Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Oz Joins the Glasses Patrol

My five-year-old grandbuddy, Oz, got his first pair of glasses yesterday and he seems pleased.

They're OK, but my preference was the rounded pair that made him look like a dead ringer for Ralphie in "A Christmas Story."

He's a handsome little fella and he'll lose many pair of these babies before he's ... well ... 6. Enjoy them, young man.

Monday, December 5, 2016

A Christmas Parade About Christmas ... Finally

This shot is from the 2014 Roanoke Christmas Parade and it helped begin the controversy.
The Roanoke Christmas Parade is scheduled Friday and it looks like the demands for change I set in motion Dec. 12, 2014 (here) have come about in a more complete way than I imagined at the time (here). It has been a long and arduous process to finally make the Christmas Parade about Christmas, but I think the value will be obvious Friday evening when guns and hate are assigned elsewhere.

(If you'll go to the "Search" box on the right and type in "Confederate Battle Flag," you will find my posts about the controversy. There are quite a few of them.)

A story today in Roanoke's local daily (here) outlines the new rules, formulated before the most recent St. Patrick's Day Parade, and how those rules have basically shut out the Confederate battle flag, the one so despised by many of us. Last year's parade brought to head the pending confrontation when people not invited to the parade (second amendment adherents and battle flag supporters) squeezed in behind the Fincastle Confederate group to rub opponents' noses in their beliefs.

Fortunately, an intelligent and community-minded Downtown Roanoke Inc. (which sponsors the parade) and City Attorney's office went looking for answers (I was invited to take part and did) and found them, beginning with the understanding that this parade is a celebration of the birth of the Prince of Peace, not of the Confederate Battle Flag.

I wrote about the parade a number of times in the interim and met with DRI and even the Sons of Confederate Veterans--who would not budge from their position of demanding the flag and rifles be represented in the parade. My friend Dan Casey of the Roanoke daily wrote several columns about the matter and the Roanoke NAACP finally jumped aboard the steaming train about a year ago, organizing a boycott, that wasn't especially effective, truth be told.

I was disappointed throughout the entire two years that went into this effort that the Roanoke Christian community sat on its collective hands and did not defend Christ's birthday. It a non-Christian (me) to raise the alarm and a business/government group (DRI/Roanoke City) to do anything effective.

I say "congratulations" to those who helped formulate the tough, fair new rules and I will also say, "Merry Christmas" to all of you, including the Sons of Confederate Veterans and the second amendment guys.

Sunday, December 4, 2016

NYTimes Examines Liberty's AD Hire

Liberty, with 110,000 total students, is growing exponentially.
Liberty University's continued dance with powerful people whose values have been amply demonstrated to be dramatically different than those expressed by the Baptist school continues to fascinate me.

Most recently, it hired Baylor University's disgraced athletic director, Ian McCaw, on the heels of its chancellor, Jerry Falwell Jr.'s endorsement (and consideration as Secretary of Education) of Donald Trump. None of this is new. Liberty has a history of supporting undesirables of all stripes if those crooks had money and power ... or either.

Liberty, at its top edge, is all about power. Its humble beginnings with the evangelical ministry of a country preacher (Jerry Sr.) came in the early 1950s. Falwell projected that lust to be somebody, which never diminished. Falwell rubbed elbows with elite conservatives his entire life and endorsed the most radical of them consistently. They spoke at his little Baptist college's commencements and contributed to LBC's willy-nilly growth into a university with over the years.

Over the years, I've seen the younger Falwell (whose brother is a preacher) as much more of a wily opportunist than a religious fanatic. He is a superb business executive (we named him the region's Business Executive of the Year a few years ago when I was editor of the Blue Ridge Business Journal) who has built the new Liberty with a sophisticated and modern vision--practically, not philosophically. I've known him slightly for several years and never thought of him as the kind of religious radical his dad was.

The football stadium will almost certainly grow.
Falwell Sr. threw up a campus that was ugly, but one which began accomplishing a dream in 1971. Jerry Jr. is now rebuilding it in more of a modern image (it is truly impressive these days) and has even become a pioneer in online education, where the vast majority of Liberty students reside.
According to liberty.edu, the school's enrollment is 110,000, 15,000 of whom live on campus. It has 210 undergrad programs, 140 graduate programs and four doctorates. It is a big school, sitting on 7,000 acres with 6.6 million square feet of buildings in 385 structures.

Meanwhile, the Falwells have consistently longed to be in the upper tier of college big-time sports. And so today, its athletic director is the man who led Baylor to prominence, all the while ignoring a campus sex scandal that cost his, the president's and the head football coach's jobs. And should have.

The New York Times today (here) takes a close look at where Liberty is going and what it intends--even as it expresses the goal of hanging on to its core beliefs, which include "no NC-17 movies, no face piercings, no naughty music, and absolutely no canoodling, such as hanging out alone with a person of the opposite sex. Getting caught in a 'state of undress' with the opposite sex is good for a $250 fine and 18 hours of community service." That code would officially frown on gang rape, as well, something that seems to have been laughed off as "boys will be boys" at Baylor. But the hire of McCaw begs the question.

Falwell insists that McCaw's errors at Baylor "appear to be technical and unintentional.” I'm not quite sure how gang rape on his watch suffers under a technicality. Falwell says McCaw "understands the importance of complying with federal guidelines on reporting any sexual assault on a campus." So do I, but I didn't get there by covering up rapes on my campus.

Falwell clarifies his choice of McCaw by saying (according to The Times), "He is a good man who found himself in a place where bad things were happening and decided to leave and now Liberty is the beneficiary."

I suspect Falwell's definition of "a good man" just took a substantial hit. But will Liberty prosper on the football field? That's the real question. Success in football trumps (so to speak) all else.

Friday, December 2, 2016

Dickens of a Time on City Market

19th Century carolers in the Market candy store earlier this evening.
My buddy, Frosty, and me.
The Dickens of a Christmas, Roanoke's downtown holiday celebration, kicked off tonight with the annual tree lighting, albeit with a small hitch.

When the lever was pulled to light the huge tree, nothing happened. Embarrassed officials called in the cavalry and the problem was fixed post-haste, not without a smidge of embarrassment.

Margie and I went downtown this evening for Mill Mountain Theatre's fine production of "White Christmas," getting there a good bit early in anticipation of the Roanoke Christmas Parade, which we discovered isn't until next week.

Dickens of a Christmas actors.
Still, there was plenty to do, if only to stop in the wondrous candy shop, listen to some 19th Century carolers and buy a few stocking stuffers (buy locally, we're urged).

I bought a good cup of coffee in the City Market building and upon exiting, discovered that there was a booth offering free coffee--and probably better coffee, since it was Quality Coffee, Roanoke's own brand. I also found my old buddy Frosty the Snowman outside, looking a little like three-day-old New York snow, rather than fresh Virginia snow. Might want to wash that costume, boys and girls.

In any case, it was a fun evening.

Margie watching tree lighting from upstairs at Market Building.

MMT's 'White Christmas' Is What It Does Best

Finale of "White Christmas" at Mill Mountain Theatre.
Irving Berlin's classic "White Christmas," playing through Dec. 18, is the kind of production that Mill Mountain Theatre in Roanoke excels at presenting. It is a recognizable play, a musical, a big and expensive production. Professional actors are brought in from New York (to mingle with a few locals); costumes and sets are lavish; music is spot-on; lighting and sound are flawless.

Margie and I loved the play (my newsboy hat did, too).
And it works for the mostly older, well-heeled crowds it attracts (the kind that support the theater's efforts all year with financial contributions).

This year's Christmas feature is everything you have come to expect from MMT. The production is thoroughly entertaining in every facet.

The lead actors who get most of the attention--Patrick Shaw, Guy Mannick, Carlyn Connolly and Katherine Gentsch--have superb resumes (Mannick and Connolly are Actors Equity; Gentch and Shaw are notable)--are just right. The large ensemble cast (23 people in all, including a couple of familiar locals, Chris Shepard and young talent Olivia Goodman) sing, dance and act like they know what they're doing. I was, frankly, taken aback at the number of costume changes and the quality of the workmanship. Same with the sets: just marvelous.

Director/choreographer Eileen Grace deserves a special bow for bringing all these fine elements together into a solid entertainment package.

The original "White Christmas" was one of two movies in the late 1940s-early 1950s to feature the title song (the other was "Holiday Inn") and basically the same plot and almost everybody has seen it in one genre or another. MMT's regional theater version is the kind of production that is the foundation of its success and frankly, nobody else in this region does it nearly as well--or should.

It is a real highlight of the Christmas season.

Wasena Bridge Repair To Be Corrected

Wasena Bridge after repair recently.
A few days ago, I posted a piece about the patching job Roanoke City workers did on the Wasena Bridge, complaining that it was not only shabby looking, but appeared to be less than what is necessary to fix a bad break.

City Manager Chris Morrill saw the post, got his people into action and sent following message:


Here is background on the project from our public works team. If you see other issues in the future please feel free to contact me directly and I'll be happy to get you a response. You may want the background information before you post on your blog.

The photograph of the pavement restoration project on Wiley Drive does not represent the completed project. There was deterioration in the pavement due primarily to erosion at the river bank. Public Works staff considered extending the structural wall of the low water bridge at the bridge abutment and then reestablish the road with compacted gravel and paving. It was determined that the excavation required with this option would have been more complicated and costly than needed.

Staff determined that the best option was to add additional stone to create an elevated area so that concrete could be poured into it. The intent is to "armor" the slope to prevent erosion of the bank, which in turn should mitigate erosion of the road surface. All of the debris and vegetation was cleaned out of the pour area. 

There was an area of concrete that did get pulled beyond the main structure during finishing. This explains the exposed vegetation through the concrete surface in the photograph. This will be cleaned up and rip rap (stones) will be placed over the concrete in the sloped area.

Chris Morrill
Roanoke City Manager

Breitbart vs. Kellogg's: Now, That's Sweet

I've been in and around the publishing business for more than five decades and I've never before seen a response to advertisers pulling ads like Breitbart News's "War on Kellogg's" going on now. Kellogg's pulled its ads because Breitbard has been ... well, Breitbart, a kind of Rush Limbaugh on steroids, wants to get even--the same way Donald Trump would.

Breitbart claims Kellogg's goal is essentially the destruction of free thought and an effort "to blacklist Breitbart News in order to placate left-wing totalitarians, [which is] a disgraceful act of cowardice.” (Sound like Trump yet?)

'Course Breitbart is still headed by Trump's chief philosopher Steve Bannon (a Virginia Tech grad for all you Hoos looking for an additional reason to rant about Hokies present and past). This white nationalist site is proudly racist, homophobic, misogynist and just about any other "ist" or "ism" you can spell ... and some you can't.

CBS News tells us (here), "Breitbart’s campaign against Kellogg’s is unusual on a number of fronts, not in the least because news organizations traditionally maintain a separation between their business operations and their editors and reporters so that journalists can operate independently from business interests." That's not a consideration on internet sites (and I will point to HuffingtonPost and the horribly-written Daily Kos on the left) or talk radio, not to mention Fox "News."

“Most journalistic organizations have checks between the people who pay for your news work and the news work itself, so that you are as a journalist protected from those influences," says academic Lee Wilkins. But then, only the all-out, far right calls what Breitbart does "journalism" or "news."

A lot of web ads are placed by Google's automated placement and the advertisers often don't even know it until somebody complains. It would seem to me that people who own businesses would want to know where they are advertising. In fact the group #GrabYourWallet, which is organizing a boycott of Breitbart, says there is a grace period: "Because of the way digital advertising works, we’re not yet adding companies that advertise on Bretibart to the boycott list. We’re giving them time to work with their media buyers and ad networks to ensure their ads no longer appear there,” says a spokesman.

My response was swift and assertive: I bought a box of Kellogg's Frosted Flakes (with Clusters) as soon as I found out. They're grrrrrrrrrrrrrr-eat!

Theatre/Theater: What's the Difference?

Taking a bow for the theatre at the theater.
I write a lot about live theater/theatre and the question keeps coming up: Which spelling is correct and when is it not correct?

I found the following explanation (here), which seems to make a kind of ambiguous sense to me: "Garner’s and The AP Stylebook both list 'theater' as the preferred spelling. ... However ...'theater' has become the preference in American English only in the last 50 years or so, which makes some people reluctant to accept its spelling.

"Others have attempted to distinguish between theatre and theater, with theatre being an art form and theater being a building where theatre is performed. None of these, however, has caught on and none is borne out in actual usage.

"Unless 'theatre' is used in the proper name of a building, production company, etc., 'theater' is the correct spelling in American English."

So there you have it. Murky as ever.

(Photo: http://cytglobal.com)

Another Theatrical Treat at Hollins

Todd Ristau (left), Ernie Zulia of Hollins.
My friend Susan and I took in Hollins University's annual "Ten-Minute Plays: Directing Class" last night and what a treat it was! This was an expo of the directing class in the theater school, using original plays and Hollins students to present them.

Those in this region who know anything about live theater fully understand the vital contribution Hollins (behind leaders Ernie Zulia and Todd Ristau)  makes at every level and presentations like this show how the students develop. Close to five dozen students took part in this showcase, which was an education for those of us who've never taken a theater class.

I think it is important that the program for the plays did not list cast (as many as five actors, as few as two) for any of the nine plays, but concentrated on the director and the crew. I also found it interesting that Susan's and my favorite plays were by Roanoke students Emma Sala (a junior) and Anna Holland (sophomore).

Neither of us knew which play was directed by whom until after we'd made the decision. Both these young women are from theatrical families (actor/director Ed Sala is Emma's dad and Miriam Frazier, co-owner of Off the Rails Productions is Anna's mom) and have extensive local acting experience.

The quality of the writing throughout last night's production was quite high last night--as you'd expect at Hollins--and the development of the works was impressive.

I think I enjoyed the students' unguarded reactions as much as I liked the plays. It was like being in an African-American Baptist church on Sunday morning. The audience became part of the play. This was obviously an audience of young feminists whose sexuality is in the developmental stage and whose enthusiasm for life and theater know few bounds. In another setting the crowd might have been intrusive, but not here. It was pure delight.

How Much Will ACA, SS Repeal Cost You?

Those of you denying that Republicans are hell-bent on destroying the safety net most working Americans build for themselves with the ACA, Social Security and Medicare will want to understand what's being proposed.

"Under the proposal, a typical 65-year-old retiring in 2022 would be expected to devote nearly half their monthly Social Security checks toward health care costs, more than double what they would spend under current Medicare law,” says a Kaiser Family Foundation assessment. Medicare eligibility age would rise to 67 from 65, and the elderly will be required to contribute more of a small, fixed income toward health care. Of as much importance as anything else, however, is that it would repeal the government's mandate to negotiate prescription drug prices. That is a direct collapse before Big Pharma, whose profits would soar.

The Congressional Budget Office has concluded, "... the total cost of providing health care benefits (premium and other costs) to a typical 65-year old in a private plan would be about $20,500 in 2022. The government would contribute $8,000 or 39 percent toward the total cost, and the remaining $12,500 would be paid by the beneficiary. The CBO projects that out-of-pocket costs for the typical 65-year old would be more than twice as large under the proposal [as] under traditional Medicare ($5,630) in 2022, because the cost of providing benefits is greater under private plans than under traditional Medicare."

Kaiser has found "that for the average senior who receives ... $2,130 per month in Social Security benefits (in 2022, the year Ryan's plan would begin), a retiree would have to pay $1041.66 of that income for their healthcare." I depend heavily on Social Security (and Medicare) to live and that outlay would be devastating. My guess is that many elderly people would die because of the collapse of their income and Medicare coverage, which not only helps with treatment, but also--and as importantly--prevention. 

(Graphic: Kaiser Family Foundation.)

Trump's 'Art of the Bribe'

Carrier's modern factory in Mexico is LEED certified.
About 1,000 workers at Carrier Air Conditioning in Indiana are tickled to death today with Donald Trump's deal to keep their jobs in the U.S. Another 1,000, whose jobs will go to Mexico, aren't so happy. And a lot of Trump voters are saying, "We told you so."

What they told us and what is happening with this unfortunate precedent are different breeds of cat. Trump arm-twisting will cost Indiana another $7 million to keep Carrier and will embolden other U.S. manufacturers to go palms up every time there is a financial challenge that could possibly result in moving a factory to Mexico (which is understandably pissed at this deal).

President Obama and presidential candidate Bernie Sanders also keyed in on Carrier's decision to move South, but neither offered the farm to save a cow. Trump's Art of the Deal--which likely included some heavy-handed threats to Carrier's parent company, dealing with federal contracts--isn't as pretty or as slick as you might think. In fact, it is being tightly examined and intensely criticized by people inside.

A website, goodjobsfirst.org (here), gives us this info: "In recent years, state and local governments have been awarding giant economic development subsidy packages to corporations more frequently than ever before. The packages frequently reach nine and even ten figures, and the cost per job averages $456,000 and often exceeds $1 million." That, in short, is paying ransom--handsomely--for jobs.

Goodjobsfirst researcher Philip Mattera says, “These subsidy awards are getting out of control. Huge packages that used to be reserved for ‘trophy’ projects creating large numbers of jobs are now being given away more routinely.” In a review of 240 huge deals, goodjobsfirst.com found state and local costs of $75 million or more each, cumulatively more than $64 billion.

You often hear local officials in this area crowing about how much money they spent or tax breaks they granted to land a large employer. That employer is bound to stay in the area for a while, but certainly not for the long haul and often the employer leaves after a few years and finding a better deal elsewhere. I have covered dozens of those announcements over the years and they often, in a circus atmosphere, attract governors, senators and congressmen to give their blessings, along with an oversized--in every way--government check to the re-locating company.

A goodjobsfirst exec says that some of the deals involve few jobs. “Some are instances of job blackmail, in which a company threatens to move and gets paid to stay put. Others involve interstate job piracy, in which a company gets subsidies to move existing jobs across a state border, sometimes within the same metropolitan area,” says Greg LeRoy.

Who is getting tyhe deals (Alcoa in New York got $5.6 billion at the top end)? Try this: oil giants such asExxon Mobil, Royal Dutch Shell, Boeing, Airbus, Citigroup, Goldman Sachs, Walt Disney, ESPN, Sears, Cabela's, General Electric, Dow, Ex Chemical, Amazon, Apple, Intel and Samsung. That's cloud level. Below it are thousands of other companies with their hands out and localities willing to pay the bribes. "Art of the Deal"? Hardly. More "Art of the Bribe."

(Photo: carrier.com).

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

A Shoddy Job of Bridge Patching in Wasena

A few weeks ago, I ran a photo of this eroded patch of Wiley Drive in Roanoke's Smith Park and mentioned that the City of Roanoke would do well to patch it, lest the erosion affect the bridge's integrity.

The city finally reacted with a patch, but the quality of the work is laughable. I worked a summer building rock walls when I was younger and I can tell you that this is not professional work, not  close. The patch area doesn't appear to have been prepared. There is a small bush still growing  in the middle of the patch and in a couple of spots limbs were not picked up and removed; the concrete was simply poured over them.

All that affects the aesthetics of the patch, but it also hints that the integrity is compromised with shoddy work. Whoever supervised this work needs to have a prayer meeting with his supervisor, who should have a come to Jesus meeting with the city manager. This level of work is not acceptable.

Monday, November 28, 2016

Does Liberty Really Want To Replicate Baylor?

"Ian’s [McCaw] success really speaks for itself. You look at what Baylor was able to do during his tenure, it fits perfectly with where we see our sports programs going. This is an exciting time for us.” --Jerry Falwell, Jr. on hiring the disgraced Baylor University AD.

McCaw was one of several casualties resulting from a massive sex scandal at Baylor, one that saw Coach Art Briles fired and the college president, Ken Starr, demoted and eventually departed. Baylor and Liberty are both Baptist and Liberty has its eyes on becoming a Division I school. Baylor has had successful programs under McCaw, but its national image right now is in the toilet because of the sex scandal.

The fact that "it fits perfectly with where we see our sports programs going" could well be problematic for Liberty.

Meanwhile, Regent University, another far right Christian political entity, recently hired former Gov. Bob McDonnell, who barely dodged jail time after a conviction for misusing his office.

Getting the Right Amount of Exercise

Hiking provides a good workout for me.
On the way down to Blacksburg yesterday for a basketball game, my friend and coach Susan and I got into an exchange about how much exercise is the right amount for a guy my age (70).  Susan had several pretty strong recommendations which, on the surface, seemed pretty light to me, but this morning she sent me the official guidelines and they are close to what she recommended Sunday.

That gives me considerable comfort because it's awfully close to what I've been doing for a good while. During the cool/cold months, I work two or three times a week in a gym, but when it's warm, I'm outside, hiking, kayaking or doing other types of brisk exercise--as much for the joy of it as for the exercise.

Here are the recommendations Susan sent:

The basic American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) recommendations – categorized by cardiorespiratory exercise, resistance exercise, flexibility exercise and neuro-motor exercise – are as follows:

Cardio-respiratory ExerciseAdults should get at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise per week. Exercise recommendations can be met through 30-60 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise (five days per week) or 20-60 minutes of vigorous-intensity exercise (three days per week). One continuous session and multiple shorter sessions (of at least 10 minutes) are both acceptable to accumulate desired amount of daily exercise. Gradual progression of exercise time, frequency and intensity is recommended for best adherence and least injury risk. People unable to meet these minimums can still benefit from some activity.

Resistance Exercise
Adults should train each major muscle group two or three days each week using a variety of exercises and equipment. Very light or light intensity is best for older persons or previously sedentary adults starting exercise. Two to four sets of each exercise will help adults improve strength and power. For each exercise, 8-12 repetitions improve strength and power, 10-15 repetitions improve strength in middle-age and older persons starting exercise, and 15-20 repetitions improve muscular endurance.
Adults should wait at least 48 hours between resistance training sessions.

Flexibility Exercise
Adults should do flexibility exercises at least two or three days each week to improve range of motion.
Each stretch should be held for 10-30 seconds to the point of tightness or slight discomfort.
Repeat each stretch two to four times, accumulating 60 seconds per stretch. Static, dynamic, ballistic and PNF stretches are all effective. Flexibility exercise is most effective when the muscle is warm. Try light aerobic activity or a hot bath to warm the muscles before stretching.

Neuro-motor Exercise
Neuro-motor exercise (sometimes called “functional fitness training”) is recommended for two or three days per week. Exercises should involve motor skills (balance, agility, coordination and gait), proprioceptive exercise training and multifaceted activities (tai ji and yoga) to improve physical function and prevent falls in older adults. 20-30 minutes per day is appropriate for neur-omotor exercise.

Sunday, November 27, 2016

A Day of Getting To Know Each Other ... Again

Photogirl at work.
My best girl and I took a little time off for ourselves over the weekend, as she and my son's family were here from their new home in Memphis for the holiday weekend. Maddie and I decided to walk Roaring Run, a scene of an earlier adventure (one where we were attacked by bees).

It also gave us time by ourselves to rediscover the magic that is there for the two of us, and has been all along. This little girl, who now 11 and might object to that description, is now 5'2" tall and about as big around as a stick. She's all personality, all smile, all dimples and an incredible joy to be around.

We, of course, took some photos and Maddie is getting better with the camera--yes, a real camera, not a phone--each time I see her. I fully expect she'll be quite accomplished in short order. Here's some of what we shot. At the top is one of my favorite portraits of her, taken at the waterfall at Roaring Run.

Me crossing Roaring Run.
Looking grown up.
On a big rock at a lower waterfall.
On top of the waterfall, leaving a sign she was there.
Sampling the fresh water.
Maddie at the furnace.
We like each other.
Maddie crossing the creek.

A Fine Time in Hokieville

Susan shows off her alma-mater shirt.
Susan and me outside Cassell Coliseum.
My friend Susan and I drove--slowly because of absurd traffic--to Blacksburg this afternoon to see Virginia Tech's undefeated women's basketball team play nationally-ranked (and pretty much legendary) Tennessee because we thought it would be a great time. It was, from every angle.

Susan's action shot (from the stands).
Susan is a Tech grad and her team won (while my Lady Vols played entertaining basketball) and we were in a boisterous crowd intent on enjoying itself. I think we all did. Tech's is a good basketball team full of color, adventure, attitude and effort that will take it far. It is led by a waterbug guard named Chanette Hicks from Charlotte and three international players (Samantha Hill from Canada, Regan Magarity from Sweden and and Vanessa Panousis from Australia). Hicks is an indomitable spirit, worth the price of admission by herself.

I fully expected to see Tech equit itself well, then face in the second half. It was up by nine in the first half, trailed briefly in the second, but for the most part was in control throughout because the Hokies play good basketball, team basketball, fully entertaining basketball. I strongly suggest you see a game soon. The crowd was about half a house and my guess is that as the season progresses, tickets will be harder to come by.

On the way home, we stopped Mountain View Restaurant in Ironto, the place with the great pizza. We had a Stromboli and a Calzone and they lived up to the restaurant's reputation. Yum.

Here's some of what the day looked like.
Susan shot this of me.
The house was about a third full (3,100 people). I expect crowds will be larger shortly. The basketball is entertaining.
Food for hungry people at Mountain View.

Thursday, November 24, 2016

My Two Smiling Sweeties

This is my two best girls tonight at our Thanksgiving celebration at the Smith manse on Edinburgh Dr. That's grandgirl Maddie on the left (growing faster than I can deal with) and my sweet Margie on the right. Great smiles, both.

Fall Lingers Beautifully on Thanksgiving Day

A Thanksgiving noon hike brought out the color.
A sun-roof kinda day.
It's Thanksgiving Day and the family's not coming over until this evening (Madeline earlier to help cook), so I headed out for a Turkey Hike around lunch time. It was a beautiful afternoon and the spectacular fall color is still hanging around, as you can see here.

The day was so gorgeous (70 degrees, bright sun, light breeze) that I opened my sun roof on the Bug coming home. Felt splendid.

The black and white of winter is creeping in.
Fall color remains impressive.
The burning bush is still spectacular.
Cool water along Murray Run.
I'll hold on to this vision for a while.

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

I Was Wrong, and I'm Sorry, Sir

I just had an awakening in a grocery store that may well have given me the best lesson of the day--albeit an uncomfy one.

I was rushing through and spotted an opening at a register and sped toward it when I saw an old man doddering toward the short line, holding one small bottle of spice ... cinnamon, I think. I pulled up, looked at him and said, "Why don't you go ahead of me. You won't take long and I'm not in that much of a hurry." He smiled and said, "Thank you, sir," pleasantly. That's when I noticed the white TRUMP hat with the navy lettering. Oh, shit, I thought.

I stood there silently grumbling to myself as the old man enthusiastically engaged in a conversation about gardening with the pleasant black woman ahead of him in the line. I thought, "That old man hates you because of your color, lady," but I didn't say it. Thank god.

As the woman bid him au revoir, he turned to me, looked at my few items of groceries, faced the cashier and said, "Put that on my bill." I was stopped in mid-nasty-thought. "Oh, no-no-no-no-no-no," I said. "You don't need to do that."

"But I want to," he said, about as warmly as a human person can say it. I know I turned bright red and my eyes went to my feet, full frontal embarrassed. Here I was making all these assumptions about this lovely man because he wore a hat that pushes me into all kinds of nasty thoughts.

I was wrong and I'm sorry. I'm glad the old man didn't know what I was thinking, but my guess is it wouldn't have bothered him. He would have bought my groceries anyway.

(Photo: digitaltrends.com.)

The Media Has Become Its Own Worst Enemy

Trump: The media be damned!
"What struck me most as I spoke with readers is how much, to a person, they had something to say that was smart and reasonable ... they had reactions that were well worth hearing. I found myself wishing someone from the newsroom was on the line with me, especially to hear how many of the more liberal voters wanted more balanced coverage. Not an echo chamber of liberal intellectualism, but an honest reflection of reality."--Liz Spayd, NYTimes Public Editor (here)

I get it that The Times is really trying to humble itself, to reach for an apology, to explain, but when you begin a thought with the condescending and patronizing admission that "to a person" those complaining about coverage of the presidential election "had something to say that was smart and reasonable," you have offended your audience.

Lordy, that brings back my newspaper days memories of insufferable arrogance, of the thought that only newspaper people could possibly understand anything. It was a defensive posture, one, I suspect that shielded us against the pain of being wrong. We thought we were always right, or nearly so, but we listened to the voices of the people as if they were children and we were patient parents. There, there little boys and girls ...

Yesterday a planned meeting between Trump and Times representatives was cancelled (by Trump) because he wasn't allowed to change the rules of the meeting. Trump blamed The Times for not doing what he wanted.

The insufferable arrogance of the major American press (TV this time) was on display yesterday in a White House comedy only the Trump Administration could possibly have manufactured. The Great Man Hisself summoned the pearly-toned mouthpieces of the major networks in order to tell them they suck, and he did. There was no diplomacy here, no effort at reaching any kind of understanding, no hearing of explanations or reasons. Just a blunt-instrument attack from a bully against an institution that has become so thoroughly infected with corruption that it may well be un-salvageable.

The Times has represented the very top of the journalistic mountain for so many years that people assume a lot about it that isn't always true ... things like motive. We expect The Times to be pure as the driven snow, but it is closer to the purity of the driven snow piled on a New York City street. It suffers the same influences as Fox, CBS, The Washington Times, the Wall Street Journal, MSNBC and the entire host of other "mainstream" outlets, all of which are publicly owned by corporations, easily influenced by money.

Trump's dog and pony show Monday was an abject demonstration that he is in charge, that he will accept no dissent, no criticism, no question of his decisions. He will run the government--in as close as he can get to an authoritarian manner--and he will book no objection. He will do bad things to the media if he doesn't get his way.

That is exactly how I expect this silly little man to operate for the next four years. It is what we have come to expect and though some will say that his forthrightness about what he expects is "just honest," I suggest that it is treasonous. This is a man who plans to sell the presidency and our country to the highest bidder in order to personally profit. We've had some crooks in the White House upon occasion, but nothing like this. Not even close to this.

We should all be terrified. And we should demand a press that is tough as nails, that is fair, that doesn't back down from a fight and that is, by god, honest.

(Photo: mediacaffeine.com)

Monday, November 21, 2016

Happy Thanksgiving, with a Remembrance

This ticket is from a long-ago (early 1930s; the last number is obscured) Virginia Tech vs. VMI football game at Roanoke's Maher Field, a game in which my dad played. Andrew Pitzer sent it to me (thanks, Andrew).

The game was played at Maher--which houses baseball fields today--for many years before it moved to the brand new Victory Stadium next door in 1942 (my former mother-in-law was a cheerleader for Jefferson High in the opening game at the stadium).

Maher became a Roanoke Red Sox baseball stadium 1943-1954 and I actually have a baseball program for a game on Aug. 8, 1946, a little over a week after I was born.

My dad, George Smith, was a good player at Tech (that's him, bottom right) and told a few (very few, because he didn't talk a lot) very good stories about those days. The ticket means a lot to me.

Sunday, November 20, 2016

Do We Imagine Mr. Trump To Be a Smidge Touchy?

OK, Lucy, 'splain me this: 

Donald Trump paid $25 million in a legal settlement over Trump University cheating its students out of a lot of money because, he says, he didn't have time to pursue the case. Something about having to do his new day job. 

However, he has time to tap out a tweet about the members of a Broadway play reading a statement to Mr. Trump's President of Vice Mr. Pence, asking that all people be treated equally.

I'm wondering what the president-elect's priorities are and whether his skin is so thin that we can actually see through it. I'm also wondering how what the cast members read could possibly be considered a criticism--and not a simple request for respect--except by somebody who is so deeply paranoid that he should maybe visit a shrink during the coming week.

(Graphic: 2big2fall.wordpress.com)

Plenty of Action--and Seats--at Tech Hockey Game

Margie and Susan in their choice seats.
The three of us, squeezed in tight.
Susan, Margie and I took in a Virginia Tech-University of Virginia hockey game Saturday afternoon and I was met with a few surprises.

First, the hockey was pretty good: fast, youthful, energetic and entertaining. Two fights and either two or three expulsions for those keeping that particular score. Second, we were almost alone in the cavernous, 10,000-seat coliseum (maybe 200 in attendance). Third, a bottle of water costs $5, a pretzel $4 and a beer (which I don't drink and never would have at this price), is $9.

Tech plays a bunch of home games and the price is right: $5 for admission and free parking. But, for heaven's sake, sneak in your own food and drink. You can go broke quickly at those prices.
The post-game handshake ... after two fights saw two or three players ejected from the game.