30 09 2013

I am stoked about my research topic. Nathaniel King for the win. Happy dance.

Nathaniel’s the public policy librarian at Davis Library. I was starting at ground zero and he pointed me in the right direction today. Nathaniel aligned my search with Library of Congress subheads, pointed me to the most relevant databases for my topic, and steered me to NC LINC for economic and population data. Hug a librarian yo.

So, my research topic is business retention and expansion (BRE) strategies in North Carolina.

Existing businesses are responsible for 80% of growth in a community. That means jobs, tax base, quality of life, and ultimately (though it’s not the job of economic developers), lifting people out of poverty. We offer hundreds of millions of dollars to MetLife and Dell though we know an educated workforce trumps incentives anyday and when we should prioritize loving our existing businesses instead.

Here’s a stab at my research question. Pretty rough still.

  • What business retention strategies produce the most growth?
  • Which counties in North Carolina have produced the greatest existing industry growth?
  • How do rural business retention strategies compare to those used by urban counties?

I have to dig into the data to see what’s there. Many things I don’t know:

  • What number(s) can I use as a proxy for business retention and expansion?
  • How do I overlay business expansion data with demographic and socioeconomic profiles of counties? Sh!t. This could quickly become daunting.
  • Will data analysis reveal low-performing counties/disadvantaged/income-below-the-state-average counties that still manage to do well in growing existing businesses?
  • What comes first? Qualitative interviews with business retention specialists to understand what questions to ask in a quantitative survey?
  • Or do I start with a quantitative survey to counties and/or an analysis of the data and then follow up with interviews, sort of cherry pick high-performing rural and urban counties for a comparative case study analysis?

아이구 머리가 아프다

I think this qualifies as the gap in existing research Dr. George keeps referring to.
Next steps–

  1. Dig into LINC data
  2. Meet with Dr. George to vet this direction
  3. Meet with SOG faculty or Dept. of Commerce staff to understand what the data sets are

D@mn. I wish I had more time to focus on research. Now I can understand how people pursue PhDs. You find a research topic you’re stoked about, have a super advisor, and you’re not weighted down by the reading and writing assignments from your other classes. Sigh.


30 09 2013

my bud-loving brother told me i drink too much coffee. whuck?

five frogs for 2013

22 09 2013
  1. start a family tree
  2. learn the lindy
  3. define my research question
  4. choose meaningful part-time work for next semester
  5. stamp the passport in december

if i eat these frogs, 2013 will round out to be a lovely year.

North Carolina’s voting machine

20 09 2013

This week’s theme is voting legislation. We had a brownbag lunch session with two of our professors Tuesday. The School of Government’s faculty is fantastic.

I’ve been following Montravius King in the news. Here’s a young leader for North Carolina.

The short story is King has been voting in his college town of Elizabeth City for as long as he’s gone to college there. When he applied to run for city council in Elizabeth City this year, the Pasquotank County board of elections said “nope”.

Now there is some history of sentiment in the state about whether college students should be allowed to vote in cities where they don’t intend to live, but  the courts have decided, rightly, that students should be able to vote in their adopted towns. After all, who knows whether those students will make those towns their more permanent homes, and aren’t they receiving services and subject to rules and restrictions while they live there anyhoo? 

The State Board of Elections made the right call and unanimously voted to allow King to run for office in his college town. So now we have a dynamic of the SBE confirming a student’s right to run for office and hence, vote in his college town, which seems antithetical to the statute that came out of the legislature this year; philosophically, if not diametrically. 

So I emailed this story to our classmates and upon Dr. Berner’s suggestion, asked Professors Bob Joyce and Michael Crowell if they would talk to the students about voting and elections legislation in North Carolina.

Here’s what we learned:

  • VIVA, the Voter Identification Verification Act (VIVA) goes into effect in 2016. Then, voters will have to show a photo ID card, student IDs notwithstanding.  
  • Beginning in 2014, the early voting period shrinks from three weeks to two.
  • You can vote only in your precinct. There are no more provisional ballots, if you go to the wrong polling site.
  • There will be no more same-day voter registration.
  • People and PACs can make contributions up to $5,000 (up from $4,000) to political candidates. Here’s the ratified bill.

What’s crazier is how the voting apparatus works in North Carolina. So…

  • The Governor appoints members to the five-person State Board of Elections. By statute, three members are from the Governor’s party, two from the minority.
  • The SBE then appoints members to all 100 county boards of elections. Again, two members are the majority party, one is minority.
  • The county boards of election determine polling sites. Are there criteria for opening or closing a site? Nope.

So you have situations like the Watauga County board consolidating three polls into one, closing the poll onsite at Appalachian State University and forcing 9,000 voters into one polling site. Well, Watauga County residents got p!ssed, the board reversed their decision and reopened the site at App State. Forsyth County’s board of elections also backed away from their intent to close the early voting site on Winston-Salem State University’s campus. The fact is though, these boards had no legal imperative to back down.

In North Carolina, voting districts have been gerrymandered by demographics.
The voting mechanism is run by one party.
That party determines where people can vote.

positive thinking

17 09 2013

Today I woke up thinking I’ll be ok.
It’s a shift in thinking.

I read a few positive statements before bed last night. Today, school was stimulating. We learned about the voting infrastructure in North Carolina, and I met my language partner Ran this evening. I realized this. I have a good brain and a good heart and a lot I want to contribute in whatever time I have left. I’m sad not to be with Steve, but I know my life will go on, and it will be good.

sleeping in, fail

15 09 2013

my brother’s cat likes to sleep on my head, though Eddie’s watermelon head is larger. sleeping on the couch, meh.


friends as emotional crack

15 09 2013

As long as there is a Fouzia El Gargouri, all is right in the world.
I’ve done some stupid sh!t this year, but if i can have a friend as loving as Fouzia, i have a lot. I thank god and Funke for bringing us together three years ago.


Fouzia and Funke

Fouzia and I hung out in her kitchen on Wednesday, and we spent time with her son Adam, who is now three. Just three years ago, he was in her belly. How is that possible? I’m having these moments of clarity daily. Life is you get older and then you die.

Fouzia caught me up on her life, and we talked about her husband Michael and mutual friends. Finally Fouzia asked how I was doing and said, “You don’t talk about your problems, Susan. You have to talk or you will become depressed.”

I told her about the mistakes I made this year with Steve, realizing I loved him and not doing anything about it. She listened and instead of making excuses, asked my why. Why did you do those things? We talked about why, and she had her own suspicions. Then she told me about her relationship with Michael and how they met, and I could see through her story, how beautiful life can be when you are honest with yourself and with others. Talking with Fouzia helped me understand myself more and released the valve on some of the sadness.

The remarkable thing about friendship is even at your worst, when you share your ugliest deeds, your friends can see the good in you and love you for who you are. It makes me cry to think about. What a gift friendship is.


Adam explaining the Christmas tree fire truck

So it was a good week.

I got to see Fouzia and my hood gals, Carole, Wendy B, and Wendy G.
Carole’s daughter is six, Wendy B is working on baby number two, and Wendy G moved to a new house while being treated for colon cancer. Thank god the doctors say she is clear.


Tri and I spent some time together at SparkCon waiting for fire dancers and eating Wake County’s creamiest ice cream. He is the most present person I know, able to enjoy the moment. I am lucky to have him as a friend after 15 years.


ice cream biter

To finish a good week, Brenda and I finally met up. She told me about her year, reconnecting with her father as he was dying and becoming a paralegal and moving out on her own. She was my date to The Lindy Lab, and she had a great time, which made me happy. With friends like these, I can learn to let go of Steve knowing I have a lot of love in my life.

Love and lindy.