Sunday, March 31, 2013

Quote of the Day: Have Another Egg or Two

One recent study echoes the growing research, showing that egg consumption had no effect on the overall blood cholesterol levels of 115 healthy adults. What's more, another recent study found some evidence that eating whole eggs increases HDL -- the heart-protective, "good" cholesterol. 

--Ask Healthy Living in HuffingtonPost today


Saturday, March 30, 2013

Photo Easay: Let the Marginal Arts Weirdness Begin

Artist Suzn Hughes wore a BIIIIIIIIG hat.
OK, so not all bluehairs are old ... or ugly.
Uses for Barbie: No. 4231.
I have absolutely no idea ...
Southwest Virginia Ballet marches away from the sun.
The arts may be marginal, but the reading isn't.
Roanoke Valley Rollergirls show up everywhere
Feast your eyes on this picture of you, clown.
My pal Mary Beth Layman (and me).
The old Scotsman and his bagpipe.
Ah, the sweet face of youth.
The always exotic Claudia DeFranco.
Look closely: There's a man in the nose trying to escape.
Colors, colors everywhere.
There's always room for an important political statement ("genetically modified foods suck").
Forgot your shoes, Clarabelle.
Drumming her way along.
The crowd was modest, but interested.
Rubber chicken in a cage, riding a horse. Uh, yes. That's it.
Bus drivers respond. Or not.
Community High School's week-long Marginal Arts Festival kicked off today with its annual parade of weirdness in downtown Roanoke today at noon. If you think the parade is weird, take a look at the rest of the week's activities on the website (here). There's something there for almost any taste(lessness). Get out and see what you can stir up.

Upcoming: A Very Merry Un-Birthday at RCT

Members of Roanoke Children's Theatre paraded on Roanoke City Market today, handing out cards advertising their "Don't Be Late! It's a Very Merry Un-Birthday for You!" scheduled Saturday, April 1,1-3 p.m. at the Taubman Museum of Art ($20 for adults, $15 for children). The Queen of Hearts and Mad Hatter here are Amanda and Mike Mansfield.

Call 540-309-6802 to make reservations. It's a fundraiser for the theater.

Hollins Lit Fest: Writers, Writers Everywhere

Author Karen Osborne reads from her marvy novel Centerville.
Lots of writers out there wanting to learn.
Jacksonville Center head Jeanne Larsen.
Judy Ayyildez of Roanoke, author of Forty Thorns
My pal and grad student Amanda Pauley.
Author Carrie Brown of Lynchburg and the Hollins faculty.
Karen leans into a point.
The annual Hollins Literary Festival is going on today at the Richard Wetherill Center and kicked off this morning with a reading by novelist Karen Osborne, the writer in residence for this semester.

The large audience was dotted with students and writers, some of them quite successful, as Karen--who teaches at Mt. Holyoke in Massachusetts--read from her powerful novel Centerville.

Photo of the Day: Going, Going, Gone

This Books-A-Million at Crossroads Mall in Roanoke is one of a number of them nationally that has been shut down because of a combination of factors. I'm not necessarily going to express grief at the loss of a big box store, even if it is a book store, because those tears have already been cried when the local bookseller bit the dust over the last decade or so.

Reading is here to say, I think, but the delivery system is changing, whether it be books or magazines and newspapers. They're still coming to our eyes and our minds and that's not going anywhere ... Unless the Republicans take over completely, in which it becomes a distinct possibility.

Friday, March 29, 2013

Photo of the Day: Hey, Man What'd You Catch Those On?

You'da thought the guy in the Roanoke River (right) wearing about $10,000 worth of fishing gear and a high-end rod and reel would have been giving advice to the guy on the bank with a $2.98 K-mart outfit -- and a string of fish. T'warn't so. He was askin' advice, as any fisherman without a fish would of a guy with a whole string.

This was this morning at the newly-stocked (with trout) river in Smith Park ... my park, as it were, in Roanoke.

Day's Quote: Honeybees Falling Like Flies

A mysterious malady that has been killing honeybees en masse for several years appears to have expanded drastically in the last year, commercial beekeepers say, wiping out 40 percent or even 50 percent of the hives needed to pollinate many of the nation’s fruits and vegetables.

--Michael Wines in this a.m.'s NYTimes, detailing the plight of honeybees, which are crucial to the nation's food supply


Thursday, March 28, 2013

An Evening With Sarah Vowell at Hollins

Hollins President Nancy Gray chats with Sarah Vowell after dinner at Nancy's house.

Sarah at her table, history prof Ruth Doan at the right.
Your favorite editor and Sarah.
It was Sarah Vowell night at Hollins tonight and your favorite editor was part of a group that had dinner with the famous writer at the home of Hollinis President Nancy Gray. As I mentioned to Sarah upon meeting her, it was the first time in my memory that I was nervous about meeting somebody.
This somebody, though, is one we'd like to impress, I suspect, to be remembered by. 

That ain't happenin', but she was gracious and though in a group of total strangers, she held her own nicely. I got the distinct feeling that she is basically shy, but her wit is never more than a hair's breadth away.

Nancy and Sarah chat.
When she asked how I'd like to have her book--which I shoved at her--signed, I said, "Oh, something simple like, 'Last night was wonderful,'" she looked blankly at me and said, "I think I'll keep it simple." Great comic timing all evening.
I'll remember her talk most because 10 minutes into it I had to pee. I was on about the third row and couldn't leave. Twenty minutes into the talk, it was getting painful. Forty minutes in, I was thinking, "Would suicide be tacky?"

I made it through, ran to the bathroom. And met a line of old men ahead of me. Suicide was looking less tacky.

Headline of the Day: The Republican Genesis

Weird, Brainless Worm May Be Humankind's Ancestor

--HuffingtonPost (here, in what is an obvious major discovery of the roots of the Republican Party)

A Disputed Internet Charge and the Learning Curve

OK, so once again I'm sitting here with economic egg all over my face because I wasn't paying attention, didn't take the time to read all the rules and acted impulsively.

I was putting together an updated resume recently and was too lazy to format it myself, so I went looking for a service and found something called LiveCareer (here), which offered me a template (and some help, which I didn't need) for $1.95. I thought, "I can swing that," and went at it, producing a good resume quickly. I was feeling smug about condensing nearly 50 years in journalism to a page.

Now, I'm looking at a "recurring" bill of $34.95 a month on my MasterCard statement and I am forced to call MC, go through a phone tree higher than a sequoia and spend a good portion of my morning in dispute. I finally get somebody from the card company, who gets me in touch with somebody at LiveCareer, who tells me, yes, she can get that "recurring" charge removed in the future, but I'm out $34.95 for a $1.95 template.

Have I learned anything by this? Only, I think, that the young women on the other end of the line are almost always helpful, almost always ready to resolve the dispute quickly and that I'm still an idiot for not reading all the directions all the time, and knowing nothing will change in the future.

But at least you know that LiveCareer has a surprise for you if you use its services.


Gay Marriage: Don't Like the Politics? Go Around It

Regardless of what the Supreme Court determines its stance on gay marriage should be, my guess is that we've turned that corner as a nation and it's only a matter of time--and not a lot of time--before people are going to be able to marry the ones they love without the government sticking its nose into the equation. Gay marriage is not the only example of this growth of the public's self-awareness and its own power outside the political system.

Already, polls are showing that a majority of Americans believe marriage between homosexual couples is just fine--a dramatic change that happened gradually for several years, then just snapped in the past year. Rush Limbaugh--yes, that Cro-Magnon--admitted just the other day that this battle is done and that those who oppose his position have won.

I see signs all over the place that Americans are going around our government to get desired results in a number of areas because we can no longer count on the government to represent our interests over those of the monied elite. We don't seem to be able to directly affect the political system--unless we're NRA members or the very wealthy--but we can do what we believe is best for ourselves in an individual way and on a daily basis. We can't vote them out, but we can ignore them and get on with our lives.

A few years ago, musicians told the music establishment to go fuck itself and began using the Internet to produce its own collections for purchase by a public that had been required to buy a lot of songs it didn't like in order to get one it did--at exorbitant prices. Musicians shared in little of that wealth. Now, many of them get most of the income. Same with writers who've been humiliated, cheated and generally abused by the publishing industry. We're now publishing online e-books and inexpensive self-pubs and doing our own marketing--which we would have had to do anyway. Some of us (and I say "us" generally, not to include moi) have scored the $1 million bestseller. It's like hitting the lottery to get that big, but the satisfaction is at the lower end, having the book published and sharing it with a few hundred people.

The culture's changing. Politics is changing in that it is completely out of control and contrary to the interests of our country. Our little revolution is quiet, slow and powerful and it could well win.

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Sarah Vowell (and Me) at Hollins Tomorrow Night

Sarah Vowell: Pinched face, tiny voice, booming intellect, Dorothy Parker funny
 Some of us are more blessed than others. Tomorrow night, I get to sit down to dinner with Sarah Vowell. I say this in all sincerity:

Na, na, na, na, na ...

Dinner with one of my literary heroes is not something I get to do every week. Sarah Vowell is--in my mind--a latter day Dorothy Parker, without the booze, with the voice, with the wit, with the enormous talent. She writes about history, which doesn't always ring with logic, but watch her here talking to John Stewart on Comedy Central and you'll get an idea just what a hoot history can be.

Her newest book, Unfamiliar Fishes, is about the Americanized history of Hawaii and how it all came about in 1898 during the U.S. "orgy of colonialism." I guess you might call her irreverent. The right wing probably wouldn't have much use for her.

I have before me (like four inches from my left hand, as I type) Assassination Vacation, wherein Miss SarahBelle bops around the country like somebody with too many bonus miles, plopping down in places where political types have been killed. Sound like a laff riot yet? It is. And damn if you don't learn a bunch of stuff that'll work later for you on Jeopardy!

She shows up everywhere: movies (Violet Parr in "The Incredibles"), best-seller lists (all her books), television shows (Stuart, Letterman), Public Radio ("This American Life")--all the places I just love to visit.

So tomorrow Sarah Vowell is showing up at the Hollins theater for a free talk. Yep. I said "free talk." That means you might want to get there about 5 o'clock for a seat at the 7 p.m. showing. I'll be there. Hope I get a seat. We'll be coming over later (heh, heh, heh ...).

Photo of the Day: Flapping in the Breeze in Roanoke

I'm not much for flag waving, but sometimes Old Glory looks just like that when the wind is high and the sky a dark blue, as it was today in downtown Roanoke. These flags form a border for the war memorial (another association I don't like for the Stars and Stripes: war; it's about peace, dammit!) and they were lovely, standing their waving at passers-by.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Thank You, Earl Newman, Mechanic

It is a true highlight of any day when I can recommend somebody for a job well done and today that's Earl Newman, a guy who runs a mechanic and general handyman business in Lynchburg. Earl's the big gentle dude who rescued me and my broken truck during the snowstorm Sunday.

The truck, which is 15 years old and starting to show its age, came down with a busted bearing (the equivalent of my bad knee--the one I had replaced--I'd surmise) while I was visiting Leah for the weekend in the Hill City. Leah's son, Paul, who seems to know everybody of value in Lynchburg, immediately came up with Earl's name and phone number (434-941-0803) and it took Earl about half an hour from phone call to assessment.

I hadn't even made it out of the house to the driveway to greet him before he had the hubcap off the truck and a diagnosis ready for me. "Easy one," he said. "Bearings." So now, Earl has to tow the truck to his garage. But, his garage is on top of a snow-covered, soggy hill and his tow truck is boxed in there and can't get out. Earl figures it out and the car is soon gone.

Took a day to tow the truck, get the parts and do the work. Earl charged $185 for everything, including pickup and delivery. I said I wouldn't pay that. He looked at me puzzled and apologetic. "Is that too much?" he asked.

"Oh, no, man," I said. "It's far too little." His check was substantially more than that. Sometimes "what the job's worth" is a heck of a lot more than what it costs. That was the case this time. Thanks Earl.

Photo of the Day: Fighting Back Against Winter

OK, so we can't fight that damn Canadian weather that keeps swooping down on us day after spring day, but there's one action we can take to punch the bastard in the nose: comfort food.

Here's tonight's version of my personal battle plan: buttery, honey-drenched cornbread. Had it with corned beef and cabbage (and a nice fruit salad to remind me of what the season really is). I forgot to get buttermilk--a required side dish with cornbread--but I muddled through. Mmmmmm.

Interactive Achievement Gets Big Investment

Interactive Achievement in downtown Roanoke
Interactive Achievement, creator of standards-based instructional improvement software, today announced a $3.5 million growth equity investment for a minority stake in the company.  The infusion of cash will help Interactive Achievement continue to meet the growing needs of its clients and to expand its product offerings. 

“This investment will allow us to continue to help educators make a difference in the lives of children all over the country,” said Jonathan Hagmaier, founder and CEO.  “It reinforces to me that we are on the right path as a company; we have a bright future ahead of us.”

To assist in its mission of creating leading education products to better personalize a student’s education through the  use of data, Interactive Achievement will add offerings related to technology enhanced assessment items, curriculum and instruction management, resource management, and data analysis to its award-winning software platform.

Founded in 2006, Interactive Achievement currently employs 45 staff, mostly in the Roanoke-Blacksburg region.  The company is a leader in personalized education and its software products assist educators with making data-driven decisions to support student achievement in all academic areas. 

The new funds will be used to expand the company’s business in Virginia, South Carolina, Tennessee, and Indiana where its current clients are located and to extend its reach nationally.  With this investment will come a significant increase in new jobs within the next 18 months.  Most positions will be based in the Roanoke-Blacksburg region.  Interactive Achievement will be hiring for the following positions: software developers, sales associates, project managers, customer support personnel, content specialists, and managers.

Monday, March 25, 2013

Photo Essay: Snowed in at Leah's

The new birdhouse out back lacks only a fireplace and garage.
Leah's son Paul made this marvelous aluminum impression.
Art deco baseball cap with round head beneath.
Protection from stray Samurai.
Leah's house: sideview.
Yesterday's task; today's regret.
Red flamingos love the show. Not.
OK, so yesterday I was on the way home as the snow began falling in Lynchburg and my truck's brakes thought they'd pitch a fit, so here I am on Monday morning awaiting a mechanic, looking out the window at the winter wonders surrounding my honey's house and feeling not a whit of regret. Great place to be stuck, if not by the snow then by the truck. (Home soon, though, I hope. Lot of work to finish for FRONT. My last issue needs to be a good one.)