Saturday, October 31, 2015

Halloween in Spain: A Time for Profit

This is Madeline (middle girl) and Oz (the short one) with their Spanish neighbors (and BFF) celebrating Halloween in Cordoba. It's a relatively new holiday in a country that is holiday-soaked, but mostly with religious celebrations. Halloween, of course, is the anti-religion celebration.

My daughter-in-law (you can see her in the mirror taking the photo) says the Spanish business community finally caught on that this was a wonderful opportunity to make a little extra money and now "the bigger stores are full of Halloween stuff." Good thing.

Goodlatte Screws Up--Showdown Ahead?

5th District U.S. Congressman Bob Goodlatte (your rep if you're from the Roanoke/Lynchburg region) made a royal ass of himself yesterday and put new Speaker of the House Paul Ryan in a pickle barrel.

In a story by Michael McAuliff of Huffington Post, John Feal of the FealGood foundation, is quoted (here) as saying, "On a day when Republicans voted for a new speaker of the House and promised they are turning over a new leaf, Congressman Bob Goodlatte recklessly and without regard for the actual needs of 9/11 responders introduced his own version of the James Zadroga Health and Compensation Act."

Goodlatte's bill is a temporary extension of the expiring 9/11 health and compensation programs. There is a permanent bill--sponsored by Kristin Gillibrand--that has strong support.

"This bizarre act of unilateral action was ironically done the same day the James Zadroga Health and Compensation Act crossed the 60-vote threshold to make the bill filibuster proof. Even more bizarre, Chairman Goodlatte didn’t consult with the House bill sponsors," said Feal.

According to the story, "Goodlatte's bill would provide compensation at a similar level to the current Zadroga act, which is estimated to meet less than half of the need identified by an independent evaluator."

Fairfax firefighter Kerri Boswell said, "It's an insult, is what it is. It might be the very first test of [Ryan's] leadership, to see how he handles it." The permanent bill--not Goodlatte's temp replacement--has overwhelming support in both the Senate and House. Goodlatte, who has been in the house for more than two decades and is chairman of the Judiciary Committee, seems to have miscalculated and embarrassed himself.

This one's looking like showdown at High Noon between Goodlatte and the new sheriff. At the pickle barrel.


No Drunk Trick-or-Treating Tonight!

OK, boys and girls, moms and dads, let's leave the booze in the 'fridge tonight and keep the knee biters as safe as they can be in some of these Roanoke neighborhoods (like mine). Drunk trick-or-treating is probably not illegal, but I don't want your slurring ass coming to my door with your little beggars.

Keep it safe and have a good time (you can skip my house; I'm not doing candy. It's pretzels and toys).

(The graphic is something I nabbed from Facebook and I don't know who shot it. Sorry.)

Friday, October 30, 2015

Margie as Cruella: A Natural (of Sorts)

Cruella deVile at work today (left) and getting ready inside and on my deck last night.
One of the many things adore about Margie is her total sense of what's funny and her unabashed seeking of it.

She's a beautiful woman, but I watched her spend a couple of hours yesterday uglifying herself for a Halloween costume that she wore to work today at Warm Hearth Village in Blacksburg.

Apparently, she was a big hit among the elderly residents as the tormented Cruella deVile, the foil of 101 Dalmations.

This woman is the genuine article. Can't wait to see her scare the crap out of the little knee-biters who show up at my front door tomorrow night during the UT-Kentucky football game, getting on my nerves.

Thursday, October 29, 2015

A Late Fall Day in Wasena Park

A brisk walk in Roanoke's Wasena Park this afternoon yielded some of the brightest, richest fall colors in years. This has been a simply devine autumn and I'm not sure it has peaked yet. Maybe Halloween day.

Here is some of that it looked like today in Wasena.

Pampa in the camera's shadow.
Trees and tracks.
This is a train. Not sure what it does, other than hang in the shadows.
Autumn in the park.
Backlit trees in Smith Park.
This young girl has just caught a stocked trout in the Roanoke River.
Fall berries.
Fall nearing completion.
Pampa self-portrait.
Pretty graffiti at the skateboard park.
Launching a bike in skateboard park.
"You can hear the whistle blow a hundred miles ..."
A little hoops in the late afternoon sun.

If Coal is Dead, What Took It So Long?

Nancy Dye and Morgan Griffith want this for our region.
“You just can’t go with new coal [plants] at this point in time. It is just not economically feasible to do so.” --Charles Patton, president of Appalachian Power.
"Regardless of how the Clean Power Plan — President Obama’s signature climate effort placing limits on carbon emissions from power plants — shakes out, Patton estimated that Appalachian Power’s use of coal could drop 26 percent by 2026." --Natasha Geiling of Think Progress, here.

Coal is finally having to face the reality, the one that troglogyte congressmen-for-sale like Morgan Griffith of Virginia's 9th District and Virginia Senate candidate Nancy Dye can't change: it is filthy, unhealthy, inefficient, detrimental to the environment and far too costly.

The Clean Power Plan is a day old and already faces 20 legal challenges (which experts agree will fail), including one by a group of 20 Republicans in Congress (who'da thunk it?).

This time, though, the costs of retrofitting old power plants to meet modern standards simply don't fit. Patton is quoted as saying, “With or without the Clean Power Plan, the economics of alternatives to fossil-based fuels are making inroads in the utility plan. Companies are making decisions today where they are moving away from coal-fired generation.”

Griffith, among others, won his congressional seat from the unusually competent and uncontroversial Rick Boucher a few years ago by promising the coal people that nothing would ever change, that coal would fire plants in the U.S. forever and that coal jobs would be there until the rapture. That is not simply unwise, it is stupid on every level and it shows the fear so many people react to.

In the Roanoke state senate race, Dye is bemoaning the closing of a 96-year-old--very dangerous--coal plant as being, first, the fault of the incumbent (it was a federal decision) and second, a bad thing to do. It was, of course, neither. But it is emotional because she's saying it cost jobs.

Coal is done. What's next is what we should have had for a long. Remember, if you will, that Jimmy Carter took a long stride toward loosing the noose coal and oil have on us in the late 1970s, but Ronald Reagan undid that immediately upon taking office in 1980. Think about that whey you enter the ballot box.

And remember one simple fact: If coal jobs are lost, other energy jobs will replace them. Energy is not an option and we'll find a way--a clean and safe way, we hope--to produce it.


Wednesday, October 28, 2015

House Bill Threatens Social Security As We Know It

" ... if this bill is passed, the people that are going to see their Social Security checks disappear in six months are primarily women."

--Laurence Kotlikoff, economics professor at Boston University

 A bill under consideration in the U.S. House of Representatives--which has wanted to eliminate Social Security since it was taken over by Republicans--would seriously diminish benefits for many of those who worked their entire lives to earn those benefits.

This story on details the proposed cuts, which would, "the new budget ​drastically cuts Social Security benefits for many of those now collecting. [It] drastically cuts benefits for many of those who were about to collect [and] exacerbates Social Security work disincentive. [It] induces households to do exactly the wrong thing, namely take their benefits too early at the cost of permanently lower benefits. ... many of these changes will particularly hurt the middle class, women and families with disabled children."

Whether or not this bill becomes law, you will see it again and again, so long as Republicans are in control of the House. They have targeted Social Security and Medicare and will not rest until they are eliminated. If you are an older American and you are voting Republican, you might want to seriously re-consider your own best interest. The Republicans won't.

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Gratitude: Let Me Count the Ways

Spain in August was beautiful.
This is a physically bleak day--52 degrees, heavily overcast, bone-chilling rain--and the news on the political front is soul-killing, especially in my home state where people similar to the Koch brothers have taken over the university system (after stealing the government).

I feel lousy about that and the seasonal affected disorder (SADD), which I don't have, is threatening. Soooooo. What's a dude to do?

Be grateful. Count the blessings up, absorb them, appreciate them, recognize them, embrace them. Name them.

OK, here come a few:

Living where this is a view (of Carvins Cove) 30 minutes away is an extraordinary blessing
  • I reviewed my list of goals, written every Jan. 1, and discovered that I've accomplished everything I aspired to. I've had to expand it to have something to do this fall. 
  • I met and fell head-over-heels for one Margie Herring, a woman of intelligence, great humor, beauty, energy, warmth, affection. And she's semi-nuts about me, too.
  • I got my house painted at an affordable price by a truly good painter, a Mexican immigrant whom I really like and appreciate.
  • In August, I got to spend 10 days with my son's family in Spain.
  • In the past three weeks or so, I've put together three photo books as presents for people.
  • I finished a book and began another--both of which pay when I complete them.
  • My banjo is sitting in the corner waiting for me to learn how to play it.
  • The University of Tennessee's football team--after some struggles finishing this season--appears to be back and my guess is that it will be ranked in the Top 10 pre-season next year. It's been a long seven years in the wilderness.
  • My fig tree, which I cut down last year because I thought it was dead, is producing marvelously tasty fruit.
  • My exercise program remains strong and I remain committed to it.
  • My health is good and I have my favorite physician of all time (Renee Bierne) to lean on. She is a god. A minor god, but a god.
  • I have been able to help people this year in ways that I am uniquely able and there is a level of satisfaction in that I simply can't explain.
Ah, that felt good. And it damn well outweighs the grumpies by a lot.

Monday, October 26, 2015

Carson: 'No Chance'? Re-Evaluate Please

Carson (left), Trump and Bush (looking lost and alone).
This past May, Allen Clifton of the left-leaning Forward Progressive wrote (here), Dr. Ben "Carson stands absolutely no chance. Why he's running, I haven't any idea, but one thing I can say for certain -- he's going to fit in with these other GOP candidates. This ever-growing field of presidential hopefuls is shaping up to be the most ridiculous grouping of individuals our nation has ever seen."

Today, Carson is the frontrunner in the still large field with more than 28 percent of the voters preferring him. Donald Trump, who has led the field for weeks, is nearly 10 points back now as his handlers threaten, abuse and beat up protesters.

(Eyes roll.)

Carson stands absolutely no chance. Why he’s running I haven’t any idea, but there’s one thing that I can say for certain – he’s going to fit right in with these other GOP candidates. This ever-growing Republican field of presidential hopefuls is shaping up to be the most ridiculous grouping of individuals our nation has ever seen.

Read more at:
Carson stands absolutely no chance. Why he’s running I haven’t any idea, but there’s one thing that I can say for certain – he’s going to fit right in with these other GOP candidates. This ever-growing Republican field of presidential hopefuls is shaping up to be the most ridiculous grouping of individuals our nation has ever seen.

Read more at:
Carson stands absolutely no chance. Why he’s running I haven’t any idea, but there’s one thing that I can say for certain – he’s going to fit right in with these other GOP candidates. This ever-growing Republican field of presidential hopefuls is shaping up to be the most ridiculous grouping of individuals our nation has ever seen.

Read more at:
Carson stands absolutely no chance. Why he’s running I haven’t any idea, but there’s one thing that I can say for certain – he’s going to fit right in with these other GOP candidates. This ever-growing Republican field of presidential hopefuls is shaping up to be the most ridiculous grouping of individuals our nation has ever seen.

Read more at:

Being Aware: The Breast Cancer 'Look'

I'm not sure of the origin of this photo, but it was on the 'net and I've borrowed it.
This is breast Cancer Awareness Month and if anything will make you fully aware, it is a good visual.

Here it is. Love the tattoos, absolutely adore the courage and the leadership in making this "look" not only acceptable, but pretty. Good for those of you with this much courage. 

Free the nipple, even if you don't have one.

(My absolute fave is the beautiful woman sitting down. VaVoom!)

Sunday, October 25, 2015

'Bridge of Spies': A Look at Who We Were (It Ain't Pretty)

Glienicke Bridge in Berlin where the prisoner exchange took place.
Margie and I just took in a matinee of "Bridge of Spies" and I strongly recommend it for several reasons, not the least of which is that it gives us a look at the frightened, angry, paranoid America of 1960, the ones our Republican contemporaries so wistfully long for.

This is another of those important Steven Spielberg movies and it stars the estimable Tom Hanks as an insurance lawyer who negotiated the release of CIA spy Francis Gary Powers (of Pound, Va.) when the Soviets shot down his U2 spy plane.

Hanks plays James Donovan, who is thrust into a prisoner exchange (he had worked as a prosecutor at Nuremberg) without any official status. He was basically asked to do the negotiating as a citizen without sanction, standing toe-to-toe with the USSR and East German governments looking for recognition as the Berlin Wall was going up.

It was a frightening time of brinksmanship between America and Russia, a time when we came perilously close to nuclear war. It was a time when the Constitution was suspended in certain instances.

This story is solid and fairly accurate, but it was the portrayal of America and Americans--ordinary people--that so captured me. It is what I remember from that time: scared people, eager to crucify anybody they thought might be a commie, a liberal, a non-Christian, anything different. A hateful, mean, vindictive and terrified America.

The movie's look is superb and its acting, directing, cinematography all Oscar-worthy. But, oh, that America. The one I'd love to think never existed.

Need a House Painter? Here's a Dandy One

This is my little house after Rigo's work.
A couple of weeks ago I was walking around the house examining the stucco to see if the rain had caused any damage when I came upon quite a bit of peeling paint. I don't think it was caused by the rain, but it was still pealing off in big chunks.

I had just hired one of my pals, Roni and Richie Sutton, to paint the small back and side porches and noticed at the time that some paint was chipping off on the left side of the house. I fixed that and thought my job was finished. It wasn't, but the paint problem I found after the rain was more than I wanted to tackle, so I put out a call on Facebook for suggestions. My friend Lou Kadiri, who lives in South Roanoke and had just had her house painted made a suggestion:

Rigoberto Gomez (goes by Rigo), a young Mexican with a small crew, who handles small jobs. I got three estimates for the job. Two of them came in very close. Rigo's was half what they asked and with Lou's very strong recommendation, I went with his proposal.

He finished the job in two days--scrape, prime, paint. It was a superb job. When he finished, my sweetie, Margie, asked if Rigo might paint the shutters and door on her house in Christiansburg. The paint was peeling and the need was immediate. She negotiated an absurd price with Rigo and he finished the job the next day. Beautiful.

So, I'm here to recommend him. If you need a painter, this is your man. Rigo is a good guy and a real pro. You can reach him at: (540) 397-7599.

Wait 'til Your Father Gets Home, George!

This is my father, George Edwards Smith, age 10, in 1920, sitting in class at his elementary school.

It was student picture day--a big deal in the relatively early days of the camera--and Dad's mother (Mary Katherine Gervin Smith, a nasty old woman, who hated my mother) dolled him up for the event. Suit and tie.

He bathed, washed behind his ears, cleaned his hands, including his nails and even combed his hair. You can't tell any of that from this photo.

Dad told me that on the way to school, he and a bunch of his pals in Johnson City got down on all fours in the dirt and played marbles until a fight broke out (see dad's lip).

Mary Katherine was not a happy mother and dad said he still remembered the whipping she administered and the second one he got when George Washington Smith got home from work. But he won the marbles game and the fight.

Cruella for Halloween: That's Margie

Getting the wig ready.
The nursing staff where Margie works (Warm Hearth Village) is doing a 101 Dalmations theme for Halloween next week and Margie is going as Cruella. She had to take an old black wig and partially paint it white. She's on the deck doing that right now, as I write. Here is her progress up to now.

Surprise! Surprise! I Got Figs

Picked these a few minutes ago.
On the vine.
Last year, I cut down my fig tree because I thought the winter had killed it and I planted another one. The new one didn't grow, but the old one was not dead, was actually pretty healthy. It sprouted and spent this summer coming back.

I had no thought I'd get figs this year, but here's proof I have. I won't get
many, but Margie wouldn't let me pass without biting into one and, as you can see, they're spectacular.

I love this little plant. I won't cut it down again. Sorry, little guy.

A Good Day of Football--and Fall--at W&L

OK, so I don't like cowbells at ball games, but they make nice pictures. And they are obnoxious.
Hmmm. Wonder what he's drinking.
Love these boots.
Margie and I took a drive up to Lexington yesterday, ostensibly to see a football game at Washington & Lee, but there was so much more to see than that.

I wanted this sweater.
I simply adore Division AAA football where the crowds are smallish, late arriving and not obsessed with fandom, where fashion is still an option and where the old alums show up. At W&L, the crowds almost always arrive late and the football is almost always secondary (although the Generals are 7-0 and beat Bridgewater College
45-23 yesterday).

Football is old hat to me, so watching the crowd and photographing the festival is much more interesting. The very peak of fall color added an extra dimension yesterday, as you can see in this photo essay.
Many of the young women dress up for the festivities.
Standard procedure.
Painted to scare.
Some football was played. I barely noticed.  This was a touchdown.
Sports TV was there.
High heels? Yep, high heels.
Approaching Wilson Field before gametime.
Here's where they play.
The crowd is probably 1,000, maybe 1,500.
This is the picturesque approach to Wilson Field.
Margie and I in our seats: Free admission, sitting on the 50 yard line.
Football? What football?
Makeup of the day.
You want peak color? You got peak color.
Above the creek near the stadium. How much prettier can it get?
The W&L campus is simply gorgeous this time of year.
Looking at the bridge to Wilson Field.
Good day? Yep, a good day for us both.