Wednesday, June 13, 2018

Well, if California can do it ...

This isn't the first time that Californians have debated splitting their large-and-in-charge fiefdom into multiple states. It's just that this time, it may have some legs*.

California residents will get a chance to vote on a measure to divide the Golden State into three separate states, election officials said Tuesday. ...

The proposal, led by venture capitalist Tim Draper, would split the country’s most populous state into three new states of near-equal population: Northern California, California and Southern California, according to the proposal.

Northern California would include cities between the Bay Area and the Oregon border. Southern California would begin in Fresno and cover most of the southern state. The "new" California would cover Los Angeles County and much of the coast below San Francisco Bay, the proposal said.

*Personally, the odds of it actually happening are very slim. Though it's an interesting thing to ponder.

Which made me wonder ... what if North Carolina were to chop itself up? What would that look like? After all, there is a theory that the Old North State consists of two very different populations anyway: rural vs. urban.  So, on one hand, we could just pull out the urban I-85/I-40 corridor. (Sorry Wilmington and Asheville - you are stuck with "the rurals" in this scenario.) That may look like this:

(If you are wondering, "Asgard" is the mythical city of the gods. This is a nod to how high we tend to think of ourselves in the Triangle. So sue me.)

Or we could essentially divide it up between the regions of the state, with some deviation based on populations and what-not:

Or, we could just do what many in the legislature have advocated for for years: Leave Charlotte be. I present to you, The Great State of Mecklenburg (finally)!

Secession and division isn't anything new to our state and region. (Duh.)  But how would you divide up the state if given the choice? Or do we absorb some of the South Carolina (yeah, Charleston!), but not all (I'm looking at you, MB)?

Thursday, May 31, 2018

You don't stand a chance against The Fighting ... Pickles?

Some friends and I were recently discussing some of the best mascots. Yes, I'm biased to the Wolfpack, and we have some great ones here in N.C., but I also admit that the UC Santa Cruz  Banana Slugs are pretty tough to beat. But in that discussion someone mentioned the Fighting Pickles from the UNC School of the Arts.

This got my attention for three reasons:
  1. First, well, Pickles. Duh. 
  2. Secondly, this mascot has been around SINCE 1972?!!! 
  3. Third, I didn't know UNCSA even had athletics. Welp, it turns out you don't necessarily have to have sports to have a mascot. So kudos to UNCSA for doing just that.

"The landscape of this country is littered with meaningless and – worse – unimaginative team names reflecting who knows what about their schools," says the official history of the mascot, courtesy of Francis Perry. "But…..Pickles….A name to be proud of – a name born of an existential psychodrama worthy of what each of us knows as 'The NCSA Experience.' "

And, oh, yes: it's not just a name. There is an actual mascot. Don't believe me?

The school is, rightfully, proud of their unique mascot. It is, in fact, a big "dill." You can even take a quiz to see what kind of pickle you are. (Full disclosure: I'm apparently a Film-making Pickle!)

If you want to show your support, you can even purchase a t-shirt.

Image courtesy of the UNC School of the Arts website.

Friday, May 25, 2018

Two N.C. beaches make 'Best Beach' list

With one of the most expansive coastlines in the United States, it's not surprising that we have some great beaches here in North Carolina. We also have a history of our beaches ending up on Dr. Beach's Best Beach list from year to year. This year is no different, according to the Associated Press.

Stephen Leatherman, a coastal science professor at Florida International University, announced his most recent list of top 10 beaches. Kapalua Bay Beach on the Hawaiian island of Maui got the top slot Thursday. Leatherman's list even has a second Hawaiian beach, Hapuna Beach State Park, coming in eighth on the list.

But that wasn't the No. 2 beach on the list. North Carolina's Ocracoke Lifeguarded Beach earned the second spot, followed by Grayton Beach State Park in the Florida panhandle; Coopers Beach, Southampton, New York; Coast Guard Beach, Cape Cod, Massachusetts; Lighthouse Beach, Buxton, Outer Banks, North Carolina; Caladesi Island State Park, Dunedin-Clearwater, Florida; then Hapuna on the Big Island, with Coronado Beach, San Diego, California, in ninth place and Kiawah Beachwalker Park, Kiawah Island, South Carolina, coming in 10th.

More about the rankings via the AP:

Leatherman has been compiling his annual list of top 10 beaches every year since 1991. He uses 50 criteria to evaluate beaches, with the most important categories being water cleanliness, safety (meaning no rip currents or drownings) and management of the beach environment and its facilities. He also looks for fine, soft sand, and gives extra points for beaches that prohibit smoking. He doesn't collect water from every beach in test tubes himself, by the way, but he does use data from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to grade the beaches on water quality.

Leatherman's list has its origins in a class he taught at the University of Maryland. A student was writing an article for a travel magazine and asked him to come up with a list of the 10 best beaches based on his expertise as a coastal scientist. He began producing his official annual list in 1991 using his 50 criteria and his vast knowledge of U.S. ocean beaches. "I had visited every (ocean) beach in the U.S. for a Department of Interior study ... so that gave me the background data set to work from," he said.

His goal in producing the list each year, he says, "is to reward those beaches which maintain the high quality and the safety areas but also to encourage other beaches to do the same." He looks for beaches that "balance nature with the built environment."

But how come so many states with beloved beaches — in places like Maine, the DelMarva Peninsula, the Jersey shore, the Pacific Northwest and other coastal areas — never make the list, while the same names keep turning up year after year?

Leatherman says it's all about the math in his categories. Beaches lose points for water that's too chilly, sand that's too coarse, condo towers instead of dunes, riptides and drownings, erosion and limited public access.

Leatherman adds that he doesn't make money from the list. He just finds "it interesting to do" and hopes that the standards he promotes will encourage other beaches "to do the right thing and improve their quality."

Monday, May 21, 2018

Where you from?

It's no secret that the population of North Carolina continues to grow and grow and grow. Here in Wake County, the general "data point" that is commonly thrown around is something like "every day, a whole kindergarten class of children move into the county." I am probably butchering the stat, but the sentiment is there. People want to move to North Carolina. And they are.

But from where are they moving? I was a little surprised at the answer, which the UNC Center for Population recently released, according to the Wilmington Star-News. I would have thought the majority of people moving to the Old North State were from the northeast -- cold-weather places with traffic congestion and higher costs of living. The northeast does play a part in the emigration to N.C., just not the impact I would have guessed.

According to the UNC Center for Population, the top state for sending new residents to North Carolina is .... {drum roll} ... Virginia. The Old Dominion sent 35,641 people to our state in 2016, followed by Florida (32,234) and South Carolina (32,088). The northeast finally gets represented by New York (29,702) at fourth place, followed by Georgia (24,882), according to the study.

Here is the top 10:

1. Virginia (35,641)
2. Florida (32,234)
3. South Carolina (32,088)
4. New York (29,702)
5. Georgia (24,882)
6. California (17,653)
7. Pennsylvania (13,506)
8. Texas (11,981)
9. New Jersey (11,706)
10. Maryland (9,671)

Source: University of North Carolina Population Center

Now, here is that same list, but in (somewhat stereotypical) image form!



Tuesday, January 23, 2018

What would be worth fighting for today?

I absolutely love how Our State magazine republishes and re-posts some of its past articles. Even for a Carolinaphile* like myself, I'm constantly learning new things. For instance, earlier this week, Our State promoted a 2016 article by the great Philip Gerard on an interesting footnote of history, something he called The Great Oyster War.

Now, it wasn't exactly a full-scale war. More of a "skirmish," if anything. Writes Gerard:
As wars go, it was a minor affair, pitting a few hundred off-islanders against a small, determined band of about 40 Ocracokers. But the stakes were as high as they get: control of precious watery territory, defense of a community’s livelihood, and the preservation of an endangered fishery.

It began with a government survey, quickly escalated into piracy and an attempted murder in broad daylight on the streets of New Bern — and ended as a footnote in history, most recently recorded in the Ocracoke Island Journal.

Please read the rest of this fascinating story. It's a great snapshot into how folks react when their livelihood is threatened. Also, how does one become the modern Oyster Commissioner? I totally want that gig.

But this got me thinking: is there a modern equivalent of something that would lead Tar Heels to stand their ground and take up arms against outsiders who are infringing on a way of life?

My first inclination was over barbecue, but even within the state there is a passionate yet respectful rivalry that is East-West centered rather than North-South. (It's a very civil Civil War, if you will. Plus, we all can agree that Eastern or Lexington is superior to South Carolina 'cue.)

Here are some other topics that could lead to an uprising, in no particular order:
  • Taking away our "First in Flight" designation. (Looking at you, Ohio.)
  • Federal mandate that bans The Shag as being "too risque"
  • The Quebecois coming down to take our hockey team
  • A "reboot" of the "Andy Griffith Show"
  • Moving the ACC Tournament to some northern place like New York City. (Oh, wait ....)

What else?

*I may have just made up a term. 

Image courtesy of

Thursday, January 11, 2018

Latest class of N.C. Sports Hall of Fame announced

The Old North State has produced its fair share of superstars in the sporting world. And some more folks are about to be recognized for their contributions.

The N.C. Sports Hall of Fame recently announced the 2018 class of inductees. This year's class includes people involved in sports as diverse as baseball, golf, tennis, volleyball -- and even speedskating - though this year's class skews to baseball.

“The achievements of this year’s class of inductees enrich North Carolina’s remarkable sports heritage, and the individuals have certainly earned the honor of joining the 336 men and women who have been previously enshrined,” said Nora Lynn Finch, president of the Hall. “This is our 55th class, and we look forward to celebrating this special time in our state’s sports history."

Read more here:

Here, courtesy of the N&O, is a bit more about this year's inductees, who will be enshrined on May 4 in Raleigh:

DONNA ANDREWS: An outstanding golfer, Andrews won a major title on the LPGA Tour and five other tournaments during her time on the tour from 1990 to 2005. She finished in the top 10 in money earned in a season three times. The Lynchburg, Va., native is now a teaching pro in Pinehurst.

SCOTT BANKHEAD: Bankhead, an All-American pitcher at North Carolina, had a 10-year major league career, including six with the Seattle Mariners, with whom he won 14 games in 1989. The Raleigh native and Asheboro resident produced two of the best seasons in Tar Heel history.

HAL “SKINNY” BROWN *: Brown pitched for six teams in his major league career, which spanned from 1951 to 1964. His best season came in 1960 with the Orioles. Baltimore battled the Yankees all summer for first place in the American League race before finishing second. Brown, born in Greensboro, went 12-5 with a 3.06 ERA that season.

Read more here:

CHRIS CAMMACK*: Almost 50 years after graduation, Cammack still ranks as one of N.C. State’s best all-around baseball players. The Fayetteville native starred at third base for four years, earning all-ACC honors four times and set the Wolfpack record for single-season batting average with a .429 mark in 1969. He was also a point guard on a state championship high school basketball team at Fayetteville High.

JOEY CHEEK: Cheek, a Greensboro native, has won three Olympic medals in speed skating. He began as an inline skater as a teen before switching to speed skating. He won medals in the 2002 and 2006 Olympic Games. He is also a well-known humanitarian, co-founding Team Darfur, an international association of athletes devoted to raising awareness of humanitarian crises related to the war in Darfur.

WES CHESSON: Chesson, a native of Edenton, played for former Duke star Jerry McGee in high school at Holmes High and then went on to Duke himself. He was a star receiver and punter for the Blue Devils in the late 1960s. By the time he graduated, he was the leading receiver in ACC history and was drafted by the Atlanta Falcons.

LAURA DUPONT *: A native of Louisville, Ky., Dupont moved to Charlotte as a teenager and quickly dominated the state’s junior tennis tournaments. She attended North Carolina, where she won the pre-NCAA national collegiate championship. After graduation, she joined the WTA Tour, where she was a standout in both singles and doubles.

MINDY BALLOU FITZPATRICK: Fitzpatrick, a native of Sea Level, was a volleyball and basketball standout at West Carteret High School. She went on to become a collegiate basketball star at South Carolina, where she played from 1983-86 and was a three-time All-American. She later became a championship surfer.

BILL HAYES: Hayes spent 27 years as a college head football coach and won 195 games, including stints at N.C. A&T (1988-2002) and Winston-Salem State (1976-87). After his coaching career, he served as athletic director at his alma mater, N.C. Carolina Central, Florida A&M and Winston-Salem State.

JACK HOLLEY*: Holley was an outstanding athlete at New Hanover High School and graduated from Guilford College. He coached 46 years at the high school level, and his football teams won 412 games, which placed him in the top 10 nationally at one time. His stops included Tabor City and two long stints at Wallace-Rose Hill, among others.

PAUL JONES*: Jones, born in Thomasville and a graduate of East Carolina, compiled a brilliant basketball coaching record at Kinston High School. He spent 38 seasons there, from 1957 through ’95, and his teams won 662 games and 18 conference championships along with two N.C. High School Athletic Association state titles and four runner-up finishes. He also coached a team to a state title in baseball.

MIKE MARTIN: Martin has built one of the greatest collegiate baseball programs in the country in his 38 years at Florida State. The Gastonia native has the most wins and the highest winning percentage of any active coach. Under his direction, Florida State has become a fixture in the national polls and NCAA Tournament play.

FRANK “JAKIE” MAY*: A Youngsville native, May had a 14-year major league career. The left-hander pitched for three National League teams between the 1917 and 1932 seasons. He had 72 major league wins, including 15 for Cincinnati in 1927, and finished his career with a 3.88 ERA.

JOE WEST: West was born in Asheville, graduated from Rose High in Greenville and played football at Elon. He is the longest tenured umpire currently working in major league baseball, with over 40 seasons, and prior to his induction in the Hall has worked in six World Series, nine League Championship series and three All-Star games.

FRED WHITFIELD: Whitfield has teamed with Michael Jordan to run the Charlotte Hornets. President and chief operating officer of the franchise, which he joined in 2006, the native of Greensboro graduated from Campbell University and is in that school’s sports Hall of Fame. Thousands of young people in Charlotte have benefited from his civic work over the years.

*Inducted posthumously

Read more here: http://w

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Wednesday, October 04, 2017

Finish this sentence: You can't call N.C. home if you haven't ...

This was an actual request I got from a friend the other day.

"Finish this sentence: You can't call North Carolina home if you haven't ..."

My immediate, gut reaction was to answer with a place that you must visit. The next thought was that it has to be somewhere unique to the state.

"Visit Jockeys Ridge," was my answer. (I do think that's a good one.)

My second answer was Grandfather Mountain.

But it's such a good question, and one that's open to all sorts of interpretation. Instead of just focusing on locations, perhaps it's actual ACTIVITIES that are required of North Carolinians in order to earn (or keep) their N.C. ID cards. These could be things like:

Attended an ACC basketball game.

Hiked to the top of Mount Mitchell.

Visited Old Salem.

Hit the slopes.

And so on.

So, what would YOU say is the answer to this great question?

Jockeys Ridge photo from Our State. Grandfather Mountain image from