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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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At Least For A Few Months, Goodbye ACC Network

Today marks a milestone for Virginia Tech fans, as a source of considerable aggravation will disappear for at least a few months.

That’s because today’s game with Wake Forest at 4 PM marks the last time during the regular season the Hokies will be on the Atlantic Coast Conference Network (ACCN). Wednesday’s game with Louisville is set to be televised on ESPN2, and the regular-season finale at N.C. State is going to be aired on a regional sports network, which in this market will be the Mid-Atlantic Sports Network (MASN)

The very early rounds of the ACC Tournament that include play-in games will be on the ACC Network, but the Hokies don’t plan to be in any of those games. The remainder of the tournament will be on regional networks or ESPN.

So goodbye Spurtle. Goodbye Tac Light, Tac Shaver and Tac whatever product they’re selling this week. No more ACC Network until football season for me.

To say that the network has been a thorn in my side is an understatement. The league started in 2019 with the expectation everyone would carry it, but they violated one of the cardinal rules of sales: always get some sort of buy-in from the 800-pound gorilla of the customer ranks before launching. Give it away if you have to, but get the Goliath signed up, then squeeze the smaller players to make up for it. The big guy’s presence creates market pressures that force the smaller players to sign on.

The ACC, in its infinite wisdom, chose not to do that, as cable television’s Incredible Hulk – Comcast/Xfinity – didn’t add the channel. The ACC, believing they had the same market strength as the Big Ten and Southeastern Conference, launched any way, believing there would be an uproar from customers who would simply complain and whine the cable provider into compliance.

Comcast. Did. Not. Care.

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Remember, There Is No Such Thing As A Stupid Question

Earlier today I wrote a story based on an Andy Bitter mailbag column in The Athletic. Which of course led to this question that was asked by a friend of mine.

“Why don’t you have a mailbag?” came the predictable text from the friend.

“For the same reason I don’t have a yacht,” was my reply, “because neither of them would get much use.”

But then I got to thinking about all the questions people would like to ask. Not of me, but of Doug Doughty. I’ve got a few I’d like to ask him right now, like why are groups who don’t perform Rock & Roll in the Rock & Roll Hall Of Fame? Or why he didn’t have Lawrence Taylor ranked in his Top 25 High School Football Prospects in the state of Virginia when it ran around Christmas time in 1976?

Or maybe a question regarding if he had to choose between his two dogs and a close friend, and could only pick one, does the close friend even have a chance to survive?

So starting next Friday, we will start running a regular mailbag column. The questions can be to any of us involved in the site (which would be Doug, Dave or Maggie) and we will do our best to answer these questions in an honest and entertaining way. The email address to send them to is This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. I’ll start asking for them by Wednesday of each week so we have time to make stuff up answer them.

So hit us with your best shot. And remember, there is no such thing as a stupid question.

Well, except for Twitter 😊

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This Story Was So Good, Friends Woke Me Up To Read It

It is rare that I sleep in these days, but while peacefully dreaming of being on a sandy beach somewhere, my phone made the sound of a text arriving, waking me up.

It was from Doug Doughty, asking if I had seen Andy Bitter’s mailbag story in The Athletic. No, I said, but now that I’m awake, I’ll go look at it, because you wouldn’t have texted if it wasn’t good. Moments later, another friend sent virtually the same text.

It was as good as advertised, and it touched on subjects I think about often in regard to Virginia Tech’s football program. One, as you would expect, involved the most often-asked question of the year for VT football: Is Justin Fuente the right man for the job? But this time it was prefaced with Darryl Tapp’s huge praise for Fuente versus the somewhat grumpy guy the public tends to see more often, and wondering where the disconnect was.

This situation, and how Virginia Tech has handled this, is something I wonder about all the time. When the Hokies hire a coach, I will - like everybody else - judge that coach on wins and losses. But I’m also blessed with a number of friends who are just ordinary Joes in Blacksburg, and I will usually call a few just to see if that coach is a good person. Blacksburg is such a small town, it's tough to pretend to be something you're not. The real you will be seen sooner than later.

Within 24 hours of Mike Young being hired as the basketball coach, for example, I was hearing “you’re really going to like him” from people I respected. I didn’t like the hire at first, but the comments were so strong on what a good person, leader and teacher he was, I had to switch to a wait and see attitude before arriving at my current “I couldn’t have been more wrong” stance.

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Living With Aunt Bea, Serving Our Time At The Rock

There is a power struggle going on in my house today, and I don’t like it one bit.

You see, traditionally I’ve been the tough guy, the one who doesn’t cave over emotional pleas, and sticks to my guns about discipline and doing the right thing.

Today it’s different. Roles have been reversed.

It involves a furry little angel named Maggie the WonderBeagle. Traditionally, every dog we’ve ever had has gone outside every 4 or 5 hours, and there’s never been an issue. Most of that was because my wife and I went to work every morning and there was no other option. We’d take the dog out before leaving for work at 7:45, come home around lunchtime to provide relief, then not be home until 5:30 or 6.

Previous dogs had no problem with the schedule.

But in these long days of our pandemic house arrest, we don’t go to offices any more and are here all the time. Right before all this happened, Maggie took a circuitous route through a South Carolina kill shelter that ended up with my house being her forever home when she was 8 weeks old. That first night, she weighed her options and decided the best place to sleep was on my lap watching a football game, and you could say I’ve been a bit smitten with her ever since.

Maggie has also gone as long as six hours without going outside, as she’s exhibited whenever we’ve had contractors working in the backyard and her area to run around has not been available. It didn't bother her either.

But today is different.

When it goes from freezing temperatures to 66 degrees like it did yesterday, and there had previously been ice and snow on the ground, everything turns to mud. Since Maggie likes to run a few laps around the backyard before settling down to focus on her primary purpose for being outside, this creates a huge mess with her paws. We keep a stack of towels down in the basement to deal with this matter, but frankly, it’s a pain in the backside for both owner and canine.

I hate doing it, and Maggie isn’t real happy about it either.

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A Simple Act Of Kindness I Will Never Forget

Because the patio on the back of my house seems to perpetually be covered in shade, I’ve just finished an hour or two of doing exactly what my wife, doctor and friends have all told me not to do: chipping and shoveling away all the ice.

I mean, I could wait until it melts in late June. But there’s a WonderBeagle who enjoys seeing just how far she can get me moving on the ice, and I don’t wish to fall down out there between now and late spring.

In the course of wrestling this frozen bear, I had to take breaks because – as everyone seems to very much enjoy reminding me of – I’m an old man. It was during one of these breaks I found myself scrolling through Twitter, and two posts caught my eye. One was the fact today is Giving Day at Virginia Tech, and as the name suggests, they want you to give something to the University.

The other involved a younger journalist with a small newspaper here in Virginia. He was mentioning he was using a gift card to buy himself lunch instead of making one because he was too tired from all his long hours at work.

It hit me right in the feels.

I have a complex relationship with journalism these days, because many of the larger publications have turned the profession from a search for the truth to a search for ways to repeat the narrative. Not surprisingly, there are many out there who rank the profession’s popularity right up there with used car salesmen and telemarketers who somewhere during the call say “but wait, there’s more.”

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Worst Fears Realized In Tonight's Loss To Georgia Tech

I’d like to tell you Virginia Tech’s 69-53 loss to Georgia Tech was a huge surprise.

I’d also like to tell you they made a mistake and delivered a pizza with everything to my doorstep and I’m about to eat it.

Neither would be true.

Instead, the Hokies took the road more traveled for teams who have had long layoffs in the ACC, looking rusty, tired and at times disoriented. ACC teams this season that have had layoffs of 10 days or more have ended up scoring in the 50s in their first game back, while getting beaten like a drum. Clemson had issues with COVID and after sitting out 11 days, lost to Virginia 85-50; Louisville was off 19 days and upon their return got pole-axed by UNC 99-54; the Hokies hadn’t played in 17 days and scored a season-low 53 points in losing by 16.

The game marked the return of Tyrece Radford to the lineup from what had been an indefinite suspension, and that may have added at first to the lethargic play on offense. The Hokies are at their best when they move the ball around quickly, finding either an open 3 or going down low and attacking the basket, and it’s usually done in a decisive manner.

Virginia Tech, however, started out as if some of the players had just met. Radford seemed more content to let the game come to him, and over the first 10 minutes, it did not seem as if anyone other than Nahlem Alleyne wanted to shoot the ball.  Alleyne hit several of his first few shots, which opened up things for Keve Aluma and Justin Mutts as the teams tied 24-24 at halftime.

But then the two teams just went in different directions. Georgia Tech shot 61.5 percent from the floor after intermission, and when not hitting 3-pointers, the Yellow Jackets were pounding the ball inside to Moses Wright, who finished with a game-high 26 points.

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A Chicken Wing Recipe So Easy, Even YOU Can Do It :)

Yesterday I found myself in a waiting room, trying to kill time until it was my turn. In doing so, I looked at my Twitter account, which apparently has an analytics area that will tell you how many people looked at each of your tweets.

Much to my surprise, the top ten, which the exception of one, all involved the same subject: food. You may think you are dispensing wisdom when you type out that carefully worded and well thought-out tweet, but if you want numbers, slap a picture of a plate of BBQ wings next to it and your stats will double.

I’ve noticed the same on the occasional stories I’ve written about food on this site. There have been times I’ve worked hard at an analytical piece that I end up being quite proud of, only to see at the end of the week a story and picture about food (or Maggie The WonderBeagle) have drawn more eyes to them.

So I’m going to start a weekly feature on how to make some of these dishes I post pictures of. I’ve been cooking most of my life, and I’ve found once you can identify the ingredients and just how long you cook something for, the rest is easy. The two things that always foul up a dish in my experience are you overcook/undercook it and you don’t season it properly.

So I’m going to try over the next few months to show everyone how to cook 8 or 10 basic dishes most people enjoy. If you’re an accomplished chef and see better ways to do it, let me know and I’ll add it to the next story. If you’re not someone who cooks, try these.

I’m going to start with the wings I had a picture of up on Twitter earlier this week. They are about as simple as it gets, and the steps you take are roughly the same as you would use to make BBQ and any number of other comfort foods. The first thing you do is buy fresh chicken wings, never frozen ones.

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This Is What I Want, What I Really, Really Want

Over a decade ago, there was a musical group called the Spice Girls, who had a hit with a song that started off “I’ll tell you what I want, what I really, really want…”

Which is what I’m about to do involving a tin of popcorn and the marketing department at Virginia Tech.

What I want, as you can see in the picture with this story, is a one-gallon tin of popcorn with Coach Mike Young’s smiling face somewhere on it. It can have one flavor, or it can have three flavors, that doesn’t matter. But Young has made eating a bag of popcorn before each game sort of his trademark. And there’s a marketing opportunity here that the Hokies just shouldn’t miss.

The whole popcorn tie-in has been talked about for over a year, and the school did finally allow people to buy a replica of the kind of popcorn box you’d see in an old-time movie theater. It has a caricature of of Young, and it’s cute.

But it’s not what I want. And judging from the response to me posting this picture on social media yesterday, a lot of other people want the same thing I do.

 Popcorn is one of those products that is sold around the holidays, or special occasions, in one gallon tins. You can go online at this very moment and find quite a few options if you’re seeking this, and they range in price from the $15 range up to $29. Many prefer buying it this way because the tin has a lid that keeps the popcorn fresh for a longer period of time, and the tin can be decorated in ways that makes you want to keep it well after the popcorn is gone.

In my case, there is a tin sitting here in my office that was a gift from a friend after the Washington Nationals won the World Series. The popcorn was nice, but it will stay in this house for many more years because of the World Series printing on the can. It serves as an enduring memory to a special moment for me as a fan, and it will eventually get filled with either more popcorn, stuff from my workbench in the basement, or who knows what else I need to store somewhere.

But it’s not going to ever be thrown away.

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This Is Your Brain; This Is Your Brain On Social Media

If you got into a time machine and went back to the 1980s, you’d see a number of public service announcements that television stations would run dealing with drug use.

The most famous one, which has been mocked and meme’d to death, was the one where some guy holds up an egg, says “this is your brain,” then points to a very hot cast iron skillet and says that’s drugs. He then cracks the egg into the pan, it sizzles and pops as it instantly becomes a sunny side up egg, and he says “this is your brain on drugs. Any questions?”

While that one got most of the attention, there was another dealing with marijuana. A Dad has just found some paraphernalia in his son’s room indicating he’d been smoking pot, and he’s confronting him with it. In the course of the conversation, he asks “who taught you to do this?”

The son looks right into his Dad’s eyes and says “you did, Dad,” strongly implying the Dad also smoked pot, and the son learned only from watching his example.

Fast forward to this weekend, when a video went viral involving a young man heckling Cam Newton at a football camp, where Cam was volunteering his time. The youngster kept yelling “you’re a free agent,” at Newton, who just smiled and responded “I’m rich.” The young man kept on, eventually saying “you about to be poor.”

There’s no doubt it was rude, the kid was looking for attention, and if it was my kid, we’d be having what we call in the South a “Come To Jesus” meeting immediately. Athletes, parents and other observers around the country quickly and rightfully denounced the young man’s behavior, and it seems just about everyone called it a failure of the parents.

That may be true, although if you’ve been a parent, you know you can work hard and long on teaching your children the difference between right and wrong, and still have something like that happen. So, until I know more, I’m not dumping all this exclusively on the parents. The kid knew what was going on, he had teammates and coaches around him, and nobody tried to stop him. Plus, someone had a phone capturing it all, as if there was some anticipation of getting this out on social media and making the young man a star.

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Two Weeks To Go, And I Still Have No Idea Who Wins

I think it is pretty safe to say this season is not turning out the way ACC media folks thought it would in looking back at their preseason predictions.

Also pretty safe to say it’s not turning out the way anyone thought it would, for that matter.

Back in early November, the ACC scribes liked Virginia and Florida State to be in the top 3, with Virginia the solid No. 1, Duke second and the Seminoles No. 3. As Meatloaf used to sing back in the day, two out of three ain’t bad.

That’s because there are only 13 days left in the ACC regular season and here is the top 3: Florida State is first with a 9-2 league record, Virginia is second at 11-3 and third is not Duke, but an 8-3 Virginia Tech team, which the pundits picked to finish 11th. Three weeks from today when the NCAA hands out bids to the Big Dance, Virginia, Virginia Tech and Florida State look like the only teams in the league with a relative lock at getting in. The rest of the teams appear to be on the bubble or worse.

Yesterday’s games just added data points to the field known as “I really don’t know how this is all going to turn out.” North Carolina and Louisville were preseason picks to finish 4th and 5th, and a month ago the Cardinals were 9-1 and ranked No. 16 in the nation. North Carolina, conversely, hasn’t been ranked in 2021, and dropped to 12-7 a week ago while only scoring 48 points in a loss to Virginia.

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In Search Of The Perfect Flavor Of Popcorn

We all have our areas of expertise, and one of mine involves food.

I have talents related to eating it, cooking it, and talking about it. I was even once at a dinner with company executives, and the president turned to me and said “I don’t believe I’ve ever seen someone as talented with a knife and fork as you.”

I think that was a compliment.

Which Flavor Is Better?
Poll is expired!

But when it comes to the lowly popcorn kernel, I have to say I have not been a fan. Unless it’s drowning in butter or coated with some other flavor, the popcorn itself does little to nothing for me. It’s not as worthless as, say, a rice cake, but it’s in the same neighborhood.

My opinions are now changing thanks to Virginia Tech basketball coach Mike Young.

Young has made popcorn regal. Brain food. The poor man’s caviar of the New River Valley. The key ingredient that has allowed Young to be such a successful coach with the Hokies. Heck, as you can see from the picture above, he’s even got Doug Doughty eating it.

I’ve always been a peanut man, myself. Salted, in a shell, accompanied by a cold beverage and maybe a baseball game in front of me, on a warm night, and I’m good. Popcorn, I’ve always believed, breaks teeth. Peanuts build character.

But Young is causing me to change. I’ve written that I’d run through a brick wall for him because I’m so impressed with the job he’s done for the Hokies, so I guess I’m going to have to eat a bag of popcorn every time the team plays too.

At least there is variety I can consider. Plain old popcorn is the brussel sprouts of the snack world, and I don’t see that ever changing for me. But I did look up some other varieties, and some are appealing. Kettle Corn will do, with its sweet and salty flavor. Caramel Corn is another. There is a cheese popcorn, but I’m not sure about that. It looks like they took one of those dried packets of powder you see in the mac and cheese boxes at the grocery store they sell 3 for a dollar and just dusted it over regular popcorn.

Anything that sells 3 for a dollar in the grocery store can’t be but so good.

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They Finally Did It...

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After a long and bumpy road, The Washington Nationals finally won the World Series. And made an old man in Ashburn cry...

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