Tuesday, September 30, 2008

It's not 9/11

Although my colleagues at other papers appear to disagree, Monday's news from Wall Street isn't Pearl Harbor or 9/11 or Kennedy's assassination. But you wouldn't know it from the bleating A1 at The Oregonian:
That type 777.68 is larger than what we used for TERROR at the last paper I worked at for the Sept. 12, 2001, edition. I'm not saying 9/11 is the single greatest defining moment in the history of the world, but it is certainly bigger than the stock market falling 7 percent. Especially when the market recovers almost 60 percent of that loss the next day.

To give The O credit, it refrained from copying the not-to-scale zigzaggy line a bunch of other papers used:
Um, yeah, where's zero? This is yet another depressing example of wack, sucker-MC style page design and headline writing that runs amok when big news breaks.

I've borrowed these particularly egregious examples from the super-awesome daily gallery at The World's Most Interactive Museum. You can check out daily A1s from all over - but not, alas, Walla Walla, here. Another link at that page will show you archived pages, so you can relive such events as Hurricane Ike, Eliot Spitzer's resignation, the end of the line for John Paul II, 9/11 (where the archive starts) and such. It isn't all bad news (unless you are a Cardinals fan). The Red Sox World Series win is in there, too.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Bonded for life

The butterfly lady and I covered a reunion last weekend for a small group of Marine Corps tank crew veterans of the invasion of Iwo Jima, and the story is in today's paper (and online). My audio, her video and photos by our colleague Jeff Horner were rolled into this multimedia piece by another of our colleagues, Carlos Virgen:

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Now in stores

The shop my work can be found in soon will have more than my weaving, which is cool. I started knitting when I was between looms last year, and the lady who runs the shop took a liking to the better ones I've done. Here's a for-instance:
And here's one being worn by the guy who made it. Man, that was a snowstorm!
Anyway, I think I'm getting the hang of hats. I hope several somebodies agree and buy them!

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

By land and sea

So, I started running again (maximum distance so far, a whopping two miles), and I'm still swimming, though I'm mixing the two to try to fend off injuries. Now I'm wondering if I should consider maybe doing a triathlon, one of the short ones. I'm ambivalent. I haven't really enjoyed riding a bike since I was edged off the road by a careless driver and crashed.

That wasn't a great moment, but it was a long time ago and it is ridiculous to live in the past. But with our place in New Hampshire being super bike-unfriendly and life being pretty busy here, I just haven't bothered to pick up the habit, which I enjoyed very much before.

Well, who knows? But it might be fun to take a shot at a triathlon. I think there's one in town with reasonable distances (500-yard swim, 5-kilometer run, 20-mile bike ride).

Thursday, September 18, 2008

A good walk ruined

I am a man of many mothers. Maybe that will make a good post someday... but for now, here's a video one of my moms turned me on to, a Robin Williams bit on a game invented in The Greatest Country in the World:

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Things I wish I knew how to do

I'm not sure when I'd learn, exactly, because my to-do list is always longer than the days have hours. But here are a few things I'd like to know how to do. When I say "know how to do" I mean "know how to do well."
  • Play guitar (or piano, or banjo or harmonica, for that matter). I know, I know, this is a skill that white people commonly have. But I don't.
  • Make a decent batch of sembei (Japanese rice crackers). I'm working on this one. The last batch (the labor of my Labor Day) were pretty bad, but not as bad as the previous try.
  • Make furniture/cabinetry. Especially cabinetry.
  • Swim twice as fast, run twice as far. Um, yeah. Eventually.
  • Write dialogue in fiction that isn't clunky.
  • Build a sailboat. Or a pirate ship. And sail it.
  • Distill whisky.
Of course, that's the realistic list. I left off "teleport," "conjure tornadoes" and "learn telekinesis," even though I think those would all be wicked handy skills.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

A typical day's work

Like no other city editors I know, I also get to lay out a lot of pages (seven of the eight A-section pages tonight, but usually more like three to five on a weekday). This means I'm always busy, but I'm usually happier when I'm busy. This A1 has a rarity for Walla Walla, a homicide to report.Most papers take the attitude that the number of stories that jump (continue to a page inside, that is) is nothing to be concerned about. At such places, you'll regularly see four or five stories on A1, all of which jump. We don't roll that way at my workplace. Our goal is to average less than 33 percent jumps on covers (A1, the sports cover, etcetera). I have an attitude, of course, so I'm just under 7 percent for the year. I don't know how much readers care, but it makes a fun challenge.

Tuesday, September 09, 2008

Top of the heap!

I don't know how long this will last:

But I'll take it!


When I started running track and cross country in the mid-1980s, a good pair of shoes was a pretty spendy item. I think I spent about $85 a pair back then, usually for Nikes, Asics or New Balance. Using westegg's inflation calculator, I found that translates to about $160 today.

I bought a pair of mid-level Saucony running shoes at Big 5 the other day for about $45, which is usually how much that kind of shoe is at that store. The shoes are at least in the top two of best shoes I've run in, so it isn't that my taste has run to the cheap and shoddy.

Maybe running shoes have replaced gasoline and food in the Consumer Price Index. That'd help explain the phony baloney inflation news we keep hearing.

An unexpected gift

A short time after college graduation, one of my best friends - a guy I roomed with on the road in cross country and track, someone whose secrets I knew and who knew mine - underwent a major life change, one that ended our friendship.

I hold no grudge: He wasn't the same man anymore, and I was. I didn't resent his change to who he became, but if he had committed suicide, the act would have been no less momentous.

Our friendship dissipated quickly. My breaking point was maybe not the most obvious: He adopted a new, dehumanizing attitude toward gay people that I could not abide. I drew the line and that was that. But it was depressing, because I'd lost one of my best friends.

That was 15 years ago. On Friday, I called up a different friend, one I hadn't talked to in a couple of years (I had to leave a message, though). She and I were much closer than my former teammate and I ever were, but we hadn't talked in a while. Over the years, her values and personality had seemed to shift away from who she'd been (one of my best friends ever, the type you'd hide in your basement or attic while the secret police searched for her), and we just drifted apart.

I assumed she'd just found new priorities (husband, kids, lifestyle), so I didn't bring it up directly. I think I was overly circumspect. She called up Saturday afternoon. I asked what was new and she said, "Wellll, I'm getting a divorce from my husband because I'm gay."

That's cool, says I, and we talked for an hour or so. She said she thought she'd sold herself out and swore that wasn't going to happen again. Hooray! I hope now she's herself again - and herself, rocks, for the record - there'll be room at the table for an old pal who was out of touch awhile.

Monday, September 08, 2008

Inspired writing

Today's example comes from Steven Pearlstein of The Washington Post:

WASHINGTON — Hurricane Hank swept through nation’s capital Sunday with gale force regulatory winds and a tidal surge of federal cash, upending two of Washington’s biggest enterprises and permanently changing the landscape of housing finance in America.


Weekend fun

As usual, the weekend was too short. I need more hours in the day, especially when I should be sleeping. But alas, that's not how things work.

While winding on a new warp (gorgeous red, photos to come if I remember!), I re-listened to "Nebraska" a bunch of times, especially this song:

Well, that and Highway Patrolman. It is easy to work with the Boss.

Thursday, September 04, 2008

Beautiful duet

You have to wait to pick up the backup lady on this one, but I love it.

This one, too.

Tuesday, September 02, 2008


What a deal: Two weeks of Olympics followed by a couple more of convention fun. I'm not sure what's on after the RNC, but if the TV people want people like me to watch, now's the time to put on something good.

An observation:

It seems to me that politics reporters sometimes miss out on good follow-up questions. To wit: Gov. Sarah Palin's wealth or paucity of foreign policy experience was the topic du jour on, I think, MSNBC. Or maybe that was CNN. Anyway, the anchor lady asked some guy who used to be famous about this and our pal from the city said Palin's foreign policy experience trumped that of Sen. Barack Obama. The cat's argument was something like: Well, if you're governor, you're in an executive position, so that means you actually make the decision, etc.

Yeah, but doesn't that mean Palin has more foreign policy experience than John McCain?

But that question went unanswered, and it certainly went unasked.

Just like the failure to dig into Obama's religious views. So he used to belong to that one church, where the pastor ran his trap about 9/11, right? How often did he go to church? Once a year? Once a day? Did he attend any other churches during the same period? These questions have discrete answers, unlike the usual piffle (why didn't he quit sooner? does he condemn that message now?)

This isn't hard. If there's a car wreck and you show up on the scene, you go talk to the sergeant (unless you're the first one there, I suppose). Do you just listen to his speech and leave without asking if anyone else was in the car? What caused the wreck? How many beer cans were in the road?

What I'm taking away from these political rallies is that if I had the misfortune of becoming a TV politics personality - what my father would rightly call a contrafactual proposition - I would try to make my name by just turning off the mike of people who won't give a straight answer.

Q: Why did Obama wait to disavow that jackass preacher?

A: Well, the senator has never believed that the U.S. is to blame for 9/11. In fact, he's worked hand in hand with his colleagues across the aisle on tax relief for firefighters suffering from irony. In fact, his opponent once attended a church whose pastor was caught wearing a dress and lipstick during an S&M festival. Plus, he eats live baby chickens during his Sunday devil worship!

I'd get to about "Well, the senator has never believed" and flip the switch.

That'd be a damn sight easier than trying to talk over the spokeswanker. And you could have a lot of fun with a flashing, weasel-talk light and telling the beleagured guest "blink once if you're going to give me a straight answer and I'll turn your mike back on." That sort of thing.

Maybe that'd be the Straight Talk show?