Sunday, November 30, 2014

Sunset in Northwest Roanoke

The clouds look like a purple and gold mountain in the distance.
The Bradford Pear won't let its leaves leave.
It got right pretty outside my house a few minutes ago and I ran out and cranked off a few rounds on my canon.

This part of the Roanoke Valley--out near the airport--seems to get some spectacular sunsets frequently because the mountains are all in the distance, and not hovering right up over me.

Here's an example of what it looks like very often.
The sun is falling or as the Beatles said, "Don't let the sun go down on me ..."
This one's for my grandgirl, a fluffy pink.

A Little Hike With My New Lens

Revealing selfie with my new Canon 50mm, 1:1.8 lens. Sharp picture.
Moss, short depth of field.
Took a hike along Chestnut Ridge this a.m. with my pal Debbie Stevens and my spanking new Canon 50mm f1:1.8 lens. That's the fast one that I can shoot in a closet and still get clear photos.

This 50mm lens actually plays out as a 75mm when attached to a digital camera (the ratio is +1.5 for lenses on the digital). It's a good portrait lens, I think.

Thought I'd try it out on a hike where there would be little color, but a lot of texture and I like what I got, including the grizzled old man I have become.

Here's a little of what we saw and some of what I shot.

I didn't think much of this shot until I got a close look at it.
Here's Debbie. Portraiture is what the lens does best.

Thursday, November 27, 2014

A Celebration of Appreciation in the Virginia Woodlands

There was enough fall and winter leftover from yesterday's snow and the remnants of late leaves to give a wondrous Thanksgiving color to the woods this morning.

The annual Thanksgiving trek through the wonder of Virginia was especially delightful this morning as nature presented herself for the festival of appreciation. Here's some of what it looked like for an hour and a half.

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Snow Before Thanksgiving 2014

The snow was pouring, but not sticking, on City Market this morning.
This greeted me when I got home from my trip to the Market.
Quite the unexpected heavy snow this morning, though it's looking like little of it will stick. I understand a Nor'easter is making its way up the Atlantic coast and is dumping a lot of rain and snow in its path. It's awfully pretty outside and it still is above 40 degrees. 'Splain me that, Lucy.

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Thanksgiving Goal: Stop the Waste of Food

Put something on their plates, for god's sake!
Here's a Thanksgiving statistic for you:

In a country (ours) where a lot of people will go hungry Thursday, 10 percent of the available food supply is wasted annually by retailers and another 20 percent is wasted in homes. Those figures are astonishing in a land where 14 percent of the people aren't fed properly (according to the USDA).

This is a generous country, I think we all agree, so what's the problem with all this waste? We are conditioned to waste by the culture, by the food growers and sellers who profit by it, by the lack of expense of our food and by our extraordinary abundance. We have no real reason to think in terms of being resourceful. Most of those in the middle and at the top of our economy know few of that 14 percent who don't eat well.

Labeling of many of our goods is often confusing. "Sell by ..." does not mean that the food inside the can will be spoiled if not eaten by the date on the label. It means it will be best if eaten before that date. Milk, for example, is clearly marked by the date at which you should have consumed it, lest it spoil. But a can of beans not eaten by Jan. 3 will not be spoiled. So eat the damn beans.

There are programs--generally smallish--across the country where grocery stores give up their aged produce to organizations using them for compost. Many state laws will not allow for prepared meals or dishes from the grocery store or the restaurant to be given to shelters, but they can go into the ground to enrich it.

One of the real gifts we can give each other this Thanksgiving, I think, would be a renewed awareness of our food supply and the people who don't get their share of it. Feeding the poor is the very least we can do, even with a Republican Congress.


Sunday, November 23, 2014

Frank Beamer: Maybe It's Time To Resign

Frank Beamer: Resignation would be best for all, I suspect.
Some of the Hokie faithful have increased the volume of their screams for the head of football coach Frank Beamer following the ignominious double-overtime loss to a weak Wake Forest team yesterday in Winston-Salem. I am truly sorry to hear it, but I thoroughly understand it.

Beamer, with the excellence he developed over the years in Blacksburg, has put a target on his own back and the Tech faithful, who had little to cheer before his arrival, are shooting rapidly and with little mercy.

Beamer is much like Philip Fulmer at Tennessee: a tragic figure as he ages, but a real hero for 20 years. He did what could not be done at Tech, but the world of football has caught up with him, as it does with so many. There is no shame in that. 

Beamer deserves to retire and have the football stadium named after him. I hate hearing the anger directed toward a good man who gave Tech a national identify, helped increase enrollment, helped build the physical infrastructure, brought in tons of money (some of which went to academics) and, at one time, refused a salary increase because the rest of the salaries at Tech were frozen. 

His has been a memorable tenure at Tech, the best ever for a VPI coach and I think we should remember that as he is unceremoniously kicked out the door. He deserves respect, regard and kindness. I suspect he could avoid what is getting ready to happen by simply resigning, but like so many before him, he won't do that. Beamer does not see himself as a "quitter," and my guess is that resigning, in his mind, would brand him as such.

Too bad.

Ask yourself one question as you ponder replacing him: Has Beamer made this job so appealing that somebody as good as he is will apply for it?


Saturday, November 22, 2014

Hey, USPS: Can't You Guys Read!?!

Good old Postal Service. Still can't read. This envelope--which contained the lovely photo from my daughter (pictured)--was pretty damn clearly marked "DO NOT BEND," but, as you can see, the photo has a crease on the right side and the cardboard protector has the same crease.

Looks like some blockhead intentionally bent the picture. For what reason, I have no idea. Maybe the employees are pissed about budget cuts. But, boys and girls, I didn't make the cuts. Bend Bob Goodlatte's friggin' mail, or, better yet, Morgan Griffith's, not mine.

These guys are really rubbing me wrong. A couple of months ago, my son's father-in-law sent a fairly expensive package filled with goodies for the family and the postal service screwed up the order so badly that all kinds of terrible things happened. I have sworn off even the possibility of trying to send a postal package from here to Spain. Just won't happen.

Now, for the second or third time in recent weeks, the USPS has delivered a DO NOT BEND package to my house bent, making the photo much less valuable, much harder to frame and much more likely to really piss me off.

A Frosty Morning in the Deep Woods

Frost on this blackberry bush gives it an impressionistic feel and look.
Frost before the sun.
It was a beautiful, frosty morning that greeted me today as I set out to hike in the deep woods of Botetourt County.

The first step was taken at 31 degrees, but the temperature rose as the sun soaked and by the end of the hike, I had removed my stocking cap and gloves and unzipped my coat to let the sun it.

Invigorating, I think, is the word. And beautiful. There's something clean and fresh about a cold hike.

Jack Frost walked here and sprinkled his stuff.
Frost sparkles on this section of fence.
Ice, plain and simple.
A maple leaf covered in frost makes its own statement.

Gratitude: I Can Spell 'Tennesse'

Today, I am doubly grateful:

Gratitude No. 1: I can spell "Tennessee." The Guatamalan seamstress who put together my sweatshirt obviously had a problem with it. I can see her at the end of the day, looking at the stack orange Es on the floor beside her and saying "oops."

Gratitude No. 2: The University of Tennessee--for which I choose to cheer during football season, much to my chagrin the past few years--is playing its first meaningful football game in November since, say 2007, maybe before that. Tonight's game against Missouri could be a bellwether of what is to come, win or lose and I'm tickled about it. Just two weeks ago, I turned off a game in the third quarter, broken-hearted again, but the Vols came back and won that one in overtime 45-42. It's been joy ever since.

GOP Recalcitrance: Procedure or Substance? (Hint, the First One)

This piece by Noam Scheiber in The New Republic gets it exactly right: The GOP is obsessed with process and methodology over basic philosophy.

Example: "Anyone who’s followed politics during the Obama era has probably noticed that conservatives love to couch their positions in the language of process. So, for example, conservatives rarely admit they want to disenfranchise poor people and African Americans. They talk about the scourge of voter fraud, and the cosmic unfairness of letting ineligible people cast votes."

Another example--and perhaps the best one--is Obama's recent pronouncement on immigration, which the Republican Party is criticizing, not for its content, but for how it is being done: executive order (something George Bush--both of them--knew and understood well).

And, of course, "... try as they might to stick to the script, there’s something about dark-skinned foreigners that sends the conservative id into overdrive."

'Course, "The problem with drawing these crazy relatives down from the attic isn’t just that it exposes the GOP’s soothing proceduralism as a sham when it comes to immigration reform. It’s that it exposes the GOP’s proceduralism as a sham more broadly." That means, in a nutshell, if your skin is darker than, say mine, you might be facing a procedural problem of your own with the GOP.


Thursday, November 20, 2014

Smokeout Day: Here Are Some Stats


I’ve been bitching about cigarette smoking for nearly 35 years and have only been a “former smoker” for 20 of that. I knew even before I quit that it was killing me, but funny thing about addictions: they’re difficult to break. 

Took me nearly 22 years to quit drinking and more than that to stop smoking. But I did and a year into healing, my primary care physician looked into my eyes during a physical exam and said, in an astonished voice, “Your lungs are clear.”

The body has amazing healing powers. For the next 20 years, I was without even a touch of bronchitis, which I had tolerated nearly six months of every year as a smoker—smoking through the coughing. 

These days, I try to convince people with the logic of numbers to quit smoking or to avoid starting. That probably never works. If I say, “You stink,” to a smoker, or perhaps, “Your teeth are really yellow,” I think, it’s far more effective.

Still, I’m going to give you some stats from the American Cancer Society as the Great American Smokeout approaches. They will get your attention, I think, though my guess is smokers will simply blow a smoke ring at them. Here they are:

  •  Nearly half a million (480,000) Americans are killed every year by smoking and second-hand smoke. The worldwide numbers—which I don’t have—would dwarf that. Eighty-seven percent of lung cancer deaths are smoking related.
  • There remain 42 million Americans who smoke cigarettes, 13.4 million who smoke cigars and  2.3 million who prefer pipe smoke.
  • Non-smokers live 10 years longer than smokers. 
  •           Low-income New Yorkers spend 25 percent of their income on cigarettes. 
    • There are 7,000 chemicals and compounds in tobacco and 69 of them have been found to cause cancer.
  • Every day, 3,200 American children smoke their first cigarette.

Temple Grandin To Speak at Tech Dec. 4 (Free)

Temple Grandin
Temple Grandin, the autistic activist and one of the most respected scientists in the humane livestock handling industry, will speak Dec. 4 at Virginia Tech and her appearance is open to the public and free.

Grandin, subject of a well-reviewed HBO movie starring Claire Danes, has quite a following among those concerned with animal welfare and her biopic intensified a profile that was already high among many.

Though she had severe autism as a child, her gritty ambition led her to a Ph. D. in animal science from the University of Illinois and she has written quite a lot about  designing animal handling facilities. Her equipment houses about half the cattle in the U.S. at any one time and she has become a noted consultant for the food industry. In the world of autism, she is a rock star.

Grandin's free talk for the public will take place 6:45-745 in the
HBO movie poster.
auditorium in Goodwin Hall on the corner of Prices Fork Road and Stanger Street. The title of the talk is, "The World Needs All Kinds of Minds." She will give a talk at 2 p.m. at the Virginia Bioinformatics Institute on the principles of livestock behavior for Tech students, faculty and staff.

Grandin has witten several books, including, The Autistic Brain, Animals Make Us Human: Creating the Best Life for Animals, Improving Animal welfare: A Practical Approach, and Different Not Less.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Gratitude: Material for Stories, Blogs

Today, I am grateful for:

A continuing wealth of interesting stuff to write about on a daily basis. I love stuff that keeps me occupied and pre-occupied. I think the blog stays pretty interesting and I'm working on some stories professionally right now that have my full interest.

Here Are Some of My Daughter's Pix

For those of you thinking that perhaps I was blowing a little smoke when I said the other day that my daughter and granddaughter were becoming quite the photographers, since I gave each a camera, I present these photos.

Here's proof positive that my daughter, Jenniffer, is excelling without a single lesson. She has an innate eye, a wondrous sense of color and composition and I love her shots. Hope you do, too. The gal's good and the dad is proud.

You will note that Jennie likes horses. She's a rider, used to barrel race. Thank god I never got to see that. I'd have been like my mama watching me play football.

Naked Ladies of Grandin Calendar Is Here

Susan Stidham of Sole To Sole.
Pennie Auhero of Viva La Cupcake.
The calendars--you know the ones--are here and they're selling like latte macchiatos at CUPS in Grandin Village. This is The Grand Ladies of Grandin Village, the calendar that takes women business owners in the village--mostly middle aged, mostly pretty dang sexy--and shows you what they look like in the suit they came with. Which is to say naked.

I've written a ton about this and the first blog post has been one of the most popular in the five-year history of fromtheeditr.

The photos, by my friend Cricket Maiden and Patricia Giovannini, are exquisite (as you can see from these examples) and will not challenge your morality if you display them in your kitchen. They're pretty modest by most standards. Banks may not like them.

Getting the final lineup of 12 owners presented some problems, however. After the daily paper did a story on the calendar, the officials of the bank in the village, who had given permission for its VP to appear, withdrew that permission. My guess is that the reality of what was happening settled in and a semi-nude banker didn't fit the image.

Another old pal of mine, Linda Steadman, who owns Too Many Books and is slender and attractive, pulled out because, she said this morning, her family was beside itself over the exposure ... so to speak. She said she got e-mails and texts from "all over the country" after my blog post appeared and that her family expressed its disagreement with her decision.

In any case, I think everybody knew this wouldn't be easy, but it's here in time for Christmas and if what I saw this morning is any indication, you'd better get a calendar quickly if you want one. They're going to sell out in a heartbeat.
Sandra Meythaler of Roanoke Ballet Theatre.
Cherie Love of Mon Cherie's Salon.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Will Goodlatte Frack the GW National Forest?

It's beginning to look like the George Washington National Forest's management plan for the next 10 years will include fracking and one of the primary backers of that is Rep. Bob Goodlatte, whose 6th District includes much of the forest.

Goodlatte was one of those (along with his comrades in arms, fracking industry leaders) howling the loudest recently when a ban on fracking in the million-acre forest was proposed. According to the Richmond Times-Dispatch, "The Forest Service originally proposed to prohibit horizontal gas drilling on any future federal oil and gas leases in the GWNF, and at this time, no one knows if that proposal will stick in the final plan." Gov. Terry McAuliffe's administration opposes disrupting the forest.

The T-D article continued: "Fracking, as is well-known, is a wretched process that ignores regulatory law — oil and gas companies have been given waivers from liability and regulation from nine federal laws that protect the environment and public knowledge, including the Clean Air and Clean Water acts. In cases where property owners fail to own mineral rights, a situation called 'split estate' occurs. That means anyone owning mineral rights has a right to develop those rights virtually without recourse to the land owners. In the GWNF, about 160,000 acres have existing private mineral rights."

Goodlatte in the national forest a few years ago.*
The T-D in its editorial (here)  says only 40,000 acres (five percent of the forest) "are currently and likely will continue to be available for oil and gas exploration and fracking." Already, 12,000 acres are being leased for oil and gas exploration (mostly by one Texas company).

The paper says that two years ago, when the Draft Forest Plan was initially introduced, "Handfuls of industry representatives and elected officials — led by Rep. Robert W. Goodlatte, whose district covers much of the GWNF — were outraged."

Goodlatte has had a zero environmental rating since the day he was elected to Congress initially more than 20 years ago. He has always been a friend of business in any conflict with the environment and when he was head of the House Agriculture Committee several years ago, he championed the Healthy Forest Initiative. That was one of those Orwellian Republican zig-zags that, in essence, said that in order to save the forest, we had to cut it down (with the logging rights going to big business).

Goodlatte has been routinely returned to Congress year after year by an ignorant or uncaring or uninformed electorate and this time, that electorate could see its decision making a West Virginia coal mining community out of one of Virginia's wondrous national forests. Remember one thing: The national parks are yours. They do not belong to business.

(*I took this picture of Goodlatte at the Devil's Marbleyard in Rockbridge County a few years ago when he invited me to join him on a hike so he could explain his "Healthy Forest Initiative." I didn't buy it then; I don't buy it now.)

A Little Help from Sam Rasoul

Sam Rasoul, my delegate and I'm happy about that.
I went by Delegate Sam Rasoul's (D-11th District) office this morning to tell him my tale of woe about the DMV dustup (see previous post; it's two back) and was delighted at his attention and understanding of the issue.

Sam is a guy whose bandwagon I climbed on early, during a campaign a couple of years ago that he lost. He finally won last time around and has proved to be one of the best reps we've had at the state level in a good-long time. He is consistently responsive and has an understanding of how things work that go far beyond his years and even his station as a politician (they don't generally seem to understand much of anything).

I was pleased that he was looking into it, though I don't expect much of a result. It would be easy to blame the DMV for the mess that was made of my driver's license suspension (because somebody whose bank loan I co-signed was late on a liability insurance payment). But I won't do that. The DMV's people are simply enforcing laws passed by the General Assembly, where the fault lies. And that's where the fix should start.

A Busy Morning at the Mall

Santa's in full swing a week before Thanksgiving. Not many customers, though.
This guy was having his teeth cleaned, I think.
For the first time this season, I wasn't able to take my daily walk outside, so I went over to Valley View Mall to do my 90 minutes. It wasn't a busy day in the conventional sense, but for those looking a little closer, a good bit was going on.

Santa, of course, was there waiting patiently for somebody, anybody to pay attention to him and just a short distance away a young clerk working a hair-care booth was working on her own hair. I guess you could call that marketing.

A bit further on, a guy inside a walled-off booth was--I think--cleaning a man's teeth. You could see it from above, but not from the ground floor. Thank heaven for small favors.

I liked the table full of codgers who were reminiscing over an old sports scrapbook. A young African-American man stopped by and seemed truly interested in the show-and-tell. Here's some of what went on in photos.
Old Boys Club looking at the scrapbook.
Is this really a marketing effort by the young clerk?
This is the animal orchestra the kids seem to like.
Me in front of the band. I like bear cello players.

Dan Casey's Article is Spot-On

Dan Casey, the best metro columnist The Roanoke Times has had since I've lived in the Valley (moved here in 1971), wrote a solid piece this a.m. (here) about my difficulties with the DMV's draconian approach to breaking its rules.

It appears the problem has been solved to the degree it can be--at an extreme cost that will stretch to over $1,000 very soon ($2,000 if you consider lost income)--but I'm meeting with Del. Sam Rasoul of the Virginia House of Delegates this afternoon to see if anything can be done legislatively to modify the strange and unfair laws/rules regulating the responsibility for automobiles' insurance in this often-repressive state.

I was partially at fault in this, but my fault was based on an almost complete lack of information from the DMV, the various insurance companies and anybody else I dealt with during the process. I'm not sure most of the workers in those agencies understand the rules and regulations here. The employees are good people who are only following their directives and can't give me information they don't have. Most of them were surprised at my dilemma. But they couldn't help because they didn't have the info and didn't know where to get it.

I'm hoping we can get this law clarified. It is vague and truly unfair. Meanwhile, let me offer one piece of advice that comes at great expense: Don't co-sign a loan for anybody (not even your spouse or your child) until you know all of the ramifications. There are big holes on the road in this one.

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Apples and Shadows: A Mid-Fall Hike

The apples await at Ikenberry Orchard in Botetourt County.
My overflowing peck of staymans.
Today was an open invitation to a crisp, refreshing walk in Botetourt County and a stop at Ikenberry Orchard on the way home to harvest some stayman apples, which are at their peak.

Staymans are my favorite because they are so very tart. They're a great cooking apple and I make my best butternut squash soup with them in late October and early November. The stuff is so good it will make you cry.

The walk up the side of a mountain was exhilirating and the the clear, blue sky lovely. Now for some serious football.
Lingering color and a blue, blue sky.
These allergy-inducing weeds have their own charm.
Self-portrait with shadows.
Mid-fall shadows show a low sun.