When I knew I was going to finish my doctoral dissertation, I started applying for professor gigs. Of course, I didn't know when I was going to finish it until it was done. So I was somewhat late to the cycle.
By the time I sent my vita out, there were only about 3 calls, the most interesting from the University of Idaho in Moscow.
When I was young, I used to visit my dad's sister and her family in Boise, so I was somewhat familiar with Idaho. But not this part of Idaho. Here, they brag about being the Lentil capital of the world (Neil would love it). Not 24x7 excitement, but a nice little town.
People used to ask "Is that the potato part or the white supremacist part". Without hesitating, I'd answer "the white supremacist part". After living in NOLA, and moving to Moscow, Idaho, I was shocked at the lack of non-honkies. Oh well. This is also the place where I proclaimed, after eating yet another bland meal, "they think spices are the work of the devil".
And there's nothing like telling your fiancee in Prague that "we're moving to Moscow". Visions of tanks driving through town danced in her head.
But don't get me wrong. I took the job for a reason. The people there were really cool.
Coolest among them was the former chair of the department, John Dickinson, or as we called him, JohnD.
He was what I yearned to be. Nice to everyone (really), exceedingly competent, good with students, doing meaningful research, and had a life outside work. He was the founder of genetic programming, and was doing it before Koza, before anybody. Even after I left Idaho, I could give him a call or drop him an email, he was that kind of guy.
You may recall, in one of the first instances of enforcing the patriot act, a University of Idaho student, Sami Omar Al-Hussayen, was arrested. Supposedly, he was running a bunch of terrorist websites.
Ya wanna know what happened? When you register a domain, you have to put down an administrative contact and a technical contact. When a group was registering the domains for these websites, they asked Sami if they could put him down as the technical contact, since he was pursuing his PhD in Computer Science. Sure, he said.
That's about it.
And the feds went after him like Halliburton goes after no-bid contracts.
This guy was leading candlelight vigils after 9/11. He was a student in one of my classes. He was not a terrorist.
When all was said and done, Sami's life in the US was ruined. However, his PhD advisor, JohnD stuck by him, and when Sami left for Riyadh after being acquitted of all charges, JohnD told Sami he could continue to work with him, and finish his PhD.
The whole incident so outraged JohnD that he decided to do something.
He ran for office. He became a city councilman. Then he became President of the council. He was possibly going to shoot even higher. He wasn't just talking, he wasn't politicking, he was doing.
On Sunday, January 7, JohnD pulled off to the side of the road to help a stranded driver. While he was helping, a third car came toward them, and crashed into JohnD's car. To avoid getting hit, JohnD jumped over the guard rail.
Thank you for remembering my mother and the pictures posted in memory of the Katrina victims. I will continue to keep her and her friends in New Orleans in my prayer. "God Help Us" is the message that I'm sure my mother would've love to carry on and in hope that this will never happen again.
I've been feeling really not good this week, especially the past couple of days. The investigative reporting stuff isn't my bag, and I don't have the stomach for too much of it. But I'm fighting the good fight to help this damn city of my dreams get back on her feet, cleaner than ever.
So I'm hoping that NOLA will give me something to grab for. Hey, it worked for Ric Ocasek...no wonder he didn't go back on tour with the Cars. Stay at home and stare at my wife, or play for old drunks...hmmm.
BTW, Ocasek means "cute little tail" in Czech. "I'd like Things Only Ashley Knows for a thousand, Alex."
Speaking of Kermit, February 12 is the release date of "Kermit Ruffins live at Vaughn's". Recipe for a party: Rum, Daiquiri machine, this album. If Kermit shows up, you may have to add ganja to the equation. Hey! Whoa!
Well, well...a little investigative journalism, and it turns out that Chris Rose, in his feeble attempt to slam Shelley Midura, has opened a big ol' can-o-worms.
The point of his little tome seemed to be "Shelley is bad, because she's making these poor people go to court, instead of changing the zoning laws all by her lonesome".
It's more like "These poor people thought that Jay Batt would fix everything for them, but then he went and lost the election, and Shelley ain't on the take, what do we do now?"
Here's the deal: Greg Sonnier bought The Uptowner, assuming he could turn it into a restaurant.
The address of The Uptowner, 438 Henry Clay, is not zoned for a restaurant, but Mr. Sonnier got in touch with his fraternity brother BillKearney. Mr. Kearney, as you may recall, was a campaign consultant for the likes of RonForman, StacyHead, and of course, JayBatt.
Mr. Kearney spoke with Mr. Batt, and then Mr. Kearney assured Mr. Sonnier that there would be no problem in getting the property rezoned, "once the election was over". Alas, Mr. Batt was soundly defeated by Ms. Midura, so Mr. Sonnier's flunky in city hall was no longer there.
Then Mr. Sonnier approached the new councilperson, Ms. Midura, during her first week in office. Mr. Sonnier was informed by Ms. Midura's office of the correct way to go about requesting a change in zoning.
Mr. Sonnier chose to ignore that advice because he thought he had found a "loophole that could be exploited".
Significant opposition arose and Ms. Midura offered to mediate, but both the neighborhood and Mr. Sonnier refused. The neighborhood then chose to appeal the determination to the BZA (Board of Zoning Adjustments).
Mr. Sonnier then went to Civil District Court to get a restraining order against the city, disputing the BZA's right to hear this matter as it had exceeded the 45 day limit. Alas, he did not realize that the Council had suspended these types of time limits in October 2006.
While the matter is pending litigation, Ms. Midura has been advised by the City Attorney to not comment or get involved, as it is before the court and may damage the city's case.
Unlike in the Batt means Bidness days, there is no role the Council can play at this point, as the issue may come before the Council in the form of a zoning change or conditional use, and any bias on either side would then prejudice any decision, and open it up to legal challenges from the losing side.
Faced with losing in court, and then likely losing at the BZA, Mr. Sonnier and associates have mounted a relentless campaign to bully and embarrass Ms. Midura, aided by a press that is more opinion than fact check. Mr. Batt would be proud: getting Chris Rose to do your dirty work!
This looks like a message: If one knowingly chooses not to follow the legal process in district A, one cannot count on the current councilmember to re-write law to accommodate one's lack of appreciation for the laws of New Orleans.
I wonder if Mr. Rose can appreciate that kind of integrity?
No, it would get in the way of his slow-roasted duck.