Thursday, August 27, 2009

Super Mario

There are a lot of serious things going on locally and nationally. Ted Kennedy has passed away. Water wars between Georgia and its neighbors. The potential widening of Simonton Bridge road. The start of college football season. And I haven't found time to post about any of it.

But I ran across this video on Facebook, and had to share. For all of you who remember your first Nintendo and Super Mario Bros., you've got to watch it.

I still remember my introduction to Super Mario Brothers at the Claghorn's House in Northwest Woods. It was circa 1987, and we were still rocking the Intellivision at 1510 Robin Hood Road in Northwest Woods (yes, my parents went outside the box when it came to gaming). Shortly after Christmas, I got a call from my friend Joseph Claghorn about his new system, and went over to see what all the fuss was about. Atari 5200 this was not. It was a whole new world. I think I spent weeks finding excuses to visit Joseph's house and play Nintendo. While I left gaming behind years ago, but this performance brought back a whole lot of memories for me.

Thursday, August 20, 2009


I was in Atlanta when Michael Johnson broke the world record in the 200 in 1996, running 19.32. Usain is on a whole different level.

I hope he runs the 4 x 400 at some point as well as the 100, 200 and 4 x 100. I will now wear my Kingston Track Club shirt with pride -- it certainly earned a lot of second looks during our vacation in Jamaica last year (the Jamaicans didn't realize there is also a Kingston, Georgia!), when the country was abuzz in advance of the Olympics.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Caviar Please?

Pretty neat story out of UGA this week about caviar farming. So far, coverage has landed in the AJC and in The Wall Street Journal (scroll down once you click the link), mostly with a tailgate hook.

While a clever hook, I would imagine most of the uses won't be at high end tailgates. But that doesn't really matter. What is important is that this is another example of how the research enterprise at UGA produces a tremendous amount of ideas with economic and environmental value (full disclosure -- my company has done some project work for the UGA Research Foundation, which is part of this research enterprise, so I have more than a passing familiarity with what they do).

The sturgeon effort is a great example of a project that helps preserve a population of rare native species and provides a commercial product. Other products you may have heard about include a number of leading commercial trees pioneered by Tree Introductions of Oconee County and other types of shrubs and flowers, various types of turfgrass, Watkinsville's Electrostatic Spraying Systems, and many other commercial enterprises. Other UGA research enterprises focus on biotech, cancer research, and diverse areas of research in keeping with the University's broad focus.

For Oconee County and Northeast Georgia, these are also the types of companies and enterprises that have strong potential to spur innovation and create jobs in industries we haven't even thought about. As the Federal government ups its spending on higher education and research, we need to be sure our leaders understand its importance for our present and future economic well being, and fight for every last dollar that can come to UGA.

Monday, August 17, 2009


I often call televised track and field "God's gift to Tivo." However, I did catch myself watching the full telecasts this weekend of the World Championships on NBC (and Versus, which Charter in its infinite wisdom will not offer to me with out a cable box).

There has been some incredible action in Berlin (including some Athens connections in defending shot put champion Reese Hoffa [4th] and former resident Adam Nelson [5th]). But most importantly, I just had to share the video of this incredible run by Usain Bolt. He shaved the 100 meter world record by a full tenth of a second to 9.58 seconds. That would be like breaking the mile world record by 4-5 seconds. Pretty much unheard of.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

First Friday

Have been tardy about posting a video I made at First Friday in Downtown Watkinsville last week. We had a great turn out for the event thanks to some great ideas and support from local businesses, including Barberitos, Oconee State Bank, Emma Laura, Merle Norman, Ashford Manor, C. Allee, The Natural Baby, and others. Of course, the city provided a "jumpy" and other fun stuff. If you haven't tried First Friday before, give it a shot!

City Council Update

First of all, we had an extremely busy night at Watkinsville City Council tonight. Thanks as always to those who attended the meeting. A quick recap for those of you who couldn't make it:
  • The Atchley family, who reside in the historic green home on South Main Street, won the Beautiful Yard of the Month award. It is well deserved -- they have been landscaping and growing a beautiful garden in their driveway. This is one of the oldest homes in Watkinsville, originally built in the late 1700s or early 1800s, I think.
  • Two-term councilman John Walsh tonight announced his official resignation as he has moved out of the city. The council appointed Christian Lake resident and former Realtor(R) Henry Norman to take his place. John served the city ably, and we look forward to putting Henry to work as well. Henry's background in public safety and real estate should bring a lot of strong and complimentary skills to the council. I have known Henry since going through Leadership Oconee in 2004 and can testify that he is a very strong leader and great thinker. He will fill the term through Dec. 31, although if elected in November to the post (he has declared his candidacy), he will continue on as a council member for a 2 year term. We are all excited to have a resident of Christian Lake -- our largest subdivision in the city -- on the council.
  • We had a lengthy discussion of SPLOST priorities. Samantha Purcell and I provided recommendations on significant upgrades and improvements for Harris Shoals Park (including improvements of existing facilities, a new young children's playground, recycling bins, new restrooms, stream bank remediation, etc.) as well as funding allocated for Rocket Field and our newest park (along Barnett Shoals Road) at a later date. We will likely finalize these items at our next meeting and work through a delivery schedule.
  • As I expected, the council unanimously opposed the four-laning of Simonton Bridge Road from the Oconee County line to 3rd street. There was discussion of what improvements may or may not be necessary (Kate McDaniel had suggestions as well), but the council was in agreement that the proposed MACORTS long range plan would not be good for the city. See yesterday's entry for more background on this and for details on how to offer your opinion on Simonton Bridge and other proposed future road improvements.
  • We also kept the millage rate the same (city taxes will fall due to slightly lower property valuations), and adopted ordinances to deal with franchise fee issues and flood damage prevention.
As always, would welcome any input on these or any other issues!

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

The Joy of Transportation Planning

Sometimes, things sneak up on you. Transportation planning has a way of doing that. However, if you're interested in the future of transportation in Oconee County, you should take time to review the MACORTS long range plan and offer comments.

I visited what appeared to be a sparsely attended public hearing tonight (three of eight attendees when I left at 6:10 were from the Watkinsville City Council) and came away underwhelmed. According to County Public Works Director Emil Beshara, MACORTS scaled back its plans to just what could be funded, resulting in lots of roads formerly slated to be widened (noticeably, 441 from Bishop to the county line and Hog Mountain Road to 78) off the list. A few notes from the meeting:

  • According to the plan, Simonton Bridge is slated to be widened to four lanes from the River to 3rd Street in Watkinsville. It is likely that City Council will formally register its opposition to this approach tomorrow night at our monthly meeting and offer our own suggestions. Personally, I think widening Simonton Bridge beyond additional bike lanes and perhaps a center turn lane is a terrible idea and could jeopardize what is one of just a few scenic entries into Oconee County, and ruin one of the last good cycling routes in and out of Oconee County from Athens. And if Clarke County does not make commensurate improvements on their side of the river, the move makes even less sense. When I mentioned this to Emil, he stated that his (the county's) intention was to just widen and add turn lanes to Simonton Bridge (not four lanes!) and that this was not being done "for economic development purposes." Obviously, something was lost in communication to GDOT and MACORTS, as the plans clearly suggest four laning and adding turn lanes to the road.
  • Union Church Road is slated to be four lanes from 53 to New High Shoals, despite none of the other roads around listed as being four-laned. This does not seem to make sense.
  • Hog Mountain Road is slated for four lanes between 441 and Mars Hill. Speaking of Mars Hill, that project -- which will widen the road from University Parkway through Butler's Crossroads to Watkinsville -- is still on the list and likely to move ahead in the next few years.
  • Plans are on the list for a 441 - 15 connector that would relieve truck traffic from downtown Watkinsville, an absolute positive. The only other potential new roads planned are near the extreme north end of the county near the commercial corridors along Daniell's Bridge, Jimmie Daniel, and Epps Bridge, which will no doubt be necessary as commercial grows in these areas.
  • Emil did say that while 441 and other projects were not on the maps, they were in an "appendix" and could be revived at any time. I found this curious.
  • Interestingly, Athens-Clarke is the only community that submitted any non-road items in the plan (commuter rail is mentioned towards the end of the plan where it was moved to the unfunded portion of the plan). While the friendly lady at the session told me it was inefficient to pursue federal funds for non-road projects, I find it odd that no sidewalks, pedestrian transportation, or bike paths are even being considered as part of the MACORTS plan in Madison or Oconee counties.
At any rate, if you have any interest in future transportation, take a look at the MACORTS site linked above and register your comments on specifics or the plans in general. While most of the Oconee projects are listed for long-range items, you never know when other factors will speed them up, so it may pay to register your opinions early and often.