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Columns & Blogs

The Desk: Hello, Summer!

Uriah Kiser

Uriah Kiser

Ah, the first day of summer. For some (like me) it’s the most wonderful time of the year.

There is something welcoming about knowing I won’t have to put on layer upon layer of clothing if I need to run outside to my car to get something, or take our small dog for a walk.

While summers in the Potomac Communities are always humid and sticky, you can always take a dip in one of the many swimming pools, lakes and rivers, or you can choose to take a short ride to one of several beaches on the Maryland, North Carolina and Virginia seashores.

But while our most celebrated season of the year (undoubtedly tied with the December holidays) kicks off, bringing with it family vacations, and a lighter volume traffic on local highways, keep in mind it’s the shortest season of the year.

In less than three months, on September 3, we will inevitably greet the fall with all of its bright leaves and colors.

For now, I’ll just think about the colors of summer, preferably with a cold drink in my hand with, maybe, a piece of colorful fruit garnishing the rim of the glass.

The Desk: When Are Shorts OK in the Office?

Uriah Kiser

Uriah Kiser

Remember last week? Stifling hot temperatures, heat warnings and air that was so humid it was almost impossible to step outside for more than a few minutes.


While all of that changed on Monday with cooler temperatures, you know it’s going to get hot again as summer is just beginning.

With that said, I’d like to know when it is OK to wear shorts to the office. Many of you whom have workplace dress polices last week probably threw caution to the wind and donned a pair of summertime shorts.

Should employees be allowed to wear shorts only when the temp rises above 90 or 95 degrees? How about allowing shorts every year beginning June 1?

Should there be a length requirement for those shorts? There are some guys who like to wear their shorts long, resembling a pair of pants. And some girls who like to wear their shorts, well, too short.

Are you already allowed to wear shorts in your office or have they been banned altogether?

Let us know what you think by commenting below during our summer shorts questionnaire.

The Desk: A Helping Hand for Hemorrhoids

Uriah Kiser

Uriah Kiser

Got Hemorrhoids? We can help.

No, that’s not a cheap ploy from a journalist to lure you in to reading his latest blog –– it’s an actual banner than hangs outside a doctor’s office in Woodbridge.

Associates in Gastroenterology hung the banner on their Smoketown Road office just across from busy Potomac Mills mall.

I certainly did a double take when I drove by the building, which was the old newspaper office where I once worked.

“That’s exactly the kind of reaction we wanted when we hung the banner up,” explained Associates in Gastroenterology spokeswoman Sheri Styles. “A lot of people have commented on the banner, those comments ranging from ‘we love the banner’ to ‘are you serious?’”

This is the third banner to grace the façade of the doctor’s office.

Previous banners have been about making people aware of the dangers of colon cancer and prevalence of Celiac disease, which damages the small intestine.

Hemorrhoids, too, are no laughing matter, said Styles. The banner just draws attention to a problem many people suffer from, albeit in an unusual way.

Its marketing materials like these that take gumption to use, helping this doctors office stand out from others in the area that undoubtedly offer the same services.

Now it’s up to the bright minds at the Gastroenterology office to top the current banner.

A few creative ideas spring to mind for future banners but I won’t be the one to go there.

Uriah A. Kiser is Executive Editor and founder of

The Desk: End Days for Comcast Analog TV Service

Uriah Kiser

Uriah Kiser

By Uriah Kiser
Senior Producer

The end times didn’t come over the weekend, but for Comcast customers without a digital set top box they came Tuesday.

We’re getting word that the nation’s largest cable company, which serves Prince William and Stafford counties, has now made it mandatory for customers to have set top cable boxes on each of their TVs to continue to watch cable TV.

The message that appears on customer’s TV screens states multiple upgrades have been completed to Comcast’s network, and a set top box is required to access the upgrades and to continue receiving TV service.

Prices for Comcast’s XFINITY digital TV packages start at $68 per month, andthat’s without bundling products such as phone and internet.

We’re reaching out to Comcast to find out more about the required change.

So, while many viewers have moved on from analog television sets to high definition sets –– many of which already that require set top box to access many of the high definition features –– is it right for the cable company to force customers without digital TVs to rent special equipment just to watch TV?

With cable TV prices what they are, have you canceled your TV altogether for an online movie or video steaming service?

Or is this just a sign of the times, and should people stop griping and and just get a cable box?

The Desk: A Celebration of Food

Uriah Kiser

Uriah Kiser

By Uriah Kiser

There are many restaurants to choose from the Potomac Communities. They offer everything from fast food, late night diners, and some offer a salad bar and all you can eat buffets.

One restaurant that lies off of the beaten path in Occoquan, Bistro L’hermitage, is unlike any place I’ve been to in the Potomac Communities.

The setting is cozy, as the restaurant is nestled inside what feels like a classy French stone country home. We went to the eatery recently for a family celebration, but the food on our plates turned out to be a celebration of its own.

While I wish I had ordered the chicken dish my fiancé did because it looked and tasted so delicious, I ordered the Entrecote –– a New York strip steak served with mashed potatoes and baby spinach. The meat was cooked to perfection, with just a small amount of pink to satisfy my medium well temperature request. The potatoes have the dish just the right amount of starchiness and saltiness, and cooked spinach made for an all around impressive presentation.

Then it was time for desert, and while everyone else was ordered his or her favorite Crème Brulee, I ordered the Mousse au Chocolat alamode. It was a rich chocolate lava cake served with berries and just the right amount of ice cream.

It was enough to make me pull out my cell phone and snap a photo of the colorful dish.

After coffee, we managed to pull ourselves away from this wonderful fine dining experience. Eating here was enough to make you want to make every dining experience a special occasion and give up the frequent visits to the late night, fast food all you can eat places.

Uriah Kiser is the Senior Producer of

Editor’s Desk: Great Test Scores Are Better than Usher

Uriah Kiser

Uriah Kiser

It’s not often we get to cover stories about renowned pop stars coming to the Potomac Communities. It’s even less often the stars don’t appear and we are forced spend our afternoon speaking with record label public relations people, radio station program managers and a school principal asking “What happened? Where is Usher?”

Erroneous reports that Usher would appear Friday at Woodbridge Middle School turned into utter confusion.

A teacher hoping to bring the singer to the school for a celebration apparently spilled the beans that he would appear, but had not spoken with the singer or his representatives.

It turns out Usher and pop star Prince Royce, who was also rumored to make an appearance, was never scheduled to appear.

While it’s important that if you’re planning an Usher concert you might want to make sure he knows he’s supposed to show up, it’s also important we remember the reason for the school’s celebration.

The students at Woodbridge Middle School did very well on Virginia’s Standards of Learning exams this year. Their scores reflected progress over the previous year’s scores and earned them the title “school of excellence.”

Looking at the photos captured by our chief photographer, the students were smiling and seemed to have enjoyed their special day. There was a moon bounce, professional football players, motivational speakers, local politicians, and a singer (though not as well known Usher) who came to perform in the school’s gymnasium.

All of that should not be forgotten just because the pop star (who was never supposed to show) didn’t stop by.

It’s also a lesson for us a community news organization to be sure that we continue to report the news and how it affects the communities we serve.

We will also reaffirm our commitment to checking and then double-checking our sources, verifying we have the most accurate information before posting the story to our website.

We weren’t wrong to report the rumors of Usher coming to Woodbridge, but we could have done a better job understanding why the school was having a celebration and just who was supposedly bringing Usher to the school.

Editor’s Desk: Republicans Want New District

Uriah Kiser

Uriah Kiser

By Uriah Kiser
Managing Editor

Virginia’s newly shifted House of Delegates district to the Potomac Communities, and who will eventually become its representative, will be one of the biggest political stories this year.

The House voted last week to shift the 2nd House District to portions of Prince William and Stafford counties from Southwest Virginia  after population declined there.

If the district passes all other hurdles of the redistricting process, including a review from the U.S. Justice Department, it will encompass portions of North Stafford, the Quantico area, Triangle, Southbridge, River Oaks and Woodbridge east of U.S. 1. I’m already calling it the district, as it lies in the heart of our coverage area.

Last week, we heard rumblings that Stafford County Board of Supervisors Republican Chairman Mark Dudenhefer is exploring running to represent the district.

Cleveland Anderson, the man who last year said he’d like the GOP’s nod to unseat Democrat Del. Luke Torian in Dumfries’ 52nd House District, is now also interested in the district.

“The way the new district lines have been drawn, it seems that Torian has a better chance of keeping the precincts that we won during the last election [in 2009],” said Anderson.

Then there’s Republican Jim Riley, the Southbridge Home Owners Association President, an attorney and Virginia Virtucon editor, who says he’s been thinking about making a run to get a GOP nod to represent the district. An announcement from his camp could come as early as this week, I’m told.

All of these interested parties will undoubtedly lead to a primary election later this year, prior to the general election on November 8, making the district one to watch.

Are there any Democrats or Independents interested in the would-be seat?

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