Sunday, August 31, 2014

Turkeys and Bears and Spiders, Oh, My!

These guys were slow enough for me to photo. The bears and turkey were not.
Tree spiders are busy these days.
My little mid-day hike along a Roanoke County ridge was fruitful today. I saw two bears, two turtles and a speedy wild tom turkey. And a BIG spiderweb.

The bears and turkey escaped my little point and shoot camera, but the turtles didn't. Getting old, I guess.

There were a lot more mushrooms along the route, something I'd think would be rare in August in this area. I don't recall ever seeing as many as I've seen in the past two weeks.

Here's some of what was evident today.

(My friend Leah Weiss corrected my assumption that the web was made by spiders. Here's her explanation: 

("Those are called web worms. They are the larva from a moth which spends the winter in the ground around the drip line of the tree. In the spring (or late summer, sometimes both), the worms (greenish/grayish about 1 inch long) climb the tree and spin webs. Inside the web, they feed on the leaves and become moths.

"When I get some in my trees and I can reach them, I dig them out with a stick and they're worms in the web. I'd hate to see the spider that made those webs.")


Mushrooms continue to look healthy.
Two more bright 'shrooms, awaiting the rain so they can cradle water.
And here's Pampa, taking it all in.

Air Conditioning: Sometimes a Necessary Evil

Last night, about 9 o'clock, I turned on my air conditioning for the first time in August. It was 83 degrees in the house and the humidity was high. I had three fans running in the living room/dining room area where I was watching a football game. I was still sweating.

I don't like AC. Never have. I grew up in Piedmont South Carolina, whose climate at the time closely approximated that of Texas. When I was in high school, I often practiced pre-season football in August when it was 90 degrees and 90 percent humidity at 9 a.m. We didn't have any fat football players.

Almost nobody had AC then. Some of the new houses being built in the Central Savannah River Area near Augusta, Ga., were equipped with window units, but I don't recall any of my friends having them. But, then, I don't recall the heat being as oppressive as it is now. Maybe that's just blocking out the bad memories.

In any case, AC tends to dry out my throat, make me snore (more), and leaving me raspy in the morning. It's uncomfortable and I don't get any feeling of the earth when I'm sealed in my house.

Two years ago, I replaced an aging heating/AC system with one that is much more efficient and cost effective and when I do have it on, I don't feel so guilty about wasting the earth's resources.

Central AC at an apartment house.
Fact is, I think, we're all too dependent on AC. Nearly 90 percent of the homes in the U.S. are equipped with some kind of AC, whether it be central or room. It is prevalent in nearly every part of the continental U.S., save for the great Northwest, where it is cooler year-round. The U.S. Energy Information Administration states it this way: "Wider use has coincided with much improved energy efficiency standards for AC equipment, a population shift to hotter and more humid regions, and a housing boom during which average housing sizes increased."

There has been a good bit written about how AC has changed our society, sending people inside behind closed doors, keeping them away from their neighbors, isolating them. I get that. My neighborhood has a lot of porches on houses built 60 years ago. Almost nobody uses them. Drive through Raleigh Court, where the houses are 100 and you'll see bigger empty porches that used to have people shapping beans, making ice cream and talking to neighbors on them.

Family on front porch, 1950s.
The EIA says that 85 percent of the homes in the South have central air and 67 percent of them use it all summer. Single family homes have AC at a rate of 89 percent, while 82 percent of apartments are equipped with it--a statistic that surprises me, frankly.

The U.S. Department of Energy tells us that we're dumping a lot of pollution into the air with AC: "Air conditioners use about 5 percent of all the electricity produced in the United States, at an annual cost of more than $11 billion to homeowners. As a result, roughly 100 million tons of carbon dioxide are released into the air each year -- an average of about two tons for each home with an air conditioner." The older accepted refrigerants have been and are being phased out in favor of those that do less damage to the ozone layer (the one that protects from from getting skin cancer).

According to The Guardian (the best newspaper in England): "Residential, commercial, and industrial air conditioning worldwide consumes at least one trillion kilowatt-hours of electricity annually. Vehicle air conditioners in the United States alone use 7 to 10 billion gallons of gasoline annually. And thanks largely to demand in warmer regions, it is possible that world consumption of energy for cooling could explode tenfold by 2050, giving climate change an unwelcome dose of extra momentum.

"The United States has long consumed more energy each year for air conditioning than the rest of the world combined. In fact, we use more electricity for cooling than the entire continent of Africa, home to a billion people, consumes for all purposes. Between 1993 and 2005, with summers growing hotter and homes larger, energy consumed by residential air conditioning in the U.S. doubled, and it leaped another 20 percent by 2010. The climate impact of air conditioning our buildings and vehicles is now that of almost half a billion metric tons of carbon dioxide per year."

All that said, summers are hot and humid here--much, much less so this year than in any year I can recall--and AC is close to necessary. But if we'd temper its use, I think we'd all be a lot better off and a hell of a lot tougher.


(Graphic: canwesavetheworld.com; photo postersmania.com)

Gratitude: It's Game Day

Today, I am grateful for:

Game Day!

OK, I get it that you can't take the game face seriously. I don't frown well. Sorry. But the gear's in place, the game jersey is on the bed (that's a warmup I'm wearing) awaiting 7 p.m. gametime and I'm pumped.

How the hell can you get pumped about Utah State, you might legitimately ask? And I'll explain: a series of losing seasons make me appreciative of any foe Tennessee can beat and I think maybe Utah State qualifies. We'll know about 10:30.

Anyhow, the festival begins today and we'll see if the promise of the Butch Jones Era at UT has any substance.

Saturday, August 30, 2014

It's a Slow Day (and Summer) for Movies

On a slow night at the Grandin Theatre, do your homework.*
If you're wondering where all the good movies are this summer, you're not alone and the movie industry is suffering for both the question and the answer. Ticket sales--for a variety of reasons, beginning with the total vacuousness of the fare--are at a point not seen since 1997, a drop of $3.9 billion or 15 percent in just a year.

There has been no $300 million movie for the first time in 13 years. In July alone, sales dipped 30 percent. No wonder with dogs like "Guardians of the Galaxy" and a slew of superhero duds headlining the fare. You can also look to movies like "The Expendables 3," "Sin City: A Dame to Kill For," "Edge of Tomorrow," "How to Train Your Dragon 2," "Sex Tape," "Transformers: Age of Extinction, "Planes: Fire & Rescue," "Think Like a Man Too," and "Amazing Spider-Man 2".

Apparently the dramatic decline isn't all about quality (I mean, Americans have been watching shit for decades). According to the story (here), "Analysts had predicted a drop due to new entertainment options such as online streaming, marquee television events like the World Cup, and scuttled movie release plans." The chief analyst for BoxOffice.com says, ""It's a noticeable difference, We really needed more films that ended up in the $80 million-$150 million range domestically. That would have helped compensate for the tentpoles that ended up underperforming slightly." You think?

Analysts deny a trend, calling it cyclical. "Many of the strongest franchises are lined up for 2015, and 2014 has suffered as a result," said one analyst. I, for one, continue to go to the movies, but I'm not much of a fan of the schlock that would bring in $150 million. I prefer small movies with good stories, the kind the Grandin Theatre specializes in. But then, I'm an old man and I don't think my generation will make up the difference.

(*I shot this about 10 years ago and have always liked what it says about working in a movie theater.)

Gratitude: College Football (After a Fashion)

Today, I am grateful for:

College football. I will say that now, on opening Saturday, but let's see if it's still true in a few weeks.

I like college football, but I am a shameless frontrunner. When my Tennessee Volunteers were winning or in contention for national championships on a regular basis, I was a pretty ardent fan (though I was still hard to please; the year they went 13-0 and won the national title, I complained the entire season that they underachieved, which they did).

Of late, however, the Vols have been weak, miserable, badly coached and ill-supported (which shows up badly when your 104,000-seat stadium is half full.

But today, all is optimism. I'm even looking forward to soon taking my annual excursion up toWashington & Lee to see football played at its basic amateur level: Division III. At W&L, where admission is free, I get fun football played by kids who love the game. It is competitive and entertaining. I wish I could stop there, but nooooooo, gotta obsess on those orange and white Vols.

Sigh.

(Photo: 1025thegame.com)

OK, So Stop the Political Screams

I'm not quite sure how I got on the mailing list for the fund-raising arms for all these regional, state and national Democratic candidates, but will you guys please give it a break? I am a liberal, but I am not a Democrat. I don't contribute to political candidates or parties. I am easily pissed off when politics is the topic.

Democrats and Republicans each use specific national figures to represent the boogeyman in their campaigns and I am getting these pleas that begin, "Koch brothers crushing Democrats nationally!", "Boehner and McConnell threaten to shut down government!", "The situation is desperate! Democrats heading for resounding defeat!" And on and on.

These are desperation cries to the base, the people who are far left (Democrats) or far right (Republicans), and those cries have little meaning as far as policy is concerned. The functionaries are simply raising money, which is one of the primary reasons our country doesn't work right now. The political parties and politicians spend most of their time raising money (65 percent of their time, by some estimates) and making promises to those handing it over in large quantities.

Wouldn't it be lovely if we simply eliminated the need for money by founding local and regional television and radio networks devoted only to campaigns and paid for in their entireity by the public? That would be suplemented by newspaper coverage on a voluntary basis, but always in an equal manner. The government could sell some advertising, but none of it would be political. Political ads would be prohibited everywhere. We would be ad free for most of the political season and my guess is that we'd all be a lot less stressed.

Friday, August 29, 2014

Hanging with Ro and the Peeps

Rick and Becky Teague with Roland and me.
Roland and author Neil Sagebiel.
I wandered over to Parkway Brewery in Salem early this evening to wish my friend Roland Lazenby a happy birthday and ran into some old friends and some new ones.

Roland always attracts a crowd and often it's a literary one--he's written 60 books--in addition to the sports people who like to hang with him. His books almost all deal with sports.

My old friends Becky and Rick Teague of Newport drove up and so did author Neil Sagebiel, whose new book Draw in the Dunes, is due out in a few days. His last effort was named a Top 10 Sports Book of 2012.

Felt strange sitting in what is essentially a brewery with a huge bar (outside). I haven't been in a bar in years and haven't been around cigarette smoke in that long either. But these friends were worth the effort.

Gratitude: Cornbread, Regardless of the Season

Here's the cornbread: Hot, sweet smelling and YUM!
Today, I am grateful for cornbread.

This gratitude would have spread to biscuits, but for two intruding facts: I'm not supposed to eat biscuits, and Kroger doesn't make its wondrous, big, tasty biscuits any longer. They were the best I ever ate, my mother's notwithstanding (and even if we do withstand them, Kroger's were better). Sorry, Mom. I once ordered a dozen from Kroger for Thanksgiving breakfast. It was the hit of the meal.

As I write this, a square iron skillet of cornbread is in the oven, 425 degrees, 20 minutes. The skillet has melted bacon fat in the bottom of it. There's a photo above that I took when I finished writing.

When I was a kid--a poor kid--Mom made cornbread and biscuits because they were cheap. We kids all wanted Rainbow white bread because the other kids had it and it signalled middle class. I'm not sure if we liked it, but that wasn't the point. Cornbread and biscuits told us we were poor. The smell of fresh bread told our friends Mom was in the kitchen and that they'd better hurry over or they'd miss her cooking. They loved her soul food.

It's probably too hot today for cornbread, but I bought some buttermilk yesterday and that made me Jones for cornbread and buttermilk, the soul food of the gods.


Ex-Gov's Lawyer John Brownlee Lost High Profile Cases Here

John Brownlee (left), former Gov. Bob McDonnell.
Those paying close attention will note that the defense of former Gov. Bob McDonnell is being headed by John Brownlee of the National White Collar Defense and Investigations practice at the international law firm of Holland & Knight in D.C. You'll remember Brownlee for two things: he was married to Channel 10 news anchor Lee Ann Necessary and he was the U.S. Attorney/Western District who failed to win the two biggest cases of his career here.

Brownlee, who was appointed U.S. Attorney by George Bush 10 days after the tragedy of 9/11, resigned in April, 2008, talking about running for Attorney General of Virginia on the Republican ticket. He never ran.

He headed the prosecution of former D-Day Memorial head Richard Burrow on fraud charges and former Dr. Cecil Knox for illegal drug distribution (oxycontin). He got convictions in neither case and many thought at the time that his heavy-handed prosecution ruined the careers of two very good men. Brownlee was charged with prosecutorial misconduct in the Burrow case.

In both cases, Brownlee faced Roanoke lawyers John Lichtenstein and John Fishwick.

Today, he is involved in his closing argument in the McDonnell case.

(Note: I don't know how Roanoke's daily paper missed this significant angle on the story, since Brownlee was a headline guy here for years. The Times does not have anybody in Richmond covering the biggest political story of the decade, though. It had an AP story today and has generally gone with Richmond Times-Dispatch stories. They are both Berkshire Hathaway papers. 

(You might recall that when the University of Virginia's board of trustees fired its president--the biggest education story of the year in Virginia--The Times didn't have anybody there, either, and it wasn't part of that BH consortium then, so it just used AP. Can't go sending these reporters out of town. They might enjoy themselves.)

(Photo: wavy.com)

Thursday, August 28, 2014

NFL Comes to Its Senses on Domestic Violence

Embarrassed Ray Rice and his wife and victim, Janay.
The NFL appears to have learned a valuable lesson from really pissed off women.

Commissioner Roger Goodall has announced that penalties for a first offense of domestic violence will be a six-game suspension (that's millions of dollars in salary for many players, so it ain't peanuts) and a second offense will mean no more football for the boys. None at all at the NFL level.

The decision was Goodall's alone and the by-laws of the NFL say that's something he can do. He suspended Ravens runner Ray Rice for two games recently, following Rice's arrest for whacking his former fiancee. Rice, says Time Magazine, "was indicted for allegedly hitting his now-wife so hard that he knocked her unconscious. Rice was caught by a security camera dragging his unconscious then-fiancee out of an elevator in an Atlantic City Casino ... "

There was a good bit of outrage in the cheap seats following Rice's paddling with a pillow and Goodall admits, "I didn't get it right. Simply put, we have to do better, and we will."

New Poll: Women Don't Trust Republicans (Duh!)

A new study commissioned by two right-wing groups has an interesting, if not surprising, result: Women don't think Republicans respect them. Nearly 50 percent of the women polled believe the GOP to be intolerant and out of date. That's 10 percent more than believe badly of Democrats.

The story is here.

The study, which was not meant for general circulation, was sponsored by Karl Rove's group and another conservative committee. It questioned 800 registered women voters and in one of its key findings, discovered that Democrats come out 39 percent better than Republicans on the question of which wants to make health care affordable.

The big question, which was not answered, is this: Why in the hell would a woman--any woman--vote for a Republican? Even if she's married to him.

Gratitude: The Real Star of the Writers Conference

Today, I am thankful for:

My friend Chris Powell, facilities director at Hollins University.

For the past six years, I have worked on the Roanoke Regional Writers Conference with Chris. She has always been, officially, the assistant to the director (me), but that has never--not from Day 1--been the actual case. Chris puts the conference together. I mostly watch in amazement.

I recruit the writers, write the website, and direct traffic during the conference, but Chris essentially does everything else, all of the background work that makes the conference a sellout every year.

Her suggestions over the years have shaped the conference so that it virtually puts itself together and is relatively easy to run. That takes planning, preparation, a great deal of sweat up front and a lot of attention along the way.

Chris is one of the most competent people I've ever known and I have never, ever, ever worked with anyone who made my part of the job as easy as she does. She's the buffer and in my world, she's the star, even though I'm the one who stands in front of the crowd.

We met this morning to hammer out the details of the 2015 conference and mostly we sat and chatted about other things because the conference has been taken care of. She saw to that.

Thank you Chris.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Unwanted Publication: One Last Warning-Stop It!

Here's the offender.
For the fifth time--four on the phone, today's in writing--I have had to file a complaint with the local daily paper that I do not want its shopper, The Shoptimist, left in my driveway.

The paper has simply ignored the complaints and continued to leave this mess in my drive, putting me in the position of taking it directly to the recycling bin and making me angry about it every week.


This is litter, pure and simple. I don't want it; I don't read it; I consider it a nuisence and an intrusion onto my property. The circulation department at the paper closes at 3 p.m., so I had to leave my e-mail message with customer "service" (the quotes there are advisable, since they're not serving me very well).

The message warned that if this publication shows up again in my driveway or my yard, I will call the City Attorney and the police and file a formal complaint that my yard is being littered by the person delivering this publication. I will expect the city to act upon that complaint.

I have heard any number of people complain about this practice--one for which the paper is paid by advertisers, who look at me as "circulation" (I am not "circulation"). I hope those of you who don't want this publication will join me in complaining. The phone number (6 a.m.-3 p.m.) is 540-981-3211.

I will start calling advertisers if I have to file a formal complaint. I'll start with Kroger, The Friendship, HHGregg and Lowes. That should get somebody's attention.

Who's Hot (Taylor Swift) Among Touring Acts?

Gorgeous, tall, talented Taylor Swift.
If you think the way lanky (5-foot-10-inch) country singer Taylor Swift looks is hot, wait until you see what her earnings look like. They'll set you on fire. She's No. 1 among the Top 40 touring acts this year with a total of $39.7 million, according to Billboard mag.

Some of the hotties will surprise you and the fact that Miley Cyrus is not on the list--I couldn't find her, anyway--surprises the hell out of me. Maybe she's making a movie. Who knows, but I'll guarantee you she'll sell out a big venue in a hurry.

Here are the Top 6 and a few others who interest me (OK, I'm old and Paul McCartney, Buffett, Elton John, the Eagles and the Stones, are all in or close to their 70s, making them contemporaries):

1. Taylor Swift, $39.7 million
2. Kenny Chesney, $33 million
3. Justin Timberlake, $31.4 million
4. Bon Jovi, $29.4 million
5. Rolling Stones, $26.2 million
6. Beyonce, $24.4 million

10. Fleetwood Mac, $19.1 million
19. Dave Matthews, $13.9 million
21. Paul McCartney, $13.7
22. The Eagles, $13 million
23. Celine Dion, $12.7 million ($11.8 million of it earned at Caesar's Palace in Vegas)
32. Jimmy Buffett, $9.4 million
33. Elton John, $9.3 million

Just How Poor Are the U.S.'s Poor?


Dorthea Lange's 1936 poverty study still broadly applies.
A new study released by the Brookings Institution gives us an ugly inside view--not the government slant and not the Republican perspective--on poverty in the U.S. At the very bottom, it's much worse than we thought, worse even than the poverty in some Third World nations.

The study, by Luke Shaefer and Kathryn Edin, shows that millions of Americans live on less than $2 a day. The study places the United States in the same reference as countries receiving our foreign aid because they are so poor. Meanwhile, at the other end of the spectrum where the Koch brothers control our government ...

Gratitude: The Kiwanis Club of Roanoke Valley

Editr talks about his favorite topic: Himself.
Today, I am grateful for:

The Kiwanis Club of the Roanoke Valley. I spoke to the Kiwanians at the Patrick Henry Hotel at noon today, talking about being in journalism for half a century, among other things.

The Kiwanis Club is service organization of the type that makes communities run. This one serves young people and the elderly, providing "sweat equity to over 25 charitable organizations," according to its website. That means they show up, in person.

Time was that these types of organizations--all men for a long time--provided what politicians  call the "safety net" for the poor and elderly. The government has taken much of that role from service clubs and churches and those organizations, which are now inclusive of genders and races, have taken on other roles, mostly professional networking.

Editr looks like a union rabble rouser in this shot.
Kiwanis is one that stands by its original founding premise of serving the community and for that, we should all be grateful.

It is important when people in the community take the time and give the effort to take care of their own, because they can do it with real involvement--not just handing over a check from a faceless mail system.

These club members get involved in people's lives, help steer children and make older people feel like their race has not yet been run.

I appreciate them and I hope you do, too.

(Photos by Rupter Cutler.)

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Photo Essay: I Never Get Tired of These Mountains

The view from the top of Tinker Mountain looking east today about noon.
T'was a glorious day for an excursion into the mountains today and my hiking pal Debbie Stevens and I set off to Tinker Mountain/Appalachian Trail with vigor.

Debbie in her warrior pose, celebrates.
Here's some of what we saw (the mushrooms in the previous post were there, too, but they deserved their own space) and it was gorgeous.

We ran into a through-hiking couple--probably mid-20s--who said they'd gotten on the trail at the Connecticut-New York border, hiked to Maine, then headed south with Georgia the goal. That'd be the whole trail.

Except for one thing.

When they left us, they were walking north. Hope they discovered their mistake quickly. Nice kids, but I didn't catch the error until they'd gone.
Debbie captures the view.
OK, so how far do we want to go?
Pampa strikes his manly-man pose.
Ah, the cove. Always gorgeous.

Gratitude: Mushrooms, in All Their Splendor


Today, I am grateful for:

Mushrooms. We're revisiting this topic today because I apparently didn't get enough good photos this past weekend and Mother Nature presented me with more glorious opportunities today while climbing Tinker Mountain.

There was color Sunday. There is wonderment today. Look at the beauty at the right. Looks like candy. The others in their glory, their shape, their size, their contrast with surroundings, their delicate vulnerability are amazing.

I'm not writing captions on these pix today. Just look and soak it up.



Monday, August 25, 2014

Gratitude: A Ripe, Red 'Mater

Today, I am grateful for:

Tomatoes. I don't believe I need to explain that.

A View from My Neighborhood

I shot this panorama of fog, mist and mountains a block up the hill from my house yesterday morning. The view from up there--I could throw a rock and hit the spot--is always spectacular. Click on the photo and get it full size for the real impact. You should see the view in the snow.

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Gratitude: Golden Age of Television

Deadwood's at the top, but the language is difficult and profane.
Today, I am grateful for:

Something my friend Mike Ashley calls "the golden age of television," which is now.

Before streaming video, I avoided TV--with the exception of some college football--and concentrated on reading in the evenings when nothing else was planned. I was reading about seven books a month. I'm down to -- well, embarrassing levels of reading because of the quality of recent TV series and mini-series, especially those owing their genesis to HBO and the BBC.

I spent one whole day--16 hours of it--streaming TV shows last winter when I was snowed in. That would have been unthinkable in the past.

The shows I prefer have what I love about literature: great plotting and characters, thoughtful and well-researched writing, rapid pacing and no commercials. I can watch them when I want for as long as I want (except for when they come to an end). If I can't sleep and it's 3 a.m., I can turn on "Deadwood." That won't lead to slumber, but it will entertain me until the sandman comes.

I keep thinking I'm going to run out of the good stuff, but Hollywood and London keep producing it. Consider some of the best I've seen in the last year (almost all of them done several years ago and only now available streaming):
  • Deadwood (Shakespeare goes Old West; often written by women, it is profane--"fuck" and derivatives are used 2,980 times during the run--blunt, brutal and brilliant; Ian McShane is remarkable as a brothel owner)
  • Justified (Timmothy Olyphant really is the star of this one--he's credited in Deadwood, but is secondary; great characters)
  • Fringe (I'm not a sci-fi buff, but this was extraordinary; great love story)
  • Ripper Street (Whitechapel cops at the time of the Ripper)
  • The Killing (Mireille Enos brilliantly plays one of the best female characters I've ever seen)
  • Mr. Selfridge (who'd have imagined I'd love a show about a department store in 19th Century London?)
  • London Hospital (the history in this is compelling)
  • Call the Midwife (am I the only guy in the world who liked this "chick" show?)
  • Suits (best of the lawyer genre that I'm aware of)
  • The Newsroom (Season 1 only; becomes cute after that)
  • The Hour (entertaining show about 1950s British version of 60 Minutes)
  • Sherlock (Benedict Cumberbatch is all you need to know)
  • Rectify (strangely luring)
  • The Blecthley Circle (British women break Nazi codes during WWII. Wonderfully done)
  • Happy Valley (Sarah Lancashire is wondrous as a doughy, middle-aged cop with a big heart, who will kick your door down before kicking your butt)
  • Wallander (Swedish or British version of the grim detective work equally well)
  • The Twilight Zone (the original from the 1960s, black and white; Rod Serling is a god)
  • House of Cards (Season 1 only; good political drama, but its cynicism is depressing)
Coming soon to my Edinburgh manse: The Wire and Game of Thornes (which my son has been clubbing me with for about four years), maybe Downton Abbey.


The Difficult, Demanding Diva in the Governor's Mansion

Maureen McDonnell at a recent cheerleader reunion.
According to the Richmond Times-Dispatch this morning, the following is a picture of Virginia's former First Lady--and former Washington Redskins cheerleader--as presented as the trial of she and her husband:

Janet Kelly, ex-Secretary of the Commonwealth, said Maureen McDonnell was "very difficult, very demanding, very diva-ish." She said a number of Executive Mansion staff members threatened to quit in 2012 unless MM stopped treating them “in such an unprofessional and disrespectful manner.” She said Maureen McDonnell was “pathologically incapable” of accepting personal responsibility.

Former Special Assistant Kathleen Scott said she she reached out to Virginia Commonwealth University for help in dealing with Maureen and that consultant James Burke told her the staff should act as if it were dealing with a 5-year-old. Burke is head of the Performance Management Group at VCU. He suggestedthe first lady move from the mansion back to the family to help alleviate her stress and he offered that she should get counseling to deal with issues caused in part by her high-profile role (which she insists she didn't invite).

Meanwhile, the husband in this soap opera. former Gov. Bob McDonnell, testified this week that he is "absolutely innocent," even though he holds himself accountable ... for something or other. The story quotes former Justice Department official and ex-federal prosecutor Andrew McBride, thusly: "The fundamental inconsistency in McDonnell’s testimony is taking ‘full responsibility’ while blaming his imbalanced, affection-starved wife for everything.”

McDonnell, says defense attorney Chuck James, is "an engaging personality. He’s has spoken to the cameras many times and this time he was speaking to 12 members of the jury. But unlike a State of the Commonwealth Address, he’s got opposing counsel that’s going to come after him when he’s done."

(By the way, according to this link, sent to me by Michael Abraham, homophobic Bob McDonnell is living with a gay Catholic priest in Richmond. At least he's consistently inconsistent.)

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Post on the Warpath; New Redskins Name?

I like this alternative logo; no name change.
The Washington Post has taken the partisan position of refusing to refer to the city's NFL team as the Redskins, which could be a critical move in forcing the team to re-name itself to something less offensive to a number of Americans.

The new policy refers only to the editorial board, not to the news and sports departments, which is a good thing. They have no business taking sides in this.

Some alternatives (including the one pictured here) have been suggested. In the old days of really bad teams, my brother Buck called them the "Deadskins" or the "Foreskins." Political junkies seem to prefer the "Thinskins."  I kinda like the "Porkskins," an underappreciated snack we all love. "Skinheads" might be a tad on the political side and "Danskins" (which would not reflect me, please) could be a bit commercial and suggestive of another controversy. Anyhow, there are plenty of choices. I even thought of the "Crooked Politicians" (a fearsome thought), but that's redundant.

The Post's editorial said, in part, Owner Daniel "Snyder doesn't seem ready to budge on the issue, and the NFL hasn't shown a willingness to step in to force a change. Whether these actions will alter the outlook from the team or the league is a mystery."

Re-branding (oh, I hate that term) may happen and it may not. The original Redskins owner, George Preston Marshall, was a noted racist and the last in the league to integrate his team (the great runner Bobby Mitchell in 1962). He would not have even considered a name change, unless it was to something more offensive.

The important issue here is that a major national publication has taken an institutional stance that will have some influence. But it's going to take a heck of a lot more than that to change the mindset that allows the use of racial stereotypes as nicknames with those using the names insisting they "honor" the groups named.

The use of Native American nicknames in sports is extensive. Consider these from major college and pro sports:

Atlanta Braves, Kansas City Chiefs, Cleveland Indians (probably the most offensive icon), Golden State Warriors, Edmontom Eskimos, Chicago Blackhawks, Universies of Utah, San Diego State, Hawaii, Florida State, Central Michigan and Bradley. Florida State's nickname, the Seminoles, is supported by the tribe.

In this region, the former Blacksburg Indians became the Bears under pressure in recent years. 

You can see a dated list of nicknames here.

(Graphic: ktar.com)

Gratitude: Roast Tomatoes

Today, I am grateful for:

Roast tomatoes. I just got out of a hot kitchen roasting a bunch of them because I have about half a ton from my overgrown garden. Hope they're good and I hope they freeze.

A Hint of Fall Color in August

One of the trees on the island in Carvins Cove (the one where I used to go skinnydipping) is turning.
This thistle (thithle?) reminds that it's still summer.
It is 8 o'clock Saturday morning, August 23, 2014. It is 75 degrees on my deck, which is not unusual for the first day of fall. But fall is a month away.

Practically speaking, however, we've been involved in some good early season football weather for a couple of weeks now and this summer has felt almost anything but.

I have not had my air conditioning on once in August and only ran it twice in July (for brief late-afternoon periods to cool the house for evening). My wallet likes that situation. My mind wonders, however, what is going on.

Virginia of the 2000s has had a climate far closer to that I grew up with in Piedmont South Carolina than Virginia of the 1950s. My guess is that the throwback climate is what we're getting now. It is a climate people used to visit in the summer for relief. I like it, but don't consider it anything like permanent.

A long-range forecast I saw yesterday told me to prepare for an especially cold winter. Two years ago, the winter was record warm and my heating bills were down 75 percent (I put in a new system, which helped some, but when it's 75 degrees in February, one does not use a lot of electricity).

Worry about it? Nah. I think I'll enjoy it. The only real challenge has been keeping up with the lawn. In a normal year it is brown and not growing very much. Right now, it's needing a good mow twice a week. And that's good for my activity regimin.

Friday, August 22, 2014

Photos: Hiking Down to the Water With Deb

My new friend Debbie Stevens and I did double duty today, hiking the Hollins Greenway up Tinker mountain to the overlook for Carvins Cove, then going down to the Cove to paddle it.

Debbie's a veteran hiker and paddler and I'm delighted to get to know her. We began chatting over a political issue, I think, on Facebook and wound up on the water. Cool. Facebook is like a neighborhood bar without the booze, which means I get to go there.
Debbie in hiker mode.
Water buddies on the Cove.
Debbie looking pretty and content. Great smile, I'd say.