Heritage: What to do about Monument Avenue

I’ve been following the debate over Monument Avenue with great interest. I was born and raised in Richmond, Virginia. I’ve lived in a few places since leaving home for graduate school, but Virginia is, and always will be home.

I’m proud of my state and its heritage, but there’s also a lot to be ashamed of, and there’s no use denying it. Virginia has a sordid and long history of slavery and civil rights violations. There are many who celebrate its role as Capital of the Confederacy during the Civil War, but I am not one of them. I am fascinated by the history of the Civil War, but I recognize that it was a secessionist rebellion.

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Bikes in Massachusetts (Mostly Cambridge) & Northern Virginia

I’m not sure why I am so interested in taking pictures of bicycles.  Maybe it is because I really enjoy bicycling, but don’t get to do it enough.  For whatever reason, when I pass ones that that is interesting or aesthetically pleasing during the course of my day, I take pictures.

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Open Letter to the Editors of Richmond Magazine

Dear Editor,

richmond-magazine-august-2013-coverI am writing to express my disappointment in the August 2013, “Best and Worst ’13” issue of Richmond Magazine, particularly the “Culture” section.  Earlier this week, on August 14, Paste Magazine released it’s list of “12 Virginia Bands You Should Listen to Now,” part of The Paste 50 States Project.  11 of the 12  acts on that list are from Richmond, and yet the “Best Local Band” is a cover band that does hits from the 70s and 80s?  I do not mean to denigrate Three Sheets to the Wind at all.  I am sure they are fantastic, and I also recognize the issue reflects the results of a readers poll.  But should you not have guided that poll a bit more?  Most polls of this kind would ask readers to choose in categories, at the minimum between best cover band and best band that plays original material, but perhaps also best live band, best country act, best rock act, etc.

Why is the Culture section so small, anyway?  Are there not enough performances or people who have seen them to have listed Best Concert, Theatrical Production, Movie Theater, Library, Movie About or Filmed in Richmond, Album by an artist originally from the Richmond area…   I could go on!  This issue is certainly not reflective of the diverse cultural life in Richmond.  In fact, a couple of the categories, “Best Enjoyable Night Out” and “Best Impressive Night Out” seem to deal only with food and beverages.  I do believe that these are important parts constituents of culture, but in the categorization schema of this issue, “Food & Drink” are a separate and much larger section.

Your magazine should play a role in advancing the cultural life of the city, and in making people from here proud of the role our citizens have played on the  national stage.  This issue fails miserably.  It seems clear the real goal is to promote potential advertisers.  That’s fine, but it shouldn’t be your only goal.

Mea Culpa: I’m a Dirty Rotten Polluter!

My Mug Shot

My Mug Shot

I didn’t realize what evil I do when I put on that goofy bike helmet and ride down the road or trail, I swear.  According Seattle Bike Blog Washington Representative Ed Orcutt argues,

“You would be giving off more CO2 if you are riding a bike than driving in a car,” he said. However, he said he had not “done any analysis” of the difference in CO2 from a person on a bike compared to the engine of a car (others have).

Wow!  Just WOW!  Every once in a while a public figure says something that just leaves me speechless, and this is one of them.


Even if we never don’t register handguns, maybe we should at least start register these!

Shelved Bike



SAR Academic Freedom Media Review-June 16-22, 2012

Scholars at Risk monitors reports of threats to academic freedom and higher education communities worldwide, including media articles, blogs, opinion pieces and other announcements.  Unless otherwise indicated (such as in articles written by SAR), the language and views contained in the search results reflect those of the originating author and/or publication and do not necessarily represent the views of Scholars at Risk or its members, affiliates, board or staff. Archived media reviews are available here.


Russian Professors Jailed For Selling Secrets To China
Radio Free Europe, 06/22

Scholars at Risk calls for letters on behalf of Mr. Abdolfattah Soltani of Iran
Scholars at Risk, 06/20

U. of Nebraska Professor Reportedly Is Detained While on Study-Abroad Trip to China
The Chronicle of Higher Education, 06/18

Anger Builds Over Dismissal of University of Virginia President
Richard Pérez-Peña, New York Times, 06/18

Khartoum University: heartbeat of the Sudanese revolution
Sudanese Online, 06/18

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5th Anniversary of Her Passing

My mother's grave. My father will be buried alongside her.

Today is the fifth anniversary of my mother’s passing. There’s not much else to say that I didn’t already in a previous blog post except that I miss her immensely. There are times when I feel rudderless or lack confidence that I wish she were here. Mom never really told me what to do with my life, but she was always my strongest supporter and she just always made me feel like I could do anything.  My ego and self-confidence have never been strong.  I think she knew that and did here best to cultivate them.  Everyone should have someone like that in their lives.

I am closer than every to my father now, and I am grateful for that.  It’s kind of a cliche to say, but my parents are my heroes, more so than any celebrity, public official, intellectual or anyone I know.  So I welcome this chance to get to know on a deeper level the man who inspires me  so much

In fact, all of my family have been drawn closer by missing mom!  She was a woman who gave so much for others, and perhaps this was her last gift to us, forcing us all to realize how much we matter to one another.  Thanks Mom!


Academic Freedom Media Review – February 25 – March 2, 2012

The Scholars at Risk media review seeks to raise awareness about academic freedom issues in the news. Subscription information and archived media reviews are available here. The views and opinions expressed in these articles are not necessarily those of Scholars at Risk.


Virginia court rejects sceptic’s bid for climate science emails
Suzanne Goldenberg, The Guardian, 3/2

Yale Professors Want Singapore Campus to Protect Human Rights
Oliver Staley, Bloomberg News, 3/2

Excellence – but those missing out don’t see it that way
Frances Mechan-Schmidt, Times Higher Education, 3/1

African leader wants end to ‘slave trade’ in education /
Phil Baty, Times Higher Education, 3/1

Student singled out for punishment over Willetts protest
Judith Welikala, The Cambridge Student, 3/1

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CAIR Asks South Dakota Governor to Veto Anti-Sharia Bill

No Bigotry in Our LawsCAIR Asks South Dakota Governor to Veto Anti-Sharia Bill.

Have you heard about this bill?  Well it’s pissing me off and South Dakota isn’t the only state with one in process!  I urge you to click on the link above and read what the Council on  American-Islamic Relations has to say about it.  I’m not angry about it because  it once again demonstrates the appalling lack of understanding and intolerable amount of prejudice must be endured by Muslims in the United States. That deeply saddens me more than it pisses me off.  As an educator, I will do my best to fight against this kind of ignorance.    Americans are innately curious and open-minded, there is simply so much misinformation that has  so massively skewed perceptions.

I am annoyed, ok a little pissed off, that not only South Dakota, but approximately two dozen other state legislatures are wasting time on such frivolous bills when there are so many other pressing issues facing the states and our nation as a whole.  What’s all this talk I keep hearing about budget crunches,  fiscal austerity, and cutbacks?  Both Virginia and West Virginia have debated this kind of a law, as well.  These people, our elected representatives, don’t even understand our system of government, it seems. They pass frivolous, unnecessary legislation to prevent things that are already impossible, instead of dealing with real issues.

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Virginia House of Delegates Passes “Personhood” Bill

Virginia State Legislature Building

Just last week I posted a piece about my home state of Virginia and it’s stand on a number of the most significant issues in our nation’s history since slavery.  Richmond is changing. When I go home to Virginia to visit family I often feel like the state is becoming more diverse, tolerant, liberal and open.  Richmond, the capital city, now has some great bars and clubs, ethnic restaurants, a performing arts scene.  But seated there is a state legislature that does things like those described in this report.

On a 66-32 vote, the state’s House of Delegates has passed legislation to define life as beginning at conception.

After a passionate debate, the House also voted 63-36 to pass legislation to require women to undergo ultrasounds before abortion.

Why, Virginia, why?

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Which Side of History?

Dear Virginia,

I am proud to be a Virginian. I’ve not been a full time resident for a while, but I miss it immensely. Many of my family and friends are there, and I have so many fond memories of my childhood, youth and college. It’s a beautiful state, from the Atlantic Ocean to the Appalachian Mountains, and it has a rich history. Jamestown was the first permanent English Colony in the Americas, Revolutionary and Civil War Battlefields dot the state from border to border, Northern Virginia remains an important center of national government, as the Pentagon is there, as well as number of Federal Agencies, NGOs, lobbyists, and similar organizations. The map of the state is dotted with institutions of higher education to the point that it looks more like New England than the South: The University of Virginia, William and Mary, Virginia Tech, Virginia Commonwealth University… The state does not do enough to highlight it’s artistic heritage, which is rich. Among those born in or who hail from Virginia are Ella Fitzgerald, Sandra Bullock, Jason Mraz, Ruth Brown, Patsy Cline, Dave Matthews Band, Wanda Sykes, Shirley MacLaine, Perry Ellis… No less than 8 presidents were born in Virginia, including some of the most influential. Where would the US be if not for George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, James Madison or Woodrow Wilson?

And yet my state has a dark history, as well. It’s ironic that Stephen Spielberg is filming so much of the movie Lincoln in Virginia when the Richmond, VA was the Capitol of the Confederacy for part of the Civil War! Virginia was solidly on the wrong side in that one. We’ve been on the wrong side a lot! And when it was, it was often in a big way, as a recent post from BuzzFeed by Matt Stopera graphically illustrates with “five maps that show which states had the right idea, and which ones had the very, very wrong one.”

Here, for your consideration, are the first and last.

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