Friday, April 18, 2014

Photos of the Day: More from Cordoba, Spain

Oz and Maddie run through the narrow streets.
Will Oz dive into the fountain?
Can I pick a flower, Mama?
Madeline flips, Oz flops in the open plaza downtown.
Never known a kid who didn't like this, especially from Sister.
Maddie emerges.
Oz considers entry.
And considers some more.
Buddies at the pool.
Finally got some pix of the grands in Cordoba, Spain, from mama Kara today and I like what I'm seeing of their experience. Enjoy. They are.

Photo of the Day: A Nice Moment for the Grands

Think the grandboy and grandgirl don't like each other? Think again.

This is Madeline and Oz taking a smooch break at their pool in Cordoba, Spain (pools are as necessary there as AC, my son says, because the average high temp in the summer is 97 degrees).

Oz nearly drowned in the pool two weeks ago (mom Kara saved his sturdy little butt), so there's some reluctance to let the little ball of energy get back in. But he'll be there soon, splashing and laughing with the full gusto of the Energizer Bunny on steroids.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Health Care Costs a Matter of National Security

There's yet another story today (here) about how far out of line with the rest of the world our health care system is and it's dramatic, sickeningly dramatic.

The conclusion of the HuffingtonPost piece is also alarming, if not at all surprising:

"Despite the persistent claims ... that America has the best health care system in the world, there's scant evidence that we're getting higher-quality medical treatment or enjoying healthier lives than our counterparts abroad. What's more, the U.S. still leaves tens of millions ... without health coverage, and will continue to do so even a decade into the implementation of Obamacare."

This has become far more than a simple matter of economics at its most basic. It is a national security issue. We are draining our wealth when there is absolutely no reason to, in order to make a few one-percenters filthy rich and a few others wealthy beyond reason, as well. All the while, the primary reason behind personal bankruptcy of our most important producers nationally is overwhelming health care bills.

I won't get into the specific examples here (the story does that quite well with charts), but I will say that the difference in costs between us and countries that have reasonable health care coverage at the government level would be laughable if it weren't tragic. I discovered recently that my $59,000 knee replacement last year would have cost $13,000 in Germany, the cost of the appliance here. That $13,000 included air fare.

The primary reason is that nobody's negotiating on our behalf, as is done with Medicare. We get lower prices that way. Europeans and southeast Asians pay a fraction of what care costs us and their care is consistently better. Even Cuba, for chrissakes, a Third World nation, has better outcomes than we do.

So what do we do? Elect Bob Goodlatte and Morgan Griffith to two more years each in the House so this can continue unabated, that's what. Oh. It's so damn sad.

Today's Quote: Not Entitled to What?

Quotation of the day:

“They are not entitled to not be offended.”

--Brandon Dorsey, commander of Camp 1296 of the Lexington-based Stonewall Brigade of the Sons of Confederate Veterans, on Washington & Lee students protesting Confederate flags on campus and celebration of the school's namesake, Robert E. Lee, among other things (here). My friend Luanne Rife wrote a solid piece about this in Roanoke's daily paper, but I have yet to figure out the meaning of the double-negative above.

Throwback Thursday, II: On the Set of Nightline

The back of this photo tells me it was printed Dec. 18, but it doesn't give a year. Probably about 2000. This is Blue Ridge Business Journal GM John Montgomery (left), host Paul Lancaster (right) and me getting my mic adjusted on the set of Blue Ridge Public TV's Blue Ridge Nightline in Roanoke.

John and I or Publisher Jim Lindsey and I--or sometimes just I--appeared once a year for several years on BRN to talk about the previous and coming years in bid-ness, as if we had some expertise in said topic. I was editor of the mag and we had some good talks, I think. Paul kept asking us back, in any case.

Throwback Thursday: Forget Winter; Think Cabo

That's my brother, Sandy (orange Tennessee jersey) and me (muscle boy with the red beard on the right) at the pool of our lavish hotel in Cabo San Lucas, at the bottom of the Baja peninsula, about 12 or so years ago.

Sandy, who is an internationally-known management consultant, coach and speaker had a gig with a huge tile company, doing seminars for several days. He asked if I wanted to join him. Saying "yes" didn't require a lot of thought.

While he held class, I wandered the village and took one day to swim with migrating whales. If you have not risen to the top of the water and come eye-to-eye with a whale, you have not lived the kind of life I appreciate. Jesus! those babies are big.

Some Very Good News for Diabetics

First, the good news:

“This is the first really credible, reliable data that demonstrates that all of the efforts at reducing risk have paid off. Given that diabetes is the chronic epidemic of this millennium, this is a very important finding.” That's Dr. David M. Nathan, director of the Diabetes Center at Massachusetts General Hospital, who was not involved in a study that gave this finding.

And the bad?

The fight is not over for those of us with one of the most common, potentially debilitating diseases affecting Americans--especially those of us who were a bit too casual about our lifestyles until it was too late to avoid diabetes.

The cost of diabetes is steep, not only in terms of suffering, but also to the economy: $176 billion a year in medical care alone.

The NYTimes (here) this morning talks about the rates of heart attack and death emerging from diabetes falling a jaw-dropping 60 percent between 1990 and 2010. That is in the face of a stunning increase in the number of Americans with Type 2 diabetes (which I have): tripled to 26 million with another 79 million diagnosed with "pre-diabetes." These are the lifestyle types of diabetes, having to do with being overweight (belly fat is a biggy here) and on the couch.

One of the most singificant reasons for the decline is that people are getting off their fat asses to exercise and are watching their diets.  and was not involved in the study. Dr. K. M. Venkat Narayan, professor of medicine and epidemiology at Emory University, who specializes in diabetes, is quoted as saying, “There is strong evidence that we’re implementing better care for patients with diabetes. Awareness has increased tremendously, and there’s been a great deal of emphasis on coordinated care in health care settings.”

Our overall progress is impressive, according to the study: "Beyond the declines in the rates of heart attacks and deaths from high blood sugar, the study found that the rates of strokes and lower extremity amputations — including upper and lower legs, ankles, feet, and toes — fell by about half. Rates for end-stage kidney failure dropped by about 30 percent. The study did not measure blindness, another critical diabetes complication."

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Photos: The Elimination of Huff Lane School

Huff Lane School, the way it was.
Coming down in front.
And gone in the back.
My neighborhood across the berm from Valley View Mall is losing an old friend, Huff Lane School, to the development of two hotels and a restaurant. This is what it looks like as it comes down. Sad stuff, this.

No Longer a Democracy, U.S. Is an Oligarcy

A new study at Princeton and Northwestern Universities confirms what many of us have been saying all along: the United States is not a democracy (I'm not sure it ever was), but has become an oligarcy. That means it is a country ruled by a small elite, in this case an obscenely wealthy elite.

A story in the Telegraph of London (which explains some of the spelling), says the study shows that "the central point ... is that economic elites and organised groups representing business interests have substantial independent impacts on U.S. government policy, while mass-based interest groups and average citizens have little or no independent influence."

The report is called Testing Theories of American Politics: Elites, Interest Groups, and Average Citizens, and is based upon data collected between1981 and 2002. Researchers went through about 1,800 U.S. policies enacted in that period "and compared them to the expressed preferences of average Americans (50th percentile of income), affluent Americans (90th percentile) and large special interests groups, researchers concluded that the United States is dominated by its economic elite."

The study found that "government policies rarely align with the the preferences of the majority of Americans, but do favour special interests and lobbying oragnisations: 'When a majority of citizens disagrees with economic elites and/or with organised interests, they generally lose. Moreover, because of the strong status quo bias built into the U.S. political system, even when fairly large majorities of Americans favour policy change, they generally do not get it."

There has been a debate for many years about whether the U.S. is a republic ("in which power is exercised by the public at large") or a democracy ("a system involving distribution of political power in the hands of the public which forms the electorate, representative government"). I don't see much evidence it's ever been either. Oligarcy ("government by the few") is close to right these days. And it's moving toward feudalism ("a set of reciprocal legal and military obligations among the warrior nobility, revolving around the three key concepts of lords, vassals and fiefs"; that would be the Koch brothers, Congress, us).

(Graphic: historymartinez.wordpress.com)

In Richmond, the Impasse Could Get Worse

Virginia state capitol in Richmond.
Our Richmond representatives are in town for a few days, while the state budget stews, unpassed, and I had a chance yesterday to chat with a few of them and some staffers about what's up.

Seems there are two important items facing them: Medicaid expansion and redistricting, which is several years away. The former is being blockaded by a group of hardline right-wingers in the Republican Party who are threatening their own caucus members in order to form a unified front against the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare). Without those threats, I'm assured, compromise would not just be possible, it would be probable.

Republicans have, just this past year, eliminated several of their own representatives for supporting a tax increase for a vital transportation last year (as did the Republican governor,whose bill it was) and they are threatening everybody who even hints at compromise with the Democrats.

Someone who works with one of our representatives told me that the "atmosphere in the chamber is not as bad as you think, especially when you go one-on-one. But there are a few who simply won't talk" and they're the ones the chamber fears. Greg Habeeb of Salem (who took Morgan Griffith's seat when Griffith was elected to the U.S. House, and is a Griffith acolyte) is pointed to as one of those hardliners. "He's like Griffith without the legislative insider knowledge," said one.

Meanwhile, national right-wingers like Grover Norquist (Americans for Tax Reform) are praising House Republicans for blocking any advance on Medicaid. Norquist is an extremist who wielded considerable power over the previous U.S. House Republican members, but fell on hard times recently. The ACA has given him new life and new power.

The other pressing issue is re-districting, which both parties have used to gain unfair advantage in the past. Republicans have become masters at creating safe districts for their representatives on state and national levels and, thus, giving Republicans far more strength in the House and General Assembly than their numbers suggest. Republicans polled less than 50 percent of the House votes in Virginia during the last two or three election cycles, but have nearly two thirds of the seats because of gerrymandering.

Reversing that will be extremely difficult, barring a court intervention, but you also have to consider that a large number of judges are Republican, as well, so court interference would be a stretch.

What do we have? An impasse, which is likely to get worse before it gets better.

(Photo: capclass.virginiageneralassembly.gov)

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

'Draft Day' About What You'd Expect

The movie "Draft Day" is a combination of poker, chess and "Moneyball" that fantasy football fans have anticipated for months and the new Kevin Costner vehicle works on those levels. It also entertains those who enjoy puzzles and compiling statistics.

I liked it. The person I went with--who is not a football fan and knows nothing about the draft--liked it, for different reasons.

This one's not a shocker on any level. It's almost completely predictible, down to the payoff shot, but it's fun to watch, fun to figure out and will even give you some inside information about the game and its workings if you're interested.

Costner plays himself and has a balanced supporting cast with Jennifer Garner as his football executive (that guys would kill to have close by and who's in better shape than most gridders) girlfriend, Dennis Leary as a cranky and demanding head coach and Frank Langella as the owner--all of the Cleveland Browns. They're trying to build the franchise back to previous levels and need a good draft to do that. It falls to Costner to execute a great draft plan and the game is on.

Fun movie. Not an award-winner, but few are. Escape nicely with this one.

Photo: Back to Business

Kay Dunkley of Virginia Tech stops to chat with her favorite editr at the Expo.
It was Old Home Week at the Roanoke Civic Center today when I stopped by the Business & Technology Expo at the Roanoke Civic Center and got to spend a little time with a lot of people I used to depend on for stories at the old Business Journal and FRONT magazine. Good to see them. Good people.

I even managed to hold an impromptu political discussion with Sam Rasoul, our recently-elected House of Delegates member from Roanoke. Sam and I talked off the record, so I can't relay much of what we said, but my impression of him continues to be strengthened: a guy who wants to make government work, despite the obstacles. Sam is one of the few people I know who understands government and remains optimistic. Good for him. That's a difficult thing to do.

Photo of the Day: Maddie and the Cat

This is, of course, my sweet Madeline, sleeping in her room at my house about a week before she moved to Spain in February.

That's "Kittycat" in her arms, a little stuffed cat she's had since before she could walk. They've been inseperable for a long time. Maddie once lost the cat and her mother had to find a new replacement before Mads knew the difference. She found it and bought two or three, if memory serves. Always good to have a backup cat.

This is, I think, when we love our children most. Innocent, vulnerable and in need of everything we have.

Monday, April 14, 2014

Photos of the Day: Funny What Hides in Plain Sight

Love dandelions. Eat the tender underleaves in salad, make wine (which I can't) out of the flowers.
A strawberry fetus hides in there.
The crabapple is especially colorful in its inaugural year.
This violet is a suprrise gift for someone (it'll decorate a brownie).
This is forsythia, which heralds spring, even when it's not coming.
Ran upon some pals on Roanoke City Market at lunchtime who were photographing flowers at a
farmer's stand. Pansies, I think. I asked what specifically they were doing and was told "macro photography." I asked why they needed to come down to the market for that, why didn't they just go to the back yard.

Here's what I got in my back yard a few minutes ago.

New Uses for Cocoa: Weight Loss, Fighting Diabetes, Etc.?

Cocoa man Andrew Neilson
Sit down, now. Relax. Breathe. Listen closely and don't react so that your heart stops.

Seems a scientist at Virginia Tech has found that something in cocoa--an antioxident--can "dramatically increase the body’s ability to fight many modern-day ailments such as obesity, Type 2 diabetes, and heart disease."

Before you go all silly on me, let me explain that that does not mean you should load up the van and move to Hershey, PA, so you can do chocolate straight from the factory, via IV, into your bloodstream.

There's actually a good bit more to it than that. And it's not all happy talk.

Guy named Andrew Neilson, an assistant prof in food science, found "that one particular type of antioxidant in cocoa prevented laboratory mice from gaining excess weight and lowered their blood sugar levels," according to a Tech press releas this a.m.

The discovery is described as "a first-of-its-kind," which makes sense given that we still have some cocoa left. Neilson wrote about it in an article in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry, a sort of bible for that kind of stuff.

Additionally, says Neilson (who works at the Fralin Life Science Institute, he found that “initially cocoa was shown to have cardiovascular benefits. Now, we are looking at other benefits of cocoa beyond the heart.” Start with some of the buttons sex pushes, I'd suggest.

Now the buzz kill: Neilson says the research can lead to the development of healthy food additives made from cocoa compounds, according to the release. “We are trying to identify compounds and insert them into products that can be enhanced to elicit desired health effects,” he says, sounding more like a scientist than a foodie or an addict.

Journalist Cleans 'Fridge; Discovers New Species; Science Abuzz

Fat-assed editr cleans 'fridge.
So here I am this morning, awaiting some phone calls for a couple of magazine articles I'm doing and I get this bug up my butt to do something creative--like clean out the 'fridge, which hasn't been closely inspected since, say, before Thanksgiving.

There's a lot of stuff in there, so much that I can't get last night's leftovers in and I have to throw them away. My mama, bless her soul, would roll in her grave in order to position herself to kill me if she knew. The Smith family did not waste food because it was a precious and rare comodity.

Anyhow, I meditate for a few minutes to get rid of the pre-cleaning butterflies, bow up my neck the way my football coach taught me and go into full attack mode. I quickly uncover the missing container of lentil soup that I made for Christmas. It has a gray film on top I don't recall being part of it. Delightful smell upon opening the plastic bowl.

Then, I get three moss-covered chili servings, some baked beans with little things moving around, something I simply can't identify (it's orange and white; Go Vols!), what appears to have been chicken at one time (generic chicken, as in, "you know, it tastes like chicken"), and at the bottom of the top shelf some dried honey-like whatever. I don't eat honey 'cause of the diabetes thingy, so I have no idea what it is. My little handy-dandy scraper and some very hot water takes the sticky off and I smell it. Not bad, but do I dare put it to the taste test? No, probably not.

After working my way all the way through and coming to the conclusion that complete echo systems can evolve in a few months, I identify not one, not two, but three complete new species. Not sure if they're plant or animal, but one of the boys at Tech can help with this, I think.

Such an adventure, this refrigerator cleaning thing. One 50-pound plastic bag of old food to the trash (those baggies are toughies) and 73 empty plastic containers to wash. When I restore what is still edible to the 'fridge I come to the inevitable conclusion: I need to get my fat butt to Kroger to replenish my supply.

(Drawing: voodooboutique.typepad.com)

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Today's Photo: New Trip to an Old Spot


Sometimes it's nice to re-visit the old spots. Tonight it was Mill Mountain, a scenic I haven't seen in more than 18 months. My new friend Blanche Williams had never been up there--she's relatively new here--so it was a treat for us both. Good vibes on the mountain.

Throwback Thursday on Sunday: New Editor, 1981

This is the dashing--and probably hungover--new editor of The Vinton Messenger in 1981. I had been fired by the local daily (deservedly so) and spent months wandering the country and into Mexico before Don Smith found me (through former teammate at the local daily Jim Echols) and offered me the job sight-unseen. I was 35.

His editor had been busted for being drunk in public (while getting the police report, at the police station) and my guess is he thought I'd be at least a smidge smarter than that.

Don't know if I proved him right, but I needed a dose of humility at the time and this tiny hometown paper gave it to me. It also taught me how to photograph, for which I am eternally grateful. It was my first gig as a real editor.

Saturday, April 12, 2014

'Pilgrim' Adaptation at Hollins Is Finely Drawn

Andy Belser's adaptation for the stage of Hollins University alumni Annie Dillard's seminal work, "Pilgrim at Tinker Creek," is a fascination of light and sound, of texture and nuance, of language and silence. It is a masterful production of a non-fiction work that must owe much of its vision to Ernie Zulia, the producer and the theater department chairman.

Zulia's fingerprints are all over the final rich production, which features Dillard's Pulitzer-winning layered and often difficult examination of a simple concept: a young woman paying attention.

It is, of course, talky and philosophical, rarely humerous, but always attentive in every sense.

You can still see it. Here's how and when: April 11-12, 16-19, 2014, 7:30 p.m; April 13, 2014, 2 p.m. At Hollins theater; $10 general admission. For online tickets, visit www.hollins.edu/theatre

A mostly-Hollins cast, is headed by 2007 graduate Rachel Nelson (whom I feel I have watched grow up, since seeing her first standout performance as a freshman a decade ago) is flawless. Rachel is earning a master's degree at the University of Maine and is visiting for this performance. It also features veteran Russell Wilson ("Decision Height"), along with Suprima Behle (a freshman from Nepal), Lucrecia Bell, freshman Natalie Pendergast and Virginia Tech founding director of the School of Performing arts Patricia Raun.

The production is a challenge for all the senses, acted mostly in darkness, light shadow and a dreamscape of silouettes, making the choreography and lighting (by John Ambrosone) important to the story. It is a ballet of sorts with occasional floodlighting of faces. The sound, which is often spotty at this level, is just about perfect.

This is difficult material, but there has been no compromise with it and it obviously did not intimmidate a big crowd tonight. It is, however, more accessible to some of us in this format than was Dillard's book (which I tried, and failed, to read). I liked this one a lot and I think it continues to set a standard for Roanoke theater that few small cities even attempt to match.

My Pal Elizabeth Paints My House

Elizabeth gets perspective of the house.
A little drawing here.
And another angle.
My friend Elizabeth Markham, a writer and an artist, is across the street from my house at this moment doing preliminary drawings for a portrait of my little Cape Cod.

She's doing it more for the exercise and exposure than anything else, but she said a little while ago that having a short-term goal with this picture will get her out of the starting gate and back to painting.

I like her work a lot and am sorry she hasn't been doing a lot of it because my guess is that her paintings will sell. Elizabeth is a young mother who is very serious about her children and that takes precedence, as it should. I truly hope this one works out for her and that she gets a ton of commissions to do houses.

When she finishes this one, I'll put a picture of it up on the blog and let you see for yourself how good she is. I predict you'll like her work.

Now, if we can get her back to writing some of that marvy poetry ...

Friday, April 11, 2014

Writin' About Rasslin': An Ode To Poetry ... Or Something


Up front the admission: I ain't no poet. Never been one. Never understood the form. Never much liked it.

But, like every writer who's ever put a letter on a page, I occasionally dabble--badly; more like babble--in it. And below is an effort, humble though it be, that was brought to me by my pal Lorie White, who watched her first pro rasslin' match last night and listened to people get all fired up. These are people who believe what you're seeing is spontaneous and honest as Jesus.

They'd be wrong, of course, but ain't no arguing faith.

When I was a young sports writer, I got to cover some rasslin' because the head of my sports department--like the heads of many sports departments in those days--was on the take and the rasslin' promoters was doing the givin'. I didn't get nothin' but experience and was grateful for that, coming, as I did, in off the street looking for a job.

Anyhow, here's my poem (with apologies to Robert Service). Take it as you will, but like writin' about rasslin' itself, I liked doing it.



Ode to the rasslin’ graft

The rasslin’ promoter came by today
To get some more space on our pages.
Said the coverage he got was too short for him
And he'd make us a trade with more wages.

He wanted some coverage he said to me,
And he told me he’d pay all the writers
A hundred bucks, two tickets and beer
If they’d say somethin’ good ‘bout his fighters.

Now rasslin’s a game we all know to be
As fake and made up as the movies,
But the money is green, the beer is cold
And so what if the matches ain’t true-vies.

The people come out in their WalMart duds
A-stompin’ and yellin’ and threatenin’,
Cheerin’ the good guys, booing the bad,
Gettin' drunk, gettin' mad and fret-nin'.

When I was a kid and covered this "sport"
My editor said they weren't fakin’
And the guy who paid him all of that graft
Said, "Cover it real if you’re takin'."

So I done all of that and had me some grins
Made pals of the fighters, learned the ropes
Studied about ethics the backdoor way
And found for sure: they weren’t dopes.





A Re-Visitation: CLOG! Comes Calling

Regenia's on the left, Martha Pitts on the right and Linda Perry, whom I adored, is center right.
Regenia the majorette.
It is eyebrow-raising at times how Facebook can jump right at you with something from the past that you had forgotten or, at the very least, misplaced.

I got a message from Regenia Street (now Clark) a couple of days ago. Regenia was with me at Grandfather Home for Children when I was a senior atCranberry, N.C. High School in 1963-'64. I was a year ahead of her in school.

She was a cheerleader, majorette, square dancer and god knows what else. She was also one of the prettiest girls in Avery County and my good friend Martha Pitts' best bud. We were all at Grandfather Home, they having been pretty much left to it bytheir families, me choosing to stay there for a year after my family basically fell apart.

Regenia up close.
They play nice parts in my novel CLOG!, though they are not identified as who they really were. Sisters Joyce and Janice Watson helped me write some of CLOG! and Joyce, whom I had a huge crush on in high school, remains a good friend. Regenia and Martha were girls who helped take care of me (often making me these huge, lovely breakfasts), a guy completely out of his element in a new school where they were both very popular, despite being "orphans," as those of us at the Home were called.

Regenia today.
I haven't heard from Martha, but Regenia has lived a full and productive life and lives in Georgia now. Regenia wrote this: "So much fun . . . to reconnect via FB . . . will do my best to come to the class reunion this year. Will bring attention to your books on my FB page and in the SunCity Peachtree community. Just ordered Burning The Furniture (and CLOG!). Know I will enjoy these books while spending time at Emerald Isle, N.C., in a couple of weeks. I moved to a retirement community in Griffin, GA a couple of years ago ... I am still somewhat active in paying it forward. I am smiling that our friendship is renewed after lots of years. Regenia"

Miss Light Bulb
And then, there's this note from Regenia: "Dan . . . here is what else . . . Miss Mountain Electric resulting in the nick name Miss Light Bulb from you and your friends. You have provoked me to think about those days in the early 60(s). Our fun times were focused on football, basketball, dancing and these activities filled our days as teenagers. I don't ever remember hearing anything about including drugs into our lifestyle. I have spent the last couple of days smiling, thanks to you. If you really want to smile go the youtube and look for Earl Scruggs, Foggy Mountain Breakdown. This is the music we danced too during those wonderful days at Cranberry High School. Bluegrass music makes me happy and now I know why . . . this is the music we danced too in our youth." 

Cool stuff, huh?

Regenia, front right, and Martha, front left, with the majorettes and flag squad.

Regenia (center, with Martha right of her) in one of the square dance teams on which CLOG! is based.
This is my senior football team, Cranberry High School. I'm No. 11, second row.


Photo of the Day, Too: A Blossom Fell

These are the first hint of blossom on my brand new pink dogwood (planted last fall) and the much older cherry tree in the back yard. I love going out first thing in the morning every day and watching the progress of these beauties and all the others around them flowering in their own time. Talk about blessings of the season. 


Photo of the Day: Teeter-Totter Hi-Jinks

Janeson teeters.
I'm doddering here.
My hiking buddy Janeson and I walked the Lick Run Greenway Trail today and ran into this really nifty teeter-totter (teeter-dodder, at my age) and decided we had to give it a try. Had to. No choice.

It was a heck of a lot of fun and neither of us fell off, even when we took these photos, swapping the phone back and forth, teetering and holding on. I feel like an Olympian now.

Tech Shines, Roanoke Fades in Top Va. Architecture List; Rigged?

Sweet Briar House near Lynchburg.
Virginia Tech, with four buildings in the top 10 statewide, shone brightly in the Virginia Center for Architecture's list of the Top 100 architecturally significant buildings in the state.

While Tech, which has an architectural college, was stealing the show, Roanoke--which has some truly nice buildings including several on City Market, as well as residences, churches and commercial buildings throughout the city--barely made a dent. The Taubman Museum of Art, 2008, was the city's top-ranked building at 52 and Carlin's Amoco service station, built in 1947 and restored by the Berglund Automotive Group, came in at 85. No other Roanoke Valley building was on the list (here).

The Taubman Museum of Art, Roanoke's best.
Sweet Briar House, 1790, and Monticello, 1770, topped the list with Tech's signature Burruss Hall, 1936, at No. 3.

Let me interject here than this survey looks rigged. My guess is that Tech grads banded together and stuffed the ballot box. There simply are not 40 percent of the best buildings in Virginia on Tech's campus. But that's my conjecture.

Here is the press release from Tech:

Hokies and Virginia Tech fans from everywhere who voted in the Virginia’s Favorite Architecture public poll helped land four structures on the Blacksburg campus in the top 10 of 250 nominees.
Burruss Hall was chosen as third followed by the LumenHAUS as fourth, the Pylons and Memorial Chapel as sixth, and the Moss Arts Center as eighth. The survey, which pulled nearly 30,000 votes, whittled the nominees down to 100 deemed Virginia’s most beloved pieces of architecture.
Photos and information about the top 100 buildings, bridges, monuments, and memorials are part of an exhibition that runs through Oct. 19 at the center in Richmond.
Universities and Thomas Jefferson claimed most votes for structures that placed in the top 10.
The top 10 most admired Virginia architectural structures, including the architect or firm, and the location, includes:
Carlin's Amoco in Roanoke.
  1. Sweet Briar House, Sweet Briar College, c. 1790 — Joseph Crews, Sweet Briar, Va.
  2. Monticello, c. 1770 — Thomas Jefferson, Charlottesville, Va.
  3. Burruss Hall (http://www.vt.edu/about/buildings/burruss-hall.html), Virginia Tech, 1936 — William Carneal and J. Ambler Johnston, AIA of Carneal, Johnston, and Wright, Architects and Engineers, Blacksburg, Va.
  4. LumenHAUS (http://www.unirel.vt.edu/lumenhaus.html), Virginia Tech, 2009 — Center for Design Research, Virginia Tech School of Architecture + Design, College of Architecture and Urban Studies, Blacksburg, Va.
  5. The Academical Village, University of Virginia, 1822 — Thomas Jefferson, Charlottesville, Va.
  6. War Memorial Chapel and Pylons (https://www.vt.edu/about/buildings/war-memorial-chapel.html), Virginia Tech, 1960 — Roy F. Larson, FAIA of Harbeson, Hough, Livingston, & Larson, Blacksburg, Va.
  7. Washington Dulles International Airport, 1962 — Eero Saarinen and Associates, Chantilly, Va.
  8. Moss Arts Center (http://www.vt.edu/about/buildings/center-for-the-arts.html), Virginia Tech, 2013 — Snøhetta, Blacksburg, Va.
  9. Christ Church, 1773 — Col. James Wren, Alexandria, Va.
  10. Poplar Forest, 1809 — Thomas Jefferson, Forest, Va.
The Top 100 beloved examples of architecture in Virginia include:
  • Thomas Jefferson is the architect appearing most frequently on the list, with 6 structures
  • There are 7 places of worship on the list
  • Schools and universities own or operate 12 structures on the list
  • One structure hasn’t even been built yet: The Virginia Commonwealth University Institute for Contemporary Art
  • Nearly all of the structures are cultural destinations: either museums, historic homes, memorials, or entertainment venues
  • The Richmond region boasts the most structures on the list with 32; the Blue Ridge region claims 23 (with 6 in the top 10); Northern Virginia has 18; the Hampton region has 16; and Central Virginia holds 11.