

All of them being married to or descended from the Vikings, according to my sister-in-law who says the Vikings were Swedish, (leading to my suggestion that she should write a book entitled, "The History of the World -- According to a Swede"), the family tends to have wanderlust.  As evidence, here is a brief account of their most recent travels.

My lovely red-headed niece Kristina studies "at" the University of Maryland -- Baltimore County, where she spent last fall's semester in Valparaiso, Chile studying in Spanish and the spring in Berlin, Germany, studying in German before heading to Sweden for Midsommar.

Her older brother, Benjamin, is, I regret to say, a graduate of the North Carolina State University in Raleigh, where he struggled to 4.0 GPA, making him one of 120 some "valedictorians" for the class of 2007.  (I will save for a future column my dispassionate treatise:  "Why my nephew is THE 2007 valedictorian of NC State!!!")

Benjamin, as an engineering graduate, planned, of course, on studying Arabic in graduate school before he took off from his studies to work as a patent examiner for the United States Patent Office, earning lots of money as he learned the true meaning of the term bureaucracy.  After retiring from the patent office this spring, Benjamin traveled in succession to Bangladesh, India, Sweden, Germany, Morocco, the UK, Austria and Greece.

His bonus-baby brother, Thomas, merely went to soccer camp in Sweden as the second planned soccer camp in Germany fell through.

The best Sandra and I could do this year was Costa Rica.  But none of these places are the most exotic locale we visited.

That would be Galax, Virginia, where we attended the 73rd Annual Old Fiddler's Convention, hosted by the Loyal Order of the Moose, Lodge Number 733,  spending the better part of a week listening to old-time and bluegrass music as well as attempting to play it daily ourselves -- some of us more successfully than others.

The Fiddlers at Galax is the real deal -- including literally hundreds of banjo pickers, dulcimer players, autoharpists and fiddlers, as well as dozens of bands from places like Low Gap, Narrows, Meadow Creek, Cana and, appropriately, Pickens, and, oddly, Carrboro.  And the campground had dozens of talented players that didn't appear on stage.  They got lotsa pickers up in them hills -- and lotsa grinners in the audience.

Even the Maryland-based Gaddys seemed to enjoy The Fiddlers, though I'm not sure any of them understood a single word that was sung, what with it bein' in 'nother regional dialect and all, but they could at least tap their feet along with the beat.

One explanation I heard for why Galax has so much traditional music rang true: "Because in Grayson County we like music more than football."  Galax likes music so much that's how they measure distance, as in, "My place is just two songs away from Galax."

The week’s luster dimmed somewhat when Sandra and I came home to discover that the Zinc King lingerie washboard I ordered still had not arrived.  That disappointment was allayed when we saw displayed on the rack to our entry-hall whiteboard my wife's new vanity (using that term in its narrow, technical sense) license plate reading: "BANJOGAL".

So, back in Orange County on Sunday afternoon, it was clear that Banjo Gal was sated, not needing another music fix for almost 18 hours, heading off to Chatham Country for a banjo lesson before going that night to the Bethesda Ruritan Club in South Durham for the bi-weekly Bluegrass Jam, one of five she has lined up for the week.

And to think, we're only 358 days, and three CDs, away from the 74th Fiddlers, where I fully expect to end up on stage with a banjo pickin' gal.

Gary D. Gaddy is a local writer (see this column) and speaker -- just ask any of his long-suffering friends.

A version of this story was published in the Chapel Hill Herald August 14, 2008.  

Copyright  2008  Gary D. Gaddy


Authored by Gary G. Gaddy at 8:46 AM EDT
Updated: Thursday, August 21, 2008 9:18 PM EDT
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Thursday, August 7, 2008
Biofuelishness: A darker shade of green

SOMETIMES THE CURE is worse than the disease; sometimes the side effects are more deadly than the malady itself.

I like the concept of renewable energy in general and converting plant matter into fuel in particular. But sometimes it isn't as simple as, "We can just grow our own fuel."

Consider this question: How many people are biofuel production facilities likely to kill over the next several years? The answer: More than you want to know.

Benjamin Senauer, a professor of applied economics at the University of Minnesota, reports that biofuel production is a direct cause of rising world food prices. Between 2002 and 2008, basic global food commodity prices rose by 220%. Global production of biofuels, specifically ethanol and bio-diesel, rose from less than eight billion gallons in 2004 to an estimated 18 billion gallons in 2008. Much of the rapid increase came from production of ethanol derived from corn in the United States, rising from about three and a half billion gallons in 2004 to an estimated nine billion in 2008, consuming 30% or more of the U.S. corn crop.

Senauer quotes Josette Sheeran, executive director of the World Food Program, warning of a "tsunami of hunger" sweeping through the poorer countries of the world, and cites Robert Zoellick, the president of the World Bank, saying that as many as 100 million people in the world have been forced into dire poverty and hunger and even starvation by increasing food prices.

Here's the equation: When your family lives on a dollar a day, and a day’s worth of food costs two dollars, somebody starves. Sadly, this formula fits to millions of families in our world today.

The International Food Policy Research Institute, using a complex model of global agricultural commodity supply and utilization, estimates that 30% of the increase in the prices of the major grains is due to biofuels. Senauer says other unpublished forecasts by the World Bank suggest that biofuels have forced global food prices up by 75%.

How could this happen? The U.S. Congress mandated ethanol in all gasoline sold in the U.S., then, via the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007, increased the mandate to fifteen billion gallons of corn-based ethanol and one billion gallons of bio-diesel by 2015 and 36 billion gallons by 2022.

The ultimate but unintended result? Professor Senauer's own research suggests that 390,000 additional children under the age of five will die because of increased malnutrition due to the impact of biofuels on food costs. And if current biofuel development trends continue, child deaths will rise to 475,000 by 2010.

So, are renewable fuels evil? No, but food for the world's humans should never have been diverted into the tanks of our automobiles. (And note how little the increased supply of corn-based ethanol appears to have done to reduce gasoline prices. That's because, most analyses show, it takes about a gallon's worth of petroleum energy to produce the equivalent in ethanol.)

Are no biofuels possible alternatives to petroleum? Sugar cane, switch grass and other sources of cellulose, and bio-diesel from algae are some of a number of possible alternatives to petroleum and food-based ethanol that may work without taking needed food from hungry children.

And other substitutes for oil are possible as well. See the recent news stories on legendary oilman T. Boone Pickens’ innovative plan to use wind energy to replace natural-gas powered electrical power plants and then use the gas to run our cars, trucks and busses.

What can we do now to minimize the damage this mandate has already done? Congress gave the EPA the authority to waive the ethanol mandates or structure them differently if the law resulted in adverse unintended effects. In consideration of that, on May 2, 2008, senators Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-TX) and John McCain (R-AZ) asked in writing that the EPA waive these mandates in letter signed by 22 other senators, including ours, Richard Burr (R-NC) and Elizabeth Dole (R-NC). So far no action has been taken by the EPA.

It is inhumane not to recognize that mandated biofuel production has led to significant increases in world food prices and that in turn has led to hunger and death from starvation in the poorest parts of the world. We should demand that this mandate be rolled back.

Sadly, these hundreds of thousands of starving children may be the first deaths attributable to global warming, or more precisely, attributable to misguided government attempts to fix it. After we fix this so-called fix, we should beware of other government-mandated cures for global ills that may be far worse than the diseases.


Gary D. Gaddy, who worked as an energy-conservation and solar-energy consultant 30 years ago, now works as a consultant with Help for the Hungry, a fledgling international nutritional rescue program. (See  for information on this program.)

A version of this story was published in the Chapel Hill Herald Thursday August 7, 2008.

Coyright  2008  Gary D. Gaddy 

Authored by Gary G. Gaddy at 8:24 AM EDT
Updated: Sunday, August 3, 2008 8:43 AM EDT
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Friday, August 1, 2008
The Top Ten Liszt

(Special to, a column heretofore unpublished, but now, available to my web-only readers only, at no additional cost.)

A carefully and scientifically constructed compilation of the top Liszts in all of human history.

                  THE TOP TEN LISZT

10. Howard Liszt, former CEO of Campbell Mithun and now a senior fellow at the University of Minnesota's School of Journalism and Mass Communications

9. Maria Veronica Liszt (Kinder) was a second-generation Gloucester artist whose father studied with John Singer Sargent.

8. Matt Liszt, marketing manager for cell-phone video-gamemaker Sorrent Technologies

7. Madame Marie d'Agoult (not technically a Liszt but she had an affair with Franz)

6. Daniel Liszt is a singer/songwriter from Cambridge, Massachusetts, whose songs are "full of emotionally-charged imagery and searching lyrics"

5. Blandine Liszt, first of three children born to Franz and Madame d'Agoult

4. Princess Carolyne Sayn-Wittgenstein (also not technically a Liszt but she also had an affair with Franz)

3. Amadeus Liszt, pseudonym for disco artist Mike Mareen, who had such smash hits like: "Win The Race" and "The Devil Win"

2. Another Howard Liszt, a character in "Meshuggah-Nuns!" a theater production which had its world premiere at Chanhassen Dinner Theater in Chanhassen, Minnesota

And the number one Liszt of all time:

1. Franz Liszt, Hungarian composer, one of the most awe-inspiring figures in all of music history, regarded by some as the greatest pianist of all time


              Copyright  2008  Gary D. Gaddy 

Authored by Gary G. Gaddy at 11:31 PM EDT
Updated: Sunday, August 3, 2008 8:42 AM EDT
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Thursday, July 31, 2008
Ask Mister Language Person

DAVE BARRY STOPPED WRITING his weekly columns several years ago (in 2004 to be exact). Other nationally noted columnists, such as Abigail Van Buren ("Dear Abby") and Ann Landers ("Ann Landers"), have had the simple decency to die before they quit on their loyal readers. They, apparently, even had the forethought to bequeath their names and trademarks, if not their talent, to progenitors who continue to "ghostwrite" (and I use that termed advisedly) their columns. I, personally, see no reason why I should have to wait for the self-centered Mr. Barry to die, or for him to admit I am his progeny, before replacing him. Thus, I humbly offer myself, his red-headed stepchild, as his surrogate. Find my first submission below.


Ask Mister Language Person

NOT BY DAVE BARRY.  (This is not the classic Dave Barry column which was originally published Nov. 4, 2001.)

Welcome to another episode of "Ask Mister Language Person," the column written by the well-versed language expert listed in the Guinness Book of Records as the world's most punctilious person.

punc·til·i·ous [puhngk-TIL-ee-uhs] adjective [Origin: 1625-35] Probably from the Italian puntiglioso, from puntiglio meaning "fine point," from Latin punctum meaning "prick."

Extremely attentive to punctilios; strict or exact in the observance of the formalities or amenities of conduct or actions.

-Related forms: punc·til·i·ous·ly, adverb; punc·til·i·ous·ness, noun.

-Synonyms: precise, demanding; careful, conscientious. See also scrupulous.

-Antonyms: careless.


Now, some questions from some curious correspondents.

Q: Why does it seem that all conservative opinion columnists write pedantical columns about grammatic faux pas and other purportedly egregian errors of the English language?

A: It’s hard to say but may be related to the fact that they also tend as a group to be enamored with S. Isitt's grammatical classic "Crazic, Menty and Idiotal: An Inquiry into the Use of the Suffixes -al, -ic-, -ly, and -y in Modern English," which is a jaunty romp through this limited yet important range of adjectival suffixes.

Q: Do you have any language tips for the American traveling abroad?

A: Americans (being from the greatest nation that ever has or ever will exist) have a tendency when traveling about the globe to assume that the rest of the world will accommodate them linguistically, thus allowing the Americans to communicate effortlessly in their own tongue. This, unfortunately, is not true. Sadly, in many parts of the world foreigners speak English with a foreign accent, using phrasing and idioms not in common use among native American speakers.

Even our good friends from north of the border (that would be the Canadians for those of you who do not have a world map handy at the moment) have a tendency to lapse into Canadian accentuation and colloquialization at moments when speaking with foreigners (which we Americans are, strangely enough, when traveling in foreign nations such as Canada). This can be confusing.

For example, if a Canadian calls you a "keener," do not be flattered. Keener refers to an eager person who is "keen" to demonstrate knowledge in nerdy environments, such as work, school or church. Like "hoser," it is not a flattering term.

Also, if a Canadian asks you for a loonie, do not give them a bird. Although the loon is a water bird whose haunting call has long symbolized the peace and quiet of Canadian cottage country, a Canadian using this term would likely be referring to the Royal Canadian Mint's one-dollar coin, thusly called because of the loon depicted on the coin’s face, or, more generally, to the Canadian dollar.

Further, let us consider the case of a Canadian asking, "How's she bootin 'er?" Just say, "Fine." (The question is the Canadian equivalent of "How y'all doin'?" in the Southern American idiom.)

Finally, if a Canadian calls you a Gorby while you are visiting Montreal, do not be alarmed. This is not, I repeat, not a derogatory term for a communist. Gorby is a derogatory term for a tourist, which at that point, you would be.

Q: What are the most interesting anagrams of DAVE BARRY?

A: The most interesting, in a linguistic context, are Adverb Ray, A Very Bard, and A Yard Verb (which, I might add, would make a very good band name).

Q: Why do English teachers get so kerfuffled about dangling participles?

A: Without bringing in too much detail from the unfortunate Robert Wooding incident in seventh-grade gym class at Robert E. Lee Junior High School in Danville, Virginia in the fall of 1962, let's just say that phys-ed teachers aren't that keen on them either.


Gary D. Gaddy, who isn't himself punctilious but does have a brother who once wrote a college term paper on the use of the verb "to be" in Hamlet, is not, I repeat, is not Dave Barry.

A version of this story was published in the Chapel Hill Herald Thursday July 31, 2008.

Coyright  2008  Gary D. Gaddy 

Authored by Gary G. Gaddy at 8:59 AM EDT
Updated: Wednesday, July 30, 2008 10:59 AM EDT
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Thursday, July 24, 2008
Rally to save what's good in America

RIGHT WHEN YOU'RE ABOUT to lose faith in humanity, sometimes something happens that heartens you, restores your hope, makes you believe again. After reading in the papers day after day about the selfish, self-centered and superficial attitudes and behaviors perpetually displayed across our nation -- and the world -- you can start to despair of any good coming of the human race.

Then you open the paper one morning and read the headline saying that in community after community across America, ordinary people are banding together to fight for what's right, to keep their heritage, to save what's good in America. I am, of course, talking about the fight to save the 600 Starbucks locations slated for closing by the Starbucks Corporation (NYSE: SBUX).

Perhaps I should have seen this more caring side of mankind in the response that came last year when the Krispy Kreme Doughnut Corporation (NYSE: KKD), in a move eerily foreboding the Starbucks pullback, cut back on its locations across the country. I should have remembered the words of Kim Valdez, an administrative assistant at St. Joseph's Medical Center in Stockton, Calif., who had stopped by on the last day to buy four dozen hot Krispy Kreme doughnuts for her co-workers: "We're devastated." Then despondently she repeated, "We're devastated."

The devastation that followed in the wake of the Krispy Kreme closings now seems like the calm before the storm. The Starbucks pullback is not a local tragedy, like say, Katrina; this is a tsunami that has swept across an entire nation.

The Wall Street Journal reports that in towns as small as Bloomfield, N.M., and metropolises as large as New York, customers and city officials are writing letters, placing phone calls, circulating petitions and otherwise pleading with the coffee company to change its corporate mind.

Across the country, people can see that shuttering a Starbucks is not a minor economic jolt; it's the loss of a culture. As a blogger for the Minneapolis Star Tribune observed: "Starbucks was like an embassy of a country where people sat around and read foreign newspapers, like the Wall Street Journal, and discussed things."

According to a report by London's Channel 4 News, at hearing of one planned Starbucks closing, one young New York woman wailed, "Honestly, it's just awful."

The news website also brought us a report that Newton, Mass., resident Denis Goodwin is boiling mad -- and doing something about it. said that Goodwin had started an online petition to protest the closing of the Starbucks at 70 Union Street. Between July 15, 2008 at 12:42 a.m. until July 22, 2008 at 9:44 p.m., 182 people had offered their support to Goodwin at

And North Carolina has not escaped the bloody Starbucks axe. Of the 10 slated store closings in the state, Charlotte will be the hardest hit, with fully half of the statewide total set for its metro area. Winston-Salem, previously hard hit by the triple whammy of closures in the area's mainstay tobacco, textile and furniture industries, and following on the heels of last year's melt-down at the Winston-Salem-based Krispy Kreme Corporation, is losing one tenth of its 10 Starbucks locations.

We haven't seen the same level of direct political action here in Chapel Hill that we have seen around the country, perhaps because, thank God, we've been largely spared. Greater Chapel Hill is scheduled only to lose the store at Chatham Downs, which Chapel Hill residents will be relieved to know is actually in Chatham County.

Why close that location? You may think that the obvious answer is that even Starbucks Corporation, while wanting to cut costs, wouldn't dare to touch the Southern Part of Heaven -- but careful detective work by the investigative staff at suggests otherwise. A spatial analysis reveals the presence of another Starbucks location approximately 150 feet from the Chatham Downs site, inside an adjacent Harris-Teeter grocery store. Still, this closing must remind us all that life itself, our Franklin Street Starbucks included, hangs by a thread.

But I would like for my readers to note that America has survived a revolution, a civil war and two world wars. If we band together, we can survive this heartless downsizing by the Starbucks Coffee Company as well.


Gary D. Gaddy, who often says like his grandmother used to say, "I like coffee, but coffee don't like me," loves the smell of fresh ground or perked coffee, but seems to be seriously allergic to the substance.

A version of this story was published in the Chapel Hill Herald Thursday July 24, 2008.

Coyright  2008  Gary D. Gaddy 

Authored by Gary G. Gaddy at 8:59 AM EDT
Updated: Saturday, July 26, 2008 5:29 PM EDT
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Thursday, July 17, 2008
The world of illegal immigration

I HAVE LOTS OF THOUGHTS on illegal immigration.

First, I am sympathetic with people who, out of necessity, immigrate illegally. In their shoes, I would have walked up here from Chiapas myself. I would figure out some way to feed my wife and kids. And, sorry, but meeting the rules and regulations of the U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service would not have been my first priority either.  (If you think yours would, you may wish to check with your cardiologist, as your heart may be missing.)

Second, illegal immigration is a big problem -- and not just for the United States. Unchecked illegal immigration is a problem the world around. We here in the U.S. have a problem with people coming in illegally from about 150 countries but especially our southern neighbor of Mexico. Well, guess what, Mexico has a problem with people coming in illegally from their southern neighbor of Guatemala.

In fact, about every relatively prosperous country with porous borders has a problem with immigration from its relatively less prosperous neighbors.

My wife and I recently spent a couple of weeks visiting Costa Rica. Costa Rica means the "rich coast" in Spanish. To us NorteAmericanos, Costa Rica's Ticas and Ticos don't seem that rich but to the Nicas and Nicos of Nicaragua they sure do. So, guess what, they head across the border to Costa Rica to find work -- which they usually do.

Read this quote from Costa Rican Alberto Cortés Ramos, while substituting American for Costa Rican and Mexican for Nicaraguan, to see how parallel our circumstances are. "Most Nicaraguan migrants don’t compete with Costa Ricans for jobs, since the labor markets are clearly segmented. Nicaraguans fill niches in the economy that Costa Ricans don’t want: largely seasonal agricultural activities, construction, domestic service, private security and, to a lesser extent, commerce."

But this pattern of immigration in both in Costa Rica and the U.S. is not without costs.

As those on the lowest rung of the economic ladder, the poor Nicaraguans bring the problems of poverty with them. Not long ago Costa Rica was touted as having a higher literacy rate than the United States, but that may not be so any more. The Nicaraguan adults who come are not well educated and in addition their children, even with a common language, are more difficult to educate. And crime, especially theft, rises in the places where these poor Nicaraguans come. What follows is anti-immigrant sentiment and xenophobia.

Now look at the plight of the Zimbabweans in South Africa. The rolling disaster led by socialist dictator Robert Mugabe has sent many fleeing for their lives as Zimbabwe's once prosperous, food-producing economy crumbles so badly that starvation is rampant.

Granting that this refugee crisis is not the same as ordinary illegal immigration, with an estimated three million Zimbabweans in South Africa, still this year’s murderous mob attacks there on foreigners, where as many as 20,000 Zimbabwean women and children were forced to flee their homes, show how when sentiment goes bad, it can go really bad.

And regarding attitudes toward illegal immigration closer to our homes, many of the well to do, whether realizing it or not, benefit from illegal immigration. We like having our clothes washed, food prepared, floors swept and yards landscaped at affordable prices. And we don't often consider the circumstance of the legal residents whose jobs have been taken, or whose pay rate has been implicitly cut, by the large supply of workers who are not here legally.

Perhaps in contrast to Chapel Hill and Carrboro, most of North Carolina does not think that illegal immigration is a net benefit to our state. According to the Civitas poll released this May, registered voters in our state think that illegal immigration is a burden rather than a benefit by a 7-to-1 margin (79% to 11%).

While right now the average person in Chapel Hill does not feel as strongly, but trust me on this, if the University of North Carolina was hiring "undocumented" professors and researchers in numbers as large as the chicken processing plants have been hiring wing cutters and cartilage removers, the rhetoric on the Hill on illegal immigration wouldn't be nearly so sweet.

The United States cannot solve the whole world's problems by letting the whole world come to us. (Google "youtube immigration gumballs" for a clear explanation of why not.) Given a chance, legal or illegal, much of the world would come to us -- and if we didn’t assimilate them quickly enough, this immigration would change our country into something that few of us, even the ones immigrating here, would want.

If we don’t come up with a sane and humane policy for controlling our borders and managing immigration, the day may come when you and I are huddling on the border – trying to figure out how to get into Canada, assuming, of course, they don't make the same mistakes we are making now.


Gary D. Gaddy knows lots of legal and illegal immigrants -- but in most cases he doesn’t know which are which.

A version of this story was published in the Chapel Hill Herald Thursday July 17, 2008.

Coyright  2008  Gary D. Gaddy 

Authored by Gary G. Gaddy at 10:41 AM EDT
Updated: Tuesday, January 25, 2011 3:13 PM EST
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Thursday, July 10, 2008
Pay it forward, starting now

LAKE CITY, S.C. -- Two years ago last Fourth of July weekend, my family and I had a wonderful experience. On the hottest day of the year, on what must be, it turns out, the remotest stretch of I-95 between Boston and Miami, as we traveled on our way to Charleston for a week at the beach our van broke down. It was one of the more uplifting experiences I had been through in a while. Seriously.

Here's how the day went and why I say it was a wonderful experience.

Guy that I am, I usually drive, but at this point in the trip, my wife Sandra was driving. Because of the holiday, I-95 was even more congested than usual, but running at the same speed-limit-exceeding pace that it usually does. We, the five of us, were driving our slightly dated Nissan Quest minivan because that's why you own these large boxes with wheels, to go on family vacations.

Suddenly, the truck directly in front of us, an eighteen wheeler, swerved, apparently around something in the road. When a transfer truck swerves for something in the road, you can know it's something serious. I expected the worst.

Because of the traffic behind us and beside us, even knowing something worth dodging was coming at us, Sandra could do nothing but try to slow up a little bit. Out from under the truck appears something big and black. It was probably the entire carcass of a truck tire, but it was hard to tell. We ran straight over it. It went boom, whap, boom -- then exited behind us. Although adrenalin levels were high, it seemed we were unscathed.

I said something like, "That was close." Then looking in the rear-view mirror, I saw a giant plume of smoke coming out from behind our van.

I said, "Pull over right now!" Then looking just ahead, I saw an exit ramp, and said, "Take this exit!"

When we came to a stop at the top of the ramp I got out quickly, got down on my knees and looked under the engine. Oil was pouring out. As I looked back down the ramp, I could see a line of oil on the road.

Using my cell phone, I called Triple A. I was on hold when a guy in a big new double-cab truck stopped to ask if he could help. I told him what I was up to and he said, "Let me handle this. It's going to be hard to find a place that's open with the holiday."

I said, "Thank you." We did need help. It turns out that not only was there no gas station or shop of any kind on this interstate exit, there was no auto repair shop for 15 or 20 miles in either direction. This stranger found a repair shop in Lake City that was open and would work on the car, then called a friend with a tow truck who would come right away to pick up the car. Since the tow truck could take two passengers, he took my wife and her son and one of my sons on ahead with him.

Along the way we met three friendly and interesting sets of people: our new-found friend who stopped to help us, the tow truck driver who I rode with, and the two mechanics and their family who dropped by the shop while we were waiting briefly for our van to be repaired.

That repair turned out to be replacing the missing oil filter which was ripped off by the retread tire shell. In effect, an oil change is all it took to fix the problem. And, to top it off, they showed us an easy alternate route to our destination on the Isle of Palms that got us off more than 100 miles of busy interstate, a route we have used regularly since then.

And why did our personal Good Samaritan do such a nice thing for us? Here's his explanation. See if you can make sense out of it. Several weeks before his car had broken down -- and no one stopped to help him. He vowed to fix that. So he decided he wouldn't let other people sit on the side of the road unhelped. He kept his vow.

It's a new corollary to the Golden Rule: Do for others what you wish they had done for you.

So, for my part, I am passing this message on: Pay it forward. Stop today to help someone who could use your help. On your detour you just might find that you will show them, and yourself, a better way. The world will be a better place if you do. You might even discover a beautiful place like Lake City.


On this Fourth of July week, Gary D. Gaddy in his rental van ran over another truck tire re-tread on I-95 on the way to Charleston, but nothing broke, so there isn't any story to tell.

A version of this story was published in the Chapel Hill Herald Thursday July 10, 2008.

Coyright  2008  Gary D. Gaddy 

Authored by Gary G. Gaddy at 9:31 PM EDT
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Thursday, July 3, 2008
UNC's All-time All-airport Team

WITH THE RETURN to UNC's men's basketball team of Wayne Ellington, Danny Green and Tywon Lawson, a team that includes all the players from last year's squad except for reserves Quentin Thomas and Alex Stepheson, in addition to our triumvirate that tested the NBA draft waters and found that the waters weren't "just right,"  adds three McDonald's All-Americans, Ed Davis, Larry Drew and Tyler Zeller.

Next year's team, if not the best, will be one of the deepest to ever walk on the court at UNC -- or any college for that matter, excluding the combined freshman  and varsity squads at UCLA in 1965.  (The varsity were the defending national champs -- but lost to the freshman in a pre-season exhibition game.  Oh yeah, the freshman team included a guy named Lew Alcindor.)

Which turns us to the topic at hand: the naming of UNC's All-Time All-Airport Team.  Dick Vitale, your favorite basketball announcer and mine, once said something entertaining, in talking about a category of college basketball players he called "all-airport," meaning players who looked good – in the airport.

Timo Makkonen  (small forward) was, without a doubt, the best Finnish male to play scholarship basketball for UNC.  In fact, he was the only Finnish male to play scholarship basketball for UNC.  In 5 years, Timo played in 41 games and totaled exactly as many points and personal fouls together as games played -- sadly he had more fouls than points.

Ed Geth (power forward) left UNC with a degree and a year of basketball eligibility left, as well he should have.  Ed, bless his heart, had a hard time running the length of the court without stepping on his own foot.

Neil Fingleton  (center)  I first saw Neil Fingleton in person at the Best Buy at New Hope Commons in Durham.  As I scanned my way up from his belly button, which was at my eye level, to the top of his head, which appeared to scrape the beams of the building's twenty-foot ceiling, my thought was: "Boy, this guy is tall."  Neil may be the leading candidate for the all-time, all-division, all-schools, all-sports, all-airport team at 7-foot-7.56-inches tall.  This is one big boy.  One point and one assist for his career.

Jonathan Holmes (point guard)  First, let me say, I that loved Jonathan.  Sometimes he used to sit with Will Johnson on row behind my wife and I in church.  Jonathan’s most notable accomplishment at UNC was bringing to light the vigilant job the NCAA in policing criminal behavior, being suspended, along with Morehead scholar-athlete Will Johnson for playing in a charity three-on-three basketball tournament that they paid to enter.  They money raised went to Carolina Cancer Focus.  Those were unfortunately also Jonathan's most notable minutes on a UNC basketball court.

Orlando Melendez  (shooting guard)  Now, this fact, and I say it is a fact, may remain unverified because I know of no source no more credible than me to back it up, but on the UNC teams that  included Vince Carter, that is, the Vince "Half man,  half amazing" Carter, Carter was not, I repeat not, the  best dunker on the team.  That would have been, according to Carter, Orlando Melendez.

I know, I know, Vince Carter was the winner of the NBA Slam Dunk Contest.  I know, I know, Vince Carter once jumped over, I repeat over, Frederic Weis, a 7-foot-2 player from France, during the 2000 Olympics and dunked.  Yes, that same Vince Carter said that he couldn't beat Orlando in a team slam dunk contest. His quote, to the best I can reconstruct it was, "He could do dunks I could not even try."

Orlando apparently could do all kinds of one-legged twisting, turning dunks that bordered on the physically impossible.  (Just to give an idea of how improbable those dunks might have been, I saw Vince Carter, in an NCAA playoff game, when the game had not been decided, get a break-a-way steal and do a 540 dunk.  That is, come at the basket, spin around so he did a full revolution of his body, then continue on until his back was to the basket and dunk behind his head.  This was Vince's idea of a snowbird lay-up.)

Orlando could have also made the Olympic team -- in the high jump, the broad jump, the triple jump -- just not in any sport that included a ball.

Anyone who has any comments or criticisms of my selections for UNC's All-Time All-Airport Team, I refer you to Neil Offen, the editor of the Chapel Hill Herald, he gets paid to get abused, and, besides, cares a lot more about this kind of stuff than I ever could.  (If, per chance, you still looking for someone to blame for this year's Final Four debacle:  In lieu of viewing, Neil went to the theater that night.)


Gary D. Gaddy almost played on his high school’s JV basketball team.

A version of this story was published in the Chapel Hill Herald Thursday July 3, 2008.

Coyright  2008  Gary D. Gaddy 

Authored by Gary G. Gaddy at 7:05 AM EDT
Updated: Thursday, March 11, 2010 11:11 AM EST
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Thursday, June 26, 2008
NIMBY: Not in my backyard

CHAPEL HILL -- As my wife said to me, after I told her that I just found out that John Paul was heading the Glen Lennox Neighborhood Conservation District petition drive, "This will be a test of your . . . what's the word?" My answer: "I don't know."  Then, fifteen minutes later, I said, "journalistic integrity." And she responded, "Yeah, that's it."

I had planned to do a column on the proposed re-development of Glen Lennox.  And John and Jill Paul are our friends.  In fact, in August we are going with them to Galax, Virginia to the Old Fiddler's Convention for a week of old bluegrass music.  Or at least I think we are.  Among the letters to the editor, perhaps, I will find out if we're still on.

* * *

As I have said many times about Chapel Hill, indicating both its government and its citizenry, Chapel Hill is for every good thing -- somewhere else.  They want a Habitat neighborhood -- somewhere else.  They want a light-rail system -- somewhere else.  They want a clubhouse for people with mental illness -- somewhere else.  They want a place for the homeless to go -- somewhere else.  And so on.

NIMBY.  Not In My BackYard.  Chapel Hill could well be the capital of the NIMBY universe.

But, don't get me wrong, NIMBYism is hardly confined to Chapel Hill, it is rampant across our fair country.  For example, over near where we live, which is not in Chapel Hill, but "out in the county," a residential development was in the planning but the neighbors of their future neighbors objected, preferring to look out the windows of their houses at woods rather than other people's houses.  Who wouldn't?

Using focused political action, they got several local governments to buy the land and make it into a greenway for them.  If the land had been somewhere else besides "in their backyard," it would have seemed like community-oriented conservation.  Instead it looked like NIMBY to me -- using your money and mine.

But NIMBY is really a misnomer.  I can stop just about anything in "my backyard" -- I own it.  That is, unless the government gets involved, in which case eminent domain can crush my property rights to a smudge.  What I can't stop, or at least shouldn't be able to stop, is what my neighbor does with his own yard -- especially when it is something good for the community as a whole.

We all like electric power but no one wants a power plant next to our house.  We all use paper but no one wants the trees next door cut down.  We all produce garbage but none of us wants a dump anywhere near them.  But, you know what, they need to be somewhere.

Despite our neighbors' opposition to it, I thought Meadowmont would be a good thing for our town -- and would have been even better if the developer had been allowed to make it more dense, as he proposed, and if it was even closer to the center of Chapel Hill -- say like where Glen Lennox is.

The Grubb Properties plan would replace the current 440-unit apartment complex and shopping center with 908 residential units, over 500,000 square feet of retail and office space, a multi-story hotel and 3,665 parking spaces.  This is clearly a high-density mixed-use development.

If density is to be in Chapel Hill, noting that the only alternative to density is sprawl, where should it be if not at the intersection of two major roads (Hwy. 54 and the 15-501 Bypass) and a walkable distance from the UNC campus, where the jobs are?

In case you haven't noticed, housing prices are high in Chapel Hill.  Why? Because demand exceeds supply.  Chapel Hill needs more housing. And all the world needs to live closer to places to work and shop.  Mass transportation only works with housing density.

The current configuration of Glen Lennox, with its relatively affordable apartments, may look like a solution but it is not.  The immutable law of supply and demand says more housing within Chapel Hill will in the long run reduce housing prices here.  There is a better and higher use for Glen Lennox -- and that is exactly what Grubb Properties proposes to do with the property they, not we, own.

While I could wish that the neighbors of Glen Lennox could have what they wish, the owners of the property have their rights and the community as whole, looking forward, not back, would be better served by more housing closer to the center of Chapel Hill rather than less.

But, ultimately, the issue is not what the neighbors want but what the owners should be able to do.  Neighbors’ objections are only relevant if they point to some greater social damage.  Here they do not.


Gary D. Gaddy is a member of the Orange County Commissioners' Affordable Housing Advisory Board. The views stated here do not necessarily represent those of that board, though he certainly would like it if they did.

A version of this story was published in the Chapel Hill Herald on Thursday June 26, 2008.

Copyright  2008  Gary D. Gaddy


Authored by Gary G. Gaddy at 9:00 AM EDT
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Thursday, June 19, 2008
Recall of human race announced

CHAPEL HILL -- In what business analysts are calling a move unprecedented in the history of manufacturing, God today announced the immediate recall of all currently functioning human beings. The action came after centuries of complaints to God by human beings who have long contended that something was seriously wrong with the human race.

One observer said the direct heaven-to-earth announcement came as "a booming sound that echoed like the voice of God." The clearest reports came from various elevated parts of West Virginia, oceanside on the Eastern Shore of Virginia and mid-town Chapel Hill in North Carolina.

According to University of North Carolina historian Kemp Plummer Battle IV, the many previous attempts by God to repair humanity since the Noachim Flood, all of which have failed, consisted of operating system patches, downloadable software upgrades and revisions of the owner's manual. None of these fixes, said the experts, had ever been correctly or systematically applied.

In the announcement God categorically denied that the recall was a result of a manufacturer's defect.

As legal analyst Bart Yunger, noted, "While there is little record of mankind ever operating properly, it is also true that no human has ever been operated strictly according to the manufacturer's instructions."

"I think we can safely say that legally the warranty on human beings is universally void," added David Felix, a product liability specialist with Klein and Gross Consultancy.

Despite this, God's offer extends the grace period for returns far beyond what is called for by law, making it available to all persons who admit a failure to operate according to design specifications and who then promise that future operation will adhere to manufacturer's guidelines. God also said He will personally bear the costs of restoration for each and every individual accepting this offer.

"This is certainly good news to the average person who will get an entirely new human nature at no cost to himself or herself," said consumer advocate Clark Howard. According to Howard, "God had to do this" to restore the luster to the God brand. "Made by God" used mean something, said Howard. "Humanity," he continued, "really tarnished God's reputation as the producer of nothing less than the best."

Despite the unprecedented generosity of the recall offer, it has been greeted with resistance and skepticism in many quarters. "I don't see any need to respond to 'voices from above' telling me how to live my life," said Schubert Izard from Carrboro. "Sounds a whole lot like what my parents used to yell to me from upstairs before I moved out to my own place," said Izard.

In the announcement God said that there was no point in repairing recalled individuals who will not check off on the new operating system agreement, so, regrettably, they will be permanently taken out of commission.

Most of the world's religions have convened assemblies, conventions or discussion groups to consider what is being generally referred to as "God's Offer." Longtime observers of religion expect most of the groups to reject the proposal outright and the remaining few to make counteroffers that require God to let them write the new operating manual.

Worldwide surveys are in the planning to determine why many people did not hear the announcement. Anecdotal reports indicate that most self-described atheists heard nothing comprehensible. As Los Angeles resident Edmund Hickey, reported, "It just sounded like rumbling thunder to me, dude." Substantial numbers of people whose hearing has been impaired listening to loud rock music were said to have heard only muffled and indistinguishable sounds.

In many parts of the world incessant gunfire and bomb explosions kept anyone from hearing the announcement at all.

The largest group of people who did not receive the announcement said they could not hear it over rancorous theological debates and pervasive religious chanting.

* * *

In other news, announced this afternoon that sales of the "Left Behind" series of 12 novels, which have ridden the top of the company's best seller list for years and sold more than 70 million copies worldwide, stopped selling altogether today. On that news the company's stock dropped $7.33 to finish at $26.26, one half of its 52-week high, and its lowest closing price since early 2003.


Gary D. Gaddy studies his OEM owner’s manual on a regular basis.

A version of this story was published in the Chapel Hill Herald on Thursday June 19, 2008.

Copyright  2008  Gary D. Gaddy

Authored by Gary G. Gaddy at 9:04 AM EDT
Updated: Tuesday, March 31, 2009 3:59 PM EDT
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Thursday, June 12, 2008
The decline and fall of U.S. tennis

ASHEVILLE -- The sad state of American tennis has been much discussed lately. And the saddest state of all is the inability of an American to win on clay. Last year no American man made it out of the first round of the French Open.

This year was little better. Only because Robbie Ginepri made the fourth round did we Americans not get entirely eliminated from a Grand Slam event before the quarterfinals for the second time in the 40-year history of the Open era. And it should be noted that the only time such an early elimination actually happened, the Australian Open in 1973, not a single American man or woman was even in the field.

My trip to this year’s State Championships can only add to current dismay. Now, it is clear, not only have the upper levels of American tennis collapsed but the mediocre levels have as well. When teams which would have me as a playing member make the North Carolina Tennis Championship, or any state championship for that matter, something is woefully wrong -- or I am much better than I let on to be. Trust me, something is woefully wrong.

Last year our team went to Asheville to the state senior men's 3.5 tennis doubles championships and thought we had ended conclusively any debate about whether American men could win on soft courts. Every team we played showed they could -- at least against us.

This year we went to Asheville with hopes of doing better. My lofty personal goal was to win one set.

As you may know, as mediocre as I am, I am also as erratic as I am, so anything could happen. (There are times, I should point out, when Roger Federer wishes he could play like me, such as the third set at this year’s French Open, where I won as many games as he did but lost six fewer.)

Anyway, I am certain my loyal readers are waiting with bated breath to hear how I did at the United States Tennis Association's North Carolina Senior Men's 3.5 Doubles Tennis Championships, but that’s not the question. The question is how on earth did a team which included me as an actual playing member ever get to the state championships? The answer: the system is rigged. In this case, with two teams in our league, one of us has to win, that turned out to be the Hawks of Hollow Rock.

How did the Hawks fare in Asheville? To use the technical term, on Thursday morning, in first matches of the first day of the tournament, we got our clocks cleaned -- effectively erasing our near non-existent odds for making Sunday’s Final Four. Against some old guys from "Down East," our three doubles-partnership second-set scores were 1-6, 1-6 and 0-6. (Guess which one, or should I say which zero, was mine?)

As I noted at the end of the match, to our opponents, Tom and Jerry (actual names of actual people), "it wasn’t fair," noting that Jerry (who also plays in the 70s age group tournaments) had his granddaughter cheering for him and I don’t even have a grandchild. He said she was his wife -- but I still don’t believe him.

The next day was little better as we were again swept on all three courts in straight sets.

Saturday was our last chance. My regular doubles partner Terry O'Culligan drove all the way up from Durham on Saturday morning, arriving in time to play Ken and Bill, who were in close contention, with Terry and me, for Misters Congeniality. (I think they won when in the middle of the match they earnestly offered Terry one of their white shirts to replace the black long-sleeved one he was inexplicably wearing in the sweltering heat.)

We won the first set easily at 6-2, setting up perfectly my personal formula for a catastrophic collapse. In the second set, we were leading 4-1, then ahead 5-2, when we lost a game, then we lost another game. This is how it goes with me.

So, on my serve, with the pressure mounting at 5-4, Terry and I won the game and with it the set and with that the match. As our teammates Bob Clark and Carl Rose had already won their match on another court, it meant the Hawks of Hollow Rock proved without debate that we were not the worst 3.5 senior men's team in the tournament. That honor now belongs to the "The Directors" of Cary.

And it couldn’t belong to nicer guys.


In a rare family doubles double, Gary D. Gaddy’s darling wife’s tennis team, the Halyrackets, also went to Asheville to the United States Tennis Association's North Carolina Senior Women's 3.5 Doubles Tennis Championships. They finished in the Final Four for the state.

A version of this story was published in the Chapel Hill Herald on Thursday June 12, 2008.

Copyright  2008  Gary D. Gaddy

Authored by Gary G. Gaddy at 8:31 AM EDT
Updated: Tuesday, June 10, 2008 9:54 PM EDT
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Thursday, June 5, 2008
The Wreck of Old (Southern) 97

DANVILLE. Va. -- You may not have heard about it yet but Old 97 was involved in a wreck. By now you certainly should have because the train crash occurred on September 27, 1903. So, pay attention, this may be you last chance.

I grew up in Danville, Virginia, so I know about The Wreck of the Old 97. Me, and everybody else who's from Danville, knows about the Wreck of the Old 97. It is one of Danville's several famous claims to fame. The others include being The Last Capital of the Confederacy (by some calculations), having the world's largest single-unit textile mill (now completely closed) and having America's biggest tobacco market (once upon a time.)

So, what Danville has left these days is The Wreck of the Old 97, or at least a historical marker at the site of the crash; the wreckage has been cleared for a while.

What makes this train wreck worth remembering? Probably not because it was one of the "worst train wrecks in Virginia," as the historical marker says. "Nine persons . . . killed and seven injured" would barely make the front page these days -- except maybe in Danville's own Register and Bee. (Some recent sources say the actual count was 11 dead and six injured, the historical marker is based on an early, inaccurate account.) The Wreck of the Old 97 is remembered because of The Wreck of the Old 97, the ballad, that is.

The Wreck on the Southern Old 97, as it was originally labeled, was the first million-selling musical record. Charles Noell and Fred Lewey are likely the authors of the first set of lyrics. The melody is from Henry Clay Work's 1865 "The Ship That Never Returned." As recorded in 1924 by light-opera singer Vernon Dalhart, who reworked blind fiddler Henry Whittier’s version, it sold 25 million copies over the following twenty years.

What follows here "in quotes" are the Vernon Dalhart lyrics, followed by, for your edification, a brief personal commentary, just in case you ever visit Danville and need to engage in small talk.

"The Wreck of the Old 97"

"They give him his orders at Monroe, Virginia,
Sayin', Pete, you're way behind time.
This is not 38, but it’s Old 97,
You must put her in Center on time."

Joseph A. ("Steve") Broadey (not Pete as Dalhart misheard) was the engineer who came into Monroe an hour late with his guaranteed-on-time mail train. The North Carolina town of Spencer, as is often sung, was the Southern Railway center station. "38" was another train that didn't deserve it's own song since apparently it never wrecked.

"He looked ‘round, says to his black, greasy fireman,
Just shovel in a little more coal,
Then when we cross that White Oak Mountain
You can watch Old 97 roll."

Many versions unnecessarily change "black" to something more politically correct. The fireman, who stoked the engine, was Caucasian -- but covered with soot and coal dust. White Oak Mountain is the highest point in Pittsylvania County, elevation 1058 feet. "Old 97" wasn't old.

"It's a mighty rough road from Lynchburg to Danville,
And a line on a three-mile grade.
It was on that grade that he lost his average,
And you see what a jump he made."

The railroad line reportedly was not well maintained. Dalhart misheard "air brakes" as the mysterious "average." I don't know what happens when you lose your average, but when a train loses its air brakes on a three-mile downhill grade, it's in trouble.

"He was goin' down grade makin’ 90 mile an hour,
When his whistle broke into a scream.
He was found in the wreck with his hand on the throttle,
And a-scalded to death with the steam."

The railroad claimed the train descended at more than 70 mph on the grade leading to the "jump" at Stillhouse Trestle which spanned the Dan River. Several eyewitnesses said it was probably around 50 mph. I always thought that "hand on the throttle" meant Broadey was still trying to speed the train up -- but in all likelihood the wheels were spinning in reverse. The song doesn't mention it but the baggage car was carrying six crates of canaries which were ironically freed by the wreck.

"Now ladies, you must take warning
From this time now and on,
Never speak hard words to your true lovin' husband
He may leave you and never return."

Engineer Steve Broadey was single. But, still, it's good advice, ladies.


Gary D. Gaddy, who grew up in Danville, Va., has walked by the Old 97 historical marker.

A version of this story was published in the Chapel Hill Herald on Thursday June 5, 2008.

Copyright  2008  Gary D. Gaddy

Authored by Gary G. Gaddy at 8:17 AM EDT
Updated: Thursday, June 19, 2008 10:36 AM EDT
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