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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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Meet The Dennis Rodman of Canines In The Kitchen...

Rebounding in basketball isn't so much about jumping. It's about position. Knowing where the ball is going to end up landing. Being ready for the opportunity.

Based on those qualifications, if my dog Schnoodle had played basketball, the old girl would have made the hall of fame. No dog can read the kitchen, come up with a plan, and be where the odds are best that a mistake will be made. She doesn't look for food scraps. Food scraps fall in front of her. She is the Dennis Rodman of kitchen canines.

Today is a rainy day in Ashburn, and neither my wife nor daughter will eat leftovers (or even something twice in the same week). So since it is so dreary outside, I'm cleaning out the refrigerator and freezer of older foods coming up on an expiration date. I've turned three chicken breasts into chicken salad for sandwiches for the next few days; I have taken 1.5 pounds of ground beef and made it into a chili/taco meat mixture to go on hot dogs, baked potatoes or other assorted options over the weekend; yesterday I found this beautiful pork shoulder minding its own business in the back of the freezer. It has been appropriately bathed in a dry rub, had garlic inserted into it, and is peacefully resting until tomorrow.

Making these three dishes so there's plenty to warm up and eat on a moment's notice over the weekend involved doing a lot of chopping and mixing in various places in the kitchen. Schnoodle moved when I moved and always found the right spot. Making this more amazing is she lost her sight several years ago. But that does not hinder the pooch, as she has a nose with abilities the CIA would envy.

She's 15 years old and she unfortunately never got to play basketball. She could have been a contender. Instead, she roams the kitchen like a BOSS. And when it comes to kitchen scraps, she's the real MVP ????

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"I Am Truly Sorry To Say That You Were Right"

Last Friday, my good friend Paul Draisey and I were talking about a former co-worker at a local radio station we both worked at. The co-worker, who I’ll call Mike, hadn’t been heard from since losing his job a little over a month ago.

Our concern was real. Paul had known him for decades, while I only knew him the year I worked with him. But we both knew he had a drinking problem. Everyone did. As his boss, I had many conversations with him about it. And in the process, I learned a lot about the demons that haunt those afflicted with alcoholism.

When I was growing up, getting drunk was seen as harmless recreation. It’s what you did on Friday and Saturday nights to blow off steam. When I was going to Virginia Tech in the 70s, you were somehow less of a man if you didn’t drink until you passed out. Frats had “hairy buffalo” parties, where some sort of hay or straw was put on the floor. You drank until you couldn’t walk, then rolled around on the floor like a “hairy buffalo.”

Beer consumption was measured in six-packs, not cans. Hung over? Hair of the dog will get you back in the game. Mess with drugs? That will get you kicked out of school. But alcohol? No problem.

I could never handle it. The more I drank, the sicker I was the next morning. And thanks to youth and peer pressure, I kept at it. As the years passed on after college, however, I noticed it became easier to say “no thanks, I don’t feel like throwing up for hours tomorrow morning.” And after one flight too many where I found myself praying “Dear God, make this a smooth flight or just kill me right now,” I realized I didn’t want to drink any more.

If I'm at a party and not drinking makes someone uncomfortable, I'll nurse one for an entire evening. But as most of my friends will tell you, Diet Pepsi is my beverage of choice, and has been for many years. Offer me a bottle of scotch or a big piece of chocolate, and I’ll take the chocolate every time.

Folks like Mike never got to that fork in the road. They just kept on going. Sober, Mike was a good guy. On Mondays, however, when I’d guess he’d had a weekend to imbibe, he could be a terror. In the year I worked with him, he must have turned in his resignation a dozen times. Something would set him off, he’d blow up, and he’d quit. Hours later, he’d come back, hat in hand, and say he was ready to go to work again. I’d say fine, and we’d go on.

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Coming Face To Face With Facebook

Have you ever known something was going on, you knew it wasn’t good, but you just didn’t want to know? Like calling to get the results of your physical when you knew you’d been eating like every day was Fat Tuesday? Or going online to see just how big the balance on your American Express was a few days after Christmas?

Well, that’s sort of been my deal with Facebook. I strongly suspected that they weren’t exactly being on the up and up with most of us in terms of what they were doing with our information. But I didn’t really push because I knew if I did it wouldn’t be good. But last night during a break between basketball games in the NCAA Tournament, I did.

Facebook allows you to download the information they apparently are selling all over the world like an ice cream vendor on a hot day at Myrtle Beach, which I did. At first, I didn’t think it was such a big deal. There were folders and folders of pictures I had posted since 2009, and it was sort of nice to have them all in one big place if I ever wanted to find one. Over time, thanks to the advances in cameras on our phones, I’ve accumulated a lot of great pics and they are spread all over multiple computers and devices in my home. The good ones, I thought, are in this Facebook folder.

But then I started looking at the folder marked “html” and clicked on “ad.htm”. There were about 35 ad categories Facebook determined I should be part of. There was a history of every ad I’d ever clicked on. There were advertisers who were sold my contact info, many of whom I had never done business with and never will do business with.

Click on your profile info, and it’s the same as you’d see online. Click on contact info, however, it’s the email addresses of every person in your personal contacts. I must have early in my Facebook history approved an app that accessed my contacts and they are all there, probably sold to other companies.

The comes the histories. Every post, every pic, every video, every direct message, everyone you’ve friended, everyone you have unfriended…it’s all there with dates and times. Every time you logged into Facebook? It’s there too with date, time, IP address, the ID number of your device, the browser you used…everything.

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So Close, But So Far In Finally Being On A Jury...

For all of my 61 years, I’ve wanted to be on a jury. And probably half a dozen times, I’ve gotten something in the mail while living in three different cities, called the number they ask you to check the night before, and been told my services were not needed.

Last night, I got another chance. This wasn’t necessarily the night you wanted to be a winner because the NCAA Championship game was going to be on until after midnight, meaning getting up early to go to a courthouse the next morning would not be ideal. But when I called the phone number printed on the jury duty summons, they said Groups 1,2,3,4,5,6,7 AND 8 would need to show up. Numbers 9 through infinity could stay home.

Mine was No. 8.

Let me first say if you’ve reached the stage of life where you’ve retired (like I did two months ago) and you get used to getting up when you want to and easing into the day, that alarm going off at 5:50 AM is a bit of a jolt. I left the house at about 7:20 AM for the trip to neighboring Leesburg, reasoning that it’s one thing to be late to a business meeting; it’s another thing entirely when where you’re going they have people at the entrance with guns and handcuffs. This one I needed to be on time or early too.

Very early in the process I noticed just how addicted I have gotten to my cell phone. You can’t bring one into the Courthouse, so I left mine in my car. I parked at the parking garage across the street from where I thought I needed to go, then walked to where I thought the entrance would be. It wasn’t there and the Loudoun County Courthouse is one huge block where if you walk the wrong way, you’re going to pick up a couple thousand steps on your Fitbit making a lap around the grounds.

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Buona Pasqua! Happy Easter! Enjoy That Chocolate Bunny...

First of all, Buona Pasqua! Happy Easter!

Today is perhaps my favorite holiday of the year. If you are a person of faith as I am, it is the day of the resurrection. The day HE IS RISEN has particular significance. One of the two days just about everybody goes to church (known as the Christmas and Easter crowd, thank you very much) and a day of food, faith and family. Even if these are not your beliefs, the message of redemption, peace and a new start are cool notions all of themselves.

I judge a holiday by the memories in creates. No offense to the days off commemorating Presidents Day or Memorial Day, but I doubt you can tell me what you did on those days as a kid. Christmas and Easter dominate those memories, and Easter is particularly rich in such. From the time you were a kid hunting for Easter eggs, to the time you stayed up late, dyed a bunch of eggs as if they were going to be on display one day at the Louvre, then hid them in the front yard before turning your own children loose. All while trying to capture video of the event while your spouse played the role of the director.

Those rich memories also include Easter sunrise services, because they provided some particularly peaceful moments. But they are for the young, as I have found them to be a survival of the fittest contest. As the name suggests, the services start at sunrise, and unless you are blessed with natural beauty, this involves getting up a few hours before sunrise to get dressed and be there. In my younger days, I worked in the newspaper business where you didn’t get home until 2 AM after putting together the last edition of the Sunday paper. Since you’d be getting up at 4 AM anyway, I’d just stay up, power through everything, then after a hearty Easter meal go search for an unoccupied sofa to “meditate.”

But the greatest non-religious aspect of the Easter tradition is the chocolate Easter bunny. Back when I was a kid, there was an arms race with these bunnies, as you had to show your kid how much you thought of them by buying the biggest one there was (now you just buy them a $1,000 Iphone). There wer of course the eggs, jelly beans and other assorted items in the Easter basket, but the centerpiece was the chocolate bunny, roughly akin to the turkey on the Thanksgiving table. It had to be good.

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Back In The Day, You Could Disagree & Still Respect Someone

One of the great things about having a child is realizing they have no idea what you’ve done in life. It’s as if they think you’ve never left the house, and if you did, you certainly didn’t meet anyone interesting.

Such was the case Sunday when my daughter was reading The Washington Post Magazine. The cover story was about a businessman and gay activist by the name of Mitchell Gold, and I mentioned I’d like to read it to see how he was doing.

“You KNOW him?” my daughter asked, as if I had just grown a second head.

“Of course I do,” I replied, as apparently my daughter didn’t notice I had left the house for 25 years and worked in the furniture industry, allowing me to meet a lot of interesting people, including one Mitchell Gold. “He and I never got along, but he’s a good guy. He even built a piece of furniture for us that he customized just for you.”

Since she was 5 at the time, I suppose it was fair she didn’t totally recall all of that. So I began telling her the story of Mitchell Gold, and it immediately bought to mind how different times are from way back then. These days, you couldn’t disagree with someone the way Mitchell and I did back in 2000 and survive.

That’s because according to the rules of social media today, it seems that if you disagree with someone, they have to die. You have to destroy them. There is no middle ground. They need to lose their job, lose their career and be branded with a scarlet letter if you have a different view. Disliking them and respecting them at the same time is not allowed.

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These Are Not Autographs You Will See For Sale On Ebay

Yesterday, I wrote a piece about Mitchell Gold, and in it I mention that I ended up getting a chair autographed by both Mitchell AND his dog. Some found that a little unusual.

“That’s not the only thing unusual about my Dad,” would be my daughter’s response.

But I will grant you that I do look at the whole autograph deal a little different than most. I have some sports memorabilia – an autographed picture of Julius Erving in a Virginia Squires jersey, a throwback Redskins helmet (the gold one with the big “R”) signed by Sonny Jurgensen, and a Virginia Tech helmet signed by Frank Beamer and Michael Vick.

The first one I ever pursued was Erving. I grew up in Norfolk watching the brief tenure of pro basketball in the area, and Erving was amazing. At the same time, Jurgensen was the quarterback for the Redskins, and at the age of 13, I thought he was the best quarterback of all time (still do, for that matter).

But it was Erving who soured me on any further sports hero worship. Later in life in the late 1990s, a great friend and business partner knew one of the then-minority owners of the Orlando Magic, and Erving worked for the team at the time. My friend and I were in Orlando, so he arranged for us to get tickets to the Magic game that night and meet my childhood idol.

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National Pet "Day"? How About National Pet "Year"?

Today, I have been informed by social media, is National Pet Day. Which is kind of strange to me, because in my house, every day is National Pet Day.

Our house is owned and operated, 24/7, by two criminals named Doodle and Schoodle. They are bichon frises, which I can only guess is French for “stubborn and hungry.” They do what they want, when they want, and are blessed by being in the same house with the world’s greatest enabler, my wife.

These dogs are treated so well, my goal in life is only to be treated as well as the SECOND dog. I’ve long given up on ever obtaining lead dog status.

My wife and I have always been dog people, so we’ve always had one in the house most of our lives. Before moving here in 2000, we lived in High Point, NC and had the greatest dog of all time, a black lab named Butch. In his youth, there was no dog more obedient, as I could tell him to stay, go upstairs and be gone for a half hour, then return and Butch was still patiently sitting.

This, however, all faded away when the requirements of my job called for me to travel more and more, leaving my wife and Butch home together alone. Somehow, someone started teaching Butch the rules were for other animals. I’d be sitting on a sofa watching a show and Butch would just take a “don’t mind if I do” attitude and help himself up on the unoccupied space. Commands of “stay” turned Butch into the RCA Victor dog, as he turned his head and gave a quizzical look as if to say “you talking to me?”

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On This Memorial Day, I Remember A Total Stranger. Again.

Every Memorial Day, for the last nine years, I dig up an old copy of a story I wrote on Memorial Day in 2009. It involves a young man I had never met, and who would forever be a total stranger to me.

He was a hero. A husband. A Dad. And a big fan of the Washington Capitals. If he were alive today, he’d be 35 years old and probably doing what the rest of us will be doing tonight: glued to a television set, wearing an Ovechkin jersey, and cheering on the Caps along with his two kids, who by now should be teenagers.

Here’s the story:

On this Memorial Day, I find myself thinking of a Marine I never met. And never will.

His name was James. R. McIlvaine. He grew up in Olney, Md., and his mother lives in Purcellville. He was killed in Iraq on April 30 while saving the life of another. He was 26 years old, and the father of two children.

Unfortunately, most of us see news like this every day in the newspaper. We pause, read the details, feel for the family, then turn the page and move on. We don’t dwell on it for too long, because it is inevitable that another face, another name, and another set of circumstances regarding a battlefield casualty will be in the paper in a few more days.

This one was different, because not long afterward my phone rang. McIlvaine had a rather large immediate family, including three sets of grandparents, and the local VFW wanted to make the trip from Purcellville to Arlington Cemetery as comfortable as possible under the circumstances. Four SUVs had been secured (two donated for the day by Ray Glembot at Star Pontiac GMC in Leesburg) and a police escort would be provided.

What they needed was one more driver. Could I spare the day, I was asked, to drive one of the vehicles?

The answer, obviously, was “of course.”

My SUV included McIlvaine’s grandmother, uncle and sister. During the drive to Arlington, I learned McIlvaine was a huge hockey fan and a big Redskins follower. He loved being a Marine. He had lost his own father at a young age, and as his uncles, aunts and grandparents reached out to fill that void when he was young, he had taken a similar leadership role in the lives of younger members of his extended family.

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They Finally Did It...

They Did It

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

Never Grow Old...

Never Grow Old

A trip to Spring Training reminded me we're all still kids at heart, and no matter how old, you keep playing until they get you out.

Gone But Never Forgotten...

Doodle

My faithful dogs probably rode shotgun on hundreds of stories I've written since 2003. This one is for you, Doodle & Schnoodle.

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