Tuesday, September 30, 2008


Every now and again, I stumble upon silliness that's pure genius. Like this piece. Hope you had a happy September.


Sunday, September 28, 2008

Wisdom and Proof

What happened today by tomorrow will be yesterday. What
happened three years ago to us is yesterday.

~algroh, coach of UVA (aka France) after his team's loss to formerly hapless Duke.


In last night's ABC football telecast, my team, Virginia Tech traveled to Nebraska to play the Big Red Cornhuskers. As a kid growing up, I was forced to watch Nebraska play the biggest games of the year on New Year's Day or New Year's Eve. We would always end up at the Big Red home of our family friends with the television tuned to the Big Red game of the season. I never grew to like Big Red.

That's why last night's victory over the Huskers means so much to me.

Yet, the win didn't come without some controversy. Many Big Red fans are claiming that VT was the beneficiary of a bogus call in the waning minutes of the game leading to VT's winning margin. I disagreed then and still disagree. In the play, VT's quarterback was tackled and laying on the ground out of bounds almost under the feet of the Nebraska head coach when a Nebraska lineman came plowing into him. The official appropriately flagged the player for a late hit. Moments later, the official, tired of being called a c---, su---- m---f---- and a c--t by the coach decided to throw another flag for unsportsmanlike behavior. Virginia Tech then took the gifts and went in to score.

Here's what I wrote this morning along with visual evidence...

It's a matter of simple geometry. Object X is moving along a
predictable path. Object Y is moving along a predictable path to
intercept Object X. The projected point of interception occurs well
beyond a predetermined Wall of Demarcation.

As the point of interception nears, Object Y should consider two
important behavioral responses based on the two likely movement
possibilities of Object X as well as Object Y's own interpretation of
the mission. One response would have Object Y reign in forward
motion, pulling up at the predetermined Wall of Demarcation in
anticipation of Object X being repelled by the Wall of
Demarcation, thus changing trajectory. Another response would be
for Object Y to continue on the predetermined interception path even
though to continue on that path would invariably lead to interception
of Object X on the negative side of the Wall of Demarcation,
which in a linear sense, is strictly forbidden.

Under this particular scenario, Object Y chose to continue on the
predetermined path and intercepted Object X perfectly a meter or so on
the negative side of the Wall of Demarcation. In fact, Object
X's forward momentum had been arrested before Object X crossed the
Wall of Demarcation by several other Objects, all operating on
similar interception missions.

When Object X continued on the predetermined interception path, a
predictable chain reaction of events that led to a spatial shift on
the grid was set off.

The question could be posed, "Why did Object Y intercept Object X
on the negative side of the Wall of Demarcation?"

There are several reasonable possibilities. Object Y's image sensors
may have been temporarily inoperative. Possibly, Object Y's forward
motion thrusters malfunctioned. Rare, but possible is that Object Y
became infected with a malicious virus which took over the steering
and braking mechanisms, forcing interception on the negative side of
the Wall of Demarcation.

Regardless of malfunction, Object Y intercepted Object X on the
negative side of the Wall of Demarcation. The predetermined
penalty for such an egregious transgression was administered properly
in this case.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Garden Times

As the autumn sun hangs lower in the sky as if predicting winter, my garden seems to glow with a last burst of energy before it packs it all up for the season. My ornamental hot peppers are especially beautiful this year. While I don't eat them, I get endless joy out of raising them from pups and setting them out in the world. What follows is a photo essay from my pepper gardens.

Trifetti Ornamental Hot Pepper

Sweet Banana

White Fence Garden w Brussels Sprouts and Spider Plant

Senorita Hot Pepper

Poinsettia Ornamental Hot Pepper: Voted "Best Pepper for 2008 in my garden"

Wild Morning Glory on White Fence

Largo Purple ornamental Hot Pepper: "Voted Coolest Hot Pepper in My Garden in 2008."

Lamppost Garden

Islander Sweet Bell-type Pepper: "Voted Best Sweet Pepper in My Garden 2008."

Habanero Hot Pepper: These are just now ripening to a deep golden yellow.

Fall Beans Protected from Deer and Groundrats(hogs). [They already hit this batch once and they erased my fall peas.]

Fall Lettuce, Mustard Greens, and Kale.

Explosive Ember Ornamental Hot Pepper: (Peaked a month ago)

Dusky Eggplant

Driveway Pepper Garden

Cubanelle Sweet Roasting Pepper

Candlelight Ornamental Hot Pepper

Butterfly Bush

Sunday, September 21, 2008

It's More Than BINGO!

I spent the late afternoon and early evening working for my local high school athletic booster club at one of my town's many BINGO Halls. As usual, it was an eventful evening.

The regulars were all there. Knowledgeable Lady, Bearded Lady, Large Man, Grousing Lady, Flirting Lady, Dangerously Quiet Lady, and Happy-go-lucky Elderly Catholic Mother all fulfilled their time-honored roles. Large man was playing a game this week with all of the Instant ticket sellers. Whenever the sellers had just finished selling out a box of tickets, he would waddle up to one of us and demand twenty tickets. When informed that we had just sold out, he would bitterly and loudly complain and proclaim that he "...wouldn't never buy any tickets from y'all agin, 'cause use all crooks." Large Man played this game three times this evening.

Bearded Lady is a large woman with long, stringy, greasy black hair that frames the black beard on her face. She gets around with the aid of a walker. She was on a roll tonight. She won several games and drew the top $500 prize on one of our instant ticket games. I overheard another player ask her where she played BINGO last night, and she replied, "I didn't play no BINGO last night. I played the slots at _____ [name was indistinguishable], and I won $1,600.

Flirting Lady was interacting with a Truck Driver Man sitting a table away from her. By the end of the evening, the two of them were carrying out a loud courtship between ball calls, much to the chagrin of Grousing Lady.

Dangerously Quiet Lady discretely called me over late in the evening and politely asked me to exchange a piece of BINGO paper her friend had marked accidentally. Her request was nice enough, but it was delivered with an eerie undertone that made me want to take care of the issue promptly so as not to provoke her.

I've known Happy-go-lucky Elderly Catholic Mother for many years. In fact, we used to work together at the local amusement park back when I was a teen and she was a middle-aged mother of six trying to make ends meet. Before the games began, I went over and listened to her family update. She was worried about her son who just had heart surgery. We spoke of old times,grand kids, and fear.

Knowledgeable Lady sits in row one in front of the caller. She's always there, and is greatly respected by every other player and worker in the house. Today, she was sporting a shoulder harness with her right arm immobilized. I asked her what was wrong, and she told me that she had broken her humerus. Of course I then told her that that wasn't funny. I asked her how she broke it, and she replied, "Wild Sex...all three minutes of it."

As I spent my evening selling instant game tickets at a dollar a piece, I was amazed at the amount of money being spent by these players on this extra game. All told there were 69 paid players at the BINGO hall this evening, and those 69 players purchased five boxes of instant tickets. The game boxes had varying amounts of tickets in them, but I figure that all told, we sold about 7,000 tickets. Now doing simple math, it's easy to figure that about $100 per person was spent on instant tickets over and above what was spent by each person just to purchase their BINGO packets.

More amazingly, is the fact that only about 1/4 to 1/2 of the players were buying our tickets. That means that those instant participants must have really been loaded with cash when they walked in the door. After considering how much these people were spending tonight coupled with the fact that most of them play several times a week, I just can't figure out where they are all getting their cash. They don't appear to be wealthy or particularly likely to have a job that would command top salaries; yet, they spent incredible sums of money every week.

It's more than just BINGO. It's life.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Sleep, Monsters, and Salvation

Sleep, Monsters, and Salvation

Getting to sleep hasn’t really been a problem for me since I was a child. While some people are forced to take Ambien or other such medications, I’ve always shied away from them. I did once take Ambien. A few years ago, I visited Carilion’s Roanoke Memorial Hospital for investigation into sharp chest pains. I stayed the weekend in the cardiac unit on the seventh floor and got to enjoy the Independence Day fireworks below me at Victory Stadium. During my stay, I was fed Ambien and discovered that it makes me dizzy and silly. It doesn’t produce an effect with which I wish to share a bed.

I don’t dream when I sleep. At least I haven’t remembered any dreams I’ve had for many years now except for a couple I had last week. In one of the two dreams I remember from last week (I’ve already forgotten the other), my father-in-law, Jack, who passed away in April came down from Heaven to visit me. He looked a lot happier than the last time I saw him. He was bathed in a golden glow and wore an eternal smile. He told me that I needed to gather my family together spiritually and prepare for the end times. As he unveiled his revelations, his face was absolutely beaming with joy. His words immediately put me into a reflective and repentant mood. I began recounting all of the ways I’ve failed my God; this was more than a session in the confessional with a priest where I boldly confessed that I had “fought with my brothers and sisters” and “had taken the Lord’s name in vain three times.” No, this was a complete soul-searching reflection and intense confession. For at least three hours, I examined every corner of my life. All of my character flaws, personal failures, and unrepentant crimes passed before me like a horrific movie. Ebenezer had it easy compared to my journey into the recesses of my darker side. I left that dream shaken and exhausted; completely spent.

Back when I was a kid, sleeping was an exhaustive process for me. More correctly, the act of falling asleep was something I feared. I was afraid of what lived under my bed, what monsters were in the shoe closet, what horrible disfigured creatures resided behind the attic door next to my bed. I knew that poisonous vipers patrolled the nighttime floor waiting to inject me with deadly venom if I so much as dropped a toe over the edge of the bed. Spiders ruled the walls and the mysterious corners where walls met ceiling. The house, itself, was possessed by strange spirits, I believed. It made unexpected creaking sounds and moans. I was convinced that some tortured soul, now trapped in perpetual torment, perished in my bedroom at the hand of some fiendish ghoul. More than anything else, I was afraid that I’d fall asleep and never awaken. Death frightened me beyond any fear in life itself. I fought closing my eyes and spent many nights simply repeating over and over to myself, “I will wake up. I will wake up.” Darkness was the breeding ground of my fears, and only the light could comfort me. Well, only the light and a small transistor radio playing the latest top 40 hits from under my pillow.

The best kind of sleep is the blank kind of sleep. Close your eyes, chase the monsters away, and wake up a moment later after seven or eight hours have passed. It’s not fraught with drama. It’s just refreshingly empty. Sleep.

Friday, September 12, 2008

Craig Ferguson on the Presidential Election of 2008

Craig Ferguson is the host of CBS' Late late Show. When I am feeling especially frisky, I like to stay up into the wee hours and watch his show. Craig chronicled his pathway to US citizenship over the past year or so, and he really captured the true immigrant spirit.

The other night, Ferguson launched into a monologue that called into question the hypocrisy of our current presidential election process. He addressed the candidates, the media, and the citizens - pleading for a turn to true patriotism.

The video is long, but well worth the nine minute investment.

Thursday, September 11, 2008



“We don’t have to check the pulse of our nationalism.”

~A.D. Gordon

So said A.D. Gordon in the early 20th century remarking on the Zionist movement. Gordon was born in 1856 in Podolia, Russia, and later emigrated to Eretz-Israel, The Promised Land.

Nonetheless, Gordon decided to come to Eretz-Israel and begin a life of agricultural labor first in Petah Tikvah, later in Rishon Le-Zion and finally making his home in Degania, the first of the kvutsot. It should be remembered that Gordon had been a white collar worker all his life and had no experience of agricultural labor. However, he believed that physical effort on the land would not only bring about his personal redemption but also that of the Jewish people. He attributed pioneer work a semi-religious status, arguing that it created an organic interrelationship between the man, the land and culture. (Jewish Virtual Library)

It has occurred to me today, on this “Patriot Day” that modern Americans wear our nationalism as a badge of unity. The tragedy of September 11, 2001 changed all of us. The intense sadness, sense of loss, and outrage of the attacks bred a nationalistic outpouring and insecure paranoia that has not completely ebbed. Immediately, after the attacks, people began spotting a terrorist behind every tree. Mysterious vehicles were reported to the police and suspicious bundles were reported as possible bombs. We were all on the edge in the immediate aftermath of the destruction. The quiet, resulting from the grounding of commercial air traffic, produced an eerie silence across our cities. As a person who lives near an airport, I’ve never slept worse than in that artificial silence.

About that time, people began rallying around each other and the flag. Suddenly, we began wearing red, white, and blue; professing allegiance to our country with renewed and serious fervor. Banding together with nationalistic fervor seemed to comfort us and help us make it through the worst of times.

Seven years removed from the tragedy, we still check the pulse of our nationalism. Remembrances were offered, speeches were given to somber crowds, red, white, and blue ties worn, and historical lectures given to five year olds. The moments of silence were more profound and protracted than normal.

Today, I gave my lecture the eight year olds in my classroom, children who were 1 year old when the Towers were destroyed. I equated the recovery to the Phoenix. I spoke of rebirth and renewal. But my words felt strangely empty to me as I uttered them. Later in the day, one child remarked to my colleague after their classroom discussion, “We got that Saddam and now we still gotta get that Ben guy.”

I pine for a time when we won’t feel the need to wear our patriotic badges and “…check the pulse of our nationalism.” I wish for tranquil times that calm a turbulent world. I long for peace.

Thursday, September 04, 2008

Jon Stewart on Sarah Palin

Jon Stewart is very good at letting people hang with their own words. Enjoy!

Tuesday, September 02, 2008

As many of you know, my brother-in-law, Adam, lives in the town of Gautier, Mississippi. Gautier is located near the Pascagoula River on the border between Mississippi and Alabama. It's fertile ground for hurricanes.

Adam and family stayed in their house for Gustov...thankfully they weathered the storm relatively well. Here's his report.

Hey Folks, Thanks for your prayers. We stayed for Gustav. Three long days of prep paid off, cutting back all trees tightening the metal roof, make the outside of the home look like no one lives here etc. We had steady 40 mph winds gust over 60 mph and about 6 foot storm surge. Trees are beat up, our wonderful pecan's became missiles!
Here are some pictures: One shows the neighbors shrimp boat level with the road. The one of Peter shows the neighbors dock underwater too.
Lots of thinking went into our decision to stay we are not ignorant of the dangers however. Sad hit again at Waveland; they took the highest surge again and no news crews were present to even tell the tale. Google Waveland, MS and get the Kleenex handy.

We are thankful that Adam and family made it through this storm.

Monday, September 01, 2008

Cale and Me

Cale and Me

Yesterday, I gathered many friends and family members together for a rousing game of tackle football in my front yard. I live in a one-story brick ranch on Wood Haven Drive in Roanoke, VA. My front yard is huge and level making an ideal place for a friendly game.

I was really playing well. Time after time, I got the ball and blasted through the weak arm tackles my opponents threw at me. Once, I got the ball, tucked it, and was immediately clobbered. I spun, put my hand down, and staggered forward -gradually regaining my balance. Then, I outran everyone to the makeshift goal line.

After we’d been at it for about a half hour, I noticed that a man with a traveling suitcase, dressed in nice, casual clothing had pulled up in a rental car across the street at my neighbor’s house. He was leaning against his Chevy Malibu watching our game. I really didn’t pay much attention to him, but after about ten more minutes, I noticed him crossing the street rolling his suitcase over to where we were playing our game.

He made it across the street and stood there watching from the sidelines. Finally, he said, “Excuse me, have you seen Bill?” Referring to my neighbor, NASCAR driver Bill Elliott.

“Nope, I haven’t seen him all day. Can I help you with anything?”

“Well, Bill was going to fly me down to Rockingham for the race this week. He told me to meet him here.”

That’s when it dawned on me, “Aren’t you Cale Yarborough?”

“Yes, that’s right. I’m Cale Yarborough. I drive the #27 Valvoline Buick. So you haven’t seen Bill, eh?”

“Nope, like I said, I haven’t seen him.”

“I was wondering since Bill ain’t here…mind if I join your football game?”

“Sure, come on in.”

So Cale parked his suitcase and joined the fun.

During the course of the next hour, I managed to get one or two solid licks on him, planting him solidly to the turf once knocking his breath out. I also put a spin move on him that left him tripping all over himself.

Finally, he huffed, “All right man, I gotta take a break.”

We all agreed and began shuffling across the yard to the house.

“Cale, what are you going to do? What if Bill doesn’t come back for you? How are you going to get to the race?”

“I don’t know, but I figure, I’ll give him another hour or so.”

“Would you like to come in for some dinner?”

“That’d be right nice of you.”

So Cale Yarborough came into my house and sat down at my dinner table. We had plenty of roast beef to go around, along with mashed potatoes, peas, and cooked carrots that had been bathed in roast beef juice.

After dinner, Cale and I pushed our plates back and talked through the evening. He told me all bout his career. Cale said he began racing back in 1956 on the Grand National circuit. Many of his races back then were on dirt. He worked his way up, and broke onto the Winston Cup scene in a big way in 1973 finishing second in the points standings that year. He went on to many other fine years in the business and some dramatic wins at all the big tracks.

Now, I’m not much of a NASCAR fan, so I guess a real fan would have cringed when I asked Cale, “Did you ever once get in a race that you thought you should have won, and lost instead?”

He just laughed, “Boy, you don’t know much do you…Back in 1979, I was running in the Daytona 500. I had a big car that day and was running hard throughout the race. Then on one of the last laps, I dipped low for the slingshot around Bobby Allison for the lead. Allison shoved me into the infield. When my car rode back up it took him out. I was so furious. As soon as we both stopped, I hopped out of my car and charged over to that some-bitch and began pummeling him. Then his brother, Donnie showed up and they began tag teaming me. Then people began pulling us apart. I’ve still never forgave him. I shoulda had that race. People say that race and that fight were what has made NASCAR so popular today. I don’t know about that. I just know I shoulda won that race.”

We talked for hours over more than a few shots of Virginia Gentleman. Each of his stories were fascinating. I especially enjoyed the tales of the dirt track years where the driver faced the elements as well as the other drivers. Late in the evening, I saw lights go on across the street. Elliott had finally come home, so Cale gathered his stuff and said his farewells.

Dreams are strange things. I don’t know why I had the Cale Yarborough dream. I liked racing when I was younger, and Cale Yarborough was my favorite driver. I liked his hard-charging style, but I honestly haven’t given Cale Yarborough a second thought in over twenty years. Cale went on to win that race at Rockingham back in 1982. Bill Elliott won at that classic NASCAR track in 1984. Bill never lived in Roanoke as far as I know, and I don’t live on Wood Haven Drive.