People who say it cannot be done should not interrupt those who are doing it. Welcome to From On High.

Sunday, May 21, 2006

I'm Sure It Will Be A Bestseller

For those of you who are searching for the secret to gaining and losing 2,000 pounds over your lifetime, the Queen of Daytime Television (and the largest stockholder, allegedly, in Ex-Lax) has the answers for you in her new ... fitness book?:
By Tim Arango, The New York Post

May 21, 2006 -- OPRAH Winfrey has inked a deal to publish a fitness book with her personal trainer Bob Greene in what industry insiders say is the richest nonfiction book deal in history, sources told On The Money. (
Oprah is notorious for shedding tonnage and then gaining it all back. Rumor has it her publisher, Simon & Shuster, is rushing the book into print before she gets pudgy again. I don't blame them.

What I'm wondering, though, is how she can possibly consider herself a fitness expert simply on the basis that she's managed to get herself down to within 30 pounds of her target weight.

And shouldn't her team of fitness coaches be writing the book? Just asking.

Like They Needed More Headaches

I was stuck in the seemingly never-ending traffic jam at the Wilson Bridge that crosses the Potomac up in Alexandria two weeks ago. A good hour of my life was wasted sucking the exhaust fumes of the trucks in front of me as I was trying to make my way into eastern Maryland - at 2.5 miles per hour.

Unless conditions have improved, this had to only make the congestion even worse and more intolerable - if only briefly:
First of two new Wilson Bridge spans dedicated
By Derrill Holly, Associated Press Writer

May 18, 2006 ALEXANDRIA, Va. -- The governors of Maryland and Virginia met Thursday in the middle of the new Woodrow Wilson Bridge as officials dedicated the first of two spans intended to ease one of the worst bottlenecks on the East Coast.

Maryland Gov. Robert Ehrlich and Virginia Gov. Timothy M. Kaine were joined by District of Columbia Mayor Anthony Williams and Transportation Secretary Norman Mineta for an elaborate ceremony at the span crossing the Potomac River. (
Notice the fine print. This get-together was to celebrate one of two spans of the bridge being opened. This crowd is going to block traffic again someday soon to high-five one another when that second span is completed.

Good grief.

Why these guys couldn't have held their self-congratulatory celebration at the local tavern is beyond me. But since the sun only rises and sets with their permission, it is understandable.

Unforgiveable. But understandable.

I'm Not The Lone Ranger

My eyes glaze over these days when I read a quote from some politician here in the commonwealth promoting another bike path in Southwest Virginia as the trail that tourists are going to flock towards that is going to result ultimately - just you wait and see - in prosperity for this blighted region. The image is conjured of Congresspersons Boucher and Goode walking the abandoned train track over near Martinsville not long ago, extolling its virtues as being the centerpiece of a soon-to-be burgeoning Patrick County/Henry County tourist industry.

A train track.

Well, if I feel on occasion that I'm the only person in all of Southwest Virginia (other than Carl) to ask our august leadership for some kind of proof that the plan is, has been, or ever will be working, I have now dispensed with that feeling. From an editorial in the Bristol Herald-Courier:

Tourism group must show results

As a marketing organization, the Bristol Convention and Visitors Bureau promotes the region to out-of-towners.

It needs to apply some of that marketing prowess to self-promotion. This is especially true since the organization is asking for a sizable budget increase from the two Bristol city governments. City leaders and, by extension city taxpayers, need to know their investment will bring tangible returns.

The tourism organization has made some effort to state its case, calling city leaders to a summit at the Bristol Public Library on May 1. During that session, the organization's leaders made their pitch for $195,000 from each city and explained their goals for the additional funds.

To move up the priority list, the Convention and Visitors Bureau needs to show some results. The organization might be doing a great job, but local residents and leaders won't know that unless they are told.

Tell us how many tour buses stopped in Bristol (that wouldn't have come otherwise) because of the bureau's marketing efforts. Tell us how many youth-league sports tournaments were recruited here by the bureau. Tell us how many people came to the Rhythm & Roots festival or attended a race at Bristol Motor Speedway who would not have come without the organization's input.

The ... question for the cities is one of results. Show us what our money buys. (

An excellent question it is. Instead of vague platitudes and encouraging words of what's going to happen ... someday, we want stats. We now have hiking trails and bike paths crisscrossing all of Southwest Virginia. We have parks and museums and nature centers and Crooked Roads. We even by God, have a horseback riding path - thank you, Congressman Boucher - over in Scott County.

What we don't have is any evidence of tourists. It's time these guys were required to justify their existence.

This Could Have Been Really Bad

I was an eyewitness to this:
Two interstate accidents get fire department involved
Justin Harmon, The Wytheville Enterprise

In [one] accident, the cab of a tractor and trailer hauling carpet padding was completely engulfed on Wednesday evening. The tractor and trailer had pulled off onto the median near [I-77] mile marker 46, and according to David Morris with the Wytheville Fire Department, the cab of the vehicle was completely involved when they arrived.

Morris says the driver told State Police that the turbo in the engine blew up causing the fire. Morris says that the driver was unharmed as was the cargo.

The call was received at 6:37 p.m. and both the Wytheville Fire Department and the Bland County Fire Department responded with two trucks each.

Morris says the driver didn't appear to receive treatment for any injuries. (
Paula and I and the twins were northbound on I-77 when a Wythe County emergency vehicle came blasting past us with lights flashing. I looked up ahead and could see smoke billowing up over the treetops about two miles north of us. I looked at Paula and said, "I'd better step on it or they're going to close the interstate." I knew it had to be a truck fire. Experience with the steep mountain grade in the area teaches that lesson.

I wasn't able to go half a mile before all traffic came to a grinding halt. The firetrucks arrived. The fire was extinguished. We were eventually able to move on.

The troubling aspect to this was in the fact that the truck that caught fire was dangerously close to the Big Walker Montain Tunnel. Had it exploded while inside, we'd still be sitting in traffic lo these many days later.

Anyway, we survived. The driver survived. And the carpeting on board, when sold, will have a delightful smell to go along with that low low discount price.

It's Time To Conciliate

Okay. This budget standoff has gone on long enough:
Virginia budget standoff
GOP struggle tests an old friendship Chichester, Howell are on opposite sides of marathon tax duel
By Jeff E. Schapiro and Pamela Stallsmith, Richmond Times-Dispatch Staff Writers

On one side stands state Sen. John H. Chichester, 68, now of Northumberland County. The occasionally high-handed, retired insurance salesman, whose Walter Mitty-like passions included airplanes and motorcycles, is chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, president pro tempore and titular head of the GOP moderates who steer the 40-member chamber.

He is chief advocate of the $748 million tax rise for transportation, the second giant increase advanced by Chichester in three years.

On the other is House Speaker William J. Howell of Stafford, 63, whose job is widely considered the second-most powerful in state government, behind only the governor. A sometimes-prickly trusts-and-estates lawyer who pads about in unpolished, squishy-soled shoes, Howell leads the conservative-dominated House Republicans Caucus, which is resisting new taxes and wants to use a chunk of the state's $1.4 billion surplus for highways and transit. (

There is only one way to resolve this. Our governor and his chief henchman, the Senate Finance Committee chairman (someone long ago described him as a Republican), need to give in to the demand of the people of Virginia. Forthwith. Your attempts at scaring us failed. Your reasons for demanding a massive tax increase proved to be hollow and unjustifiable.

You've only made yourselves look like wienies. And like politicians - in the less-than-kind meaning of the term.

So, give it up. You have all the revenue you're going to get. Live with it.

Or resign in disgrace and let others manage the ship of state.

Tourists Come To Tazewell County

Oh, never mind. They were paid tourists:
State Tourism Corporation officials tour Tazewell County
Jim Talbert, Richlands News-Press

RICHLANDS – While a full report will come later, Virginia Tourism Corporation officials were impressed with their three-day visit to Tazewell County this week.

Both Steve Gaylean, VTC’s director of tourism development and Corporation marketing director Barbara Ramos spoke highly of the county’s beauty and hospitality during the final leg of their county-wide tour Friday.

The 20-member VTC group – including marketing, graphics, sales, finance, public relations and research representatives - spent two and a half days touring the county from Pocahontas to Burkes Garden to Tazewell and to Richlands. (
A 20-member group to evaluate Tazewell's exploding tourist industry. That's about 15 more than will actually visit Pocahontas as tourists in the next six months.

I wish state officials would quit playing these games.

Pocahontas is crumbling. Tazewell is shrinking. Burkes Garden - the treasure that it is - is isolated farmland. What all these communities could use a heavy dose of are employers. And lots of 'em.

What they don't need is a group of "marketing, graphics, sales, finance, public relations and research representatives" blowing in with their snakeoil and happy thoughts. And slogans; watch for a push to be launched for Tazewell to come up with a catchy slogan - like "Come visit Tazewell where 40% of the people are receiving a monthly government check." Or "You ain't seen nothing til you've been to Pocahontas ... or Hiroshima."

Jobs, folks. It has to be about jobs. Now and always.

On Garbage Collectors and Pipe Beatings

Can I say something about the fellas who come and pick up my garbage? If the commonwealth of Virginia functioned as well, we'd have no need to shut down the government in a few weeks.

Come rain or shine, snowstorm or icestorm, even on holidays, the garbage trucks are always there, always on time. Always efficiently executing their assigned duties of picking up the bundles of refuse we leave down below at the end of the driveway. In an isolated part of very rural Bland County. On a long, winding road that has all of three homes.

These guys deserve praise.

I was reminded of this fact when I read this:
Garbage workers fed up with abuse
Justin Harmon, The Wytheville Enterprise

Sometimes when dealing with the public, you have to roll with the punches, grin and bear it, just take it.

But when a man wielding a pipe comes at you, something has got to change.

George Hamilton, the Wythe branch manager of Lusk Disposal, said that's the case for the workers who man the waste-collection stations that dot the county.

Hamilton said problems have always been there, but it's gotten worse of late.

The problems Hamilton speaks of range from spitting and cussing to speeding in and out of the tiny centers and threats of bodily harm. (
Now I've got a working list of people I'd like to beat with a pipe. And Paula will tell you about the individual I almost spit and cursed at the other night - but we'll not go into that.

On that list you'll not find my garbage men. They are heroes in my eyes.

As for all that potential violence that appears to be about to erupt at the collection centers, you folks over in Wythe County need to chill. Save your wrath for more serious issues - like the cop who chalks the tires in downtown Wytheville to make sure you haven't parked there too long (a matter I'll reserve for another day).

Go Back To Your Cigar Games, Willie

The man who will go down in history for having made inner-city midnight basketball leagues, gun trigger locks, and the "is" in "is" pressing national issues while Osama bin Ladin was launching attack after terror attack on American embassies, ships, and installations around the world now says we should focus our attention on more foolishness:

New York Post Wire Services

May 21, 2006 -- AUSTIN, Texas - Former President Bill Clinton said yesterday that global warming poses a greater threat to the future than terrorism and that the United States and other countries must "get off our butts" and do something about it.

Clinton, speaking to the graduating class at the University of Texas Lyndon B. Johnson School of Public Affairs, said the United States must pursue policies that make "more partners and fewer enemies" and use "institutionalized cooperation" before there is catastrophic damage from global warming. (
This is the statesman, you may recall, who signed Crazy Al's Kyoto Protocol global warming treaty but decided the planet wasn't really warming enough to send the treaty to the Senate for ratification. Besides, Monica at the time was looking mighty fine sprawled across the ...

Anyway, we have the delightful opportunity one more time to some classic hypocrisy from the slickster. God, how I miss him.

Racist Wins In New Orleans

Ray Nagin adopted former Detroit Mayor Coleman Young's re-election tactics in New Orleans. Young, you may recall, was able to win time after time by invoking "whitey" to great effect. Nagin did the same - and won re-election yesterday:
Nagin Wins Re-Election as Big Easy Mayor
By Michelle Roberts, Associated Press Writer

NEW ORLEANS (AP) -- Voters re-elected Mayor Ray Nagin, the colorful leader whose blunt style endeared him to some but outraged others after Hurricane Katrina, giving him four more years to oversee one of the largest rebuilding projects in U.S. history. (
You may recall, Nagin referred to his city as "a chocolate New Orleans" and "You can't have New Orleans no other way." Race quickly became the overriding issue in the mayoral runoff - surpassing that of crime, poverty, floods, levies, trash, disease, ... evacuation plans.

So, New Orleans retains its black mayor. And its crushing poverty. And the levies. And a pre-Katrina violent death toll that rivals that of Baghdad.

But chocolate won and ... the Crescent City is sure to lose. And it will be all whitey's fault.

This Is So Wrong

Like every other red-blooded American, I was a fan of major league baseball in my youth. I collected all the Yankees playing cards (for fun, not for profit) and could name the players who owned every postion on the field for several teams - and could name those who rode the bench for a few. I - like most young males - once looked up to baseball players as heroes.

Not any more:

By Janie McCauley, The New York Post

May 21, 2006 -- OAKLAND - The wait is over for Barry Bonds. He and The Babe are even at 714.

Bonds tied Babe Ruth for second place on the career home-run list yesterday, ending a nine-game homerless stretch with a shot into the first deck of the elevated stands in right-center during the Giants' 4-2, 10-inning victory over the Athletics.

Booed when he was introduced before the game, the Giant star received a long standing ovation after his home run, and the game was delayed about 90 seconds.

Bonds, dogged by allegations of steroid use and repeated taunts on the road, was immediately greeted by his teammates after circling the bases. (
This is so sad in so many ways.

Okay, Maybe It's Not The Missing Link

I'm beginning to question the competence of scientists:
Debate on Little Human Fossil Enters Major Scientific Forum
By John Noble Wilford, The New York Times

Not all scientists agree that the 18,000-year-old "little people" fossils found on the Indonesian island of Flores should be designated an extinct human-related species. Some expressed their opposition in news interviews and informal symposiums ...

In today's issue of the journal Science, researchers led by Robert D. Martin of the Field Museum in Chicago present evidence they say supports their main argument, that the skull in question is not that of a newfound extinct species, but of a modern Homo sapiens afflicted with microcephaly, a genetic disorder characterized by a smaller than normal brain and head size.

The researchers said the evidence used in previous studies to rule out microcephaly was flawed. (
File this in the Minor Little Mistake category.

And Then There's The Evolution Thing

They're still having trouble with the ape-to-human evolution timeline. So now there's a new theory of evolution:
Two Splits Between Human and Chimp Lines Suggested
By Nicholas Wade, The New York Times

The split between the human and chimpanzee lineages, a pivotal event in human evolution, may have occurred millions of years later than fossil bones suggest, and the break may not have been as clean as humans might like.

A new comparison of the human and chimp genomes suggests that after the two lineages separated, they may have begun interbreeding.

The analysis, by David Reich, Nick Patterson and colleagues at the Broad Institute in Cambridge, Mass., sets up a serious conflict between the date of the split as indicated by fossil skulls, about 7 million years ago, and the much younger date implied by genetic analysis, as late as 5.4 million years ago. (

File this in the We're Just Guessing category.