Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Search for the Modern Age

As a destination marketing organization, the Durham Convention & Visitors Bureau (DCVB) does its best to stay ahead of trends, needs and new technology to further their goal and mission as Durham's official marketing agency.

With the launch of the redesigned website,, the organization took several leaps forward in bringing its number one information fulfillment tool in line with that goal.  As already noted here, here, and here, the new site is considerably more functional than previous.  One of the biggest advancements in service, however, is the search capability and results.

Back in the day - years ago - veritably the stone ages in computer time...Google used to install mini search units on the servers of organizations that needed them when search functions needed to integrate both web-based and internal data.  These were state of the art at the time and supplied organizations with super fast and complete search results on their sites and delivered to site visitors the absolute best information available on their query.  As the sands of time trickle, so too does the creeping obsolescence of all things computer, and this Google unit became little more than a space filler on a server rack...and it was still delivering the search results for the site.  Needless to say, the search results were amongst the things to be least proud of on that award-winning digital destination.

Fast forward to now and users will see a vast improvement in the search results because the tools that drive them are considerably more advanced and enhanced, and the output results are amazing.  Imagine searching for a place and getting not only information about that place, but also information about events happening there.  "It's like stepping out of a mid 90's compact sedan and sliding behind the wheel of a new sports car with every bell and whistle," said Sam Poley, DCVB's Director of Marketing and Communications.  "The search results on this site are so much more user friendly  both for those visiting and those who call Durham home."

The site is now easier to keep up to date and fresh with new content is being added all the time. Visitors are encouraged to return often.

CenterFest 2012: Have Your Say

Durham Arts Council announced in July its plans to "rest" CenterFest 2011 in order to expand and re-envision the festival for 2012. The longtime CenterFest producer aims to evolve the arts festival, North Carolina's longest running.  As part of the visioning process, Durham Arts Council needs feedback and suggestions, and seeks public participation and input as it is key to making CenterFest's expanded arts and entertainment format a regional success. Click here for Durham Arts Council's CenterFest 2012 Survey and share your thoughts.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Durham Bullls to Host 2012 National Championship Game

The Durham Bulls and their namesake Athletic Park in Downtown Durham were today announced as the site of the 2012 National Championship Game to be held Thursday, September 20th, 2012.  Held most recently in Oklahoma City from 2006 to 2010 and Albuquerque this year, the event is expected to bring more than 10,000 visitors and representatives of 30 baseball teams to Durham over the two day span of the event.

The Bulls are the most famous team in Triple A baseball and The Durham Bulls Athletic Park, modeled after Camden Yards and tucked into a bustling downtown district adjacent to dining, is a popular destination for visitors and residents alike.  Games have an average of 7,000 attendees and approximately 10 sell out per year, according to the team's spokesperson.

"This is an exciting opportunity for the Bulls and Durham," said Shelly Green, President and CEO of the Durham Convention & Visitors Bureau. "We estimate approximately $2.5 million in visitor spending from this event and we are hugely appreciative of the hard work the Bulls did to bring next year's National Championship Game to Durham, " she added.

At the announcement of this game, Randy Mobley, International League President, of which the Bulls are a part, said "I made no secret of my fandamonium for this area and this ball club, and did all in my power to keep encouraging them.  Fortunately, it worked out," with regard to bringing the game to Durham. 

The game will be held in a different city each year as of this year, and Durham quickly rose to the top of the list of considered locations.  Mike Birling, General Manager of the Bulls continually referred to Durham as "The City of Baseball" given the number of events and entities related to the sport that make their home here.

Also announced at today's event is that Bulls player Russ Canzler is the 2011 International League MVP, the fitth Durham Bull in 14 years to do so.

Monday, August 29, 2011

Setting DPAC Apart!

Durham blogger and President Emeritus of the Durham Convention & Visitors Bureau shares his thoughts on the success of Durham Performing Arts Center.

Setting DPAC Apart!

Bull City Mutterings
Reyn Bowman

Beverly Thompson is part of a unique collaboration in Durham.  As the director of the Office of Public Affairs for the City of Durham, she collaborates with communication professionals who represent Durham as a community via the now-best-practice, 20-organization Durham Public Information & Communications Council (DPICC.)

This body was created and has been facilitated by the Durham Convention & Visitors Bureau (DCVB) as the community's marketing agency, since the mid-1990s, to synergize and improve collaboration among communication professionals working at the various organizations that represent Durham.

The mission of the DPICC is to leverage both the quantity and quality of information distributed about the community and to jointly address issues that undermine Durham’s identity and image.  DPICC oversees Durham’s overarching brand.

I caught up with Beverly recently and learned that guests at the DPICC meeting this month were Bob Klaus, general manager of the Durham Performing Arts Center (DPAC) and two members of his staff, Cassie Jones, guest experience manager and Michael Colvin, senior house manager.

Until my retirement nearly two years ago, I enjoyed working closely with Bob and the folks on my team worked closely with Cassie, who truly epitomizes what was said at the meeting.

Bob works for Nederlander/PFM, a partnership that owns and operates theaters worldwide and operates the DPAC under contract with the City of Durham.

Week before last, the City announced that in just its third full season DPAC hosted 192 events, including 58 sellouts, which were attended by 357,000 residents and visitors including 11,000 season ticket holders for the SunTrust Broadway Series.

After operating expenses, DPAC netted $2.5 million in revenue of which just 60% is retained by Nederlander/PFM and 40% is distributed back into a City fund for the facility.  While the distribution seems a hair less than last year, these overall  measures have already transcended what was not originally projected until the fifth year of operation.

Coupled with more than $1.2 million in visitor tax revenue, more than half a million in ticket surcharges and the net from naming rights, this may narrow the overall cost of the theater for this year to around $1 million or so by my estimate.

Public infrastructure including cultural is not really meant to pay for itself other than by leveraging a vibrant community into economic vitality.  But this is as close as you get.

At the DPICC meeting this month Bob revealed four of the keys he sees to DPAC’s success to date:

    * Borrowing “best practices” from other theaters and organizations such as Disney, DPAC focused on customer service as the strategy to set the facility apart from other entertainment venues, here or in other communities.

    * Hiring at DPAC is very selective and considered pivotal to its success and every year all front line staff (ushers, ticket takers, etc.) must re-apply for positions with typically 20-30% not invited to return based on past performance.

    * Extensive training is given to front line staff on how to do whatever they can to say “yes,” rather than explaining what they can’t do.  If they aren’t able to to fulfill a request, they are trained to immediately elevate the issue/problem to a supervisor so they can get back to helping others.

    * Thousands and thousands of comment cards are solicited from customers and each manager reads every single card.  Whenever additional comments are added, Bob personally responds to each of them.

The strategy definitely works.  Congratulations to Bob and his team at DPAC, to both Nederlander and PFM and to the management and governance for the City of Durham.

Hats off as well as to Durham Wayfinders, a corps of 1,000 volunteers recruited and coordinated by DCVB that grew from an idea by Bob Klaus into a resource for all Durham festivals, events and facilities.

City of Durham Begins Storm Debris Pick Up Today

Although Hurricane Irene spared Durham the worst of her wind and rain, the storm did leave many residents with downed branches, leaves, and other debris. To help Durham residents with the clean up, the City’s Solid Waste Management Department will begin storm debris pick up today and continue the next few of weeks, if needed.

The City will begin collecting smaller debris - material no longer than 4 feet and no wider than 4 inches - today.  The debris should be placed at the curb for collection as soon as possible. Smaller debris collection will take place one day after customers’ normal garbage collection. 

Collection of larger, more bulky storm debris will begin on Tuesday, September 6, instead of Monday, due to the Labor Day holiday. This delay, according Solid Waste Management Director Donald Long, is to allow residents enough time to move larger debris to curbside for collection. However, if residents wish to have their debris collected sooner, they can call Durham One Call at (919) 560-1200 to request collection. Please allow 36 hours to fulfill the request. Residents should follow normal bulky item collection procedures when setting items at the curbside. No personal carts will be serviced, and residents should not use their garbage or recycling carts for storm debris.

Leaves must be bagged in biodegradable paper. Plastic will not be accepted. Yard waste should not be mixed with household garbage or recycling.  Customers who need more information about their collection cycle should visit the City’s website at, or contact Durham One Call at (919) 560-1200.

Residents may also bring storm debris to the City’s Waste Disposal and Recycling Center (Transfer Station) at 2115 East Club Blvd.; the disposal rate is $26.50 per ton. Hours are from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Friday and 8 a.m. to noon on Saturdays. Loads should be covered.

Garbage and recycling will be collected on their regular schedule today.

Friday, August 26, 2011

Durham is Ready as Irene Pushes Visitors Inland

While the coast is a few hours to the east, Durham is playing an integral role in helping to manage the situation caused by the first hurricane to make landfall in NC is several years.  At Category 3, Irene is on a path of destruction that will affect many of the more than 60 million Americans on the Eastern Seaboard.

This is an unexpected boon for inland hoteliers.

As evacuations are continually announced along NC's coastline, residents and visitors (it's their high season for visitation) are mandated to move to safer havens.  That mass of humanity comes West, and Durham--with its two interstate highways--is a stopping point for many. 

For perspective, according to State officials, Dare County alone has 35,000 residents and 150,000 visitors at this time of year.  Many will need a place to stay.  As of Friday afternoon, four Coastal Counties had been issued mandatory evacuations and several others such as New Hanover county, had been urged to initiate voluntary evacuations.

To demonstrate the impact on Durham:  Durham has nearly 7,700 hotel rooms.  The number of available rooms on Friday night dropped by 30.2 percent in approximately 18 hours.  In that same time period, Sunday's dropped 43.8 percent.  One hotel front desk operator offered when asked if the uptick in bookings was evacuees, "Yes, absolutely."

To aide those in need, DCVB activated its Lodging Hot Line on Wednesday afternoon and started providing information to the State on Thursday.  According to Shelly Green, President & CEO of DCVB, "The Hot Line is really a great service to both travelers and lodging operators - it's a great supply and demand tool that is easy for both parties.  DCVB has even improved its hotline to indicate properties that accept pets as well as exit numbers of those along Interstate highways." 

The State has available rooms in Durham and other destinations up on it's website now.  "Since we provide this information to the State as a link to a document on our server, we are keeping that list up to date all the time, so those needing the information are getting it accurately."

Below is official information provided from North Carolina Department of Commerce.  

Hurricane Irene
Safety is the first priority for our visitors. Our primary communication with them is to make sure that they stay connected with their accommodation provider, to news broadcasts and stay up-to-date on current conditions. Our hope is that the storm will pass quickly and that the entire North Carolina coast will be open for a fantastic Labor Day weekend and week.

As we receive notice of closures and evacuations, we will update the weather advisory on the main page of with the most current information from several sources throughout the state. We also link to several other sites for storm information.

Travelers in need of accommodations can call the state’s visitor assistance line at 1-800-VISIT-NC (847-4862) which will be open 24/7 through the weekend, or contact the locations listed below. also has a list of accommodations throughout the state at
We are receiving media reports that hotels in nearest proximity of the coast are filling up with evacuees. Please ask your area hoteliers to stay in touch and direct visitors to or 1-800-VISIT-NC (847-4862) if they run out of rooms. It is very important that no one gets turned away during the storm.
It is a good time to remind property owners and area businesses of the state’s gouging law. Here’s a link to the specifics.,-says-AG-.aspx

The North Carolina Department of Transportation provides real-time information about travel conditions through its Twitter feeds. NCDOT immediately sends out tweets about road closures, flooding, ferry cancellations and evacuation routes.
NCDOT Northern Coastal Region feed:
NCDOT Southern Coastal Region feed:
NCDOT Ferry System feed:
The Department of Transportation’s Travel Information Management Systems (TIMS) system also gives comprehensive information on events that affect road conditions.

NC Department of Transportation –
National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration –
National Weather Service –
National Hurricane Center – 
NC Emergency Management (Department of Crime Control and Public Safety) –

Marketing the Coast After the Storm
The Division will update its website and all of its marketing assets to encourage visitors to return to the coast as soon as areas re-open for business. Through the public relations staff, editorial media will be used to highlight areas as they re-open and as visitors return. The Division will also incorporate social media outlets and digital advertising with our in-state media partners to encourage visitation.

Businesses seeking disaster assistance can call Business Link North Carolina (BLNC) at 1-800-228-8443. Businesses will be guided to regional resources including the SBTDC and Small Business Center Network.   Services will include: 1) assessing financial impact, 2) reconstructing financial statements, 3) preparing SBA disaster loans and 4) exploring options with creditors.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Fresh this Week at Durham Farmers' Market

Saturdays: 8am-Noon
Wednesdays: 3:30-6:30pm

Fresh this Week
Fruit: Apples, Pears, Figs,Table Grapes, Watermelon, Cantelope, Sprite Melon, Peaches, Blueberries    
Vegetables:  Shitake mushrooms, Arugula, Beans (green, yellow, Roma, filet, purple), Longbeans, Beets, Butterbeans, Cabbage, Cherry Tomatoes, Corn, Collards,  Cucumbers,  Dandelion Greens, Edamame, Eggplant, Garlic,  Herbs (Basil, Cilantro Oregano, Parsley, Dill, Chives, Mint),  Kale, Lambs Quarter,  Lettuce,  Okra, Onions, Pea Shoots, Peppers (sweet, hot, Padron), Potatoes, Purple Hull Peas, Pumpkins, Salad Mix, Shallots, Swiss Chard,  Summer Squash,  Tomatillos, Tomatoes (red and green),  Winter Squash (Butternut, Spaghetti, Acorn), Zucchini
Flowers:  Agrostemma, Asiatic Lillies, Campanula, Dahlia, Gomphrena, Gladiolus, Lisianthus, Snap Dragon, Sunflowers, Tuber Rose, Zinnia
Meats: Beef, Bison, Chicken, Duck, Goat/Chevon, Lamb, Pork
And: Honey, Chicken and Duck Eggs, Flour, Yellow & White Cornmeal, Grits, Pecans, Wines, Fresh and Aged Goats and Cows Milk Cheeses, Baked Goods, Pasta, Beer, Wine, Jams, Jellies, Pickles, Preserves, Wool, Landscaping Plants
Crafts: Handmade Clothes & Jewelery, Baskets, Pottery, Photographs, Soaps and much more...


Your Way Is The Right Way

All too often consumers are forced to have things the way marketers want them to be.  Despite claims and even some efforts to the contrary, meaningful personalization and customization are fairly hard to come by. 

Not so on the new official website for Durham, NC’s destination marketing.  “Truly customizable itineraries was one of the hurdles we knew we needed to get over on behalf of our visitors,” said Sam Poley, Director of Marketing and Communications for the Durham Convention & Visitors Bureau

The feature is remarkably easy to use.  From any of the pages containing additional details on the site, at the upper right is an “Add to My Trip Planner” button that users can click.  Doing so places the item onto their itinerary which can then be delivered electronically or printed.

“Visitors are so much more savvy than they used to be – especially with the amount of information available online,” said DCVB’s Director of Visitor Services, Carolyn Carney.  “Now when we are interacting with people looking for information, we can either provide for them, or instruct them how to put together exactly the information they want and need.  It’s a great enhancement.”

Going Where Others Have Gone Before

Among the many great wonders of the internet is the ability to share information more quickly and freely.  Admittedly, sometimes that freedom can lead to content of dubious value posted by those enjoying the anonymity afforded by technology.  However, savvy consumers of information can quickly glean useful tidbits from the posts of others when researching things to do, places to eat, etc.

Understanding this, the Durham Convention & Visitors Bureau’s newly redesigned website has an exciting new feature.  As site users pull up information about specific places, user reviews from the popular consumer review site,, will also populate on the page giving the site user additional information with which  to make decisions. “This addition is another great leap forward in our quest to fully equip visitors to Durham with all the information available to get the most out of their visit,” said Shelly Green, DCVB’s President and CEO.

Of course, the Visitor’s Information Center is still staffed during normal business hours and Saturday from 10AM to 2PM  where visitors can get information directly, as well as through the site’s enhanced Live Chat function - because sometimes, there’s just no substitute for another live human being.

Newly-Designed Drives Visitation

The Durham Convention & Visitors Bureau (DCVB), Durham’s official marketing agency, is proud to announce the launch of its newly redesigned website,  Visitors contemplating a trip to the Bull City visited the site nearly 700,000 times last year.  Having earned numerous awards in destination marketing competitions including twice being rated the #1 destination website in North America, a Webby Worthy Award, “Best on the Net,” “Top Five Destination Site” designation, a MarCom Award, and the WebAward Standard of Excellence, the site is noted industry wide as a bellwether.

With this launch, aside from an updated look, the site is home to new features, content and capabilities, all designed to help drive visitation to Durham.  Designed fully with the intent to achieve a much more user-focused experience, the site now empowers users to build custom itineraries, read customer reviews on place pages, and define their site experience by selecting options that characterize their purpose for visiting.  The site also has expanded content, enhanced visuals, and “stickiness” – the ability to keep users engaged and attentive for longer periods.

“Destination websites like have been shown to increase incremental trips to a destination by about 4% and increase the length of stay of another 4% of visitors who use the site.  With unique visitors to the site approaching half a million, that translates to about 20,000 more visitors each year plus existing visitors spending about 20,000 more days in Durham than they otherwise might have.  That’s huge,”   said Shelly Green, President and CEO of the Durham Convention & Visitors Bureau.

The redesign of is more than skin deep. In addition to a complete visual overhaul, the new website features:

  • Improved navigation – navigation is now easier for the 75% of site visitors coming to the site through a page other than the homepage, and users who do come to the homepage can identify their visitor type and have an experience more tailored to their interests.
  • Trip Planner –’s new Trip Planner feature helps visitors ensure they don’t miss a single thing they want to do.  From any detail screen, whether a visitor feature, restaurant, shop, lodging property, or event, visitors have the option to “Add to My Trip Planner.” This personalized itinerary can then be printed, texted, or emailed for future use.
  • Reviews Integration – with so many great things to see and do in Durham, choosing just a few can be hard for a visitor. To help add a personal touch, now incorporates reviews on each details screen from, one of the largest review sites on the web.
  • Calendar integration – DCVB’s extensive calendar of more than 4,000 annual events is more thoroughly integrated into than ever. Select upcoming events are featured on each page, with options to search the event calendar in more detail through the existing advanced search page.
  • Search improvements – now with the overall site search, users can access relevant content from DCVB’s extensive database of visitor features (including places to stay, eat, shop, things to see & do, and more) and see events related to the search as well. For example, a search for “Duke Gardens” returns results about the place and facility specifications, as well as upcoming events taking place there.
  • Featured content – though offers extensive options for visitors to personalize their trip, sometimes the amount of information available can be overwhelming. For a more “guided” introduction to the wealth of Durham’s visitor product, now includes feature stories in each major section. These features will rotate periodically and may include in-depth features on particular visitor-related businesses or organizations, sample itineraries, announcements of new site features, and more.
  • Other improvements to current features include: a friendlier live chat tab that is less intrusive but still easy to find when needed; online versions of both the 2011 Official Durham Visitors Guide and the Official Durham Meeting & Event Planners Guide; and a more printer-friendly and mobile-friendly template with rich-media features that work on most smart-phones (full mobile version coming in late 2011).

Thursday, August 18, 2011

The Bull City Rumble - Rockers vs. Mods!

The Bull City Rumble is coming up soon. See below as Durham blogger and President Emeritus of the Durham Convention & Visitors Bureau shares his enthusiasm for the distinctly Durham event.

The Bull City Rumble - Rockers vs. Mods!
Bull City Mutterings
Reyn Bowman

If you’re like me, you stay off the roads during holidays like Labor Day. This year, I’ve marked my calendar to be sure to see the second annual Bull City Rumble, September 2nd and 3rd, 2011.

Similar to most festivals and events in Durham, it will draw an even mix of visitors and residents. This year the Rumble will be held along West Main Street in the Historic Brightleaf District of Downtown Durham with an event Friday night at the Geer Street Garden in the rapidly emerging self-identified NoCo District a few blocks away. These organic, uniquely Durham districts provide the perfect backdrop.

I love the poster this year, especially the logo which also comes on other merchandise such as patches and shirts. It isn’t just because I ride a retro-styled Harley-Davidson Cross Bones, I just like type of vintage vehicle including old farm tractors.

The event features the café racers and scooters from the late 1950s through the 1970s that will be on display at the event. Not American-made bikes like my Harley but English bikes like the Norton my friend Bill Kalkhof tells me he rode in college.

These bikes’ roots trace back over a half a century during a period when Rockers or Ton-Up boys evolved as a biker subculture that originated in Great Britain and spread across Europe. Rockers were also known as “greasers” to Mods (Modernists) who rode customized scooters such as those making comeback now.

Just think Gene Vincent and Be Bop A Lula vs. The Small Faces. The Rolling Stones are more like Rockers. The cross-over Beatles initially dressed like Mods.

The bikes you can see at Bull City Rumble will be “riders”, not “trailer queens” as the producer notes. This will add even more to their authenticity and the event is more than vintage bikes and scooters. It will also feature the vibe of uniquely Durham neighborhood districts and independent businesses and entertainment venues.

Making this event even more organic is that it is partnering with Preservation Durham which will also benefit from the proceeds.

In my best Michael Buffer imitation: Let’s get ready to Rumble!

(Click here for information on visiting Durham including the master calendar of community events.)

Results Released for Third Successful DPAC Season

City of Durham leaders are calling the Durham Performing Arts Center’s third year of operation a success, with earnings of $1.02 million, according to the preliminary, unaudited financial statement released today for the period ending June 30, 2011.  The City owns the facility, which is managed by PFM/Nederlander, operators of performing arts and entertainment facilities in America and worldwide.

“For the third year in a row, DPAC continues to draw people to experience not just great entertainment, but also customer service that can’t be matched,” said Mayor William V. “Bill” Bell.  “While the venue continues to be profitable, what it means for Durham during these tough economic times goes without saying.  The City is fortunate to be able to offer the unmatched entertainment -- from the legendary Diana Ross to award-winning musicals, such as The Lion King -- that people throughout the Triangle region and beyond find irresistible.” 

While DPAC sold over 11,000 season tickets to its flagship SunTrust Broadway Series, the success was driven not only by Broadway shows, but also by the wide variety of events, including concerts, comedy and family shows.  Drawing attendees from all over the Triangle and throughout the state, the season boasted over 357,000 guests, 58 sellouts and hosted over 192 total events.

According to the preliminary, unaudited financial statement, the Durham Performing Arts Center, LLC, generated a net income of a little more than $2.5 million, of which, pursuant to the operating agreement with the City, 40 percent, or a about $1.02 million, will be shared with the City.  Last year’s reported earnings for the City were approximately $1.2 million.  The income will go into the City’s DPAC Fund, which is used for debt service, maintenance, building improvements and other possible revenue shortfalls, including naming rights and hotel/motel occupancy tax. 

Follow Up, Good News, Adios

As posted here a few months back, one of the many stories unfolding in Durham daily has been chronicled in a blog of well-written and poignant reflection.  Sometimes following these blogs can be challenging and even heartbreaking.  Not this one. 

Take a look at this entry, and those that preceed it for a good story, told well. Oh, and to the authors go a hearty congratulations.

Doing Great
This Machine Killed Cancer
Shayne Miel

Hey y’all,
It has been a long time since I posted on here, but I thought I’d drop a line and let you know that I’m healthy and doing great.  Back in June I had my 6 month scans and they still show no sign of anything.  I’ll get scanned again in November, but with just a CT and MRI, instead of a PET scan (which I’m thankful for because the PET scan is a pain in the ass).  I had an appointment last week with Dr. Shea, my bone marrow transplant specialist, to check up and see how I was doing.  As I was leaving his office, he slapped me on the back and said, “Congratulations!”

I know there are people who read this blog because the terrible thing that happened to me has happened to you and you are trying to find some advice or solace or something.  I don’t really have any wise words about what to do - they say that a positive attitude is important, so maybe fake that until it becomes real - but I want you to know that this thing is beatable.  My diagnosis was about as bad as it can get, an aggressive type of Stage IV Lymphoma in my heart, lungs, pancreas and brain, and yet here I am a year and a half later, almost as healthy as I was before I got sick.  I’m finally back up to my pre-cancer weight.  My band is playing shows again and we’re going into the studio next week to work on our long overdue album.  Our house is still in the process of being remodeled, but it looks like we’ll be able to move in by next February.  Also, Rebekah and I have started running, and I think that by this time next year, I’ll be back up to my pre-cancer strength and endurance (hopefully beyond it!).

I probably won’t be posting here very much any more.  This blog has been a great way to keep the people in my life up to date on how I’ve been doing.  Now, I get to see y’all in real life (at shows, at the bar, for dinner, etc), and I don’t have to let you know what’s up via the interwebs.  Before I sign off though, I want to leave you with two pictures.  The first is of Rebekah and me looking healthy and happy at our friend’s wedding earlier this summer:

And the second is something that I saw in the parking deck at UNC Hospital every time I was there.  I think it’s good advice, whether you have cancer or not:

Friday, August 12, 2011

Banjos, Books and Brogans -- 2nd Saturdays Series at Bennett Place Historic Site

Durham's role in the Civil War, and it's enduring historical assets therefrom are well-known. There are some amazing cultural artifacts, as well.  An expression of this is coming up this weekend as authors share engaging tales while banjo players and soldier re-enactors surround the grounds of Bennett Place State Historic Site.
Writers Stewart Dunaway, Myron Miller, Keith Jones and others from across North Carolina will offer a variety of talks on the history and culture of the Old North State. Music, musket firings and other living history demonstrations are highlights of the free program on Saturday, Aug. 13, from 10 a.m.-4 p.m. and on Sunday, Aug. 14, from 10 a.m.-3 p.m.

The 6th North Carolina Infantry, Cedar Fork Rifles Company, will encamp on the grounds and share their re-enactment experiences in the recent commemoration campaign in Northern Virginia. Nationally known musician Joe Ayers, who performs 19th-century banjo music, will play throughout the day and in concert in the visitor center theater Saturday from 7-9 p.m. Concert tickets are $15 and can be purchased in advance at the visitor center.

The N.C. Department of Cultural Resources is presenting the 2nd Saturdays gas-tank-get-away events at 37 state historic sites and museums statewide through August.

In April 1865, the Bennett Farm was the site of the largest surrender of the American Civil War. Confederate Gen. Joseph E. Johnston and Union Maj. Gen. William T. Sherman met at the Bennett farmhouse to negotiate a solution to America’s most tragic war. The surrender ended fighting in North and South Carolina, Georgia, and Florida, allowing 89,270 exhausted Confederates to return home.

The mission of Bennett Place is to preserve and interpret the history of the largest Civil War surrender and the lives of yeomen farmers such as the Bennetts. Follow the observance of the 150th anniversary of the end of the Civil War and learn more about Durham in the Civil War.

'Chef in the Market 'Tackles Okra

Durham Farmers' Market welcomes a new Chef in the Market this week. Katie Coleman, founder of Durham Spirits Company and instructor at The Art Institute of Raleigh-Durham's culinary program, will take on a perennially misunderstood and under-appreciated vegetable -- OKRA.  The timing for her okra demonstration couldn't be better; late August and September are the prime okra season.

Okra, the seed pod of a beautiful hibiscus like flower, thought to have originated in West Africa and traveled to North America during the slave trade. The flowers bloom in a whirl at the top of the plant. In the South, okra plants thrive in the hot, dry and humid weather.  By the end of September, many farmers will have okra plants that are 6-8 feet tall and require ladders for picking.  The plants will keep producing until the first frost which usually happens in mid-October. 

Chef in the Market begins at 10am on the Central Lawn. Kate Coleman will be demonstrating 3 okra recipes: Sauteed Corn and Okra with Bacon & Goat Cheese, Grilled Okra with Yogurt Dipping Sauce and Simply Sauteed Okra.

Construction Update
Construction next to the Farmers' Market parking lot on Morris Street has begun.  For the next 12 months or so, Morris Ridge, a 5 story, mixed used development will be built. Throughout the construction, the parking lot will remain open during the Market hours. One of the paths down to the Market will be closed for the time being, but the path at the north end of the lot (with the stairs) will remain open.  Additionally, in the next couple of weeks, there will be some road construction on Hunt Street between Morris and Foster. The road won't be closed but expect delays from time to time.

Fresh This Week
Fruit: Apples, Pears, Figs,Table Grapes, Watermelon, Cantelope, Sprite Melon, Peaches - freestone!, Blueberries    
Vegetables:   Pumpkins, Winter squash, Arugula, Beans, Longbeans, Beets, Butterbeans, Cabbage, Cherry Tomatoes, Corn, Collards,  Cucumbers,  Dandelion Greens, Edamame, Eggplant, Garlic,  Herbs (Basil, Cilantro Oregano, Parsley, Dill, Chives, Mint),  Kale, Lambs Quarter, Leeks, Lettuce,  Okra, Onions, Pea Shoots, Peppers (sweet, hot, Padron), Potatoes, Purple Hull Peas, Salad Mix, Shallots, Swiss Chard,  Summer Squash,  Tomatillos, Tomatoes (red and green),  Zucchini
Flowers:  Agrostemma, Asiatic Lillies, Campanula, Dahlia, Gomphrena, Gladiolus, Lisianthus, Snap Dragon, Sunflowers, Tuber Rose, Zinnia
Meats: Beef, Bison, Chicken, Duck, Goat/Chevon, Lamb, Pork
And: Honey, Chicken and Duck Eggs, Flour, Yellow & White Cornmeal, Grits, Pecans, Wines, Fresh and Aged Goats and Cows Milk Cheeses, Baked Goods, Pasta, Beer, Wine, Jams, Jellies, Pickles, Preserves, Wool, Landscaping Plants

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Geek...No, Really, It's a Compliment

Durham is often lauded, be it for its businesses, hospitals, food, art, theaters, festivals, lifestyle, and more.  But this latest one is special...really special.  Durham is receiving acclaim for being geeky.

Research Triangle Park is surrounded on three sides by the city of Durham with a small portion that spills into Wake county towards Morrisville and Apex. RTP is the home to some of the nation's biggest, smartest and most innovative businesses.  It, alongside many of Durham's other university and entrepreneurial assets make this ranking pretty clear.  Geeky or not, Durham is a true brain trust stronghold.

There is an accepted definition of geeky that was used for this ranking in Forbes. From the US National Science Foundation, a geek is defined as as any worker with a bachelor’s level of knowledge and education in science or engineering-related fields or workers in occupations that require some degree of technical knowledge or training, according to the Forbes article.

Lest readers be confused, here is a bit of an explanation to help clarify the ranking.  The city of Durham does not stand alone in this list - the rank is actually of MSAs, or Metropolitan Statistical Areas.  The one in which Durham lies, the Durham, NC MSA is actually made up of four counties: Chatham, Durham, Orange and Person.  Read between the lines and our close neighbor Chapel Hill deserves some credit here of which they were stripped by omission in the listing. 

The article references  the "Raleigh-Durham-Cary area" which is not an MSA, but a CMSA, or grouping of adjacent MSAs.  It is an all too common practice for rankings to say they are of cities and to actually be of MSAs.  Frankly, it's lazy journalism not to explain the difference, and an affront to readers that the media think the concept is too difficult to grasp and not germane to the facts of the story.  The Durham Convention & Visitors Bureau (DCVB), as Durham's official marketing agency and monitor of Durham's image, always likes to clarify the distinction.

"Rankings are low hanging fruit for the media.  They are easy to produce, highly subjective and can be built on just about any parameter or criteria to fit the need of the author," said Sam Poley, Director of Marketing and Communications at DCVB.  "Print media are weathering the economy poorly, their staff's are dwindling, and rankings sell.  We're always happy to be listed in quality rankings and we always dig into the methodology of a ranking to ensure that the science at least has some merit, as it does in this case," he added.

All Durham rankings and accolades are indexed on a database and searchable online at the Durham Accolades website maintained by DCVB.

Thanks to Durham blog Bull City Rising for being early out of bed today to report this news.  As usual, their work is exhaustive and complete.

Friday, August 5, 2011

Vote for the Durham Farmers' Market...and Shop There This Weekend, Too

The Durham Farmers' Market (DFM) is in the running for America's Favorite Farmers Market.  Annually, this competition is a popular vote essentially to determine which farmers market can marshal its community's support in this national voting competition. At this writing, DFM is hovering around tenth place.  Follow this link and then click the blue tab at the top of the graph to see the list upon which Durham is ranked.  The vote button is on the top left of the page in the green header bar, and people can vote as often as they like. The contest is run by Americas Farmland Trust and there is an opportunity to donate to the organization after votes are cast, but votes count regardless.

The DFM, with the help of the Durham Convention & Visitors Bureau (DCVB) is encouraging fans to share this link on their social media and help continue to drive home the message that Durham is where great things happen.  

Voting continues until August 31st, and the winner gets the title of America's Favorite Farmers Market.

Additionally, ff the below list doesn't incite a visit to the Durham Farmers' Market tomorrow, then perhaps fresh, amazing, local products aren't of interest. 

If they are, read on.

Fresh this Week....
Fruit:  FIGS! Table Grapes, Watermelon, Cantaloupe, Sprite Melon, Peaches - freestone!, Blueberries   
Vegetables:    EDAMAME! Arugula, Beans (green, yellow, Roma, filet, purple), Longbeans, Beets, Butterbeans, Cabbage, Cherry Tomatoes, Corn, Collards,  Cucumbers,  Dandelion Greens, Eggplant, Garlic,  Herbs (Basil, Cilantro Oregano, Parsley, Dill, Chives, Mint),  Kale, Lambs Quarter, Leeks, Lettuce,  Okra, Onions, Pea Shoots, Peppers (sweet, hot, Padron), Potatoes, Purple Hull Peas, Salad Mix, Shallots, Swiss Chard,  Summer Squash,  Tomatillos, Tomatoes (red and green),  Zucchini
Flowers:  Agrostemma, Asiatic Lillies, Campanula, Dahlia, Gomphrena, Gladiolus, Lisianthus, Snap Dragon, Sunflowers, Tuber Rose, Zinnia
Meats: Beef, Bison, Chicken, Duck, Goat/Chevon, Lamb, Pork
And: Honey, Chicken and Duck Eggs, Flour, Yellow & White Cornmeal, Grits, Pecans, Wines, Fresh and Aged Goats and Cows Milk Cheeses, Baked Goods, Pasta, Beer, Wine, Jams, Jellies, Pickles, Preserves, Wool, Landscaping Plants
Crafts: Handmade Clothes & Jewelery, Baskets, Pottery, Photographs, Soaps and much more...

American Tobacco Trail Bridge Construction to Move Forward

Durham is exceptionally fortunate with regards to public parks, trails and spaces for outdoor activity...and now it seems to be getting moreso.

Following discussion at its August 4, 2011 work session meeting, the Durham City Council remains committed to completing the American Tobacco Trail and bridge, despite the more than $2 million difference between July bids and earlier projected construction costs.

According to City Manager Tom Bonfield, the project is a priority for the City because of its strategic location, “serving as a major and heavily used north-south route for pedestrians and bicyclists. The construction of the new section would also carry the trail to the commercial sector south of U.S. Interstate 40 and to several neighborhoods in southern Durham.”

The Public Works Department, responsible for construction of the bridge and trail, recommends that the entire project be completed, but in two phases, in order to identify needed funding. According to Director Marvin Williams, construction would begin with part of the trail from N.C. Highway 54 and include the new bridge over U.S. Interstate 40, using existing funding of $5.8 million, with the project being awarded to low bidder during the July process. Additional funds of about $800,000 would be obtained using existing funds designated for other projects. A contract will be recommended to City Council for approval within 30 days.

A later contract would be issued for the remainder of the trail, south of U.S. Interstate 40 to the Chatham County line.  The Public Works Department has recommended approaching the Durham-Chapel Hill-Carrboro Metropolitan Planning Organization (MPO) to consider reprioritizing funding currently authorized for sidewalks and bike lanes. Both the MPO and the N.C. Department of Transportation would have to agree, and the process would likely take about six months. Even though the second contract would be awarded nearly a year following the contract for the bridge, both projects might likely be completed at the same time due to the time needed to construct the bridge.

Since MPO funding typically comes as an 80/20 match, approximately $3 million would be needed from the MPO and about $760,000 from the City. More information about the source of the funding and construction needs will be forthcoming following a more detailed analysis.

More information about this project can be found here.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Sales Tax Holiday This Weekend

The annual state and local sales tax holiday begins Friday, Aug. 5 and runs through Sunday, Aug. 7. The General Assembly created the holiday in 2001 and has expanded this year's list of exempt items to include instructional materials, such as reference books, maps, globes, textbooks and workbooks with an individual cost of up to $300. The previous price limit for individual items was $100.

During the tax holiday weekend, consumers will not pay sales tax on: clothes and footwear costing less than $100 each; school supplies such as pens, pencils, paper, notebooks, textbooks, book bags, lunch bags and calculators costing less than $100 each; sports and recreation equipment costing $50 or less each; computers costing less than $3,500 and computer supplies costing less than $250 each.

The following resources provide additional information about the sales tax holiday:

Rare Fossil Find Makes NC Museum of Life and Science That Much More Interesting

Jesse Duncan is a pretty lucky kid. 

While on a recent trip to the Museum of Life and Science (MLS) in Durham, he found an extremely rare fossil worth big bucks...and he gets to keep it.  The MLS has a fossil dig site on its Dinosaur Trail exhibit where visitors can dig in phosphate dirt from a mine in Aurora, NC and are likely to find the remains of ancient sharks, whales, bony fish, corals, shells and other invertebrates that are 23 million to 5 million years old. 

Jesse hit pay dirt with his fossil of a symphesial cow shark tooth.  He heralded his find with “Mom, look what I found. Something cool!”  

Not knowing what is was at the time, his mom, Amanda, turned to the internet, posted a picture in a fossil forum.  “I posted an image along with a description where the fossil was found and responses poured in. One collector described the piece as the “Holy Grail” of sharks teeth. Collectors were especially in awe by the fossil’s pristine condition. There are no teeth missing. This is a rare find,” she said.

The MLS welcomed more than 440,000 visitors last year and is lauded as one of the best family friendly museums in the Southeastern US with informational displays, participatory exhibits, and acres of outdoor installations with which visitors young and old can interact including live animals in natural habitats, a butterfly house and the aforementioned Dinosaur Trail.

Seeing Duke In 3-D

Durham is fortunate to be home to many great things, Duke University among them.  The folks at Duke have done something pretty amazing that serves as an enhancement for the university, but also for the surrounding community and those that visit.

Read on about a new three dimensional map, and how it will be used by all.

Seeing Duke in 3D Duke Today
Marsha A. Green
Chris Sardinas faced the front of Forlines House on Chapel Drive and panned a camera across the building from right to left, capturing 12 photographs of the building that houses Duke Alumni Affairs.
Chris Sardinas, left, and Robert Stephens,
photographers with concept3D, check a
map before setting out on a six-day project
to take photos of  325 campus buildings.
Their photos will be used to help create a
three-dimensional model of campus. 
He walked by the original 1930s stone of the entryway and turned a corner around the sunroom. 
"I'm trying to take pictures that show the structure of the building," said Sardinas, brushing aside a twig obstructing the view before snapping another photo and moving to the next section of the building.
Sardinas and fellow photographer, Robert Stephens, will take thousands of photographs like these through Monday, Aug. 1, as part of a Duke campus 3-D modeling and mapping project. Their photographs will help create a detailed, three-dimensional model of Duke and a data-rich two-dimensional map. This will give virtual visitors the opportunity to enjoy the gothic architecture of campus and offer faculty, staff and students the ability to create customized maps for events and programs at Duke. 
"It will give us the ability to present as close to a real-time, real-place portrait of the campus as we can get," said Michael Schoenfeld, vice president for public affairs and government relations at Duke. "Viewing the campus in three dimensions will make this experience more breathtaking."
Duke hired concept3D, a computer modeling firm from Boulder, Colo., to create highly accurate, computer-generated models of the exteriors of 325 buildings across the university campus and medical center. Concept3D will combine these models with existing detailed two-dimensional maps and other information provided by Duke to create the three-dimensional model of Duke and update Duke's online campus map
The model will be available to the public through Google Earth and incorporated into Duke's website and mobile map applications later this year.
"The field of mapping is changing rapidly and we have been considering for several years how to respond to the demand for new interactive maps of Duke," Schoenfeld said. "Students, visitors and staff are beginning to expect to be able to create customized tours and navigate around a virtual campus as easily as they do the real one."
Duke Facilities Management and Medical Center Engineering and Operations Department are providing campus maps, architectural plans and aerial photos to concept3D to ensure that the building models are precisely created and placed in Google Earth. The modelers will use details from the thousands of photos to "paint" the correct colors and textures on building exteriors and ensure that unique architectural details, such as gargoyles, are included.
In a separate but related project, another group - the Google Maps Street View team - will arrive on campus in August to take more photographs. They will capture views along Duke's private roads and pedestrian areas and also create 360-degree interior photos of some of Duke's more famous buildings for Google Maps with Street View. 
The result of these projects will be a new campus map that allows users to toggle between the three-dimensional Google Earth model and a traditional two-dimensional map that integrates with Google Maps Street View. Duke will be able to add layers of information to this map, such as parking and dining options, bus routes and wheelchair accessible entries.
Users will be able to view the map and data in a two-dimensional interactive format on a mobile device at, or in 3-D on more powerful devices through Duke's website. Users will also be able to choose a portion of the map and the levels they are interested in and create a printable PDF.  
"We've found that students like 3-D, but their parents still like paper maps," said Oliver Davis, CEO of concept3D. 
Schoenfeld expects that as soon as the new 3-D campus and upgraded  maps project appear online, departments across the university will invent different ways to use the information, from creating virtual tours to planning emergency drills. 
"It's an exciting project because the ability to add information and develop location-based services and applications will transform our digital media in ways that we can't yet predict," Schoenfeld said. 

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Bulls Hit 6000 Wins in 18-3 Blow Out Against Charlotte

Durham's 6000th win as a franchise was arguably the team's most impressive this season, 18-3 at Charlotte on Tuesday night. Matt Moore struck out nine in five shutout innings and had more than enough offensive support.

Moore (2-0) didn't allow a runner past first base, fanning nine and allowing three singles and a walk.

Durham (61-47) had all it would need by the end of the third inning. Durham took advantage of a pair of walks to start the first, scoring two against Joe Bisenius (3-1) on a Stephen Vogt groundout and a Dan Johnson single.

The Bulls knocked Bisenius out after three, scoring five in the third on a Russ Canzler RBI single, a three-run double from Nevin Ashley and a J.J. Furmaniak base hit.

Durham tied a season-high with 18 runs, as Canzler, Johnson and Reid Brignac all homered. Canzler had four hits and Johnson four RBI. Vogt belted three doubles and newcomer Matt Carson was on base three times.

Durham now has scored 18 runs in each of its last two road games, after collecting 27 total runs in the previous nine home games combined.

Durham now has a one-game lead over Gwinnett in the South Division with 34 games remaining. The Braves fell 4-3 in 10 innings to Indianapolis.

Durham takes on Charlotte again on Wednesday with LHP Alex Torres on the mound against RHP Matt Zaleski. Coverage begins at 7 pm, with first pitch on 620 the Buzz at 7:15.