Reading Rangers in the Voice

Recently we were contacted by Hayley Paytes, a journalism student at UNC who wanted to do a story on the Reading Rangers for the Voice. Voice is an online project of the UNC and NCCU Journalism schools and community leaders to create a hyper-local source of news for the Northeast Central Durham community. Stories are posted online at with neighborhood news, information, photos, videos and features provided by NCCU and UNC journalism students and local teens mentored by students and faculty.

Rotarian and founder of the Reading Rangers, Todd Taylor, responded and Hayley did a very nice write up that you can see here. While you are there take a few minutes to look at some of the other stories.  The link in the article in the Voice to our website is the first official “pingback” that we’ve received and is much appreciated.

I’m sure Todd would also want to let everybody to know that everyone should consider joining the Reading Rangers. It is a huge challenge and we need all hands on deck. Specifics can be found  here on the Rotary website.

Yeah doggies!

Rotary Minutes – Jay Zenner

When you have zig-zagged through a number of careers, are collecting Social Security and still don’t know what you want to be when you grow up, a five minute portrait of yourself means you have to be very selective. Such was Jay Zenner’s dilemma in presenting his story. Jay chose as the central theme in his story BS, which he described as the two initials widely recognized by all English speakers to be “persuasive communications, rhetoric, propaganda or spin.”

The problem was that Jay spun a little out of control and went way beyond the 5 minute time allocation and jammed the time on several important announcements, two new member inductions and a very interesting speaker. This kind of thing actually happens more frequently than we would like to admit. Aside from the problem of someone spinning BS out of control, it also illustrates one of the limits of the meeting format.  In a large very active club there is a lot to jam into that weekly hour. The speaker, Anton Zuiker, the Director of  Communications in the Department of Medicine at the Duke University Medical Center, spoke of creating online communities. Allen Cronenberg’s program report has been published here on the site.  This was a very appropriate topic because it provides one solution to the limits imposed by the club’s once a week for one hour meeting limitation.

With the new website we have the basis for adding that dimension to the Club’s communications. What remains to be seen is not whether this will happen, but when.  As Professor Tippett proved in her presentation on the Millennials who will become the next generation of Rotarians, this kind of communication is second nature to them. Whether a critical mass of current Rotarians can be nudged into this form of community building remains to be seen.

In the meantime maybe President Don should empower the Sergeant-at-Arms to use a hook to get BSers to surrender the microphone.

Jay is meanwhile prayerfully beating his chest and mumbling “mea culpa, mea culpa, mea maxima culpa,” which is all he remembers from a year of high school Latin and several years as an altar boy.

Program Report: Creating Online Communities – Anton Zuiker

I’ll confess that I am out of it when it comes to “social media.”  I don’t blog, text or tweet.  Anton Zuiker’s program on “Creating Online Communities” inspired me to do something about these deficiencies.  Rob Everett who introduced Anton has a knack for ferreting out topnotch, stimulating programs.

Anton talked about blogging and social media in general and how they create communities with common interests or goals.  As a specific example he spoke about locally-spawned ScienceOnline that is both a conference and ongoing conversations online and at local gatherings in informal settings about science on the web.  From small beginnings ScienceOnline has emerged as global community of persons committed to communicating about science more effectively, accurately and responsibly.  The ScienceOnline conference or “unconference” as Anton describes it—the seventh such—will take place in Raleigh from January 30-February 2, 2013.  Unlike a conference in which “experts” typically read papers or lecture on topics, an “unconference” basically consists of moderated thematic sessions in which members of the audience are the program, sharing their knowledge, narrating their own experiences, or tossing questions to the audience for its input.  A glance at the conference program reveals several themes that run through the 2013 sessions: using storytelling to explain science; making science appealing and important to kids and adults; and considering the role of science and scientists in the public sphere.  For details of the ScienceOnline 2013 unconference, see [Read more…]

Rotary Minute: Tammi Brooks

Tammi Brooks escaped into books to cope with a difficult childhood. Now a mother of four and a success, she wants as many kids as possible to have that same outlet.

After her father divorced her mentally ill mother when she was 11 months old, she was handed to the care of her minister’s family, a blessing for sure.

She went back to live with her mother after a time, but it didn’t work out. “By the time I was 16,” she said, “I figured I was on my own.”

Tammi graduated from the University of Florida with degrees in literature and African-American studies ­– the first white student to major in the then-new discipline. “It revealed the latent racism that comes from being a white person in the South that you don’t even know you have until you’re thrown into being a minority,” she said.

She launched a magazine in Gainesville, and it’s still going strong to this day.  But Tammi longed for an experience outside of her college town, so she went to work for Algonquin Books in Chapel Hill.

Small wonder that she has a passion for sharing the gift of literacy with underprivileged children. She brought to the podium three of her favorite childhood books: Miss Twiggley’s Tree, Tikki Tikki Tembo and How Fletcher Was Hatched.

It was all by way of plugging the new “Books on Hand” initiative, in which our club will be charged with supplying 45,000 books to needy children by April. Each member will be asked to provide at least 25 books or a monetary equivalent. Donor accounts will be set up with Barnes & Noble and Amazon to make it no-excuses easy.

It’ll be hard for anyone in attendance to not meet the expectation after Tammi’s moving account. She knows better than most that, as she said, “If children read, they will have a better chance of succeeding, no matter what their circumstances are.”


Submitted by Matt Dees

Program Report: Economic Outlook – Dr. Michael Walden

President Don Stanger introduced our speaker by invoking the famous James Carville axiom, “It’s the economy, stupid.”

The best part about N.C. State economics professor Michael Walden’s address was that it was laid out in easily understood terms, even for those of us who may feel a little, well, stupid when trying to grasp the complexities of what makes the market tick.

Though we all know the housing market crash was the predominant factor in the 2008 recession, it was illuminating to hear some of the jaw-dropping stats. On average, home prices doubled from 1996 to 2006, an unprecedented boom. All booms must end, Walden reminded us, and we learned that unprecedented booms come with unprecedented busts. Usually home price hikes will just decelerate. Starting in 2007, they didn’t just decelerate. They ground to halt, then “pierced zero” and kept dropping.

The tech sector fallout in 2000-2001 caused plenty of problems, but the housing collapse was more catastrophic.

“You’re talking about a sector that is four times bigger than the tech sector and touches virtually everyone,” Walden said. “Not only homeowners but construction, developers, finance, supplies, furniture, roofers, interior designers, you name it.”

The good news is the economy probably has bottomed out and is on the road to recovery. The bad news is that recovery will be sluggish.

Walden took pains at the beginning of his speech to note that he would be as apolitical as possible. He took that a step farther by saying we’re at least a few years away from a full recovery regardless of who wins the White House in November.

North Carolina, the Triangle in particular, is and likely will remain in better shape than most, Walden said.

On a macro level, though, the Federal Reserve will be taking some rather drastic steps to drag less fortunate parts of the country along.

Our economy is consumer-driven. The housing boom meant people had more to spend, seeing their home as a nest egg that could justify that new car, that trip, what have you. The bust sent people into squirrel mode. While saving is prudent on a personal level, it’s disastrous of the overall economy.

Which is why the Fed is printing more money – an action they call, in a triumph of euphemistic obfuscation, “quantitative easing” – which likely will spur some inflation and, it’s hoped, more spending.

“I think, quite frankly, the Federal Reserve doesn’t want you to save,” Walden said. “They want you to spend money.”

Guess my kids will have to understand that depleting their college fund was merely an act of patriotism. Anybody have a boat they want to sell?


Below is a letter from Mary Carey, a founder of BootstrapsPAC who was a guest of the club for Dr. Ferabee’s presentation outlining Durham Public Schools’ partnership with Durham Rotary to make a big dent in the literacy achievement problem in the school system. In an informal meeting after the meeting, there was some concern about our ability to scale up the program and make more than a small dent.  If a few of us catch a little bit Mary’s passion that shouldn’t be a problem.  But see for yourself.