Sunday, December 23, 2007

Merry Christmas!

The above photo is the view of a shelter over a spring behind our house. This spring supplied water to my ancestors from before 1880 to the late 1960’s when death and modernity rendered the spring obsolete. A timer illuminates this place a few hours after dusk and again a couple hours before dawn - year round. The lights and flag are the last thing I see outdoors before bed and the first seen each morning as I eagerly anticipate each new day! The wreath was added at Christmas.

I hope 2007 was your best year.

Happy holidays!

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Mining Data

Fifty years ago tattoos were rare except on some GI's who had too much to drink one weekend. I never imagined that these permanent designs would become fashionable on so many people today. (I'll never have one.)

The authors of Microtrends, The Small Forces Behind Tomorrow's Big Changes have statistically studied recent behavior changes and advised politicians to be aware of possible big changes ahead. Mark J. Penn and E. Kinney Zalesne authored this book that was published in September 2007.

They studied emerging trends of increasing college dropouts, vegetarian children, neglected dads, teenage knitters, car-buying soccer moms, women in "word professions", and much more. There are around seventy-five minor trends reported in this book and not a lot of statistics to wade through, just interesting reading that is informative and sometimes verification of what some of us have already observed. For example, the rise in the number of obese people. Their data estimates that there are around 8 million morbidly obese people in America. Morbidly obese is defined as 100 pounds or more overweight. "Eight million" is the population size of North Carolina or New Jersey according to the authors.

This book was published by Twelve. Go to the web site for Twelve by clicking here and read their mission statement and see other books they've published.

This book can be read by browsing the short sections or starting in the front and reading to the end. I read the whole book and was amazed at the rate of change that's happening all around us in ways I didn't know.

You may want to check out this book and also visit Twelve web site.

Have a good week!


Saturday, December 08, 2007

Best in Class

Jack Britt High School in Fayetteville ranked best when compared to other select North Carolina schools.

I was interested in comparing test results of various schools along the geographic center of the state. I gathered data from North Carolina Report Cards at and prepared the spreadsheets above and below this text. Click on the charts to enlarge them for easy viewing. I chose one or two high scoring schools per county except Forsyth where I selected five because of personal interest in my home region in the county. The schools in the study are West, North, Mt. Tabor, Reynolds, and Ronald Reagan in Forsyth County, Grimsley and Northwest Guilford in Guilford County, Chapel Hill High School in Orange County, and Jack Britt in Cumberland County.

End-of-Course Testing placed Jack Britt highest not only because their overall scores were at or above the scores of other high schools, but because of the score parity among gender, ethnicity and other factors. All groups performed superbly at Jack Britt High School. Male, Female, White, Black, Hispanic, Asian/Pacific, American Indian, and Multi-racial all scored high on the most recent standardized testing. There were disparities among these groups at all other schools in the comparison.

These results reflect favorably on the parents, students, teachers, administrators, and the community around Jack Britt High School in Fayetteville, North Carolina. Congratulations!

Mike Mabe
Forsyth County native, resident, and Substitute Teacher

Have a good week!

Sunday, December 02, 2007

Gray Water

My wife and I recently entertained dinner guests in our home. At one point the dining discussion turned to the drought in the Southeast and the seriousness of the situation in some regions of Georgia. One couple's input enlightened me about a concept they called "gray water". They explained that in some areas of the country, where low rainfall is common, many people there collect their dirty water after dish washing, showers, and laundry to use it a second time for watering lawns, shrubbery or perhaps to flush commodes.

The conversation prompted me to recall a time when I was a teenager living with my mother, father, brother and sister in the early 1960's. My mother had a "ringer type" washing machine like the one in the picture above. This machine was located in the basement of our brick, ranch-style home between Bethania and Tobaccoville in North Carolina. Companions to the washing machine were two rinse tubs made of galvanized metal, square in shape, and mounted on legs the same height as the machine. The rinse tubs were positioned next to the washer on the back side.

There was little that was automated about this system. My mother added water to the machine and tubs by holding a water hose until the proper levels were reached. Dirty clothes and detergent were added to the machine water. A flip of the switch turned on the electric motor which powered the agitator. When enough time passed, the agitator was stopped when she flipped the switch again. The same electric motor turned the two rollers on the ringer. My mother lifted saturated clothes from the machine water and carefully presented each article to the moving rollers which pressed most water from the garment as it moved into the first rinse tub. While the next load washed, she physically agitated the clothes in the rinse bath. Then, she swung the rollers around the pivot point 90 degrees to prepare the clothes to enter the second rinse tub. She repeated manual agitation of the clothes in the second and final rinse. The rollers swung an additional 90 degrees to get into position to press water from the cleaned clothes before they fell into the laundry basket where they remained until she carried them outdoors for solar and wind drying. This was a time consuming and laborious process most people have forgotten or have never known.

Now back to the "gray water" concept. When my father came home from work, he, along with the help of his children, carried this gray water from the washer and tubs to the outdoors to pour around azaleas and other plants surrounding our home. We drained the water into buckets instead of letting the water drain into the septic system. My father was a stickler for conserving water. He often fussed at us for taking too long in showers or letting the spigots flow with too much force. He frequently lowered a weighted stick attached to a rope into the well to measure the water depth. He kept mental notes of these measurements especially during the dry summer months.

We speculated that the detergent water would harm plant life around our house, but it didn't. This habit of using wash water continued for years until we upgraded to a more modern automatic washing machine. We never called it gray water then, but that's what it was in today's terms.

In your own way, be a stickler for clean water conservation like my father and have a good week!