Community Councils – A Continuation

As seniors from Monticello High School participating in the Citizen Action Plan Project (CAP Project), we spent some time researching the issues around the Albemarle County Community Councils. We delved into questions such as “What are Community Councils and are they a good idea? More specifically, should we continue utilising them to get community input or do they slow the decision-making process down too much?”

The more we researched about these Community Councils, the more of a good idea we found them to be. For example, they allow for public input on projects that citizens wouldn’t normally be able to give ideas and opinions on as well as providing extra input for the people in charge who don’t know how the proposed project would affect the area as well as the residents of that area. One example of this is the 2007 Glenmore traffic light project, where community councils allowed the supervisors to adjust the developer’s plans to fit the citizen’s needs.

As we researched, however, we discovered a community of people who oppose the idea of Community Councils as strongly as we support them, saying that they slow down the development process needlessly. A key player that we kept running into was Neil Williamson, the President of the Free Enterprise Forum and author of several blog posts where he states that “The Community Councils should be eliminated and Albemarle County Land Use and other development applications should follow the approval process as set in state code” as well as “The Free Enterprise Forum believes the Community Councils have (since at least 2009) exceeded their authority and failed to add significant value beyond the Master Plan reviews”.

In rebuttal we offer some ideas and specific examples for improvement to make community councils and committees accessible to the community yet while still progressing in a timely manner. As the main argument was the inefficiency of the Councils, one particular improvement is to increase the time efficiency per major decision – which would also mean using the Council’s decision as more valuable and giving it some legal weight in the Supervisor’s final decision, since currently the votes mean very little and are merely advice given by the community. Another possible improvement would be a greater ease of access for the community (i.e more publicity, more participation) – as it took us a good amount of time to find any information on the Councils and a lot of organizations such as the League of Women Voters had not heard of them before.

Nevertheless, the community councils are still the best way for the community to provide its input – and for the consent of the governed to have its voice in our modern community.

Free Enterprise Forum

By. Neil Williamson, President

As an organization, the Free Enterprise Forum is very active in many local public policy discussions.  I appreciated Charlottesville Tomorrow’s Sunday (3/15) article regarding our comments to the Albemarle County Board of Supervisors regarding community councils.

In the end, only the most tepid of reforms were passed (6-0).  The number of groups will be expanded.  Language discouraging voting was eliminated from the reforms at the request of the now renamed Community Committees.  I actually believe we may be worse off after the “reforms” than we were before.

I found it most interesting the Supervisors took issue with the concept of limiting the committees’ ability to vote.   This Board has applauded the US 29 Project Delivery Advisory Panel which seems to be functioning absent any voting or consensus.

On Tuesday, I received a call from a student at Monticello High School who was interested in our…

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Requiem (or maybe a Revival) for All the Books I Ever Wrote

Over the years, I have accumulated a good number of false starts on “books” (quotations exist simply because they’re not quite worthy of bookdom) – and I feel they all deserve a little bit of honor so today I will write blurbs for all the successful books (and series) I ever made a significant effort on and wrote down.

Fantasia – Book 1 of the Vitae Series

Have you ever wished to have gods and unicorns as your best friends? To be able to go on all the brave questing adventures talked about in fairy tales? To meet and tame your own personal Pegasus before battling teleporting villains and fierce cave monsters?

Welcome to Fantasia, only accessible by those who believe. The starting ground for the magic of Vitae, Fantasia ensures you can survive on your own (with some divine intervention of course and maybe even the help of a talking cat) as you embark on progressively more difficult quests. Follow Clara as she finds her way through the caves of Hephaestus, battles horrors on John’s island and defeats the villains of the Forgotten Forest with her trusty sidekicks there to back her up.

Vitae Series Blurb

Everyone goes through certain stages of life that get progressively more treacherous and difficult as you go through them – with roller coaster ups and downs that make you feel like you’re on top of the world or in the pits of despair.

For Clara, a True Believer, these stages take the form of three islands. Fantasia – where she builds up her stamina by taming the world to her needs (with the help of some divine beings); Castalia – where teenage dreams come true but everything gets that much more dangerous; and Medalia – where treachery is common and you have to fight to the top and fight to stay there. Follow her as she discovers just how difficult, yet exhilarating, life can be.

The Scarlet Cloak (Book 1 in the Phantom World 2 Series)

After all three having the world’s most realistic nightmares, best friends Victor, Louise, and Roy suddenly find themselves in a parallel world terrorized by an evil king – but apparently they already have roles and instincts in this strange new place that they had no idea existed. Louise finds herself filling the shoes of the most celebrated hero (in the peasant’s eyes) who is wanted dead or alive by Lord Morior while Victor discovers he is heir to the throne after his brother and Roy suffers a serious inferiority complex that nearly drives him mad. Guided by a wise (and also wanted) warrior named Sagatus, the three take on this strange new world all at once and suffer the consequences of doing so.

Phantom World 2 Series Blurb

In Book 1, our three unlikely heroes work together to make allies and an army to battle Lord Morior and his nearly perfect army.

In Book 2, they find themselves fighting each other as ruling a kingdom and simultaneously dealing with teenage hormones don’t always mix that well.

In Book 3, the final showdown occurs between this divided trio and the resurrected Dead Lord (Morior) and his wife and most feared henchmen who have come to take vengeance for their lost realm.

In the Final Hours

Facing an unknown but certainly fatal threat, a group of people are brought together to hide in the trenches they dug to shield themselves. They face inward conflict and external gunfire, alongside sparks of romance and a sense of impending doom, as they learn to work together to hopefully defeat this mysterious enemy.

and finally,

The Unforgiving

After her parents are brutally murdered by a tattooed stranger, Sinead Morian joins the Wraith Services to combat the darkest evil of New York City. However, as time goes on, shocking secrets about her past are revealed, and she begins to question just how “good” the Wraith Services are, and the true story behind her parents’ deaths.

In response to The Daily Post’s writing prompt: “BYOB(ookworm).”

Fire

She loved spicy foods. She loved the kick they brought to her mouth, the feeling of fire on her tongue. She refused to give in to the pain, to drink milk or eat bread. Instead she savored every moment of burning intensity, unflinching and steadfast.

She always ordered the strongest, spiciest, dish on the menu and eat it completely, to the amazement of her table-mates, but they passed it off as a simple affinity for spice and that she was accustomed to the sensation. They did find it strange, however, that she never hung around for long after the meal was finished. She paid her part of the bill, exchanged a few quick pleasantries as everyone slipped on their coats, then slid into her car and out of the parking lot before anyone could notice or react.

She drove for an hour or so, out of the city into some bare field somewhere, a grassy meadow that lay fallow with no crops or livestock she could disturb, and then she would sit down and wait, just like normal.

She waited for the capsaicin to react with the unique enzymes she carried and to stimulate the chain reaction that would allow her to spread her wings and fly – but she was getting ahead of herself. She dug her toes into the soft earth and wondered where the spice would take her this time.

It wasn’t long before she felt the familiar fire rise up in her stomach – then she gritted her teeth as pain wrenched through her bones and ligaments and muscles and stretched them out to twice their normal length – bending them and forming them. Her shoulder-blades exploded outwards and grew cartilaginous structures that quickly filled in with a thin leathery substance. She raised her elongated head to the sky and let out a howl of exhilaration and suffering – the counter-intuitive mix she so enjoyed – and with that howl came a long jet of fire.

She flicked the tail that had formed, looked over her shoulder to make sure everything was in order, then pushed off from the ground with her all of her strength, leaping into the sky with three giant flaps of her wings that raised the dirt from the ground in a sort of ethereal shower of earth.

She lifted herself into the sky, rising higher and higher until her car looked like a small grain of rice on the ground. The air was crisp and cool over her hardened, scaly skin – and quickly a wave of euphoria rushed through her veins as she rose high enough to look like a bird to a viewer from the ground – a strange bird with an overly long tail, yes – but a bird none the less.

For a few hours, at least, she lost herself in the exhilaration that being a giant flying reptile provided – it was freedom she couldn’t experience as a earth-bound human. She let off a few roars (dutifully accompanied by giant jets of fire) before landing in the same dusty field she had erupted from so joyfully earlier. As the capsaicin left her system, her wings deconstructed themselves and her ligaments pulled all her bones back into place.

She drove away in her tiny silver sedan and went back to normalcy and human civilization and everything human that gave her a (smaller but no less significant) adrenaline rush. And her wings, folded up under her skin, waited until the next dose of spices that would set them free again.

In response to The Daily Post’s writing prompt: “Ring of Fire.”

10 Ways to Fall off a Horse

I don’t reblog things much but I got such a kick out of this I felt I had to share it.

Clothed with Thunder

For the Daily Prompt.

I’ve often said that I’ve fallen enough times to be able to ride a little, but I’ve also fallen enough times to be pretty good at falling. An ignominious talent, I know, but everyone’s gotta be good at something, right? So here follows ten methods to fall with the most pain, precision and embarrassment, and the advantages and disadvantage of each. These methods have been tried and thoroughly tested by yours truly for your unsafety and dissatisfaction.

Timo Vee, the beautiful stallion owned by Faeriewood Friesians Timo Vee, the beautiful stallion owned by Faeriewood Friesians

1. Be invited to ride a newly-backed Friesian stallion. Leap onto the aforementioned stallion with great gusto and discover that he is about as forward-going as a geriatric donkey. Succeed, by supreme effort, in kicking him into a trot. Be so shocked at the very idea of forward motion, and the giant exploding movement that Friesians have, that you…

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Bucket

Life (5 years)

– Grow up and be a superhero

– Be a princess too

– Ride horses, all the time, 24/7

Life (10 years)

– Go to college

– Make lots of money

– Ride Lippizaner Stallions

Life (15 years)

– Date Jason Burkley

– Be Popular

– Ride in the Olympics

Life (17 years)

– Get into a good college

– Figure out Life

– Travel the world

Life (23 years)

– Get a reputable job

– Get married?

– Get rid of these headaches or migraines or whatever they are.

– Get back into riding

Life (28 years)

– Get my life back into order

– Overcome the seizures, vertigo and fatigue

– Go on a big trip with my husband

Life (33 years)

– Win this battle

– Grow back my hair to longer than before

– Have a kid

Life (33.5 years)

– Tell my mother I love her

– Walk on my feet

– Give my husband a hug

Life (33.6 years)

– See more of the world than from the square of my window

Life (33.65 years)

– Breathe on my own

*flatline*

In response to The Daily Post’s writing prompt: “The Satisfaction of a List.

Introspection

I fear death

but who doesn’t?

It takes time to come

to terms with the great Unknown –

because nobody ever died

and came back to tell us how it was.

 

I fear pain

because pain leads to death

and when you’re in pain

you don’t know if it’s permanent

or temporary

but it’s all you can think about.

 

I fear failure

because failure leads to pain

(which leads to death)

and because it means

you’re not the best – that you’re not

worth the suffering it took to get there.

 

I fear trust

because trust too leads to pain

especially when it’s broken

so I shut them out

they can’t hurt me

in a world where i’m the strongest.

 

I fear society

not only because

it breaks your trust

but because it’s

killing itself quickly and inevitably,

taking you down with it.

 

I fear knowledge

because it shows

the evils of the world

but I fear ignorance more –

knowledge feeds me

as it kills me.

 

I fear loneliness

yet it’s ever present –

you can’t fear two opposites

without one showing

up and grinning

over your shoulder

 

I fear

the things I love most

because they too

will leave me

will hurt me

if I trust them too much.

Il Canal Grande

DSC_9360

Over Winter break 2014-2015, I went on the vacation of a lifetime over four countries, five cities in two weeks, starting in Venice on Christmas Eve. This particular image was captured Christmas Day on the Rialto bridge. There was a lovely morning haze – after the previous day’s fog and clouds – which cast a soft yellow light over the Grand Canal as gondoliers paddled up and down the smooth blue waters.

The Art of Fallen Beams

This is yet another English Assignment – we were to find a famous poet and choose a poem of theirs and present it to the class alongside an original poem we wrote to mimic that poet’s style. I chose “Two Lorries” by Seamus Heaney – which is in sestina form and describes the Magherafelt bombings on 1993. I felt to be true to his style of writing I should choose a human-caused disaster and follow his train of thought – from realism to imagery to an instruction to the audience of the poem. (Again with the dashes, WordPress and I are still fighting.)


The Art of Fallen Beams

The sun shines down onto concrete sidewalks and steel beams.

Every few minutes, the sky is streaked with the trail of another airplane

That flies fast and far over the city filled with people like the fireman,

Talking to a kid half his size like he was his father –

Has he ever been up in a truck’s ladder and seen New York?

The kid says no but his mother pulls him on – he has his life

To live and maybe he will someday. The man returns to his life

Of his no sleep, called out day and night to save lives and make children beam

With happiness. The never sleeping city of New York

Carries on, dragging him with it. The constant plane

Of effervescent life seems dull to the father

Of two – he never sees them enough as a fireman

Never able to take them to films – the exhaustion of firemen

Takes away their ability sometimes to live life

The way they should, taking time to be a father

Watching as their child swings from beams

On the playground, making noises like an airplane

Revving its engines and soaring over a new New York

And on to the sun rise. Oh, New York!

Oh, dream on of parades lined with children on firemen

As time ticks on and two airplanes

Swerve off course, over the city, ready to give life

To blow up a building in smoke and falling beams.

After that, ghosts of husbands and fathers

Haunt the sobbing forms who must yet go farther,

Must stand up from the dust of the shocked city of New York,

Gather up shopping bags and move away from the beams.

Death walks past them with the bodies of firemen,

Lifting them from the rubble, prying their lives

From empty shells, to another plane

Of light and sky, but which plane

Is better? The one of children without a father

Or that of fathers without anything, including a lost life

In a time beyond limits above New York.

So coil up your hose and return to life, fireman.

Watch the rain clear ash off the beams.

As you hoist the ladder of life to try and rescue lost New York,

checking wrecks of planes for surviving fathers

That you can return to the children of the city, fireman, as you try to forget the deathly art of fallen beams.

photo credit Steve McCurry

Sestina #1

Sestinas are my favorite type of poem to write because they have so many guidelines within which you can be as creative as you wish – as soon as you solve the puzzle of which words go where! A sestina has six stanzas with six lines, and a small verse at the end called an envoi. The end of each line are a series of six words that repeat throughout the poem in a special order (123456, 615243, 364125, 532412, etc. etc.), and the envoi uses all six words in 3 lines. This is a sestina I wrote for my AP Literature and Composition class last year – I asked one of my friends to choose six random words and challenged myself to write a sestina with them. WordPress and I had a fight about how the spaces between stanzas should be shown, and we compromised by me adding dashes between stanzas – they mean nothing to the rhythm and are solely for aesthetic purposes.


DSC_8720

Sestina #1

Out in the fields there is a girl on a great white horse –

They float as smoothly as a piece of symphonious music.

All of her friends are out with their friends at a party

Getting wasted and forgetting all of their algebra homework.

The horse arches his noble head and snorts like a dragon,

And the two are entwined with silver-gold tendrils of magic.

Each strike of the hoof on the ground creates yet another spell of magic

Illuminating the breathless glory of the rider and the horse

Flying over the ground like some sort of mythical dragon –

Each beat of its wings tapping out the beats of ancient yet eternal music.

To her, this is better than sitting at a desk studying calculus homework –

And it is far better than any wild teenage party.

It just looks like a normal horseback ride to any unknowing observing party,

But to the girl its just like a fairytale, riddled with magic,

The magic of two bodies as one: the centaurs she doodles on her homework.

Two hearts, two minds, working together as a single being, a girl on a horse.

Her friends are out writhing and grinding to the beat of the dance music

But, her heart untamed, she alone tames the great dragon

– 

Of a beast, stronger, taller, faster than she is, an eternal dragon

without the fire, stomping the ground, disrupting the small party

of wild birds resting in the grasses, who twitter with the sweet music

only a bird can make; nature’s magic

relishes the simple pleasures of young love, the heart of the horse

is better than any boy; the horse means more to her future than any homework.

The love of her life gives her his own homework,

to tame the beast, you must first release one’s own inner dragon

that drags you down with crippling fear that you must hide from your own horse.

Shaking inside, you ask for motion, smile serenely at the observing parties –

Hang on, keep  breathing, and cue the dramatic music.

Let go as much as you dare, the wind and ground will rush by like magic

Relax, fast-beating heart. Trust is the key to this magic –

A feeling of Pegasus like no other; “Do your homework”

I say to anyone who says this is dangerous; it works like music.

It’s not dangerous in the manner of slaying a dragon,

Try it yourself, you’ll see, it’s better than parties.

Mount up and feel the sweet Avatar connection with your horse.

Listen to the music, great heart of dragon,

When we’re done we’ll do homework, when we’re done we’ll party,

Feel the magic, me and my horse.