Casualty of Capitalism

Exiled into Wilmington, Delaware by virtue of corporate layoffs. (Note: Unless otherwise stated, all photos on this blog are Copyright 2005, Michael Collins, and cannot be used without permission.)

Location: Wilmington, Delaware, United States

Graduate of University of Maryland School of Law; University of Maryland, College Park (Economics/Political Science).

Monday, February 28, 2005

A Sunday Drive, Part I

I took a short drive on Sunday south of Elkton to see what the state of Maryland has to offer on its Eastern Shore. Lots of farms and quaint little towns were the order of the day. I have split this photo essay into a couple parts, because dial-up is killing me. I must learn patience. I hope you enjoy it!

Chestertown, Maryland is one of the many character-laden small towns on Maryland's Eastern Shore with water access to the Chesapeake Bay. Surrounded by little more than farmland, this oasis is a portal into the early era of our country. Home to Washington College, claimant to the title of "First College Chartered in the New Nation - 1782", there is plenty to see for those wanting to gaze on a slice of life in the late 18th century. And I'm sure the fishing and crabbing are quite nice, too! Posted by Hello

Visitors from France might see some of Paris in this building, minus the red brick. Chestertown's historical district boasts a number of centuries old buildings and historical gems. The crest on this building reads "STAM'S HALL 1886". Next door is an old theatre and historic hotel. It may not be the big city, but Chestertown is big on history. Posted by Hello

Some of the large houses in the historical district. Several homes date back to the infancy of the United States. Posted by Hello

With the historical buildings, it's all about brick. This house was built the year our Constitution was ratified (1789). Want a piece of history? The house is currently for sale. Posted by Hello

This old-school, colonial architectural look is distinctly Maryland, and widespread throughout the Eastern Shore. Posted by Hello

The style of this house would look familiar to anyone who has attended the University of Maryland, College Park. Posted by Hello

A classic front porch. Posted by Hello

I also took a brief hike through a National WIldlife Refuge south of Rock Hill. This time of year perhaps is not the best time to see nature in all its glory.
 Posted by Hello

Sunday, February 27, 2005

The refuge was fairly free of wildlife on this day unless you count the thousands of Canadian Geese and Starlings. I did see quite a few Cardinals and bluebirds of some sort, but they were too shifty to catch in a camera frame. The only furry animal I saw was a roadkill raccoon at the refuge's entrance. Some refuge. I think Ricky Raccoon's parents have a good cause of action for negligence, wrongful death, and false advertising.
 Posted by Hello

Dial Up Blows

I took a trip about 45 miles south of Elkton today and hoped to post photos of it. Instead, my dial-up connection is ruining my day. I listened to all of U2's "How to Dismantle an Atomic Bomb" and only achieved the posting of two out of 15 pics during that time. I guess I will post the remainder in installments as the week progresses and (hopefully) the connection is better. Sorry.

Saturday, February 26, 2005

'Dynamite' Terps

Please don't forget to read my ACC Basketblog column this week. The Terps are a constant source of frustration. As my recent columns have noted, to get your arms around this year's squad requires more knowledge of psychology than basketball strategy. Here is a taste from my column:

I nearly spit out my coffee this morning when I read this statement from Maryland's anguished starting point guard:

"I don't know how everybody else feels, but it's just a game," [Terps G John Gilchrist] said. "It always should be a fun thing. It's not like you walk out on the floor and it's like, 'I must win this game' or 'We need to go to the NCAA tournament.' Putting all this pressure on it, it's downright silly, in my opinion."

[Insert spit take here.]

Having fun is for the non-scholarship players in Division III basketball. If you get a free ride to an ACC school, you damn straight better feel like each game is a "must win" and that you "need to go to the NCAA tournament." What is Gilchrist talking about?

Gary Williams is not amused by his team's inconsistancy. Personally, regardless of his talent level, I think G John Gilchrist has to go after this season ends. His antics and lack of team mentality are the cancer destroying this team. Rather than having his head in Maryland's games, it is somewhere on an NBA court. Let's hope his body joins it next year.

Today's View From the Boondocks

One of the benefits of the 45 minute commute is the scenery I get to wake up to in the morning living far from the city. Having just purchased a house in the city, this is a view I will have to savor while it lasts. Posted by Hello

Thursday, February 24, 2005

Winter Weather

A snowy day in the neighborhood. Not quite as much as forecast, but enough to close the office early. I'll take it. Posted by Hello

Wednesday, February 23, 2005

Sportsmanship and Race

Though a week late, I should point out a column on ACC Basketblog by my friend Ed. Using the "throat slash" taunt as an example, Ed writes about something missing from many areas of life these days: class. In the context of sportsmanship and race, Ed's essay is both controversial and thought provoking:

The essence of the question is this: Do White people blow the actions of Black players (or, white players who “act” black) out of proportion? Aren’t these actions just a natural expression of emotion and culture i.e. you dunk on your boy in the hood, you give him the throat slash and a little trash talk to take home with him?

When I first considered his query, I was quick to reason "they probably do over react." Upon considering the matter more closely (perhaps, 2 minutes more closely) I came to a more disturbing conclusion. What White people and the majority media thought was not the most important issue at hand. The most important issue was an apparent acknowledgement by two highly intelligent Black males that throat slashing, trash talk, boorishness (even when they back it up) and stupidity (UNC is like being in jail?) were cultural norms and should be overlooked by white people as just part of who these players are.

How unfortunate. How sad. How dangerous. How…..absolutely unreasonable and contrary to everything that my Black parents and his Black parents and most of my close friends' Black parents had ever taught us about sportsmanship and how to conduct ourselves as reasonable and respectful people. How twisted that we, if even for a moment, would attempt to take cultural ownership of the very traits and stereotypes that our parents marched, begged, and bled to rid our race of. How telling that in 2005, if even for a brief moment, two educated Black males would consider what is right, “white”, and move to take ownership of what is clearly and unequivocally wrong as “Black culture” and, therefore, forgivable.

Ed is a classy guy himself, and this gutsy column is well worth reading the whole thing.

Eminent Domain, Pt. 2

Yesterday I wrote about how dangerous the abuse of eminent domain is. Today, there is a story in the Washington Post about how yesterday's Kelo v. City of New London, Conn. case might affect the DC baseball stadium plan should the Supreme Court side with the plaintiffs.

The city needs roughly 21 acres to build a baseball stadium for the Washington Nationals near the Anacostia waterfront, and some of the landowners around the stadium have said they do not want to sell.

"Assuming the [Supreme] Court rules that there are constitutional restrictions on the power of eminent domain for private purposes, the issue will be whether the stadium is really for a public purpose or the giveaway to Major League Baseball that people say it is," said Dale Cooter, an attorney who represents the owner of a porn shop on the baseball site. "This is MLB masquerading as a public good." The owner of the shop does not want to move.

David A. Fuss, a land-use attorney at Wilkes Artis, agreed, saying the "ultimate impact [on the District] could be that condemning private property for baseball doesn't meet the Supreme Court's ruling on what are the standards of public use.

"That could grind to a halt the entire stadium construction and development," Fuss said, and leave landowners able to demand whatever price they want from the city.

Though a soon to be big fan of the Nationals, I hope DC loses on this one. If the precident is set that the government can take private property for any greater public use, including giving the land to private companies for the purpose of economic development (thus generating larger tax receipts), then private property rights in this country will be nothing but a myth.

But DC also has reason to be optimistic that a decision in the plaintiff's favor will not hurt their plan to use eminent domain to evict the resident porn peddlers from what they hope will be the stadium grounds.

[DC Mayor Anthony] Williams disagreed, saying the Kelo case is unlikely to affect the stadium because the facility would be owned by the city. But he did say that if the ballpark were leased at "too low a rate" to the Nationals' owner, an argument could be made that it is benefiting a private entity and the Kelo case would apply.

The stadium is likely to be funded through public funds, thereby making it no different than a school (a traditionally permissible reason for use of eminent domain). It will be a public facility rented to a private business. But therein lies the rub. If the rent terms are too favorable, the appearance that the sweetheart deal is nothing more than a partnership with the private company could remove the insulation the city would get from the public construction.

There is a good argument that sometimes allowing the taking would have the best affect on development and progress. For instance, in Silver Spring, MD, where I grew up, the city spent years trying to come up with a plan to redevelop the downtown area. The "Silver Triangle" project hoped to turn a burnt out downtown into a vibrant consumer mecca. Unfortunately, in the areas targeting for redevelopment some individuals did not want to leave and demolition never occurred. Now many years later, Silver Spring is showing life and the promise that had been envisioned in the mid-80's. I am not sure what broke the log jam, but I do know that much of what had been slated for destruction still stands, but has been renovated and greatly improved. There are ways around every problem, and government takings are not always the solution.

"The government wants to take my property and give it to another private developer, and I believe that that's not what America stands for," said Larry Hoffman, who owns some small offices there and manages about 50,000 square feet of retail shops for landlords at Skyland. "I don't have a problem if the government wants to take my property and build a highway for the public good. . . . But to simply give it to somebody else to make money, why is he any better than I am?"

This is all theory for now as we wait for the final opinion. I'm pulling for the plaintiff, but apparently she didn't do so well on oral arguments.

Spontaneous Combustion

I always thought the concept of spontaneous human combustion was a little wacky. How could a person all of a sudden self-immolate without warning? Well, after reading today's New York Times story on nano-technology, such happenings do not seem so far fetched:

Dr. Naomi J. Halas, a professor of electrical and computer engineering at Rice University, invented a type of particle she calls nanoshells - hollow gold or silver spheres wrapped around a filling of silica.

The hollow shape makes sloshing electrons in the gold particularly efficient at absorbing energy from light, and changing the thickness of the shell changes the frequency of light absorbed. That makes it a promising treatment for killing cancer tumors. Inject nanoshells into a tumor, shine infrared light on them, and they heat up, killing the tumor.

In demonstrations, researchers in Dr. Halas's lab squirt nanoshells into uncooked chicken parts and then shine a near infrared laser on the chicken. Water does not absorb much infrared light, so the laser light passes through most of the chicken meat without effect. But the nanoshells aborb the energy and heat up. The spot they were injected starts smoking and catches fire. (In actual treatments, a much lower intensity of light would be used, killing the cancer cells but not cooking flesh.)

Now I just need to read the story somewhere that a person has invented time travel and perhaps we can start investigating past instances of spontaneous combustion as homicides. All one would need is the right nano-mix in the victim's glass of water, a large infrared projector, and a nice bush to hide behind. Ready,!

Tuesday, February 22, 2005

Eminent Domain

Professor Bainbridge writes about Supreme Court oral arguments today in the Kelo case regarding eminent domain. ED is the government's right to seize land from private owners in exchange for fair market value where that land is to be used for the benefit of the citizens at large. Traditionally, this power was restricted to such things as taking land to build highways or install public works facilities. Lately, local governments have been stealing land...I mean taking land ("fair" value isn't typically truly fair) from private owners and giving the land to corporations such as Walmart, Home Depot, and Target. Why? Because the potential tax receipts from these mega-box stores far outstrips any puny trickle to be had from something like a private residence or a patch of farmland. The burgeoning government beast needs to be fed, and the property of private citizens is being taken to do so. Prof. Bainbridge explains how insidious and arrogant these policies are.

Coming from Mayor Daley's Chicago, these communistic programs (in one of the instances where the word is very apt) are an affront to our country's founding principles regarding private ownership rights.

The Elkton Ghost

Tonight there was an eerie full moon in Elkton. The house I live in is built on the foundation of a building on a fort complex that saw battle in the War of 1812. During law school I used to study here in order to get away from the bustle and distractions in Baltimore. A couple of nights I had some rather...interesting experiences while sleeping in the house. Did a tormented soul meet his untimely end in what is now my basement? Did he need his story told? While recording in the house a couple years ago, a musician brother of mine was inspired to write a song called "Dead Man." Since then, the ghost has not returned.

When I was a kid I loved ghost stories. I was probably one of the few fourth graders reading Poe. But what would I do if I came face to face with a walking spirit? Considering the evening sky, I wonder...will it be tonight?? Posted by Hello

[I snapped the above photo when I returned home from work tonight. In case it isn't obvious, I enhanced the photo just a wee bit using Adobe Photoshop. In reality, things looked more like this.] Posted by Hello

The Life They Lead

This is a gripping article about life in my new hometown, Wilmington, DE. Drug dealers and abusers have scared residents of certain neighborhoods into their homes in cities across the country. Wilmington is no different. There cannot be a more selfish brand of human being than the drug dealer. He destroys not only the neighborhoods in which he peddles his illegal doses, but the lives of his own clients, just to make a few illicit bucks. With no sense of honor, duty, or shame, the dealer obliterates whole communities. The hyperlinked article explains how citizens are humiliated and afraid to protect their own neighborhoods. Chilling stuff.

[R]esidents of the tough neighborhoods in which 97 shootings occurred last year say they're plagued with the gnawing fear of stray bullets - or that someone peddling heroin or crack cocaine will intentionally aim a gun at them. It's changed their daily lives:

• They strictly limit the time their children can play outside.

• On stifling summer days, they sit inside rather than catch a breeze on their porches or front stoops.

• They literally jump off their chairs and hit the floor when a car backfires - or when actual shots are fired.

• And some who played important roles in holding neighborhoods together have moved away, vowing never to return.

Nobody should be forced to live this way.

Monday, February 21, 2005

This Is Definitely Not Chicago

Elkton, Maryland is located on the east side of the Susquehanna River just on the northern tip of the Chesapeake Bay. The business district along Main Street is only about three blocks long and is dominated by a drab, soulless courthouse. Many large historical homes line Main Street north of its business center, and the town boasts a history going back to the Revolutionary War. Heading east of town is one eyesore strip mall after another all the way to Wilmington, DE to the north. If you don't have a pickup truck here, it's obvious you're not a local. I was informed today that I am only a few miles from the largest congregation of KKK morons in the whole state. Below I have a posted a few more pictures with commentary about this little blue collar town. Posted by Hello

Elkton's town motto is, "Memories are made in Elkton...Forever". Why? The thing about this town that supplies its notoriety in these parts (as they might these parts) is that Elkton is the place to get a quickie marriage. This chapel carries on a decades old tradition of servicing elopers from all over the region.  Posted by Hello

This house was apparently built in 1789. It looks that way, judging from the shutters. Elkton is one of those "George Washington slept here" kind of towns, with a history going back to the Revolutionary War and War of 1812 days. Much of the historical pride in the town comes from the moment when Washington and his troops stayed in Elkton during a march from Valley Forge to Yorktown. Or so I read on a placard. Posted by Hello

Close to the Chesapeake Bay, Elkton is an excellent place to get some good seafood. Today in fact, I ate some Chesapeake Fries at the Howard Hotel Restaurant. The fries came smothered in cheese and topped with Maryland crab and Old Bay seasoning. The lack of fresh crabs in Chicago was a major drawback. Posted by Hello

Where I Live

Main Street. Elkton, Maryland. This is not exactly the Loop in Chicago. The center of commerce in this county seat in Cecil County extends for about three blocks. In three more blocks, past several large, historical houses, you have left the city limits. Just a slight change from Wrigleyville. Posted by Hello

Some Good Signs From Iraq

Is the insurgency considering suspending major operations in Iraq? Some news suggests that the Iraqi elections have had an immense effect on the willingness of former Saddamites to fight on.

The regular newspapers have in their own way chronicled the insurgency's decline. The new European friendliness towards the Bush administration; Kofi Annan's pitiful attempt to claim credit for the Iraqi elections; America's recent agressiveness towards Syria; Senator Clinton's newfound optimism; the Ba'athist recent despair -- each chronicles after its fashion the story of defeat -- though the reader is left to deduce who is defeated.

This says nothing about the Islamic fanatics, but rational nationalists (of the old regime) may be ready to sue for peace. But the efforts of our own and the Iraqi elections may be bearing welcome fruits.

First Time Homeowners

My fiance and I today found out that we are soon to be first-time homebuyers. Our offer on a nice home in Wilmington, DE was accepted, and now comes the fun: the time and expense between acceptance of the offer and the settlement date. Long ago I worked at a real estate law firm, basically as the copy boy. You know, "Mike. Mikey. Mike-a-roni. Mikestar. The Mike-a-nator. Making copieeees!" Through that job I learned a little something about what goes into closing on a home, and how stressful it can be for the people signing their lives away. As one page after another fed through the copy machine, I used to wonder whether more trees died in the construction of the house, or in the making of all the documents to be signed at settlement.

Today is day number one. We made an offer and it was accepted immediately. Makes you wonder whether we just got taken to the bank. But the process really starts heating up this week as we start ordering all the inspections and paperwork. I guess as a service to anyone else out there engaging in their first home purchase, I will post regularly on how we go about doing what we do to try to hit settlement day, pens in hand, and ready to sign hopefully without regrets and with as little hassle as possible. So stay tuned!

Saturday, February 19, 2005

Why I Don't Respect Most College Students

After Maryland's win over Duke last week, the students poured into the streets of College Park and some caused extensive property damage. Riot police were on location, a fact announced well before the game, and apparent to those who attended. Nevermind that beating Duke isn't quite as special as it once was, say about four years ago. The students still took the win as their cue to take the celebration to the streets and, inevitably, some losers decided to start breaking stuff. Everyone knows it's going to happen. Even those who are "innocently" celebrating. They're out there partly to watch those who will break stuff do it, because they want to say they were there. I remember being like that myself (but we never beat anyone when I went to Maryland, so I didn't get the chance).

What I do remember is that any time there was an opportunity for gawking, Maryland students were all over it like a wet blanket. When a drunk driver killed two students near campus, he barracaded himself in his College Park home. Unfortunately, he lived right near frat row. When the swat team came in to negotiate with the guy, the spectacle turned into a huge street party. Eventually the police stormed the house and the guy committed suicide. Fun.

Another night I was coming home from the bars and witnessed a fight between to groups of guys. One guy had a bottle smashed over his head, which chopped off one side of his face. Unfortunately, this happened right near a Wawa off campus. Soon, as everyone left the bars to get their late night snacks, it became a huge spectacle. This guy bleeding profusely with half a face. Another party atmosphere. Ridiculous.

So Maryland students riot again, which they have done nearly every time we've beaten Duke in the last five years. The worst was when my sister was a student and some morons burned a bonfire on a residential neighborhood street and caused over $100,000 damage to cable TV wires, knocking out cable to half of College Park. My sister reported that when the fire trucks showed up, the students beat back the firemen by throwing bottles at them in order to protect their raging blaze. That's responsible.

This time the police were ready and showed no mercy. Good. But the whiney students didn't like being told what to do or take responsibility for their actions. When the police busted some heads and tried to disperse the crowds using tear gas, some "innocent by-standers" were injured. Here is a sample from the editorial in the Maryland student paper:

Saturday: University students and bar-crawlers pour into the city’s downtown area in celebration of the Terrapin men’s basketball team’s defeat of the Duke University Blue Devils — a perennial rivalry (at least with this university’s students) that sparked similar celebrations in the past.

Fast forward to Tuesday.

After the pepper spray and tear gas settled, university administrators chose to hurl rhetorical denunciations of the riot at a broad range of students, despite the small number who were arrested for allegedly committing violent acts. Meanwhile, sophomore letters and sciences major Stephen Lippenholz recovered from a pepper ball shot to the face in a county hospital while seven other university students presumably returned to class after spending at least a few hours in police custody.

And so far, that’s all we’ve seen from the university administration: aimless frustration, spinelessness and a crumbling resolve. The student body’s seen nothing more than complaints in The Diamondback, on television and in area newspapers — no tangible interest in the welfare of students who may have been wrongly injured or arrested in the riots. Prince George’s County Police have continued to refuse to release details related to individual arrests that night. They also will not say if they have documentable policy on riot control and the use of pepper ball guns.

The administration should be interested if police know what they’re doing when they fire weapons into a crowd of university students. Right now, we have no idea if they actually do. The university should be interested in what its students actually did that night and if those actions warranted arrest. Right now, we have no proof they did. Instead, the student body has a university administration that’s sitting around a board table, fumbling with what they think is a public relations disaster (and it is) rather than a possible denial of students’ rights.

Conveniently left out of this article is that the "similar celebrations" in the past all resulted in massive property damage. It wasn't just a bunch of kids high-fiving and chanting innocent cheers. Always there were injuries, arrests, and property damage. So the police were prepared this time and took action. And everyone was on notice that they would do so. Yet...

It is the uncaring administration who doesn't care about the "students' rights." It's always about the students' rights. I'm not certain that any mob has the right to pour into the streets and clog up traffic. Or throw things at the police. Or destroy public and private property.

When you participate in a mob situation that has no aim, you can expect disorder and mayhem. It's inevitable. Everyone out there is complicit in a way. The police did their jobs: try to maintain order and prevent property damage. That some "innocent" students were injured is unfortunate but not unforeseeable.

With students, it's always about them and their so-called rights. Me, me, me. College is a four year vacation from reality, my dear students. Just wait until you leave campus and you'll see how lenient your employers, community, and the authorities are when you step out of line. Grow up.

Thursday, February 17, 2005

CTA Suicide

This is rather disturbing. It would have happened about the time I left the office at my old job in Chicago.

Unfortunately, this story has already been seen on news stations... and reported incorrectly until later tonight.

A lady just jumped. I was standing merely 50 feet from her. The whole thing was surreal, and as of this moment, I don't know if I still fully comprehend what I saw.

ACC Basketblog

Don't forget to check out my Friday column on ACC Basketblog. The site is growing fast, so be one of the first on your block to say you were there at the beginning!

A sample from this week:

Have you ever noticed when looking at the extended weather forecast, sometimes the days furthest out will have nearly identical high and low temperatures? Whenever I see that, I think to myself, Nice try…The weatherman has no idea what is going to happen and he is playing it safe (unlike usual when he has no idea and is just taking a wild stab at it). That is the approach I feel like taking with this week's column. Writing about a bunch of nothing, because in this 6-6 conference season, I don't know what is going to happen with these Terps (15-8, overall) and I would prefer to play it safe.

I'm Back!

Here it is, my first post from Elkton, Maryland. The move went great. With the exception of a slight (mistaken) detour into Michigan and some dicey weather on both ends, the trip went off without a hitch. On the Chicago side, packing the truck was a little treacherous, mostly due to the foot of snow on the ground and how that made the back stairs to my apartment and the inside of the truck slick. I fell down the stairs three times. Luckily I survived with only a couple scratches.

On the Elkton end, we ran into some snow/ice/rain as we crossed into Pennsylvania, then through Maryland. It didn't stop here until there were another five inches of snow on the ground. That made getting the U-Haul truck out of the driveway an adventure. The driveway is so long, it's actually a street. And from the house, a good portion of it is uphill. It took a couple tries to get it up hill, but I succeeded. Than I had my fiance block the road with my car while I gunned the truck the rest of the way out of the driveway. Nobody got hurt, so it was a fun time!

Elkton is no Chicago, that's for sure. Neither is Wilmington, DE. Unfotunately, I have only dial-up internet access at the moment, so I am not sure how often I will have the patience to post a photo. Eventually, when I find a permanent residence, I will get back to full photoblogging. For now, I'll have to describe through words.

So as the fiance's cat sits on my shoulders while I type, I thank you for your patience.