Thursday, February 20, 2014

The BUTT stops here?

One afternoon a couple of weeks ago I decided to walk to the local branch of the library. My route took me past a building that houses federal employees. I was infuriated to see dozens and dozens of cigarette butts littering not only the area around a side door, but the sidewalk and street beside the building. "Really?", I thought. "If you're not going to screen, pre-hiring, for non-smokers then put a bucket of sand or something outside for them to dispose of their butts!" I still think I'll put a nasty-gram on their door suggesting they do something to stop trashing my neighborhood, because make no mistake about, cigarette butts ARE trash. They are very slow to decompose and so lie there until they are swept into storm drains, possibly to end up in a creek nearby.

In the interest of full disclosure, I have the dubious and unhealthy distinction of being a smoker. But I find it reprehensible how many people just fling cigarette butts out the car window or drop them when they're walking down the street. And don't get me started on the people who see a red light as an opportunity to dump their ashtrays into the street! When my ashtray is full I dump it into a bag and put it in the trash. When I'm smoking outside somewhere that doesn't have a disposal bin I put the cigarette out and put the butt in my pocket or in a tissue in my bag or find a trash can nearby. I don't just throw it down on the street or in the grass.

I read recently that urban birds put cigarette butts in their nests because they have figured out (?) that doing so keeps parasites out of the nests. Well, great, that takes care of maybe one out of every million butts that hit the ground. I wonder if the people who drop butts anywhere would or do throw their candy wrappers, cups or soda cans, fast food wrappers, etc. out the window or wherever they finish with them. I hope not, though a drive around our area will prove that some do exactly that.

Roanoke County started their "The World is Not your Ashtray" program in January of this year.  Roanoke City, just this week, began its own "anti-butt" campaign.  I enthusiastically applaud both and wish them all the luck in the world in changing the thoughtless behavior that created this problem. But I'm willing to bet that a fair number of the offenders see nothing wrong with their actions and may even laugh at or resent being told differently. Unless we deputize a thousand folks to hand out citations to observed offenders how much is signage really going to do? 

Here's a thought.  Maybe instead of putting a nasty-gram on the door of the building in my neighborhood, the next time I see someone smoking outside their door I just calmly, in a friendly way, suggest they get something in which to dispose of cigarette butts or sweep them up periodically. Maybe next time you're walking or riding with someone who litters, you ask them to please not do that anymore.  I think we have a better chance for changing the behavior "one on one" than "them versus us". It's worth a shot anyway.

I'm sure the birds will adjust.

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Digital Madness

Digital Madness!!!

My neighbor called me the other night to ask if I could come over and replace the cartridge in her printer.  "Sure," I easy was this going to be? Famous last words.  Well, not exactly "last" words, there were many more that followed, few of them suitable for printing in a professional blog. 

The cartridge had a sticker on top showing you how to insert it.  It also had, as it's number one instruction, something about moving or removing a "green tab".  We both looked at the cartridge as intensely as we might an unearthed treasure and neither of us saw anything green anywhere on it. 

Oh well, I figured, let's just slide the new cartridge into the slot the old one came out of and we're good to go.  Wrong.  No matter how I put that cartridge into that slot it wouldn't seat and inform the printer that it was there. I read the instructions that came with the cartridge...nothing.  I made sure the cartridge was the right one for her printer. It was. Turn the printer off and back on...nope! Grrrr!

It was at this point I told my neighbor my personal doomsday theory:

Computers, especially the ones in our homes, are the brainchild of some evil empire who is currently biding its time...waiting patiently for us all to go stark raving mad....unable to communicate with the outside world.  When they land on our shores and demand our submission we will fall on our faces before them and say, "Thank God! Which one of you knows how to get rid of the blue screen of death?"

OK, maybe it's not that bad but it is frustrating.  Program updates, patches, new versions of everything, is maddening!  

Think you've got issues with your home computer?  In the February FRONT we talk to data professionals about cybersecurity and get tips on how we can protect ourselves. Check out that story and all the great content. Sign up for our early release eblast at 

It'll give you something to do while we are waiting for the invasion of those who sent Bill Gates and Steve Jobs to prepare the situation!

Cathy Cooper
Valley Business FRONT

Thursday, January 23, 2014

B r r r r r....Think you're cold?

Photo:  The Weather Channel

Baby, it's cold out there! 

As I dashed to my car this morning...a 30 foot walk I couldn't complete fast enough not to just hate life...I thought about all the people who have a lot farther to walk or have no choice but to be out in this inhospitable weather. Let's take a minute to think about these:

Mail Carriers - They park the little truck, then walk several blocks delivering our very important sale flyers and charity solicitations. Then it's back in the truck for a block or two and repeat the process. Say what you will about the Postal Service, these folks deserve some respect.

Sanitation workers - How would you like riding on the back of a moving vehicle when the wind chill, standing still, is in the negative numbers?  They don't make much for the job they do, but our streets and our yards would be a mess if they didn't do it.

People with dogs - I know, they are kind of responsible for their own misery, but dog people can't imagine life without that pet.  If you're lucky enough to have a fenced back yard to turn your best buddy loose in, good for you...and good luck next spring when you decide to go out in the yard the first time! But a lot of dog owners live in apartments or condos and have no choice but to follow their dogs around until...the spirit moves them, if you will. Some of them may be re-thinking this whole "dog owner" thing, but precious few of them would give it up.

School bus drivers and crossing guards - Think your car takes a long time to warm up?  Try waiting for a huge, poorly insulated, metal box to warm up. Then, every half mile or less, you get to fling the doors open to all that cold air.  Not fun, I'm guessing. And the crossing guards, out there in that little wooden box (if they're lucky) waiting to make sure our children aren't mowed down by cold, grumpy drivers.  These two groups are seriously underappreciated!

Construction and utility workers - Building a house you just can't wait to get into? Well, thank the folks who work when it's freezing.  Better yet, remember that if they don't work they probably don't get paid!  So, if your project is a little behind, try remembering what you were doing when it was 15 degrees outside.

Homeless people and animals - There are shelters for homeless people, but not enough to house all of them. Some of them are afraid of shelters for reasons those of us with homes probably wouldn't understand.  My heart breaks for the dogs and cats who do not have a person who loves them. Where do you get a drink of water when everything is frozen?  How do you stay warm without shelter? What if you haven't eaten and are too weak to go foraging? Look around your neighborhood and show some love to those animals other people forgot.

These are just a few examples of those who have to brave the extreme cold. There are plenty of others....send us your "frozen heroes". I'll post them here.

Cathy Cooper
Valley Business FRONT


Wednesday, January 15, 2014

From Fat to Fit...What Works

Our January cover story, Fit for Business, takes a look at some of the many kinds of fitness centers and exercise programs available to those who are interested in getting in shape, or changing their shape.
Photo:  Mike Wilson

A large component of the fitness business is weight loss.  Doctors and weight loss gurus have been telling us for years that exercise or diet alone won't give us the same results as exercise and diet. But is that really the bottom line? Statistically, most people who lose a significant amount of weight will gain it all or most of it back. Sometimes, even more weight is gained than was lost in the diet phase.  Why is that?

Quite simply, dieting is about losing weight, not changing the way we live. Unless there is a long-term commitment and the determination to make changes to our everyday lives, we are setting ourselves up for failure and disappointment.

In an October, 2013 blog for People magazine, renowned fitness and nutrition expert Harley Pasternak, takes on weight loss television shows, saying, " my opinion these shows are doing more to hurt our understanding of healthy living than they are to help it."

Boot camps, retreats, 24/7 monitoring and live-in personal trainers do result in dramatic weight loss, but how many of us can arrange or even afford that? Ordinary people trying to lose weight are usually on their own or maybe have a friend or two making the journey with them.  It's hard to lose weight (I'm not talking to those who just need to get rid of that five pounds you gained over the holidays!) and even harder to keep it off forever.

Programs like Weight Watchers work to educate people about food and making the best choices for long-term weight management.  There are other programs, each with its own approach to weight loss.  Many of them require you to eat only foods they sell. And all of them cost something, a joining fee, meeting charges, consultation fees, food costs.  It can be expensive.

WebMD might have the best free advice out there:
  • Set a realistic goal
  • Log your foods...all of them
  • Log your activity
  • Monitor your nutrients (fats, sodium, sugar, etc.)
  • Track your progress

Going it on your own is harder than having to turn up weekly and be accountable for your progress, or lack of progress, but if you're disciplined and determined it is possible to successfully lose and keep off weight on your own.

How about you?  What have you tried that worked...or failed?  Let us know!