• Default
  • Blue
  • Green
  • Red
  • Black
myExtraContent1 (only enabled when style-switcher is on)
myExtraContent2 (only enabled when clock bar is on)
myExtraContent5 (reserved for mega-menu navigation option)
myExtraContent8 (only enabled when header search bar is on)
myExtraContent10 (used for the content of a second sidebar container)


Alma Wins the Spelling Bee

Le Mot de la Fin_The Final World

The Final Word / Le Mot de la Fin

Forest View Elementary School, Durham, January 19, 2012

Most elementary schools in Durham participate in the spelling bee. Forest View, where Trisha teaches and our girls went or are, is one of them. Thursday was the final stage of the competition at the school level. Each class had a winner within the class, and they were all competing against each other, from 1st grade to 5th grade. Alma was representing her class. She is in 5th grade. There were 24 children in this final round.

Each child was asked to spell a word picked from a list suiting this age group, going through all the students,
Spelling Bee
and then starting again, and if there was an error, she/he was eliminated, . There was probably one third of boys at the beginning, although at a point, they almost caught up 5 boys vs. 6 girls left.

Eventually there were only three children left standing, and to everyone's wonder, apart from two 5th grade girls, the third challenger was a first grade boy who kept spelling properly, word after word after word, as if he had memorized the dictionary.
Asian little girl with iphone camera
Eventually he stumbled and it was left to the two 5th grade girls, Abbey and Alma. Abbey had been impressive all along, lots of assurance and elegance, but she eventually stumbled on "malevolent." In order to win, Alma had then to spell correctly one more word, "Camelot" and she did.

I can't begin to express how stressful this was for my old heart, same for Trisha. We wanted her to win so badly,
Forest View_AlmaSpelling Bee
naturally, and yet it did not seem that Abbey could not win. I guess Alma was so relaxed, and is it seems, a natural.

Now she goes to the regional (Durham and nearby counties level). I probably will not survive, but I am happy for her.

La plupart des écoles élémentaires de Durham participe au concours d'orthographe, vu que l'Anglais aussi a une orthographe qui peut devenir compliquée.
Spellin Bee
Forest View, où Trisha enseigne. où Olivia est allée et ou Alma est en dernière année (5th Grade) participe à la compétition. Jeudi était le jour de la finale de l'école. Chaque classe avait un gagnant qui avait battu les élèves de la classe, et tous (24) représentaient chacune des classes depuis le 1st grade (cours élém 1) au 5th grade (cours moyen 2). Alma représentait sa classe.

Chaque enfant devait épeler un mot choisi au hasard parmi une liste appropriée pour ce groupe d'âge, et puis l'on recommençait.
Spellin Bee
Chaque erreur résultait en élimination directe, pas de rattrapage. Il y avait à peu près un tiers de garçons au début, mais `å un certain point ils avaient presque rattrapé les filles, 5 lascars contre 6 filles.

Au bout de près d'une heure et demie, il n'en resta que trois, et à la stupéfaction générale, il y avait un petit bout de chou de 1st grade qui continuer d'épeler mot après mot, faisant jeu égal avec les 2 filles de 5th grade, comme si il avait appris par coeur l'encyclopédie Britannica.
Spellin Bee
Il finit par commettre une erreur, et la compétition fut alors entre Abbey et Alma. Abbey avait été éblouissante toute la soirée, beaucoup d'assurance et d'élégance, mais "malevolent" eut finalement raison d'elle. Alma devait alors épeler "camelot" pour gagner, et elle le fit.

Je ne puis épeler de mots suffisamment savants pour décrire combien cette épreuve fut infiniment plus dommageable pour mon coeur de quinquagénaire et pour celui de Trisha que pour Alma. Nous voulions tellement qu'elle gagne, forcément, alors qu'il ne semblait pas possible de battre Abbey. Mais Alma était apparemment parfaitement sereine et calme, une naturelle de l'orthographe.

Maintenant elle va au niveau suivant, le "régional" (Durham Chapel-Hill). Je n'y survivrai probablement pas, mais je suis content pour elle.


How I Saved $1,500. Buying our Hyundai

Our 1991 Volvo 740 Turbo Station Wagon, 207k miles was showing its age, calling for a renewal, but we wanted a station wagon, something that mainstream car manufacturers
barely produce anymore. In order to have access to regular mechanics, especially one in our neighborhood who is fantastic, we did not want another Volvo, and even less a BMW or Mercedes. These are good cars but too expensive and complicated to maintain. The Volkswagen Jetta Sportswagen was also certainly attractive, but its reliability track record is not good at all, and while turbo diesel is a fabulous technology, it would take gas at $5. a gallon to make it worth the investment with that car. And when one withdraws those four brands, there is not many station wagons left.

We quickly identified the Hyundai Elantra Touring, as one of the few alternatives. In the end it was in competition with the Honda Fit, a roomy hatchback (which is probably a better choice than the Toyota Matrix), and the Subaru Forester or Outback. The Subarus are great cars, but with comparable amenities they cost respectively 25% and 50% more than the Hyundai, and their gas mileage is not as good. We also don’t like or need a permanent 4 wheel drive. As for the Honda Fit, the Touring is just way more car for roughly the same money or less.

We, therefore, set our desires on a Hyundai Elantra Touring SE (there is a GLS model which is somewhat cheaper), as we keep cars for a long time, and were willing to pay extra for the additional pleasure and comfort, mostly the leather seats and sunroof. The problem was to get that car at the best price, which is a tall order, as the word does not get out much what that price is. It is a poker game against the casino, and one only knows that a price is good when other dealers don’t want to match it, which is what in the end happened here, keep reading.

Through Costco’s Car Buying Program, I was put in contact with West Broad Hyundai in Richmond, VA (888-364-2152). I liked the way they were handling phone calls, but their original pricing was very much along the party line, not impressive at all. Since Hyundai was not offering very good financing on the Touring, I looked at a few options, including Bank of America. As I was looking at their rates, I noticed an option that allowed one to get price offers on a vehicle. The search returned three, two instate that were ok, and one from a dealer in Columbus, South Carolina, $1,350 cheaper than the dealer here in Durham.
Andrew Getchell

I could not believe that price, but the more I looked and inquired, the more it appeared legitimate. None of the local or even, instate dealers, were willing to match it or come close. One was claiming that it would fail, and that I would only discover that when showing up in Columbus. I knew then that my price was good.

I was not very keen on the guys in Columbus, as they were a little brash, or too slick, depending who, and Columbus is just a pain to go to, since there is no direct train or bus from the Triangle, and schedules don’t coincide. Of course, I could have driven there with my wife, and one of us could have driven back the old car, but that was no fun, and a big loss of time for one of us. I knew that there was a direct bus to Richmond from Durham, so at the last minute, I called Andrew Getchell (804-521-6605), who handles internet sales for the
Richmond dealer and told him that in Columbus I could get a Touring SE for $19,150 out of the door, including the accessories we needed. I waited literally less than 5 minutes on the phone, and he came back with a positive response. In the end, we ended up with a price of $19,000, $150 cheaper than in Columbus, and $1500 less than here in the Triangle.

That was on a Friday around 11:00 a.m. We wanted a color that they did not have in stock, but they located one reasonably close, and I was taking delivery of the car on Saturday.

Behind the desk :
Danny Fisher, General Sales Manager
(the guy who will approve your deal, I suppose)

Standing : Kevin Johnson, Special Finance Manager

We Kept passing trucks moving car on our way.

Arrival in Richmond

I took the bus in Durham at 11:35 a.m. and arrived in Richmond around 2:30, ahead of schedule.
Jack Byrne
That left me time to have lunch in a restaurant in the lovely market district near the bus stop, after which I called Andrew Getchell who picked me up. The Touring was there, as anticipated, with less than 100 miles, and zero defect. I was introduced to Jack Byrne who went through all the car details with me, explaining the warranty, the maintenance, how to set the radio and so on …

I went through the papers with Jason Brown, and was impressed with how smooth he was.
Jason Brown
I know, I don’t buy a car very often, but I don’t recall it being so smooth the last time. I had faxed these guys the loan certificate from the bank, plus a couple lines of personal information, that is all, and the printer was now spitting the loan contract, bill of sale etc ... All in all, I spent less than 15 minutes in that office. Three weeks later, West Broad shipped me the papers, and I went to the DMV, got my tag in about 15 minutes, mission accomplished.

We have been delighted by our choice, Hyundai is one of the very best car manufacturers nowadays. They certainly offer the best warranty, and our car is packed with features like XM radio that just makes driving more pleasant. I am really impressed by this car’s road behavior, it just sticks to the tar and handles curves in a way that I don’t think I ever experienced before.

Part of the deal was that we would sell our Volvo ourselves. It was too difficult for the Richmond or Columbus dealers to give us any decent quote on the phone. Mind you, the local ones did not offer us much more either. One always gets a far better deal selling the car her/himself. I placed an add on Craigslist, and the car was sold in 19 hours, that’s right, 20 minus one, and for the full price I was asking, roughly three times more than any dealer had offered for it.
Our Volvo's new owner

My conclusion is that if you want to buy a Hyundai, and you live in the Triangle area, you might want to follow the same stratagem I used, as the laws of physics will always push the folks in Richmond to welcome your business with a pricing that, given the corporate structure of car dealerships, the local dealers won’t be able to match.

If you have any question, feel free to post a comment and I will answer.

NOTE : this entry has been made possible thanks to the sponsorship of West Broad Hyundai, and I did not write here anything that I do not absolutely believe and experienced personally.


Stagville Plantation, February Trip

Spirited Woods

Stagville Plantation, Durham, February 12, 2011

French : Le 12 Février 2011, les jeunes académiciens du centre John Hope Franklin à Duke, se sont rendus à la "Stagville Plantation," maintenant un parc d'Etat qui conserve les traces de l'esclavage ici, afin de vérifier si il y avait bien dans les bâtiments qui y ont été construits au 19ème siècle, les signes des techniques que nos jeunes académiciens avaient appris à l'école Woodright au mois de Janvier.

English : On February 12, 2011, the John Hope Franklin Young Scholars went back to Stagville PLantation, here in Durham, to verify if they could find there evidences in the buildings built by the slaves, of the techniques that the scholars had learned in January at the Woodright School.

French : Voici quelques photos de ce que nous avons vu, et qui contiennent des détails pertinents à la recherche décrite plus haut.

English : Here are a few photographs of what we saw, that contain details relevant to the young scholars' research.

French : Nous avons alors regardé comment été conçue une cabane pour le sèchement du tabac.

English : We then looked at how a tobacco smoking cabin was built.

French : Nous nous sommes alors rendus à la grande grange, où nous avons trouvé beaucoup de "scarf Joints" ainsi que desw techniques de travail du bois de différentes époques, dû aux dommages causés notamment pas les vermines du bois.

English : We then went to the big barn, where we found a lot of scarf joints and wood working from different periods, notably du to damages caused by wood pest.

French : Nous nous sommes ensuite rendus à la maison voisine de la grange.

English : We then went to the house not far from the big barn.

French : Le travail étant achevé nous sommes alors allés déjeuner, avant que les jeunes académiciens ne soient libérés et rendus à leurs parents.

English : The mission being achieved, we then had lunch before freeing the young scholars and give them back to their parents.

French : Le père de Kennedy (une jeune académicienne) attendant sa fille au "Mad Hatter Coffee Shop."

English : Kennedy's Dad, Dr. Carter Waiting for his daughter at the Mad Hatter Coffee Shop.


Woodwright School Trip

French : Le thème de recherche cette année, pour les jeunes académiciens du centre John Hope Franklin de Duke University, est de trouver une raison pour la forme inhabituelle, de la charpente de la grande grange de Stagsville plantation, haut lieu de l'histoire des noirs américains en esclavage à Durham-. Lundi 17 Janvier 2011, Olivia et ses amies du centre John Hope Franklin, sont allés à l'école Woodwright à Pittsboro au Sud de Chapel Hill (Caroline du Nord) avec leur instructeur, guide et prophète M. David Stein, afin d'étudier comment les joints trouvés dans l'architecture de bâtiments anciens, et notamment la grande grange de Stagsville, avaient été faits.

English : This year's research theme for the John Hope Franklin Young Scholars of Duke, is the odd shape of Stagsville's "Big Barn." The purpose is to study if/how the boat shape of the roof relates with the origin of slaves who built it. To that end, on Martin Luther King's day, January 17, the scholars took a trip to the Woodwright school, in Pittsboro, south of Chapel Hill, in order to study with master Roy Underhill and his associates, how structural wood joints were made ?

French : Nous nous rencontrés à 8:30 at Bruegger's où nous avons déjeuné en compagnie d'autres résidents de Durham, ou touristes, nul ne sait.

English : We met at Bruegger's at 8:30 and had breakfast there, in company of other Durham residents and possibly tourists, nobody is really sure


French : Arrivés à l'école Woodwright, M. Roy Underhill, un compagnon parfaitement expérimenté dans toutes les techniques du travail du bois avec des outils manuels (oui, manuels, sans alimentation électrique ou autre), a demandé aux jeunes académiciens de résoudre un puzzle en assemblant un jeu de poutres destinées à réaliser une structure préalablement existante. Toutes les pièces du puzzle étant solidaires uniquement par le biais de joints découpés dans le bois.

English : After greeting us in his Woodwright School and introducing us to his associates (that day Jerome and Roy's brother), Roy Underhill who seems to master all hand tool wood working techniques (very impressive!) asked the young scholars to resolve a puzzle consisting of putting together a set of wood pieces that would end up making an angled wood structure tightly joined together through female-male shapes carved into the wood.

French :
Roy et son associé Jerome, nous montrèrent alors les différents outils permettant de percer le bois au cours de l'histoire.

English : Master Underhill and his associate Jerome, then showed us the different boring tools that through the course of history were used to bore holes in wood, and suggested that the origin of "boring" might be found in using them for a while.

French : Dans l'ensemble les outils pour percer sont de gros vilebrequins, avec ou sans engrenage. Ci-dessus l'on voit un début de trou percé devant nous par un vilebrequin le plus simple qui soit, et qui requiert une entaille en forme de diamant faite avec un ciseau à bois, ce qui permet d'encrer le vilebrequin qui n'est guère plus qu'un ciseau à bois dont la lame a une forme en S, et que l'on fait tourner sur lui même grâce à un manche. Ces trous sont réputés être plus nets et constants que les autres, ceci est l'outil le plus ancien.

Ci-dessous un trou fait avec un vilebrequin similaire, mais avec une lame en forme de S plus courbé, et surtout muni d'un embout en forme de vis qui encre la mèche dans le bois et la tire constamment en profondeur. Cet outil, plus récent requiert moins d'effort, mais produit un trou plus filandreux.

English : Overall, the tools used to drill holes in yesteryears, were big and basic bits operated through a sizable handle. Above is a hole that requires a diamond shaped anchor to be notched with a chisel so that the bit, which is not much more tan a chisel whose knife is a shaped as a very flat S, may bite the wood. Such holes are rather regular and were often used in boat making. This tool is the most ancient.

Below is a hole drilled with a similar tool as the one above, but one with a more S curved blade which above all, has a screw-type end that drives the knife into the wood. This tool requires less effort than the one above, but produces a less precise hole as it rips the wood fibers.

French : Voici, ainsi que sur la photographie dessous, la Rolls des perceuses de Jadis. L'on s'assied sur l'engin qui s'opère un peu comme un vélo à main. Il est même possible avec quelques tours du "pédalier," et grâce à un renversement de l'engrenage, d'extraire la mèche une fois le trou percé.

English : Here and below is the Rolls Royce of drilling once upon a time. One sits on the tool and operates it like an armed powered bicycle. It is even possible with to inverse the gear and with a few rotations of the "pedals" to extract the bit from the wood once the hole is pierced.

French :
Qù l'on voit comment après avoir percé plusieurs trous consécutifs, l'on peut se défouler à tout âge et faire une entaille à coins rectangulaires grâce à un ciseau à angle droit.

English :
Where we see how after drilling consecutive holes in a row, one may, even the very elderly, burn fuel and carve a rectangular shaped hole thanks to a 90˚ chisel.

French : L'on vit comment avec un coin un maillet et un genre de faux, l'on pouvait fendre un bûche en une série de lames de bois pour faire des tuiles.

English : We saw how with a wedge, a mallet and a special tool looking a little bit like a small scythe whose cutting edge would be on the exterior, it was possible to split a log into shingles.

French : Nous en sommes ensuite venus au corps de la raison pour laquelle nous étions venue : les joints permettant d'unir deux pièces de charpente, notamment pour créer par exemple une poutre plus longue que les troncs d'arbre. Ci-dessus 4 sortes de joints possible, de gauche à droite et de haut en bas par ordre de solidité et complexité. Le joint en bas `å droite s'appelle en anglais "Scraf joint" (joint écharpe), et c'est celui là que les jeunes académiciens allaient ensuite tenter de réaliser eux même en miniature.

English : We then entered into the meat of our reason for the trip, the study of wood joints, mainly the ones used in carpentry to put various pieces of wood together in order to for instance, make a beam longer than tree trunks. Above are four samples, from left to right and top to bottom by ranking of strength and carving difficulty. The one on the right bottom is called "Scarf joint" and is the one that the young scholars were going to try to realize in miniature.

French : C'était l'heure du déjeuner, après quoi nous fîmes une petite promenade digestive dans Pittsboro qui abrite nombre d'échoppes à velléités artistiques, et dans l'une d'elles ce miroir attira mon regard.

English : It was time for lunch, after which we took a stroll in downtown Pittsboro, which is full of artsy shops. We went into one of them where this mirror caught my attention.

French : Après déjeuner, maître Roy entrepris d'apprendre aux jeunes académiciens comment réaliser leur propre miniature "Scarf Joint." Chaque étudiant avait deux pièces de bios, pré-tracées et où certaines coupes été faites, et il fallait faire d'autres coupes à la main afin de pouvoir facilement finir la taille au ciseau à bois.

English : After lunch, master Roy showed the young scholars how to make their own miniature scarf joint. He gave each student two pieces of 2x4 in which certain cuts had already been made, and teh rest was traced. The students then had to make more cuts with a hand saw in order to be able to chisel some wood away and achieve the desired carving.

French :
Et ci-dessous un exemple du travail achevé, par zabria.

English : Below is an example of the accomplishment by Zabria.

French : Jerome montra alors à certains étudiants comment raboter une planche pour lui donner une moulure. Ce travail requiert beaucoup d'expérience.

Ensuite maître Roy raconta quelques histoires, notamment à propos de M. Hemmings, qui était un maître dans l'usage du rabot, et enclave de Thomas Jefferson jusqu'à ce que celui-ci n'en fit un homme libre.

English : Jerome then showed some students how to plane a board with to special molding-type shape. Such a task requires a lot of experience.

Then Master Roy told us some stories about Mr. Hemmings who who was a planing master and used to be one of Thomas Jefferson's slaves until the founder of University of Virginia--as he liked to be remembered-- made him a free man,