Monday, November 17, 2008

Sixth Grade Field Trip Fun

Sixth graders went on a field trip today to Hemlock Overlook Park in Chantilly where they did a zip line and all these other fun team building games. They got to scream, yell and run all day long. (I can't imagine being a worker there, so my deepest respects to the personnel.)

My daughter had a blast! I'm so glad the rain held off. It was pretty cold, but she didn't seem to notice.

Unfortunately, the bus was over an hour late getting back. This worried parents considerably because there was no communication--there was no one in the school office to relay messages. We only knew the kids got picked up at 4:30 in Chantilly. We were told to pick the kids up in the parking lot at 5:00. I can understand the bus being late with traffic and the rain, but nearing 6:00 without a word, some of us parents were getting nervous. Thank goodness it was just bad (sadly, usual) NOVA traffic. My daughter and I didn't get home until 6:30.

Thanks to the school for setting up this great trip! In the future, though, I hope there is a better way for field trip buses to communicate with parents. It would alleviate some tension--not that the kids noticed! LOL!

Saturday, November 15, 2008

On Groupthink

Never really trusting groups, I'm not a big proponent of groupthink. Most people will say they aren't either, but get into a group that is engaging in groupthink and you will begin to see glazed, mesmerized faces all nodding at each other, validating notions that have neither been deeply considered nor discussed and ousting anyone who has not quite reached this zombified state and refuses take the blue pill.

I don't do blue pills, so I'm not welcome in groups that take on groupthink.

And this is quite fine with me because groupthinking groups are not groups I want to be part of. Since I already inherently distrust groups, the last type of group I would stick with is one that feels it has to inflict a particular version of wisdom or truth on me, one that I am apparently supposed to internalize and rejoice over.

In case you don't know what group think is, allow me to refer to a non-academic but convenient source, Wikipedia:

"Groupthink is a type of thought exhibited by group members who try to minimize conflict and reach consensus without critically testing, analyzing, and evaluating ideas. Individual creativity, uniqueness, and independent thinking are lost in the pursuit of group cohesiveness, as are the advantages of reasonable balance in choice and thought that might normally be obtained by making decisions as a group. [1] During groupthink, members of the group avoid promoting viewpoints outside the comfort zone of consensus thinking. A variety of motives for this may exist such as a desire to avoid being seen as foolish, or a desire to avoid embarrassing or angering other members of the group. Groupthink may cause groups to make hasty, irrational decisions, where individual doubts are set aside, for fear of upsetting the group’s balance. The term is frequently used pejoratively, with hindsight."

Now don't get me wrong. If a group reaches logical consensus and I am one who helped reached consensus, then I have no problem working towards common goals.

But when a group with vague goals or objectives decides my ideas (or anyone else's whose ideas might not fit the norm) are not welcome because they irritate or just don't seem to fit the popular mold, then it's time for me to say goodbye.

I suppose that makes me difficult to work with at times, but then I say, oh well. I'm difficult to work with. I am not IMPOSSIBLE to work with, but I am not someone who will lay down my values, beliefs, and right to self expression for the sake of people's comfort. I might do it for awhile if the issue isn't that important (why be difficult just for the sake of being difficult after all?) or if my job depends on a little more shutting up than I tend to otherwise offer, but when groups start to step on MY beliefs, again, it's time for me to say goodbye.

What I'm describing has a lot to do with censorship, established norms, and expected bahaviour. On a professional level, I agree to follow a certain number of rules because the professional arena calls for it. Outside of that, however, when I work with groups, I maintain the right to state my opinions and if that's unacceptable to the group, I am free to leave--which I will do if the groupthink is giving me a headache. Life is far too short to deal with headaches we bring on ourselves. There are enough inflicted on us. Why add to them?

I don't deal well with censorship. (I bet that isn't apparent, is it?) Again, I'm not discussing the professional setting here where there are established norms and rules. For example, you would never hear me cussing at work unless cussing was acceptable (I've actually never had a paid job where cussing was acceptable, but that's beside the point).

But if I want to cuss on my blog, I will. I don't do it a lot, but an occasional cuss word helps express a certain amount of emotion that standard English does not. If I feel like cussing outside of my work or outside of church or when I'm not around my kids, then I should be able to do that. If people are offended, then oh well. People who know me will not be greatly offended and people who don't will either have to deal with it or refuse to listen. It's their choice.

This topic has been rummaging around my head since bbf and I have started exchanging ideas on blogging, commenting online, writing, and so on. Since I'm much more of a writer than a speaker, my contentions with groupthink tend to be more relegated to the world of writing. There is nothing more important than expressing what we feel we must no matter who is offended. It isn't a crime to offend. The greatest thinkers of the world have offended and done so knowingly because without offending, they never would have communicated their ideas which have become integral parts of the way we now think. I might not be a great thinker, but I work from a great tradition. My hero Henry David Thoreau wrote, "All this worldly wisdom was once the unamiable heresy of some wise man."

Please don't get me wrong. I don't go out and try to offend just for the sake of offending. What would be the point (especially when I can offend without trying in the least)? But again, when my beliefs are on the line, I really don't care who is offended.

So I don't think writing (and being) a little outside the box is some kind of anomaly. I'm not eccentric or original enough to truly define new worldly wisdom, but I am rebellious enough to stomp my foot when necessary: "Disobedience is the true foundation of liberty. The obedient must be slaves," says deal old Henry, and I believe this to a certain extent.

People can always turn this idea around, of course. They could say things like, "Well I can't stand illegal immigration, so I can call 'illegals' any vile name I want and I can make sure people gang up on them." No. That isn't what I am describing at all. What I am describing is the right to state my opinion when asked, post my opinion in open forums like anyone else, and address problems the way I feel is best. I have the right to defend my ideas and ideals. I don't have the right to try to force anyone else to believe them, but I have the right to express them and explain them. I also have the right to disagree as vehemently as I wish.

I'm not endorsing hatred or violence or oppression or racism or any of those things. I am merely going back to my assertions that first, "if you don't like it, then don't read it," and second, "if you have the right to your opinion, I have the right to mine." And no one deserves to be ganged up on just because his/her opinion doesn't match that of the group which has arrived at that opinion via groupthink.

But then again, groups engaging in groupthink don't think through the individuals' rights to be different.

"If a man does not keep pace with his companions, perhaps it is because he hears a different drummer. Let him step to the music which he hears, however measured or far away."
--H.D. Thoreau

I've heard and listened to my own drummer most of my life.

I doubt I will stop now.

Student Loan Collection Company Raking In the Bucks

This collection company boasts a multi-thousand gallon shark tank in its lobby. Anyone see the irony here?

Bolded text in article is mine for your consideration.


Premiere Credit, which services student loans, plans to add 300 jobs

With a rotten economy and Americans running out of cash for even the basics, many debt collection agencies are losing money because they can't make people pay up.

But Indianapolis-based Premiere Credit of North America, with its lucrative government contract to collect student loans, not only is getting people to pay but is adding hundreds of employees to make even more people pay.

The company will double in size in the next few months.

"We've been preparing for this," CEO David Hoeft said.

On Wednesday, Premiere Credit said it will hire nearly 300 collection agents, skip tracers, team leaders and managers. The company also is searching for a 25,000-square-foot building to accompany its current operations on the Eastside.

Hoeft attributes the growth to the company's contract with the U.S. Department of Education to collect delinquent student loans.

Premiere Credit won the contract four years ago along with a handful of other companies across the nation. The contract is up for renewal this year, and Hoeft expects his company to win it again -- as do others in the $17.5 billion industry.

"The company has performed very well, and as a result they will likely receive more work from the department, and that's probably why they are increasing staff," said Paul Legrady of the collections industry consulting firm Kaulkin Ginsberg Co.

The Indiana Economic Development Corp. said the company will receive up to $2.5 million in performance-based tax credits and up to $200,000 in training grants.

Founded in 1999, Premiere Credit manages more than 700,000 accounts valued in excess of $1 billion. Most of its clients are government agencies, including the state of Indiana for tax and child support collections.

The contract with the Department of Education makes up 40 percent of Premiere Credit's business and will grow in coming months, Hoeft said.

The reason is government-backed student loans are much easier to settle than unsecured loans, such as those for credit cards. Not only are there myriad ways to repay student loans, but debt collectors also have the law on their side.

There's no statute of limitations on collection efforts. The loans, more often than not, can't be discharged in a bankruptcy. Collections agents can garnish wages, tax refunds and Social Security payments, and they can access a federal database of new hires that makes it easier to find employed people who can pay.

"Student loan collection agencies have tools at their disposal that are the envy of collectors serving other markets," Legrady said.

That's one reason those debt collection agencies are struggling.

For example, Pennsylvania's NCO Group, which is owned by an investment arm of JPMorgan Chase & Co., posted a $14.8 million net loss in the quarter ended June 30 because of "lower-than-expected collections" on accounts receivable it had acquired.

And experts say a reprieve isn't likely until the economy recovers.

"If a consumer can't spend money on groceries, they're less likely to spend money on debt payments," he said.

Call Star reporter Erika D. Smith at (317) 444-6424.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Police search for fourth suspect in hate crime

--By Amanda Stewart
Published: November 14, 2008

More than 100 cars in several Manassas area neighborhoods were painted with racial slurs and other hate messages early Thursday morning, Prince William County police said.

Police believe that four people, using a washable marker, wrote racial, religious, ethnic and sexual orientation slurs on cars in the areas of Wedgwood Drive, Trudle Place, Quail Run Lane and Remington Road in Manassas around 2:30 a.m. Thursday, Prince William County police spokeswoman 1st Sgt. Kim Chinn said Friday.

When I read things like this, I am more and more convinced that when we gloss over racism, sugar-coat the way we describe racist behavior, neglect to refer to the most overt examples of hatred we have experienced throughout history and try to sweep our civic and political leaders' prejudiced words and actions under the rug, this is what we get.

We have ourselves to thank.

I've been criticized for calling people on the carpet, for saying members of hate groups, extremist groups and nativist groups act like neo-Nazis, for saying chasing immigrants out of town is equal to ethnic cleansing, for demanding we call racism what it is, as if ignoring it, using different words, soft-pawing the issues and hoping we won't offend people's sensibilities will do anything to alleviate racism.

What we get is what you are reading above.

What we get is what is happening in Manassas and in this county, nurtured by our very own Board of County Supervisors and their affiliations with Help Save Manassas.

Why should our younger generations act any differently than the older folks around them? Why would we expect anything different when ADULTS are doing the same thing except they are doing it on the Internet, in the BOCS chambers, on television, in town halls and in the newspaper?

The only difference between these thugs and the adults is that the thugs are writing on cars.

I am not saying these hateful thugs in the story have any direct connection with the BOCS or HSM or their related groups. And certainly I am NOT saying these young people's behavior is excusable.

What I AM saying is that these young people are members of our society, one that teaches by example.

What I AM saying is if we don't put a stop to the PUBLIC and OVERT attitudes, actions and speech we are getting from the top down, we are going to continue to suffer the consequences.

The first step to finding solutions is to NAME the problem.

The problem is hatred.

The problem is racism.

The problem is denial.

The problem is groups that emulate the KKK, Skinheads, and other hate groups and then vehemently argue that they are not "those."

Don't believe it.

These groups DO exist and they do not all call themselves the KKK or brag about being neo-Nazis. They are insidious and they have gained power and positions in our local government.

It's time to stop giving any of these people the benefit of the doubt.

It's time to call it what it is.

It is time to deal with it before it gets to the point we are seeing in the above example.

Martin Luther King didn't stop saying it like it was to prevent hurt feelings.

Why should we?


I have to admit. I have a problem.

I'm a compulsive blogger and writer.

There. I said it.

The first step to a cure is to admit the problem, right?

I don't think I'm going to be cured any time soon, though. You see, it's just too easy and too much of my personality to be cured. I write because I am and I am because I write. That's kind of an interesting thought, isn't it? If I stopped writing, would I cease to be? "When I have fears that I may cease to be...."

Back on track.

Posting comments on blogs and news sites is addictive. It's interactive. It gives me a place to shout my opinions from the electronic rooftops and reveal my inner self in all its glorious moods. It grows me fertile fields of thought and revelation that can only be explored through text and words and communications.

And it pisses some people off.

Oh well. There has to be some kind of negative for every positive, else the yin/yang of the world would become dismantled, tilting off its axis until we spun into the recesses of space and time--which probably isn't a bad idea either considering how we treat each other and the planet itself. I'm not wishing the world a premature end, but sometimes I think we should just start over. Are you listening, Oh Great Spirit?

One of the benefits of blogging is I don't have to provide many transitions when I'm in a fine mood like this morning's. I can jump from topic to topic, from brain wave to brain storm, from strangeness to logic without worrying about every "however" and "wherefore" and "although." I can ramble and rumble and rummage and use all the alliteration I want without offending my poetic senses. I know I have said this before, but writing is self-indulgent. That's another benefit of blogging--I get to repeat myself.

Sometimes repeating myself is annoying, however, especially if I'm on an issue-based blog where people don't read previous postings. Comments are fine and dandy on such sites, but since there are strings of often unrelated comments that cannot be put in order of author, the meaning is lost between posts and constant miscommunication occurs. Hence, repeating occurs. Hence repeating occurs. get the picture. By the time I have to say the same thing three times or copy/paste previous comments or provide a history of the conversations, I'm quite bitchy. So then readers could come away thinking I'm a bitch all the time which is their prerogative and generates my response of "oh well."

My wrists hurt. I need one of those gel-packed cushions you put under your wrists in front of the keyboard. I type so much the veins on my forearms are sticking out like some weight lifter's. Writing can be heavy lifting.

Sometimes I wish I were blocked from certain news comment areas because I'm so compulsive about posting. I end up responding to people who don't deserve a response or who have gone so far over the edge, they aren't on topic any more than I am. Help! Stop me before I comment again! Someone send me to a blog so I can rant and rave without filling up news space! See? This really is compulsive behavior.

I like when people spell behavior "behaviour." And center "centre." And color "colour" and gray "grey." Spell check rejects such British-isms, but I override it. I recently switched to Firefox and it automatically redlines all my errors which is great! I hope to improve my spelling this way and be less lazy. But I will continue to override British spellings and whatever words I make up (which I enjoy doing).

Had to get my younger daughter off to the bus. She still likes me to stand on the porch and wave to her as she goes off to the land of learning. So I do the daily wave even though she sometimes doesn't see me or forgets to look and wave back. That's okay. It's one of the things we mothers do as long as our children want us to.

So now I'm distracted and off track and wondering if I should hike this morning like I planned. It's drizzling and it will be muddy and slippery. I don't mind the muck but falling would be bad.

No transitions.


Thursday, November 13, 2008

Animal Farm

Today I delved into Time Life's 1954 introduction of George Orwell's Animal Farm. It has been decades since I've read this little book. Having finished Sister Carrie (and missing it the way we miss books when they end), I was looking for something else when Orwell rose from his grave, pushed the book right off the shelf and smacked me on the head with it. No lie. So I thought, "Well, this must be the one I am supposed to read next." For several reasons, I'm glad it's a brief text and not a tome.

Besides the book binding, some passages from the introduction struck me, particularly the descriptions of Orwell, the man who made "Orwellian" a word without ever trying to do so:

"He was a bitter man, yet wholly devoid of self-pity, compassionate without sentimentality; an idealist whose vision was tempered by firsthand exposure to hardship and danger" (Times, 1954, ix).

How many of us could live up to such a description? How many of us actually sprout and maintain our ideals from such an authentic past? While I am not endorsing bitterness, there is something to that state of mind. Thoreau said, "I am sorry to think that you do not get a man's most effective criticism until you provoke him. Severe truth is expressed with some bitterness.” Orwell certainly meant to provoke as he himself was provoked enough to write Animal Farm, 1984, and other influential works. If my own bitter tirades end up being one-millionth as useful as Orwell's, I will consider my efforts successful, an improvement on my self perception for sure.

Orwell's self perception was not so grandiose either. In some ways, Orwell saw himself as a "pamphleteer" (Time, 1954, xi). However, he condemned the kind of propaganda seen in 1984 with the truths put out by "big brother" who is always "watching." This kind of propaganda inhibits individual expression and freedom.

This issue of propaganda made me think about the word. What is propaganda and how does it differ from any other kind of writing meaning to influence? Propaganda in general is defined as, "
information, ideas, or rumors deliberately spread widely to help or harm a person, group, movement, institution, nation, etc." Can Orwell completely have sterilized his work to ensure it would not be used as propaganda? I suppose that is always the risk writers take, especially after death when their work can be used in whatever ways society deems useful. But then, a critical reader would understand Orwell would never have endorsed such a use of his writing, I suppose. He just didn't believe anyone was infallible.

Though holding his own beliefs about government and social systems, Orwell argued through his fable, "with terrible urgency that even the loftiest schemes to reform the world end by imposing more ruthlessly oppressive systems than they replace" (Times 1954, xi). He did not believe his own views were the ones that would save the world and cautioned anyone who did believe such nonsense.

Orwell easily defended this notion having lived through the years, watching the ideal of Socialism mutate into Communism and the birth of the Iron Curtain. Though Orwell was a Socialist, his brand of Socialism more closely matched the ideals of Carl Marx, not the perversion used to turn the Soviet Union into an oppressive, totalitarian system.
"He was at once a committed Socialist and a merciless critic of the humbug and hypocrisy (the 'fat-bellied, godless conception of 'progress') that he felt characterized much of British Socialism" (Times, 1954, ix).

Orwell as a social critic didn't fear his own lack of mercy. He didn't worry about whose feeling he might hurt or who might disagree with him. His farm characters in Animal Farm evolve until pigs and humans are no longer distinguishable, insulting probably both species without remorse.

Ironically, Orwell described Charles Dickens as, "a man who is always fighting against something but who fights in the open and is not frightened, the face of a man who in generously angry." (Times 1954, xiii) But the Time Life editors contend that Orwell himself fit this description. It's a great description and compliment.

I'm still mulling all of this over and might add to this entry after reading some more. But in the meantime, I think we should all be "generously angry" enough to fight injustice, something Orwell did successfully through his writing, his spirit of empathy and commitment justice.

Maybe re-reading Animal Farm will bring me more strength to do so. Either that, or it will just give me more to think about. Either way, I've gained something via that little bump on the head.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

November 17 Concert Against Hate

ADL In Concert Against Hate is a powerful and inspirational event that honors heroes in the fight against intolerance, extremism and terrorism. The Concert tells the stories of ordinary men and women who have performed extraordinary acts of courage and compassion when confronted by hatred and bigotry. These are individuals who could not stand by while others were the targets of injustice, but instead chose to act. We also tell the stories of people who were themselves targets of hate, including those who have lost their lives in this struggle.

ADL In Concert Against Hate is held at the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington, DC. The stories of the honorees are interwoven with music performed by the National Symphony Orchestra and conducted by Emil de Cou. Maestro de Cou has conducted this event for 6 years. The stories have been narrated by acclaimed actors and personalities such as Matthew Broderick, Rod Steiger, Ruby Dee, Ossie Davis, Barbara Walters, Leonard Nimoy, Judd Hirsch, Tovah Feldshuh, Theodore Bikel, Tony Roberts, Joshua Malina, and members of the cast of the HBO series The Wire.

Date: Monday, November 17, 2008

Time: 8:30 PM - 11:30 PM

If you'd like to attend this event you can purchase tickets online.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Spring comes early at NVCC

Registration begins Nov. 17 for the spring 2009 semester at Northern Virginia Community College. Students are encouraged to register early to get the best choices.

People who register early may defer paying tuition until Dec. 19. Anyone who registers after Dec. 19 must pay tuition before 5 p.m. on the next business day.

The NovaConnect registration system is available 24 hours a day at Students may get personal assistance at NOVA’s six campuses in Alexandria, Annandale, Loudoun, Manassas, Springfield and Woodbridge.

Classes in the 16-week semester begin Jan. 12. NOVA also offers two eight-week sessions which start Jan. 12 and March 16. The eight-week sessions cover the same material and award the same credits as 16-week courses.

At less than $96 per credit, NOVA’s in-state tuition is the best educational value in the area. To learn more, call 703-323-3000 or visit the College’s Web site,

# # #

Northern Virginia Community College is the largest institution of higher education in the Commonwealth of Virginia and one of America’s largest community colleges. NOVA enrolls more than 60,000 students at its six campuses in Alexandria, Annandale, Loudoun, Manassas, Springfield and Woodbridge, and through the Extended Learning Institute. For more information about NOVA and its programs or services, call 703-323-3000 or visit the College’s Web site,

Carlene Mackereth
Communications Specialist
Northern Virginia Community College

Obama to get his first look at the Oval Office

As much as this past election was exciting, I'm balking at the news. It's apparent we are now going to be following Obama's every step, which is probably appropriate considering he has become the nation's first black president and as such, has overcome some of the racial barriers that have provoked this country well into the 21th century.

This bit of news is interesting, but first, it highlights something people are afraid of: Obama's lack of experience. Second, it's just...I don't know. Doesn't feel like news to me for some reason? Perhaps it is and I just haven't finished my coffee yet. You be the judge.

As a side note, it must take decades to become an AP writer. I wonder how much they get paid.


Obama to get his first look at the Oval Office
By BEN FELLER, Associated Press Writer Ben Feller, Associated Press

Writer – 19 mins ago WASHINGTON – Barack Obama has never set foot in the Oval Office. Talk about making an entrance. In a sit-down discussion Monday with President Bush, the president-elect will get his first feel for the place where momentous decisions will soon fall to him.

Bush invited Obama for the private talk, a rite of passage between presidents and successors that extends for decades.

The moment is sure to be steeped in history, part of a symbolic changing of a guard to Democratic leadership and the country's first black president. But it will be substantive as well, as Bush and Obama are expected to review the nation's enormous economic downturn and the war in Iraq.

Full story here:

Saturday, November 08, 2008

Another Battlefield Poem

Winter's Prisoner

This frozen grass, shattered glass
from some rough blower, creased
boots careless, unconcerned,

your lead of men like you
through the shards of wrecking,
rifle at my back, your voice
cold as a northern river:
“You have no rights here, Yankee.”

When we reach your encampment,
the true testing will begin:
every morning’s rope burned wrists,
a smattering of grits,
two sips of black coffee
from your dented cup,

no more until you’ve marched me miles
through your fields of ice.

Katherine Mercurio Gotthardt
Draft 1
November 8, 2008

Thursday, November 06, 2008


Few things set me off like racism.

Now I'm not saying I'm fond of any kind of discrimination--sexism and homophobia are also on my "make me mad" list. But with racism, I just kind of lose it. So I thought I would analyze myself a bit and just ponder what is is about racism that sets me off. Here is what I have come up with.

1. Racism is illogical. While we may have negative associations with people of particular ethnic groups, external stimuli such as color should not logically make us behave in ways that demean, dehumanize, demonize, or scapegoat. Our brains should be able to think, "Just because I had a bad incident with a minority doesn't mean I will have the same experience with other minorities." And most brains, if we allow them to think, CAN work in this direction. But true racists will not do this. True racists are irresponsible and like to blame others for their problems.

2. Racists justify racism. This relates back to number one in that some people who superficially process the lack of logic will say, "I intellectually agree with this," but never change their behaviors or attitudes towards select groups of people. The "I'm not racist!" indignation kicks in. "I just think people who are ____ are ____." The best example in most recent times is, "I'm not against immigrants. I'm against ILLEGAL immigrants," never mind that these people have no idea who is "legal" and who is not. The racism ends up extending to anyone who looks "foreign" or speaks another language or eats different foods because all these people are "suspect."

3. Racists are mean. Because of their own fear and anger, racists think it is okay to treat people poorly, to deny certain groups the right to live peacefully, to deny them the opportunity to earn a living or to be educated. Racists thrive on bullying. They thrive on spreading their fear and lack of logic to others who respond emotionally without thinking.

4. Racism is scary. It causes individuals to stop thinking for themselves. It causes group-think in which the dynamic becomes hateful and dangerous, directed at individuals who look, speak or act differently. Racism infiltrates society and government and if not stopped, becomes endorsed as acceptable. Racism can cause violence, murder, and more.

5. Racism often coincides with other forms of discrimination. People who believe they are better than others because of their ethnic heritage easily believe the same thing based on other criteria. For example, racists will often not respect other groups such as the disabled or the elderly. They may harass people who live alternative lifestyles or who have different opinions on gender identity. They often demonstrate religious and political intolerance. They pick on people who are different and use their bullying tactics to make it all seem like acceptable behavior when in fact, it is NOT.

6. Racism can be subtle and because of that, it has the potential to spread, to be ignored, or to be integrated into social institutions. Subtle racism is easy to deny. Long-term proponents of racism are experts at eschewing the system, ensuring they can't be penalized for racist actions as they promote their racist agendas.

Recall that racism is:

1. a belief or doctrine that inherent differences among the various human races determine cultural or individual achievement, usually involving the idea that one's own race is superior and has the right to rule others.

2. a policy, system of government, etc., based upon or fostering such a doctrine; discrimination.

3. hatred or intolerance of another race or other races.

I suppose at the core of my feelings is my sense of justice--people are people and shouldn't be persecuted. If you don't like someone, ignore him/her. If you can't, go through proper channels to rectify the issue. Don't play vigilante or take your personal issues out on people, especially people who cannot defend themselves.

The immigration debate framed by racists and radical groups has spread racism throughout this county and this country yielding an entire new generation of people who claim, "I'm not racist...but..."

It's the "but" that is infuriating.

I'm not saying we don't have immigration problems or social issues that need to be rectified. I'm not saying we should overlook TRULY and obvious criminal behavior. I'm not saying we can't talk about race, but I am saying if we don't do it in a respectful, objective context, we are spreading racism and thus responsible for it.

Unfortunately, not all people believe they need to be responsible.

Hence, I lose my temper.

And perhaps it's not useful to do so, but it's warranted.

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

SALT Annual Advocacy Conference

DeeDee Tostanoski

SALT (Social Action Linking Together) held its annual advocacy conference on Saturday, October 25 at St. Thomas a Becket Catholic Church in Reston. Despite the rain, the conference was attended by an enthusiastic cadre of advocates anxious to learn how to impact the legislative process in Richmond on behalf of social justice concerns.

The keynote address was given by former Delegate Vincent Callahan from McLean, who provided the group with an excellent grounding in the political realities of effecting change in the Commonwealth. He observed with disappointment the enormous decrease in collegiality over the past decade. He also clarified for the audience the criticality of engaging the money committees in any proposals, since the absence of funding will negate the best of ideas. He pointed out that there are 1200 registered lobbyists in Richmond, targeting 140 legislators, emphasizing how important it is for legislators to hear from and see their constituents to balance out that influence. Delegate Callahan advised visiting legislators at home, prior to the beginning of the session in Richmond, as they are so overwhelmed once the session begins that it can be difficult to get their attention. And finally, he encouraged the group to expand their network throughout the state, so that all legislators will be hearing from their active constituents on behalf of social justice.
Jeff Caruso from the Virginia Catholic Conference defined advocacy as informing and persuading. As people of faith, he reminded us that our advocacy is grounded in love of God and love of neighbor, and will require both great patience and great persistence. From a practical perspective, he encouraged the audience to build relationships with their legislators, attend home district meetings, town hall meetings, Catholic Advocacy Day in Richmond, and write letters to the editor. He also reminded the group that thanking legislators for their service, their time, and for votes that are in keeping with our social justice agenda is essential to the advocacy process.
Representatives from several of SALT’s partner organizations also spoke in support of SALT’s 2009 social action agenda. These included Communities of Faith United for Housing, Virginia Coalition to End Homelessness, and Virginia CURE. Darlene Palmer, a relative caregiver, provided the most compelling witness on the need for an increase to TANF benefits by sharing her personal story. Ms. Palmer and her husband became caregivers for four grandchildren due to domestic violence, and they have gone into significant debt due to the inadequacy of Virginia’s TANF benefits. Despite strong evidence that children in relative care are significantly more stable than children in foster care, the disparity in state support is huge. Two children living with a single parent will receive $320 in TANF payments. If these same children live in foster care, they will receive $918 in monthly TANF payments. But if they live with their grandparents, these same children will receive $254! Hearing about the realities of attempting to raise four grandchildren with such inadequate state support struck the hearts of everyone in attendance. Ms. Palmer closed her testimony by saying, “These children are our future. If we give them less, we can expect less from them.”

The SALT advocacy agenda for 2009 includes the following items: a rental assistance pilot project to be funded in part by federal TANF funds, a 10% increase and indexing of benefits to TANF recipients, and elimination of the lifetime ban on TANF benefits for former drug offenders. Combined, these legislative initiatives will provide a real solution for low-income Virginians in these difficult times.

SALT’s primary advocacy event is its annual “Home for the Holidays” greeting card campaign, which is managed through Catholic parishes and other faith congregations. SALT provides the language and the background information so that members of faith communities can write greeting card messages to their legislators in an organized manner. Most faith communities provide legislator addresses, collect the cards and send them jointly to the legislators in order to maximize their impact. The time commitment for individual parishioners is only three minutes, but the impact of these hand-written greeting cards is enormous.

If your parish has not participated in the “Home for the Holidays” card writing campaign, you should consider it now. To get further information on how to participate in the campaign, or any other information about SALT, go to, or contact John Horejsi, SALT Coordinator at

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Live from Bristow...

Got back from the polls at Victory Elementary. Once they let us in the building (6:00....I got there at 5:40) it took me 1/2 hour to vote and be on my way back home. Kudos to the volunteers! The lines were all the way down the sidewalk and down the street!

The beautiful acceptance speech:

Monday, November 03, 2008

Court weighs amputee's case, limits on drug suits

So let me get this right---we can sue doctors for millions which puts new docs, potential docs and medium-income docs out of business, but we can't sue drug companies? This is basically what Wyeth Pharm is asking for. Once again, corporations are asking for special privileges.

Forcing limits undermines the justice system which should be making rational decisions at the lower level courts. Furthermore, it promotes a sense of security in large corporations--the "I don't have to worry about the consumer because I can afford this risk" mentality. And in this age of bailouts, they can always resort to corporate welfare.

Furthermore, the Wyeth demanding the Federal Government be responsible for treatment failure puts patients at the mercy of a slower system, a Federal system which is virtually impossible to access without multiple lawyers: attorneys must actually petition the Federal court to get their cases heard. The courts can turn down the petition, leaving the patient without recourse.

Frankly, I don't think 6.7 million dollars can ever replace what this woman has lost. No amount could. But if she received more, there is always the chance she would donate some to medical research and make a difference because of her experiences. Limits would ensure this kind of decision would never be made.


WASHINGTON – A Vermont musician who lost her arm because of a botched drug injection is squaring off against a drug maker and the Bush administration in one of the most closely watched business cases of the Supreme Court's term.

At issue is whether the federal government can limit lawsuits by consumers like Diana Levine who have been harmed by prescription medications.

The justices are hearing arguments in Levine's case Monday, shortly after the court announces whether it will accept other cases for argument sometime next year.

The issue of limiting lawsuits arises in the heart-rending story of Levine, a guitarist and pianist who lost her right arm after an injection of the anti-nausea drug Phenergan, made by Wyeth Pharmaceuticals.

A Vermont jury awarded Levine $6.7 million, agreeing that Wyeth should have been clearer in its warning label about the risks of improperly administering the drug.

Wyeth and the administration, however, are asking the court to rule that drug makers may not make changes to labels without the approval of the Food and Drug Administration and that people cannot sue under state law for harm caused by an FDA-approved drug.

In recent years, the administration and business groups have aggressively pushed limits on lawsuits through the doctrine of pre-emption — asserting the primacy of federal regulation over rules that might differ from state to state.

Vote Venting

I'm going to vote tomorrow but let me say right off I'm so sick of this election, I can't wait to get it over with. This weekend alone, I must have received 10+ phone calls from local parties, national parties and specialty groups. I didn't answer the phone. My mailbox has been full of (environmentally unfriendly) propaganda. My email trash is overflowing with the stuff. This IS harassment in its highest form. Do these people really think I'm going to vote for their candidate when they harass me? I think I am going to change my vote just because their campaign tactics are so offensive.

Here's another thing I am sick and tired of from both sides: claims that God wants us to vote for a particular candidate and if we do not, not only are we bad people, we are unpatriotic. How DARE anyone judge me or anyone else based on voting preference, the very core of the democratic process? Arguments like these do nothing but turn people off from God and whatever religion is being touted. Sure, people should use their moral discretion and belief systems to make these decisions. But these decisions are personal and should never be brought into a campaign. Doing so is a twisted aberration of religion and of God. I hope God, in whatever form, is blocking his/her/its ears from this kind of arrogant tripe.

Other election complaints: sign stealing. Graffiti. Democrats asking me for money so they can make more harassing phone calls and flood our television and radio waves with their own version of truth--this when Obama has millions. Allegations against Obama supporters that reek of the McCarthy era--yeah, let's label people Socialists and Communists and use that an excuse to persecute the poor and disadvantaged. That's a good idea, huh? How about Republican party members who hate McCain because they think he's too nice to immigrants? Is that fair to McCain? I think not. If you're a party member and you don't support your presidential candidate, I think that speaks poorly of the party itself. I can see rifts within parties, and I can see people disagreeing on selections, but this is the PRESIDENCY for goodness sakes. You'd think there wbe a little more unity there, especially when this country has had it with Congressional ineffectiveness and finger pointing.

I've already said I don't like parties. I vote for a mix of candidates, and not just those from the main parties. If another party gets my vote, the Democratic or Republican losers can only blame themselves and their campaign techniques. My vote, after all, could decide the fate of the nation.

So could yours.

Friday, October 31, 2008

Real Estate Update from Bristow

Bill Denny of Long and Foster reports that the Western Prince William County real estate market is much stronger than it was 12 months ago. Denny says, “Our home inventories are at multi year lows.” Over half of the transactions are foreclosures selling within 30-45 days, sometimes with multiple contracts. The banks are pricing these homes below market value—and the buyers are snatching them up. “Prices continue to drift slowly but may be getting close to stabilizing in our area,” Denny says.

Bill Denny can be reached at (703) 629-3360.
FAX: (703) 986-3891

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Veteran’s Day Celebratory Concert

The New Dominion Choraliers and the Old Bridge Chamber Orchestra announce our Veteran’s Day Celebratory Concert and presentation entitled:

Freedom: a Musical Salute to America’s Veterans.

Please join us as we honor our nation’s veterans at 7:30 p.m. on Friday, November 7, 2008 at the Hylton Memorial Chapel and Event Center in Woodbridge, Virginia.

Our multimedia program will feature the music and images created by Deborah Craig-Claar and arranged and orchestrated by David T. Clydesdale, in the musical entitled ", A Salute to American Liberty." This musical was written with the hope that we might pause to reflect on our heritage of freedom and to honor those who have fought so courageously to keep it.

In addition to the musical, we will present several favorite American and patriotic selections with other, select regional talents, including the, the St. Michael Catholic School Chorus (4th – 8th grade), and the Brass Lite. It promises to be a dramatic and moving experience for all.

Tickets are $10 for adults and $5 for seniors and students. Children 4 and under are free. Since the intent of this concert is to pay tribute to our veterans, we are pleased to extend to all service members, veterans and their immediate family members a 50% discount ($5) off of the adult price. Doors open at 7:00 p.m. and tickets may be purchased in advance from any New Dominion Choraliers member, or by calling 703-498-8906.

Additionally, tickets may be purchased at the door. We look forward to having you join us and hope you enjoy the show!

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Scholarships, college planning tips and free pizza!

Scholarships, college planning tips and free pizza
at Northern Virginia Community College

On Nov. 17 from 6 to 9 p.m., three Northern Virginia Community College campuses will present “College Night in Virginia,” a free event that provides college planning advice. The seminar is open to everyone no matter which colleges they are considering. Attendees can register to win one of four $500 scholarships awarded by random drawing at each location.

“College Night” will begin at 6 p.m. with free pizza and soda. Presentations include choosing the right college or program, understanding the financial aid process, finding scholarships, and completing the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA).

“College Night” will take place at NOVA’s Alexandria, Loudoun and Woodbridge campuses. Go to for location details and additional information.

# # #

Northern Virginia Community College is the largest institution of higher education in the Commonwealth of Virginia and one of America’s largest community colleges. NOVA enrolls more than 60,000 students at its six campuses in Alexandria, Annandale, Loudoun, Manassas, Springfield and Woodbridge, and through the Extended Learning Institute. For more information about NOVA and its programs or services, call 703-323-3000 or visit the College’s Web site,

Carlene Mackereth
Communications Specialist
Northern Virginia Community College

My Split Personality

Writers have split personalities. Except in writing, we call it "voice." You'll hear writers talking about "finding" their "own voice" but I think writers have more than one voice. Or at least I do. So maybe I'm the only one with a split personality.

Listen to the way I'm writing here. I'm just kind of mellowing along with my 6:00 a.m. coffee, tap tap tapping on the keyboard, wondering if the kids will want to get up and out on time (they swam last night which always makes them want to sleep more), running off to another window to check my email (those little tones seduce me every time), popping some decongestants, (read in voice of Yule Brenner) etcetera, etcertera, etcetera.

Then there's the voice of my inner political commentator. My commentator is bitchy and often angry, with good reason. Our local government has been infiltrated by racists supported by an irresponsible BOCS Chair and VICE who have led the way towards our financial and social demise. We have asked them to use wisdom and foresight in making their decisions, and they prove time and time again they have none. These people are no more qualified for their jobs than my dog is to balance my checkbook.

Academic: "Deconstructing history raises questions on the validity of history textbooks, particularly modern texts which critics claim have 'changed' history to suit the authors' belief systems. The resulting controversy has spilled into our public school system, now under attack by those who claim children are being indoctrinated."

I just made that up right now. I didn't feel like dragging out the old material I started in the fraud Ph.D program that didn't allow me to finish and has since disappeared from the DC area. Nah, never mind, I think I WILL drag some of that out. Here goes.

"Post-secondary writing assumes there will be a captive audience for that writing. However, this is a diverse audience that must be considered. The syllabus, for example, must reach not only a classroom of adult students from multi-racial, ethnic, and educational backgrounds, but must be clear and pedagogically sound to colleagues, educational administrators, and even regulatory agents. The challenge, then, is to write simply about often complex topics, not an easy balance to maintain and still remain within the scope of the post-secondary arena."

"Many adult learners, often uncomfortable with the formal learning environment, adopt a surface approach to study characterized by a focus on rote learning, memorization and reproduction, a lack of reflection, and a preoccupation with completing the task. (Marton & Saljo, 1976) Sometimes, the adult learner adopts a strategic approach, characterized by a focus on assessment requirements and lecturer expectations, and a careful management of time and effort, with the aim of achieving high grades as described in the syllabus or explained in lecture. (Ramsden, 1992; Biggs, 1993; Marton et al., 1997; Prosser & Trigwell, 1999)"

Did you get through all that?

Good. Now take a look at my inner poet.

My poet is pretty serious, with the exception of my limerick writer who exchanges stupid verses with one of my best friends. You don't want to read these, trust me. They're mostly comprised of potty talk spurred on by the King of potty talk himself (my friend) who finds such things uproariously funny. And that's why I love him. But my real poetry?

I prefer to remember
that morning,

sun burnishing trees,
wreath of light
about your head,

your face a Christmas
I had not seen
since before we went to war.

(slightly revised from the Poems from the Battlefield collection)

My voice changes in my fiction as well, particularly when the narrator changes.

"He never wanted a cat, never mind a schizophrenic, half-breed female whose heat cycle would send the neighborhood into a frenzy of moaning males."

(from a 1997 short story entitled "Missy" that I have yet to re-type and actually store anywhere other than in a box thrown under my desk)

"They don't call it 'welfare' anymore. It's the 'Department of Transitional services.'" But that doesn't make it any better. The benches are still hard and worn, the white of the original wood glaring through the remains of honey colored stain. The floors are still tiled in 1960 charcoal grey with white swirls. The walls are still ivory, smeared by the dirty fingers of a million children, and the lighting is still fluorescent, flickering in the windowless waiting room. And me. I am still there. A monument to the system."

(from another 1997 short story--more a combination of memoir and fiction--entitled "Public Welfare")

In another story, old Mrs. Barrenger dies a lonely death in a pet shop where she scoops out dead fish every day. The story is called "Dead Run."

Some day I will get around to marketing this stuff. But I hate marketing. I'd rather write than market any day. Some day I will have someone to market for me. I believe they call that an agent, but I probably won't get one because I never market.

Okay, "never" is an exaggeration because after being turned down by The New Yorker (again....along with millions of others who aren't sophisticated enough for their magazine), I did send some stuff out to the Northern Virginia Review and the Kenyon Review. Rejection is part of a writer's life, but it's not as bad you think. It has more to do with marketing and what the mags are looking for than anything else. I have my list of publications to prove I matched the wants of at least some journals. But I'm not driven the way I should be.

You can see a variety of split personalities if you attend writers' groups. Writers tend to be interesting people anyway, but when you hear their writing read in their own voices and you get to know the people reading, the work takes on another dimension. Surly writing might sound less harsh and more earthy. Anger might sound more genuine. Joy might sound real or imagined. But the reader might be none of those things.

Certainly not all writers have this split. Take Ernest Hemingway. The man was an alcoholic. His books were depressing and ultimately, he shot himself. While I'm sure he must have been fun to party with at times, I bet there was this underlying sadness that kept his writing voice aligned with his personality.

Thinking about this in another way, perhaps my voice changes have more to do with character and genre changes than anything else. Or perhaps they have to do with mood. Or perhaps chance. Probably a combination of things too complicated and mysterious to pinpoint. I do notice I switch from writing in complete sentences to "un-standard-English" when I'm in chatty blog mode.

When I first started this blog about two years ago, I devoted a significant amount of time discussing separation of the blogger from the true personality. I think there's still truth to those postings. I know for a fact people meet me and mutter, "That's HER???" And they aren't talking about my physical appearance which I describe openly here.

I have a strong personality (one which comes from having had to struggle) but I'm not any of my given writing voices at any given time. I think it's important for writers to understand this. I think it's a myth that a writer has or SHOULD have only one voice. Why not have fun with the split personalities?

Now I've revealed my secrets and I probably won't get to irritate people as much as I would sometimes like to. Damn.

Or maybe I will irritate them MORE because they now know I have control over the "voices"--at least when I don't lose my temper. I let my voices go where they will. They have their own way of finding path to paper. So why not let them lead?

Incidentally, the kids got up EARLY. Wow.

Seems we all have a bit of energy this morning.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Free Sign Language Course at Ellis

N.R. #119, 10/28/2008
Date: 10/28/2008
Contact: Irene Cromer
Supervisor, Community Relations 703.791.8720

PWCS Parent Resource Center Hosts Sign Language Course at Ellis Elementary School

The Prince William County Public Schools (PWCS) Office of Special Education Parent Resource Center will host a “Beginning Sign Language for Parents and Primary Caregivers” course on Monday evenings, November 10, 17, 24, and December 1. Classes will be held from 7–8:30 p.m. at Ellis Elementary School, 10400 Kim Graham Lane in Manassas. Cheryl Hancock, administrative coordinator of the PWCS program for students with hearing impairments, will be the instructor.

In this four-week class, participants will learn a functional sign language vocabulary that includes the manual alphabet, colors, numbers, animals, family members, food, school-related signs, and signs for daily living.There is no cost for the class. Advance registration is required in order to attend and participants must register to attend all four classes. Registration is limited to parents and primary caregivers of children who use sign language as their primary or augmentative form of communication.

To register, call the Parent Resource Center at 703.791.8846 or email or by 3 p.m. on Thursday, November 6.

Planning Commission Agenda Questionable?

Nowhere on here do I see a discussion of appointee conflicts of interest and how they already voted on the Comprehensive Plan. I realize the County (?) Attorney is looking into this, but what happens when the Appointees who DO have conflicts of interest continue to vote?

On another note, please support Battlefield Preservation--and any other preservation we can GET! It's time we had a "savings account" for land, history, and trees in PWC.


5 County Complex Court, Woodbridge, Virginia 22192
(703) 792-6830 Metro 631-1703, Ext. 6830
FAX (703) 792-4401 Internet

Planning Commission

Russell E. Bryant, Jr Chairman
Ernie Gonzales,
Vice Chairman
Ronald K. Burgess
Gary C. Friedman
Rene M. Fry
Martha Hendley
Edgar Bruce Holley
Kim Hosen

1. WORK SESSION 6:00 p.m.
• Comprehensive Plan Update
• Review Transfer of Development Rights (TDRs)
• Review Potential TDR Sending Areas/Opportunities to reduce density
2. AGENDA REVIEW 6:45 p.m.
A. Approval of Minutes – October 1, 2008 and October 8, 2008
B. Development Application Processing Schedule (DAPS)
C. Receipt of Review for Determination of Consistency with the Comprehensive Plan dated 10/29/08 (covering the period from 10/7/08 through 10/27/08).
7. EXPEDITED AGENDA (To be posted the evening of the Public Hearing)
Cases requesting expedited processing will be heard prior to the Public Hearing. If citizens sign up to speak in opposition to a case listed on the Expedited Agenda, that case will be moved to the Regular Agenda, as listed below.
8. REQUESTS FOR DEFERRAL/CONTINUATION (To be announced the evening of the Public Hearing)
Action on cases requesting deferral/continuation will be taken prior to the Public Hearing. If the request for deferral/continuation is denied, that case will be moved to the Regular Agenda, as listed below.
Planning Commission Agenda November 5, 2008 Page 2
A. CONTINUED FROM OCTOBER 1, 2008 – PUBLIC HEARING OPEN - Design & Construction Standards Manual #PLN2009-00072
To consider proposed changes to the Prince William County Design and Construction Standards Manual. These changes are to 1) enact technical regulations and standards to effect provisions to be adopted or deleted with the revisions to the Zoning Ordinance; 2) enact regulations to ensure compliance with the Department of Conservation and Recreation policies for erosion and sediment control, perennial streams and storm water management; 3) address changes in business practices; 4) updates design standards to conform with current Virginia Department of Transportation policies and regulations. Proposed changes are summarized as follows: Section 100.0, General Information and Policies - Amended the entire section to reflect the responsibilities of the director of Development Services and reflect current business practices; Section 600.0, Transportation Systems – Updated road design standards and requirements and modified drive-thru requirements; Section 700.00, Environmental Systems – Amended drainage and stormwater management design standards, added lighting standards (from Zoning Ordinance) and clarified geotechnical requirements; Section 800.0, Buffer Areas, Landscaping and Tree Cover Requirements – amended or clarified landscaping provisions and design requirements – All Magisterial Districts – (Staff-Guzman).
B. Rezoning #PLN2008-00424, Woodbridge Seventh-Day Adventist Church
To rezone +/-6.13 acres from A-1, Agricultural, to O(M), Office Mid-rise, to allow development of a religious institution with related facilities. The site is located at the intersection of Route 234, Dumfries Rd. and Wolf Run Ln., identified as GPINs 7891-86-0098 & 7891-77-7701, and designated Flexible Employment Center in the Comprehensive Plan. Coles Magisterial District – (Staff-Lassiter).
C. Proffer Amendment, #PLN2008-00033, Meadows at Morris Farm
To amend proffers of REZ #PLN2003-00030, to modify the housing types in a portion of Landbay A, relocate the recreation center from Landbay C to D, modify signage and allow dedication of open space. The +/-10.7 acre site and open space areas are located +/- 850 ft. south of the intersection of Glenkirk Rd. and Sedge Wren Dr. identified as GPINs 7395-59-9197, 7396-42-6391, -6396, -6687, -6777, -6782, -7073, -7092, -7167,
-7197, -7262, -7358, -7378, -7389, -7483, -7544, -7675, -7763, -7868, -8260, -8295,
-8587, -8590, -8982, -8998, -9175, -9288, -9293, -9579, -9985, 7396-43-4174, -4467,
-4676, -4851, -4856, -4869, -5047, -5136, -5142, -5176, -5269, -5432, -5452, -5482,
-5557, -5577, -5621, -5626, -5749, -5816, -5838, -5871, -5906, -5912, -5943, -6080,
-6135, -6202, -6222, -6273, -6327, -6519, -6580, -6607, -6673, -6713, -6904, -9192, 7396-50-0935, -4789, -6459, 7396-51-2966, -3079, -4725, -5094, -8460, 7396-52-0275, -0281, -0435, -1767, -2644, -2748, -2748, -4084, -4826, -6206, -6229, -7212, -8817, -9072, -9492, 7396-53-1159, -4567, -8517, -9913, 7396-61-1433, -4840, -9437, 7396-62-0826, -3767, -4216, -5733,-6182, 7396-63-0191, -4507, is zoned Planned Mixed Residential Low, and is designated Suburban Residential Low & Environmental Resource in the Comprehensive Plan – Brentsville Magisterial District – (Staff-Burnszynski).
Planning Commission Agenda November 5, 2008 Page 3
9. PUBLIC HEARINGS (Continued)
D. Special Use Permit #PLN2008-00366, Walnut Tree Farm
To allow a garden center and landscaping service at 16800 Beverley Mill Dr., +/-1,225 ft. east of its intersection with Turner Rd. The +/-14.1 acre site is identified as GPIN 7198-44-9905, is zoned Agricultural, and is designated Agricultural or Estate in the Comprehensive Plan. Gainesville Magisterial District – (Staff-Meyer).
E. Special Use Permit #PLN2008-00648, Potomac Town Center Drive-through Bank
To allow drive-through services at a financial institution located on the northeast corner of the intersection of I-95 and Dale Blvd. The +/-0.80 ac site is identified as GPIN 8291-94-2968 (pt.), is zoned B-1, General Business and is designated Regional Commercial Center in the Comprehensive Plan. Woodbridge Magisterial District – (Staff-McGettigan).
F. Special Use Permit, #PLN2009-00047, The Shooter’s Range
To allow a commercial indoor shooting range in an existing shopping center. The site is located within Marumsco Plaza +/-450 ft southeast of the intersection of Jeff. Davis Hwy. & Mt. Pleasant Dr., is zoned B-1, General Business, is identified as GPIN 8392-72-6928(pt.), and is designated General Commercial in the Comprehensive Plan. Woodbridge Magisterial District – (Staff-Donohoe).
G. Rezoning #PLN2008-00618, Solano Property
To rezone +/- .4768 acres from A-1, Agricultural to B-1, General Business, to allow for either restaurant or office use. The site is located at 13470 Minnieville Rd.,+/-310 ft east of the intersection of Minnieville Rd. and Smoketown Rd., is identified as GPIN 8292-34-8246, is part of the Minnieville Rd. HCOD, and is designated Office in the Comprehensive Plan. Occoquan Magisterial District – (Staff-Lassiter).
Planning Commission Agenda November 5, 2008 Page 4
Nov. 12, 2008 6:30PM Work Session – Prioritizing Centers of Commerce & Community
Development Services Building, Rooms 202 A & B
Nov. 19, 2008 6PM Work Session – American Battlefield Protection Program
7PM Public Hearing – McCoart Administration Building

Monday, October 27, 2008

Some Sobering Facts from the NAACP

I just received my NAACP membership card in the mail, and on the introduction letter were some pretty sad numbers that explain one reason groups like the NAACP have to keep working for minorities.

Did you know more than 52% of all minorities have NO health insurance?

More than 25% of African Americans live below the poverty line?

The median worth (or wealth wealth) for whites is $81,700 but for black is $10,000 and Hispanics $3,000?

Once arrested, minorities are THREE times as likely to be incarcerated as whites?

50% of African Americans inner city schools will not graduate?

Groups like the NAACP are often criticized for their focus on minority groups, but with statistics like these, how can we NOT have groups that are advocating for the nations' poorest?

As I am writing this a notice just came in:

--AP Published: October 27, 2008
WASHINGTON (AP) _ Federal agents have broken up a plot to assassinate Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama and shoot or decapitate 102 black people in a Tennessee murder spree, the ATF said Monday.

In court records unsealed Monday, federal agents said they disrupted plans to rob a gun store and target a predominantly African-American high school by two neo-Nazi skinheads. Agents said the skinheads did not identify the school by name.

Jim Cavanaugh, special agent in charge of the Nashville field office for the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, said the two men planned to shoot 88 black people and decapitate another 14. The numbers 88 and 14 are symbolic in the white supremacist community.

The men also sought to go on a national killing spree, with Obama as its final target, Cavanaugh told The Associated Press.

“They said that would be their last, final act — that they would attempt to kill Sen. Obama,” Cavanaugh said. “They didn’t believe they would be able to do it, but that they would get killed trying.”

An Obama spokeswoman traveling with the senator in Pennsylvania had no immediate comment.

The men, Daniel Cowart, 20, of Bells, Tenn., and Paul Schlesselman 18, of West Helena, Ark., are being held without bond. Agents seized a rifle, a sawed-off shotgun and three pistols from the men when they were arrested. Authorities alleged the two men were preparing to break into a gun shop to steal more.

Attorney Joe Byrd, who has been hired to represent Cowart, did not immediately return a call seeking comment Monday.

Cowart and Schlesselman are charged with possessing an unregistered firearm, conspiring to steal firearms from a federally licensed gun dealer, and threatening a candidate for president.

The investigation is continuing, and more charges are possible, Cavanaugh said. --

We live in troubled times. We're going to need the NAACP and many, many more advocacy groups of all ethnicities, groups to trample the hatred, poverty and disparity running rampant in our country.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Weekend Recap--Where did the time go?

Okay, I'm tired and sore but it has been a good weekend. Went out to Reston yesterday and the colors were beautiful! I had no idea "out there" had such pretty lakes, trails, and nature. No land or tree-stripping. It CAN be done!

Got home, took the kiddies swimming and then had a family movie followed by charades. By that time, the kids were in that hyper mode that they get in when they are really tired, that mood that gets them into trouble. They slept well, thank goodness, and mellowed a bit.

Today, did church and writers' group while the kids had Religious Ed and played in the church activity room. Did some family cleaning, had a great session around the dinner table ("Name something you appreciate about each family member") then another family movie.

Get this--my eleven-year-old did her own laundry, then took out her own gym suit and put it in her backpack. Okay, maybe that doesn't sound like a big deal, but was. I love when they just take responsibility for things like that without having to be asked or told. We've been having the discussion about the need to put things back where they belong and taking care of our stuff. Victory!! She listened!

Hubby and I agreed today: all in all, we have pretty good kids. They sure do have their moments like any of us do, but for now, I think they've got the right idea.

Hope I didn't just jinx myself....

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Thanks, Suesun for the Sunbeam!

Got to this great page from The Sun Magazine via Suesun who visited.

And then this wonderful quote:

"We have to face the fact that either all of us are going to die together or we are going to learn to live together, and if we are to live together we have to talk."
Eleanor Roosevelt

Thursday, October 23, 2008

It's a Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood....

Does PBS Kids still run Mr. Rogers? My kids are older so I'm out of touch with WETA Kids. That "Neighborhood of Make Believe" was always good. I never liked that lady though. What was her name? Lady Ellington or something like that? Or Wellington? She was kind of a bitch.

Anyone ever watch The New Zoo Review in the 70's? Freddie Frog, Henrietta Hippo, Woodsy Owl? They were these dudes dressed up in costumes like Barney but they weren't nearly as sappy. They got in trouble all the time. And there was this guy and gal who sung about it all and helped them resolve their group dynamic issues. Doug and....what was her name?

I didn't like Doug. He had a mustache and facial hair creeped me out. I remember when I was a kid, my father started to grow a beard and I wouldn't kiss him. But my parents made me kiss all the uncles with facial hair and I was always freaked. Come to think of it, all the men I've ever had problems with have had facial hair. Not that all men with facial hair are bad people or anything. It's just a strange pattern is all.

Where was I going with this? Oh yeah. Old shows. Captain Kangaroo. Remember him? Didn't he end up on kiddie porn charges or something like that?

We also had something called Uncle Gus. Maybe HE was kiddie porn guy or the child molester and not CK. I can't remember. This was long before Pee Wee Herman ever got into trouble in the movie theater.

When I was a Bluebird (kind of like a Brownie but for Campfire Girls...are THEY still around?) we went on the Uncle Gus Show. I was probably six years old. I didn't want to go. Being on television scared me. Frankly, Uncle GUS scared me and this was way before I knew what a child molester was. I didn't volunteer for any of the games he did with the kids in the audience.

You know who else I couldn't stand? Bozo the clown. He wasn't funny and his games were stupid. "Juuuust Keeeep Laughing!" Duh-huh-duh-huh-duh-huh-duh-huh! I couldn't stand that. Why should I laugh when he wasn't funny? And let me say, this was LONG before I ever saw It.

My favorites? Sesame Street episodes from the 70's and early 80's. I'm talking pre-Elmo. I'm talking the still-invisible Snuffle-Upagus (or however you spell that shaggy beast's name). I still remember those songs: "The lower case n all alone on the hill....the wind is very still...for the lower case nnnnnn...nnnn!" And what about the theme from 2001: A Space Odyssey as the Capital I dramatically breaks out of its stone encasement and a cosmic voice announces "I!" I never got the metaphysical implications until recently. See? You never know how these kids' shows are going to affect YOUR kids when they get older.

Then there was The Electric Company. There was a goody. Remember those silhouette faces, like the kind you did in elementary school where they shined a light on black paper and outlined your face? We'd come home with black construction paper faces and marvel at the shapes of our noses. Electric Company, though...dark silhouettes, visible text words floating out of their mouths, one enunciating the first syllable of a word, the other the second syllable, then both saying the whole word together, text coming together in perfect elocution. Now that was great stuff. That and the ape who was always eating bananas. And how about the kids doing science projects? VERY cool.

When I look back at my favorite shows, I see a trend: imagination, words, and intellect. Forget about stupid clowns and creepy men (I don't include the Venerable Fred Rogers in the "creepy" category). Give me some good old brain food any time, yes siree. And later, give me Mary Tyler Moore and her grumpy newspaper boss, Grant. Writing. See?


I was definitely a geek from the get go.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

ACTS Fundraiser

ACTS Emergency Assistance’s Food Pantry ‘s FREEZERS, and Shelving for Operation Turkey Is where we are designating this fund-raiser’s money to go. We will be “pig tailing” a Locks of Love drive this year as well!

There are many ways that you can help.Saturday, October 25th we will be having our 19th annual fund raiser.

1) From 9-4, purchase products from our side walk sale, all proceeds will be donated to ACTS Emergency Assistance’s Food Pantry for FREEZERS

2) From 4-6, Come to our Cut-A-Thon receive a shampoo & cut for $12, reg. $21
APPOINTMENTS OR WALK-INS, APPOINTMENTS SERVED FIRST... CALL NOW!all proceeds will be donated to ACTS Emergency Assistance’s Food Pantry for FREEZERSAll ponytails, clean, dry and 10 inches or more are donated to Locks Of LoveSupport 2 fund-raisers at the same time!

3) If you are a Merchant or Business that would like to donate something for our raffle, items such as gift certificates, products for grab bag items, gift baskets from your Business, Please contact Larry at 703-919-0771 or 703-491-HAIR(4247)

4) From now until October 25th , buy a raffle ticket:

Yes, Count Me In Raffle!$3 each ticket, or 2 for $5. Prizes include products or gift certificates from local merchants and restaurants who help support ACTS , our Fund-Raiser and our community.

Grand Prize is 2 tickets to the Redskins vs New York Giants Football GameNov. 30, 2008 at 1PM, Seating Section 333, Row 12, Club LevelIncludes Platinum Reserved Parking PassOver $500 Value!

We Can’t Spell ...S CCESS.. Without “U”Special Thank You to: Ron Eckert, Prince William Cruisers, Festival Cleaners, LakeRidge Vision Center, Gold’s Gym, Pineapple Paint Company, Bloom, Ed Saunders, Attorney at Law (our popcorn man), Hobby Town USA, Michael’s Flowers, Garfield B. Jackson, Alias “Tree,” and O.W.L. V.F.D. Fire & Rescue Station 14, just to name a few of the “Count Me In” Merchant Participants. Together, we can make a difference.

Our mailing address is:
Festival at Old Bridge Shopping Center
12460 Dillingham Square
Woodbridge, VA. 22192
Our telephone:(703) 491-HAIR (4247)(703) 491-2000(703) 491-4881(703) 551-0609 (Metro)

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

People of Faith and Politics

As Faithful Citizens, What is Our Role in Politics?By
John Horejsi, SALT Coordinator

Very often the argument is made that faith has no place in politics.

A quick review of U. S. history reveals that people of faith have been at the very heart of politics in this country since its formation.

All of us, as advocates for social justice and for the less fortunate, have a legitimate role to play in forging public opinion and influencing legislative voting on issues that directly or indirectly affect peoples’ lives for good or ill.

Church leaders have continued to speak about our obligation to be involved in the political process that elects and governs. Our responsibility for the direction of public life can appear to be enormous.

How can we who are busy do our part?

Here are a few suggestions:

Vote: Since our elected officials have a great deal of influence on the common good, it makes sense that we at least find out what candidates believe about important issues such as the economy, military spending, caring for the poor, homelessness & affordable housing, health care reform, prison re-entry programs & capital punishment, creating jobs, and other important moral issues. Then we have to make the effort to get to the polls and vote.

Stay informed: Even reading the newspapers or watching the news frequently helps us to be aware of the way political life does or does not promote justice and well-being in society. Books, periodicals and magazines are good sources for analyzing issues in light of reason and faith. Excellent sources for information and insight are ecumenical organizations like Bread for the World, the Virginia Interfaith Center and SALT.

Advocate: Those elected to government posts respond to our opinions and concern especially when they are well reasoned and presented in a positive light. Our letters, calls and visits do contribute to a better future for all.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Random Morning Rambling

I need to ramble this morning and see where this post takes me. This is a great writing exercise but not so interesting to anyone who doesn't write. But the whole point of writing like this is not to appeal to any audience except the self. Since I'm so critical of my own writing anyway, I'm not sure I can appeal to myself. It's one of those artists things. I can revise and revise and never be happy with it. Same with any painting or art project I do. I hear that kind of thing is a curse and a blessing simultaneously.

One thing about writing so much: you start to get sloppy. Journalists in particular get the brunt of this criticism, usually because their deadlines are so tight, there is little time left for revision, never mind multiple revisions as I am wont to do.

I think I'm bored with this post already. Then again, all these responses to posts from the local paper are coming into me email. I'm addicted to responding which I should get out of because some of the posters aren't worth responding to. Why do I do that? I need to ignore idiots and just stick to responding to people who actually want a dialog. It's not whether the idiots agree with me or not. It's more like they are incapable of doing anything more than ranting, raving, and hating. There are people like that everywhere and they seem to come out of the woodwork in public forums. Are they bored? Don't they have anything else to do? I always wonder. I know why I can respond--it's because I write and I work on the computer. I do it from home. Do all these people work from home as well? Are they out of work (which would explain their frustration)? Are they recently retired and frustrated, left with pockets of time they don't know how to use? Again, I wonder. They won't answer you if you ask them, either. It's part of the "no logical conversation" piece that makes responding to them a waste of time and energy. You can't MAKE people think.

It's both a perk and an incentive to work from home when you really like to read what other people are saying about issues. The key is to do it in moderation without getting computer-addicted, especially when vile people post. That can put you in a bad mood if you let it. I have this rule--if postings start putting me in a bad mood, I know it's time to start pairing the socks. Since I've usually got plenty of meetings to attend, it rarely happens anymore that I get burned out. But still, there are times when you have to ask, "What the heck is this person doing and why? How can I diffuse it?" Then you have to accept you can't. Dialog has to go both ways. That's why it's called dialog and not monologue.

I've been reading Sister Carrie again. There's something about Victorian literature, British and American, that fascinates me. I would consider Sister Carrie late American Victorian period because it focuses on the industrial revolution in Chicago, the sweat shops, the culture of materialism that has continued to permeate our culture. I just now had to look up the dates that encompassed the Victorian Period. (I always forget the numbers but knew the period ranged from the earlier 1800's to the early 1900's.) Queen Victoria ruled from 1837-1901, making the era one of the longest in cultural history. The American Civil War took place in the Victorian period, and it's interesting to see the overlaps between British Victorianism and American Victorianism which was impressed with our Revolutionary War and Puritanism. Civil Rights fights sprang from this period: women's rights, children's rights, rights for slave and freed I have to read more on the period I love so much. Thoreau, Emerson, Unitarianism, New England Transcendentalism....what a rich and complicated period!

Last night at the dinner table when we go around the table and ask a question for all family members to answer, Erika (11) asked what book we would live in if we had to. Alexandra said Harry Potter without the scary parts. Erika said Eragon without having to really fight in the monster wars. David said Return of the King after the war. I said a Henry James novel. Then I could travel from England to Italy to the United States and truly experience Victorian life. I'm sure it would be filled with oppression, but I would have the chance to see it all live. I didn't stipulate which novel or under what conditions. I was the only purist at the table.

I like our questions at the dinner table. I call them "inflicting family values." The kids groan but they really get into it. We take turns asking questions. I used to ask all the questions (usually, "What was the best part of your day?") but it's better when they jumped in and asked to start asking the questions. Their questions started out with things like, "What was the silliest part of your day?" We got a lot of farting incidents and funny classroom antics from the kids. David had a tough time with this question. While he often experiences humor on the job, he very rarely experiences silliness, apparently. I think he should initiate some of the silliness so he will have something to say to that question should it come up again. He's capable, I'm sure. He is silly enough at home.

Okay, I think that's the brain dump for this morning. I have a doctor's appointment later. It's a "fat check." I have to have six months' of visits to discuss fat before my insurance company will pay for my lap band surgery after which I know I will lose all this terrible weight I've put on since my accident. I can't WEIGHT. I exercise a lot, but these mammoth pounds are killing me. Old clothing, here I come! I suspect I can be back into my small clothes before my 40th birthday in September, especially with the way I love to hike.

Thought for the day from my "Healing Cards":

"Now is now. Are you going to be here or not?"

Saturday, October 18, 2008

SALT's Richmond Wrap-Up

RICHMOND WRAP-UP –- SALT (Social Action Linking Together) announces that its annual forum to learn about SALT's priorities during the 2009 Richmond General Assembly Session is being held on
Saturday, October 25, 2008
9:00-11:30 am
St. Thomas a'Becket Catholic Church, Findlay Hall
1421 Wiehle Avenue, Reston
Conference Keynoter, former Del. Vincent Callahan, will discuss "The Legislative Process at Its Best; The Legislative Proces at its Worst." Jeff Caruso, Director of the Virginia Catholic Conference (VCC) will be discussing "The Art of Advocacy--Action Tools." Get involved in practical Social justice advocacy. Save the date, and plan to attend. Bring a friend. There is no charge for the program. For more information, contact SALT Coordinator, John Horejsi at or visit the SALT web site at

Social Action Linking Together, or SALT, has more than 1,000 advocates for faith-based social justice throughout the Catholic Diocese of Arlington. SALT supports a number of initiatives related to human services and encourages funding of the following initiatives in the 2010 budget. Together these initiatives address critical issues of poverty and homelessness in Virginia.

Rental Assistance. SALT joins the Virginia Coalition to End Homelessness in support of a pilot Rental Assistance Program. This program would provide funding to bridge the gap between one-third of a family’s income and the fair market cost of housing. Families who could not otherwise afford independent housing, such as women with children moving from welfare to work, or working families in shelters, would be priority targets in a 3-year pilot program. The program would provide time-limited assistance to provide the stability families need to advance in their work and achieve full independence. As their wages increase, their rental assistance would decline.

TANF Benefit Increase. Virginia families on Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (TANF) have received only one increase in their benefits over the past 23 years, a 10% increase in 2000. Meanwhile, inflation over that same period has equaled over 100%. A family of three receives only $320 per month, less than a fifth of the federal poverty level. SALT urges a 10% increase in benefits for TANF recipients next year and the following two years, to be funded primarily from a federal block grant, and the indexing of future benefits to go into effect each time state employee’s wages are raised.

Transitional Assistance for Former Drug Offenders. SALT urges an end to the lifetime ban on TANF benefits for otherwise eligible individuals who have been convicted of drug-related felonies. In its 2005 session, the General Assembly enacted legislation to lift the lifetime ban that had prevented these ex-offenders (unlike persons convicted of any other crimes) from ever receiving food stamps, even after they had paid their debt to society. However, these individuals are still prevented from ever receiving TANF benefits. SALT believes it is critical to lift this lifetime ban as well, since it has the effect of punishing the ex-offender’s family and hindering the person’s successful re-entry into society upon release.
Taken together, these initiatives provide a real solution for low-income Virginians, both those who need temporary assistance while moving to work and those who have jobs but whose wages are insufficient to pay for housing. In fact, people with jobs make up the majority in homeless shelters across the State. As a result, shelter stays are longer, and more and more people are being turned away from shelters that are filled with Virginia’s working poor.

SALT advocates urge your full support of our SALT legislative proposals by including them in the 2010 budget. For more information contact SALT Coordinator John Horejsi at or visit the SALT web site at
1421 Wiehle Avenue, Reston, VA
Directions to St. Thomas ά Becket Catholic Church
From PWC: North on Rt. 28 to the exit for Dulles airport/Toll Road (267). Take the Toll Road to the Wiehle Ave exit and then follow the directions below.
Alternate: Take 66 to the Fairfax County Parkway and go north. There is a Herndon/Reston exit. The sign says Baron Cameron. Bear to the right and turn rt on Baron Cameron. Wiehle Ave is about a mile away. There is a stop light. Turn right and then a quick left into the parking lot.
From Arlington: Take Route 66 west to Toll Road (Rt 267). Merge onto Rt. 267. Continue on 267 to the Wiehle Avenue exit (exit 13). At stoplight on Wiehle Avenue turn right. Continue on Wiehle Avenue for approximately 1.8 miles. The church is on the right hand side, just after the Northern Virginia Hebrew Congregation. The address is 1421 Wiehle Avenue.

From Tyson’s Corner area: Take Route 7 west to Baron Cameron (Rt 606). Turn left on Baron Cameron. Continue on Baron Cameron. At the third stoplight, Wiehle Avenue, turn left. The church is on your immediate left. The address is 1421 Wiehle Avenue.

From 495 going toward Rockville/Silver Spring: Take the Route 267 exit (left exit). Continue on 267 until Wiehle Avenue( exit 13). At the stoplight on Wiehle Avenue turn right. Continue on Wiehle Avenue form approximately 1.8 miles. The church is on the right hand side, just after the Northern Virginia Hebrew Congregation. The address is 1421 Wiehle Avenue.

SALT is a network of advocates who are positively influencing public social policies and legislation, especially at local and state levels. SALT’s active membership totals more than one thousand persons of faith.