Thursday, January 31, 2013

Applebee's: Fire the Preacher, Not the Waitress

(Updated: The preacher's name is apparently Alois Bell, not Wes Bell and she is a woman.)

So now we have Applebee's, a restaurant that will never see another nickle from me, firing a waitress for posting an insulting receipt from tightwad minister, saying: "I give god 10 percent; why do you get 18?"

Applebee's answer to this, following the firing, was this tortured corporate bullshit (found in this report):

"Our Guests’ personal information – including their meal check – is private, and neither Applebee’s nor its franchisees have a right to share this information publicly. We value our Guests’ trust above all else. Our franchisee has apologized to the Guest and has taken disciplinary action with the Team Member for violating their Guest’s right to privacy. This individual is no longer employed by the franchisee."

The "guest's" name--Alois Bell (if I'm reading right)--was on the signature line and Applebee's may well have a legal leg to stand on, but Alois Bell should be a bit more of a human being than he shows here. We're talking morality, not legality (which rarely have anything to do with each other). A little public humiliation will likely do Alois Bell  some good. (It's reported she has apologized, which is a nice step. Public exposure is a good thing.)

People in service jobs, who make very, very little money and almost never have even a hint of benefits, don't need the condescension and  whack-job preachers.

House Passes, Senate Spikes Tebow Bill

Sydney Bowman, who wants to wrestle, testified to the committee today.
My buddy Valerie Garner is reporting on Facebook that the Virginia House of Delegates has passed the Tebow Bill, but the Senate has spiked it. It is the bill that would allow home-schooled kids to participate in public schools' extracurricular activities. This is a bill that has created a tempest in a teapot, one guy replying to Val's post that it was "homeschool welfare."

It is not welfare of any kind when the parents of these children pay a full share of taxes to their localities for schools and don't participate. Many have religious objections. The people I know best who home school their children believe--rightly, I'll add--that they can educate their children far better. Some of them are far better educated and prepared to teach than public school teachers.

The opposition's arguments are that home-schooled kids aren't required to adhere to a schedule and to make certain grades and there is some question of liability. I don't see where any of that--save for the liability, which could easily be solved by saying the kids are students at the school and having them pay the same fees--matters.

In any case, I don't see what the objection is here. Their dues are paid and having them on the debate team or the football team or in the choir is not going to hurt anybody (unless they beat out your kid for quarterback, I suspect) and it could benefit everybody. So many of these home school kids are an intellectual level above most of what we get in public schools and their influence would be good. The socialization offered by participating in group activities will benefit the home-schoolers and make them better citizens. Everybody benefits.

If you're just jealous of these kids, grow up and shut up. Give them the chance they deserve. They're children, for chrissakes.

(Photo:, Lynn Mitchell)

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Photo of the Day: Question

OK, what is this? Hint: It is not a human brain (not even a Republican brain). See below for answer.

Photo of the Day: Answer

It is a detail from this: a pile of filthy snow in the parking lot at Valley View Mall today about noon. It was 65 degrees and the snow was struggling to melt. The pollution and nastiness was apparently holding the cold in. They do seem to go together, huh?

Cuccinelli's Abortion Record Inconsistent (at Best)

"As a state senator in 2004, he sponsored a bill that would have forced doctors to anesthetize any fetus older than 12 weeks before performing an abortion. Doctors who failed to comply with the law would be charged with a Class 6 felony and face up to five years in prison, despite medical evidence that anesthesia increases the risk of death for women undergoing abortions."

--Huffington Post piece this a.m. about Virginia candidate for governor Ken Cuccinelli's "conflicted message on abortion mandates"

Design for New Downtown Apartment Building Shown

(Correction: This location was incorrect in an earlier version.)

This is a rendering of the planned Jefferson Apartments in downtown Roanoke, which will be constructed beginning this spring across from the Virginia Tech Carilion Medical School & Research Institute on the Jefferson site. They will have 156 units and will substantially expand downtown living in Roanoke.

The architect is Lyall Design of Norfolk and the developer is Roanoke River Investments. This presentation was for Carilion. This is part of the grand plan for the south end of Roanoke by Roanoke River Investments, the brainchild of former Roanoke City Manager Bern Ewert, lawyer Bill Rakes of Gentry Locke Rakes & Moore and Randy Lyall of Lyall Design. Carilion is playing a major role, as well.

Virginia Republicans Try to Force Prayer in School, Elsewhere

"I can't tell you how many lawsuits are buried in this language."

-- Claire Guthrie Gastanaga, ACLU of Virginia on a bill introduced in the Virginia Senate that would ultimately produce an amendment to the state constitution permitting government-sponsored Christian prayer in school and at government meetings. Try to remember that nobody has banned or tried to ban prayer in school. It's just public prayer that coerces young minds to take part that is banned. Anybody can pray any time he chooses. Matthew 6:5-6 says public prayer is a sham, if you believe the Bible. See the report here

Monday, January 28, 2013

Language Disaster of the Day: Definitely Unanimous

A story from the Norfolk Virginian-Pilot that a local daily in Roanoke ran on its website today needed a little more copy editing than it got. The story is about a bill in the General Assembly that would help define bullying in order to regulate it. Here's what it said in part:

"State code does not, however, definite what constitutes bullying."

The bill "would require schools to allow students to unanimously report bullying incidents and require administrators to investigate and address those claims, such as by offering counseling for victims or behavior modification plans (for?) bullies."

Here's the whole story. See if you can read it without grimacing. The writer is Kathy Adams. I suggest she have a prayer meeting with the copy desk, which is supposed to have her back. It doesn't.

Quote of the Day: The GOP's 'Intellectual Bubble'

"I think it’s important to understand the extent to which leading Republicans live in an intellectual bubble. They get their news from Fox and other captive media, they get their policy analysis from billionaire-financed right-wing think tanks, and they’re often blissfully unaware both of contrary evidence and of how their positions sound to outsiders."

--Paul Krugman in today's NYTimes

Sunday, January 27, 2013

'Gangster Squad': Make Your Own Decision on This One

Director Ruben Fleischer had a ton of material and solid actors to work with, as well as a script that could have been productive, but "Gangster Squad" fails on nearly every level, beginning with its eerie similarity to "The Untouchables."

The star-power is bright: Sean Penn, Josh Brolin, Ryan Gosling, Emma Stone, Giovanni Robisi, Nick Nolte and a few others, but none is especially outstanding and Emma Stone--whom I have adored most of the time--is decidedly miscast as a mobster's mall. She's not in the same universe with her character. Penn's over the top; Brolin is wasted and Gosling, Robisi and Nolte are close enough to get about half a cigar among them.

This is a movie that opens with a rival gang member being chained to the bumpers of two cars and pulled apart. The violence grows from there, even though one of the big gun scenes in Grauman's Chinese Theater was eliminated in the wake of the murders of children in Connecticut a few weeks ago.

At the center of "Gangster Squad" is the downfall of Mickey Cohen, a ruthless and notorious 1940s West Coast gangster. The L.A. cops--mostly corrupt at the top--have to rely on a small group put together to stop Cohen and these guys have to break the same laws Cohen's breaking in order to be effective.

The moral dilemma is the same one we've seen over and over (should we spit on the Constitution in order to take down really, really bad people? In this movie, the answer is a decided "yes!").

Truth: I kind of enjoyed this flick. OK, guilty pleasure by a professed pacifist. No, I can't 'splain it, Lucy and dang if I can fight it. I keep showing up at these movies with far more gunfire than is comfortable and I keep not loving them, but liking a lot of them--to my dismay. You're on your own here. I can't make a recommendation either way.

Friday, January 25, 2013

Karen Chase's Bonjour 40 Follows a New Standard in Publishing

My pal Karen Chase, who used to run a design studio in Roanoke and has moved that to Richmond, has a new book that is causing a stir. It's not so much the content of Bonjour 40 (A Paris travel log: 40 years. 40 days. 40 seconds.) that is causing people to stop and look, but how Karen put this book together and is marketing it.

Let's say up front that the book is quite good.

No mistake: Bonjour 40 would, I think, be a hit regardless of who published it and designed it. But Karen did all that, in addition to providing the prose. Bonjour 40 began as a blog for Karen's friends, recording the 40-day vacation she took in Paris as her 40th birthday present to herself. Then it blossomed, as only it can in the hands of an artist.

Her photos are striking and her stories revealing of a marvelous time in a sparkling place.

Karen's marketing, creation of an e-book (which she says is selling 200 copies a month, quite a nice number) and general understanding of who buys books and how they are bought are all impressive.

If this is where we're going, I like it and I think the ride will be fun. Imagine following Karen on her bike through the streets of Paris. You have my permission to ride a Vespa (but you can't have Audrey Hepburn on the back; she's with me).

Looks Like Ralph Smith Opposes Electoral Change

(Update: OK, this is a confusing situation. Monday, Ralph Smith voted in favor--with all other Virginia Senate Republicans--of a bill that would re-draw district lines, giving his party a distinct advantage in the majority of Virginia districts. On a second issue--using those districts to determine the state's electoral votes in presidential elections is what he came out against yesterday. Two different issues, but basically the same result: diminising the impact of each Virginian's vote. The Washington Post reports Smith is not alone in his opposition here.)

Looks like your favorite editr might have misjudged former Roanoke Mayor and now Senator Ralph Smith (R-Bedford County, etc.) for his part in the re-districting effort that is creating such a national scandal for the Republicans.

He is quoted by Rachael Madow on her blog (here) as saying he's opposed to the (bold represents a correction) plan that would change the way Virginia casts its electoral votes from giving all its votes to the popular vote winner to scoring by district wins. That alone could kill it, since the Senate is evenly divided, 20-20. Never thought I'd say this, but good for Ralph Smith if this is true.

Thanks to Michael Abraham for the tip.


Thursday, January 24, 2013

Photo of the Day: Rod Belcher's First Novel Signing

Rod Belcher hunkers down as the line grows at Books-a-Million for his debut novel.
Rod signs for Stephanie Kepros, first in line.
My old buddy and colleague Rod Belcher, who has written for both FRONT and its predecessor Blue Ridge Business Journal, signed his first novel tonight at Books-a-Million in Roanoke.

Rod's book is Six Gun Tarot (Tor) and it was published without the benefit of a literary agent. Rod pushed this one himself in a world that is highly competitive and where an agent generally gives the writer a shot at a major publisher.

Good for Rod.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Another Treasonous Effort From Virginia Republicans

The damn Republicans simply won't quit trying to jimmy the voting system in this country so they can win elections without having to win the majority of the vote.

Here's the latest outrage, just out of committee (on a tie vote because one Republican has some modicom of morality). If this passes, the gerrymandered district lines in Virginia--which heavily favor Republicans--will be far more important than the popular vote and a tiny, rural county like Lee will have the same impact as huge, populous county likeFairfax.

These guys just don't know when to quit trying to take away our rights. It is a simple case of treason and we're going to need to start charging these anti-Americans with the worst crime we can.

Roanoke Regional Writers Conference Postponed to Next Weekend

The Friday weather forecast in Roanoke has remained pretty steady for two days, telling us we're going to have 1-3 inches of precipitation in the afternoon, up to about 7 p.m., the start time for the Roanoke Regional Writers Conference.

Because of the likelihood of an ice sheet forming, we are going to postpone this year's conference until Feb. 1-2 (next week) with the same schedule in place.

It is likely that we will lose a few of our presenters and we will note that when we know, but the safety of everyone is of paramount importance and it is our priority right now. If you cannot make next week's conference, please let Chris Powell ( know and she will arrange for a refund. We hope you will all join us.

Registration has been re-opened and you can register here later today when the site is updated.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Photo of the Day: A Cure for the Winter Blues

OK, lovely people, here's what one cooks when it's colder than a well digger's ass outside: vegetable beef soup, rich, thick and hearty. Having some later with a peanutbutter and honey sammich. Mmmmmm, winter food.

Governor Speaks Against Senate Redistricting Surprise

Looks like Governor Bob McDonnell, perhaps looking down the road to a run for something other than governor, has sided with the angels for a change--and now we will see if he does anything about it, like vetoing the outrageous redistricting bill passed yesterday by the Senate.

According to the Times-Dispatch in Richmond, McDonnell says, "This is not an issue that I advocated and I was surprised about the vote yesterday ... I certainly don't think that's a good way to do business." He made no mention of a veto.

The governor says he is worried that this bill could endanger some of the programs he hopes to get passed in the Senate that could meet a Democratic stone wall if this bill stands. He has a point. Treachery is not a good way to build consensus.

The Outrage Continues in Virginia's Senate

Republican bill sponsor Watkins (left) with Henry Marsh.
The Virginia Senate (and the House, as well) continues to defile the very voters who put them in office, granting them the trust they don't deserve to run the Commonwealth with integrity and morality. Neither of those traits has been on display of late as these intensely partisan politicians continue to throw dirt on our form of government in order to consolidate power in the most unfair method possible.

The gerrymander is as old as government, but rarely has it been used on the state and national levels to the degree it is being used now. Virginia's 20 Republicans yesterday (as reported here earlier) slipped in a redistricting bill, sponsored by Powhatan's John Watkins, while one of the Democrats--aging civil rights leader Henry Marsh, celebrating how far African Americans have come in the past 50 years by attending the inauguration 90 miles away--was out of town. It was a sad day for political morality in Virginia and if you want to know who voted for this travesty, it's right here. The guys with the "R" after their names are responsible. Their telephone numbers follow their names, so if you want to call them and scream your outrage, be my guest.

Read about this abomination in the Richmond Times-Dispatch, here.

In another inexplicable vote yesterday, Helen Dregas, the outrageous University of Virginia Board of Visitors rector who led the coup that ousted Virginia's respected president (using tactics much like those used in the Senate yesterday) was confirmed as a board member again by a 29-9 vote, so you can't blame it all on the Republicans. Credit the nine who voted against her, however. (Read about Dregas' confirmation--and her intense lobbying--here.)

Helen Dregas reappointed.
Our General Assembly, which has hardly distinguished itself in recent years--especially in all votes regarding women--is taking aim at voting this year, trying to make it more and more difficult for anybody who is not a Republican to vote at all and even when they can vote, giving them little choice because of the gerrymandering. It really is time for us to express our extreme outrage and send these bastards home in shame. They earned it.

(Photo: top, Richmond Times-Dispatch; bottom,

Monday, January 21, 2013

Virginia Senate Sneaks Through Gerrymander on Inauguration Day

If you think the Republican Party in Virginia is playing it straight with the voters of the Commonwealth, you might want to take a look at this latest outrage: here.

While almost everybody had an eye on the inauguration--including one of Virginia's Democratic Senators, who was in Washington--the Repubs slipped through a re-districting bill that passed 20-19 in their favor (votes along party lines). If the Democrat had been in attendance, the vote would have tied. That would have cast the deciding vote to Republican Lt. Gov. Bill Bowling, who has said he has no stomach for this kind of manipulation of the electoral system. The bill likely would have been voted down.

You, Virginians, have once again been screwed by the party that has tied up our national government into a non-working knot and now wants to do the same to Virginia. It is time to start voting some of these bastards out of office.

Writers Conference Sold Out, But Deadline Extended

The Roanoke Regional Writers Conference officially sold out Sunday, but we have extended registration for two more days for those of you who just can't get it together (and you know who you are).

Register here, but don't wait past Tuesday or you won't get in. This is the fifth sellout in six years and the first year wasn't a sellout because we didn't have a limit.

Photo of the Day: Walkers Walking

These old boys were trucking along with their walkers in tandem this morning at Valley View Mall. Early in the day, the mall can be full of people my age, trudging along, keeping healthy. Good for them.

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Paper Takes a Look at Writers Conference Speaker

Karen Osborne
Mike Allen, the arts reporter for a Roanoke daily paper, did a nice piece this morning on Karen Osborne who will open the Roanoke Regional Writers Conference at Hollins this coming weekend, Jan. 25-26 (and not the 27th as the story says).

Karen is the author of the hot-off-the-presses Centerville, a good book that keeps Karen in the mix among solid novelists. She's on the faculty of Mt. Holyoke College near Boston and is a Hollins grad, who lived in Roanoke for a while.

Here's Mike's piece.

If you have an interest in going, you'll want to register very soon. We were at 75 percent capacity early this past week and the last four (of five) conferences have sold out. You can find out everything you need to know and register here.

The conference, by the way, is for professional writers, but if you're interested in writing, you're welcome. The cost is $60 for 23 classes, a roundtable discussion, a wine reception, lunch Saturday and all the networking you can handle.

Saturday, January 19, 2013

It's Saturday Night: Where Are the Scores?

I don't normally go to the local daily newspaper for college sports scores, especially on the day the game is played, but just a minute or so ago (it's 11:20 Saturday night) I visited to see if there were scores for the basketball games played by Virginia and Virginia Tech this afternoon. Thought it might be worth a shot.

Nope. Not a word.

Went to the Richmond Times-Dispatch and got the scores and game summaries. ESPN had the scores the minute the games ended and had complete wrapups seconds later.

And you wonder why dailies--especially the one here--are dying.

Friday, January 18, 2013

Photos of the Day, II: One More Winter Sequence

The bridge at Wasena Park. Rust looks good against snow.
Roanoke River Greenway in the sunshine.
Grandgirl Maddie (right) and one of her buds walks back up the sled hill at Memorial Bridge.
One last shot at next year's Christmas card.
Boys will be ... whatever.
Shadows in Smith Park.
OK, so this is it for this snow. No more photo essays. Promise. Took Maddie sledding a while ago and about 90 percent of the pix I took got washed out. Can't 'splain it, Ricky. But these did OK. Enjoy. T'was a lovely one today.

Photos of the Day: Snow Day, First Light

The melting begins (we hope).
My backyard sentries, in dress uniforms, with hats.
Here's why DirecTV didn't work last night.
Footprints became clumps of ice quickly.
Little birdie in the snow, shivering in the bitter cold ...
Star City, Snow City.
Why my truck door wouldn't open this morning.
The bird feeder's empty.
Heavy weight to carry.
Snow on the pine.
OK, I'm a sucker for clotheslines.
My view, complements of Appalachian Power Company.
A closer view of the view. Aren't the power lines lovely?
Here's the view from the Smith ranch first thing this morning, a morning that didn't begin as beautifully as some of these photos indicate. First, I broke my snow shovel (sorry, mailman). Then my truck door wouldn't open because of the ice holding it tightly. Then I went out to shoot a few pictures, shot them and went to upload them, but there was no disc in the camera. I shudda gone back to bed. But I didn't and here's the proof.

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Photo of the Day, Too: In the Misty Moonlight, By the Flickering Firelight ...

My little house in Northwest Roanoke, 10:15 p.m. It doesn't get much prettier or more peaceful than this. Inside there is a faux fire, some dim lights and a real yearning for Leah to be here. At times like this, 50 miles is too far away.

Photos of the Day: From Rain to Snow in an Hour

This is the cherry tee in the middle of my backyard.
Rocking chair on the back porch.
The birdfeeder on the cherry tree doesn't hold snow yet.

Quote of the Day: Va. Repubs on the Attack Against Women

The new Republican motto.
The wild-eyed crazies of the Virginia Republican Party have renewed their war on women as the General Assembly gets moving for 2013. In the last session there were state and national outcries against their outrages and it began again today.

"I think the votes today indicate that Republicans still have an extreme agenda, and they're intent on reducing access to women's health care."

--Sen. Mark Herring (D-Loudon and Fairfax) quoted in HuffingtonPost

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Photo of the Day: You Know Snow's Coming When ...

Well, when Kroger's full, that's when. And it was about an hour ago. Buying back the shelves for a snow that will last a few hours then melt. Go figure. ('Course I was there ...)

Monday, January 14, 2013

Quote of the Day: Blackwater, Gray Air

This is the result of early morning fog and this past summer's doratio, which leveled a lot of trees along Lynchburg's Blackwater CreekTrail. This is one of the prettiest greenways I've walked/biked and the big wind did a number on it, but those responsible for its care--the City of Lynchburg, I would suppose--were on top of the cleanup from a very early point.

Blackwater, as you might imagine, is heavily used and when Leah and I passed it on the lovely Saturday afternoon most recent, the parking lot was overflowing. Maybe 250-300 cars. When we walked it Sunday (this photo was taken then), the lot was still nearly full. Nice to see these things getting used--on warm January days.

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Photos of the Day: A Warm Weekend

This is what the picture sees when you hang it. That's me with Leah, Bea and Paul Clements.
Leah (from left), Betsy and Rachael.
These two photos don't appear to have much in common, but they do. They are a truly warm part of the weekend Leah and I spent together.

At the top, I had to get into a far corner of the room and hold the Nikon with the 10mm lens up high (like hanging a picture) to get the room, the table and Leah's son and his wonderful wife Bea into the  viewfinder. This is their new (like 1800 new) cabin near Lynchburg, one they've put thousands of dollars of sweat equity into already. Their fingerprints are all over it and you can feel the warmth.

The lower picture is of three of my favorite women: Leah, Betsy Gehman and Rachael Garrity. The intellect in this room when the photo was taken was so big, it drove me out into the hall. Love them all.

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Today's Photo: A Final Picture for the Wedding Album

OK, so you got the full treatment when we got married and now you get to see the final page of the wedding album. Today, Christina and I met in Salem at our old friend Sam Lazzaro's law office and signed the divorce papers. 'Twas an occasion for jokes and jabs because we're both celebrating the strength of our friendship, one that withstood marriage.

Now, we get to what's next and I wish Christina only the best of everything. And I damn well mean it. She's a dandy.

Fromtheeditr: Past the Half a Million Mark

Ding! Ding! Ding!

Some time in the past few days, I passed half a million hits on this blog and didn't notice. The visits sit at 510,000 now. Wish I had. It's cause for celebration, especially when you consider it's an independent blog not supported by a corporate platform.

Thank you for coming. I hope you've enjoyed your visits.