Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Emo Mania

Last week, WDAZ aired a story from reporter Lacey Crisp about the local "emo" scene. Lacey's story was meant to be just a little news story for the local audience. Then again, with sites like YouTube, is there such a thing as a "local" audience anymore? Not in this case! Someone posted the story on YouTube and it has become very popular very quickly.

Click for video and to read comments

As of Wednesday evening, the video has been viewed 130,000 times and there have been over 600 comments. The video is currently the second most viewed video of this week for YouTube's "News & Politics" category. To put that into perspective, the video showing those rats running around that New York City Taco Bell is currently the fourth third most popular for the category. The WDAZ video holds this week's number one position for "most favorited" video within its category.

The huge response to the story doesn't end at the YouTube site, though. The WDAZ studios in Grand Forks have been flooded with phone calls and emails about the video. there really such a thing as "bad" publicity?

Monday, February 26, 2007

Open Thread #16

My gosh...the last open thread only got 8 comments. You guys can do better than that!

What's on your mind? Anybody watch last night's Oscars?

Saturday, February 24, 2007

Retro Columbia Mall commercial

Recently, I was on YouTube and I stumbled across this Columbia Mall commercial from 1980. It brought back memories and I wanted to share it.

Meet me at Columbia Mall

I used to love the mall's commercials from the 80s and it was so interesting to see this and hear the familiar jingle after so many years. Anyone remember the mall's Christmas commercials where the jingle was changed to "Christmas at Columbia Mall"? Ahhh, the memories.

Growing up in the 80s, Columbia Mall was Grand Forks to me. I lived on a Grand Forks-area farm when I was a kid. Every Friday night, my mother, my big sister, and I would come to Grand Forks and shop at Columbia Mall (especially Target), buy our week's worth of groceries at Albertson's, and have supper at McDonald's. With so many childhood memories of it, Columbia Mall has always been kind of special to me. I was very excited when SuperTarget opened across the street back in 2001, but my family and I were still a little devastated that our beloved old Target store at Columbia Mall was closing.

It's so fun to see what the mall looked like back in the 80s (even if the video is really dark). Anyone else remember Bridget's in center court? I used to love their licorice ice cream. How about the mall's sunken seating areas with the waterfall? Or what about those elaborate Christmas displays they used to have around the mall?

When did they abandon the old "Meet me at Columbia Mall" slogan anyways? I'm thinking it must have been the early 90s. In my opinion, they should really bring it back. The current slogan (although they never really even use it) is "When you want to taste, touch, hug and hold...experience". That doesn't do anything for me.

Friday, February 23, 2007

Software Etc. store closes

Software Etc. has closed their Columbia Mall store. I was shopping in the mall on Thursday night and I was surprised to see the store dark and empty. I remember shopping in the store back in the mid 90s. That's when my family first got a computer and I was very interested in software. I can't say I've been in the store for years now. Still, it's too bad to see a long-time tenant leave. Since the Software Etc. chain is now owned by the GameStop Corporation and since we now have two GameStop locations within a half-mile radius of the mall, I'm guessing that's why they chose to close this store.

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

LM Glasfiber on the move

The Herald has a story in today's paper about the continuing expansion of the LM Glasfiber factory in Grand Forks. The company's current round of hirings will bring total employment to around 800.

The factory opened in 1998. By last summer, employment stood at about 320. In less than a year, they have grown to over 700 and will now be at 800. They have more than doubled employment within the last year. That is amazing growth. LM Glasfiber has become an integral part of the local economy and they seem to be one of our brightest hopes for continued growth in the future.

I have heard mention that the company has practically run out of room at their current facility. I have also heard talk that a new LM Glasfiber research/development facility might be in the works for Grand Forks. If both of these things are the case, could the company be planning construction of a new factory campus in the near future? The Industrial Park doesn't currently have enough space to accomodate a large new complex. Perhaps this is one of the reasons why the city has been talking about expanding the Industrial Park.

In my opinion, the city of Grand Forks should be willing to do just about anything to retain this company and to help it continue its impressive growth.

Texas Roadhouse now open

Grand Forks' newest restaurant, Texas Roadhouse, is now open. The restaurant is located on 32nd Avenue South next to Boston's. I'm anxious to hear what people think of the place. Anyone want to play Marilyn Hagerty?

In other southside business news, work has started on the new "Heels" store in the new strip mall in front of Kohl's. Heels will carry women's shoes and, from what I've heard, some accessories. Seems like a good fit with its next-door neighbor: Bobbi's.

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

UND Spirituality Center

The new Hopper-Danley Spirituality Center on the UND campus is rising out of the frozen banks of the English Coulee. Construction is well underway on the small, ecumenical chapel which will sit near the Adelphi Fountain at the heart of UND.

I came across the construction site on Tuesday afternoon and I was shocked to see how fast the project is moving forwards. Perhaps I missed something, but I swear there wasn't any construction going on even just last week. Some groundwork was done last fall, but work on the building itself just started.

The building, modeled to look somewhat like the prairie churches of the rural Red River Valley, will not be a "church". Instead, it will be an ecumenical center that will host prayer meetings, weddings, and other events. Should be an interesting addition to campus.

Monday, February 19, 2007

The "Big Al" posts a profit

Good news for the Alerus Center:

•The Alerus Center is reporting its first-ever yearly profit. In 2006, the facility made $16,400. Read Tu-Uyen Tran's short story.

Marketplace for Entrepreneurs is coming back to Grand Forks and the Alerus Center next year. The event, which drew 9,000 to the Fargodome this year, hasn't been in Grand Forks since 2004. Read the Herald's story.

Thursday, February 15, 2007

City ok with multiple voting

On Tuesday evening, I emailed the city of Grand Forks to tell them:

"Your current poll about the new "Welcome to Grand Forks" sign allows people to vote as many times as they want to and people have clearly been casting hundreds or even thousands of votes at a time."

They didn't email me back. They didn't take down the poll. They didn't disable multiple votes per person. In other words, they don't really care if someone casts thousands of votes...doesn't matter to them.

Since anyone could come along and conceivably cast enough votes to make their choice the winner, the results of the poll mean nothing. This poll is a joke and so is the city's inattentiveness.

Update - 2/15/2007 - 6:09 PM
WDAZ just aired a story on the poll and how it allows multiple voting. The city employee that they spoke with called the poll "unscientific"...that's an understatement. When about one third of the votes came from one person (as the voter himself confessed over on Tu-Uyen's blog, that's not just "unscientific"...that's ridiculous. I'm glad to see WDAZ letting their viewers know about the problems with this sad excuse for a poll.

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Mo' on the Ho

Wednesday's Herald has a story about the new Northside Cafe (which was first reported about here) and a local businessman's plans for the old Westward Ho building. Bill Graveline says the new restaurant will open in mid-March. He also says that, not including the restaurant's space, there are 18,000 square feet available for businesses. Also, apparently we shouldn't be holding out hope for any return to the kitschy Western theme of years gone by.

I'm happy to hear that Mr. Graveline is trying to improve at least one small area of Gateway Drive. The old Ho building has been a terrible eyesore the last few years. I really hope it's appearance is improved with this new restaurant.

Still, I wonder how much hope there is for finding real quality tenants for the building. Graveline says "I'd be interested in any tenant that would want to talk to me"...doesn't sound like they've exactly been lining up so far.

I still can't help but think that it might be better if everything from the Carpet Garage west to Simplot was torn down. I hope that Weekley's and the Transport, Inc. building will be torn down soon as has been talked about. I'm no fan of the old motel next to the Ho building, either. I would personally like to see it torn down and the property redeveloped.

BTW, the Herald's outrageous title, "Yo-a go for the Ho", for their story was the reason behind my own little tacky title. Forgive me.

City's Gateway Drive poll fiasco

You know how democracies have this thing about "one person, one vote"...the city of Grand Forks didn't get the message. The online polls that the city puts up on their website allow people to vote as many times as they want to. So, your one measly little vote will mean next to nothing if someone else comes along and casts dozens or hundreds of votes for the other option. Not so fair, huh?

A couple of days ago, the city put up a poll about the two options for a "Welcome to Grand Forks" sign out on Gateway Drive. I voted in the poll on Monday afternoon and "Concept 1" had about 10 votes while "Concept 2" had about 15 votes. On Monday night, WDAZ aired a story about the welcome sign and gave a link to the city's poll. I checked the results several hours after the report aired and "Concept 1" now had about 20 votes while "Concept 2" had jumped to about 35 votes. In other words, the story really didn't seem to draw much attention to the poll.

The reason that I want to emphasize that the news report didn't draw much traffic to the poll is because I don't want anybody to claim that the story is responsible for the current results of the poll. Right now, "Concept 1" has 3,846 votes while "Concept 2" has 1,071 votes. That's right, the first poll's first daw saw about 50 voters while over 4,800 votes were cast on the second day. Take a look at the current results for yourself. Something is rotten in Denmark Grand Forks.

You can cast as many votes as you want to in the poll...try it for yourself. One person with too much time on their hands can vote 50 times or even 5,000 times. Does that make any sense to you? Clearly, the dramatic number of votes that came in on Tuesday and the dramatic shift in the voting pattern (from being strongly in favor of "Concept 2" to being ridiculously in favor of "Concept 1") are witness to the fact that people have been casting hundreds or even thousands of votes at one time. That is unacceptable and the city must either start the poll over again (and this time only allow people to cast one vote) or simply forget about the poll and take it off of their website.

If I can put up polls on my site that don't allow multiple votes, why can't the city of Grand Forks?

BTW, here's the two welcome sign concepts:

Concept 1

Concept 2

Monday, February 12, 2007

Open Thread #15

Anything interesting you want to mention?

Grand Forks: A Pictorial History

This past Christmas, I received a wonderful gift: Grand Forks: A Pictorial History. This hardcover book, by retired UND history professor Jerome D. Tweton, covers the history of Grand Forks from long before its founding to the present day. First published in 1986, a second edition came out in 2005 with additional text and images capturing the stunning changes that have taken place since the city faced its most critical hours during the flood and fire of 1997.

It's clear that Tweton, a native of Grand Forks, loves his hometown almost as much as I love it. The book is lavishly filled with both black and white and color pictures and Tweton provides dozens of pages of text as well as captions for each image. The book is available at most local book stores in the "Local interest" section. I really encourage you all to take a look at it. It is a beautiful and fascinating tribute to the city we call home.

Saturday, February 10, 2007

New restaurant opening downtown

Rhombus Guys Pizza, the new pizza restaurant downtown, is having a soft opening this weekend and a grand opening this coming Monday. Rhombus Guys will sell pizza, soup, salads, sandwiches, and wraps. The new restaurant seats 55 and is located at 312 Kittson Avenue (next to the Urban Stampede). Always great to see more businesses opening up downtown. I wish the restaurant's owners the best of luck.

Thanks to my tipster!

Friday, February 09, 2007

Northside Cafe coming to Westward Ho

The long vacant Westward Ho property on Gateway Drive is getting a new tenant. The "Northside Cafe" will be opening there in the near future. Signs on the property call the new establishment a "family restaurant."

I'm still scratching my head over this one. The old Ho building is terrible looking. I never understood why they tore down the front half of it, but left the back half in place. The building currently looks a little like a bombed-out building in post-WWII Europe. Hopefully construction crews are a long way from finishing the remodeling project for the new restaurant. I can't imagine anyone opening a restaurant in a structure that looks the way the Ho building currently looks.

That said, I'm glad to see a new restaurant on Gateway. Hopefully, this place will go over a little better than the Capone's fiasco. It's encouraging that they are calling this place a "family restaurant". I think Capone's would still be in business today had they gone with a "family" format instead of a fine-dining format. I'm sure Capone's could have done much better in a different part of town, but Gateway Drive is no place to open a pricey restaurant. Hopefully a "family" restaurant will fit in well on Gateway.

No word yet on when the restaurant will open or just what type of menu they will have.

Thursday, February 08, 2007

New poll: local blogs?

•Closing the old poll...
The last poll question was "Do you want to see Smiley saved?" and, out of 283 votes, 55% (157 voters) said yes while 45% (126 voters) said no. Click here to view the results.

•Opening the new poll...
The new poll question is "How often do you read local blogs?"...happy voting.

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

50,000th visitor to GFL

Today will mark the 50,000th visitor to Grand Forks Life. Yep, 50,000 hits and almost 100,000 page views. Pretty cool, huh?

Grand Forks Life...Bismarck style

Recently, I stumbled across the "Around Town Blog" by Brad Feldman. Brad is a reporter with KXMB television in Bismarck. His blog covers development in the Bismarck-Mandan area. Since local development news is kind of the "meat and potatoes" of Grand Forks Life, Brad's blog reminds me a bit of my own.

So, if anyone out there is interested in news about the Bismarck-Mandan community, check out Brad's blog. Bismarck doesn't seem to have very many blogs (at least not in Grand Forks Blogosphere terms) so I'm happy to see Around Town. Hopefully, we can get more blogs going in all corners of the state. Gee, maybe I should franchise Grand Forks Life. Fargo Life anyone? How about Minot Life?

Saturday, February 03, 2007

The music we love...or so this guy says

Did you know that Grand Forks residents still can't get enough AC/DC, Guns & Roses, or Lynyrd Skynyrd? That's right, those bands are "the state of the upper-Midwest music scene" least in the view of one Brett Lindenberg from Grand Forks. He recently received honorable mention in an "I'm From Rolling Stone" contest on the website.

"Pop-music has failed to be a blip on our musical GPS." Hmm, I can't really agree that much with Lindenberg. Then again, I guess I'm too much of an "organic-eating Starbucks-drinking tree-hugging liberal" in Lindenberg words.

This is just the kind of portrait of Grand Forks as an outdated, uncultured entertainment hinterland that makes me cringe.

Thursday, February 01, 2007

Local blogs in the spotlight

I just finished watching the second part of reporter Jessica Dugan's "Beyond the Blogosphere" series on WDAZ news. I want to thank Jessica for portraying the local blogosphere in a positive light. Thanks also to Tu-Uyen Tran and Rick Abbot for being the "spokesmen" for the blogging community. You both did a good job and it was fun to finally get to see and hear you guys. It's nice to see the "Grand Forks Blogosphere" finally getting the spotlight. The only complaint I can think of is that WDAZ should have given the links to the blogs that they mentioned...

Open Thread #14

I have a feeling we'll be getting plenty of newcomers thanks to WDAZ's reports airing tonight, so I thought it would be a good time to start a new open thread.

Cleaning up I-29

As the Herald is reporting in Thursday's paper, the North Dakota Department of Transportation is in the middle of a project to spruce up the I-29 corridor through Grand Forks. Right now, the work consists of removing dead and dying trees and vegetation. Next year, the project's second phase will consist of new plantings to replace those being removed.

I think this is fabulous news. Lately, I have seen crews removing the ugly, old Russian Olive trees. I hate Russian Olive father always calls them "scrub trees". Whoever had the brilliant idea back in the 60s to plant hundreds of these eyesores along the Interstate? Here's hoping that the DOT finds a better, more attractive tree to plant along the Interstate this time around.

The I-29 corridor has long been neglected and has fallen into a state where it could almost be described as an embarrassment. Not a Gateway Drive type embarrassment mind you, but not something the average citizen feels proud of either. As an avid gardener, one of my biggest pet peeves is how poorly public plantings are usually maintained.

I'm thrilled that the Interstate corridor is finally being cleaned up, but it shouldn't stop there. How about the four interchanges leading into the city? They are filled with dead and ugly plantings. It isn't as noticeable this time of year when everything is dormant anyways, but the interchange plantings are an eyesore during the warmer months. About ten years ago, whoever was in charge of the interchange areas had the brilliant idea to plant hundreds and hundreds of bushes. They were never properly maintained. The Gateway Drive interchange seemed to be the worst. Every summer, the grass and weeds would grow so thick and get so high that they would almost totally obscure the bushes. Over time, the bushes finally died and most have now been removed. Think of the thousands of dollars that were spent on those bushes. Then think of how they were never maintained and finally died and had to be dug up and thrown away. What a terrible waste of money.

Here's hoping that the ongoing Interstate cleanup project spreads to other areas with public plantings. Here's also hoping that the thousands of dollars worth of taxpayer money the DOT will spend on new trees and bushes this time around doesn't end up being a waste like it has been in the past. Finish cleaning up, then plant new, then maintain. It's simple, really.

In my opinion, Grand Forks is a beautiful city and projects like this (if properly executed and maintained) will hopefully make it even more attractive.