The Writer’s Manifesto – Stop Writing to Be Read & Adored

Jeff Goins“Writers don’t write to get published.
They write for another reason.
This is the first and only lesson every writer must learn.

Real writers don’t write for recognition.
They don’t do it for fame, accolades, or notoriety.
They do it because they cannot not write.”

It’s true, I can’t not write. Read the entire piece from Jeff Goins.

3-D Printing: “Developmentally-Inspired” Tissue Engineering for the Heart

Imagine being able to rebuild damaged heart tissue using engineered cells. In this interview, Dr. Adam Feinberg, Professor and Biomedical Engineer at Carnegie Mellon University discusses the biomaterial developments he and his team are currently devising, including “developmentally-inspired” tissue engineering scaffolds.

Could you share with us the biomaterial developments you will look into thanks to funding from the National Institutes of Health Director’s New Innovator Award?

We are developing technologies that mimic the way cells build materials.  Collagen is a main biomaterial of the human body that cells assemble into a highly organized, 3-D scaffold, but it has proven difficult to recapitulate this complicated hierarchical architecture using manmade methods.  The surface-imitated assembly (SIA) technique we have created enables us to build collagen and other extracellular matrix (ECM) protein fibers on a surface, analogous to the way cells build these same protein fibers on their cell membranes. We are applying this technology in cardiac and ophthalmic tissue engineering applications.

Your expertise is in engineering muscle tissue to repair the heart. Could you describe the heart-tissue regeneration process you’re developing that is inspired by the growing human embryo?

The human heart cannot regenerate after a heart attack (myocardial infarction) because the muscle cells (cardiomyocytes) cannot divide in order to generate new cells to repair the damage. However, we can get new human cardiomyocytes from pluripotent stem cells. The problem is that these neo-cardiomyocytes are embryonic in their behavior and are equivalent to cardiomyocytes from early stages of embryonic development. Thus, we are building tissue engineering scaffolds that are inspired by the structure and composition of the human heart during early development in order to provide an environment that will improve the ability of these neo-cardiomyocytes to form functional heart tissue. We call this using “developmentally-inspired” tissue engineering scaffolds. At first we plan to engineer human heart muscle tissue that can be used in vitro for drug discovery and drug toxicity applications. Longer term we hope to engineer heart muscle regeneration approaches that will be used in vivo to repair heart damage.

Would you touch on the repair kit you’re working on that will repair heart injury and disease?

We are not building a repair kit, but are developing nascent repair strategies. For example, our work in 3-D bioprinting combines the advances we have made using SIA to engineer developmentally-inspired tissue scaffolds with the 3-D printing of larger collagen based scaffolds. This is the approach we are using to engineer cardiac tissue large enough to repair large muscle tissue deficits.

Although the heart is your specialty, could your developments and techniques be implemented in other areas of the body?

The developments we are making in cardiac are also being applied to other areas. One area is skeletal muscle tissue engineering, which has many similarities to cardiac muscle. Here we are using human skeletal muscle precursor cells and differentiating them into functional skeletal muscle for in vitro and in vivo applications. A second area in which we are applying these technologies is in ophthalmic tissue engineering. Here we are bioengineering a corneal endothelium, which we hope will be used to repair diseased corneas in human patients as a viable option instead of a cornea transplant.

11 phrases you’re misusing

We all fall short, including me (however rarely). This morning a friend sent me a link to some of the most misused phrases and I was so excited about it that I couldn’t wait until Friday to send! Please note the first phrase – it’s one of my biggest pet peeves.

I CouB letterldn’t Care Less, (could NOT care less)

“I couldn’t care less” is what you would say to express maximum apathy toward a situation. Basically you’re saying, “It’s impossible for me to care less about this because I have no more care to give. I’ve run out of care.” Using the incorrect “I could care less” indicates that “I still have care left to give—would you like some?”

First-Come, First-Served

The actual phrase is “first-come, first-served,” to indicate that the participants will be served in the order in which they arrive. “First come, first serve” suggests that the first person to arrive has to serve all who follow.

Sneak Peek

A “peek” is a quick look. A “peak” is a mountain top. The correct expression is “sneak peek,” meaning a secret or early look at something.


“Shoo-in” is a common idiom that means a sure winner. To “shoo” something is to urge it in a direction. As you would shoo a fly out of your house, you could also shoo someone toward victory.

Emigrated From

The verb “emigrate” is always used with the preposition “from,” whereas immigrate is always used with the preposition “to.” To emigrate is to come from somewhere, and to immigrate is to go to somewhere.

Peace of Mind

“Peace” of mind means calmness and tranquility. The expression “piece of mind” actually would suggest doling out sections of brain.

For All Intents and Purposes

The correct phrase, “for all intents and purposes,” originates from English law dating back to the 1500s, which used the phrase “to all intents, constructions, and purposes” to mean “officially” or “effectively.”

By and Large

The phrase “by and large” was first used in 1706 to mean “in general.” It was a nautical phrase derived from the sailing terms “by” and “large.” While it doesn’t have a literal meaning that makes sense, “by and large” is the correct version of this phrase.

Due Diligence

“Due diligence” is a business and legal term that means you will investigate a person or business before signing a contract with them or before formally engaging in a business deal together. You should do your due diligence and investigate business deals fully before committing to them.

Piqued My Interest

To “pique” means to arouse, so the correct phrase here is “piqued my interest,” meaning that my interest was awakened. To say that something “peaked my interest” might suggest that my interest was taken to the highest possible level, but this is not what the idiom is meant to convey.

Case in Point

The correct phrase in this case is “case in point,” which derives its meaning from a dialect of Old French. While it may not make any logical sense today, it is a fixed idiom.

A love letter response to my post …

“It gives me peace of mind to know that our team of producers and marketers will have a resource that is not exclusive or first-come, first-served to conduct ample due diligence on the proper use of idioms that will, for all intents and purposes, improve our overall application of the English vernacular and emigrate from our brutish, rudimentary applications of this form of fixed expression.  By and large I could care less about the grammatical prowess of others but I feel this resource will make us all a shoo-in for impressing our contemporaries and will pique their interest in our events thusly providing a case in point for why the proper use of idioms works like a charm for separating sheep from goats

Idioms are the bees knees, yo!”

With the Name “Hammer,” He Was Born To Be a Deputy

One could say Bill was born to be a Sheriff’s deputy. With a name like Shellhammer, how could he not have been predestined to live a life laying down the law?

Purcellville resident William “Bill” P. Shellhammer died in his home December 16, aged 80. He was a retired Loudoun County Sheriff’s deputy, a former Vienna Police Department deputy and a U.S. Marine Corps veteran who served during the Korean War.

Shellhammer on duty.
Shellhammer on duty.

These days, if a Sheriff’s Deputy knows you by name it indicates that you are a delinquent or a malefactor who is up to no good. In Shellhammer’s heyday, however, it was a mark of his sharpness of mind.

Shellhammer knew every kid by name in 1960s Vienna. If you misbehaved or were up to no good, you had better prepare yourself for a stern talking to. Bill took on the proxy role as a parent in uniform; he meant business if he called you by your surname instead of your first name. ‘What would your mother think?’ He would ask, sending quivers down spines.

You couldn’t bank on his forgetfulness, either. He was known to throw the book at recurring offenders. One Purcellville resident remembers Shellhammer dismissing his pleas for a warning for the offense of squealing wheels as a teen in Vienna. No such luck — Shellhammer remembered he had warned the teen six months prior. This time he would receive a ticket.

He was tough but fair. Loudoun residents would joke that if he had found his own mother to be out of line he would write her out a ticket. This may be true, but often what is tough on the outside is soft on the inside. He treated everyone equally and had a good heart. He would often stay past his shift on special occasions so young kids could have their picture taken with him and his squad car.

“Getting out of the car and meeting shop owners and citizens in the community was a large and important part of what Shellhammer did,” said former Loudoun County Sheriff Steve Simpson.

Simpson consequently grew up in Vienna, and one of his first encounters with Shellhammer further cemented Simpson’s goal to become a police officer when aged 10 or 11 he attended a firearms safety program at which Shellhammer was an instructor and member of the Vienna Police Pistol Team, who were national champions.

“The final day of the program he and several members of the team demonstrated some of their shooting abilities. He put an ax in the middle hung from a T frame with pigeons on either side.  His hand gun shot the ax blade which would split the bullet in half and would break the clay pigeon on each side. I even still have one of the bullets from that day,” said Sheriff Simpson.

During his time as an officer, just about every western Loudoun resident was handed a ticket from him. Even the Vienna residents who couldn’t escape the “Hammer’s” tickets as teens would find that years later they would be pounded again — this time most likely while he was patrolling along Route 9.

Shellhammer was born August 31, 1934 in Apollo, Penn., to the late William Park Shellhammer Sr. and Genevieve Burkette. Bill joined the U.S. Marine Corps after graduating high school, serving five years during and in the Korean War. He then went on to work for the U.S. Secret Service as security detail for former U.S. Secretary of State Henry Kissinger and the Mellon family after joining the Vienna Police Department in Vienna, Va. He retired from the Loudoun County Sheriff Department.

Bill is preceded in death by his daughter, Deborah Clark. He is survived by his son, Kurt Shellhammer (Debbie) of Stafford; grandchildren, Jeffrey, Gregory, Lindsey, Kevin and Nathan; and great-grandson, Bruce. The memorial service was held December 20 at Loudoun Funeral Chapel. Memorial donations may be made to the Loudoun County Sheriff’s Office, 803 Sycolin Road SE Leesburg, VA 20175 or to Loudoun County Deputy Sheriff’s Association,

A Conversation With Writer Colm Tóibín on the ‘Close Imagining’ of Fiction


Great insights from Colm Toibin on the writing process. Gives me a lot to think about, thank you, Colm.

Originally posted on Longreads Blog:

Jessica Gross | Longreads | February 2015 | 17 minutes (4,283 words)

The Irish writer Colm Tóibín has written eight novels, two books of short stories, and multiple works of nonfiction. His latest novel, Nora Webster, follows a widow in 1970s Ireland as she moves through her mourning toward a new life. That book was almost 15 years in the making, and Tóibín’s previous novel, Brooklyn, which centers on an Irish immigrant to the United States, grew out of Nora Webster’s early pages. Both novels—like all of Tóibín’s work—subtly portray their characters’ complex inner lives, the details accruing slowly to finally reveal an indelible portrait. I spoke with Tóibín, who splits his time between Dublin and New York, by phone about the protagonists he’s compelled to write about and how he goes about creating their worlds.

View original 4,066 more words

Ask and You Shall Receive: School Board Approves Williams’ First Budget

The Loudoun County School Board has given Superintendent Eric Williams more than he asked for.

At its January 29 meeting the board approved an amended Proposed Fiscal Year Operating 2016 Budget that now totals $982 million — $1.2 million more than Williams had requested.

Williams presented his first budget proposal as Superintendent to the Loudoun County School Board in early January asking for $68 million. An average 2.5 percent pay raise for teachers and staff topped off his list of requests.

The Board matched Williams’ requests in kind. It voted that LCPS employees who are already at the top of all pay scales will see their paychecks bumped up thanks to a one-time increase representing 1 percent of their annual salary. This can be achieved with no fiscal impact to the budget.

The board hopes to reduce the LCPS employee health insurance program by five percent – from 15 to 10 percent – for a cost savings of $2.6 million while also reducing the health insurance premium increase from 10 to 9 percent, which saves $450,000.

Altogether, the board approved 10 motions that altered the budget in ways sure to have parents and school staff alike celebrating. High school class sizes will be reduced by one student each, which will require the system to open up an additional 41 full-time teaching positions to the tune of $3.69 million. The board also hopes to reduce class size contingency positions from 40 to 35 full-time-equivalent positions for a savings of $450,000.

Kindergarten classes, which have had to make numerous concessions during the past few budget cycles, are primed to make a resurgence. Williams’s budget sought to allot for the addition of an estimated 1,875 full-time Kindergartners as well as a more than 2,500 additional students across all grades. While aiming to fund all-day kindergarten classes at those schools with space available, the 15-to-one student teacher ratio means 14 full-time employees have been removed from the budget. This will save the school system just short of $1 million.

The budget includes a handful of restorations, including fully scheduled summer schools and the reinstatement of 14 eliminated middle school library assistants. These two restorations total around $1.8 million.

Smaller line items include building a playground at Meadowland Elementary for $50,000 and hiring a transition specialist who will be able to assist special education students. This position will be advertised for $119,000. Lastly, the board hopes to shuffle several staff members from Heritage and Potomac Falls high schools to Park View High School, which will have no effect to the budget.

When presenting his budget in early January, Williams lauded LCPS’s successes, including its high SOL pass rates and its ability to make concessions to close the budget gap. Those concessions, chief among them freezing Library assistant positions, passing on athletics participation fees to students and not offering teachers and staff pay raises beyond cost of living increases, are forcing LCPS to bend to where it might break. This argument will most likely be heard time and again as the budget is presented to the Loudoun Board of Supervisors this month.

In order to fund these requests and more, the board must accept the equalized tax rate, which is estimated at $1.13 per $100 in assessed value. This would leave an estimated $30 million gap and assumes the Loudoun’s Board of Supervisors will give them $59.7 million from the general fund.

It’s a tall order, but one that Williams isn’t asking for in blind faith. Still, the comprehensive list of requests comes after last year’s especially contentious budget season when the Loudoun Board of Supervisors’ budget left the school system with a $38 million shortfall.

Loudoun: The Rich Keeping Gettin’ Richer

Talk with the Times circa 2010.
Talk with the Times circa 2010.

Chatter is heating up around Loudoun that the county will once again be named the richest county in the nation.

Like a fountain of wealth that just keeps on giving, Forbes has awarded the county the designation for several years, which reminded me of the video I filmed in 2010 called “Talk with the Times,” where I discussed the reasons behind the award. Have a looksee on the Loudoun Times website.

Listen. Learn. Love. Write.


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