Monday, September 24, 2007


I'm kind of feeling like it.

Funk Off!
The real fun starts at the 7 minute mark.

Kool and the Gang back when they were good and relatively unknown.

Squib Cakes from Tower of Power

Take a Walk on the Wild Side by Jimmy Smith

Sometimes you just got to get your funk on. Otherwise it's all the same.

'Cause if you don't fix it, it will continue to occur.

Saturday, September 22, 2007

No Purple Pill Needed

No Purple Pill Needed

Last week’s malaise is this week’s mellowness.

When I wrote about last week’s game experience at about this time last Saturday night, I was feeling both angry and sad regarding some issues specific to the game day atmosphere and athletic program in general. My comments last week had almost nothing to do with the football team. In the stadium today, no one threw up on me for the second week in a row and that’s a very positive outcome. Additionally, my team won. The players looked to be having a blast, and we were able to get valuable playing time for our back-ups. (I do wish those backs would hit holes…I even wish there were holes to hit.)

After a week of pondering last week’s malaise, I’ve had time to clarify what I felt and put it all into some personal perspective.

As I mentioned last week, visiting Lane Stadium in the fall is a very special experience for me. So many memories are tied to that structure for me. I remember visiting Lane back in the 70’s with my parents. I was fascinated back then with the scoreboard sporting the turkey head on it and the cool gobble call. Years later, I remember walking around the stadium trying to keep my two-year old daughter occupied. Once, with her on my shoulders, we almost caught a field goal in the old south end zone. When I was in college, I used to sneak into Lane through the tunnel at night and just sit there on the west side 50-yard line and lament my passing from youth to adult. Years later along with many of you, I watched Corey Moore terrorize Brandon Streeter in a defensive blitzkrieg. Lane’s always been a special place to me.

Last week, I was distressed at what I view as the ridiculous imposition of unnecessary rules surrounding the game day atmosphere and the corporate branding of Virginia Tech. I still am concerned about those two things. I find my mind trying to figure out the next big thing to be banned, the gyrating High Tech’s and sticking in things during the “Hokie Pokie” come to mind. I’ll probably get banned for booing the wave, too.

I believe that the game day experience is being not so subtly sanitized with the imposition of ridiculous rules. For example, ticket holders are no longer allowed to toss a football at their tailgate before the game. Now I haven’t seen this enforced yet, but I suspect it’s only a matter of time. No more “Stick It In,” lots of respect crammed down our throats, and security forces rudely ushering polite fans out of the stadium before the band’s even finished playing. These issues concern me.

In my estimation, what makes Virginia Tech so special is the people who choose to spend time together every home Saturday. Today, I happened to take quite a journey before the game. I walked from Shultz parking lot to the stadium and then into the south end zone parking lot across the road to chicken hill before looping back to the stadium. What I saw on that walk cheered me remarkably. All over the place, there were people simply having fun. My favorite moment came when a group of young recent grads spotted me, average Hokie, walking up Chicken Hill and one of them threw a football to me. I caught it and zipped it back to them behind my back. A few minutes later, I was walking back down the hill and the same guys spotted another average Hokie with a graying beard cruising down Chicken Hill on the opposite side of the road and they lofted an excellent pass to him and he snatched it deftly with a big grin on his face then tossed it back. The young grad fumbled the reception drawing cheerful needling from the bearded guy. To me, that’s what the game day experience is all about. That’s where Hokie Respect is born. It’s like the Staple Singers preached in their song, “Respect Yourself”…

Respect yourself, respect yourself.
'Cause if you don't respect yourself
ain't nobody gonna give a good, good hootenanny boy.
Respect yourself.
Respect yourself...

We do respect ourselves, and I think it’s time for Corporate Virginia Tech to respect us.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007



I really don’t watch too much television these days. I’ll watch part of a football game here or there, but I rarely sit and watch the whole thing. I do watch two shows, “Lost” and “24.” I have no idea why I even care to watch them.

Sometimes when I need background noise, I’ll turn on one those home improvement networks. I’ve seen homes remodeled, homes flipped, walls horribly painted, rooms designed cheaply, and homes purchased. Why is it that only homes in California or Texas get remodeled?

As I’m writing this, there’s a very annoying and sappy home buying show on. A young couple on a budget are touring homes in their community to purchase. The realtor is so friendly it’s almost as if he’s married to the client. Oh wait, they are married. The client is married to her realtor! What a plot twist! I love tracking their predictable dialog.

“Wow, this one looks good.”

“Yeah, that one’s nice.”

“Ooh, I like that fireplace.”

“It’s nice.”

“The kids would like that bedroom.”

“Yeah, it’s a nice space, and it’s big.”

“Ooh, I’m not sure that yard will work.”

“It may be too cramped for the kids.”

“Yeah. And no trees.”

“Oh yeah.”

“I can see us in this house.”

“It’s nice and affordable, too. Definitely on our list.”

“Yeah, it’s nice and I like it…”

These shows go on all day and night on various cable channels. The weird thing is that in all of the days that I’ve played them in the background while I’m working, I’ve never heard a show repeat. How is that possible? They must crank out new shows every day for the insatiable broadcast consumer. Yeah, that’s it.

More than anything though, I live for my hourly “Betty White in the PetMeds commercial” fix. You can’t beat Betty White. She’s nice.

Saturday, September 15, 2007

My Malaise

My Malaise

Lane Stadium on a crisp football afternoon is hard to beat. On those days, the experience of the event seems more defined and in focus. The autumn breeze draws memories and mingles them with the present. Nothing beats it.

Something’s amiss for me this year, however. An iconoclastic dark cloud frames my thoughts. In years’ past, I’d be on my feet and screaming on every defensive down. So far this year, I sit quietly most of the time and only stand up when I can’t see because of people standing in front of me. Sometimes I cheer, but never too loud. I just don’t seem to care as I used to. The game doesn’t seem as important and fun.

The plays and the players aren’t new to me. Tyrod Taylor is a Vick. Vince Hall is George DeRicco. Glennon is Noell. Flowers is Prioleau. Ore is Suggs. Stinespring, Bustle, and Dooley are all the same. The check down play is still a running play to the tail back off to the right. The lineman lumber and are clones of the past.

Old traditions appear tired to me. “Let’s Go Hokies” is over-used and unimaginative. “Enter the Sandman” has lost all spontaneity to me. People bob like robots, devoid of passion, while the players predictably take the field behind cartwheeling cheerleaders. The presentation of the flags to the Corp representatives resembles some kind of royal coronation. The over-used “Hokie-Pokie” hasn’t changed choreography since the dance was written back in 1979. Wouldn’t it be at least semi interesting to watch the clarinets do the Hokie Pokie or maybe even Jim Weaver, himself. It’s all so old with nothing fresh to consider or to excite. Bill and Mike have fallen into toting a company line. Long gone are the days when Mike would do his best “Dandy Don” song to end the broadcast. I even find myself missing the entertaining calls after the game.

“Let’s go to Ida in Hiawasse…Ida are you there…Ida.”

“Bill? [echo echo]”

“Ida…go ahead you’re on the air?”

“Bill?…[echo echo]”

“Ida, you have to turn your radio down.”

“Bill [echo echo]

“Ida, turn your radio down. You have to turn it off or we can’t hear you.”

“Okay [echo echo]…Bill, I want to let Frank Beamer know that Hiawasse stands behind him. We think he’s doing a great job. You tell him that next week I’ll make him an extra special batch of those chocolate chip cookies that he likes so much.”

“Thank you Ida. We’ll be sure to pass that along.”

“Next we have Nate from Rocky Mount….”

I find my attention diverted in the stadium. People around me annoy me. The ten year old and seven year old boys who stand on the bleacher in front of me are frustrating. One of them bobs back and forth the whole game; up and back, side to side, repeatedly. I find myself having to counter-synch perfect movements to keep an open field of vision in front of my eyes. The large men next to me grumble whenever I have to visit the bathroom, so I find myself holding on uncomfortably so as not to draw their glares. When I do go, they always inch over into my seat area while I’m away, so when I get back I have to find a way to carve out some of my space. I find myself wanting to stand and boo those who are booing and slap those who are cursing the players. All that being said, no one spilled a rum and Coke on me nor threw up on me today. I find that the day’s positive development.

I’m getting tired of the business of the game. $4.00 Cokes lift cash from my wallet on a smaller scale but same manner as the Hokie Club and athletic department extract increased membership and season ticket fees. The Jumbotron commercials, piped in at arena football sound levels, serve as ADD Sugar Daddys for the masses. With the blaring garbage being pumped out, the fan never has a moment to just process the scene below and respond honestly and in unison with the crowd. In a sense, the Jumbotron works to make us individuals instead of a collective. It’s helped neuter the Terror Dome.

The Hokie Club won’t let me earmark my yearly donation to the Marching Virginians anymore. For the last couple of years, I’ve been allowed to do that, but the VTAF changed their mind and now disallows that option. Lu Merritt, in a letter to me, told me that the reason was that they didn’t want the Corps or the Library to lay claim to that Hokie Club financial stream because they also provide services to the athletic department. Where would it all end? I don’t know, but I do know that the VTAF could simply tell those groups, “No.”

I know I’m older and when I bounce these days, many parts of my body bounce independently and my knees creak. But I don’t think my malaise springs from that well. I suppose I could lay part of the blame on the tragedy of April 16 or perhaps on the interjection of big business into college football. Maybe that’s all part of it. Maybe that’s what it is. The Innocence of Virginia Tech seems to have been replaced by the Corporation of Virginia Tech. In response, Football just doesn’t seem to be as important to me this year, and that’s an empty thought all by itself.

Geaux Hokies.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Hygiene Problems

"We are experiencing hygiene as we know it."


Skunk Chaser

I think it must have been Monday evening when it happened. Time has been a blur this week, but my memory suggests to me that Monday was the night.

My wife and I were just sitting and chatting in the den just off our bedroom upstairs in our home. The cool weather had yet to arrive, so we were still suffering the ill winds of the devil. With the windows sealed and the A/C on, we were taking a moment to relax and catch up on our meetings and lives.

Suddenly, my wife let out, "Ohh, do you smell that? Someone must have just gotten sprayed?

"What?" Sitting just five feet from her, I smelled nothing.

"Smell the skunk? I bet the dog just got sprayed."

"I don't sme...ohhh I smell it now. That's really horrible."

I've smelled skunks before, but this was the most powerful blast I've ever experienced. It permeated the house instantly, coming through windows that are sealed so well that they allow no drafts in winter. Yet the skunk smell came through like butter melting on toast.

After a few minutes, I went outside and checked on the dog. Skunk smells were thick in the night air and when her glowing eyeballs came happily charging at me through the dark, I braced myself for an intense blast of odor. I also instinctively backed away so she wouldn't be able to rub against me. Yet when she came close, I detected no increase in the smell. But I wasn't really convinced that I'd actually be able to detect any malodorous intrusions on the dog since the air was skunk.

When it came time to put the dog to bed an hour or so later, I found her already in our basement laying on the cold concrete floor with a very sad dog face. She'd been heavily drooling on the floor, which is unusual for her. More importantly, the blast of skunk odor was so intense from the room that I just had to turn and walk away. There was nothing to do for her that night.

All night, the odor seemed to intensify inside the house as our efficient air handling system spread the offense like a mutating virus. As I sat in the family room portion of the basement watching Monday Night Football, I could feel the odor molecules attaching themselves to my body.

That evening, as I attempted to sleep, I could do nothing but toss and turn. Skunk had invaded the small hairs inside my nostrils. Every breath I took drew in more skunk which then seemed to set up a cloning facility inside my body. Abhorrent smells oozed from all parts of me like sweat dripping off me on a humid day. It then radiated from me and onto my pillow and sheets. Everywhere, it was. Nowhere was sleep.

Exhausted, I went through Tuesday with the gnawing sensation that everyone could smell skunk on me. So when I got home, I immediately broke out the dog shampoo and attacked the dog with gusto, releasing my frustrations. Over and over I washed her and rinsed her. By the time I was done, she still smelled like a skunk.

Worse than the dog, was the house. It reeked. I threw open all of the windows and doors, plus turned on all of the ceiling fans and bathroom ventilation fans. I ran the fan from the house ventilation system, but with little noticeable effect. The house was virtually unlivable.

At my "Back to School Night" PTA meeting Tuesday night, one of my colleagues told me of a recipe that she used to rid skunk smells from her hounds. They got in to them all the time at her country home. Part Dawn dish washing liquid, Baking soda, and hydrogen peroxide mixed in proportions she didn't know. She said I could easily find the exact recipe online. So on my way home I bought those items and also some powerful canned air fresheners and plug-in fresheners. You should have seen me going around the house spraying that air stuff! I hit every room in the house downstairs and in the basement. All around where the dog would lay and in her special recliner, Grandfather's old "Archie Bunker" chair, I sprayed and sprayed.

While I was at the meeting, my wife had concocted her own recipe. She mixed vinegar with dish washing liquid and washed down the basement floor and the grandfather chair. All of the efforts made the house tolerable that night, but by no means did anything we did neutralize the skunk.

As I write this, Ode to Skunk is still greeting all visitors to my house. Tomorrow, I'm mixing my concoction and nailing the dog again. Then I'm taking that recipe to the basement floor by mopping it over and over. Perhaps then, the skunk will go away.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007


Some 19 years + ago, my son was born. It was not an immaculate birth, although it was planned. I'm not a conservative person. In fact, I'm rather liberal. However, I've always been devoted to my country.

When my son was born, there was not a gun to be found in my house. Yet within a couple of years, my wife and I discovered that our son had an affinity with drums and sticks. The drums remained drums, but the sticks became guns.

He grew responsibly and respectfully into a man who reasoned and thought for himself. For that, I'm extremely proud. I'm also proud that he has decided to launch himself on a track to become a Marine officer after his time at Virginia Tech.

Look here and see if you can pick out my son taking his Oath.

ut prosim

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

A Hand Gesture of the Future

Just when you are getting used to the way things are, They go and change it and turn it in to something completely different.

MicroSoft is working on a new way for us to interact with our world. No longer will we think of the computer as a computer. That age is rapidly fading. In it's place are multi-sensory input devices.

A table that illuminates with your documents presented in realistic 3-D fashion. Those documents will be able to be manipulated just as you manipulate paper documents today. Most incredibly to me is something that in the future will seem so ordinary, as ordinary as strapping on a watch. That something is the transfer of information from one device to another. The host on the video demonstrates how you will be able to take a picture, set your camera on a "table," immediately display the photo like an old Kodak print, then drag it onto your cellphone (or any other hand-held device) which you've also placed on the table.

Watch the demo...You'll be amazed.

Watch the video.

Sunday, September 09, 2007

Three Little Birds

This recording is from the Concert for Virginia Tech on September 6, 2007.

As the song marched along, the crowd picked up the simple phrase and chanted it over and over. It was a beautiful moment in time.

All Dried Up

The Summer of 2007 has been brutal at my house. Meanwhile, in other parts of the area rain has actually fallen several times over the same period. This slide show documents the horrid impact of the blast-furnace drought on my home landscape.

Opening Salvo...

I received a letter in the mail this past week. Apparently, Virginia Tech will no longer allow me to earmark my donation to the Virginia Tech Athletic Fund for the Marching Virginians. This donation is my ticket to get football game season tickets. I guess the fact that I earmarked my donation for the band really ticked off somebody somewhere.

Here's what Lu, the assistant AD wrote to me...

Dear Thomas:

At the recent Board of Directors meeting of the Virginia Tech Athletic Fund the members voted to stop awarding athletic benefits and priority points for gifts to the Marching Virginians.

The main reason for this decision was to close the door to any other campus departments or units who may feel they are entitled to athletic benefits from gifts to their college or campus unit.

Of course, annual made last year did earn athletic benefits for this year and they will be honored. As of August 1, 2007, the Virginia tech Athletic Fund will no longer accept gifts for athletic benefits through the Marching Virginians.

We encourage you to continue your support of this fine marching band by sending your gifts directly to the Virginia Tech Foundation, Inc. for the College of Liberal Arts and Human Sciences for further credit to the Marching Virginians account in the School of Music.



Lucius Merritt, Jr.
Director of Development for Intercollegiate Athletics

Here's what I sent back to Lu today...

September 9, 2007

Lucius M. Merritt, Jr.

Director of Development for Intercollegiate Athletics

Virginia Tech Athletic Fund

P.O. Box 10307

Blacksburg, VA 24062-0307

Dear Mr. Merritt:

I was saddened and extremely disappointed to receive your letter informing me of a recent decision by the VTAF Board of Directors regarding awarding athletic benefits and priority points for gifts to the Marching Virginians. According to your letter, the board will no longer allow my donation to be earmarked for the Marching Virginians

The main reason for the board’s decision makes little sense to me. You said that the board wanted to “…close the door to any other campus departments or units who may feel they are entitled to athletic benefits….” It seems to me that it would be a rather easy administrative matter to simply say “No” to other campus departments or units that may ask for similar treatment.. It’s a tidy response and simple to formulate. It needs no explanation. If the main reason was to combat something that hasn’t happened, what were some of the other reasons? Because to me, the main reason doesn’t seem to make any sense.

When I found out a couple of years ago that the VTAF would allow donations to be tagged for the Marching Virginians, I was impressed by the VTAF’s acknowledgement of the band’s services and the proactive support stance for a band that provides the athletic program such an integral service. The band works tirelessly through the heat of summer and autumn afternoons to put together halftime entertainment at football games. They act as spirit leaders both inside the stadium during the games and outside the stadium before the games. They are the face of the university in the stands. The Marching Virginians are Virginia Tech, and I would argue that football game day atmosphere would be much less exciting without them.

I am very disappointed that the Board decided to curtail the allocation of my donation to the Marching Virginians. I’ve supported the MV’s financially for many years now by “purchasing” a valve on a sousaphone and supporting their endowment fund. I will continue to do that as you suggested. With two students at VT right now, I will be forced to find more creative ways to support both the Marching Virginians and the VTAF.

I ask you, respectfully, to bring this matter back to the Board on my behalf and ask them to reconsider their position.



Thom Ryder

Class of ‘82/Sousaphone ‘81

I really don't understand how diverting my $563 a year will negatively impact a multimillion dollar athletic fund. That relatively small amount, will greatly help a band program that is always searching for ways to purchase uniforms and instruments. It seems such a small price for the Athletic Fund to pay for the services they get in return.