Mill Mountain Star from Behind

This is a look at the workings that light the star at night.
This is the backlit star in the morning sun.

Hiked around Mill Mountain today and wound up at the star, looking for a different way to photograph it. There isn’t one, but here’s one that’s not done very often: from behind (with a few from the front).

This is the view from in front of the star.
This may be my favorite of the lot with the mini-mushroom cloud going off at the top of the star.
Here’s the shot you usually see of Roanoke.



Nearing the End for America?

Ruth Bader Ginsburg: Can we survive her loss?

My Friday began with a very real exercise in hope for the future when I voted early on the first day I could in Virginia. I went to bed many hours later a basket of despair because our thread-thin wall of defense against authoritarian rule in Washington had died.

Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s sudden–though not completely unexpected–death threw many of us into a temporary depression, based on what we expect to happen to our country in the next few weeks. With a 6-3 majority of far right-wing extremists (five of the six white supremacists, including the only black member), Donald Trump and Attorney General William Barr should be able to do just about anything they want. And what they want is to own you.

So far, we have seen one Republican Senator–Lisa Murkowski–break from the certain confirmation of yet another Trump-appointed Supreme Court judge and I expect one or two more, but not enough to break Mitch McConnell’s grip on the jugular of our country. McConnell will ram through another extremist judge to the delight of about 35 percent of the electorate and permanent damage will result.

You can immediately write off a woman’s right to choose, voting rights, equal rights for minorities and women, Social Security and Medicare, the Postal Service, union protections and a litany of other democratic values that Trump’s cadre of authoritarian monarchists insist are not good for us.

We will be further isolated on a world stage where we are virtually alone now. COVID-19 will kill millions of us without so much as an “I object!” from Washington. Our very sick country could easily go into cardiac arrest.

Even if Joe Biden wins the presidency and Democrats win the Senate, which Barr/Trump will do everything in their intensified power to thwart, we will still have a Supreme Court–not to mention a majority of District Court judges–in the hands of the oligarchs, religious fanatics, racial extremists and isolationists.

Between now and Jan. 1, we can easily lose America. We are sitting on the precipice now and Trump/McConnell/Barr are pushing.


MMT Cancels Remainder of 2020 Season

MMT’s Ginger Poole

As expected, given the current state of the COVID-19 virus, Mill Mountain Theatre in Roanoke has canceled the remainder of its 2020 season.

Ginger Poole, producing artistic director of the region’s most significant professional live theater said, “This decision was not easy for us, but it was made out of genuine care for the wellness of our patrons, staff, artists, and students. A few months ago, we were optimistic that fall and winter were far enough away to safely proceed with our late 2020 programming. However, as Broadway announced that its stages would remain dark through the end of the year, we thoughtfully considered if and how we could safely continue.

“Our decision to cancel, along with every other decision we have made since March, has been informed by guidelines from the Commonwealth of Virginia, CDC, and from theater industry unions.”

The most significant theatrical casualty of the cancellation will be dropping the Christmas feature “Holiday Inn.”

Said Poole: “The COVID pandemic has impacted all of us, and we understand the gravity of the situation for our patrons, neighboring small businesses, students, staff, and everyone else who feels at home at Mill Mountain Theatre. We are offering options to ticket holders” the remainder of the season including:

  • Roll the value of your remaining tickets or subscription to our 2021 season for future shows. Call the box office for more information.
  • Donate the value of your tickets to the theatre by calling James Royalty at 540-342-5740.
  • Request a refund for the canceled performance by calling the box office.

For the remainder of 2020, MMT will still be busy offering a free digital production of “Polkadots: The Cool Kids Musical”; conducting fall classes using a mix of virtual and safely controlled in-person formats; partnering with the Science Museum of Western Virginia and its new pod learning program, The Lab, to expand its offerings to local students with theater programs; offering a free Virtual Homecoming Concert on December 5; and continuing the  Meet Me at Mill Mountain Podcast.



Voting Early: Easy, Quick, Familiar, Safe

A lot of people are voting early, but there is plenty of space between them and they’re wearing masks.

Along with a delightfully sizeable crowd and no MAGA hats, I drove down to Kimball Avenue in Roanoke today at about 11 a.m. and voted in the national, state and local elections.

It was easy and fast, 10 minutes or so. There were masks and social distancing in effect and strictly enforced. I felt safe. The Registrar has set up the office so that it is as safe as it can be and I appreciate that because I’m old and have diabetes, neither good for COVID.

The voting itself was a replica of voting on election day. I marked a ballot and scanned it into an electronic system so that we have both electronic and paper ballots for backup.

How did I vote: Oh, hell, you know that: Biden/Harris, Warner, Lea, White-Boyd and “yes” on both initiatives (gerrymandering and giving disabled veterans a tax break). I did not vote fully for Roanoke City Council because there was only one qualified candidate (Trish White-Boyd) running. The others leave a lot to be desired. Today, Roanoke City Council meets to select a new member to serve out the remaining term of Djuna Osborne, an excellent councilwoman who has decided that her family needs her at home during COVID, a decision that is easy to support.



An Alternative Trip to Vinton

There were good veggies and safety at the Vinton Farmer’s Market.
Susan buying some veggies from the Hispanic farmer.

A walk on the Tinker Creek Greenway in Vinton this morning (after escaping Roanoke City Market’s sparse use of face masks, even among the farmers) was fruitful. There was a lot going on with the foliage and it was quite pretty, especially with the rain falling lightly and almost constantly.

My pal Susan and I had met at the Market so I could score

Tinker Creek offered this interesting view: a piece of sheet hanging from a tree and creating an interesting reflection.

some apples (they’re $1.29 a pound, compared to $2.69 a pound at Ikenberry Orchard in Botetourt County … and they’re just as good, if not better). I make butternut squash soup this time of the year and that requires tart, fresh apples. But City Market felt dangerous, like a Trump rally, so we left.

In Vinton, we went to the farmer’s market, which was lightly attended, but the farmer wore his mask and we felt much more protected, so we spent a good bit of money that Roanoke City Market could have had.

Here’s some of what we found in Vinton.

Trash in the trees reflected in Tinker Creek.
These little flowers look like Jack in the pulpit, but I’m not sure if they are.
A fishing float in the tree looks like a flower.
I’m not sure this is a daisy, but it’s close enough.
I have no idea–none at all–what this is. Looks like a bunch of baking potatoes.
Morning glory is every bit of that.

A Rescue on the Mountain (Sort Of)

Here’s that special view of the Roanoke Valley from the mountain.

My good friend Susan hiked up Mill Mountain yesterday afternoon where she struck up a conversation with a photographer. One thing led to another and before she knew it, the sun was going down and she was pretty much stuck. So she called me.

When I got to the top of the mountain, I noticed the star was red/white/blue, which is rare. It was honoring the 19th anniversary of the terrorist attacks on the U.S. and I felt compelled to get some photos. Here are what Susan and I shot.

Another view from the top.
There were a lot of people, but few masks, on the mountain.
This is Susan’s panoramic shot of me on the left and the city.
Susan with her hiking poles.
Me, my mask and my star.

Wonder Why Vets Are Dumping Trump?

I swiped the following off something called “Old Trav” on Facebook and it looks pretty dang legit to me. It doesn’t include the latest incident of Trump calling wounded and killed soldiers “losers.”

Why are troops turning away from Trump?
Maybe because …
• ⁠In May 2020, the White House ended National Guard deployments one day before they could claim benefits
• ⁠The Trump admin seized 5 million masks intended for VA hospitals. Kushner distributes these masks to private entities for a fee, who then sells the masks to the government
• ⁠Trump fired the captain of the USS Theodore Roosevelt after he warned superiors that COVID19 was spreading among his crew. The virus subsequently spread amongst the crew.
• ⁠After Iran’s retaliatory strike, 109 US troops suffered brain injuries. Trump dismissed these as “headaches”
• ⁠On July 20, 2017, in room 2E924 of the Pentagon, Trump told a room full of Generals, “You’re a bunch of dopes and babies”
• ⁠Pardoned multiple war criminals, which stomped on long standing military values, discipline, and command. Trump has no military experience (May and November, 2019)
• ⁠Trump mocked Lt. Col. Vindman for his rank and uniform. He threatened said purple heart officer, resulting in the Army providing him protection
• ⁠Trump’s Chief of Staff worked—in secret—to deny comprehensive health coverage to Vietnam Vets who suffered from Agent Orange.
• ⁠There is a facility in Tijuana for US veterans that Trump deported. Wounded war vet, Sen Duckworth (D) marked Veterans Day 2019 by visiting this facility
• ⁠Russia took control of the main U.S. military facility in Syria abandoned on Trump’s orders. Russia now owns the airstrip we built
• ⁠On Oct 7, 2019, Trump abruptly withdrew support from America’s allies in Syria after a phone call with Turkey’s president (Erdogan). Turkey subsequently bombed US Special Forces.
• ⁠Trump sent thousands of American troops to defend the oil assets of the country that perpetrated 9/11
• ⁠In Sept 2019, he made an Air Force cargo crew, flying from the U.S. to Kuwait stop in Scotland (where there’s no U.S. base) to refuel at a commercial airport (where it costs more), so they could stay overnight at a Trump property (which isn’t close to the airport). Trump’s golf courses are losing money, so he’s forcing the military to pay for 5-star nights there.
• ⁠In Sept, 2019, Pentagon pulled funds for military schools, military housing funds, and daycare to pay for Trump’s border wall
• ⁠In Aug, 2019, emails revealed that three of Trump’s Mar-a-Lago pals, who are now running Veterans Affairs, are rampant with meddling. “They had no experience in veterans affairs (none of them even served in the military) nor underwent any kind of approval process to serve as de facto managers. Yet, with Trump’s approval, they directed actions and criticized operations without any oversight. They wasted valuable staff time in hundreds of pages of communications and meetings, emails show. Emails reveal disdainful attitudes within the department to the trio’s meddling.”
• ⁠Veterans graves will be “dug up” for the border wall, after Trump instructed aides to seize private property. Trump told officials he would pardon them if they break the law by illegally seizing property
• ⁠Children of deployed US troops are no longer guaranteed citizenship. This includes US troops posted abroad for years at a time (August 28, 2019)
• ⁠On Aug 2, 2019, Trump requisitioned military retirement funds towards border wall
• ⁠On July 31, 2019, Trump ordered the Navy rescind medals to prosecutors who were prosecuted war criminals
• ⁠Trump denied a U.S. Marine of 6 years entry into the United States for his citizenship interview (Reported July 17, 2019)
• ⁠Trump made the U.S. Navy Blue Angels violate ethics rules by having them fly at his July 4th political campaign event (July 4, 2019)
• ⁠Trump demanded US military chiefs stand next to him at 4th of July parade (reported July 2, 2019)
• ⁠In June, 2019, Trump sent troops to the border to paint the fence for a better “aesthetic appearance”
• ⁠Trump used his D-Day interview at a cemetery commemorating fallen US soldiers to attack a Vietnam veteran (June 6, 2019)
• ⁠Trump started his D-Day commemoration speech by attacking a private citizen (Bette Midler, of all people) (reported on June 4th, 2019)
• ⁠Trump made his 2nd wife, Marla Maples, sign a prenup that would have cut off all child support if Tiffany joined the military (reported June 4th, 2019)
• ⁠On May 27, 2019, Trump turned away US military from his Memorial Day speech because they were from the destroyer USS John S. McCain
• ⁠Trump ordered the USS John McCain out of sight during his visit to Japan (May 15, 2019). The ship’s name was subsequently covered. (May 27, 2019)
• ⁠Trump purged 200,000 vets’ healthcare applications (due to known administrative errors within VA’s enrollment system) (reported on May 13, 2019)
• ⁠Trump deported a spouse of fallen Army soldier killed in Afghanistan, leaving their daughter parentless (April 16, 2019)
• ⁠On March 20, 2019, Trump complained that a deceased war hero didn’t thank him for his funeral
• ⁠Between 12/22/2018, and 1/25/2019, Trump refused to sign his party’s funding bill, which shut down the government, forcing the Coast Guard to go without pay, which made service members rely on food pantries. However, his appointees got a $10,000 pay raise
• ⁠He banned service members from serving based on gender identity (1/22/2019)
• ⁠He denied female troops access to birth control to limit sexual activity (on-going. Published Jan 18, 2019)
• ⁠He tried to deport a marine vet who is a U.S.-born citizen (Jan 16, 2019)
• ⁠When a man was caught swindling veterans pensions for high-interest “cash advances,” Trump’s Consumer Financial Protection Bureau fined him $1 (Jan 26, 2019)
• ⁠He called a retired general a ‘dog’ with a ‘big, dumb mouth’ (Jan 1, 2019)
• ⁠He increased privatization of the VA, leading to longer waits and higher taxpayer cost (2018)
• ⁠He finally visited troops 2 years after taking office, but only after 154 vacation days at his properties (Dec 26, 2018)
• ⁠He revealed a covert Seal Team 5 deployment, including names and faces, on Twitter during his visit to Iraq (Dec 26, 2018)
• ⁠Trump lied to deployed troops that he gave them a 10% raise (12/26/2018). He tried giving the military a raise that was lower than the standard living adjustment. Congress told him that idea wasn’t going to work. Then after giving them the raise that Congress made him, he lied about it pretending that it was larger than Obama’s. It wasn’t
• ⁠He fired service members living with HIV just before the 2018 holidays
• ⁠He tried to slash disability and unemployment benefits for Veterans to $0, and eliminate the unemployability extrascheduler rating (Dec 17, 2018)
• ⁠He called troops on Thanksgiving and told them he’s most thankful for himself (Thanksgiving, 2018)
• ⁠He urged Florida to not count deployed military votes (Nov 12, 2018)
• ⁠He canceled an Arlington Cemetery visit on Veterans Day due to light rain (Nov 12, 2018)
• ⁠While in Europe commemorating the end of WWI, he didn’t attend the ceremony at a US cemetery due to the rain — other world leaders went anyway (Nov 10, 2018)
• ⁠He used troops as a political prop by sending them on a phantom mission to the border and made them miss Thanksgiving with their families (Oct-Dec, 2018)
• ⁠He stopped using troops as a political prop immediately after the election. However, the troops remained in muddy camps on the border (Nov 7, 2018)
• ⁠Trump changed the GI Bill through his Forever GI Act, causing the VA to miss veteran benefits, including housing allowances. This caused many vets to run out of food and rent. (reported October 7, 2018)
• ⁠Trump doubled the rejection rate for veterans requesting family deportation protections (July 5, 2018)
• ⁠Trump deported active-duty spouses (11,800 military families face this problem as of April 2018)
• ⁠He forgot a fallen soldier’s name (below) during a call to his pregnant widow, then attacked her the next day (Oct 23-24, 2017)
• ⁠He sent commandos into an ambush due to a lack of intel, and sends contractors to pick them up, resulting in a commando being left behind, tortured, and executed. (Trump approved the mission because Bannon told him Obama didn’t have the guts to do it) (Oct 4, 2017)
• ⁠He blocked a veteran group on Twitter (June 2017)
• ⁠He ordered the discharge of active-duty immigrant troops with good records (2017-present)
• ⁠He deported veterans (2017-present)
• ⁠He said he knows more about ISIS than American generals (Oct 2016)
• ⁠On Oct 3, 2016, Trump said vets get PTSD because they aren’t strong (note: yes, he said it’s ‘because they aren’t strong.’ He didn’t say it’s ‘because they’re weak.’ This distinction is important because of Snopes)
• ⁠Trump accepted a Purple Heart from a fan at one of his rallies and said: “I always wanted to get the Purple Heart. This was much easier.” (Aug 2, 2016)
• ⁠Trump attacks Gold Star families: Myeshia Johnson (gold star widow), Khan family (gold star parents) etc. (2016-present)
• ⁠Trump sent funds raised from a Jan 2016 veterans benefit to the Donald J Trump Foundation instead of veterans charities (the foundation has since been ordered shut because of fraud) (Jan, 2016)
• ⁠Trump said he has “more training militarily than a lot of the guys that go into the military” because he went to a military-style academy (2015 biography)
• ⁠Trump said he doesn’t consider POWs heroes because they were caught. He said he prefers people who were not caught (July 18, 2015)
• ⁠Trump said having unprotected sex was his own personal Vietnam (1998)
• ⁠For a decade, Trump sought to kick veterans off of Fifth Avenue because he found them unsightly nuisances outside of Trump Tower. 1991
• ⁠Trump dodged the draft 5 times by having a doctor diagnose him with bone spurs.
• ⁠No Trump in America has ever served in the military; this spans 5 generations, and every branch of the family tree. In fact, the reason his grandfather immigrated to America was to avoid military service.



To Paint My Deck, I Found a Jewel

Eve-lynn Deegan up on the roof … with a paint brush.

A delightful young woman named Eve-lynn Deegan painted my porch and chimney this morning and I was simply thrilled with her work.

She was quiet, efficient, neat, and she finished the entire project in less than half a day. Eve-lynn sang the entire time with a lovely voice. Reminded me of my mom when she was working at home.

The color differential was an accident. One I like. (Note her socks, one pink, one green.)

Eve, a graduate of Community High School in downtown Roanoke (a school that caters to artistic and musical teens) wants to build her own house out as far as she can in the woods and mountains of Virginia. She’s learning the trade working with my old friend Roni Sutton, who highly recommended her for my job.

We ran into an initial problem–of my making–when I guessed at the color of the deck and bought what I thought was a match at a big box store. As it turns out, I like the contrast, so we stuck with it and Eve-lynn made it work by painting with such accuracy.

Eve-lynn, by the way, is the spelling of the British pronunciation of Evelyn. I like Eve-lynn. She should go far, fast. I sent her home with a bonus and some tomatoes from my garden.

Eve-lynn edging the deck before painting the flooring.


Lindsay and Pampa Find an Adventure

Lindsay found her buddy lying in the trail.

My good buddy Lindsay McKinnon and and I celebrated September today by hiking the Hollins Trail (from Hollins to Carvins Cove near Roanoke, over the Tinker Mountain hump) and they putting our kayaks in the water and paddling into a stiff wind.

It was exhilarating and fun with one of my favorite people, as well as bats, birds, a turtle, Mr. Smiley and various other creatures. A glorious day ’twas.

Masked pals.
Lindsay found Mr. Smiley in a tree.
That’s Lindsay in the background admiring this beauty of a sailboat.


Peeling Pounds on a Hiking Trail

This large, beautiful butterfly was feasting on a thistle flower.
Thistles are my native plant.

I awoke this morning weighing two pounds more than I ought to, so I determined to take that off by early afternoon. Today, that meant a hike up Hay Rock on the Appalachian Trail. Mission accomplished: down two pounds when I got home.

Hay Rock is a climb up Tinker Mountain from Daleville (just outside Roanoke) and it is about a 3.7 mile walk one way and a lot more if you want to continue on the Appalachian Trail.

Apparently, the old trail has come under some disrepair and a new one has been forged–though I didn’t know it on the way up. I fought through a lot of spider webs and high weeds in stretches that should have been beaten trail. I was getting nervous about ticks.

I’ve seen mushrooms in a lot of places, but halfway up the trunk of a tree?

About 3/4 of the way up to the view of the Roanoke Valley, I got light-headed and because I was by myself, I opted for the better part of valor and turned around without reaching the top. Still, I got a brisk two hours of hiking and dropped the pounds.

And, of course, I saw–and photographed–some pretty nature. Here is what it looked like.

More winged creatures feeding.
I thought I might smoke one of these.
Black-eyed Susans: cool, bright flowers.
Sometimes there is color even when there isn’t.
Off to Hay Rock.
Appalachian Power likes this view of our mountains. I don’t.
I forgot my hiking pole, but it was still on my car when I returned.
Railroad dude in his blue cap.
Railroad dude showing his belly that needs to go away.
An interesting walkway on a low–flood-prone–part of the trail.