Thursday, October 31, 2013

Halloween 2013 ... the tradition continues

Happy Halloween ... treats for all!

Halloween 2013 ... the tradition continues. As dark settles over the central Shenandoah Valley and in my corner of Augusta County, the jack-o-lantern is lighted, candy is in the basket, and we're waiting for the first little goblins to stop by. There's a new family with five little ones in the neighborhood ... will they trick-or-treat?

Our busiest year was a dozen children ... last year we only had three. Previous trick-or-treaters have grown up, married, and have children of their own. The SWAC Children are grown up and gone, too ... this is our second year handing out treats without SWAC Daughter.

This year we have an assortment of miniature Hershey candy: Snickers, Reese Peanut Butter Cups, Malted Milk Balls, Peanut Butter Snickers ... and, of course, M&Ms! LOL.

Now to wait for the first ones to arrive....

6:45: Our first customers ... two Ninjas at the door, the youngest children of neighbors up the street, ages 6 and 13. Mom was standing in the yard so we chatted while the Ninjas swung swords in the dark. We sent candy with her for the older daughter at home handing out candy to trick-or-treaters ... treats for all!

7:15: One little fella all by himself, adorable, about 4 years old, dressed as a deer. "Twick-or-Tweet," he said shyly and held out his pumpkin. What a cutie! I dropped the goodies inside and we said hello to his mom and wished them Happy Halloween. Treats for all!

8:40: We closed the door, turned out the porch light, and put away the candy. Halloween 2013 comes to an end.

High wind advisory for Shenandoah Valley

Holy cow, it's blustery in my corner of Augusta County this afternoon! Leaves are flying horizontally through the air and the rocking chairs are seesawing on the porch. The 70-degree winds remind me of Winnie the Pooh, Piglet, and "Windsday." LOL.

Harrisonburg's WHSV TV-3 has put out a high wind advisory for the area:
"A Wind Advisory has been issued for the entire viewing area from midnight Thursday through 8 am Friday morning. Winds are expected to be 15-30 mph with gusts up to 50 mph. Impacts will be more pronounced at elevations above 1500 feet."
With these high winds, the trick-or-treaters will almost literally be blown onto the porch since we're expecting little visitors to start showing up shortly before dark. There's going to be a lot of bare trees by Saturday at the rate leaves are scurrying across the yard.

Be safe. Happy Windsday!

Eric Cantor rolls out 2014 U.S. House calendar

Majority Leader Eric Cantor announced today that the 2014 calendar for the U.S. House of Representatives is available. Over the past three years, the legislative schedule has created certainty, and increased efficiency and productivity in the committee process.

Available through Google and Outlook calendars, in printable versions, and online, the calendar is available at

Leader Cantor noted:
This calendar helps ensure that elected officials never lose touch with their constituents while completing their work in Washington. It also allows for time back in the district for meetings with working families, seniors, veterans, and other local communities. This is why we will continue to provide Members with one full constituent work week in their districts each month.

2013: Halloween tradition continues ... Governor McDonnell greets trick-or-treaters (photos)

Governor Bob McDonnell and a bear on Halloween in the governor's office. Absolutely adorable pictures from Halloween 2013.

Earlier today, the Patrick Henry Building was visited by a bear, Darth Vader, a fairy, Spiderman, and others as children from the nearby Virginia Department of Transportation Daycare center went trick-or-treating at Governor Bob McDonnell’s office.

Photos by Michaele White
Governor's Photographer

'USA Today' is #1 in national circulation

Sometimes referred to as the nation's newspaper, USA Today has been ranked #1 in national circulation:
The agency that tallies newspaper circulation figures used by advertisers has changed its methodology to account for the increasingly diverse array of digital distribution channels, making USA TODAY once again the national leader in total circulation.
Rounding out the top five:

The Wall Street Journal's five-day average circulation fell to 2.27 million from 2.29 million a year ago. The paper, which surpassed USA TODAY as the nation's top newspaper in circulation in 2009, prints a general weekend edition but no Sunday paper.

The New York Times' five-day average circulation rose to 1.89 million from 1.61 million a year ago. Its Sunday edition had 2.39 million readers, up from 2.1 million a year ago.

The Los Angeles Times' five-day average circulation climbed to 671,797 from 641,370 a year ago. The Sunday edition reported 963,751 in circulation, up from 962,194.

New York Daily News' five-day average circulation fell to 467,110 from 535,875 a year ago. Its Sunday edition fell to 587,063 from 655,647.

"It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown" is back tonight for the 47th year

It's Halloween! Do you know where you'll be at 8:00 tonight? I'll be parked right in front of the television watching "It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown," that classic Peanuts Gang treat that first aired on October 27, 1966. This year viewers will enjoy it on the holiday itself.

Follow along as Charlie Brown, Snoopy, Linus van Pelt, Lucy van Pelt, Sally Brown, Schroeder, Pig-Pen, Patty, Violet Gray, Frieda, and Shermy spend Halloween -- some in the traditional door-to-door search for treats -- and others waiting for the Great Pumpkin.

"Comic Riffs" reporter Michael Cavna at the Washington Post has "7 Things You Don't Know About 'Peanuts' Special" with some interesting tidbits of info.

In today's fast-paced, ever-changing world, it's somehow comforting that the Peanuts gang is still alive and well and enjoying Halloween 47 years after the original showing. Creator Charles Schulz would be proud.

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Governor McDonnell recognized by tech council for extraordinary leadership

Governor Bob McDonnell has excelled the past four years leading Virginia in the right direction, and Wednesday night he was recognized for that accomplishment. McLean-based Northern Virginia Technology Council presented their Chairman's Award to the Governor in recognition of "his extraordinary leadership of the Commonwealth and his successful efforts in ensuring Virginia remains a top state for business."

For a man who campaigned as "Bob's For Jobs," it is a recognition that he kept that campaign promise, and more. He joins a Who's Who of leaders including former Senator George Allen, former Congressman Tom Davis, former Senator John Warner, Senator Mark Warner, and Senator Tim Kaine.

Appreciative of the award, McDonnell noted:
“Over the past four years we’ve worked across party lines to bring Virginians together to get positive results for the Commonwealth. In this effort we’ve had no greater partner than the Northern Virginia Technology Council.

"Through the leadership of President Bobbie Kilberg, the group has been a consistent and effective advocate for a number of our policy proposals including our successful efforts to make college more affordable and accessible for Virginia students, help Virginia’s technology community thrive and succeed in an increasingly competitive global economy, and finally put in place the long overdue, long-term transportation funding plan Virginia businesses needed to keep creating good paying jobs for our citizens. Today, unemployment is down and the Commonwealth is headed in the right direction. I thank the members of the NVTC for their hard work in helping make these accomplishments possible, and I greatly appreciate tonight’s award.”
NVTC President and CEO Bobbie Kilberg was complimentary of McDonnell, commenting:
“We are very pleased to present the 2013 NVTC Chairman's Award to Governor Bob McDonnell in recognition of his exceptional service to the Commonwealth. During his four years in office, Governor McDonnell has advocated for policies that promote technology, entrepreneurship and innovation, backed increased funding for education with a focus on producing more graduates with science, technology, engineering and math degrees, and championed much-needed comprehensive transportation funding legislation. His extraordinary leadership and policy initiatives have helped ensure that Virginia remains a top state for business.”
Congratulations to Governor McDonnell for this well-deserved recognition.

October colors at home

The maple tree beside the deck puts on a show every year and 2013 is no exception. While the autumn colors this year have been hit-and-miss, this reliable maple remained a star in our October yard.

Mini pumpkins and gourds from the garden.

Photos by Lynn R. Mitchell
October 30, 2013

Shutterbug: He is my son

SWAC Son and I were on a mission Sunday. With our Nikon cameras in hand, we headed out looking for photo moments along the foot of the Blue Ridge Mountains and up to the edges of Shenandoah National Park. He is like his mom ... he enjoys capturing pictures that showcase his window on the world ... and so we found autumn leaves, mountains, horses, battlefields, cemeteries, and other interesting sights that highlighted that October afternoon in western Virginia. Above he captures Grace United Methodist Church at The Coaling near Port Republic in eastern Rockingham County.

Overlooking the Battle of Port Republic Battlefield.

Blue Ridge Mountains at the edge of western boundary of Shenandoah National Park.

Photos by Lynn R. Mitchell
October 27, 2013

Former president swings through Harrisonburg

It's not every day a former president of the United States drops by the Shenandoah Valley so Bill Clinton's appearance in Harrisonburg Tuesday for a campaign rally caused a stir. Political reporter Bob Stuart covered the event at James Madison University for the News-Virginian.

JMU Marching Band headed to Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade

Virginia's James Madison University Marching Dukes will be one of only two college bands performing in the 2013 Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade held annually in New York City. JMU first participated in the parade in 2001 and again in 2008, and will be sending 485 band members this year.

Band Director Scott Rikkers told WHSV TV-3:
"This will be our third time in the parade. We went for the first time in 2001, second time in 2008, and this will be our third appearance on the 20th of November. There are two college bands in the parade, and we are marching 485. We're probably one of the largest college bands in the country, which we're very proud of, but we're going because we really want to represent James Madison University. What we're just trying to do is create the best, most entertaining performance for the audience, and also again to represent the quality of our program and the school so that's what we focus on, and bottom line, the kids are going to have a great time."
At our house we always watch the parade from the kitchen while preparing Thanksgiving dinner. As a JMU family with our own Duke alumnus son, we will be watching the Marching Dukes. Congratulations, JMU!

U.S. House schedule for Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Majority Leader Eric Cantor will attend the Winston Churchill Bust Dedication at 12:00 Noon. Watch live at

On Wednesday, the House will meet at 10:00 a.m. for morning hour and 12:00 p.m. for legislative business. First and last votes expected: 2:00 - 3:00 p.m.

One Minute Speeches

H.R. 992 - Swaps Regulatory Improvement Act, Rules Committee Print (Closed Rule, One Hour of Debate) (Sponsored by Rep. Randy Hultgren / Financial Services Committee / Agriculture Committee)

Postponed Vote on H.J.Res. 99 - Relating to the disapproval of the President’s exercise of authority to suspend the debt limit, as submitted under section 1002(b) of the Continuing Appropriations Act, 2014 on October 17, 2013 (Privileged Resolution) (Sponsored by Rep. Todd Young / Ways and Means Committee)

Special Order Speeches

Energy and Commerce Committee hearing on “Obamacare Implementation Failures: Answers from HHS” (Wednesday, October 30th, at 9:00 a.m.)

Printable PDF

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Bike the Valley

The Central Shenandoah Planning District Commission's Bike the Valley Program and online resource was recently featured in Spokes Magazine, a regional publication for cyclists in the Mid-Atlantic region.

Written by local cycling activist and founding Bike the Valley committee member Nancy Sorrells, the article details the committee's work to define a concept, develop the distinctive cycling cow logo, and secure a Virginia Tourism grant to fund the construction of the program website. The Bike the Valley website features turn-by-turn directions for scenic to challenging on- and off-road routes in Augusta, Bath, Highland, Rockbridge and Rockingham Counties, as well as a listing of upcoming cycling festivals, tours and competitions.

--from Greater Augusta Regional Chamber of Commerce newsletter

Ag Secretary Matt Lohr heading to Farm Credit of the Virginias

Virginia's Commissioner of Agriculture and Consumer Services Matt Lohr of Rockingham County, who was appointed by Governor Bob McDonnell in 2010, announced today that he would be leaving the administration in December to take a job with Farm Credit of the Virginias.

Lohr, 42, who served in the House of Delegates for the 26th House District from 2005 until his appointment as Ag Secretary, operates a 250-acre farm in the Shenandoah Valley. On Tuesday, he announced the career change on Facebook:
Serving as Virginia’s Commissioner of Agriculture and Consumer Services these past four years has truly been one of the greatest honors of my life. After much prayerful consideration, I announced today that I will be stepping down in December as Governor Bob McDonnell’s administration draws to a close. I am very excited to be joining the good folks at Farm Credit of the Virginias as director of the Farm Credit Knowledge Center. Here I will have the opportunity to build relationships and serve as a resource for all types of farmers. I will also be able to work from Harrisonburg, which will allow me the chance to be at home much more for my two children.

It has been a wonderful opportunity working in state government over the last eight years. I will always be grateful for the experiences I have been given and I look forward to working hard for Virginia agriculture in the private sector!
Best wishes to Secretary Lohr.

George Allen co-chairs bipartisan Manufacturing Competitiveness Initiative

The National Association of Manufacturers (NAM) announced today that former Sens. Blanche Lincoln (D-AR) and George Allen (R-VA) will co-chair the Manufacturing Competitiveness Initiative, an effort aimed at examining and highlighting the competitiveness challenges facing manufacturers.

The National Association of Manufacturers (NAM) is the largest manufacturing association in the United States, representing small and large manufacturers in every industrial sector and in all 50 states. Manufacturing employs nearly 12 million men and women, contributes more than $1.8 trillion to the U.S. economy annually, has the largest economic impact of any major sector and accounts for two-thirds of private-sector research and development. NAM is the powerful voice of the manufacturing community and the leading advocate for a policy agenda that helps manufacturers compete in the global economy and create jobs across the United States. For more information about the Manufacturers or to follow us on Shopfloor, Twitter and Facebook, please visit

Among the first challenges the bipartisan partnership will take on are the impact of unnecessarily burdensome regulations on manufacturers. “Our regulatory system is too often incoherent, unaccountable and in desperate need of reform,” said Allen. “As governor, I witnessed firsthand the impact that regulations can have on a growing economy and small businesses in particular. In Virginia, we took a collaborative approach to protecting public health, ensuring the safety of working men and women and safeguarding the environment without hindering growth. We enacted commonsense policies that eliminated duplicative and complex regulations and embraced smart, innovative ways to achieve shared goals.”

“We must continually strive to keep the United States as the best place in the world to manufacture, innovate and attract investment, but all too often, government policies on regulation, litigation, energy and taxes stand in our way,” said Caterpillar Chairman and CEO and NAM Board Chair Doug Oberhelman. “Senators Allen and Lincoln have a long history of reaching across the aisle to find pro-growth, pro-business solutions, and I look forward to their efforts to help strengthen manufacturing.”

“As senator, I heard from manufacturers and small business owners about the impact of inconsistent and uncertain regulatory policy,” said Lincoln. “We can do better as a nation. To unleash the creative spirit of America’s entrepreneurs, we need a commonsense regulatory system that encourages innovation and investment. An American economy with a simple and streamlined regulatory system would be the envy of the world. I look forward to examining ways in which both parties can work together to address this important issue.”

Lincoln and Allen will work with the NAM and its members to advance a manufacturing agenda that is focused on real priorities and reforms unnecessary impediments to growth.

--Press release from NAM

Sgt. Schultz, er, President Obama: "I see nothing. I know nothing."

President Barack Obama's latest round of denials concerning knowledge about the Affordable Care Act aka Obamacare, on top of his past claims denying knowing anything about controversy after controversy during his administration, brought to mind the infamous Sergeant Schultz from the 1970s TV show, "Hogan's Heroes."  His line was famous at the time, spoken in a clipped accented voice: "I know nothing!" It was good for a laugh ... but the President's denials are not funny.

Back story: NBC News Investigations - "Obama administration knew millions could not keep their health insurance?"

Monday, October 28, 2013

Richmond Times-Dispatch's non-endorsement for Virginia governor 2013 - UPDATED

"This marks, we believe, the first time in modern Virginia that The Times-Dispatch has not endorsed a gubernatorial nominee." -- Richmond Times-Dispatch (October 20, 2013)
In an editorial that laid it on the line, the Richmond Times-Dispatch refused to endorse Democrat, Republican, or Libertarian for Virginia's 2013 gubernatorial race. That news ricocheted around the internet as citizens woke on a Sunday morning, met with raised eyebrows and mild surprise from some while others nodded in solemn agreement.

This has, indeed, been an odd election year in Virginia.

The Times-Dispatch notes many of the issues in question and the final results are the same: they are not comfortable endorsing. Indeed, they note:
In the past, The Times-Dispatch has endorsed candidates with varying degrees of enthusiasm. We find it impossible to endorse any of the 2013 candidates with even minimal zeal.

Elections make voters complicit in the government they receive. If we would not urge a family member to vote this way or that, then we have no business recommending Cuccinelli, McAuliffe or Sarvis to our readers.
Interestingly, the Charlottesville Daily Progress, finding itself in the same boat, endorsed Lieutenant Governor Bill Bolling as a write-in candidate, noting, "Do the write thing. Put Bill Bolling’s name on your ballot on Nov. 5. Virginia needs him."

UPDATE October 28, 2013: Another newspaper refused to endorse in the 2013 gubernatorial election. On Sunday, the Lynchburg News & Advance wrote, "Put simply, not one of the three candidates for governor of Virginia deserves the office or has made a strong case that he is the best candidate. Not one of them, neither Democrat Terry McAuliffe, Republican Ken Cuccinelli nor Libertarian Robert Sarvis." And more.

UPDATE October 31, 2013: A third major Virginia newspaper has refused to endorse in the 2013 gubernatorial election. Is this unprecedented? The Roanoke Times editorial on Thursday noted, "... an endorsement carries with it the credibility of this institution. When a candidate who receives our support visits ridicule or even shame on the commonwealth, we share in that disgrace."

Then in a stunning reminder of the Charlottesville Daily Progress' endorsement of Lieutenant Governor Bill Bolling as a write-in candidate, the Roanoke Times added, "Those who cannot in good conscience vote for the official candidates should consider writing in Lt. Gov. Bill Bolling."

With five days left until election day, 2013 continues to be one of the oddest in my memory....

Leaf peeping on the back roads of Rockingham County

Photos by Lynn R. Mitchell
October 27, 2013

October afternoon on the back roads of Page County

Sunday was a perfect autumn afternoon in the Shenandoah Valley with cool temps and sunshine during the 2013 leaf season. SWAC Son and I set out with our cameras to roam the back roads along the western slopes of the Blue Ridge Mountains, stopping and snapping leaves, creeks, ponds, and mountains.

 Leaves are at three stages -- some are still green, others are brilliant reds and oranges, while some trees are already bare, their leaves fallen to the ground. Many oaks had dull brown leaves waiting to fall but we were in search of the brilliant reds and yellows that stand out on the mountain slopes.
 Horseback riders under the tree prepared for an afternoon ride deeper into the mountains.

 Leaf color seems a bit more muted this year but the colors still made a beautiful display.

Photos by Lynn R. Mitchell
Adventures with SWAC Son
October 27, 2013

They were here before us

Scenes from an Elkton, Virginia, cemetery overlooking the Blue Ridge Mountains on Sunday, October 27, 2013.

Photos by Lynn R. Mitchell
October 27, 2013

Former NBA star Shaquille O'Neal endorses NJ Gov. Chris Christie

"I don't endorse many politicians. But Chris Christie is different." In a television ad endorsing New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, former NBA star Shaquille O'Neal came out for the governor's reelection, as reported by Aaron Blake in the Washington Post.

Chrisie is expected to easily win reelection. His margin Monday on Real Clear Politics was +26 points over his opponent.

Friday, October 25, 2013

Autumn at western Virginia's Douthat State Park

Douthat State Park is located in the Allegheny Mountains of western Virginia. The park has 4,546 acres in Bath and Alleghany counties and includes a 50-acre lake.
A traditional family park for 75 years, Douthat is listed on the National Register of Historic Places for the role its design played in the development of parks nationwide.

Amid some of Virginia's most breathtaking mountain scenery, visitors enjoy interpretive programs, two miles of stream fishing, a 50-acre lake stocked with trout, a sandy swimming beach with snack bar, boat rentals, a gift shop and camp store, cabins, and more than 43 miles of hiking, mountain biking and bridle trails. 

Plus, there are playgrounds, an amphitheater, picnic areas, tent and trailer camping, and a restaurant overlooking the lake. The park also has 32 cabins and three lodges that accommodate 15, 16 and 18 guests each.

Photos by Lynn R. Mitchell
October 24, 2013

Hot Springs, Va: The Homestead welcomes guests

The Homestead Resort has been housing guests in western Virginia since 1766. Thomas Bullett, Charles and Andrew Lewis were part of the militia and surveyors during the French and Indian War. They were told of the many healing qualities of the waters in the area around present day Hot Springs, Virginia. In 1764, at the end of the war, Captain Bullett received Gold and Silver for his services and received a colonial land grant of 300 acres which contained seven natural mineral springs from Colonel George Washington.

After receiving the land grant, Captain Bullett moved his militia company and their families to the area. Within two years, the land was cleared and an 18-room wooden hotel was completed. In 1766, The Homestead was opened and named in honor of the homesteaders who built the resort and bathhouses. From 1764 till 1778, Colonel Bullett along with his family operated the resort. During the American Revolutionary War, Colonel Bullett died during battle and his family retained ownership of the resort until 1832.

In 1832, Dr. Thomas Goode and his family purchased the resort from the Bullett Family along with the Resort in Warm Springs and Healing Springs. He was a prominent physician and is responsible for the European style of many different spa therapies. One of the most famous treatments still in use is the Cure, which is a salt scrub followed by a Swiss shower. Dr. Goode passed away in 1858 and upon his death, the family took over the ownership until the early 1880s.

M.E. Ingalls, a prominent lawyer from Cincinnati, Ohio came to the area in 1881, while doing research for the Chesapeake and Ohio Railroad Company. The railroad was looking to expand the lines into the area when Mr. Ingalls came upon the resort. For almost seven years, Mr. Ingalls, J. P. Morgan, and many other investors came to an agreement to purchase The Homestead and build a spur into the Hot Springs area. Within the first year of ownership, the investors raised over $1 million to build a whole new hotel.

On July 2, 1901, a fire, which started in the pastry shop, burned the entire resort. With the resort not being at full capacity, everyone was able to escape without any serious injury or loss of life. The staff was able to save the Spa, Casino, the cottages in Cottage Row, and the Virginia Hotel.

The day after the fire, Mr. Ingalls, Mr. Decatur Axtell, who was President of the resort, and the many investors met to discuss the resort's future. With the smoke and embers still in the distance and insurance not available, they came to the conclusion to rebuild the resort. Within a year, March 10, 1902, the Great Hall was completed and the Homestead was back in business. Former guests of the resort were returning to the grand hotel they loved. Within two years, the West Wing was added.

In 1911, the Ingalls family acquired the resort. The East Wing was added in 1914, and M.E. Ingalls, Sr. passed away. In 1921, the Empire, Crystal, Garden rooms and Theatre were completed and in 1929, our tower was finished. The last major addition during the Ingalls family ownership was the Garden Wing in 1973.

In 1993 Club Resorts, a part of ClubCorp, acquired The Homestead and began a total restoration. In 2001 The Homestead unveiled a new Grand Ballroom and outdoor pool, along with state-of-the-art snowmaking for the ski area and a new Shooting Club House and Pavilion.

In 2012, "The Next Chapter" was launched with the addition of Allegheny Springs - a new children's play zone, family pool, 400 ft. lazy river and water slides.

Photos by Lynn R. Mitchell
History from
October 24, 2013