Slow news week

Don't expect a lot of blogging between now and 2006. You should all be be spending vacation (if you are fortunate enough to have one) with your loved ones anyway.

Here are a few interesting items from all around the county this slow news week:

  • The times they are a-changing. Once picketed by preachers and denied permits by the town, PHE is now the Hillsborough/Orange County Chamber of Commerce's "business of the year."
    - N&O: Naughty or nice? Shunned firm honored 
  • First porn (see above), now this. Is Hillsborough turning into Chapel Hill?
    - N&O: Pricey condos to top Hillsborough building

    Local real estate listings are featuring something never seen before in Hillsborough: $700,000 condos for sale.

    In a town where three-bedroom houses still go for $150,000, and bigger homes on an acre can be bought for less than $500,000, the condos may seem a bit pricey.

  • CHCCS breaks ground on still-nameless school in Carrboro.
    - Herald: New high school to take shape 
  • Enjoy it while you can.
    - N&O: Park free a few days in Chapel Hill 
  • This is my favorite: "I'm still not sure if I am more angry about the carjacking or the fact that Hardee's screwed up my lunch order yesterday."
    - Quotes from the victim's blog, Herald: Car stolen at gunpoint at Carr Mill...

    "I don't consider that to be a bad neighborhood by any means, and we were in a well-lit (if deserted) area... This was an opportunity crime, pure and simple -- the guy walked by, saw us in a running car, saw that no one was around, and figured he could get away with it pretty easily. A million other times, nothing happens in that same situation. I'm guessing that he was drunk or high.

    "I figure that we all have something rotten happen every so often, and this is mine, and I'm still not sure if I am more angry about the carjacking or the fact that Hardee's screwed up my lunch order yesterday... This whole experience has been a chance to reflect on what's really important in life, and a car just isn't one of those things."

Issues: 

Total votes: 126

Comments

While I'm not really into their overly male oriented perspective when it comes to the products they sell, I can't help to be somewhat happy about this since it is my dream to bring a Goodvibrations to Carrboro.

Still not surprising...the only way to prevent the inflating of housing prices in Hillsborough (as they have been in Chapel Hill) is for people to refuse to pay those prices...however I doubt that will happen.

Have a wonderful holiday season everyone.

Here's some positive press for Hardees:
The last time I went there I had driven one of my kids to the wrong bowling alley for a birthday party (I should have gone to the alley on 15/501, but had gone to Mardi Gras instead)— Anyway, I had promised the kids I would let them pick up a quick lunch at Hardees. I was already late for the party (and feeling something between serenity and defeat…), but I made good on my promise… After we ordered, I realized that I only had $2.00 and it was all in change— Well, I told the kids we didn't have enough money for what they wanted --- and they were quite good about accepting less. When the order came up, the young Spanish-speaking woman behind the counter, without a word or expression, handed my kids everything they had originally ordered, plus she threw in some pies and extra large cups… It was intensely sweet… I think she knew I didn't need the food, just a lift…

Hey all,
Let's hope we have a slow news week.
Aside from spending time with loved ones, I've been fiddlin around with some audio recorded over the past week and have put up some songs by the Durham Carolers we wrote about on Scan. I'll have some of the Mariachi music from the church service for our Lady of Guadalupe up soon as well. Thought it would make for some good listening.
Happy holidays to the OP crew.
kmr

http://www.indyweekblogs.com/scan/music-more/

Over the past 2-3 weeks, Duke Power has been going around Carrboro cutting down trees that are anywhere close to power lines. For those that they don't cut down altogether, they are doing major pruning, including cutting out the crowns. This isn't the discriminating pruning Piedmont Electric does in my neighborhood to remove dead wood or leaning trees. This is removal of old, large trees without any respect for their future growth or the noise barrier they provide to residents. What a shame.

Terri,

Let's hope for a revolt a la The Two Towers...

(even better, The Trees uprising so vividly depicted by Rush)

John A

It is a shame, and cause for vigilance. One house up the street is now totally exposed (four lovely old oaks cut down) because the owner was out of town. Quite a schocker. I'm home during the day and worked out an ultra-conservative pruning strategy with the contractors.

It is always a shame to cut down those trees- til the next ice storm comes, kills the trees anyway and cuts off your power.

I live near high voltage lines myself. I don't like them cutting them down either, but I recognize the reality of keeping the power on, and I am not talking about so you can watch MTV or something.

Ms. Devine- you still have a campaign sign up at Seawell Sch Rd and Homestead. Probably time to recycle it.

The house where the oaks were taken down had notices attached saying that Duke Power did not have permission to cut them. I understand the argument about the power lines but trees aren't just ornaments. They filter pollution out of the air and out of stormwater. Pruning is one thing, cutting down altogether, to the extent that is being done is a community issue.

They cut down the trees completely? That's just crazy. Four oaks trees?

The contractor notified every household two weeks prior to the tree sweep. The lit drop included the crew foreman's cell phone number and instructions for contacting Duke Power. I called both, and a Duke Power representative came to speak with me in person the next day.

Our neighbor's notices were adamantly composed and prominently displayed, but she didn't follow instructions. It said, "Call these numbers."

Robert, yes, they cut four gorgeous oaks completely to the ground. Healthy, shady, valuable.

The trees in question did brush against power lines -- twiggy stuff easily snipped off if only somebody had been there to watch.

Brings a whole new meaning to "Neighborhood Watch" Terri, a community issue.

I assume y'all saw that big drug bust over in H-vegas? As I point out over at the Bullhorn (shameless plug: http://apps.dailytarheel.com/blogs/bullhorn.php), maybe Chapel Hill should get on the ball. I mean, we've all see the crack pipes and syringes in the bushes by Gumby's and the occassional drug deal by the bathrooms at Cosmic or across the street from University Square.

Man, some Cosmic nachos would be great right now. I wonder if they're open tonight. And the deluxe makes all the diference -- gotta have the sour cream and guacomole.

A realtor friend told me tthat Hillsborough had just received a community development grant for the Fayetteville neighborhood (just north of downtown). She didn't have any details. Anyone else heard this? Is gentrification just around the corner for that historically black neighborhood?

Terri, the town of Hillsborough is installing sewer service at the north end of that neighborhood, which is called Fairview, so that Habitat for Humanity can build a dozen or so houses. Habitat and EmPOWERment have both been involved in that neighborhood on and off for the last 7 years or so.

The north end of the neighborhood slopes away from the rest of the Hillsborough sewer system and therefore makes a sewer extension difficult. I believe that the new sewer work being done in that area will increase the amount of affordable housing in the area (and also increase the quality of housing in Fairview as well). I think Hillsborough has some other motives for carrying out this project and that some other new municipal beuildings or services may be served by this sewer in the future, but I am not sure of all the details.

Gentrification is a real issue in much of west Hillsborough, but not really in Fairview. And this sewer project will probably do a lot more good than harm. Fairview needs more residents who take pride in the community and I am sure Habitat will help witht hat. This was the area where a Durham man was mysteriously gunned down in the street a week or two ago, you may recall.

Duke Power posted a notice on my door that they were pruning and would mark any tree that would be pruned. The Colorado Blue Spruce (a specimen for NC as they don't grow well here) was not marked and was crowned...not pruned. It was near the powerline, but was healthy and the top was just even with the line...not over it. Duke Power has a lot of explaining to do.

Well it hasn't been too slow...or maybe the Carrboro Fire Chief is just a little bored...drunk driving...harassing phone calls

www.wral.com

Carrboro Fire Chief Charged With DWI, Other Offenses
Rodney W. Murray also charged with making harassing phone calls

POSTED: 1:57 pm EST December 25, 2005
UPDATED: 2:01 pm EST December 25, 2005

CARRBORO -- The Carrboro fire chief was charged Saturday with driving while impaired after crashing a car into a ditch.

Rodney W. Murray, 57, was also charged with making harassing phone calls and failing to stop for police lights and sirens stemming from a separate event Saturday morning, police said.

The incidents began about midnight Friday, when an officer was called to a home in southern Durham to check a report of harassing phone calls. Murray drove by as a Durham police officer was investigating the report, said police Cpl. R.L. Hunter.

Murray, a suspect, failed to stop when the officer tried to pull him over.

At 3:17 a.m., police were called to a crash less than a mile from the first incident, Hunter said. Investigators found Murray in his 2003 Jaguar in a ditch off the right side of the road, he said.

Police said alcohol was a factor in the crash and that damage was estimated at $4,000.

Murray suffered minor injuries and was treated at Duke Hospital and released Saturday. He was charged with DWI at the hospital but was not immediately taken to the jail, Hunter said, adding that a hospital blood test was conducted to determine his blood-alcohol level. The results were not available Saturday.

It was unclear if Murray had been served with the other charges by Saturday night.

Murray had a heart attack in November and was scheduled to return to work this month, according to town officials.

In 1991, he was convicted of driving while impaired, and his driver's license was temporarily revoked, court records show.

A Fire chief drinking and driving seems equivalent to an ER healthcare provider driving a motorcycle without a helmet. It seems to me that if you see the results nearly every day you would never fall victim to the vice.

Actually, Mr. Peterson, firefighters as a class have a higher incidence (than the general population) of alcohol abuse. (Also depression and divorce.) If you would take the time to do a quick google, you could find any number of articles on the subject.

Not to excuse the fire chief, simply to say that we shouldn't be so surprised.

melanie

Mark--thanks for the info on Fairview. Hillsborough has some serious issues with their water and sewer, glad to hear they are addressing them and that currently poorly-served areas will be recipients of improved service.

Robert & Melanie-
Major surgeries such as the Mr. Murray experienced can also impact personality and confidence levels. I've watched a couple of other individuals behave with similar abandonement of concern for personal safety after a heart bypass. Like Melanie, I'm not trying to excuse his behavior, just wasn't particularly surprised.

Teri,

Most of the 18 lots in Fairview that currently do not have sewer connections are unoccupied. The area is also not in the city limits of Hillsborough. The annexation and subsequent extension of the sewer line to that area will primarily benefit the habitat for hummanity project. The cost for running the sewer line isn't entirely grant funded as The Town of Hillsborough is having to dip into their Water/Sewer contingency fund to pay the balance of the cost of construction.

Let's hope the construction costs are accurate because if they are not, it is possible that any cost overruns would result in the raising of water/sewer rates for all Hillsborough water customers (including the very people they are trying to help). This is a point the local media hasn't reported.

-Paul

Who says it's a slow news week?

Both the N&O and the Herald-Sun featured scintillating articles on people shopping AFTER Christmas. Unfortunately, I only had time to skim them. I set them aside so I could read them more thoroughly at a later time when I could glean all the salient facts from them.

I'm hoping that this coming weekend they both devote large amounts of space to New Years Resolutions. I especially hope that they ask total strangers what their resolutions are becuase how else would I ever know?

You know it must be a slow news cycle when OP goes over 24 hours between postings.

Any comment on "Chapel Hill progressive" Nichole Wright's letter to the CHN this morning?

Nichole thinks the town should use eminent domain to sieze vacant storefronts downtown and "transfer" that property to other private developers that agree to hire Chapel Hill's homeless and accept the Plenty.

Y'all surely don't consider seizing someone's property to make "better use" of it PROGRESSIVE?!?!?

I can get behind a letter writing campaign to put pressure on property owners (a little shaming can be a GOOD thing)...but not the taking of their property. The end does NOT justify the means.

melanie

Surely Ms. Wright was a bit tongue in cheek? I cannot for a moment seeing a "progressive" advocate to condemn a person's private property for economic development purposes. That was one Supreme Court ruling that I presumed had made bedfellows out of many normally opposed factions, progressives among them.

I saw nothing in her letter that indicated she was writing anything but her true feelings on the matter.

I didn't see the letter so I will trust your read. Interesting opinion..........!

Ms. Wright's letter could be considered progressive. She wrote that the new owner would have to develop "the property in a manner that will increase tax revenues, increase employment and enhance the general welfare of the community." Some progressives are willing to discount personal property rights in the name of enhancing the greater good. And some developers would support that tactic for purely profit-driven reasons. Strange bedfellows, indeed.

I have HUUUGE problems with that Supreme Court Decision.

I've heard it said that the far-right and the far-left are more similar than either would care to admit--perhaps this is evidence of that.

oy.

Why don't people direct angry letters about Riddle to the Fayetteville Observer? I'd imagine he doesn't particularly care what people on OP think or if folks in CH want to take his property. Ya'll ain't his neighbors :)

I spoke with the Duke Power supervisor for the Oak Ave tree trimming project today. He says they do have arborists working on every crews and they make sure that healthy trees are pruned correctly. Some trees have had their crowns removed because they are ones Duke Power considers to be 'danger' trees but can't get the owners permission to cut down. And the house on Oak Ave that had the "do not cut" signs did give permission after talking to the supervisor. He says they gave at least 3 days notice to everyone whose trees were going to be pruned and had permission from everyone whose trees were being removed. He seemed to be very proud of all the effort they had put into working with the homeowners.

Melanie, I hope that everyone has a lot of problems with that Supreme Court decision AND lobbies our legislature to pass laws protecting a citizen's personal property from government seizure for another's private benefit. It's one thing to need a road right of way, it's quite another to claim to "need" a mall. Even my dad and I agree on this one!

Anita,

A discussion on Property Rights issues in Orange County is grand! Now, I am not advocating in favor of or against the Supreme Court decision, however, let's consider the discussion in another local context.

There are those in Hillsborough who believe the Colonial Inn should be condemned by the Town of Hillsborough government in order to “preserve” the historic structure for the common good of the general public. The Colonial Inn is private property owned by a private individual.

How is this situation any different from the one that is described by Ms. Wright in her letter that was printed in the Chapel Hill News? If a structure is deemed to be historically significant or if a structure is deemed to be an “eyesore”, does that automatically forfeit the property rights of an owner? Where does one draw the line when it comes to the seizure of private property by the government?

Then consider another Hillsborough context. Some of the same people who believe the Colonial Inn should be condemned by the Town of Hillsborough government are also vehemently opposed to Hillsborough's longest standing, highest ranked NCDOT project, Elizabeth Brady Road extension. It has long been determined by NCDOT and other government agencies that Elizabeth Brady Road extension would serve the common good of Hillsborough and Orange County residents by significantly reducing the level of traffic congestion in downtown Hillsborough (the only North/South artery into rural Orange County). It has also been determined that the reduced traffic would likely result in a greater level of safety both from a traffic and walkability standpoint. The challenge, however, is the proposed Elizabeth Brady Road Extension route would require the condemnation of land in a small portion of the Ayr Mount Poet's Walk and possibly some more in the recently deemed historic Occoneechee Speedway.

In Hillsborough, it is all a matter of perspective when it comes to land condemnation. There are those who would say there is no difference between needing a road right-of-way and needing a historically significant structure (that is arguably undergoing demolition by neglect) preserved. It is all for the common good, right?

Then there are those who want to pick and choose which properties should be condemned by the government in the name of historic preservation or economic development or military needs (like the OLF in Eastern NC). Again I ask, where does one draw the line when it comes to the seizure of private property by the government? What criteria should be used to determine when it is appropriate for the government to condemn land and who determines what the criteria will (or should) be? Do property rights of an individual really matter as long as the common good is served?

-Paul

My key problem with the Supreme Court decision and, in turn, Ms. Wright's proposal is the intended use of the siezed property.

In the New London, CT case, and Ms. Wright's proposal, local governments would be using their eminent domain power to take private property from one party and to award it to another private party. Unlike previous applications of eminent domain, New London's sole "public benefit" was increased tax revenues. At least Ms. Wright's proposal says the public would benefit from higher tax revenue, reduced homelessness, a market for the Plenty and the opportunity to stick it to "a wealthy out-of-town landlord" who dares to own property in "our community."

I don't believe any of these are pressing enough reasons for government to sieze one's personal property. Afterall, there aren't too many buildings that wouldn't yield higher tax revenues if put to different use.

As a fellow Hillsborough resident (Beckett's Ridge, too), I am interested in the examples you bring up. Unfortunately, I am not familiar enough with the Brady Road Extension to comment. However, I have a personal interest in the Colonial Inn.

In my opinion, the Colonial Inn is an eyesore that should be addressed. It bothers me to know that this run down building is where my wife had her bridal shower and built some life long memories. I see the pain in her eyes every time we drive by it as she remembers how it used to be.

But, my question to those who want it condemned is: what are you going to do with it then?

Is the town going to renovate it and put it to public use?

Or will it simply be auctioned off to the highest bidder? What if no one wants it with the attached restrictions on what they can do with the property?

Unless the town can show a valid need to acquire the building, I don't feel there is enough to warrant taking a person's private property.

There is a MAJOR difference between the physical condition of The Colonial and Mr. Riddle's properties. The Colonial is in a state of SERIOIUS dis-repair. Mr. Riddle's properties are being kept up. It is irksome that they are empty, but at least he is maintaining them.

I also think the Colonial Inn is currently in violation of town codes and ordinances, Mr. Riddle's property is not.

I think the government should have to meet an exceptionally high standard of proof before being allowed to condemn someone's private property. This Supreme Court decision should worry Libertarians, Republicans, Democrats and Progressives alike.

If the letter writer is serious, then I hope she will continue to educate herself about all the possible ramifications of her proposal--perhaps her opinions will change. For example it would be in the better "economic" interests of Chapel Hill to seize the entire Northside neighborhood and let a developer build larger, more expensive homes that generate more tax revenue. Never mind the displacement of a community and families who have lived there for generations and the loss of some of the last "affordable" housing in Chapel Hill----the tax coffers need feeding!

But let's not stop there. Seize the church that is right across from Top of the Hill! There it sits, on a prime piece of downtown real estate, and is tax exempt. Surely we can do something more economically advantageous with such a prime piece of real estate.

And what about those private parking lots on Rosemary Street?

Anita,

Unless something has changed that I am unaware of, the Colonial Inn isn't in violation of any ordinances. Earlier this year, the Town of Hillsborough attempted to exercise its Demolition by Neglect Ordinance against the owner of the inn but failed. During the process, serious flaws were discovered (by Hillsborough's attorney and Planning Director) in the new ordinance which would have ultimately prevented a judge ruling in Hillsborough's favor. Hillsborough wound up settling the case.

It is also my understanding that during the court proceedings it was discovered the Colonial Inn was structurally sound. There were some deficiencies identified that could have resulted in the structural deterioration of the Inn, however, none of those were seen as immediate or immanent threats by the court. As a part of the settlement with Hillsborough, I believe the owner of the Inn made repairs to the identified deficiencies.

Town of Hillsborough officials should have known better. Even in a litigious society, there are rarely (if ever) guaranteed outcomes when going to court. Depending on the court system to conduct historic preservation wasn't very smart. The Colonial Inn doesn't appear to be in any better shape today than it was before the ordinance was first enacted against the Inn's owner years ago. What does Hillsborough have to show for its action? … and to think there is at least one Town Commissioner who believes Hillsborough shouldn't have settled and that now, taking the Colonial Inn back to court is the best solution. Not smart.

I digress.

So if it is believed that a piece of property is not being taken care of, believed to be in a serious state of disrepair, and a more economically advantageous endeavor can be identified for its use, then it is okay for a government body to exercise its power of eminent domain for economic development purposes?

However, if a property is being taken care of and is not in disrepair, then it is not okay for a government body to exercise its power of eminent domain for economic development purposes?

-Paul

Paul, thank you for the information about the situation surrounding the Colonial Inn. I need to do some more research about this matter to understand the issues better. It was my understanding that the owner of the Colonial Inn was in violation of agreements he made with the town to improve and protect the Inn, (is it on the National Register of HIstoric Places? I seem to think that had something to do with being able to require certain kinds of upkeep or something???) But anyway, I admit ignorance of the details.

I don't think you and I are in disagreement philosophically. I don't think the government should be in the business of condemning private property except under exceptional circumstances that involve an overwhelming public need that cannot be resolved any other way, and even in that case must pay a fair price before seizing property and should exhaust all other means of settling the matter without using eminent domain. I don't know of anyone, conservative, liberal, or otherwise, who thinks the New London case meets that criteria.

In some cases condemnation is justified. For instance, land has been condemed in the past for privite railroad right of ways.

On a personal note, I had a crazy uncle. Mr. Edison had convinced him that alternating current was a major danger. He owned proberty on both sides of a state highway so for decades the light company couldn't get power lines to the people who lived west of my uncles land. The state came in and forced him to allow privitely owned wires to pass over his farm. Fine by me.

The major differance between the colonial and the Riddel sites is the historic nature of the buildins. General Cornwallis never slept at the old Yates moters. Top of the hill has stood for less then two centuries.

I'll try to lurk less. I saw myself slipping into something of a troll and stopped posting for a while over it.

Y'know--if the progressives want a spot condemned and taken over by the Town--there's this empty lot over on South Elliott...I think it would be a GREAT spot for an independant movie theater. ;~)

Clark writes about an incident between Thomas Edison and
his uncle. As an EE with an interest in electrical history, I have
read a lot about Edison who promoted Direct Current versus
Nikola Tesla who promoted alternating current. During the
years when power distribution was in its infancy, Edison knew
that AC was technically superior, but had a huge investment in
DC. Also the Tesla-George Westinghouse combination held the
defining patents that enabled the AC technology. The inventive
genius of Edison was matched by his devious ways in
business, I am afraid. In Menlo park, many household pets
went missing; Edison hired teenagers to steal them, and he
electrocuted them (the pets) in his lab using AC, with media coverage.
The first use of the electric chair was done with AC, and
Edison boldly promoted this as well. With these two
events, he skillfully promoted AC as
the "electricity of death" and managed to delay its introduction
for a few years. Of course the technical advantages
eventually won out, which is why today we have 60 Hertz
AC electricity in all our homes. For more info, I encourage the reading of the John O'Neill biography of Nikola Tesla.

To be fair to Edision, he outsourced the animal capture by paying mostly kids to bring in strays for his demonstrations. The demonstrations, that Joe refers to above, were to apply DC to a light bulb then to a dog or cat, then to do the same for AC. The animals yelped and occassionally (some say often) died at step four of the process. Later responding to criticisms that dogs and cats didn't has as much mass as a man, Edison moved to calfs then horses.

On the electric chair, Edision's media machine at his direction tried to convince the press to not use the word "electricuted" but instead to use "westinghoused." The rational being that safe electricity (DC) was getting a bad name, but you get what's up pretty quickly. Edison's folks also sent out pictures of the chair with the Westinghouse logos clearly shown.

Neil Baldwin's Edison: Inventing the Century is a fairly evenhanded account of this and more -- including (in Chapter 17) wherein Baldwin describes Tesla's work as an Edison employee and more.

Hi Paul,
Happy New Year to Tucker, Sally and you, and thanks for
following up on my Edison-Tesla post.

It was very expensive in lives to electrify our country
until safe procedures were devised using either AC or DC.
In Manhattan, when Edison was wiring the lower east side from
his Pearl Street station, the first electric linesmen faced a 60 pct chance of survival in their job for their first year.

In a similar vein (perhaps I should say "wire"),
I recommend the book "Big Blue" that describes the
founding of IBM by Thomas J. Watson It's another story
of a semi-scrupulous person who put his money ahead of
his honesty.

Here's a new topic (seems I cannot find where to make a new one, or else there is no "button" for that).

From "Running on Empty" Scientific American, December 2005:

"Decades of suburban sprawl and neglect of public transit have made it harder for Americans to cut back on driving; from 1990 to 2001 the average length of shopping trips per household grew from five to seven miles, and the number of shopping trips rose from 341 to 496 per year."

Wow!!!!

It goes on to say that some economists have suggested raising the tax per gallon by 50 cents to encourage saving and using the money to fund alternative energy means.

So, what is the answer? Certainly raising the cost of fuel will tend to reduce (at least my) fuel usage. Is there another way? If I could walk to the grocery store I would, but I am in sprawl town....where would you put a store?

JMK

John, if you want to start a thread about a local issue or about a local angle on a larger issue, please see the How to post on OP link in the sidebar.

Good topic John.

Does anyone have the link to the (5?) sites in the Northern Study Area that (may/will?) be designated commercial?

Winmore will be (should be) finished 4 years from now. I think Winmore doesn't have the space for a substantial grocery store... maybe, a small Weaver Street???

I just read my Chapel Hill Herald. On page two, taking up about an eighth of the page was one of those ask the public features with pictures and their responses printed below.

I hope all the readers of this post are sitting down before I reveal the spellbinding and profound question that some intrepid reporter was sent out to ask of the citizenry. Hold on to your shorts...

"How do you keep warm when it gets cold?"

I am sorry to have captivated your mind and teased you like this. I know that you will not rest until you can get your hands on a copy and read the replies. I cannot in good conscience reveal the replies. You need to go out and work for it. This is how true knowledge is gained.

My answer: Find a bale of the most inane, irrelevant newspaper I can get my hands on & torch it.

They keep sending us the Herald--even though we decided NOT to renew it. I'll take a free paper--I just feel bad for the carrier.

melanie

I don't know, Mark. It feels like a chestnuts-roasting-on-an-open-fire, warm, fuzzy question. The kind of question that makes you think of kinder days when neighbors really cared how others got along. It is the type of hokey, homely (in that 50's kind of way), and, of course, self-indulgent question that serves as a salve to the daily horrors featured on TV, a balm to what really ails you. How can you spend time worrying about homelessness or wars or a troubled marriage when pondering how one keeps warm when it gets cold? It is pure brilliance, and I for one would find comfort, and yes, warmth, in a hearty hug from that nice reporter.

But I'll settle for a barbour fleece waistcoat and wool knickerbockers.

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