Wednesday, July 31, 2013

A Lovely Birthday: Thank You, Leah and Everybody Else

Birthday revelers looking more serious than we were on Leah's deck.
I'm outside the nail shop, readying my adventure.
So the birthday celebration is winding down and it's been a doozy, thanks to Leah and her stealth party this evening on top of a first for me and more birthday greetings than I could keep up with. By 8 this morning, my Facebook account was dang near full of greetings, which, I think, constitutes something of an Internet phenomenon.

What does one do with 100 FB greetings on his birthday, mostly from "friends" I don't know. One writes brief thank you notes. All day.

Deng works on my foot.
My first nice present this morning came from my pal Liv Kiser, who shot the jacket photo for my novel, CLOG!, which we hope will sell. Liv shot some good pix and you'll get to see at least one of them when the book gets here (it has to sell first, but that's coming).

Deng works me over.
I ran over to Lynchburg this evening for a birthday dinner with Leah and my first pedicure. OK, 67 years is too long to go without a pedicure. I won't make that mistake again. A lovely Vietnamese woman named Dang did the honors and it was ... well ... pretty damn good. I wanted to take Dang home with me.

When we got back to Leah's, the front porch swing was swinging, a coffee cup was on the porch rail and we were both mystified about what was going on.

Leah knew and broke up laughing when we entered the house to "Surprise!" I was felled and touched. Cool birthday.

Thanks, all of you for making it so.

Monday, July 29, 2013

Roanoke Paper Gets New Editor--Yaaaaaaay!

Joseph Stinnett
My guess is that the huge sigh you hear coming from Campbell Avenue in downtown Roanoke is the one emanating from the newsroom at the Roanoke daily newspaper where Carole Tarrant, the executive editor for more than five years, has been replaced.

Tarrant's replacement--appointed by new Publisher Terry Jamerson, who published the Lynchburg News & Advance and several smaller papers before her appointment by new owner Berkshire Hathaway--is Joseph Stinnett. He has been the managing editor of the News & Advance, a paper known for its local coverage and for its excellent coverage of the General Assembly, since 1995. He is 61 years old, another plus, as far as I'm concerned.

Under recently-replaced Publisher Debbie Meade's unfortunate reign, older journalists were regularly jettisoned in favor of less expensive--and far less experienced--kids. Some of those youngsters are good, but they don't have the institutional memory that is crucial in a newspaper.

The story is here.

Tarrant, from what her colleagues told me repeatedly, created a newsroom where morale was low, job security weak and news judgement questionable. The newsroom joke a couple of years ago was that she was "creating the best 40,000 circulation newspaper in Virginia." When she started, that circulation was more than 80,000. It is now less than 70,000.

I think that the paper under Tarrant and Meade deteriorated to the point of being an afterthought in this market. Lost circulation was only one of its problems. Sadly, the destruction of what had been a good newspaper paralleled television news in the region becoming laughable (except for the reporting of Joe Dashiel and WDBJ7's weather boys).

One message I got today went like this: "Oh happy day for those of us over 40 who have been around for a while and have seen the newsroom morale take a dive as much as the circulation has. This reign of terror is over."

Meade's appointment as publisher (which led me to leave the Business Journal at the time and, with Tom Field, start FRONT magazine) coincided with Landmark's decision to sell the paper and that meant making it look more profitable than it actually was. That, of course, reaching profitability by cutting costs and staff is not a sustainable business model. The news budget was devastated and so was coverage.

So, now, we get to the question of the paper's editorial page. Will it remain liberal or take on Lynchburg's far right of center stance with the infusion these Lynchburg executives? The editorial page in this conservative region gets a great deal of heat, but former Publisher Walter Rugaber, a superb newspaperman for many years (he was on the Pulitzer Board), once told me that if this region were liberal, he would have installed a conservative editorial page. He wanted something to keep the readers interested.

More later, I suspect.


Sunday, July 28, 2013

Photo(s) of the Day, Too: The Banquet

Mads gives her coach Andy Huray a photo of himself and a hug for his work.
Maddie shows off her medal and ribbons.
Maddie and her appreciative parents Evan and Kara Smith.
Maddie and her good buddy Emma Patterson.
This sequence is from tonight's Hunting Hills Hounddogs swim team banquet, at which Madeline--the greatest grandgirl of them all--picked up her hardware from yesterday's City County meet, won by her team (which came from 700 points down with only a forth of the meet left and won by 300).

Photo of the Day: Greenway Bridge in Daylight

The Roanoke Greenway bridge on the Vinton spur was especially picturesque this morning and judging from the heavy traffic, much appreciated.

Saturday, July 27, 2013

Another Dramatic Addiction Study from VTCRI Scientist

Warren Bickel
I wrote a column for FRONT, the magazine I used to co-own/edit, a year or so ago on Warren Bickel, the Virginia Tech Carilion Research Institute scientist who was researching some of the effects of addiction on drunks and druggies (I'm recovering from the former) and was mightily impressed at his findings at the time. He was looking at how addicted people view the future and the found that they aren't looking at it very much at all, which is one of their problems.

Today, the National Institute of Drug Abuse has recognized the value of his work with a whopping $3.2 million grant that allows him to study how to help people quit smoking. This is an example of the enormously important work going on at the Institute, one of the most important institutions in Virginia.

A lot of smokers have been recruited to take part in Bickel's study, which is looking to confirm his hypothesis of short-term outlooks among the addicted and doing something about it. Good luck with this, sir. I admire your work.

Photos: A Day at the RVAA City-County Meet

Timers--mostly parents--check their watches.
Doug and Beth Doughty talked my grandgirl Maddie into swimming for the team.
A mama captures her kid in action.
Annette Patterson congratulates her daughter, Emma, on a strong swim.
Boys dive into action.
Children soar through the pool in the butterfly.
More timers, including my daughter-in-law Kara, right.
Part of the crowd surrounding the pool. It was tight as a sardine can all morning.
Grandgirl Maddie takes a few minutes to think before her final swim.
Top Houndog swimmer Annette Patterson had shoulder surgery this week. Here her daughter Libby helps adjust her ice pack.
My son and his mother share a, uh, moment(?).
Madeline swims into colorful water in the 50 meter freestyle.
An excellent turn helped Maddie to a win in the 50 meter freestyle.
Mads has her instructions from Coach Andy Huray (rear).
The Roanoke Valley Aquatic Association's season-ending meet is finishing up today at the Salem YMCA and thousands of people have paraded through the small spectator area surrounding the Olympic pool.

The Hunting Hills Hounddogs (Maddie's team) rallied from a 700 point deficit going into Saturday afternoon to win the top-level title by 348 points over Stone Gate. Here are the final standings:

1, Hunting Hills 17,358.5;
2, Stonegate 17,010;
3, Read Mountain 14,018.5;
4, Our Lady of Nazareth 11,470.5;
5, Forest Hills 8,500.5;
6, Olympic Park 7,693;
7, Spring Run 7,128;
8, Elks Lodge 6,773;
9, Hidden Valley 6,420.5;
10, Ashley Plantation 6,105.5;
11, Vinton Swimming 5,681.5;
12, Roanoke Country Club 5,256.5;
13, Castle Rock 4,839;
14, Limestone Park 1,128  

This was a special event for the Smiths this year (see previous post) because of Madeline's triumphs, but I saw an awful lot of happy faces, a few tears and a huge amount of excitement in the two sessions I attended. I also saw a lot of kids slowly growing up and that was a heck of a lot of fun--especially when one of them was my favorite grandkid.

Go Mads! Make 'em eat your bubbles.

Maddie's Triumph: 'The Heart ... as Strong as a Warrior"

Maddie roared through the first half of her 50 meter freestyle on the way to her second win of the City-County.
Mads celebrates with her grandmother Chris Visscher.
Leah said it best: "For all her darling sweetness, the heart of her beats as strong as a warrior and as confident as an eagle."

That was my grandgirl Maddie today, her second day of triumph after all that grinding work, moderate success, humiliation, frustration and gratification as a member of the Hunting Hills Houndogs swim team. This was Maddie's turn to shine.

In two days of the season-ending City County swim meet, she won two (50 free, 25 back) of the three events she was entered in and scored seven points in the third event. These were her first points as a Houndog and they couldn't have come at a better time for her short-handed team.

Mads gets a hug from Dad.
Maddie awaits her turn in the pool.
Maddie surprised everyone. Her father, who has seen her only once this year, nearly dropped his entire jaw when he saw her power through the 50 meter freestyle today. Last year, her biggest humiliation came when she failed to finish the 50 at Stone Gate. She stood crying in the middle of the pool, all alone. Today, she was 12-feet tall and showing those delightful dimples to everybody in the building as she beamed.

Mads' Coach Andy Huray said he wished "they'd swim like this in practice."
Initially, we thought Maddie had finished second today (which would have been wonderful), but discovered that there was a timing device malfunction and she had cut 12 seconds off her previous best time with a time of a smidge more than 57 seconds.

Hunting Hills entered the final day of the meet nearly 300 points down to Stone Gate and was 700 points behind going into the afternoon final, but overcame the deficits and won by nearly 350 points. Maddie's total (not sure exactly yet because the totals have not been released; it could have been as many as 47 points) was important in the victory.

Maddie's mama, Kara, who was timing a swimmer one lane over, said when Mads' hand hit the end of the pool for the victory she looked up, smiled and said, "Eat my bubbles!" Her Pampa couldn't have put it better.
Maddie and her buds in line to swim. No nerves here.
Here's the scorecard from Day 1.
Maddie's Mom Kara served as a timer.
Mads nears the finish.
Mads' winning time was posted wrong in Lane 7. She finished in 57 seconds.

Friday, July 26, 2013

Carey Harveycutter: One of the Good Guys Is Retiring

Carey Harveycutter at the Salem Football Stadium.
Carey Harveycutter is on the edge of retiring as the GM of the Salem Civic Center and this is a loss of huge significance to the Roanoke Valley and to civic centers in general. Carey, a guy without all the fancy pedigrees of some of his fellows in the trade, has been a leader for 30 years, partly because he was pushed into it, partly because that's just what Carey does.

He has been under estimated by most people who have known him along, but the appreciation has grown through the years and I suspect most people in his business and those who even have a passing interest would consider him one of the nation's leaders.

Carey took a civic center that journalist Bill Cate (I worked with him at the local daily in the sports department in the 1970s) once described as "needing only a silo on each side to qualify as a full-out barn" and turned it into an economic force for Salem. He also parlayed an interest in truly amateur sports, minor sports, state fairs, horses and women's sports to create yet another leg of that force. I don't know that Carey was ever ahead of his time, but he certainly was a leader in his industry and showed wonderful alternative ways of bringing in the tourist bucks.

During his tenure, there have been 70 NCAA championships decided on the fields surrounding the Civic Center (which came under his purview) and the civic center itself.

Carey is quiet and self-effacing. He is genuinely modest with no reason for modesty. He is a good guy. Always was. I wish him every success in retirement.

(Photo: USAToday)

Maddie Hits Her Stride, Wins One

This is Maddie (goggles in the center) and her age-group girls waiting in a glass-enclosed room for their event.
OK, Pamapa's about to bust one. Maddie not only won her heat this morning at the RVAA City-County Swim Championships at the Salem YMCA, but it looks like she scored for the first time. It couldn't have come at a better time.

Maddie, who could barely swim last year when she joined the Hunting Hills Swim Team, has struggled mightily with her strokes, her stamina, her attention span--all that an eight-year-old can struggle with. But I saw determination on her face this morning as she sat through a technical delay for nearly an hour, waiting to swim for all the marbles.

Mads won her heat in the freestyle, her first win ever.
Her team won the regular-season title, but the Stone Gate team is good (two-time defending champion) and actually had more swimmers registered for this meet.

At this level, the number of swimmers you have is important, especially if, like Maddie, they score for the first time, giving you points you hadn't expected. Mads' other grandpa, Wayne Dickerson, texted me that she had "swam as well as I've ever seen her swim."

It was interesting to watch the restless children, sitting in rows of chairs, clustered in back rooms, standing in the halls, waiting for the meet to start. But when it started, they were like jack-in-the-box kids, springing into action.

So, Mads, I'll consider this a birthday present. Thank you, sweetie. Means a lot to an old man.
Boys stacked in rows of chairs, awaiting their events, delayed by a technical glitch.

Here's How to Fix Just About Everything That Needs Fixing

I just copied the following from the Facebook page of Veronica Howard and am posting it because it is, first, just so cool and, second, so thoroughly useful. I haven't tried any of these 50 items, but they just sound right. I'll try a bunch of them, but I'm taking this on faith and, frankly, I don't see where we're losing anything with them. So, here goes.

1) Toothpaste: Buff a CD/DVD
Apply toothpaste to a cotton ball and wipe the disc. Wash with water afterwards and you’ve got a brand new disc!

2) Cornstarch: Untangle Knots
Sprinkling cornstarch into tough knots, such as shoe laces helps loosen them.

3) Walnut: Buff Dings out of Wood Furniture
Get rid of unsightly scratches and dings on wood furniture by rubbing a walnut on the areas. The blemishes will vanish quickly and your furniture and pocket book will be saved.

4) Club Soda: Make Your Breads Fluffier
When baking, where recipes call for water, add club soda instead to make pancakes, waffles and any other breads fluffier.

5) Salt: Keep Windows Frost Free
Pour a cup of salt into a liter of water. Sponge the liquid onto the inside of window to prevent frost from forming during the winter months.

6) Rubbing Alcohol: Remove Permanent Marker
Dab the surface that has the permanent marker on it with a cloth or cotton ball covered in rubbing alcohol to make it disappear quickly.

7) Chap stick: Stops Bleeding When Nicked Shaving
Cut yourself shaving? Just swipe some chap stick over the cut to stop that constant bleeding. No more tissue squares!
Apple Juice: Removes Dandruff
Don’t ask how it works, but it does! Instead of buying a special shampoo, just wash your hair in apple juice to rid your scalp of pesky dandruff.

9) Aspirin: Get Rid of Armpit Stains on T-Shirts
Grind up an aspirin tablet or two, then make a paste out of it using water, lemon or vinegar. Spread the paste on the stained area and let sit for an hour before washing.

10) Olive Oil: Make Pets’ Coat Shinier
Add a bit of olive oil to your pet’s food to give them a healthier, shinier coat of fur.

11) Newspapers: Clean Windows and Mirrors
Instead of using a spray and a streaky cloth, use only newspaper to clean off your mirrors and windows for a streak-free finish.

Finally, a use for a newspaper.
12) Baking Soda: Remove Bugs from Windshield
Mix baking soda with warm water to make a paste. Spread the paste over your windshield for fifteen minutes. Then wipe or spray off with a hose.

13) Bleach: Extend Life of Flowers in Vase
Add a few drops of bleach to vase water to prevent the build-up of the slime caused by bacteria. It works just like chlorine in a swimming pool.

14) Kitchen Dish Soap: Flea-Killing Dog Shampoo
Kitchen dish soap (not dish detergent) can double as dog shampoo for its flea killing abilities.

15) Coke: Remove Blood Stains from Clothing
Soak the stain in coke until the stain is dissolved, then wash the clothing as usual. Wash before the coke dries, though.

16) Honey: Remove Blemish Overnight
Have a blemish you need to get rid of by tomorrow? Put a dab of honey on the blemish and cover it up (it’s best to use a Band-Aid) and the honey’s natural antibacterial properties will clean out the bacteria by the morning.

17) Wax Paper: Clean Can Opener Gears
Run a few small strips of wax paper through the can opener to clean out of the bits and pieces that have built up in the gears throughout the year. The wax will also rub off on the gears to protect for future use as well.

18) WD-40: Remove Crayons from Walls
Use the lubricant and a cloth to remove stubborn crayon marks from the walls just by spraying the wall and wiping with a cloth.

19) Chalk: Keep Ants and Slugs Out of the House
Ants and Slugs Won’t Touch Chalk. So, simply draw a line in front of your doorway where you are having problems with these pesky critters and they won’t cross it, meaning they won’t be able to get into your house.

20) Vinegar: Kills Weeds and Helps Flowers Grow
Vinegar is a magic wonder when it comes to gardening. It not only kills weeds but they help flowers grow as well. Douse vinegar all around your garden to prevent weeds from popping up and to help your flowers to grow healthy and strong.

21) Mayonnaise: Remove Bumper Sticker
Spread mayonnaise on the bumper sticker and let sit for at least thirty minutes. Then, rub the sticker off with a towel, leaving a clean bumper!

22) Tin Foil Ball: Replace Dryer Sheets Permanently
Instead of using a dryer sheet ball up one or a few sheets of tin foil and toss it in the dryer. It removes the static electricity from your clothes and one can last up to a year.

23) Banana Peel: Polish Leather Shoes
Use the inside of a banana peel to give shoes a professional and natural shine that will last for quite some time.

24) Mouthwash: Cure Athlete’s Foot
Pour mouthwash on cotton balls and then swab your feet. The alcohol will disinfect the bacteria completely if you continue this for a week or so.

25) Baking Soda: Clean BBQ Grill
Mix a cup of baking soda with half a cup water to make a paste. Dip your brush into the paste and scrub the grill. The caked on pieces and black residue will come off much quicker and using baking soda is much safer and cheaper than using cleaning chemicals.

26) Coffee Grounds: Fertilizer
Coffee is full of nutrients and vitamins that are very beneficial to soil. That’s why some people include it in compost piles. If you want to get the most out of your coffee, pour the grounds on areas where you want more grass or flowers.

27) Olive Oil: Shaving Cream
The smoothness of the oil can replace the need for shaving cream, and it also provides great moisture.

28) Dryer Sheets: Gets Rid of Static Electricity
Use dryer sheets to remove static electricity from things such as clothing, TV screens or your own hair. Tame fly away strands by running a dryer sheet over them.

29) Freezer: Freeze Candles to Make Them Last Longer
Put candles in the freezer for at least 2 hours before using. Once you burn them, the wax will melt at a much slower pace, making them last much longer!

30) Two glasses of water: Cure Headache
Water is the cure to most common headaches. To make the headache go away quickly, drink two cups of water very quickly.

31) Lemons: Deodorize Garbage Disposal
Toss whole slices of lemon into the garbage disposal then run it. The acidity of the lemon will rid your sink of all odors and leave a fresh scent that usually lasts for a few months.

32) Alka Seltzer: Remove Burnt-On Grease and Food Stains
When letting your pots and pans soak, throw in one or two Alka Seltzer tablets and the caked on residue from cooking will come off easily when you scrub/wash.

33) Apple Cider Vinegar: Relieve Diarrhea
Mix two tablespoons of apple cider vinegar into eight ounces of water to soothe your stomach. The taste may not be the greatest, but the antibacterial properties of the vinegar will end the unpleasantness of the bowel problems.

34) Toothpaste: Remove Scratches from Glass
Apply toothpaste to scratch, then rub with a cloth until the scratch is gone. Make sure the glass is clean beforehand.

35) Cheerios: Relieve Pain from Poison Ivy, Chickenpox and Sunburns
Pound one to four cups of Cheerios into a powder and add to your bath to soothe your skin while you soak. You may not feel relief while in the tub, but you will soon after.

36) Buttons: Sort Earrings
Organize your earrings and prevent them from becoming entangled by using spare buttons as holders for each pair.

37) Corn Oil: Prevent Hairballs for Pets
Add a few drops of corn oil to your pets’ food to prevent hairballs from forming. The thick oil helps the fur pass through the animal’s system much quicker and easily.

38) Whipped Cream: Remove Gum from Hair
There are many remedies for removing gum from hair, but this is a lesser known one. Give it a try rather than peanut butter the next time you’re in need.

39) Coke: Remove Oil Stains from the Driveway
Oil stains are very difficult to remove pavement, but one method guaranteed to work is Coke. The highly acidic drink will eat away at the oil until clean.

40) Brown Sugar: Facial Scrub
A scrub is good to do about once a month to remove dead skin and bacteria built up in pores and remove excess oil from the skin. Brown sugar does just as well as expensive products and will definitely result in a clearer and smoother complexion.

41) Dryer Sheet: Lint Brush
You already know that dryer sheets remove lint in the dryer. Well, it can do the same thing out of the dryer, too. When you’re in a fix, use a dryer sheet. It works just as well as a lint brush, and if you like the scent, it’s an added bonus.

42) Newspaper: Deodorize food containers and Food Drawers in the Refrigerator
For that stinky Tupperware or smelly refrigerator drawer that is too much to deal with, toss in a sheet of newspaper overnight before you deal with it. The paper will absorb the smell greatly reducing it or eliminating it completely.

43) Olive Oil: Unstick a Zipper
The oil will help the zipper slide more easily, fixing the problem!

44) Salt: Cool Something Quickly
You know that feeling when you’re having a BBQ and someone asks for a drink and you realize that no one has put them in the cooler? There’s nothing worse than a warm drink on a hot day. Chill a drink quickly, by adding salt and water to your ice. The drinks will be cold in a matter of minutes; saving your party and making you look smart all at once.

45) Scotch Tape: Prevent Wall from Chipping When Nailing
The wall can leave unsightly chips when hammering in a nail. Prevent this by simply placing a piece of scotch tape over the area you’re going to nail. The wall will be held tighter, preventing chips from occurring.

46) Alka Seltzer: Soothe Insect Bites
Dissolve two tablets into a glass of water. Then use a cloth or cotton ball to apply it to the affected area. The red will go down and most importantly, the itchiness will vanish usually in fifteen minutes.

47) Lemon: Whitens Whites
Add about half a cup of lemon juice to your load of whites to makes them extra white. You can use lemon juice with bleach or detergent, so don’t worry about mixing chemicals with the acidic lemon.

48) Banana Peel: Whiten Teeth
This may sound a little odd, but rub the inside of a banana peel on your teeth twice a day for two weeks and you will receive the same effect from a teeth-whitening kit. Plus, you’ll save yourself money and the hassle of using chemicals.

49) Hair Dryer: Free Photos Stuck on Pages
If you have a photo stuck on a page that you can’t get free, try using a blow dryer on the back of the page. It will loosen the photo from the page and the adhesive holding it there.

50) Banana Peel: Heal Most Skin Problems
Bananas are the magical fruit, because they heal many common problems on the skin. By rubbing the peel on your skin, you can heal bruises and cuts and eliminate rashes, itching and warts. Basically if you have a common skin problem, it can be cured by this fruit.

(Photo: from Veronica Howard's Facebook page)

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Photo of the Day: Maddie and Pampa Take a Bike Ride

A lady in bright colors, resting on a bench took this pix and said Maddie was "really brightly colored."
Maddie's looking studly here. Loves riding.
Maddie and I took our first--if you can believe it--bike ride today. No explanation about why it took so long because she rides and I ride and the Greenway is a quarter mile from her house.

We did eight miles from Wasena Park to very near the sewage treatment plant and back. She cruised. I was surprised, but probably shouldn't have been. The kid's in good shape.

We're going again. Promise.