VT Mag’s spring 2015 issue looks at historic restaurants, metallurgy, more (Virginia Tech Magazine)

The spring 2015 issue of Virginia Tech Magazine has been posted online and mailed to alumni, friends and supporters of the university.

My cover story looks back to the historic restaurants that have become part of Virginia Tech lore, and on the science why we remember these nostalgic strongholds so fondly.

I also toured VT-FIRE, the university’s foundry, and provided a behind-the-scenes look at how decades-old class rings are melted down into Hokie Gold and incorporated into new rings for the alumni of tomorrow.

I considered Virginia Tech’s growing research funding, now at more than half a billion dollars, and where President Timothy D. Sands sees it going in the future.

Finally, I profiled Brent Burger, a business-minded alumni who learned a powerful lesson at Virginia Tech.

The online version of the spring 2015 issue can be found at the Virginia Tech Magazine website.

The longtime link between beer and politics (All About Beer)

When at the bar, never discuss politics, religion or sex, it’s said, and you’ll have a fine time.

Despite the long shelf life of that truism, all three subjects stubbornly remain hot topics for discussion while quaffing beer. When it comes to politics, that conversation may lead well beyond the barroom.

Take, for example, John Hickenlooper at Wynkoop Brewing Co., Brett VanderKamp at New Holland Brewing and Roger Baylor at New Albanian Brewing Co., who ran for governor, state senate and city council, respectively. Of the three, only two-term Colorado Gov. Hickenlooper was successful, but all three campaigns stemmed in part from the business of beer.

Their stories illustrate only the latest version of the longtime connection between politics and beer. Both, after all, are based in relationships.

Read more about the longtime link between beer and politics at All About Beer.

5 years after a deadly coal mine disaster, what’s changed (Grist)

It was mid-afternoon on the Monday after Easter, April 5, 2010, when a 1,000-foot longwall shearer bit into sandstone, kicking up sparks and igniting a methane fireball that traveled down the mine into an area rich with coal dust.

The resulting explosion ricocheted in several directions, tearing through two and a half miles of mine, killing 29 of 31 men working in the area and searing the Upper Big Branch mine into history as the site of the most deadly coal-related disaster in nearly 40 years.

Five years later, the explosion continues to reverberate, in the courts and elsewhere.

Read my story at Grist to find out more, including coal country’s growing hostility to former Massey CEO Don Blankenship, changes to the coal industry, political ramifications and more.

A to Z: What’s new for 2015 in western Virginia (LifeOutside)

Visitors long have flocked to western Virginia for its mountains and outdoor beauty, but in the last few years economic development advocates, government officials and entrepreneurs have increasingly realized the region’s potential as well.

Heading into 2015, look for more opportunities to get outside than ever before. That goes for mountain bikers (skip down to X, for Xtreme to learn about the Rattle’n’Run Trail at Carvin’s Cove), wanna-be lumberjacks (see L) and paddlers (check J to learn about the Upper James River Water Trail).

Read the rest of my story at LifeOutside magazine here.