Thursday, December 27, 2007
Wednesday, December 26, 2007
Stick around to the end where he's joined by Dylan, Presley, and the Four Tops!
Wednesday, December 19, 2007
A real break! No projects due ... nothing we have to read ... or write ... or research ... or think about. So what did I do with my first couple of days home?
Slept (we got in at about 2 a.m. Saturday) ... sang the Christmas program with the choir ... slept ... had dinner with Mom & Judy and Dave & Nancy & Lee ... fell asleep over dinner so slept some more ... took a friend to lunch for her birthday ... celebrated Tyler's 11th birthday! ... slept some more ... went to the dentist for a crown and a filling (3 hours of restful repose reclining with my head lower than my feet) ... took Tyler to his dance lesson ... and slept some more!
Today I finally am feeling awake and alert. Making Christmas bread this afternoon and going to watch Lee do raku tonight. The photo is from Lee's first showing last spring at the Dunedin Fine Arts Center. Lee used every technique learned to make the rooster--parts of it are thrown, parts are rolled, and parts are handformed. He started doing this last fall -- barely a year ago -- and he'll be helping with three workshops this Winter/Spring at the DFAC.
Tuesday, December 4, 2007
Tuesday, November 27, 2007
Through it all, the children stood quietly, the boy at his father's right hand, the girl at her father's left. His hands rested lightly on their heads. Occasionally the father caressed his son's head, running his hand over the close-cropped straw colored hair, or he patted his daughter's mousy-brown hair pulled back in a series of bands and barrettes. Once in a while his hands dropped to one child's or the other's jacketed shoulder.
Their sweatpants and warm jackets had seen newer days; the father's lighter jacket bore a number of NASCAR decals. A tattoo swirling up his neck from his t-shirt became lost in the neat, but not trimmed, beard covering his cheeks and jaw. He wore wire-rimmed glasses and a ball cap topped his head. Tenderly, but almost unconsciously, his clean, long-fingered hands--left ring finger banded in gold--assured his children their father was right there with them.
They didn't fidget.
They didn't fight.
They didn't poke each other or pester their father.
They stood quietly in line at WalMart and waited. And waited.
Once the little girl turned her head to see who was behind them and saw me watching them. I smiled, she gave me a solemn look with her gray eyes, then turned her head back around.
At one point, the father slid his hands down their arms and pulled them closer in a quick hug; then he released them, and his hands returned to their positions atop his children's heads.
It wasn't until a mother with two little girls took their place in line behind me and started talking about the Christmas parade they had just attended that the father and his children turned around.
"D'you go to the parade too?" he asked, and they chatted briefly about the lights and the chilly weather.
The children had turned around as well. Their thin faces looked a tad pinched. But then in this day of the obese child, perhaps I've just become accustomed to plump and so normal seems pinched. Light streaks of dirt rimmed the boy's mouth; the girl needed a tissue.
The father had no front teeth, his other teeth looked in questionable shape.
As the three spoke to the family behind us, their accents and grammar bespoke their rural Southern roots.
Today's Anniston Star carried a report on yet another study -- ever wonder who pays for these? Guess who's taxes do -- the headline of which said the majority of children in Alabama live in poverty. Of course, on reading the article, that wasn't quite the case. The study showed that, for the first time (since these kinds of statistics were kept, of course), the majority of Alabama school children are eligible for free or reduced lunches from the federally funded school lunch program. That means that @ 24% of Alabama's children live below the federally-defined poverty level and the rest live at up to 185% of that level.
So are they poor or not?
Depends on who you ask.
On how you define poverty.
On what program you're trying to fund or what agenda you're trying to push. Or whose votes you're currying.
The woman ahead of them finally got what she needed, and the father and his children stepped forward to the counter. The clerk found part of his order, but said another part was still being processed. He stepped back, his daughter with him, so I could move up and be served.
The boy remained where he was, not realizing his father and sister had moved. The father reached out and touched his son's shoulder. Immediately, the boy turned, his father motioned slightly, and the child stepped back by his father.
I thought of the parents I've watched who have raised their voices, motioned frantically, hissed through clenched teeth, glared, rolled their eyes, threatened, grabbed, yanked, and cursed while their children played 'you can't catch me' or rolled on the floor or whined or screamed or otherwise made life miserable for their parents, everyone else in the store . . . and for themselves.
Was the family ahead of me poor? I've no doubt they weren't rolling in dough. Insurance covered at least part of the father's prescription, but maybe it didn't cover his dental work.
The clerk handed me my order and I turned to leave. The woman behind me stepped up. The father stood to one side with his children, one hand on his son's head, the other hand on his daughter's shoulder.
Thursday, November 22, 2007
...with heart and hands and voices!
I am thankful . . .
. . . for my family, scattered though we are
. . . for my husband, from whom I am separated only by miles this year
. . . for being invited to an Orphans' Dinner today
. . . for this incredible Knight Fellowship program and all the teachers who helped bring me here
. . . for long-distance friendships that have spanned decades
. . . for short-distance friendships, some of which have also spanned decades
. . . for new friendships just begun
. . . for God who truly does open the windows of heaven to us to pour out His blessings upon us ... may we always in all things give thanks, whether we perceive the blessing or not.
Saturday, November 17, 2007
Seventeen years old and convinced that there was no hope, no future he put a bullet in his brain.
I don't know, God does, what his circumstances were. I don't know, God does, what he was thinking that morning.
But I have stood at that brink. More than once.
Suicide makes sense ... if.
If it's all up to me.
If this is all there is.
If there is no such thing as Real.
Then suicide makes sense.
But, contrary to the M.A.S.H. theme song, suicide is not painless. Even those of us new to this community who didn't know the boy or his family, hurt for those who did.
Tuesday, November 13, 2007
This afternoon, searchers found the body of a 17-year-old boy, a senior at a high school in Anniston, who had been missing just over a week. Somehow, God knows if we don't, he ended up in Georgia instead of at school last Monday morning. Somehow, God knows if we don't, he died, probably that same day.
Less than a month ago, two women were kidnapped in the middle of the day from the parking lot of the swankest inn that sits right on the main street in town. One was raped, both were robbed.
Small-town is relative.
Coming from Pinellas County's dense almost a million people, Calhoun County's hundred thousand seems sparse.
The past couple of weeks I've been talking to residents of a town of 1,200 people who think of Anniston's 24,000 as "cluttered," full of "rukus," and "not safe."
And yet when I read through back articles from The Star, I find there has been robbery, kidnapping, and murder in that tiny town.
How small is small enough to be safe?
Perhaps it's worth remembering that the first murder occurred in a town of four.
Sunday, November 4, 2007
"There are lots of good grounds for doubting the kind of analysis to be presented. I would do so myself if it weren't my own."
And here's a new word for me:
"It is too bookish, too general, too removed from fieldwork to have a good chance of being anything more than another mentalistic adumbration."
I'm going to go look this word up. Nobody took me up on my offer of a Snickers bar to a punny answer to the question "What's a mobile journalist?" (although I had a couple of verbal half-tries ... but they had to be posted in the form of comments to my blog).
So ... I'll try again. Smartees to the first person who posts the correct definition of "adumbration" on my blog.
Thanks to fellow Fellow, Sandra Martinez, who calmly rode to my rescue and helped me see that I had too many swords that I kept tripping over, that particular dragon is well on its way to being slain.
In the meantime, I've been reading the intro by one of the theorists ... and have found a writer with a sense of humor! Erving Goffman wrote a book (Frame Analysis) back in 1974 about how we each see things differently.
Yeah, I know. There's nothing new under the sun and how did he get away with writing a whole book about that? In any case, he begins:
"There is a venerable tradition in philosophy that argues that what the reader assumes to be real is but a shadow, and that by attending to what the writer says about [whatever subject -- he lists several], the veil can be lifted. That sort of line, of course, gives as much a role to the writer and his writings as is possible to imagine and for that reason is pathetic. (What can better push a book that the claim it will change what the reader thinks is going on?)"
And a bit further down:
"All the world is not a stage -- certainly the theater isn't entirely. (Whether you organize a theater or an aircraft factory, you need to find places for cars to park and coats to be checked, and these had better be real places, which, incidentally, had better carry real insurance against theft.)"
So excuse me while I go curl up with a different dragon and have a bit of a giggle.
Wednesday, October 31, 2007
The rest of you are on your own. :-)
Sunday, October 28, 2007
Though it is true that Star Castle sits atop a hill and is surrounded by forest wherein woodland creatures dwell ... and though it is true that there are neighboring villages wherein all manner of life is lived ... though these things are true, our sallying forth occurs but seldom and then for purposes inquisitive rather than conquistative, to coin a word.
Actually, we sally forth each morning from our individual abodes in various neighboring villages and arrive at Star Castle no later than nine, Star-time. Generally, Star-time agrees with Central Daylight (soon to be Standard) Time, but the two clocks in our section have been purposely set ahead by several minutes in an attempt to spur the sports writers, who share their space with us, to meet their 11:30 p.m. deadline. Their copy generally concludes the day's news, and so the printers below in the belly of the fortress wait on them to set the presses in motion.
Back to the a.m. hours when we arrive. At nine, we gather in a conference room with our professor of the day. Three of the professors travel I-20 from Tuscaloosa -- about a two-hour drive -- while one comes from Birmingham, an hour away. From nine until noon we are occupied thus:
- Mondays--Production: Dr. Ed Mullins, retired journalist and professor emeritus who oversees the class. Various Star employees have given us mini-workshops on design software, video shooting and software, photo shooting and software, etc. Our current assignment, which concludes at the end of this semester, is to talk to people within our assigned communities to discover what concerns they bring to next fall's local elections. We will be producing a special section in December.
- Tuesdays--Contemporary Issues in Journalism: Dr. Jennifer Greer, department chair and newly arrived from the University of Reno. We study everything from financial models to media law to media formats to ethics to the latest trends in public/civic and citizen journalism. A veritable smorgasbord of issues served up in books and speakers and field trips to various newsrooms ... well, until our travel allowance was slashed, that is. Our main project is a research paper about one of the issues; I'm looking at the ways media communicate their ethical standards to the public.
- Wednesdays--Communication Theory: Dr. Wilson Lowrey, who began his career as a political cartoonist and worked as a designer and editor before migrating to the theoretical dark side of trying to figure out just how it is that we never quite say what we mean and how we tend to mishear what others think they say. And what media can and ought to do about it. Dr. Lowrey's self-deprecating sense of humor keeps this class from becoming a dragon in need of slaying. We have each chosen a community issue (mine is animal control), written a news article about it, and are now writing a research paper applying various theories to the issue. We'll be creating a Web site about the issues to finish off the semester.
- Thursdays--Media History and the First Amendment: Dr. Julie Williams, from Samford University in Birmingham, brings samples from her collection of period newspapers and other treats...including Nestles candy bars in honor of Civil War New York Times journalist Charles Anderson Page who founded the Anglo-Swiss Condensed Milk Company which merged with Nestles in the early 1900s (another source says it became Bordens ... but then we wouldn't have gotten Nestles candy bars....). We have been given our own set of six newspapers--the real deal, folks, not repros--from which to study developments in reporting and printing. And I'm continuing my interest in children's media by doing my research paper on a facet of Youth's Companion, one of the longest running family magazines (1827-1929) with a high subscription circulation of 500,000 households.
- Fridays--Grand Rounds in Community Journalism: Chris Waddle, director of the ComJ program, and various Star editors and staff members have assigned us to explore various aspects of the community and to discuss, on paper, how we would cover that aspect. We meet on Fridays to brief and debrief.
Until next time....
P.S. Scroll to the bottom for a couple of new slide shows...
Sunday, October 21, 2007
Both of the two are of grandmotherly age, so may have been biased (so much for anonymity -- but both emailed me with other thoughts, so they're the ones who pulled back the curtain...just in case anyone else out there is concerned). Of the two, one was more concerned about the content of my response than about my moniker. The other suggested 'Aunt Luigi.' Now there's a thought...
In any case, I think I'll stick with Granny Annie for a bit and see what happens. You'll hear from her from time to time and, if her audience begins to demand it, she may even acquire her own space. We'll see.
Dear Granny Annie,
My teacher makes us read the whole chapter even though only part of it is going to be on the test. She won't even tell us which parts. This isn't fair! Why should we spend time reading stuff we don't need to know? And even the parts that are on the test are a waste of time. Who cares when some stupid battle was fought? Besides which, if I really need to know, I can look it up on the Internet.
Ahh...I see your point. The Internet has made learning obsolete and there are so many other things one could be doing besides reading, studying, and going to school.
Before you answer that, stop and think. Do you get more done when you are on your own or when someone else is telling you what to do?
I know what tends to happen to me when I am on my own with no schedule, no assignments. My cell phone alarm goes off, but I roll over in bed for "just a few more minutes." An hour later I wander into the kitchen for a bowl of cereal and the morning newspaper (yes, some people still read one). By the time I get dressed and sit down to my computer, it's almost noon. The whole morning is gone while I puttered around.
But...if I have to meet someone or have a deadline? Things are quite different then! My cell phone alarm goes off, and I get up. If I have to do so, I can be out the door within half an hour. If I'm working at home that day, I get to my computer and start working. And, yes, sometimes I look things up on the Internet, but...
But how would I even know to look something up to check the date or the spelling or whatever if I'd never heard of it?
Think of your teacher as your brain's personal trainer. You know. Like what a physical trainer does to help an athlete build muscle and endurance.
"OK, now, we're going to start with this 3-lb. weight, which seems light enough, but I want you to do 15 reps of bicep curls with an overhead lift and a tricep drop, then back up and down. Got it? Good, let's go ... and one-two-three-four and two-two-three-four and ...."
Crunches and lunges and kicks and squats. Heavier weights. More repetitions. Longer workouts.
"OK, now, we're going to start with a five-page chapter, which doesn't seem very long, but I want you to pick out the important people and dates and events, write them down and memorize them. Got it? Good, let's go ... 1914-1918-World War I-Woodrow Wilson-League of Natons, 1929-Stock Market Crash, 1930s-Depression Era-Herbert Hoover-FDR, 1939-1945-World War II..."
Times tables and names of planets and punctuation rules. Harder problems. More information. Longer chapters.
An athlete does it because he/she never knows what's going to happen in the game. You have to be prepared for anything ... ready to sprint, leap, dodge, catch.
Your teacher makes you do it because he or she knows you never know what's going to happen in life. You have to be prepared for anything ... ready to figure, know, explain, understand.
The more an athlete's body is conditioned by training, the more he or she can adapt to what happens in the game.
The more your mind is conditioned by training, the better you'll be able to adapt to what happens in life. That's the real test.
But...deep down I think you already knew that.
That's OK. We all need to be reminded. Including ...
Wednesday, October 10, 2007
Saturday, October 6, 2007
Our training as mobile journalists began when we took turns training our one camera onto each other's faces and shoes and shot footage of ourselves talking about our shoes. Then we downloaded the raw footage into our laptops and each of us edited the material into some kind of cohesive package using IMovie, a fairly basic editing software program...but enough to get us started. I've worked enough with PowerPoint that I found it easy and fun ... we'll be using more advanced programs like Adobe Premiere Pro soon.
What is a mobile journalist, you ask? No, it's not a riddle ... at least I haven't come up with a punny answer ... although I'll send a Snicker bar to the first three people who come up with something that makes me do just that and who post their answer to this site. You can even specify milk or dark chocolate.
Mobile journalists do it all -- shoot video that can be uploaded to a news outlet's Web site, do podcasts (kind of like radio interviews that you can listen to on your IPod), and write old-fashioned print-it-in-the-paper-so-you-can-read-it-with-
your-coffee kinds of articles.
Soon we're being unleashed on an unsuspecting community where we're going to be doing video reports of town meetings, features, and sports events. Actual journalism and not the more artsy example below.
The only glitch I'm running into is that it's taking forever to upload this ... and it's timed out three times already. So...back to my reading "Communication Theories: Origins, Methods, and Uses in the Mass Media."
Video editing was way more fun... :-)
Saturday, September 29, 2007
This was a guided hike and a retreat run by Wilderness Trail, so we had some group devotional activities as well as some individual quiet time.
Before you start thinking 'How namby-pamby saccharine sweet,' let me assure you that part of the group devotional activities included sharing pack loads so one girl with blistered feet could continue the hike and another part involved relinquishing one's pack to another in the group to facilitate scrambling up rocky sections. And I don't know about anyone else, but my individual quiet time was a lot of "Pant, pant, pant 'step by step You'll' pant, groan 'lead me' pant, pant, pant 'and I will follow You' groan, pant 'all of my days.'
Which may not have been the image Rich Mullins had when he wrote the song, but the rhythm and the rhyme work quite well when one is toting 30+ pounds and ascending at a rate of ... I forget. But we were going uphill. A lot.
There were also the typical group togetherness times. One of the first occurred the night before we started the hike.
We had gathered in WT's lodge -- our group of seven, a family of three, and two singles -- to meet each other and divvy up the cooking gear and food. Then our group leader had us circle up and she asked us to share a nickname someone had given us and then to share what we were most concerned about as to the hike.
Interesting. Not a question we're often asked. About nicknames, that is.
Anyway, Lee sometimes calls me 'Luigi' because my middle name is 'Louise.' I think he calls me that more than he calls me 'Anne.' So I told the group that.
And then I said that sometimes when I'm differentiating myself from my grandchildren's other grandmothers, I refer to myself as 'Granny Annie,' just to be silly.
But in the back of my mind there's been another thought. I've thought that if I ever write an advice column -- for kids or for adults -- that Granny Annie could be a fun pen name. Kind of like Mrs. Doubtfire but with a bit more brass.
'Dear Granny Annie, My parents keep treating me like a little kid even though I just turned twelve. They won't let me date or anything. What should I do?
Mature For My Age
Dear Mature, They won't let you date??!! How provincial, old-fashioned, and downright repressive can they be?! I suggest you not wait a minute longer. Just elope and show your parents that you are sufficiently mature to work 40 hours a week -- no, wait ... I forgot ... you haven't graduated from college or even high school so you'll have to work two jobs at minimum wage to earn enough money to pay rent on an apartment. And then if you want lights on at night you'll have to pay the electric bill. And I'm sure you'll want to eat ... but maybe one of your jobs will be at a restaurant.
That isn't what you had in mind? Then what did you have in mind? Dating is not a game one plays hoping to win a prize. Until you are ready to build a life apart from your parents and to take responsibility for someone else's life in addition to your own, you're not ready to date.
A little girl once asked me if it was 'fun being a grown up lady.' I think I was all of 30-something at the time. "Of course it's fun," I told her. "But first I had to learn how to have fun being six, and then seven, and then eight..." She thought about that, and I watched as a big grin spread across her face.
Can you have fun being twelve without wanting to be eighteen or twenty-three? When you can, then you'll really be mature for your age. Write back if you're not sure what I mean. But I'll bet if you think about it, you'll figure it out.
Love, Granny Annie
On the other hand, maybe it sounds a bit dorky. Or even, heaven forbid, a little too senile.
So I'll leave it up to my admiring public. Yet another poll so you can weigh in on this most important of matters.
Thursday, September 27, 2007
This is supposed to be an ongoing conversation, he tells me. Letting weeks elapse between postings doesn't cut it.
Mind you, sometimes weeks go by without my hearing from my editor.
Be that as it may, I guess I just don't feel the need to let it all blog out. Maybe it's the word blah-g. As in blah, blah, blah ... and is anyone really interested in what a 50-something has to say?
Maybe that's why I'm drawn to journalism. I like writing about other people--what they do, what they say, what they think. It's why I like writing children's stories, too. I can hide behind my characters. I can be any of them ... or all of them ... or none of them. And who would ever know?
So here you are, dear editor. A new posting in the spirit of the blog.
What? You mean I have to do this again tomorrow?!
Sunday, September 23, 2007
Most of us think of Charles Schultz's beagle Snoopy when we read those words. Snoopy, perched on top of his dog house, pecking away at his typewriter as he worked at writing the Great American Novel ... and seldom getting farther than the first line or two.
Other readers might think of Edward George Bulwer-Lytton, a 19th century British writer, whose opening line of Paul Clifford (1830) read: "It was a dark and stormy night; the rain fell in torrents--except at occasional intervals, when it was checked by a violent gust of wind which swept up the streets (for it is in London that our scene lies), rattling along the housetops, and fiercely agitating the scanty flame of the lamps that struggled against the darkness."
In this one line Bulwer-Lytton shifts focus at least four times and, by today's standards at least, it's a bit much in terms of length and verbosity. 1830s readers put him up there with Charles Dickens, but his writing is mercilessly satirized by our less forgiving age.
In fact, the line sparked a bad-fiction opening line writing contest beginning in 1982. You can read all about it at www.bulwer-lytton.com, where, they say, www means “Wretched Writers Welcome.”
Afficiandos of children's and young adult fiction, however, will recognize “It was a dark and stormy night” as also being the opening line of “A Wrinkle in Time,” written by Madeleine L'Engle, which won the 1963 John Newbery Medal.
I encountered “Wrinkle,” if my memory is correct, as a high school freshman in Tustin, CA, back in the dark ages of the 1960s. I didn't use the school library often, preferring the larger Tustin City Library or, better, the neighboring Santa Ana Library. Extra time at lunch one day caused me to wander in to browse the school library as it was in the same quad as the cafeteria and picnic tables. (Thought: Where do schools situate their libraries?)
I picked up “Wrinkle,” began to read, and ended up checking the book out when the bell rang. It's funny—out of the few memories I've retained of my high school years, walking out of the library with that book is one. The oddities of the human brain...
I remember devouring the book and understanding, for perhaps the first time in my life, that there was more to God than I'd previously thought. That the supernatural was real and that God was in control. Not that my life changed. I saw no visions, heard no voices, didn't become a Joan of Arc or even of Arcadia.
But a grain had been planted that germinated and grew and blossomed less than ten years later when I, as a young mother of three small children, came to understand that living life based on what I thought I should do and on what I thought was right, was slowly destroying me. And there was God, offering me a supernatural life based on what He wanted me to do and on what He said was right...whether I understood it or not.
(Note to those who question God's gender: Yes, I believe that God is neither/both/above and beyond gender. Genesis 1:27 says “So God created man in His own image; in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them.” To me, the creation is not about body or gender, it's about God creating triune beings as a reflection of His triune Godhead. Email me if you'd like to chat.)
Three decades later, I marvel at the road God had prepared for me and at how He has, in very deed, given me the desires of my heart ... desires I didn't even really know were there, they were buried so deeply. But He knew because He put them there. Topics for another day and time.
Today's reflection is in honor of a woman who lived life in the understanding that God sees more than we see, God knows more than we know, and God cares more than we care.
Madeleine L'Engle died a couple of weeks ago at the age of 88. One of this age's most prolific writers, she wrote fiction, memoir, essay, plays, children's and young adult fiction, science fiction based on the real sciences of quantum mechanics and particle physics, romance fiction, poetry, and God alone knows what else. The New York Times' obituary said her work “transcended both genre and generation."
Since rediscovering “Wrinkle” as a young adult and then reading as much of L'Engle's other work as I could find, I've considered her as one of the Titus 2:3 women God has put in my life. Not just, as the Scripture instructs, admonishing me to love my husband and love my children (ever wonder why we need to be admonished to do those things?), but showing me how to be a woman open to God's voice and God's leading, not afraid to ask hard questions nor to hear answers I don't like.
I wrote to her once.
One Thanksgiving, I believe it was. I wrote to thank her for her impact in my life through the books she had written.
She wrote back. A thoughtful, typewritten letter with a handwritten note scrawled at the bottom inviting a response. I can't remember if I responded or not. I know I was stunned that she had written to me ... who was I, after all?
A fellow irrational, she might have responded.
This is the irrational season
when love blooms bright and wild;
Had Mary been filled with reason,
there'd have been no room for the Child.
So, here's to Madeleine Camp Franklin, known to her readers as Madeleine L'Engle. It was a dark and stormy night.
It is, God willing, a luminous and eternal morning.
I look forward to the time when all veils are removed and we see Him face to face and each other as we truly are, made in His image.
See you then, Madeleine.
Monday, September 10, 2007
Even those who visited my Blog at justthewritetouch.blogspot.com voted for M'Log instead of the Blog.
For those just tuning in and not inclined to scroll down to the 'Older Posts' section for an explanation ... and for those reading this in M'Log format ... our oldest son, the IT expert, had admonished me that I couldn't call my serial e-mails a blog because they weren't actually posted to a Web log. I conceded the point and developed an official blog, but was mindful that many of my faithful readers might not want to go to the extra trouble of clicking on the link. So I termed my musings a Mail Log or M'Lady's M'Log (remember that you heard this term here first!). And I set up a poll on my blog and said I would accept absentee ballots via e-mail.
I was right.
Got four absentee votes for M'Log and none for Blog.
This is where it gets really interesting. I also got four votes for M'Log from the Blog poll and only three for Blog--and my son voted twice for Blog. As he reminded me, that's one of the inherent risks with any poll -- and let's all remember that come election season.
I also received two votes for handwritten greetings on exquisite stationery. One of those was my vote. I wanted to be sure the poll was recording votes correctly and I knew I wouldn't hold myself to actually penning an epistle to me.
To the other person who voted for this option: When you send me a handwritten greeting on exquisite stationery, I'll send you one. Not before.
Nobody voted to have me remove their name from my list.
I guess that's a good sign.
Thursday, September 6, 2007
We knew it was coming.
We were warned by faculty and by last year's fellows. But warnings never quite prepare you for reality.
So I played. And I paid.
"Come out over Labor Day weekend," I told Lee. "I'll work ahead and we'll have time together."
He did. Found reasonably priced (under $200 round trip) tickets from Tampa to Birmingham. Flew out Friday afternoon and I picked him up at the Birmingham International Airport--to which there are no signs on the freeway or on surface streets. Navigating the parking garage was another adventure.
We had fun...played tourist and went to the International Motorsports Hall of Fame and Talladega SuperSpeedway. Took the van tour, drove through the tunnel and onto the infield, stood in the winners' area and up in the stands, saw how incredibly steep the turn banks are -- imagine four cars side by side roaring around the inside of a bowl -- and heard the sound of one car running laps then tried to multiply that by 40 or so.
Drove into the town of Talladega and hung around waiting for the stock car races that evening at the Talladega Short Track ... only to discover when we got there that the races had been postponed due to weather. A line of unhappy racers at the barred gate didn't get the message ahead of time either.
That was Saturday.
Sonday morning we tromped around the woods up near The Star, which is also near two museums and a community center. There's a mountain bike trail near the community center and we followed part of that, then did part of the nature trails near the museum. Nice being outdoors ... I feel a bit cooped sometimes. I think I'll be comfortable on those trails by myself. Or I would be except that twice now I've seen groups of loose dogs. Not a good sign.
Later we went to St. Michael and All Angels Episcopal Church, a historic building in town -- incredible architecture and pipe organ.
Wandered around, ate, shopped--even did a Home Depot date!--cooked, Lee fixed stuff in my apartment (shh...don't tell the landlord) and made kumquat pies & calamondin jam, I did some school work. Had my fellow fellows over for dessert Monday night, back to class on Tuesday, then drove Lee back to the airport Tuesday late afternoon.
That was hard.
Then I had to pull my head back together and get two assignments in some kind of shape to turn in on Thursday. Which meant I worked straight through until midnight on Wednesday, got up early and worked another hour before classes on Thursday.
But you can bet I'd do it again.
Monday, August 27, 2007
Happy 7th Birthday, Christian!
Before I go any further, please change my email address to firstname.lastname@example.org ... yes, that's right ... I'm going to finally abandon AOL. And, yes, I can hear some of you saying that it's about time. What can I say. As the Amy Grant song goes "It takes a little while, sometimes, to turn the Titanic around."
Which is a whole 'nother subject. One I'll not explore today.
Tomorrow I head to Jacksonville -- Alabama, not Florida -- for a City Finance Committee Meeting where they will discuss the Utility Department budget. Now, before you yawn and roll your eyes, you need to know that at the last two meetings I've covered, the financial discussion has proven unexpectedly newsworthy. At one, the discussion was on changing banks ... which sounds dull, but when you think of how much money flows through a school system's bank accounts and then imagine that money flowing through another bank's accounts, the meeting transaction suddenly acquires interest ... puns intended. At another, the board spent two hours ... TWO HOURS ... discussing whether to accept a precedent-setting ruling from an administrative judge as to whether a copy machine company should be disqualified from a particular bid. Again, sounds soporific rather than sensational, but we're talking millions of dollars for the contract and somebody's salary somewhere down the line on the line.
All of which to say that the futility of utility is not a given.
Actually, it's part of our first assignment. We're not to actually report on the meeting, but to analyze how the meeting could be reported.
Check out the pictures above to see some of my fellow Fellows. I have another slide show I'll load in soon that was of our trip to Tuscaloosa.
And...last chance to vote on whether to Blog or M'log! (See survey in right hand column)
Tuesday, August 21, 2007
Yeah, it was almost that bad.
They issued us these lovely MacBooks (laptop computers by Apple) loaded with all kinds of software and I took it with me to the first session, planning to use it to take notes. That's one thing I learned during my internship this last three weeks. I may never take manual notes again unless....unless what happened this morning happens again.
So I take my MacBook with me. And I open it up and start it and it kind of sits there while we're going over stuff. Nothing I really needed to take notes on for the first hour or so. So I put it in sleep mode to save the battery because there are no plugs on these tables--which I had thought a bit odd because this is a really high-tech room designed for all kinds of presentations. But I'm not worried because, after all, my Dell will run a couple of hours or more on the battery and this one shouldn't be that much different.
Except that I'm noticing the battery indicator seems to be showing less than a full charge. I'm thinking, "OK, during the break I'll slip back and pick up my old-fashioned college-ruled paper notebook just in case." Except there wasn't really a break.
And then we get to a point where I really do need to take notes, so I wake up Mac and try to open Word and the little W at the bottom of the screen just keeps bouncing up and down, but it won't actually do anything. Neither will my cursor do anything because it seems the computer is frozen. So I gratefully--humbly--accept an offer of paper from a fellow Fellow (nothing like showing up really prepared on the first day, is there?) and turn my Mac off and make the best of it.
Learned afterward that the plugs are in the floor. I hadn't thought to look there.
Two tech calls later that afternoon, I've got my printer on the right network and printing and I'm thinking this is a really impressive start to the year. Yikes!
However, I'm using Mac to deliver this m'log/blog, so we're at least on speaking terms this evening.
Speaking of m'log/blog, you have something like 11 more days to vote on whether it should be a m'log or a blog. To vote properly, you should go to my blog site at justthewritetouch.blogspot.com and look for the survey on the right hand side. There's a picture there and I think the colors are nice. But I am accepting absentee ballots by email. If you've forgotten the debate, you can read my previous posting. That is one advantage to the blog format.
Next time, pictures!
Monday, August 13, 2007
August 13, 2007
Our oldest son, the IT expert, says I can't call it a blog if I'm not really posting to a Web log site. He has a point. 'Blog' is supposed to be short for 'Web log.' Especially as I'm supposed to be about the business of printing accurate information, he says I should be more careful about the terms I use. I concede.
However, I hesitated at the thought of actually creating a blog. It seems somewhat pretentious. It requires, I think, an extra click (extra work) for someone to actually go and read it. I much prefer sending an email containing my cheery, newsy letter that people can just read or delete without having to click on the link to my blog.
The advantage to a blog is that people can read each other's responses...which, of course, presumes there will be responses and that people will be moved to comment upon them. But I did receive some nice replies to my previous emails and I think others would have enjoyed reading them. Most of them, anyway.
So I'm compromising. I've decided to call it a m'log, as in e-mail log. M'lady's m'log, if you will. Just remember that when this term finally makes it into Webster's, you saw it here first!
And I've created a blog. If you really want to read my past postings and see a picture or two (when I figure out how to post them), you can go to justwritetouch.blogspot.com and read all about it. And if you go there, you can also vote as to which format you prefer. But then the results are going to be skewed because only people who bother to go to the blog and bother to vote will be counted. Ah, statistics.
There. My conscience is clear.
Tomorrow is my last day as an intern. I'm finishing up an article about students in Calhoun County schools who speak little or no English. Can you believe Alabama has had a 336 percent increase in such students in the last decade? Probably true for most of the South, but for the U.S. as a whole the increase is about 65 percent. In the same time period, Alabama's total enrollment only increased 1.5 percent.
Wednesday I officially become a Knight Foundation Fellow. They wine us and dine us on Thursday—a bus tour of Calhoun County and a BBQ at the Star—and Friday—orientation in Tuscaloosa. We have meetings on Monday and Tuesday, and classes begin on Wednesday, August 22.
It has been 100 degrees or hotter the last few days. No rain. Just hot, hot, hot.
Those of you wanting to learn more about Anniston might want to read Dennis Love's My City Was Gone: One American town's toxic secret, its angry band of locals, and a $700 million day in court. As a narrative writer, he's quite good. Just be aware that Love provides little or no documentation and that some of those angry locals are angry at him because of what he didn't say and because of how he (mis)represented the town.
You'll also learn some local history and that I wasn't kidding in my last posting about a possible but, we're told, “unlikely event” making my life expectancy about three minutes. Mine and everyone else's here. But all America, indeed, all regardless of nationality who have bought into the philosophy that more is better and that science is the answer, is and are responsible. Why should any of us avoid such places while others live under this pall? Ultimately, why should I be afraid? “If we live, we live to the Lord; and if we die, we die to the Lord.” Romans 14:7
In any case, this is where I am. This is where I'll be, God willing, for the next year. Let the classes begin!
August 1, 2007
First off -- Most of you asked that I stay in touch during this year of graduate work in Alabama. But some of you may not have meant that you wanted to receive my periodic ramblings. That's OK. Just email me and I'll take your name off the list.
Second -- Don't feel you have to reply. Although, if you do, I'll relish hearing what you've been up to. I may or may not be able to answer. Can we both be OK with that, knowing that some communication is better than none.
So this morning's Star carried a feature story – front page first section – about the local bookmobile. Written by one of my fellow interns. She rode the bookmobile Monday and wrote about her experience. Described the bookmobile librarian in this manner: “She's spry at 56.”
Now I don't know about you, but “spry” is a word you use to describe people who are 96 and still maneuvering on their own two feet. Being only a couple of years shy of that ancient age of 56, I'm trying not to totter too much in the newsroom.
As you may have guessed, my fellow interns are mid-20s. Matter of fact, so are most of the staff writers. My editor is 31. One nice young man who asked me today about freelancing is in his “second career, too” – he recently got out of the Marines. Yes, I'm bemused by it all...and enjoying every minute. Each of these young people are not only intelligent, they're also skilled at dealing with people. The future is in at least as good hands as it's ever been.
So far I've written about teen museum volunteers, weather-related traffic fatalities, a police academy graduation, a three-part series on Calhoun County libraries, two stories on a local charity golf tournament, a school board meeting, and am working on dress code changes, a 5K run, and an AIDS event. Plus a couple of other shorter write-ups. I'm learning to deal with photographers who have their own policies and procedures, with the phone system, with computer routing my stories, and with deciphering various accents.
Outside of work, I'm fairly settled. Still don't have much in the way of furniture, but it makes it easy to vacuum. No TV, but I don't miss it. Have gotten a couple of movies from the library and watch them on my laptop. Banks and libraries close early around here. Other than that, there's a 24-hour WalMart not far up the street.
Got a letter from the local Emergency Management Association. And there was a note taped to my door about free tone alert radios. They warn in case of tornadoes. And there's a siren that has malfunctioned at least once since I've been here – for two solid hours between 1 and 3 a.m. warning of a non-existent disaster in the making. The other time the siren would go off – there are four different tones all together – is “in the unlikely event” of a catastrophic event at the Anniston Army Depot where they are in the decade-long process of incinerating hundreds of thousands of chemical weapons. I think my life expectancy in such an unlikely event is about three minutes.
Aside from that, the area is quite beautiful. The Star's offices have lots of windows. My desk when I am a student will look out toward a woodsy area. I'm told the deer come up to the windows sometimes. Hope to do some exploring soon and take some pictures.
Some of you may not have gotten my new address:
P.O. Box 4005 /Anniston, A 36204-4005
Phone is 256-xxx-xxxx
I love and miss you all.
July 21, 2007
Arrived a bit later than expected due to solar flares and uncharted asteroid belts, but safe and sound. Am mostly settled in and am finding my way around town. Worked on Friday. The three guys I had talked to when I was here last were all out of town, so no one was expecting me. Managing editor very graciously allowed me to follow him around and learn--which I did...LOTS!
I had gone in prepared to pitch a couple of story ideas, and he sent me out on one. Came back with photos and a story...and it ran on this morning's front page! Go to www.annistonstar.com -- it's the Close Encounters article. Can't go wrong with a story about kids and animals. Plus I was given another task in the morning which I also completed...whew! Glad to have my first day behind me and not feel like a blithering idiot. Monday will be a bit different, I'm sure.
Anyway--my phone number is 256-xxx-xxxx (cell phone -- no land line). Email address is same, but won't have access at home until Friday. Am using public access computer at library today.
Address is: PO Box 4005, Anniston, AL 36204-4005.
Love to all--