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April 6, 2015 Columns, Sustainable Planet Comments Off on Not-even-wrong

“The phrase ‘not-even-wrong’ describes any argument that purports to be scientific but fails at some fundamental level, usually in that it contains a terminal logical fallacy or it cannot be falsified by experiment (i.e. tested with the possibility of being rejected), or cannot be used to make predictions about the natural world.” – Wikipedia [1]

The physicist Jakob Bekenstein [2] proposed in his PhD dissertation in 1972 that black holes had positive entropy proportional to the surface area of their event horizon. This concept disagreed with the prevailing consensus and the physics community was very skeptical including Stephen Hawking, who set out to falsify Bekenstein’s argument. What Hawking did instead was to confirm it and then concede the point [3].

The physicist Richard Muller was a rather vocal skeptic of human-caused climate change until he analyzed the data for himself. His team has since published analysis that not only is the Earth surface warming rather dramatically but human emissions are 100 percent responsible [4]. Muller describes his results in this video [5]. In this example the outlier Muller was wrong and the consensus was correct, which is the more common result in science. We only here about the rare times the outlier is correct simply because that makes better news. In any event, it is always the argument with the most evidence which prevails in science.

These stories are good examples of how science progresses and also highlight the most important characteristic of skepticism: the willingness to be wrong, which distinguishes it from denial. Another distinguishing characteristic is knowledge of the science.

The expression “Not even wrong” is attributed to the physicist Wolfgang Pauli. He used it to criticize a paper written by another physicist. This critique implies that the argument is worse than simply being wrong and has come to be identified with arguments which are flawed in some fundamental way as describe on the Wikipedia page quoted above.

We have thus identified three categories of scientific argument: empirically correct, e.g. Bekenstein’s argument, empirically wrong, e.g. Muller’s argument, and not-even-wrong, e.g. string theory and the multi-verse, perhaps. Empirically wrong arguments which are falsified are important to science insofar as they may illuminate blind alleys and scientific arguments which are not-even-wrong may eventually prove not only to have value but to be correct in some limited circumstances. However, this is only possible if the argument is at least grounded in science and does not have logical fallacies.

In my last article [6] we examined arguments championed by the deniers Charles Lane [7] and Charles Krauthammer [8] in the Washington Post. Conflating climate physics with a single study of mammograms as Krauthammer did or cholesterol as did Lane is worse than not-even-wrong and requires a new and more accurate designation. Pauli did not have anything this stupid in mind when he coined the phrase “not-even-wrong”, which is why employing Hanlon’s razor we coin the label “stupid”.

There is a popular argument with global warming deniers, recently used by Senator Ted Cruz [9], which assumes that denier scientists must be right because they are in a very small minority. But that is a logical fallacy. The popularity or lack thereof has nothing to do with the correctness of a scientific argument. If climate hawks were to argue that the consensus of the climate science community is right only because they are in the majority that too would be a logical fallacy. In fact climate hawks point this out only to address yet another self-contradictory denier argument which claims that there are lots of climate scientists who deny global warming [10]. When the latter argument was falsified, deniers rather than concede the point made up the opposite argument. Deniers employ adaptive irrationality.

The consensus view is correct because of the weight of evidence summarized in the five IPCC reports. This happens to be the consensus of most climate scientists because of this overwhelming evidence. Instead of foolishly comparing himself to Galileo and confusing historic fact in the process, i.e., conflating a flat earth with Ptolemaic geocentrism [9], Cruz would have done better to read these reports and familiarize himself with the facts. He confuses campaign contributions with evidence and while in the short run that is profitable for Cruz, in the long run it is stupid and reckless.

In the case of global warming we are fortunate to have these five IPCC reports and lots of survey reports published by all of the relevant science organizations in the world such as AGU, NASA, NOAA, NSF, NAS, AAAS, ACS and so on. These surveys and summaries include all the good testable arguments which have been verified by experiment, observation and analysis, and in addition, all the good testable arguments which have been partly or wholly falsified.

When we examine denier arguments, we find that most of them, as is the cases with Krauthammer’s and Lane’s, actually avoid relevant science, even that which is not-even-wrong, and are best classified as stupid. Making the same falsified arguments repeatedly is also stupid unless new evidence is presented. Thus I have observed that all denier arguments are stupid which may be why the scientific community has difficulty addressing them. Why would any credible scientist bother to respond to someone as dumb as Krauthammer? I submit that this is one reason is why industry consultants, apologists, the press and politicians avoid evidence-based science in favor of stupid arguments. Another would be that confronting evidence-based science contradicts their world view and creates painful and unwelcome tension. They would be forced to reject their sacrosanct ideologies. For many like Cruz it would impact their ability to earn a living. And a third reason would be that they have no idea what science or the truth is.

Are Krauthammer, Lane, Hiatt and Cruz lying, confabulating, self-delusional or just stupid? Cognitive psychologists and neuro psychologists study this from a clinical perspective. An excellent introduction to this effort is William Hirstein’s “Brain Fiction”. The orbitofrontal cortex is the part of the brain which would ordinarily tell a rational person that cholesterol has nothing to do with the polar vortex. It is the same part of the brain which malfunctions in sociopaths.

At a party last weekend a climate activist averred that our mistake was calling it “global warming” instead of “climate change” or maybe the other way around. But this is as stupid as any denier argument and avoids the problem. We have been using both terms in equal measure for the last forty years and calling it something else would have made little difference. The fossil fuels industry is not paying these people to lie because they object to the terminology. The solution is a threat to their profits. Implementing the solution by government regulation is a threat to all large multi-national corporations and all plutocrats. Self-criticism by climate activists is an irresponsible waste of time. We are not the problem.

The philosopher Daniel Dennett has defined free will [11]: “What we have to understand is that free will is our capacity to see probable futures, futures which seem like they’re gonna happen, in time to take steps so that something else happens instead.” We have to concern ourselves with whether deniers have a free will, whether any amount of evidence would persuade them and whether or not Homo sapiens can survive as a consequence. We need to understand what has gone wrong in the denier brain and why.

According to Dennett scientists and activists exercised their free will “seeing probable futures.” We know what these are. The problem is we as a society are not taking the necessary steps so that something else happens. Why is that?

All of the people I’ve criticized have had large soap boxes and are paid to lie. All of their global warming denier arguments are stupid assiduously avoiding evidence. If we are going to find a rational argument which supports denial we will have to look elsewhere. We need to find a scientist, preferably a physicist, who understands what science is and whose livelihood does not depend on defending the over privileged and who is genuinely skeptical of the conclusions of the IPCC reports.

A good friend sent me an email he received from his friend who has a PhD in nuclear physics. I will call him Joe. Joe is a global warming skeptic and his email was his attempt to persuade my friend, an advanced degreed engineer that the IPCC reports are in error. We will examine Joe’s arguments in my next article.

[1] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Not_even_wrong

[2] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jacob_Bekenstein

[3] Jim Baggott, Farewell to Reality, How modern physics has bretrayed the search for scientific truth, Pegasus Books, 2013.

[4] Muller’s team’s papers http://berkeleyearth.org/papers

[5] Muller’s video http://www.skepticalscience.com/fiddling-with-global-warming-conspiracy-theories-while-rome-burns.html and an audio interview here http://hereandnow.wbur.org/2012/08/02/climate-change-skeptic

[6] Tony Noerpel, Deniers and Liars and Dunning-Kruger, March 17, 2015, http://brleader.com/?p=16610

[7] Charles Lane, http://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/science-with-a-side-order-of-humility/2015/02/18/d139f3d4-b78e-11e4-aa05-1ce812b3fdd2_story.html

[8] http://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/charles-krauthammer-the-myth-of-settled-science/2014/02/20/c1f8d994-9a75-11e3-b931-0204122c514b_story.html

[9] Chris Mooney http://www.washingtonpost.com/news/energy-environment/wp/2015/03/26/ted-cruz-invokes-galileo-to-defend-his-climate-skepticism-and-historians-arent-happy/

[10] an example: http://www.skepticalscience.com/OISM-Petition-Project.htm

[11] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=joCOWaaTj4A

Agreeable Tiger Moth – Luminous, White-Caped Wonder

April 2, 2015 Columns, Wild Loudoun 1 comment

On a cool April night you see a small winged insect – bright white and perhaps 1 inch in length – perched on a thin horizontal stem like a teeny tiny owl.

With the black night all around, the creature has a soft and cozy look to it – content and warm in textured body and wings, a feathery cap and a cashmere like stole that covers its chest, back and shoulders.

The white wings are tented behind, making its small body look longer and thinner. Its abdomen has small black dots.

Looking at it more closely you see deep black eyes and long whitish antennae that define its head and face. A bright, golden orange bib accents the eyes and marks where the front legs begin – thin, white, finely jointed sticks with distinct black stripes – stripes like a tiger’s legs.

So, what is it? Well, the stripes you will help you remember its name the next time you see it. It is a month, as you suspected. But, more specifically, a tiger moth, an “agreeable tiger moth” (Spilosoma congrua).

Tigers are part of the larger moth subfamily Arctiinae. With perhaps 11,000 species worldwide, the whole subfamily is referred to as “tigers.” Members of one subgroup within it have distinctly bold allover patterns – and that’s how it got its name.

Close cousins to the agreeable tiger moth are, among others, the pink-legged tiger moth and the Virginia tiger moth. (From a distance they’d look exactly like “agreeable,” as, visually, they are separated by only very small differences in their markings. But, each is unique nonetheless.)

In its caterpillar stage, the agreeable tiger moth is known as the yellow woolley bear. It is often light gold in color, but can also be a rust color, a dark brown or even black. You know what woolley bears are, or you at least remember how at certain times of year woolley caterpillars of all colors and sizes are making their way across our roads, lawns and patios – curling into a ball if we touch them but all intent on going somewhere.

After bursting from its egg in the spring, the immature yellow woolley bear caterpillar begins an earnest season of eating. As the weather cools and winter approaches it finds a safe place – as a mature woolley bear – to over-winter. Releasing water from its body, special chemicals freeze its remaining tissues solid. In the spring the caterpillar thaws, eats a bit and then fashions a cocoon from its bristles, entering its pupate stage. After about a month the young moth emerges from the cocoon and mates. Eggs are laid, and the lifecycle starts again.

By the time you saw that luminous, white-capped wonder on that thin horizontal stem, it was near the end of its life, intent on finding a mate, and, at that moment, perhaps enjoying the cool spring night as much as you were. Interesting that such a tiny, mostly inconspicuous creature has such an elegant story.

Edgar Tillett Memorial Park

April 2, 2015 Columns, Just Like Nothing (Else) on Earth Comments Off on Edgar Tillett Memorial Park

Whenever I’m at the edge of a woods – or other ‘wild’ place, I always find myself listening; I’m not sure where I picked up the habit – maybe my brothers, or father, or grandfather – or maybe from one of those other writer guys, like James Fenimore Cooper, or Hemingway- or even Ken Kesey. But, come to think of it, those guys were probably all listening for different things – and they might not have known what it was, either. But, sure enough, I found myself one recent foggy morning at the edge of a very undisciplined growth of trees and brush, and I caught myself: Standing there, breathing quietly, surveying the 60 or so yards into which my vision penetrated the darkness, listening and waiting. About all I heard was the nearby traffic on Belmont Ridge Road, and the occasional jet taking off or landing at Dulles Airport – and maybe a faint drip of melting snow and ice.

This was my first visit to Edgar Tillett Memorial Park – in Ashburn, just south of the Greenway. There wasn’t another soul utilizing the park that morning – they were all probably heading off to work – and, even if they had the day off, one of the last things on their agenda – likely – was traipsing around the half-frozen ballfields and scattered stands of trees at this neighborhood recreation area.

Those commuters had more important things to do than stand on the edge of civilization and await communication with the great mysteries to perhaps be discovered at Edgar Tillett Park. Not me. I had the day off, so there I stood… no, I didn’t receive any deep messages from beyond, or anything; I really didn’t experience a great deal in the way of excitement or drama – but I did feel the ice crunching under my boots, felt the cool, crisp damp air fortified by all the melting, and enjoyed quite a few minutes of the closest thing to solitude I could probably find this far from the Blue Ridge. Or at least that’s what I told myself.

Now, I’m imagining that my experience on a summer Saturday afternoon would be quite different: All four ballfields would most likely be in use – maybe the park would even be hosting a youth athletic tournament of some sort, with families gathered from across the region to enjoy some friendly competition at this convenient site for such activities. The noise of play and the cheering of the crowd might even drown out the sounds of traffic from Belmont Ridge Road and that of the overhead planes from Dulles. All that activity might even give the scattered Saturday commuters a moment of pause as they headed for all that important stuff up or down the road, too. Yeah, if I were to pay a visit to this place on a summer weekend, during heavy ball-playing season, I may not even have a stray moment to catch myself listening for whatever it is that I listen for at the edge of those woods. Maybe ‘it’ wouldn’t even be there for me to listen for – who knows?

But, I’ll bet that it’s still pretty peaceful there on the mornings of those games and tournaments, and it might even be foggy on some of them, and, if a guy like me were to take an early stroll out there, he could even find himself standing on the edge of the woods, as if almost listening for something – even if it was something he couldn’t positively identify. And the traffic on the road and the planes in the sky would be all the sounds he could recall – other than, perhaps the echoes of last year’s ball games, or that lone tree falling in the forest which he needed to be present for to make audible, or maybe even the faint reverberations of that long-ago Big Bang from which we’re still evolving.

I suppose the ball players will continue ball playing, the commuters will continue driving, the planes will keep on flying, and me – I’ll keep on finding myself on the property lines of places like Edgar Tillett Memorial Park – listening for something I’ve never experienced.

Hats – The Perfect Topping

April 2, 2015 Sarah's Closet Comments Off on Hats – The Perfect Topping

– By Sarah Nearis

Most women think hats take a little nerve to wear. But, worn right a hat has a way of freeing you, making you feel more put together.

Three things to keep in mind. Number one, keep your hat neutral, like your choice of shoes. Pick up a splash of color from your outfit, but don’t let the hat control. Number two, when wearing a hat, keep the other things around your face on the simple side – a sleek scarf, for example. Number three, avoid hats that are trying to be all things to all women. Let one thing dominate; the hat’s shape, color, decoration or material – but not all four. My favorite types of hats and how to wear them this season.

Baseball Caps: This most casual of hats looks great with a nice white T-shirt and a crisp pair of jeans – great for sun protection and when you don’t feel like spending a lot of time on your hair. Don’t be afraid to wear them with your hair pulled back or if you have short hair – they make for a tidy look. But avoid over-embellished baseball cap styles – keep it simple.

Casual Woven Hats: These are casual hats with less shape and structure. They give you a lighter, brighter look and are perfect for sundresses and sleeveless tops and shorts. As with baseball caps, keep it simple and don’t over do it with accessories.

Fedoras: This is my favorite style of hat. They can be small or large brimmed, but they all have a structured shape – tailored, nothing extra. Think of them as the man’s shirt of women’s hats – smart and fashion forward. Wider-brimmed versions are great for the beach, shorter brimmed versions perfect with a simple tunic and capris pants or leggings.

“Kentucky Derby” Hats: Not just for the most watched horse race in the world, big, colorful hats can be really beautiful. This is the only case where you CAN let the hat take over. Just remember, it’s a hat, not a floral display. Use it to show off the sophisticated simplicity with which you put the rest of your outfit together. Turning up the hat? Tone down the rest.

Berets: A certain woman I know looks fantastic in berets. She buys her clothes here, but her wardrobe has a very European look to it – with well-shaped, well-tailored cottons, silks and linens accented with feminine touches such as simple embroidery, stripes, fitted waistbands, and softly structured pleats, collars and cuffs. Sound like you? Try a beret. You’ll know instinctively how to wear it.

Take the plunge and wear a hat!
Sarah Nearis is a fashion stylist, fashion blogger & style expert. A graduate of Bay State College in Boston and The School of Style, Sarah’s attitude is as refreshing as her impossibly sweet personality. Connect with Sarah on her All Things Beautiful blog: sarahnearis.blogspot.com.

Speak Up Against Anti-Semitism


– By Samuel Moore-Sobel

Anti-Semitism. It’s an ugly word, a word filled with hate and bigotry. Yet it has been on the rise over the last year. It is alarming and unacceptable, and it is time for all to take a stand against it.

In Europe, anti-Semitic sentiment has been smoldering under the surface and is now coming out into the light. Recently there was an attack on a French kosher market that left four Jewish hostages dead at the hands of a gunman who claimed to be carrying out the wishes of the Islamic State. Jewish residents are reportedly planning to leave their beloved homes in Saint-Mande, as the fear for their safety escalates. Yet the decision being made by many Jews in Saint-Mande is nothing new. In fact, anti-Semitism has been on the rise across Europe.

Europe does not hold a monopoly on anti-Semitic sentiment. Emily Shire reported in a recent column in “The Daily Beast” that more than half of all Jewish college students, 54 percent, either experienced anti-Semitism or observed it occurring on their campus during a six-month period. This data was gathered by the Louis D. Brandeis Center for Human Rights and published in 2014. There are also extensive reports of swastikas being found all over the U.C. Berkeley campus, and “Death to Israel” graffiti. There are similar reports at universities all across the nation, such as swastikas spray-painted on the mailboxes of fraternities at Vanderbilt University and the University of Oregon, just to name a few.
After Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu addressed a joint session of Congress last month, I was alarmed to hear the anti-Semitic comments made by students all across my own university. It is one thing to disagree with the policies of the state of Israel; but, policy disagreements are no excuse to discriminate against Jews. Calling for the demise of an entire nation is calling for the destruction of a people group. Who has said the nation of France should not exist?

Throughout my time in college, I have seen anti-Semitic words scrawled in the stalls of the men’s bathroom and idle chatter throughout campus filled with hatred against the Jews. After Prime Minister Netanyahu’s speech, the chatter only increased. A display was erected in the center of the George Mason University campus. Each day thousands of students were greeted with the words, “Palestine Lives,” accompanied by words accusing Israel of carrying out “apartheid.” College is supposed to be a place where opposing views are debated, compared and contrasted. Why is only one side of the story being told?

The hatred of Jews is not a new phenomenon. It has been going on for thousands of years. A few months ago I wrote about my great-grandfather, Samuel Postal. His wife, Yetta Protass, was born in Russia. Her story is eerily similar to Tevye and his family’s depicted in the iconic movie “Fiddler on the Roof.” She and her family were forced from their town in 1907, along with thousands of other Jews throughout the Soviet Union. She was a victim of the pogroms carried out all across Russia in the early 1900s.

When I think about my great-grandmother’s story, I soon turn to the story of her husband. I sometimes wonder what would have happened had my great-grandfather’s parents decided against leaving Poland when they did. They would possibly be victims of the Holocaust, and I would not be here writing this column. While the rise in anti-Semitism certainly does not compare to the Holocaust, it is concerning to see such sentiment just 70 years after the end of World War II.

Whenever anti-Semitism is brought up, there is an image that haunts me from our not so distant past. Flipping through old pictures that belong to my great-aunt, there are some that include a sign reading “No Blacks No Jews” in the background of mid-20th century beach scenes. Even after the atrocities of the Holocaust, the lessons had still not been learned. It is time for someone to take a stand, to ensure that the future for all ethnicities is bright and prosperous. Those pictures serve as a powerful reminder, and are signs that I hope my children and grandchildren will never have to see in their lifetimes.

After Prime Minister Netanyahu’s speech, a close friend wrote to me and said, “Anti-Semitism will never go away, or even fade. The only question is how overt it will be. Europe has already answered that question. America is still in the process, although I think we’re OK for now.” With no political clout or particular influence, I use my humble pen to show some of what is happening in the world around us. I hope that America will make the right choice and choose to be on the right side of history.

Samuel Moore-Sobel is a junior at George Mason University majoring in government and international politics.

Run In Remembrance

April 1, 2015 Columns, Mary Rose Lunde Comments Off on Run In Remembrance
Lunde new

– By Mary Rose Lunde

When people think about Virginia Tech, most people would associate the college as the engineering school. Many people, although they are hesitant to admit it, automatically associate the college as the school that has a bad reputation with safety. It’s likely that if you say the word shooting around campus, you will get a mixed response. If you say that word in front of me, I cringe at the thought, and, like many of my classmates, fall silent in remembrance.

My creative non-fiction teacher recently had us read an article by Michelle Bliss originally published in The New York Times. It was about the shooter as well as the students and led to mixed responses in the discussion that followed. Many of us sat quietly in our seats during this discussion pretending to pay attention as our minds wandered elsewhere, longing to avoid the subject. It is not an easy thing to talk about for sure.

Virginia Tech carries the legacy of the 32 people in its current students and faculty. Not a day goes by that I don’t walk by the Drill Field and see the memorial that stands in front of Burruss Hall. It is sad to think that Virginia Tech will always hold an association as “the shooting school.” It angers me that people associate the school with this, and yet I feel like this association honors those whose lives were lost. Their legacy is never going to leave the campus, or its identity. The community aspect of Virginia Tech won’t allow it.
Every year Virginia Tech hosts the 3.2 run for 32. This year, as a student, I will be able to run with my classmates to remember them. Crossing the finish line will mean honor and remembrance of those lost and I know that I won’t be the only one proud to be a Hokie on that day, April 16.

I don’t know if classes will be canceled. I know people often throw themselves into work to cope with the anniversary of a tragic event. My creative non-fiction teacher explained that last year was the first year that he taught on the date since the shooting. Even 8 years later he still had trouble talking to the class about the events and feelings of the story.
Being a freshman, I didn’t have much to offer, but listening to my classmates talk about friends that were on campus and had siblings attending on the day made me squirm in my seat. The events alone are tragic, but the stories from people that have an actual tie to the day are much more deep and scary. It makes me appreciate all the safety precautions Virginia Tech has created since then.

I am a proud Hokie, as are many of my classmates. On April 16, we will run to remember those on that tragic day. We will come together as a community of Hokies and we will run. We will run to honor their lives. We will run to remember them because they will not be forgotten. Once a Hokie, always a Hokie.
Mary Rose Lunde is a freshman at Virginia Tech. She is excited to join her community in the 3.2 for 32 mile run on April 16.

Kitchen Science Kids: Sweet Science

April 1, 2015 Columns, Kitchen Science Kids Comments Off on Kitchen Science Kids: Sweet Science

– By Leah Enright

When I was a kid, I was taught in school that everything that takes up space, and has mass is matter, and matter can be in the form of a solid, liquid or gas.” This is still true, of course, (though scientists have added a bit to it), but understanding this is a great scientific start. But, what does it mean? It means that everything: That slice of pizza you had for lunch, the water in the ocean, and even the breath from your mouth is matter. (Don’t believe me about the last one? Blow up a balloon, and you’ll see.) The pizza is solid, the water in the ocean is liquid, and your breath is gas. Pretty simple, isn’t it?
Well, we can’t leave things there, we have to do something, and preferably something that tastes good. How about homemade sweet lemonade?

To make this delicious drink, you’ll need an adult helper and a solid, (a cup of sugar), liquids, water and lemon juice, and you will create gas – steam escaping from the pan.
Here’s how to do it:

1. First, ask an adult to make a syrupy sweetener by placing one cup of sugar and one cup of water in a pan. Simmer and stir until the sugar is no longer grainy, and the mixture drips easily from the spoon. Set syrup aside.

2. Use a hand juicer to twist the juice out of 4-6 lemons, so that you have one cup of juice, (or pour a cup of prepared lemon juice from the supermarket into a measuring cup).

3. Pour the juice and the syrup into a serving pitcher, and add 2 cups of water.
Stir and taste. If the lemonade is too strong, add ½ to 1cup of water, until you like the flavor.

4. Serve and enjoy.

So, we see that matter is anything that takes up space and has mass, and can be in the form of a solid, liquid or gas. (There is a fourth stage of matter, called plasma, which is a subject for another time.)

Solids, liquids and gases coming together in a refreshing drink –yes, kids – science can be sweet.
Leah Enright believes that a playful attitude toward science creates a love for the subject. She lives, writes and works in western Loudoun County.

April Is The Time To Plant – Don’t Forget Hardscapes

April 1, 2015 Columns, Virginia Gardening Comments Off on April Is The Time To Plant – Don’t Forget Hardscapes

– By Donna Williamson

April is a perfect time to plant permanent fruit-bearing plants at your home. The soil has good moisture and we can get the plants established before it gets too hot and dry.
You might be interested in the excellent book The Holistic Orchard by Michael Phillips. He has valuable information on growing all kinds of trees and berry fruits.

Blueberries love our climate but hate hot and dry conditions. Areas with sun, good moisture, and good drainage are premium spots for your blueberry bushes. Blueberries bloom on old or last year’s woody growth so early pruning would be counter-productive for your pie-maker.

Blackberries are delicious, love our summer heat/humidity, and are easy to grow. Like raspberries, they grow well in northern Virginia. You will enjoy them more with a little containment system that makes picking the berries easier. Google ‘berry trellis’ to view various design and building options.

Gooseberries and currants are shrubby. These old-time fruits are delicious in pancakes and jams. There are several varieties you can grow easily. Tuck them into a shrub border. Little hands can pick them easily. Don’t plant near white pines.

Rhubarb is another permanent fruit for your home landscape. Each year, it will emerge in spring to treat you with great pink stalks ready to be stewed with a bit of sugar and served by itself or with strawberries.

Figs require space and some winter protection but are well worth it. The leaves can be large and tropical looking and the fruit is the flower. Delicious and succulent fruit ripens in late summer.

Grapes can be wonderful – I’ve had good luck with the Concord grape. It tastes exactly like childhood memories of grape jam. There are seeds though. Grapes grow on a woody vine that can be trained over a fence, arch, pergola, or trellis, providing a leafy canopy in summer. Annual pruning keeps it from getting out of bounds.

Now On To Hardscapes

“Hardscapes” is a term used by landscape folks about the stuff that is not plants. Walkways, patios, fountains, pergolas, stairs, pool decks, fences, and stonewalls are all examples of hardscaping.

If you are planning to have some hardscaping done, you will want that finished before you add the plants. Plants are easily beaten up in the midst of stone, stone dust, gravel, forms, concrete and big construction boots.

My best advice to you is when you have any steps are installed, be sure the riser (the up piece) is no more than 4-5 inches high and the tread (the part you step on) is at least 16-18+ inches wide. It will give you a nice, comfortable step or stair. Steps should be solid and flat – no tipping and evenly spaced for good, safe, long-time usefulness.

Walkways are most accommodating when they are 4-5 feet wide, so two people can walk side-by-side, and are uniformly flat.

Stonewalls are lovely. A short stonewall, as part of a patio, can be useful as extra seating when entertaining. Short walls can also create terracing when there is a change in grade.
Donna Williamson is a garden designer and coach. She has taught classes at the State Arboretum of Virginia, Oatlands and Shenandoah University. She has two e-books on Amazon – one is an updated version of her Virginia gardening book and her new perennials book. She can be reached at donnawilliamson2002@earthlink.net or 540 877-2002.

Underage Drinking and Fake IDs

April 1, 2015 Ask Dr. Mike, Columns Comments Off on Underage Drinking and Fake IDs

By Michael Oberschneider, Psy.D.

Dr. Mike,

I found a fake ID in my 18 year old son’s backpack. He uses his own name, but gives a false birth year that makes him out to be 21 years old. My husband and I caught him drinking with his friends in our basement a few months ago, but we didn’t make a big deal out of it because he does well academically and socially. My husband thinks that we shouldn’t say anything to our son and is taking the position that “teenagers will be teenagers.” My friends tell me differently that getting caught with a fake ID is serious business these days and that I should confiscate the ID and punish my son. He’s heading off to college this fall, and this whole thing scares me. What do you think?
-A Concerned Parent

… Continue Reading

Amy & Dan Smith’s Planning For Life: Planning For The Unexpected

April 1, 2015 Amy and Dan Smith, Columns Comments Off on Amy & Dan Smith’s Planning For Life: Planning For The Unexpected
Amy Smith-BRL

– By Amy and Dan Smith

Life-changing medical events of the past week have reminded me to not only review my plans but perhaps serve as a messenger for a “call to action” to any of you who think financial and estate planning is for the well-heeled or something you cannot afford or don’t need.
The situation happened quickly. I had visited my parents last month and, while chronic issues were evident, crisis did not seem imminent. Then one of my elderly parents began falling at home repeatedly. My other parent, also physically impaired, did not register the gravity of this matter and did nothing. My sister, arriving a few days later, immediately called 911, taking my parent to the hospital emergency room.

… Continue Reading

Deniers and Liars and Dunning-Kruger

March 17, 2015 Columns, Sustainable Planet Comments Off on Deniers and Liars and Dunning-Kruger

“We now live in a culture in which it is entirely possible to live the vast majority of one’s life inside a[n] ideological bubble.” Slaughter and Gutenson [1]

Dunning-Kruger Effect: The Dunning–Kruger effect is a cognitive bias wherein unskilled individuals suffer from illusory superiority, mistakenly assessing their ability to be much higher than is accurate. This bias is attributed to a metacognitive inability of the unskilled to recognize their ineptitude. [2]

“Without free will there could be no rational thought.” – Nicolas Gislin [3] … Continue Reading

Are GM Foods Safe?

March 8, 2015 Columns, Sustainable Planet Comments Off on Are GM Foods Safe?

“Monsanto shouldn’t have to vouchsafe the safety of biotech food. Our interest is in selling as much of it as possible. Assuring its safety is the FDA’s job.” Philip Angell, Monsanto’s director of corporate communications [1]

“Ultimately, it is the food producer who is responsible for assuring safety.” Federal Register [2]

Tony Noerpel

A few weeks ago [3], I described a PEW study suggesting that most scientists (87 percent) accept the human-caused climate change paradigm whereas most of the public does not. Both results contrast with the opinions of climate scientists which is for all practical purposes 100 percent in support of the theory. This support is well documented. As strong as the theory is on its own merits, the irrationality of those objecting to it, strengthens it further. All opposition is driven by neo-liberal economic ideology and the fossil fuels industry. … Continue Reading

Amy and Dan Smith’s Planning for Life: Looking Beyond U.S. Borders

March 4, 2015 Amy and Dan Smith, Columns Comments Off on Amy and Dan Smith’s Planning for Life: Looking Beyond U.S. Borders

By Amy and Dan Smith

Even though U.S. equities still represent the single largest portion of the world stock markets, more than half of the world’s total stock market capitalization lies outside the United States, and economic growth rates outside the United States have in some cases exceeded that of the United States. Investors are beginning to consider diversifying their holdings beyond U.S. borders as a result. In the past, I have often recommended allocating no more than 10-20 percent of an investor’s overall portfolio to international funds. However, with the growth of global markets and the European Central Bank’s recent initiation of quantitative easing, many experts now suggest an even higher percentage can be appropriate given the right circumstances. … Continue Reading









Ice house, Hot House and Mad House


Recently, I was asked: “I know we are putting carbon dioxide into the atmosphere and scientists say that will warm the planet but there were also ice ages and warmer climates in the past before humans so what caused those …

Sugar Crash

Lunde new

Sugar runs inside our body and fuels our very being. In biology they teach us that sugar is really glucose which is broken down in the body to produce ATP (adenine tri-phosphate). So why bring this up? Well, sugar is …

The Art of Memory


By Samuel Moore-Sobel Still Alice. A movie that not only elicits tears, but naturally incurs reflection. This heartrending movie was the starting point of a personal wrestling with the implications of human memory. Remembering can bring us back to a …

Living in Debt


Dr. Mike, My husband has issues with money that are hurting our relationship and family. He makes a lot of money, but he spends more than he makes and we are in debt. He can’t just have a luxury car, …

June in the Garden

juneingarden flowers

Conserve Water, Beat the Heat and Keep Things Blooming By Andrea Gaines It’s getting hot out there. And, there’s nothing more discouraging for a gardener that to come home after a weekend away – or miss a regular watering schedule …

Potoma Wayside

potoma wayside

My advice is: Don’t look straight down; the combination of rushing highway traffic a couple of feet away and, what’s – to me, anyway – a dizzying height, can produce some unsettling sensations. I came to this conclusion after walking …


Grief and Greed


By Matthew Parse What would drive a single individual to cause so much emotional stress and financial burden on hundreds, if not, thousands of families? What would drive the Town …


Oh No, It’s the Christians!


By Nicholas Reid In the hours and days following every massacre perpetrated by radical Muslims, there is one unifying theme across most news coverage of the massacre, wherever it may …

Dear Editor

Thank You


It is with great anticipation that I look forward to Monday, June 27, 2016. On that day new Purcellville Town Council members will be sworn into office, at Town Hall. …

View From the Ridge

An Open Letter to the Citizens of Purcellville


Mark Your Calendar, They’ve Asked for Our Input So Let’s Give It To Them By Steady and Nobull The Purcellville Planning Commission has tentatively scheduled a series of public input …

Student News

Four Scouts Achieve Eagle Scout Rank

3 Feb 2016


Joel Gicker, Kyle Siecker, Sam Soltis and David Watson achieved the rank of Eagle Scout at a Court of Honor conducted at Blue Ridge Bible Church in Purcellville on January 9. The four Eagles are members of Troop 711 of …

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8th Grade Writers Honored At Blue Ridge Middle School

2 Jul 2015


Sixty-seven Blue Ridge Middle School eighth graders have been honored for their writing during the 2014-2015 school year. Many students had their writing selected for publication by Creative Communication, a program for student writers, while others won county-wide writing contests. …

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Ben Kellogg Achieves Eagle Scout

1 Jul 2015


Benjamin Robert Kellogg achieved the rank of Eagle Scout at a Court of Honor conducted at St. Andrew’s Presbyterian Church in Purcellville on March 29. Friends, family and troop leaders attended the celebration, including his parents, Robert and Deirdre Kellogg. …

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June 2016

Sea & Sky – an exhibit by copper artist Anne Jordan and mixed media artist Karen Watson


Sea & Sky – an exhibit by copper artist Anne Jordan and mixed media artist Karen Watson


It’s a Beach Thing . . . featuring lamp-work glass artist Julie Bahun and abstract painter Karen Hutchison


It’s a Beach Thing . . . featuring lamp-work glass artist Julie Bahun and abstract painter Karen Hutchison

Free Gardening Lecture


It’s a Beach Thing . . . featuring lamp-work glass artist Julie Bahun and abstract painter Karen Hutchison


It’s a Beach Thing . . . featuring lamp-work glass artist Julie Bahun and abstract painter Karen Hutchison

Yard Sale

Notaviva Vineyards - Bluegrass Jam - FREE event



It’s a Beach Thing . . . featuring lamp-work glass artist Julie Bahun and abstract painter Karen Hutchison


It’s a Beach Thing . . . featuring lamp-work glass artist Julie Bahun and abstract painter Karen Hutchison


It’s a Beach Thing . . . featuring lamp-work glass artist Julie Bahun and abstract painter Karen Hutchison


It’s a Beach Thing . . . featuring lamp-work glass artist Julie Bahun and abstract painter Karen Hutchison


It’s a Beach Thing . . . featuring lamp-work glass artist Julie Bahun and abstract painter Karen Hutchison


It’s a Beach Thing . . . featuring lamp-work glass artist Julie Bahun and abstract painter Karen Hutchison


It’s a Beach Thing . . . featuring lamp-work glass artist Julie Bahun and abstract painter Karen Hutchison

19th Annual Cajun Festival & Crawfish Boil


It’s a Beach Thing . . . featuring lamp-work glass artist Julie Bahun and abstract painter Karen Hutchison


It’s a Beach Thing . . . featuring lamp-work glass artist Julie Bahun and abstract painter Karen Hutchison


It’s a Beach Thing . . . featuring lamp-work glass artist Julie Bahun and abstract painter Karen Hutchison


It’s a Beach Thing . . . featuring lamp-work glass artist Julie Bahun and abstract painter Karen Hutchison


It’s a Beach Thing . . . featuring lamp-work glass artist Julie Bahun and abstract painter Karen Hutchison


It’s a Beach Thing . . . featuring lamp-work glass artist Julie Bahun and abstract painter Karen Hutchison


It’s a Beach Thing . . . featuring lamp-work glass artist Julie Bahun and abstract painter Karen Hutchison

Goats at BRNP


It’s a Beach Thing . . . featuring lamp-work glass artist Julie Bahun and abstract painter Karen Hutchison

Bring Dad to North Gate Vineyard


It’s a Beach Thing . . . featuring lamp-work glass artist Julie Bahun and abstract painter Karen Hutchison


It’s a Beach Thing . . . featuring lamp-work glass artist Julie Bahun and abstract painter Karen Hutchison


It’s a Beach Thing . . . featuring lamp-work glass artist Julie Bahun and abstract painter Karen Hutchison


It’s a Beach Thing . . . featuring lamp-work glass artist Julie Bahun and abstract painter Karen Hutchison


It’s a Beach Thing . . . featuring lamp-work glass artist Julie Bahun and abstract painter Karen Hutchison

June Fourth Friday at Breaux Vineyards

Love, He Called It


It’s a Beach Thing . . . featuring lamp-work glass artist Julie Bahun and abstract painter Karen Hutchison

Love, He Called It


It’s a Beach Thing . . . featuring lamp-work glass artist Julie Bahun and abstract painter Karen Hutchison

Sip & Paint at Breaux Vineyards

Love, He Called It


It’s a Beach Thing . . . featuring lamp-work glass artist Julie Bahun and abstract painter Karen Hutchison


It’s a Beach Thing . . . featuring lamp-work glass artist Julie Bahun and abstract painter Karen Hutchison


It’s a Beach Thing . . . featuring lamp-work glass artist Julie Bahun and abstract painter Karen Hutchison


It’s a Beach Thing . . . featuring lamp-work glass artist Julie Bahun and abstract painter Karen Hutchison

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Notaviva Vineyards - Bluegrass Jam - FREE event

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Rummage Sale Trailers Open July 9

27 Jun 2016


78th Annual Ladies Board Rummage Sale Ready For Donations The Ladies Board of Inova Loudoun Hospital is officially accepting donations for the annual Rummage Sale. The first Donation Day of the summer will be on Saturday, July 9 from 9:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. at Inova Loudoun Hospital, 44045 Riverside Parkway, Leesburg, and at Inova Loudoun Medical Campus – Leesburg, …

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Troy and Paula Haag Perform at Old Stone School

9 Jun 2016

troy and paula haag 1a

Troy and Paula Haag, will appear on The Gap Stage at the Old Stone School on Saturday, June 18. Tickets are $15 in advance and $20 at the door. Dinner will be sold by Big Mike’s BBQ, drinks will be sold by the glass, and there will be desserts at intermission. Troy and Paula will be joined by Max Haag …

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Here’s To the Colorists, Manicurists and Blow Dry Mavens… Thanks for Listening!

1 Jun 2016

hair color

Sunday, June 26 is Beauticians Day, celebrating the cosmetology and other experts who keep us looking and feeling our best – whether it’s with a haircut and style, a facial, a manicure, or just some quiet and light conversation.

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Around Virginia

HUD Awards $2 Million in Housing Counseling Grants To Virginia


Sens. Mark R. Warner and Tim Kaine (both D-VA) announced today that Catholic Charities USA, headquartered in Alexandria, will receive $951,150 in federal funding, and the Virginia Housing Development Authority, located in Richmond, will receive $1,040,918. This nearly $2 million grant by the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) …

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Four Hop, Skip and a Jump Local Destinations


Last month we encouraged our readers to consider visiting any one of five great destinations within just a stone’s throw of Loudoun’s history-lined borders – Berryville and Harper’s Ferry among them. This month we feature four destinations – two right here in our much-celebrated county, and two just over the …


Out and About Loudoun and Beyond

The Plains’ charming restaurants, shops and sidewalks.

Five Stone’s Throw Spring and Summer Destinations By Andrea Gaines Bordered by the Potomac River to the north and beautiful mountains to the west – and with easy access to Rt. 95, the Dulles Toll Road and Route 66 – Loudouners have no short list of fun spring places to …

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The Lady Vikings Earned Back-to Back Conference Title

1 Jun 2016


The Lady Vikings earned the back-to back conference title with a 4-1 win over Heritage in late May. The team earned a first round playoff bye finishing first in the conference and then went on to defeat Rock Ridge 12-0 in the conference semi-finals. The Lady Vikings ended their regular …

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Big Baseball Coming To Fireman’s Field

1 Jun 2016

purcellville cannons

Got Your Father’s Day Gift Lined Up Yet? The Purcellville Cannons’ Brett Fuller couldn’t be happier. He’s the owner of one of the most popular teams in the Valley Baseball League. The team, up until recently was called the Charles Town Cannons but now calls Purcellville its home.

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