14 December 2007

Belle Meade Breaks Expectations

Quite a while back, I blasted Al Gore for his home's personal energy consumption on this blog. Because of that, I feel obligated to note that, in the past couple of years, the Gores have been working on that 80-year-old energy pit, adding solar panels, stormwater retention systems, and switching out every bulb (even the ones on the Christmas tree) to CFLs or LEDs. Belle Meade is now a model of efficiency, even by modern construction standards. "Short of tearing it down," everything has been brought up to exceed expectations.


14 September 2007


I fully admit this is a mini-rant directly derived from the Board of Supervisors' inane approval of the Biscuit Run and Hollymead developments. And it's tangental, not on point. [If you want to get into a really good dissing of that newspiece, Cvillenews.com has a great convo going on here, which has spilled over to the convo on local supes races here.]

\begin rant

What I see in the Albemarle Board of Supervisors and in the Virginia General Assembly is a trend of elected officials who don't know what it means to represent. They spend so much time politicking at the golf course and schmoozing at the tailgate party that they have forgotten what it means to listen to their districts, and put the needs of their regions ahead of their own (or, worse, their friends') agendas.

Once you get into office, your job is to do right by all of the people in your district at whatever governmental level you hold position. If a proposal is (1) against the public good and/or (2) against the public's interest, and/or (3) against the public's will, it is your job to oppose it.

You were elected to listen to us so that you can represent us--all of us, equally and fairly, regardless of what party you adhere to, regardless of what party (if any) we belong to. It's really that simple. Now go do that job for a change.

/end rant

19 August 2007

Warrantless Search & Seizure ?!?!

From the NY Times:
Broad new surveillance powers approved by Congress this month could allow the Bush administration to conduct spy operations that go well beyond wiretapping to include — without court approval — certain types of physical searches on American soil and the collection of Americans’ business records, Democratic Congressional officials and other experts said.

Way to go, Dem Congress. You handed a lame-duck president with a Napolean complex and an abysmal record on violating Constitutional rights and claiming executive privilege carte blanche to spy on and terrorize his own citizens.

Given our past issues with this administration on precisely these types of surveillance violations, when did you decide it was not a good idea to read the bill before passing it?

16 August 2007

RCS -- Water Conservation Kits for Sale

If anyone is looking to buy a water conservation kit for indoor or outdoor use, the Rivanna Conservation Society has both varieties available on their website store at http://www.rivannariver.org/rcsstore.html.

Drought Warning--Official Restrictions

Effective immediately, the City of Charlottesville has issued a drought warning for our area. The required water use restrictions are at http://www.charlottesville.org/Index.aspx?page=635&recordid=535.

Below the mandatory restrictions is a good list of tips for water conservation in your home or office, both indoor & outdoor use.

My favorite: Buy a few gallon jugs of spring or drinking water at your grocer of choice. Use that water for filling up pet bowls, making the morning coffee/tea, etc. Keep the empty jugs for near-future use. Install a large bucket in the shower or bath and use the gray water from that to fill up the empty jugs. That gray water can, in turn, be used for

(1) watering plants
(2) cleaning the house
(3) doing the dishes in the sink
(4) wiping down outdoor/patio furniture/decking

When the restrictions are over and you want to get rid of the extra jugs, they are recyclable w/ curbside pickup or at McIntire Center. The large bucket can be stored or used for other purposes until needed again. Thereby, you've closed the cycle in nearly all aspects.

11 July 2007

Going Underground

It's been a couple of months since I've blogged. I've been taking a deliberate hiatus from all activism and politics, for several reasons. (1) Wanting to have quality time with my significant other, Eryn; (2) Tired of everyone feeling they had the right to demand my time and attention--probably my own fault since I've been overgenerous with those things in the past; (3) Putting some distance between myself and some of the many egos in my "field" (as well as dusting off my own).

My hiatus feels like it's coming to a close now. I'm still as much in love as I was when I began my vacation, but life intrudes. More specifically, certain issues intrude. When you have been a part of civic life, eventually someone will come along and push the right button to activate your immediate concern again.

This time it was RCS's Angus Murdoch who relit the fire by bringing up a Glen Oaks-style groundwater issue that's of concern to some FluCo members.

I don't spend a lot of time on sprawl and rural development issues. After all, Charlottesville's 10 sq. miles are already developed, and now we're just trying to maximize our use of the space. But I've always been interested in advancing ways and means of using a lack or limited amount of natural resources to set the rules and regs for development. So, hearing that FluCo is having similar growing pains to Albemarle's re-engaged my attention. I think it's time to go underground, sift for clues, figure out how to create the right kind of levers so that localities are no longer at the mercy of by-right development.

Really, if we can accept that our economy is globally interdependent, it shouldn't be so far a conceptual leap to accept that the natural resources on which that economy is based are also interdependent, and that economic health naturally depends upon ... well ... you get the idea without the redundancy.

10 May 2007

A funny thing happened...

... on the way to the forum Mar. 2. I was introduced to someone who is changing my life.

One of the many luxuries of being single is not having to think about how the ways in which you spend your time effect others. Where there was one, there are now two. And with two, I have to actually think about his schedule and interests before I commit a lot of my time to something I would have enjoyed as a solo act.

At some point, I'm sure my deep interest in politics will resurface, but for now I'm content to let it wash over me. I am just very ... content. I apologize to my erstwhile discussion-mates for the unintended hiatus.

25 April 2007


According to MSN Fashion and Lucky Magazine, vegan clothing is becoming the new must-have closet-space waster. The new trend, started by designer Stella McCartney, is called "eco-chic." According to the MSN article, to be designated "vegan fashion," the clothing or accessory cannot be made with any animal products, including animal-based glues and dyes.

But what does that leave? If you look at the websites cited, you'll find a lot of naturally-tinted organic cotton. And you'll also vinyl and other "faux croc" and "faux leather" products--in other words, petroleum-based synthetic materials.

So, if you have to choose, which is more eco-friendly? Wearing the hide of the cow you ate steak from last night and, thus, closing the circle? Or eschewing the cow altogether while wearing vinyl created from the same fossil fuel production that eats up most of our planet's natural resources?

Buy organic cotton, buy hemp, buy natural fibers with as few intermediate steps from plant to pants as possible. That's cool. But vinyl? Plether? PVC? These are not acceptable substitutes if you want to be conscientious in your idealism.

I'll take the cow any day. At least it's a renewable resource--just add bull.

20 April 2007

Earth Week Opens Today

April 20-29 Earth Week 2007 Events

More info at www.earthweek.org

  • April 20-22, Earth Day Weekend Tree Plantings, City Parks. A great activity for all ages and groups, especially schools studying our watershed.
    Four planting sessions: Friday afternoon 3-5pm, Saturday 10am - noon and 2-4pm and Sunday 2-4pm. Call Susan Pleiss at 970-3585 or email pleiss@charlottesville.org to sign up.

  • April 21, Schenks Branch Clean-Up, LEC, 9-11 am. Prepping for the City's Arbor Day celebration on April 27. Meet by the McIntire Recycling Center and be done in time to enjoy the Dogwood Parade! Bring gloves and waterproof footwear. For more information, call the Living Education Center at 971-1647.

  • April 22, Abrahamse & Co., Builders' Grand Opening--ALA Healthy Homes Project, 1-4 pm. A very special open house event is at 1012 Druid Ave., Charlottesville. Discover the difference in air quality an ALA home can make!

  • April 22, Earth Day Tree Planting, 2 pm. Celebrate Earth Day w/ the Sierra Club by helping to plant a shade tree on the beach at Chris Green Lake in northern Albemarle County. Meet on the beach. Call John at (434) 973-0373 for
    more information.

  • April 22, Larry Gibson, of Mountainkeeper.org, Gravity Lounge @ 2 pm, a special presentation & discussion on mountain top removal. Free/whatever you can give--all donations to benefit Mountainkeeper.org

  • April 26, Kate Starr Rocks Gravity Lounge, 8 pm, CD Release party -- $1 of each CD purchased benefitss Earth Week! The Naked Puritans open.

  • April 27, Arbor Day Celebration & New Trail Dedication, City of
    Charlottesville. McIntire Rd., 11 am.
    Celebrate Arbor Day by attending the
    ribbon-cutting ceremony of the new trail along McIntire Rd. between the
    Recycling Center and Cville Coffee.

  • April 27, Earth Day at Fridays After Five, 5:30 pm - 8:30 pm, we'll be pulling the taps with both hands to benefit Earth Day. Stop in for a brew and listen to the soulful tunes of King Wilkie and don't forget to pick up some green info at our literature table!

  • April 27, Arts for Bike Paths Art Show at The Bridge, 7 pm - 10 pm, 209 Monticello Rd. Opening night reception with silent auction. All proceeds will benefit a community fund managed by ACCT for biking improvements.

  • April 28, Earth Day Festival at McIntire Park, 10 am - 5 pm, our annual eco-fair with tabling, booths, and activities led by local environmental groups and agencies, featuring a solar panel exhibit, hot-air balloon rides in the morning, an open drum circle led by Drum Call at 2 pm, and trail adventures with RTF. For more info, see the separate flyer.

  • April 28, Robin Wynn Band Takes Starr Hill -- CD Release Party -- $1 of each CD purchased benefits Earth Week! The Dirty Dishes open.

  • April 29, Natural History Day @ Ivy Creek -- 1-3 pm, Ivy Creek Natural Area. Ivy Creek Foundation's celebration with informational tables and the
    Virginia Native Plant Society's annual spring sale!

  • April 29, Stream Daylighting Tour in the Dell with Kennon Williams of Nelson Byrd Woltz Landscape Architects -- 1:30 pm, The Dell next to the pond across from Newcomb Hall parking garage. Come learn how a empty field and a stream buried for many years were brought back to life using modern sustainable design techniques. There will be a drawing for free plants to start your own wetland garden.

20 March 2007

Homelessness w/ LaTrina Neal

VA Book! Event:

Faces of Homelessness & Hope with La Trina Neal (author of "He Gave Me Shelter"). The former Howard University student who experienced homelessness and wrote about her journey will be sharing her experiences alongside local advocates and service providers Dave Norris and Erik Speer, as they discuss their struggles, strengths and success stories in putting an end to homelessness.

The event is Sunday, March 25th, 1:30 pm at Gravity Lounge, and is being sponsored by PACEM and Compass.

Photog Exhibit @ Satellite, Thursday

David Plowden will be critiquing 4 local photographers at the Satellite Ballroom on the Corner from 2-6 pm this Thursday, March 22. I remember seeing a show of Plowden's work in Muskegon back in the day I was working for Stannards Music up in Grand Rapids, MI and it was pretty dramatic stuff. If I recall correctly from my years in the biz, he was regularly featured in Modern Photography and Shutterbug, and that was over a decade and a half ago. I'm sure he's an even bigger name now, so getting his attention can be a deal.

Bill Emory is one of the four photographers being reviewed by Plowden. The show is free and open to the public. If you've got the time, swing by Satellite to view it and support our local artists.

08 March 2007

NJ Sup. Ct. Supports Condemnation For Slowing Growth

In Mount Laurel Township v. MiPro Homes, L.L.C., 188 N.J. 531, 10 A.2d 617 (2006), the Supreme Court of New Jersey upheld a governing municipal body's desire to slow residential development by ruling that such is a permissible motive for condemning a developer's land. (Mount Laurel made headlines three decades ago for two landmark affordable housing decisions involving land-use planning, Southern Burlington County NAACP v. Township of Mount Laurel, 67 N.J. 151, 336 A.2d 713 (1975), and its companion case at 92 N.J. 158, 456 A.2d 390 (1983).)

In Virginia right now, we can't even condemn on the solid, scientific basis of lack of supporting natural resources, let alone on something as nebulous as a "master plan" or "public will." But wouldn't it be nice?

In light of the buzz re: growth issues which effect Albemarle and many other state jurisdictions [{cough} Loudoun {cough}]), I'm hoping this take-notice will motivate local anti-growth activists to take a look at New Jersey's growing body of case law, find from that the particular NJ Code §§ which allow for such scope of municipal power, extrapolate the changes needed to mirror those rights and powers, and petition the Virginia state legislature to make the suitable changes.

Obviously, this would be a campaign that would take more than ASAP, but could possibly be accomplished were ASAP to team up with other regional and statewide groups with similar ends.

07 March 2007

Stepping Down from Step-It-Up

Ok, I admire Bill McKibben. Like every other environmentalist on the planet, I have read his stuff for decades and support his e-zine, Grist. I own multiple copies of his The End of Nature to loan out to unsavvy friends and acquaintance. But, Dammit, Bill, WHY did you have to choose a day in April, of all months, to launch your national campaign on Global Warming?

Step-It-Up may become a much-needed, much-valued grass-roots campaign--or it may become a way for enviros to blow off steam before the 2008 elections and die an early death. Whatever else it may be, it's destined to become a thorn in my side.

Here's just a short summary of what's already going on locally from April 7 to May 6:
  • Opening of City Market (a weekly event)

  • Opening of the new Transit Center

  • The Dogwood Festival (a 2-week series of events w/ a nightly carnival and a golf tourney all of which ends with a parade & ball)

  • Historic Garden Week

  • Opening of Fridays After Five (a weekly event)

  • Opening of the Pavilion concert series

  • Earth Week (a week-long series of enviro events and fundraisers, including seminars, volunteer work days, an eco-fair, and a couple of benefit shows & concerts)

  • Arbor Day

  • Foxfield

  • Buy Fresh/Buy Local Campaign

  • Clean Commute Day

  • Bike Week

We. Do. Not. Need. Any more public events in April. The competition for air space and public attendance is already stiff. Who picks these freakin' dates?

That rant made, if anyone in the Cville area does want to pick up this ball and run with it, Earth Week will publish the event with its calendar. Just contact me with the deets.

06 March 2007

An Office with a View

Sometimes, working at my firm isn't so bad. The view is consistently nice. This is from last fall; I had to enhance the contrast in order to do justice to the brilliance of the oranges and reds in the distance. It made the grass too green, but I like it anyway.

I'm always just a little in love with the Virginia countryside. It makes up for Virginia politics.

05 March 2007

Al Gore's Own Truth

Inconvenient though it might be, Al Gore had to expect that someone would call him to task for not walking his talk. It seems that the Presidential poster boy for global warming is melting under home energy bills that almost reach $30,000/year. Yep, that's all just for his residence near Nashville. It doesn't factor in his transportation fuel and energy consumption while on tour/business.

I'm not sayin' he should put up or shut up, but, Mr. Gore, it's hard to respect your position when you are using 200 X more electricity than the average American household. It's not like we're good at conservation to begin with, as you've justly and ironically pointed out.

DIY Rain Barrels

We are coming up on Charlottesville's "monsoon season," which will be quickly followed by another drought (my guess -- no I haven't become a weather psychic, it's just been the predominant pattern for the past few years). So, here's a ancient green tip on using the one to survive the other: Get or make rain barrels.

Now, you can buy RCS's rain barrels at Eltzroth & Thompson in Cville, The Garden Barn in Advance Mills, and Pennington's Nursery in Rochelle (on 29 South). RCS's rain barrels are cheap compared to prices I've seen online, which can run up to a $300 bucks a piece. OR you can make them yourself.

The DIY Network has a nice step-by-step guide, with all the pertinent warnings and even some pictures.

Green Girl recommends Aquabarrel's free downloadable DIY Rain Barrel instruction manual, and I note that they'll even send it to you in CD form for $5.

Patrick Hamilton's DIY rain barrel project in the Twin Cities Green Guide is my favorite, thus far, for its cheapness and ease though. I particularly liked his entrepreneurial way of acquiring the barrel. Finding a food-grade barrel around here sounds like it should be a cinch. There are 2 dozen vineyards and breweries within easy driving distance, and castaway oak barrels might be the way to go. After all, you aren't trying to ferment fine wine with it, just capture rain.

So make one of your spring garden & home improvement projects a rain barrel system. It saves water, money, and frequently your lawn, and you will rarely have to worry about power outages and droughts again.

If you decide to go with a DIY kit or method, there is little that is more ironic than a conservationist going to a big-box store like Wal-Mart or Lowes to pick up supplies for a conservation project. Please support your locally-owned businesses by trying Martin's Hardware, Meadowbrook, or Southern States in Cville, Tru Value in Crozet, or Paulett's ACE in Scottsville first.

28 February 2007

Council Criteria

We've gotten a bit of a news dump regarding Charlottesville City Council lately. First, Kendra Hamilton announced she will not seek a second term (Daily Progress, 2/23/07). This was followed by Democratic Central discussing who will run. And Waldo picked up that blog post and ran with it on CvilleNews.

In all this talk about how many seats might come open and who might be on the November slate, I'm not hearing jack about what makes a good Councilor--just who everyone likes or doesn't like. Maybe I need to turn my hearing aid up a bit. If I had one, I would.

There have been a handful of elected officials I have genuinely liked, and many more than that for whom I have voted. IMO, "like" shouldn't come into the equation nearly as much as "respect" should.

There are some things I believe are self-evident regarding people who run for public office. One of those things is that everyone who runs for public office has an agenda. They have issues they feel strongly about, changes they want to make. That's the freakin' common denominator among anyone who bothers to vote, let alone campaign.

Once the ballots are counted, that person takes on a job, and every job has a job description--duties that must be fulfilled. If you do not think a candidate has the ability to perform the duties, does it matter whether you agree on the issues or whether you like him/her?

IMO, not so much. There are some basic personality characteristics I look for: Integrity ranks high, as does responsibility. I want a candidate who balances principled conviction balanced with flexibility of mind, so that conviction doesn't become an excuse for arrogance or laziness. Beyond that, it comes down to what each candidate brings into the office.

So, here are my criteria for the job of City Councilor:
Understanding of and dedication to the actual job of being a public servant;

Willingness to do the background research into the issues brought before the dais, so that each vote made is informed as much by hard knowledge as it is by personal belief in "the right thing to do";

Desire to go beyond the parameters set by staff, which necessarily entails doing more analysis than just reading staff reports, although those are an important tool in decision-making;

Active solicitation of opposing points of view on any potentially controversial issue, and not just from friends, or at public hearings, or through the charlottesville.org e-mail inbox;

Ability to identify and prioritize the greater good;

Knowledge of structural/organizational systems, and how to work within one to change it; and

Time management, time management, time management.

That's my wish list, and I'm hoping our November slate has people who, individually or combined and working together, possess all of them.

22 February 2007

What Price Clean Water?

Today's Daily Progress reports on a wastewater treatment upgrade proposed by RWSA which could end up costing Charlottesville-Albemarle residents another $77 per year. If the State won't foot the bill, that is. Considering that the State has recently decided to downsize its Water Control board, and has consistently cut funds from wastewater treatment for the last couple of years in order to fund other pet projects, I'm not hopeful that RWSA will get all of the funds its seeks from the State.

So that leaves it, once again, to the localities, to pay for what we want through our utilities and property taxes. Tell me--what do my State taxes get me nowadays? (Other than non-responsive government.)

The price tag on the upgrade might cause some residents sticker shock, coming on the heels of the proposed and approved new water supply plan. The Moore's Creek treatment plant which is getting the upgrade serves the urban area.

The public water system includes separate stormwater and wastewater drainage. Stormwater drains directly into the Rivanna and her tributaries; wastewater from sinks, toilets and baths is directed to the treatment plants. The stormwater system hasn't been upgraded since the late 1970s, and the wastewater system was taken over by RWSA in the 1980s. Many of the pipes are older than that. DEQ water quality standards have risen in that time, as has the public demand for cleaner water.

So, before the residents rail against the possible price hikes, it might want to consider just where on its priority list clean water comes, and what price it deems reasonable to pay for it. As densely populated as our area is, $77/year doesn't seem like a high price to pay for this staple of life.

19 February 2007

Grass-Fed Beef -- Alert!

I've noticed that few things make such a huge difference in taste as grass-fed cattle. Whether it's cream in my coffee or milk on my cereal, ground beef in my chili, or a roast or a steak, I notice a 300% increase in taste when I use happy, healthy, grass-fed cow products. My favorite local provider is City Market regular, Wolf Creek Farm.

Wolf Creek Farm will be making its last winter delivery to Charlottesville this Saturday, Feb. 24, from 9:00AM to 10:30AM in the Water Street parking lot, where the Charlottesville City Market meets. They will bring pre-ordered items as well as a few extra cuts for spur of the moment buyers, but, to be sure they have what you want, it's best to place your orders beforehand so they can bring your preferred cuts to market.

They've got retail price lists by cut, and by quantity on their website. How cool is that?

They are currently out of stock on all the round cuts, beef chuck and blade chuck roasts, stew meat, flank steak, tongue, and oxtail. If you aren't sure whether they'll have what you need, or want to order, you can shoot them an e-mail inquiry at info@wolfcreek-farm.com.

Charlottesville City Market opens in April, so this will be the last delivery for a couple of months. Might want to stock up.

14 February 2007

HB3113: Reprised or Reprieved?

According to my LIS tracker, HB3113--the House of Delegates version of the environmental board consolidation bill--made it through the Senate subcommittee and pass with no "nays" on the floor vote yesterday.

The House bill is the one which had the review ("re-enactment") clause which gave a year's time before the citizen review board merger and resultant changes in DEQ procedure would take effect. The Senate version of the bill, SB1403, didn't roll out of the House subcommittee, so I am hoping that these facts indicate that it is the House version which will be going to Tim Kaine for official signage.

Caveat: I haven't read the full text of what the Senate passed yesterday, so I can't say for certain the "re-enactment" clause wasn't stripped out. I'm just really, really hopeful that I'm right.

13 February 2007

Changing the Dream

The anticipated winter storm has been drizzling on us since I woke up this morning. The forecasters say the system will stick around for over 24 hours. Last I heard (11 pm news) they think we might get 2-4 inches of something—a rain, ice and snow mix. Virginia has pretty mild winters, which makes such storm systems Events. In Michigan, where a single winter storm can dump a foot of snow on us overnight, we would call this negligible. Still, while I'm Michigan born, I'm mostly Virginia bred; so I have already laid in the water supplies in case the pipes freeze tonight, and have charged up the small camping generator in case the power goes out.

There are worse places to be in a winter storm. Out on the street is one of them.

Those who know me may have noticed that I don't talk about my family or my past much. I talk a lot about my busywork. I don't say why I fill my hours with meetings. I talk about my issues. I don't say why I am so passionately connected to them. But lately, it seems to me that we all need to talk about the whys. You can't forge a relationship with a statistic. A statistic has no feeling, a statistic has no story. We need to take the statistics, and the soundbytes that go with them, out of civic interaction and bring back the humanity.

Of all my sprawling, extended family--my mother was the eldest of 8, my father the youngest of 9--the only two who still live in Virginia are my mother and me. We moved here in 1972--my mother, my father, my half-sister, and me. One of my maternal uncles joined us for a couple of years in the mid-70s and then, again, six years ago. Of our teensified, 5-member, family twig, two of us have become homeless in this state, my half-sister and my uncle. And one of us (me) has felt helpless both times to be of any use in the face of their need. With my sister, I was admittedly too young to do anything but bear witness until she died before age 21 (I was 14 at the time). With my uncle, I was an adult, and still limited--by my lack of resources, by my temperament, by my inability to provide a stabilizing foundation for him.

There is a lot more to each of their stories--maybe I'll share them some day, maybe not--but my experiences with them informed my desire to be involved in some institution, some edifice, some place, that could have helped them in ways that I personally could not and still can not. The inability to help someone we love sharply defines our powerlessness in this world. We try sympathy, we try tough love, we do what we can, we pray to God. Sometimes it isn't enough. One person can not be an entire support network.

They are why I write about affordable housing and homelessness so often. They are why I'm involved with Compass.

Once, the extended family was the basis for our societal structure. Cousins to the third degree all lived within the same geographical area, everyone knew everybody else's business, and the family had the combined resources to take care of its own. Now, isolation rules. Broken families living hundreds of miles apart can not and will not provide the support an individual may need when their life comes crashing down around them. They may not even know when support is needed or what kind of support to give. People who have a large, connected, concerned family are blessed--and increasingly rare.

Homelessness, I sometimes think, is the natural result of the way we've chosen to focus the American Dream upon a small nuclear family living in a large, single-family home. That dream leaves no bulwark in the face of a rising divorce rate. That dream keeps us from really knowing our neighbors and our extended relatives because the literal space between us has created a much larger, metaphorical space. That dream keeps us isolated at times when isolation can only hurt us more.

Isn't it time we changed the dream?

09 February 2007

Hamstringing the Locals

Once again, the State Legislature, in its infinite wisdom, is setting about hamstringing local government. Goddess forbid that the people be allowed to decide anything for themselves, except who to elect as their masters.

Sponsored by John Cosgrove (R-78 (Chesapeake)), the bill
[r]equires each locality to lower its real estate tax rate for the forthcoming tax year, to produce no more than 101 percent of the previous year's real property tax levies when any annual assessment, biennial assessment or general reassessment of real property by the locality would result in an increase of 1 percent or more in the total real property tax levied.

Great. First, the State won't fund any of the mandates it hands down. Then, it refuses to let the Municipalities figure out how to fund those mandates in lieu. Wait.... I think I've made that very same bitch before on this blog. Seems to be a recurring theme.

Is it too much to ask that the friggin' taxophobic eejits in the House keep their psychosis in Richmond and out of municipal government? I'm not saying I favor taxes. I'm saying let us decide whether they are needed and what kind would serve us best. That's all I'm saying. This may be another one for the Randy Pat School of Politics.

Drafting Al

The Draft Al Gore site has remade their soundbyte to match the currents of today's political waters:
He's eloquent, passionate, relentless, undaunted. The first political figure to oppose the Iraq war, Al Gore is also the lead champion in the fight against global warming, a passionate defender of our Constitution, and an unyielding voice against the Bush Administration's abuse of power.

A far cry from "wooden" and "uncharismatic," which were the two predominant adjectives to describe Gore's 2004 run. The petition already has 27,228 signatures.

What are the chances?

Moments of Nirvana

June 2005, the family cottage at Clear Lake, MI

Stress is there as a test to see if you can distinguish the good in life. These lilies are good. A moment out of time to appreciate the beautiful, not just the absurd. Jon Stewart doesn't aim high enough.

07 February 2007

Three Meetings and a Funeral

Sunday, Earth Week had its third meeting of the year, and as excited as I am about our line-up of activities, I surely wish ya'll would plan some activities for mid-week. We don't so much have an Earth Week as we have 2 overbooked Earth Weekends with time off for napping in between.

Monday, sometime after everyone said his piece on traffic issues, City Council approved the special use permit so that Compass, the homeless day center, can move into its new home. Congratulations, Compass!

Tuesday, the Rivanna Conservation Society had its board meeting, during which I drank a pot of coffee while we discussed improvements to Schier Natural Area, finding sponsors for the 2007 Rivanna River Days Calendar Brochure (click if you would like to list a river event or become a partner), the best procedure for sharing information from our own proprietorial research with the new Chville Commission on Environmental Sustainability (being both Advocacy chair for RCS and a Commission member, I shook hands with my inner schizophrenic for 20 minutes of discourse), and our Third Thursdays Brown Bag Lunch series on watershed issues (and about 2 dozen other topics).

Then I came home and looked up the results of today's roll call vote in both chambers on HB3113 and SB1403. Both passed. I'm appalled at the short-sightedness of the decision to merge all 3 citizen review boards into 1 entity. It is impossible to find 11 people to sit on the new "Environmental Quality Board" who are expert in all three media: Waste Management, Water Control, and Air Pollution. The new board will not be able to provide the same level of specialized knowledge, attention to detail, and competency that the individual boards had. Furthermore, by taking the permitting authority out of the board and handing it to DEQ, the General Assembly has completely cut the public out of the process. Is anyone else out there feeling that closed government love yet? Doesn't seem like anyone outside the enviro community cares, even though this bill--soon to be law--will effect municipal-level voices in land use, industry, and economic development as well as natural resources.

So, I'm hoping that enough people out there read this and call their state representatives to demand that the House bill's "re-enactment clause" stay in the final, reconciled version of the bill. If the Senate's version ends up on Gov. Kaine's desk, I'll be planning a funeral (or at least a memorium) for the last bastion of public voice in the regulatory process. Let me know if you'd like to come. Rum and tequila will be required; black armbands will be optional.

06 February 2007

Warner Filibusters, Jams Own Bill

Last Friday, the Senate GOP threatened to filibuster the resolution to oppose Bush's additional troops to Iraq. Ironically, the bill was introduced by our own Republican Senator, John Warner, who ended his conflict of interest in favor of being a stand-up party guy. Warner voted with 48 other Republican Senators to block the bill from being debated and voted upon until 3 alternate versions of the bill--one of which actually supports Bush's surge--could be included in the free-for-all.

Uh... Come again? What measure are we voting on?

01 February 2007

Landes, Striking a Pose, Strikes the Public

As reported by Waldo yesterday, Del. Steve Landes (R-25) introduced HR45, a bill doomed to failure because it threatened to address accusations of closed government, back-room dealing on the part of the House Republicans, who apparently object to the public's right to know what happens on the House floor and in its subcommittees.

We thought Landes struck a blow, exposing a rift between sensible, responsible Republicans who view themselves as representatives of their constituents, and the manipulative, controlling arse-wipe Republicans who believe the people who elected them should be treated like preschoolers and fed an unbalanced diet of all the state government news that they think is fit.

Instead of a blow, Landes struck a pose. Enter House Bill 3113, on which Landes is also listed as Chief Patron. HB 3113 consolidates the State Air Pollution Control Board, the State Water Control Board, and the Waste Management Board--all of which are appointed, expert, citizen oversight boards--into one eleven-member board called the "Virginia Board of Environmental Quality," which will have absolutely no power to issue permits and licenses, nor to hold public hearings on any issues with which it deals. Those duties will be streamlined and given to the DEQ, which has no valid citizen input mechanism and which is not beholden to an electorate for its position and authority.

In other words, Landes, yesterday's darling for defying his fellow House Republicans by asserting John Q. Public's Right to Know about his state government, has done a complete about-face and is now asserting that John Q. Public should have no authority nor voice in the very critical matters of air and water quality and waste control; in fact, no authority in anything having to do with state natural resource distribution, conservation, and protection, including, apparently, land use and industrial placement and discharge.

The only way that I can interpret this 180 is that Landes was lying about wanting to institute a House deliberations broadcast and, instead, was proposing HR45 to save face for himself and/or his party.

Landes is the delegate for the 25th District, which includes western Albemarle, Augusta, Waynesboro, and Rockingham. He comes up for reelection in 2008. May I suggest to concerned Albemarle citizens that you replace him? I don't care if you elect a Republican or a Democrat, or a Libertarian. Just, please, elect someone who thinks that constituents should have a say in government.

Will the State Scrap Its Citizen Advisory Boards?

Consolidating the state water control, air quality, and waste management boards and handing their decision-making powers over to DEQ may make getting permits easier, but it sure won't help the environment. (Times-Dispatch)

Advisory boards are a primary way for citizens to participate in the regulatory process on natural resource issues. DEQ, as a number-crunching organization, may be able to tell you whether a particular construction will have some detrimental effect on the surrounding environment, but DEQ does not always know what's best for a community as a whole. Moreover, and DEQ staffers are not elected to their positions--which means they have no reason to care what a particular community wants and or needs. All they will need to know is whether a plant or farm or special use variation meets their guidelines. In such a system, there would be no balance between what a developer/industry deems possible to do and what the region receiving that development/industry wants done.

This seems to me an excellent plan for short-circuiting any public input in and control over basic natural resource distribution and quality, if that's your goal. It seems that that is Landes's goal.

30 January 2007


The news that true red heads may become extinct by the end of this century is pretty old, but selective breeding may cure the problem. It's just a matter of compounding the recessives.

Being of mostly Celtic extraction, I've been highly amused at how popular bottle red has become in the past decade. It seems every woman I know under 40 has gone auburn, strawberry, or copper at some point. In my family, it's been a while since we produced a true carrot top, although most of us come by our highlights naturally, the stereotypical white skin prevails, and freckles can be found all over the family tree on both sides.

What I find most interesting about the phenomenon is how, well before science pinpointed and published the (lack-of) genetic trend, popular culture seemed to sense it--going red was (and still is) the haircolor version of getting couture swag. Much like bustles and corsets were popularized to make skinny girls look Mae West voluptuous around the turn of the last century, and the heroin-waif look is popular today precisely because we have, as a nation, finally grown into the Mae West figure. These trends in looks point up what is rare, instead of what is normal, as being more desirable. No wonder we're called a culture of death--we always idolize what few can reasonably achieve, whatever end of the pendulum it is.

It's simply too bad we can't harness all that obsession into idolizing a new model of society and community. It seems wasted on looks. Can you imagine the world if we truly valued rarity instead of imitating it? Here are some fashion-forward soundbytes I'd like to hear on the street:

"Buying clothes made from organically grown fibers is all the rage because, dang, are they expensive and hard to get!!"

"Scrap the Nikes--Eccos are sooo much hotter!"

"I'll be gingered, is that real flax?"

and my fave,

"Hemp--it's not just for smoking anymore."

22 January 2007

Red Hot Funding: Election 2008 Goes Private

Updated just 3 minutes ago, the New York Times reports that Senator Hillary Clinton has elected to eschew public funding of her 2008 Presidential campaign, fully confident that she can raise far more in private monies than the $150 million that would be granted her by the public election funds without those pesky spending limits.

Word on the street has it that Senator John McCain, Hillary's opposite member from the Republican line-up is seriously considering doing likewise. The former champion of campaign finance reform just took his name off a bill that would expand the presidential public financing program.

Now that's interesting...

McCain Opposed to ... Bush?

It's rare that I speak out on military matters in general or the Iraq war in particular, but this tidbit from the Post got me riled. Apparently John McCain, frontrunner for the Republican 2008 nod, has decided he doesn't like Gen. George W. Casey Jr.'s nomination as Bush's new Army Chief of Staff because Casey has presided over a "failure of policy" in Iraq.

My question to Senator McCain: If you think Gen. Casey is unfit to command on those grounds, it is logical to presume you equally think the Commander-in-Chief who devised and instituted that failed policy is unfit to lead. So, why are you still supporting George W. Bush, you flaming hypocrite?

Barack Not an Island

According to the League of Conservation Voters, Barack Obama's senatorial record on environmental issues is nearly perfect. At a time when most congress members were ignoring inconvenient truths, Obama made speeches about how global warming was a reality we needed to address sooner rather than later. Then why is Grist saying, "Not so much" to his new energy plan? [In a sick twist, they praise Sen. Ted Stevens (R-Alaska), notorious for having a hissy fit on the floor when a fellow Senator tried to block his Bridge to Nowhere, for his "progressive" fuel economy proposal this session.]

The love affair between enviros and Obama ended over his introduction of a new coal-to-liquid proposal which would benefit downstate Illinois at the price of adding a lot more CO2 emissions. The Coal-to-Liquid (CTL) Fuel Promotion Act of 2007 is an ill-thought piece of green-wannabe legislation designed to appease some of Obama's squeakiest home-state wheels. According to the Senator's spokesman, Tony Vietor, "Illinois basin coal has more untapped energy potential than the oil reserves of Saudi Arabia and Kuwait combined."

The coal industry says that converting coal into diesel engine fuel would reduce dependence on foreign oil through a new, home-mined fuel that burns as cleanly as gasoline. The environmentalists say that's nice, but it's still coal. Coal-mining doesn't meet any standard for environmental protection nor does it lower overall emissions and the United States shouldn't be using South Africa as a model for going green.

The Presidential mantle flaps in the breeze, and it will be interesting to see whether Obama decides to go with his demonstrated principles, which would gain him the national eco-vote, or with his downstate demands, which would gain him a monied interest in his 2008 campaign.

21 January 2007

The Richardson File

The Santa Fe Free New Mexican actually has a file on Presidential hopeful, Gov. Bill Richardson, to help all us non-Westerners find local coverage on his NM works and deeds. Bookmark!

Richardson in the Ring

When it comes to '08 candidates, I like Hillary. I really like Obama. But after this morning's interview with Stephanopoulos, I got to thinkin' I might have to look more closely at Bill Richardson, the Dem governor of NM (a/k/a Vips' Big Boy). Why should I bother looking at this long-shot dark horse? Because he came across on TV as competent, sensible, funny, and down-to-earth--all personality traits that appealed to swing voters who went for Bush because he "spoke the people's language."

And because Bill's got the resume from hell, which means that, regardless of his salt-of-the-earth attitude, he probably owes lots of people and, equally probable, lots of people owe him.

It'd be nice, for once, if the United States didn't pick a President based on photogenics, charisma, spin, and sound bytes. I don't have high hopes for it; I'm just sayin' -- it would be nice.

First stop on the Bill Richardson tour was to the Free New Mexican. I found an interesting article there from Feb. 2005, in the run-up to the Gov's election. What makes the article interesting isn't the content. It's the comments section. You want to know whether to vote for a guy, ask the people he's been governing.

Update: To track what New Mexicans think of Bill Richardson now, keep an eye on the Free New Mexican's comments to this morning's announcement.

Update #2: If Richardson was president... (Hardball interview on MSNBC)

Green Plaidie Scotsman

Don't you find that it generally helps perspective to dive into foreign newspapers every once in a while?

Today's Scotsman has a great article on reducing your individual carbon footprint, which is all the rage on the other side of the pond.

Retail giant Marks & Spencer is dedicating more money than our federal government to overhauling its energy plan, is seeking local suppliers, and has made a pledge to become carbon neutral by 2012. Several major blue-chip Brit companies, including Sun Microsystems and BP, have instigated a task force tasked with producing an industrial agenda for going clean and green. Senior politicians have been ordered to take the bus to work instead of their stretch limos. Prince Charles canceled a ski trip due to media razzing over his waste of jet fuel. Even Tony Blair will be hip deep in dirt, planting trees, thanks to a fracas with his top advisor on environmental sustainability.

Next, the Great Scot tartan will be changin' from black and blue to green and brown. I'd buy a length o' that!

18 January 2007

"Service Fodder" or Valued Employee?

(Wow! I was reading an ongoing debate on George Loper's site and responded to George with some of my thoughts. He actually posted them. I feel honored. So, here it is, reprinted from George's blog, for those of you who don't follow it.)

Dear George,

According to the Washington Post, the minimum wage bill passed the House of Representatives, 315 to 111. The proposed new minimum is $7.25. So, it looks like William Lyster will be firing employees relatively soon.

In his analysis, Mr. Lyster finds it ironic that the Living Wage campaign will necessarily result in fewer jobs. In his response, Mr. Foster finds irony in the concept that Mr. Lyster would bother to keep an incompetent employee on the payroll at $5.15, but wouldn't at $7.50. [Read whole ping-pong exchange at minimum wage index.]

I find irony in the whole debate. Mr. Lyster complains of disaffection among low-income workers, especially in the service industry, characterizing them as either new, uneducated, or possessing addiction problems which result in a lack of concern for and loyalty to their jobs.

I find the opposite to be generally true--disaffection comes not at the beginning of the job, but after the employee has been poorly managed, devalued, and/or mistreated. The term "cannon fodder" refers to footsoldiers put on the frontline in harm's way because they are considered expendable. In the workforce, we are creating "service fodder" by treating our entry-level workers as expendable. Both customers and employers show a jaw-dropping lack of respect to anyone earning poverty-level wages in the service industry.

If an employer invests in his/her employees--and investment can come in many ways, e.g., higher wages, increased educational opportunities, perks and benefits, kindness and consideration, competent management, positive work atmosphere, flexible scheduling, creative scope--then s/he will earn their loyalty and concern, which will, in turn, increase their happiness and involvement in their workplace regardless of their pay scale. Happy, involved workers generally give better customer service.

And since "loyalty" seems to be a buzzword for Mr. Lyster, I should add that loyalty is earned--it can not be taken for granted when most jobs are "at-will" contracts. It might be useful to think of each rung of employees as the "customers" of the next level above--what are you doing to keep them?

Just my two cents.

Tatyanna Patten (electronic mail, January 11, 2007)

Energy to Go

The new CLEAN Energy Act of 2007 is developing it's own fan club; even the most pessimistic enviros praise its long-reaching effects. In this case, CLEAN stands for "Creating Long-Term Energy Alternatives for the Nation" (you can see why they wanted an acronym).

What makes this particular bill interesting is the related bill H. Res. 66, put forth by James McGovern (D-MA-3) of the House Rules committee, which calls for H.R. 6 to hit the House floor for a 3-hour debate before a vote. IOW, they have bypassed the Committees on Energy & Commerce, Natural Resources, and Sci-Tech, all of which might have had claim to tie this bill up for months. Instead, the House Dems, who have a clear majority, are passing that job to the Senate.

This bill calls for a shift of $14 billion from gas & oil tax breaks to renewable, alternative, and efficient energy. Gas & oil has become the most deep-pocketed, entrenched industry lobby in D.C. In this energy bill, I see the first hard test for the now allegedly Democratic Senate: Are the new conservatives Dems, who were responsible for turning that congressional house blue, willing to put $14 billion where their mouths were last year? If it passes the Senate, Bush will likely exercise veto power, and it will depend entirely upon the margin of the Senate vote whether that veto can be overruled.

So... does the Senate have the will to change our energy future, or will the Senate Dems find a moderate perch on the slippery slope between the left and the right?

11 January 2007

House Passes Minimum Wage Bill

In a 315 to 111 vote, the House of Representatives passed an act increasing the federal minimum wage from $5.15/hour to $7.25/hour. That 315 tally included 82 Republicans who refused to toe the party line. 54 Republicans even abandoned ship and voted against a motion to add business tax breaks to the bill.

I'm guessing these guys are up for reelection in 2008.

05 January 2007

Economic Caste as a Way of Life

MSNBC reports that December saw the creation of an additional 167,000 new jobs which left the year-end unemployment rate unchanged at 4.5%. However, the article also examines the growing divide between the graduate-degree haves and have-nots.

Once again, skilled, blue-collar jobs left the country in droves in 2006. They were replaced by positions in the education, health-care, and professional services industries at equal or higher average salaries. The problem is, of course, a skilled factory worker with a HS diploma or even Bachelor's education can not find work as a nurse, high school teacher, lawyer, or publicity manager without undergoing several years of retraining at the college and graduate level.

So, these middle-income workers, who often earned up to $22-25/hour for their specialized skill sets, are now taking minimum-to-low-wage jobs because you don't need a related degree in order to become a supervisor at Burger King or a meter reader for the gas company, but you do need to pay your bills on time and feed your kids.

The problem faced, time and time again, is that poverty breeds poverty. No one designs anything of quality for poor people because they can't pay for it. Therefore, what little income they have often goes out as soon as it comes in, not just because their debt-income ratio is so high, but also because they have to buy substandard goods and are constantly replacing or repairing them. This trend runs from housing (which I've brought up many times) to groceries to clothing and transportation.

The manufacture of toxic clothing can be addressed by lawsuits and regulation. Cheap mass transportation issues can be solved on a regional and state level, and benefit more than just the poor. But, by far, the most dangerous of these are the housing and food nexuses. Substandard housing, as we've seen even locally [1, 2, 3], comes with a nightmare of health issues in addition to the costs of reconstruction and/or finding a new place to live. The hidden cost in eating low-cost foods is in decreased health and increased medical costs. Yet, unfortunately, most people living below a living wage have no or minimal health insurance to help them address such health concerns as they arise. Instead, those health problems have to fester, unaddressed, while they continue work, until the problems cannot be avoided, by which time their care and treatment is financially exponential.

Really, poverty is big business, but it is definitely not a good quality business. It becomes a Catch-22, as the health issues mount and the work and income floods out the door, creating an abyss from which whole cultures still haven't risen, in spite of the health of their government's pockets (and here I'm talkin' Appalachia as well as Nigeria).

Enter Acumen Fund, which is a philanthropic venture capital group dedicated to identifying and giving financial boost to the best entrepreneurs and organizations focused on delivering critical, affordable goods and services--such as healthcare and housing. The Acumen Fund's goal is to improve livelihoods, health and opportunities for the poor, while proving there's money in doing it.

Looking for a fiscally savvy yet socially progressive firm to invest your money and/or time with? Check them out. They are trying to break the economic caste cycle permanently.

Hunting the Snark

In Lewis Carroll's The Hunting of the Snark, a group of wayward adventurers follow the lead of a mad Bellman in pursuit of a legendary (read: nonexistant) beast.

In Cville, strong argument could be made that our personal snark is affordable housing, and the posse gathered to pursue it has grown to an army over the last few years. The Daily Progress reported on the City Council meeting I mentioned previously in this blog.

What I find most interesting about Tuesday night's debate, however, was Kevin Lynch's discussion about the need to address the wage side of the equation. I don't disagree with his statements. But I doubt that employers will ever find basic burger flipping to be worth $10.50 or more per hour.

Let's say you work in Cville and you had to move to Nelson or Louisa to find a rent or mortgage you could afford. At some point, looking for work in Amherst, Waynesboro, or Richmond suburbs like Short Pump will be very attractive, just because of the shorter traveling distance. The lower-skilled your job, the more incentive you have to look close by, because, let's face it, gas is expensive.

I can not say it frequently enough, apparently: We need economic diversity in this town. Not this regional area, because there's a lot of bleedover to other metro regions once you are living 45 minutes from Downtown in a geographic section designed only for car transit. This. Urban. Area.

I know it seems unfair to ask Charlottesville City to bear the brunt of affordable housing and it certainly makes sense to address the Board of Supervisors for Albemarle County--but, beyond that, really, who else can we ask to take the lead in this kind of urban design? The outlying rural counties are equidistant to other city and town centers. It is our growth which is causing their headaches, not the other way around. So, IMO, we--meaning Charlottesville and Albemarle--have to be the ones who hunt the snark.

04 January 2007

SWF Refugee

SWF refugee, mother of 2, new to area, seeks affordable 2-BR house close to floes, fishing.

[A friend sent me this photo--I don't know to whom it should be accredited, but I liked it so much I gave it a caption. If you know the photographer, please let me know. I'd like to at least acknowledge and link to him/her.]

New Conservation Series Starts Jan. 18

The Rivanna Conservation Society will be hosting a new brown-bag lunch series that focuses on watershed issues. The presentations will take place on 3rd Thursdays from 12 noon to 1 pm, at the Jefferson-Madison Regional Library on Market Street. All meetings are open to the public. If water quality and streambank conservation are topics of interest to you, this will be a can't-miss series.

The first presentation will be on Thursday, Jan. 18, 2007, in the Madison Room of the library. John Murphy, director of Streamwatch, will be talking about the results of the 2006 Streamwatch report and its implications on development within our basin.

RCS looks forward to seeing you there!

03 January 2007

Best in Show

Best in Show for the freshman Congressional class of 2007 goes to Rep. Keith Ellison, who has asked the the Library of Congress for the use of Thomas Jefferson's Q'ran for his swearing in.

Thomas Jefferson was the most illustrious person to live in Virginia's 5th Congressional District, which is currently represented by noted Ellison detractor Virgil Goode. TJ would surely be pleased and, if still alive, would have loaned Ellison his copy himself. Talk about a keen sense of enlightened demogoguery. Wish Ellison were my representative instead of Goode.


Bill Emory put his finger on exactly what I feel has been missing these past 2 weeks. All the rumination I've done individually on the passing of the year and my hopes for 2007 has no audience (unless you include my cat). It's a truism that, as you age, the years shorten and the individual days mean virtually nothing--they become seconds compared to the span of your life. Entire eras eventually become condensed to brief descriptive paragraphs divulged to auld acquaintance at reunions.

When I was a kid, I did as kids did: Christmas was for buying (and receiving!) lots o' prezzies, constantly visiting people, and flitting from one social event to the next. New Years was for partying with a whole bunch of people I didn't know well but called friends. In a fun and superficial sense, they were friends. They didn't mind that I invariably spent January 1st hungover. Some would crash (read: pass out) and help with the trash in the morning. "Morning" began no earlier than 10:30 a.m. Others would join for a late breakfast (read: lunch) consisting of Bloody Marys, aspirin, and all the eggs we could eat. Anyone who is willing to put up with your binge-drinking and come back the next morning for cleanup duty is a friend, even if you don't know their hometown, their life dreams, or the names of three family members. But it was indicative of a simple, youthful outlook--one in which time is for spending, not for cherishing.

That was then, this is now. Now I feel the passage of time less, but feel a need to remark it more. There is a hurdy-gurdy quality to the end of the year that shellacks the passage of time, reflecting our hectic modernity in both style and content. One year you are 21, the next you are 41. 50 is the new 30, blah blah. But it isn't true. Just because we have the ability to cheat and ignore time, to play truant and play God until the average expected life span is 110, doesn't mean we should take for granted the time that is given us.

As Bill said, the passing of a year is a weighty thing. Perhaps a time for reflection and good, quiet company. For reassessing who you are and who you want to be when you grow up. For we are all, still, growing up.

02 January 2007

Affordable Housing Future--TONIGHT @ City Council!

Tonight City Council takes up the affordable housing proposal report. Background information can be found at my last entry on this topic in my blog.

Where: City Hall, Council Chambers
When: 6:45 pm (meeting starts @ 7)
Agenda available online (Hint: if you click on the "with background material" option, it will include a printable copy of the CAHIP Investment proposal)

Anyone can sign up to speak on the subject prior to the meeting's start time. Sign-up sheets are in front of the dais; there's a 3-minute limit per speaker. (This section is called "Matters by the Public" on the agenda.)

5 Things You Never Knew About Me

Picked up from Waldo's blog, who was tagged by Book of Joe. Like Waldo, I'm not going to tag in turn, but if you read this post choose to participate in 2007's first tagging mania, it would be cool if you left me a link in the comments.

I've been in, from, and around the area since 1972, so I sometimes feel my life is an open book that's been read by the entire population. But lately I've come to realize that, even in this microcosm called Charlottesville, one's current incarnation tends to wipe out the past. So, here are five things most people don't know or remember about me:

(1) As a child growing up on Rt. 795 in Albemarle county, I wanted to buy Morven stud farm and turn it into a wildlife preserve. Kluge bought it instead and thus ended the dream.

(2) I was once a card-carrying member of the Music Teachers National Association, back when I was a group education director on keyboard instruments. Why didn't I become a concert pianist? Because in 1983, Hyun-Sook Park moved here and became a friend of mine at AHS. It's rough when you think you might be good at something and then someone so brilliant moves into your territory, competing against you at every level. She wiped the floor with me at regionals our senior year; my musical self-esteem and classical ambitions never fully recovered.

(3) In Summer 1986, I worked as an apprentice at the Williamstown Theater Festival, under the direction of Nikos Psacharopoulos. There was an underground betting pool in the UVa theater department's GSO as to whether I'd get into the excessively competitive summer stock that had previously apprenticed such luminaries as Chris Reeve and Santo Loquasto. Everyone I knew bet against me.

(4) Just like every photographer in a 40-mile radius, I supplemented my college income by shooting for Chuck Lane. My first 3 jobs post-college were in photography.

(5) The first political campaign I ever worked on was Gary Hart's run for the 1984 Democratic candidacy for President. The Donna Rice photos ended his 1988 run, but it's nice to know we were shocked by something as simple as a photo of a leggy blonde sitting on a Senator's lap--a picture that could probably be taken at a thousand D.C. Xmas parties and wouldn't even cause Wonkette to snigger. Nowadays, our greed for grist and threshold of intolerance is much higher.