Readers respond to the January 27 issue


Dark and deep passion

Mr. Beard: I apologize if my reply to your “Sour Grapes” edition of The Working Pour [January 6, 2009] is late, but on the other hand, I think that perhaps you are starting your morning of drinking a bit early, don’t you think? That you are doing wine tastings in your jammies at 9am speaks either to your selfless dedication to your job, and to us, your readers, or more likely speaks to a serious flaw in judgment on your part.
Has no one ever told you that atmosphere, surroundings and mood contribute heavily to your enjoyment of wine? Haven’t you ever had a wine at a great restaurant with fun friends that you instantly decided to buy a case of, and later, at home, popped open the first bottle and wondered what on earth you were thinking? Drinking before breakfast in your jammies isn’t exactly a desirable setting for wine enjoyment. O.K., that’s point one.

Point two is a little more personal. I do like Norton wine, although admittedly not all brands. I will say that Keswick makes a pretty darn good one, but that isn’t my point. My point is chocolate. One of my passions is matching dark chocolates with deep red wines. I have to tell you that for this, a good Norton is right up there in the ranking. Also, it makes a great base for making chocolate wine, which I do at home, and which also is done quite nicely by Cooper Vineyards in Louisa. Other, weaker reds are simply lost under the strong taste of dark chocolate.

I will bring you a bottle of my own chocolate wine made with Norton, and will ask that you drink it fully dressed and with friends, after an evening dinner of good conversation and cheer. I think you’ll see my point. Both of them, actually.

Norton is for lovers. Chocolate lovers, that is.
Michelle Sanders
Free Union

Pun intended

I would like to suggest “Oil & Vinegar” as another possible new name for the restaurant that has been called Il Cane Pazzo: as a tribute to the historical site it partly occupies, Vinegar Hill. [“Name games,” Restaurantarama, January 6, 2009]. A variant on this suggestion would be “Oil & Vinegar Hill.”

Stephanie L. Nohrnberg

Hot topic

Thank you for publishing the thorough report on the planned artificial turf project ["Turf vs. grass", January 13, 2009].

The temperature issue is a fact. I build track and field facilities for a living. This past summer, I was assisting with the engineering and placement of an asphalt overlay at T. C. Williams HS in Alexandria. It was a scorcher of a day. The asphalt we placed was 240F. On a day like that, the asphalt takes a long time to cool. About 3:30pm, I glanced across the football field and couldn’t believe the density of the shimmering air hovering over the plastic grass. I walked from extremely hot asphalt onto the football field and nearly passed out. The field was hotter than the freshly-laid asphalt pavement.

The first death in one of these environments is going to quell the enthusiasm for them.

The black rubber infill is part of the problem. The color absorbs the most heat.

Additionally, I think that the environmental impact varies radically with the quality of the recycled material. If the dust is minimal, the rubber product is quite stable. Unfortunately, the recyclers that supply much of the material that ends up in these fields, create a product that contains a lot of dust. I attended the December 2006 Synthetic Turf Council meeting as a guest. This was discussed and one of the thoughts presented was that MRSA (methicillin-resistant staphylococcus aureus) and other problematic substances would tend to accumulate more in the rubber dust that settles to the bottom of the system. 

Other infill products are available. One is rounded sand that is known as “synthetic turf filler” or STF. The other is recycled glass beads. Both products would require the use of a shock-absorbing pad. A local purveyor of synthetic turf materials, Mike Puopolo, introduced this concept to me. We actually mocked up a small field in my shop. We invited others, but the only local person that came by was Cliff Harrison, who is the construction manager who has overseen most of St. Anne’s-Belfield’s improvements as well as a number of projects built Downtown. He was impressed, but was most interested in the heat issue. Would Puopolo’s invention be cooler? We have not answered that question yet, though it seems logical. For what it is worth, Puopolo’s invention is made with 100 percent recyclable materials. The pad is made from recycled foam. The infill is recycled glass which can be reused. The plastic grass is made in such a way that it can be taken to a recycling facility when its useful life is up. 

The maintenance on these fields is much more than you would think. Additionally, they only last 10 years. Then, you have to pay to remove and replace them at a cost that is probably about $400,000.

The good thing is you can play on these puppies 24/7. That is an undisputed fact. You cannot use a grass field more than a few times each week before they get stressed to the point that they don’t recover well.

The last comment that I have about this project relates to the method of purchase. The county told me that they were using a Fairfax County purchasing agreement, which is legal, to choose the Astroturf product. It took a lot of prodding before I got the pricing data I requested. I reviewed the pricing and found that the site work portion of the pricing schedule was really inflated. The last communication that I had from the county was that they would have someone look into producing a scope of work and then bidding this portion of the work locally. I personally think would save the taxpayers a bunch of money.

Changing the subject as I close, would you pass my contact information on to Jackie Lombardo? I know of another environmentally irresponsible product that still contains mercury. There are still those in the sports surfacing industry that actually put this product in elementary school gymnasiums.

Thanks for reading this, especially if you made it all the way to the bottom!

Andy Hord
Precision Sports Surfaces, Inc.

Profile in courage

We might rephrase the question about whether UVA workers need a union [“UVA workers try to build new union,” UVA News, January 20, 2009]  in terms of the following questions. Do UVA workers need support when filing grievances? Do they need an advocate when encountering discrimination in the workplace? Do they need help addressing safety issues at the hospital? Do they need an organization speaking up for employee interests as UVA implements its new HR plan? Do they need a voice demanding a living wage? Since its founding in 2002, the Staff Union at UVA (SUUVA), under the courageous leadership of Jan Cornell, has been all of this and  more. As our nation’s new President well knows, even the most vulnerable can fight successfully for justice if they are ORGANIZED. Do UVA workers need a union? Surely in this time of  economic crisis they need one more than ever. In the meantime, as SUUVA regroups and reinvents itself, I would like to express my gratitude to Jan Cornell—president of the first staff union at UVA in more than 50 years, and the longest-lived—for showing us the way.

Susan Fraiman
UVA Department of English