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Thanks for joining us! We write about sports, food, life and anything else interesting here in Ashburn and Loudoun County, all while cramming as many features into the site as possible.

Our staff consists of one old man and a dog named Maggie The WonderBeagle. Want to know more? Click on the icon below:

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After 10 Years On Twitter, I Think I've Posted Enough

When I first tried Twitter a decade ago, I thought it was really cool.

It was like going to a bar and meeting a bunch of people with similar interests to your own. You’d start the evening strangers and by night’s end you were friends, as you pulled for the same teams, argued points of trivia and memories of days gone by, and found yourself feeling part of a community.

It was nice.

But while Twitter was at first that person at the bar who had one or two drinks and acted funny, interesting and totally unfiltered, Twitter has now graduated into being that same guy who has had a few more beverages and turned into a mean drunk. The days of scrolling through a timeline in the morning and walking away feeling like you learned something have now given way to the feeling of wanting to tell everyone to kiss your backside.

Which I no longer wish to deal with.

I’ve always tried to take the high road and avoid Twitter battles at all cost. I try to think responses through several times before posting and if I find I’m not saying something positive or at least fair, I delete it. I avoid politics and try to respect everyone whose path I cross.

But as I scroll through my timeline several times a day lately, I’m finding it harder and harder to feel entertained. Or informed. Or just about any other emotion than “that’s a crock.” The reasonable people on a national level seem to be disappearing from my timeline. The reasonable people on a more local level have stopped commenting. And the topics you can get into a reasonable debate with anyone these days has gotten smaller and smaller.

Twitter has become one giant straw man argument that reminds me of the line from an old movie called War Games, where a super computer called the WOPR notes “the only winning move is not to play.” It doesn’t mean there aren’t nice people on the medium as probably one of the greatest moments of my life was set up by something on Twitter.

This was a decade ago, when I noticed a single mom who was a huge Nats fan was posting about how much her two small children loved the team and baseball. I happened to have a box of old Nats bobbleheads, umbrellas, hats etc. in the basement I had gotten from a gig I had with a local radio station and asked if she’d like some. She said yes, and we agreed to meet at a Starbucks here in Ashburn.

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After Six Months, This Sheep Finally Got Sheared

Ever since I was a kid, I’ve hated haircuts.

Part of it was growing up in the 60s, when long hair was seen as a positive act of rebellion. I was the son of a Navy Chief Petty Officer who insisted on taking me to the barbershop every two weeks whether I wanted to or not at the Amphibious base in Norfolk, and I hated it.

Navy barbers, I’ve learned, know only one way to cut hair: as much as possible. I once made the bold decision to ask the barber not to cut very much of my hair, and was greeted at the car by a parent who sent me right back in. Telling a Navy barber your Mom said “you didn’t cut enough the first time” is like saying “just shave my head.”

Then you’d go to school, and as is the male adolescent tradition, you would be needled unmercifully by your classmates.

As a result, I’ve never been a fan of haircuts. When the barber asks how I want my hair cut, I always say “make it look like you HAVEN’T cut my hair.” If my wife says “I think you need a haircut” I always wait another two weeks. I may be in my 60s, but when it comes to haircuts, I’m still an 11-year-old with post traumatic haircut syndrome from my days at Little Creek Elementary.

But not today.

Turns out when I wished everybody at the Royal Barber Shop on Tuesday, December 10, 2019 a Merry Christmas and Happy New Year, I had no idea I would not be seeing them again until the last day of May, 2020. I had been thinking the last week of February it was time for another haircut, but postponed going for a couple of weeks.

Then everything was shut down from the pandemic.

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It's Pizza Night In Ashburn. Decisions, Decisions...

Tonight is pizza night. So it’s time to share another of my lifehacks for being under house arrest.

Pineapple On A Pizza?
Poll is expired! Results

We’ve been doing pizza night every Friday since my daughter moved out to be on her own. Dad was convinced that if he offered an alternative that included free pizza and daughter’s social schedule didn’t have anything all that attractive on it, going to visit the parents, enjoy your favorite pizza and not have to spend a dime might win out.

Dad was right.

Alas these days, that doesn’t work, but the ritual lives on for my wife and I. The days of ordering two large pizzas so there’s plenty for everyone are gone too, so we started a new approach when the shutdown started.

It started by accident when LIDL had a sale on its self-rising frozen pizzas. Normally I don’t care for anything frozen, as it tastes to me like watered down ingredients on cardboard. Even if you enhance them with other fresh ingredients, that cardboard taste is still there.

But the LIDL self-rising pizza actually had a decent crust. It sells every day for $2.75, and it’s about the size of a medium pizza, meaning it’s more than enough for the two of us. And because it’s so cheap, I took the approach I was just buying the crust as a base to work with, and I’d add the rest of the ingredients we wanted.

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If You Try Sometimes, You Just Might Find...You Get What You Need

If there is a positive aspect to all this house arrest nonsense, it’s that it has probably changed my way of shopping for groceries forever.

The shutdown has taught me there’s a more efficient way to do it.

I realize for some, shopping for groceries is a tiresome chore, but I actually enjoy it because I’m the cook. I also am a bit of a control freak, so when I go shopping for things that aren’t a commodity like canned goods, I want to personally look at a tomato, chicken, etc. before purchasing.

This means that in the past, I went grocery shopping about every 2 or 3 days. With so many grocery stores within a 5-mile radius of my home, there was no reason not to enjoy fresh meats and vegetables. I bought what I needed for the next 4 or 5 meals, then went back for more as necessary. The freezer for the most part was used for ice cream, bags of ice and an occasional frozen pizza. Otherwise, I made meals out of fresh ingredients.

The current virus situation changed that. In mid-February, I signed up for Amazon Prime to get free shipping on any quantity I wanted, then did the same with Sam’s Club, going from their $45 basic membership to their $100 “Plus” tier. This includes free shipping with no minimum and 2 percent back.

The strategy was to use those two merchants for non-perishables, which in theory should mean my trips to the grocery store should be less frequent. As the supply of goods got tighter and tighter, I then added Walmart.Com, Target.Com and HomeDepot.com to the mix. They had minimums for free shipping, but if you planned properly, that was no issue either.

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To Binge, Or Not To Binge, That Is The Question....

There are certain recommendations you can occasionally get during this shutdown that are as valuable as gold. Like a place where toilet paper is in stock. Or a really good book to read. Maybe even a recipe for something different to try at dinner.

But the one I yearn for, and often find difficult to get, is one regarding a television show to binge watch.

It’s not that people won’t offer one. Ask on Twitter and you’ll be overwhelmed with the recommendations, which is the problem. Everyone has their niche show that is their favorite, and you’ll end up with 242 recommendations. It’ll be just like turning on the channel guide and looking through everything.

“Everything” I might note, is rarely good.

In addition, there’s also the “I don’t want to offend you” factor when you ask somebody for a good show to watch. If it doesn’t sound interesting to you, declining to watch the show can come across to the person doing the recommending as “you have no taste” or “your baby is ugly.”

I had one person recommend a book to me once, and she then kept asking in every subsequent conversation if I had read it, and didn’t I absolutely love it, etc. Truth be told, I got about one third of the way through it and it wasn’t my cup of tea. But you can’t say “no, it sucked” after the fourth or fifth time you’re asked how wonderful you thought the book was.

I’m particularly cautious with binge-watching ideas because if it turns out not to be good, I find myself staying with it long past the time I should have quit. I tell myself “this next episode will be the really good one” but it never happens. Then you feel like you just wasted a lot of time.

There’s also the problem that for many series, no matter how successful, they reach a point in their tenure where they drift aimlessly. I remember the TV show “LOST” - where they never defined exactly how long the show was going to go on -and it seemed like the writers just ran out of things to write about.

They had introduced the concept of the show, told all the back stories of all the characters, but weren’t yet to the point of crafting the story line to reach its conclusion. You found yourself watching some episodes and thinking “what was the point of THAT?”

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Ice, Ice, Baby....

Let’s face it, I’m cheap.

So when something expensive around here breaks, my first instinct isn’t to necessarily replace. I usually see how much it will cost to repair and use this as a rule of thumb: If the cost to repair approaches 50 percent of what it would cost to replace, I replace. If it’s lower, I ask myself if there were a sale at that percentage, would that big a discount motivate me to buy something new?

As an example, if the repair is 20 percent of replacement value, I’d normally not get all that excited about a 20-percent off sale. At 50 percent off, I would. And all of this is predicated on if I have a reasonable workaround for the problem in the first place.

All of this brings me to the sad tale about the ice maker in my refrigerator-freezer. I bought it in 2011, and it’s a nice double door stainless steel unit with a place in the door to get ice and cold water. Only drawback has been that the ice maker has consistently been one giant pain in the backside.

It worked when it felt like it. Sometimes it loaded the ice drawer inside the unit with big pieces of ice. Sometimes it loaded the drawer with a half ice/half water mixture that froze into something more suitable for playing a hockey game on instead of floating in your beverage. Sometimes it didn’t work at all.

Last November, it decided to perform the ultimate act of rebellion. It not only stopped working, but leaked a large quantity of water through the bottom of the unit, making my basement resemble a rain delay at a Nats game. I had always heard of employees so mad that they went into the boss’s office, said I quit, then relieved themselves on the carpet.

My ice maker actually did.

Turning off the water supply to the fridge stopped the water problem, and a dry vac and a few fans took care of the basement. A repair man I trust came over to look at it and determined the issue was deep inside the unit, not just a leak in the pipe going to the refrigerator. He estimated most places would charge close to $500 to open up the back and get inside the unit to try to fix it. If it turned out to be something unusual, it could go as high as $900.

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You Ask The Questions, Maggie The WonderBeagle Answers...

If you’ve followed along on this site or my Twitter feed (@dullesdistrict) then you know all about my beagle/hound mix puppy, Maggie The WonderBeagle. She even has her own Twitter account (@MTWonderBeagle) and is now far more popular than I’ll ever be.

There once was a time when I was Dave, and Maggie was my dog. Now I’m just known as Maggie’s Dad.

The little rock star is no longer satisfied with just a Twitter account. She believes her 622 followers want more than 280 characters can contain and wants a regular feature on this site. I’ve told her I doubt that, but if people wanted to ask her questions, I’d be OK with a weekly deal where she answered them. I’ve given her an email address (Maggie AT dullesdistrict.com) and told her let’s see how many people ask anything.

So here are the first week’s questions, along with Maggie’s answers, which she sent to me telepathically and I then typed them into the site:

Q: Nala, a very sweet dog here in Loudoun County asked “What Are Your 5 Top Treats?”:

A: My go to snack is MaroSnacks by Milk-Bone. Daddy keeps a big bowl of them on the counter and always puts three in his pocket when we go outside. He only gives me two, but I can count, so I hound him going up the steps to give me that third one. Sometimes I even fake going outside just to beg him for another handful of these. Daddy doesn’t like this.

Purina makes something called a Chewnola that I really like, and I used to get a pumpkin teething ring that I could tear right through in a matter of minutes. The Ultra Chewy Double Treat Bone is good, but my favorite treat is really anything Daddy is eating. I can hypnotize him with my stare and he gives me part of everything he’s eating.

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After Six Weeks In The Desert, It Was Finally Nice To See Live Sports

Last night’s NFL Draft was much like a starving man entering a fast food joint. It wasn’t great, but when you’ve done without for so long, anything available is still pretty daggone good.

For the first time since March 12, we didn’t have to watch a rerun of some sporting event played 14 years ago. There was actually something sports-related on television where the final chapter had not been written, and we got to ride along with the ending page by page.

Not all of it was good. As you’d expect, ESPN had way too many people on its virtual broadcast, and some of them never have anything to say worth listening to in the first place. The verbally clumsy Booger McFarland, for example, started off the broadcast saying “I just want everybody to have fun tonight,” displaying the wit and insight you usually get from a cashier at the grocery store.

Note to Booger: We don’t care who has fun. We’ve been caged in our homes for 6 weeks without sports. Tonight, it’s about us. We don’t care if it seems selfish. Entertain us.

By entertaining, of course, we mean make some picks. Or trades. Show us some intrigue. Let us watch something we don’t know is going to happen.

Which ESPN didn’t do in the first half hour. Cincinnati has been on the clock longer than everybody in the state combined has waited to buy toilet paper, and even my dog Maggie knew they were going to pick Joe Burrow. But ESPN milked all the time they could out of telling Joe Burrow’s story, saluting health care workers and adding a melodramatic flavor to the broadcast to the point I was expecting us all to break out into “We Are The World.” If time allowed, an encore of Kumbaya was a distinct possibility.

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This Breakfast Deal May Be A Habit Worth Keeping Around

They say if you do anything for 21 straight days, it will become a habit. So I’m guessing some of the things we’ve been doing while under house arrest are now permanent parts of our routine.

Well, until they make us all go back to work. That “not wearing pants” habit clearly is going to have to change.

One positive habit we have adopted during the in-home incarceration that might continue here on cellblock 43552 involves breakfast. I grew up in a house in Norfolk where if you asked about breakfast, you were directed to a big box of Tony The Tiger on a shelf in the pantry and a half gallon milk container in the refrigerator. Things like pancakes, eggs and hash browns were served, but never in the morning. Only for dinner.

And while we were living in the South, my Italian parents generally came up with menus more suitable for places like Northern New Jersey. Or Brooklyn. Or the Potenza region of Italy.

Thus it should be no surprise that I was not properly introduced to a real Southern biscuit until I was in college at Virginia Tech.

It should also be no surprise that for me, it was love at first sight. A sausage, egg and cheese biscuit become one of life’s great pleasures. The Hardee’s chain back in the 70s did a particularly good job with them in Southwest Virginia, and my soon-to-be wife used to bring me one several mornings every week when I was working the desk for the afternoon newspaper in Roanoke and had to come in before 6 AM.

There are several significant reasons I thought she was the one to spend the rest of my life with back in 1980. I’ve casually mentioned to her more than once that her bringing me those biscuits might have been key items on the list.

While I have always enjoyed them, getting a good biscuit up here in Yankeeland Northern Virginia hasn’t been all that easy. I once suggested to the good people at the Cracker Barrel they opened off Route 28 in Sterling when I was eating there one day that they should take a field trip to Georgia or Alabama and learn what a real biscuit tastes like. I’ve also suggested if they served down there what they’re passing off as a biscuit up here, they would probably get their backsides whipped.

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One Heck Of A Day: Making Someone Laugh, Think, And Cry....

One week ago, I got this crazy idea that I should try to write 30 stories in the next 30 days and post them on this website. The rationale was it would give me a routine to get into, it would be something to do, and it would keep me from endlessly scrolling through Twitter, of which no good can ever come.

I had serious doubts I’d actually do it, filing it away with other thoughts such as exercising 5 days a week for six straight months, giving up my 6-cup-a-day coffee addiction/limiting my caffeine intake for an entire month, or spending a few days every week cleaning up the basement until all the old stuff that’s been down there for 20 years has finally been thrown away.

All those things start out with the best of intentions, but the motivation seems to fade quickly. So far in week one, I’ve done what I said I would, writing 9 stories in seven days. I’ve always had a love/hate relationship with writing, as even when I was making a living doing it long ago, I didn’t particularly like to write. I did like what I read when I was done, so I was glad I did it.

That’s because the good stories you write have to come from somewhere inside of you. I used to be a sportswriter years ago, and quickly found out that anyone can tell you the score, what the key plays were and who the players were that made them. These days, I’ve counseled several young writers over the years that most people can watch the game you’re covering via television, so telling them about what their eyes already saw is redundant. You have to tell them more.

Jim Valvano once said “To me there are three things everyone should do every day. Number one is laugh. Number two is think - spend some time in thought. Number three, you should have your emotions move you to tears. If you laugh, think and cry, that's a heck of a day.”

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All This Time Together Is Revealing A Few Family Secrets...

There is no question that being together ALL the time during this shutdown is revealing a few things about those that live in your house.

In some cases, secrets one may have had from another in the home are going to be revealed. I’ve seen a few stories say it could be a divorce-a-palooza after this is over because those extracurricular texts and phone calls that used to go unnoticed between people having affairs on the side are going to be much tougher to disguise. I would guess when you’re always in the same room with your family, you can only say “this is work related” so many times before somebody catches on.

In our house, the controversy being revealed involves our dog Maggie. For some reason, all our dogs have always afforded me alpha dog status and tend to listen to me as much out of fear of punishment as love and respect. Perhaps it’s just the tone of my voice that suggests to a dog “I don’t believe I want to mess with you,” but all our dogs have been that way.

This annoys my wife. We had two dogs for 16 years before we got Maggie, and my wife spoiled those dogs as badly as any canine could be. Not surprisingly, when she was in the house, those dogs sat with her, worshipped her and followed her everywhere she went. But if there was a clap of thunder or a sound that scared them, they were off her lap in a split second, trotting down the hall to find me and jump in my lap.

I guess they instinctively thought that in a fight, the big guy might offer more protection.

This controversy also extended to our daughter in her early years. My wife and daughter have an extremely close relationship and spend incredible amounts of time together. I used to call them sorority sisters the way they do so many things together, but when it came to discipline, my daughter was always a little more wary of me.

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