Sagebiel Thanksgiving 2016

Our Thanksgiving, as described and photographed by Beth Sagebiel (my daughter).

El Sage Blog

My family began the tradition a couple of years ago of celebrating Christmas on Christmas Eve. It started out of logistical necessity – my grandparents used to live in California so we’d often fly out on Christmas Day to see them – but continued out of our growing appreciation for having the actual holiday to relax, do nothing, and enjoy our new presents.

This year we decided to apply the same principle to our Thanksgiving celebrations. So while all of you are undoubtedly fasting and putting on your most comfortable pair of jeans, the Sagebiels are sitting around the kitchen table eating Sally’s famous homemade cinnamon rolls and trying to recover from last night’s culinary event. (Actually, it’s just me eating. My dad is running, my mom’s doing dishes, and my sister is vegan.)

IMG_1699.JPG These are the cinnamon rolls. Seriously, how am I the only one eating these right now?

And don’t…

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Vin Scully: A Pure Voice Goes Silent

This commentary appeared in the Sunday Roanoke Times on September 25, 2016.

It was circa 1970. I was a 12-year-old boy who had recently moved to Southern California from Indiana. Dodger Stadium overwhelmed my senses and Vin Scully was music to my young ears.

“Grab a Dodger Dog,” he’d say, “made by our friends at Farmer John.” As I recall, a Dodger Dog, a 10-inch pork and beef frank, was about a buck. I liked mine with yellow mustard and real onions — raw and coarsely chopped. I gobbled it down as we watched batting practice from the long, beige bench seats in the left-field pavilion.

Los Angeles was a big, exciting place for this Indiana boy. It was an hour drive to the sprawling city and Dodger Stadium from our new home in Palmdale on the edge of the high desert. In those days, locals called traveling to LA from the Antelope Valley going “down below.” We took 14 to I-5, exiting at Stadium Way and then winding up the hill and through the canyons to Chavez Ravine.

From the moment we entered the gates, the sounds at Dodger Stadium were unmistakable: the perky organ that musically narrated the action, the insistent cries of the food and drink vendors roaming the stands, the loud crack of a wooden bat in the hands of a big leaguer and, of course, the silky voice of Vin Scully.

“It’s time for Dodger baseball! Hi everybody, and a very pleasant good evening to you, wherever you may be.”

The Dodger home uniforms were as white as sea gulls, trimmed in “Dodger” blue with red numbers. Wearing those magnificent uniforms in 1970 were, among others, Maury Wills, Willie Davis, Wes Parker, Bill Buckner, Steve Garvey, Manny Mota, Don Sutton, Claude Osteen and Charlie Hough. Walter Alston, nicknamed “Smokey,” was the manager. Wills was the highest-paid Dodger that season by a wide margin. His salary was $88,000.

I don’t recall seeing the best National League teams such as the rival Cincinnati Reds. I do recall seeing cellar dwellers like the San Diego Padres. That made it easier to get into the game — and to find a prime spot in the left-field pavilion. We always arrived early, an hour or more before the first pitch. We watched the teams take infield and batting practice. Occasionally a baseball would fly deep to left and clear the wall. A scramble for the precious souvenir ensued.

Once the game began, I stared a hole in the back of whomever played left field. I studied the long warm-up tosses of the outfielders between innings. Sometimes they looked our way and acknowledged our cheers. And sometimes fans heckled the opposing players. The left-field pavilion was also the place to peer into the Dodger bullpen. I remember Hough, the knuckleballer, and others loosening up their arms and hearing the rhythmic thud of the catcher’s mitt.

In later years, when I was in my twenties, Vin Scully was my companion on drives between San Diego and Palmdale. On hot summer nights, with windows rolled down, he talked me through Temecula, Riverside, San Bernardino and over Cajon Pass and onto the high desert. By that time I was no longer a true-blue Dodgers fan; I just loved listening to their announcer rhapsodize about baseball on a summer evening. I was still a Vin Scully fan. I’ve always been a Vin Scully fan.

That voice going silent after this, his 67th year broadcasting Dodgers games, saddens me. Whether in a ballpark or another walk of life, there are few voices as pure and enduring as Vin Scully’s. How can we afford to lose him?

Marketplace (NPR): “Everybody Uses Linkedin”

Do you ever wonder if your time investment in social media is worth it?

Let me be more specific. LinkedIn. Does the famed business networking site help you if you’re looking for a job or work of some kind?

The NPR program Marketplace recently filed a report on LinkedIn. You can listen to it by clicking here. Here’s the opening from Marketplace contributor Sally Herships:

Looking for a job hunting can feel like dropping resumes into a black hole. And what about your LinkedIn profile? Is anyone actually reading it? Or your updates? Turns out–yes. Someone, many someones, like Dwight Scott, a recruiter with ExecuSearch in New York, are searching LinkedIn, potentially for you.

BONUS: Herships’s five tips for getting a job on LinkedIn.

5 Content No-No’s on Websites

I still read the newspaper. But only on Sundays. There’s good stuff in my Sunday Roanoke Times, such as “Well-built websites can give small businesses a boost,” an article penned by Caroline McMillan Portillo of The Charlotte Observer.

Portillo interviewed Charlotte-area ad agencies and marketing and web-design professionals. She came away with a list of tips, including what not to do.

Here are five don’ts related to web content:

1. Don’t use too many words.
Go easy on the words. No War and Peace. “People scan websites,” Randy Smith of Synchronicity was quoted as saying. “They’re looking for the best content in about the first top-third of what they read.”

2. Don’t overlook typos and grammatical mistakes.
Mistakes have a way of sabotaging your professionalism. They happen, but are more easily corrected online. Whenever possible, have others proof the work.

3. Don’t forget search engine optimization (SEO).
Identify a list of keywords, terms and phrases for your profession, business and industry to incorporate on your site. This should help your site in Google and other search-engine rankings.

4. Don’t have stale content.
This makes the site (and business or organization) look static. Not good. One way to avoid this common problem is to connect an active blog and social media feed(s) to your site.

5. Don’t have outdated calendars.
If you have a calendar on your site, keep it current. An out-of-date calendar is a dead giveaway that people are visiting a dead site.

8 Credibility Killers from Inc.

In “8 Conversational Habits That Kill Credibility” at Inc.com, Geoffrey James warns readers about some common errors that can sabotage your sincerity and trustworthiness.

Here’s a sampling, one of my favorites:

3. Prolixity

“Using big, impressive sounding words rather than smaller, common ones can leave listeners with the impression that you’re pompous and pretentious. Examples: “assess strategic options and tactical approaches” (i.e. “plan”) or “implement communications infrastructure” (i.e. “add wireless”). Fancy-schmancy wording adds bulk and extracts clarity.

Fix: The core problem here is the need to feel as if your business and your activities are more important and impressive than they really are. The fix, therefore, is a big dose of humility. Business is neither rocket science nor brain surgery–it is, in fact, a place where plain talk is both valued and appreciated.”

I’m afraid No. 3 is far too common. A good guideline: Write (or speak) to express, not impress.

Read the entire article

The Daily Progress: ‘Book Festival Blossomed with Damon’

Nancy Damon.
Nancy Damon.

The thank-you note arrived a little more than two weeks after I sat on a sports stories panel at the Virginia Festival of the Book. The note was signed by festival director Nancy Damon.

“At the Virginia Foundation for the Humanities, we thank you for your participation in making the Festival the amazing event it is,” wrote Damon. “We are so happy to present a sports-oriented program.”

I’m not David Baldacci, who was at the festival this year. Nor am I John Grisham, who appeared in 2013. But I felt special nonetheless, thanks to Damon. She apparently wrote, signed and sent similar thank-you notes to the hundreds of authors who participated at this year’s festival.

I was told by a reliable source that Damon does nearly all of the work. That surprised and impressed me.

Now she’s retiring and is deserving of the accolades that appeared in the The Daily Progress (Charlottesville):

It will be hard to imagine the annual Virginia Festival of the Book without the quicksilver, whirlwind presence of Nancy Damon.

But next year we won’t have to imagine. We’ll know.

Ms. Damon is retiring as the festival’s director.

She’s led the event for the past 14 years and has been involved since its founding 20 years ago. And she’s done an amazing job.

Read the entire article

Reading on a Long Flight and Trip

A week ago I was departing on a trip to California. I’ve been reading The Bully Pulpit by Doris Kearns Goodwin, but I didn’t want to lug that massive hardcover through airports and elsewhere. I left it at home.

I don’t have a Kindle or Nook–yet. I still like to read physical books.

At Raleigh-Durham International Airport, I discovered a used bookstore called 2nd Edition Booksellers. I would never have expected a secondhand book outlet in a major airport but there it was, and I happily searched the stacks for a paperback I could take on my flights to and from Los Angeles. I picked up a novel by David Guterson, author of Snow Falling on Cedars.

I can be a slow and distracted reader, so even though I’m home from my trip I’m still working on Guterson’s novel, which is interesting.

What do you like to read on trips and vacations? What is your preferred format?