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Leftover Ink
Nostalgic remembrances and modern observations in an extended love letter to Loudoun ...
Leftover Ink: A state of emergency

I’m quietly enjoying working from home during Loudoun’s one good snowstorm of the year. It’s nice and warm inside. Neither the needle-nosed dogs nor I were particularly excited about taking them out this morning, but that’s neither here nor there.

Then it came. A message from the governor's office that a state of emergency had been declared.

All of the sudden I remember that pets were originally portable food and the dachshunds begin to gaze at me suspiciously. I tend to think they're thinking the same thing. "When the food riots start, it's either him or us ... and we have him outnumbered."

I understand that the term "state of emergency" is a legal definition (like disaster zone) that sounds worse than it is. It allows the government certain leeway in adjusting resources and responding to calls for assistance.

But seriously, can we come up with another term of art for this? I can still see the asphalt on the road of my little place in CountrySide. I'm on a sidestreet ... they don't plow here until we've already reverted to cannibalism.

It's just a change of wording I'm thinking about, something like "inclement weather scenario A" or "widespread power outage."

If there's a "state of emergency," I want zombies or a pandemic flu coinciding with dreams of Mother Abigail from "The Stand."

I get it that some people are out of power and likely more will experience some outages before it's over. And while unfortunate, people lived without electric heat for quite a while in the past.

It seems as if in the modern world, it's an emergency if the Starbucks is closed for weather. The Haitian earthquake and the floods in New Orleans are good examples of a disaster. That cruise ship that lost power and indoor plumbing in the Gulf of Mexico was probably a state of emergency (and coincidentally the last time I'll ever think about getting on a boat.)

Things might be different if declaring a state of emergency came with a cost attached ... say an automatic grace period for getting your car inspected or the right to ignore your HOA rules about painting your front door or parking in the front yard. All of the sudden, people would get very conservative about this state of emergency nonsense.

But here we are. We're in a state of emergency. I'd advise against looting largely because it's still a little chilly outside.
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Leftover Ink: A Year in Pictures

Braving a light snowfall, I made my way over to Sterling on Saturday, Feb. 2 for “A Year in Pictures” display from my friend Tammi Marcoullier.

PostcardsPostcards from the photography of Tammi Marcoullier at her 'A Year in Pictures' exhibit in Sterling.
Braving a light snowfall, I made my way over to Sterling on Saturday, Feb. 2 for “A Year in Pictures” display from my friend Tammi Marcoullier.

I met Tammi about three years ago at a workshop downtown in different ways to use social media in the news. Hipster that I am, let me point out I was trying to do it before it was mainstream. The founder of the very popular “Living in LoCo” blog for the Washington Post, Tammi is now working for the government. Even so, I still think of her as my favorite brainstormer when it comes to innovation in social media.

But Saturday was all about a personal project for her. For 2012, she had decided to take a camera with her everywhere and grab a picture of the little miracles and beauty she saw in her day to day life.

A few prints – not my favorite, which was a picture of an escaped parakeet lounging on a chandlier – were for sale with proceeds benefiting LAWS, the Loudoun Abused Women’s Shelter. But that’s Tammi. It’s one thing to take an evening to share her view of the world. It’s something else to use that evening to also help woman in need.

The photography was a lot of fun, although I enjoy photography in general although my talent is exceeded by my enthusiasm. I’m more impressed with the resolution to keep your eyes open every day and make note of the good things around you.

It was about this time last year that I shared with my staff at the LTM the TedTalk from Matt Cut on 30-day challenges. It’s a good inspiration to make little changes in your life.
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You have 100+ app requests

I’ve done it. I’m three months without playing a game on Facebook. And I do feel like I deserve some special sort of pin for that.

I’ve done it. I’m three months without playing a game on Facebook. And I do feel like I deserve some special sort of pin for that.

It started off so innocently. “Sure I’ll be a member of your mafia.”

And it was an interesting little distraction having the farm next to you and occasionally feeding your cows online. Having never had to feed an actual cow, I actually felt a sense of accomplishment as it eventually grew.

But then things got more serious. We had to be neighbors in Sim Social and god forbid that you didn’t visit my thriving little civilization in CastleVille. By the time I realized that the barbarian hordes were at my gate in Ages of Rome, I realized I needed more help.

Won’t you be my ally? This 14-year-old Brazilian kid keeps attacking me in Avengers Alliance and I’m running out of time crystals for my Garden of Time.

Give me one quick hit of Sim City Social and I’ll go back to work, I say, hoping that no one can hear the strangely enchanting music polluting my laptop’s speakers after coming back from lunch. I’ll stay late to finish that spreadsheet.

And then they started to email me with daily bonuses. I got more email from Zynga than any friend of relative. And all I have to do is click the hyperlink … oh look, the game’s back on.

Just at that moment, my phone began to beep, alerting me that someone had made a move using Words with Friends. Terri is waiting for your move, it informed me like a threat.

It took all the willpower I had to walk past the game cards at 7-11. Luckily, even in my lowest depths, the reptile part of my brain revolted at the idea of paying for something on Facebook.

I have something of an addictive personality as you might notice from lighter and rectangular box peeking from my jeans pocket. It really is a wonder I never had more of an issue with alcohol than I did. And how is it that I never developed a gambling problem, but the computer code in Vampire Wars had me logging on three times a day?

Me, I think it’s the danger of games without an ending. For many of us, there’s an inborn desire to finish and complete things. It’s a sense of accomplishment. At 41, I’m never going to win an Olympic medal so my rewards come through work, family and friends and an occasional video game here and there. I’m certain that there’s also a deep Freudian meaning to spending your time on problems that can be fixed rather than the more complicated one in real life.

And Facebook games? Never has so much time been spent on something in five-minute increments. Have an addiction to a particular app? Invite your friends so that they can fall prey to it too.

For a short time, I was totally that guy sending you annoying Facebook game requests. My name might still be there with “John Geddie sent you 13,000 app requests.”

I’m sorry. Just delete them like I do now.

Erin quit first. Of course, she had a worse case than I did. My lifelong friend called me at home one night. Expecting another hour-long chat about the world and old gossip, I was instead greeted with “I need you to long in and accept my neighbor request. I really want to finish up this storyline.”

She had the cold dead voice of a killer. Don’t worry, I got a follow up call from her the next day, “I deleted my account after I caught myself playing at work and then having to work from home.”

As for me, I caught myself leaving a party early because I hadn’t logged in 24 hours and was concerned about my crops withering. And no one is invited to so many parties that they should take them for granted. Then I realized that I’d been getting up early to play before work ... and I need my beauty sleep more than most.

So I didn’t play for a day. I was tempted, but it felt okay. I had a little more time for reading and before I knew it, I’d gone a week. Then it was a month and I knew that the little kingdoms I’d built for myself were likely beyond repair and I was okay with that because I was actually ahead on laundry and had dinner plans.

I might even reward myself with an XBox.

Seriously, there’s nothing wrong with games. But do everything in moderation. And if you ever feel guilty about doing something (or not doing something) that’s supposed to fun … reconsider it and turn off the computer.

It’s not an obligation. Your mafia will go on with without you.

Editor’s Note: While this column is a mixture of humor and self-deprecation, the concerns regarding video game addition are real. Two interesting online resources are video-game-addiction.org and Online Gamers Anonymous at olganon.org.
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About the Blogger
John L. Geddie is the managing editor at the Loudoun Times-Mirror and formerly the Loudoun Independent. A second-generation journalist and a familiar name in the county, he is a graduate of Park View High School, James Madison University and the David A. Clarke School of Law at the University of D.C.

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