First the rain, then the pain

Friday's drenching rain brought much-needed relief to the parched areas of Floyd County...and maximum damage to the driveway of Chateau Thompson.

We weren't alone. Washed out driveways abound near us on Sandy Flats Road and we noticed a number of gutted ones along Route 8 while en route to Christiansburg late Friday afternoon.

The rain washed out the home opener for Floyd County High School's varsity football team Friday night. The game will be played tonight. It also means damp conditions for the county's fair and harvest festival.

If the rain holds off for the next few days I might have time to retreive the DR PowerGrader from the shed and fill in the many ruts and valleys that now mark the entrance to our home.

Then it will be smooth again.

Until the next deluge

AEP = Always Erratic Power

Our Guardian automatic generator is humming away at the rear of the house, providing the electric power that that we lost this morning to the increasingly inefficient and unreliable Appalachian Power Company.

Power blinked on and off a half dozen times Friday night and early Saturday morning before finally going out for good at 11:45 a.m.  Thankfully, our generator kicked in automatically and restored power so that I could get into the shower to prepare for a wedding this afternoon.

Tried to report the outage via their web site but kept getting a "processing error." Tried reporting it via their "automated outage reporting system" via phone but it wouldn't work. Finally, after going through six or seven layers of voice mail menus I got a bored customer service rep who promised to log the report.

AEP is a supremely arrogant mega-nopolopy that preys on its customers while demanding insanely high electric rate increases at the same time the company reports record profits. To make matters worse, power outages are increasing throughout the region and I wouldn't be surprised if some of the outages aren't planned to bolster the company's case for rate increases. Virginia forced them to return a major part of an obscene rate hike that they put into place before it was approved -- just another glaring example of the company's arrogance and disregard for its customers.

Like too many public utility monopolies, AEP executives only care about "return to the investor." They never have given a damn about their customers and probably never will.

UPDATE: Power returned at 4:26 p.m. Saturday. No explanation for the four hours of outage, no follow up phone call to customers. When we lived in Northern Virginia, Dominion Power always followed up with phone calls to customers to explain outages. Same for Union Electric when we lived in the St. Louis metro area. It's called customer service -- a concept that appears beyond the grasp of AEP.

God, homophobia and the GOP

Many things keep me from ever wanting to cast a vote for a Republican candidate for office but the most disgusting are the party's unrelenting, unabashed homophobia and its inflexible belief that Christianity is the world's only religion.

And this disgust comes from someone who, during a foray to the dark side of politics, worked for three GOP members of Congress and helped elect several more.

The party's absolute intolerance towards gays surfaced in Floyd this week when the party of the elephant brought their slate of candidates for delegate and state senator to town and joined local candidates on the lawn of the county courthouse.

After rain chased the dog and pony show into the dryness of the circuit courtroom (and as a county resident I have to question the use of the courtroom for a political gathering), the candidates finished their spiel and then took questions.  There was only one: asking each candidate to take a stand on gay marriage and prayer at public meetings.

Recovery

You know you're in trouble when the doctor ends every sentence with "for your age."

The broken left foot, suffered on the opening day of FloydFest and ignored because I thought I was walking around on a sprain, is taking longer than I would like to heal but the doc says it's healing on a schedule "that's expected for someone of your age."

Which means slowly.

Memory lapses

John Garrison, Chief Ranger of the Blue Ridge Parkway, promises he will "get to the bottom" of the run-in I had with members of his Criminal Interdiction Team during FloydFest.

Of course, he says, it may take a while.

Well, damn!

I'm supposed to be getting ready to head for Washington for the Media Giraffe "Journalism that Matters" seminar but the doctor nixed that travel today after examining my still broken but apparently healing, foot.

He says the foot cannot handle five hours of driving each way plus sitting and standing in a seminar that runs from 1 p.m. Tuesday through 6 p.m. Wednesday with few breaks.

Damn. I was looking forward to working with fellow online professionals on examining the future of journalism in a digital world.

Gestapo 101

For the second year in a row, the National Park Service police brought in their "special interdiction team" from Asheville to harass attendees of FloydFest.  It is a despicable display of government abuse of power and a waste of yours and my tax dollars.

After passing two carloads of young people pulled over by the park police's gestapo-like tactics, I stopped to take photos of a park service officer who was going through everything in a couple's Jeep Cherokee -- cooler, backpacks, glove boxes and consoles.

 As I approached the scene, the park service cop wheeled around, pointed at me and said "Sir, if you raise that camera to take a photograph I will place you under arrest."

I couldn't believe what I was hearing. Under arrest? I've been shooting photos on the Blue Ridge Parkway since before this kid's father was born. I muttered somethng about this being a public thoroughfare and I was a working journalist doing my job.

"Sir," he retorted, "this is U.S. government property and under the provisions of the USA Patriot Act you cannot take photographs of official government activity without authorization. Put your camera down now!"

USA Patriot Act? The rights-robbing law that the Bush administration uses to detain citizens without due process, ship people off to the Gitmo and keep critics of the the President from flying on commercial airlines?  That Patriot Act?

"Sir, you have 15 seconds to leave or you are under arrest."  He had his hand on his gun so I left.  I saw the sign above about a mile from the scene and stopped to shoot it, wondering is another Park Service Cop would come by and arrest me for taking photos of a sign.

At FloydFest Thursday evening, a number of people told me about their run-ins with the Park Service goon squad. They are looking for any "probable cause" to pull people over and search their car. One girl was stopped because she had beads hanging from her rear view mirror. Another for having just one bolt holding his license plate (she was ticketed for "improper equipment"). Still another for "driving in a suspicious manner."

A story floating around the festival Thursday night said this same squad pulled Floyd County Sheriff Shannon Zeman over Wednesday night for speeding on the Parkway. I haven't had a chance to confirm that one yet but will when I see Shannon.

Two warnings: Avoid the Parkway if you can. Take Canning Factory Road to Black Ridge Road to the remote parking lots. You have on-site parking at the Festival, take Black Ridge and cross the Parkway there to enter the event.

If you get nailed by these storm troopers, call Floyd attorney Jonathan Rogers next week and tell him about it. He's willing to file a class-action suit against the Park Service for their gestapo-like tactics.

Va. Tech & Frank Beamer’s legacy

Virginia Tech's blind obsession with becoming a national football powerhouse and its look-the-other-way mentality at coach Frank Beamer's recruitment of thugs and gang bangers for his football team is giving the school another public relations nightmare when it can least afford it.

Networkus Interruptus

No Internet this morning. Citizens Internet Service down for the county. Offline. Nada.

Tech support said the problem was areawide. Not sure what was happening but they were working on it.

Ran some tests. Sites reachable by IP address but not by domain name. That usually means a DNS problem. Perhaps their zone file corrupted during overnight update.

Ran tests with an IP monitor. Yep. IPs found but no domain names.

Called Citizens back. The young lady who answered the tech support line wasn't impressed.

Vox unpopuli

Two public hearings before the Floyd County Board of Supervisors Tuesday: One of an amended ordinance to raise the exemption limits for elderly and disabled to qualify for a $200 real estate tax exemption and a second on raising the "security fee" that is charged in court costs for convictions in traffic and criminal courts.

The turnout: Zero. Nada. Zilch. Nobody.