Friday, August 31, 2007

The Last Dance...

In a few short days, I will embark on the final leg of my undergraduate journey. I am a mere six units or just two courses away from earning my BA in government-journalism from California State University, Sacramento. When I graduate in December, I will have just turned 45. Since graduating high school in 1981, I have been chipping away at this goal, although for many of those 26+ years I didn’t know where it would lead me. Interestingly enough, I still don’t.

It is, however, leading me somewhere… somewhere positive. It is a significant and relatively recent paradigmatic change for me. The vision I have on my future is at once much more defined and free to go where it may. I have, for the most part, released control of the direction and concentrated on the propulsion. I am in control of the action, never the result. It is far more than mere semantics; it’s an entirely new perception of life. And it is working for me in ways that I never dreamed possible.

Consider my coursework - past: I have completed four full-time semesters of mostly upper division government and journalism classes. Sprinkle in some other upper division required classes and you begin to get the idea. The amount of reading and, more so, the writing was for me unprecedented. Indeed, viewed in total, it would have chased me off. It has in the past. Taking it as it comes, however, has given me the freedom - and the time - to do it and do it well. I have received no less than an A- on every one of the many term papers I have written and I currently have a 3.8 grade point average.

Consider my coursework - present: The two courses that I need to complete are both upper-division government electives. Ancient Political Thought (GOVT 110) and Current Political Thought (GOVT 112). I should have had these two (or two other electives) completed by last semester, but sometimes I think too much… it is documented here. It was recommended by the Government department chair that I take these two classes if I am considering law school - and I am. Although I knew they would be heavy in philosophic theory, after purchasing the books I am quite sure I underestimated just how much. The authors of these fine works include:

Thomas Aquinas
Niccolo Machiavelli
Christine de Pizan
And other more contemporary thinkers.

It’s a daunting list and several pounds of books. But I don’t have to read them all at once and to be honest they are writings I want to read but probably never would on my own. The perspective I have chosen to lead my reality is one of optimism and opportunity - never dread. It is about today, not tomorrow; it’s the journey and no longer the destination. In life there is only one destination - death. Today I am in no hurry to get there.

The other two courses are not required at all, but interest me at least as much. Furthermore, they are very much in line with the kind of work I am now doing and will do in some capacity whether or not I end up in law school. JOUR 131 is a column-writing course and PHOT 135 is a photojournalism class that will take me in new directions photographically. Both should not challenge me too much academically, but might in the time required to complete the necessary work. However, I am not there yet and if I have learned anything in these past (and short) three years, nothing is impossible with a little faith and a lot of work.

Thursday, August 30, 2007

And The Beat Goes On...

I would appear that the Republican Party is falling apart at the seams. It was predictable and predicted that Attorney General Alberto Gonzales would soon be unemployed and he was, of course, preceded by Karl Rove and a host of others. Now we have Sen. Larry Craig, R-Idaho joining the ranks of former Rep. Mark Foley, R-Fla. and Sen. David Vitter, R-La. And lets not forget about the tried and true, the gold old-fashioned corruption driven by greed and power. Some of these guys actually get to go to jail: Super-lobbyist Jack Abramoff, I. Lewis “Scooter” Libby, potentially John Doolittle and others.

Wait a minute. That’s right. Scooter doesn’t have to go to jail - felonies don’t apply to the Vice Presidential staff, apparently.

Yes, there have been incidents of impropriety on the Democrat's side of the aisle in the recent past as well. Rep. William Jefferson, D-La. comes quickly to mind. But the Republican Party just can’t seem to keep its collective nose clean. Some call it a “culture of corruption.” Perhaps, but this is nothing new and certainly not unique to the Republican Party. There might be a bit of residual arrogance involved - having only just recently lost control of both houses of congress. Maybe the idea of losing that power never crossed their minds - and that previously protected behavior (someone had to know about Foley, c’mon!) is no longer squelched behind an impenetrable party curtain.

Maybe, what if, perhaps… it doesn’t really matter. I still believe that most of our elected representatives are there for noble reasons. Sure, it is their career, but many of these professional politicians could find much more lucrative work outside of holding office. Power? I am sure that element exists as well, but one need only ask Abramoff what kind of power is available to the private sector. There is more to it and I certainly believe that the majority of congressmen and women are there to serve - at least to some extent.

And then there are the bad apples. Some are maliciously so and others haven’t a clue (Mr. President). The executive sold us an unjust war (strike that, is selling) and at the same time using it to usurp power from the legislative. In reality there are two camps - each consisting of two teams. Those teams are the same in each camp, but the camps are supposed to be checking each other. In theory, congress is supposed to relate in an adversarial manner with the executive. Partisanship combined with the same party holding power in two of the three branches has allowed this relationship to become a very one-sided affair.

So what is a Republican congressman or woman to do? First, don’t do anything stupid like your terribly misguided colleagues. That should be the easy part. Second, it is time - has been time - to break ranks with the Whitehouse. I mean seriously, and with as much noise as possible. It has become a no-brainer; whatever loyalty you are exhibiting is bind, deaf… and dumb. The war is a disaster and getting worse. The ignorance (and I am being very kind) of this President is embarrassing. Stay the course? To where? The evidence is now and for some time has been overwhelming. Nowhere.

Here, perhaps this will make it easier. I’ll play to your instinctive sense of self-preservation: Save yourself - jump ship, it is sinking fast. In less than two years, the whole sociopolitical landscape will change - do you want to be a part of it? Stand up for your institution and the constitution. Start checking… and balancing - take your power back. The President is not a king, he was never intended to have this much power… and here’s a little secret: We’re not at war. There has been no declaration. Would you declare war if it came before congress today? No? Then do the right thing, it would go a long way to help the rest of us forget about the likes of Abramoff, Vickers, Craig, Foley, ad nauseam.

Friday, August 24, 2007

Demographics of Some American Newspapers

This came to me in an email from a friend...

1. The Wall Street Journal is read by the people who run the country.

2. The Washington Post is read by people who think they run the country.

3. The New York Times is read by people who think they should run the country and who are very good at crossword puzzles.

4. USA Today is read by people who think they ought to run the country, but don't really understand The New York Times. They do, however, like their statistics shown in pie charts.

5. The Los Angeles Times is read by people who wouldn't mind running the country -- if they could find the time -- and if they didn't have to leave Southern California to do it.

6. The Boston Globe is read by people whose parents used to run the country and did a far superior job of it, thank you very much.

7. The New York Daily News is read by people who aren't too sure who's running the country and don't really care as long as they can get a seat on the train.

8. The New York Post is read by people who don't care who's running the country as long as they do something really scandalous, preferably while intoxicated.

9. The Miami Herald is read by people who are running another country but need the baseball scores.

10. The San Francisco Chronicle is read by people who aren't sure there is a country . . or that anyone is running it; but if so, they oppose all that they stand for. There are occasional exceptions if the leaders are handicapped minority feminist atheist dwarfs who also happens to be illegal aliens from any other country or galaxy, provided of course, that they are not Republicans.

11. The National Enquirer is read by people trapped in line at the grocery store.

12. The Oregonian is read by people who have recently caught a fish and need something in which to wrap it.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Tanya's Ten Years

I first heard the term “blog” about five years ago. I understand that “web logging” has existed as long as the web has, and online journals of one sort or another have been around since the bulletin board service (bbs) was the de facto online community. Although blogs as we know them today have existed for more than ten years (even though the term “blog” was not coined until 1999), most bloggers cannot claim to have been in the game that long. My first blog was created - after much resistance - in December 2005. I am still very much a newcomer.

I have been fortunate, however, to have established relationships throughout the world with many, many other bloggers. Some have been at it for quite some time. One in particular is celebrating 10 years of blogging on September 30. By any measure, this makes her a blogging pioneer. Tanya, also known as NetChick, is, in her own words, “living my dream in beautiful downtown Vancouver, BC, Canada.” She is celebrating her 10-year anniversary with a super-deluxe blog contest. The grand prize? A Nintendo Wii! And this post is part of my entry.

Although I would love to win a Wii, this post is really about paying homage to one who has blazed a virtual trail. Tanya was there early on when the blogosphere must have been a very lonely place. Much of the blog tools we take for granted today were not even a twinkle in some programmer's eye ten years ago, yet NetChick and others kept on writing. Did they know this thing would take off the way it has? I suspect that they might have had a feeling… but could anyone predict the phenomenon blogging has become?

I’m over my 250 words; the link to NetChick’s contest is on top of my sidebar. Come check it out!

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

The Reporting Life

I love my job. I hate my job. No… I love my job. I really do love my job. I love being a reporter. I like asking questions, I like being places I’m not really supposed to be. I like being your eyes and ears and sometimes your voice. I don’t always like what I write about and it seems that I’m always resistant to get down to the actual writing, but once I get it out and filed, I am so very satisfied.

Yesterday I researched two stories that are not of the “breaking news” variety. Indeed, most news stories are not. I put off writing them until today - I had a noon deadline. I always have trouble getting started; coming up with a compelling lead is no easy trick. Once I get rolling though, they seem to write themselves. Such was the case today. It took just a little more than two hours to compose two stories - one about 500 words and the other about 650. Now I can breathe for the real excitement begins tonight.

The Lincoln News Messenger is the weekly paper of one of the fastest growing communities in the United States - Lincoln, California. The paper is one of the fattest of the Gold Country Media weeklies and will probably become a daily in the coming years. There is a brand new city hall under construction, a new elementary school opens for its very first day on Thursday and houses are springing up like weeds. The paper has been looking for a full-time reporter and so far is operating without one. My name was dropped to the editor as a stringer who could handle the quick turnaround stories like city council meetings or, as is the case tonight, the school board meeting.

It didn’t look like anything too contentious would be on the agenda tonight, but if I’ve learned anything during this past year, the agenda does not tell all. I received a tip through the editor that some families are none too happy about some of the goings on at the administrative level and plan to attend and let the board know what they think. Yes, this is when it gets good. All bets are off and anything could, and often does, happen. Since this paper goes to press tomorrow, this is a story that won’t wait. It will be written tonight or perhaps very early tomorrow morning.

I can’t wait.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Impending Doom

Something new… I need to write something new. I can’t imagine what. A story, an amusing anecdote, maybe a philosophical premise - I don’t know. Life has been good, but in something of a holding pattern of late. Time is passing and with the passing of time some forecasted events are approaching, but right now it’s just niggling little things that I really, really don’t want to do. Yet, somehow they are getting done. My laundry is almost all clean and put away. The dishes are mostly all clean and out of the dishwasher. The bills are paid and there is gas in the car. Yet… I feel somehow ineffective, like I am neglecting something.

“You know what that feeling of impending doom is?” A man far wiser than I once asked. “It’s impending doom, stupid!” He was talking about instinct; about intuition; about gut feelings. For me, it often means that I need to write something and I don’t usually know what it will be until I see it before my eyes. Stephen King wrote that writers don’t create their stories, they discover them. It is an interesting angle and one that works for me. He likened it to the archeologist who is digging up fossils. Once discovered, care must be taken in excavating them. Too much haste will produce an incomplete or fragmented artifact while carefully bushing away the soil will reveal a complete and beautiful specimen.

And Michelangelo felt the same way when working with a block of marble. It is reported that he “saw” the figure in the stone and merely uncovered it with his chisel. Could it be the same process with writing? Is it that the themes and the thoughts and the stories have existed all along only waiting to be tripped over by a literary explorer? Do we create our worlds or navigate them? There are instances, many, many instances when I know I have taken a wrong turn; when I will select and delete many words, complete sentences and in some cases, entire documents. I have taken a wrong turn. Often I will know it immediately - it just doesn’t feel right - but sometimes the path has been cleverly disguised that I won’t realize it until many miles have been traveled.

“You know what that feeling of impending doom is?”

It is difficult to turn back after so much has been committed, but if the words lead to a dead-end, there is little choice. Vision is not always prospective and sometimes the forest can only be seen through the trees in retrospect. I think fast and I write slowly. I never learned how to type and I don’t intend to. It has served to slow my thinking down and in a very real sense it gives me the vision that helps keep me on course. Mostly. There is a downside, however. If I don’t get the thought out, I risk losing it… maybe forever, maybe not, I can never really know. Was it that elusive fossil that I have been searching for or just another piece of petrified wood? Often the answer can only come from running headlong into a dead-end, writing wildly scattered thoughts as fast as my two fingers can carry me.

Joan Dideon reveals that she never learned grammar. She just knows what sounds right. Jimi Hendrix never learned to read music, but he too knew what sounded right. It’s about how it all fits together. It has to make sense. Translating the thoughts in my head into words clarifies them not only for you, but for me as well. It takes the pieces of the jigsaw puzzle floating around in space and assembles them into a mosaic that can be viewed in total - perhaps even understood. It intimately links the reader with the writer, crossing the barriers of time and space. We become, for a brief instance, one.

Monday, August 13, 2007

Another One Bites the Dust

Fair warning. The following is straight from the hip. I have not researched or in any way educated myself to any significant depth save the headlines and news briefs that have circulated since Karl Rove announced his resignation. I am operating on prior albeit considerable knowledge. I have little doubt that the story has by now been analyzed, dissected, interpreted, disassembled and reassembled. The questions have been asked - and rhetorical though they may be, they have been answered nonetheless. By experts, of course. I am not an expert, however, I am not surprised in the least that Mr. Rove has “decided” to resign.

First, let’s be honest. Although Rove played a role in this latest strategic move, it was not his decision alone. It is part of an overall strategy that has been planned for some time. Perhaps it is a contingency plan; a stopgap; a plan “B”, but a plan all the same. This is not a result of good old Karl’s sudden desire to spend time with his family (from the news briefs). It is damage control and just in case no one has said it, I’m saying it now. Rove is falling on his sword in the great tradition of taking one for the team. He has been waiting in the wings, largely silent since the outing of Valerie Plame. It is now his turn in the barrel.

It is game of distraction. With the September “status” report on the troop surge rapidly approaching, our fearless leader is trying to buy some breathing space. There will likely be more heads to roll - Attorney General Alberto Gonzales is definitely on the short list. We are being prepared for bad news… well, worse news - it’s been bad for some time. It wouldn’t even surprise me if Dick Cheney had to step down for “health” reasons. That would leave a number of unemployed scapegoats for Bush to suggestively but ever so nonchalantly point the finger towards. But there will be no hard and fast blame and no real consequences… remember, there is still a full pardon in the works for Scooter.

As bad as this president has been, we need to remember that no single person could foul things up so completely. He had help, lots of help. Karl Rove has been riding shotgun for many, many years - well before this presidency. He knew what was expected of him when he signed on. He also knew what was in it for him. Their plan for world domination (ok, slight hyperbole) went terribly awry, but there is no accountability. These resignations and even one conviction (so far) have not changed anything. We were sold a song and dance that was designed to bring us to war. The evidence that this was an unnecessary and unjustified war was and is monumental, but Rove, Cheney, Bush and company kept the lies alive and fresh.

Check it out - nothing has changed. Rove will be gone but the machine will keep squawking away. And people still believe the lies. It will take generations to repair the damage this administration has done. Our grandchildren will still be paying for this war. I’m so glad Karl Rove feels it is important to spend time with his family - I feel the same about mine. I wonder how much time he spends explaining to his family what we as a nation are doing in the world. I wonder if his family believes the lies.

Thursday, August 09, 2007

On Short-cuts and Loopholes

There are all sorts of anniversaries. We celebrate some; some we commemorate and some just simply mark the passage of time. Birthdays, weddings, deaths, victories and even defeat in many forms are often noticed at annual intervals. We all recognize some of these events and although there are some universal perceptions regarding them, many hold meaning uniquely our own. Last Monday I passed such a milestone and although the substance of it is not something I am willing to disclose, the ramifications definitely are.

As regular readers here know, I have not led a “cookie-cutter” life. Who has, really? But even beyond the standard deviation one would find in society, mine has been a life of extremes. Due to a number of realities, many self-created, I have taken the path less traveled. I have hit the potholes; traveled the treacherous mountain and dirt roads; hit too many dead-ends and more than once ran out of gas. Yet I am still here, still trucking along… and still blazing my own trail.

Three years ago, I was in the midst of one of those dead-ends. Coincidentally, I was also out of gas, so to speak. I had to take some responsibility in my life; I had to make it happen. More than anything else, I came to a place of acceptance and realized that these things weren’t just happening to me, I was creating them - even if I was doing so passively. It was on August 6, 2004 that I began to come to a new understanding about life - my life - and my role in it. I was at one of the lowest points in my life and it took a complete change in perception to come out of it.

It was not “depression.” It was, at once, more complicated and much simpler than that. I had to let go of some of the ideals that had driven me for so long. I had to ask for help, I had to rely on others and I had to have faith that everything would be ok. Indeed, I eventually came to the realization that it always is - it has to be, it can’t be any other way. It was my expectations that were mucking everything up. My view of what life should look like was so rigid that anything outside of that ideal was simply not ok. Yet life marched along quite all right without my consent.

I was always looking for the rewards of hard work without putting forth any effort. If there was a short cut, I was on it. I was self-obligated to seize upon any opportunity to avoid work. I spent more energy trying to get out of doing the work than it would have taken to do the work in the first place. I know this probably sounds exceedingly simple to some, but I did not get it - and I am not stupid. I didn’t learn this behavior from my parents - they are both self-made and very hard working; I had excellent role models. It could have been a generational issue as many of my peers seemed to be in the same boat, but many more got through and made something of themselves.

They did as I am doing today. While I was seeking the easier, softer way, they had already found it - they were doing the work. Now I don’t want to make it sound as though I was some sort of deadbeat dad, welfare lout; I was not. I had many jobs and good ones at that. What I didn’t have was follow-through. I was incapable of consistently applying myself day-in and day-out. I viewed life in terms of a destination - retirement, with immense wealth, of course. I never could see life from a much less complicated and easier to comprehend perspective: today.

I figured out that my view of life could only render short-term commitment. My focus was too far out, the amount of work too overwhelming, the destination just too far away. But the destination is the journey. It is right here, right now. Indeed, the destination in life is not retirement, the destination in life is death - and that is where I was driving myself. I didn’t even know it. By focusing on just today, my life has become - in just three years - a paradise. It is everyday. The reward to living life in the moment is the next moment - that’s all. Everything else is gravy.

I have plans and goals and most all will take longer than one day to complete. In fact, the “big-picture” plans couldn’t possibly be done in a day by anyone under any circumstances. Rome truly was not built in a day. I do have some things to do today, however, and there is more than enough time to do them. It is true of every day. I plan the actions - the work - and not the outcome. If everything came out as I would have planned it, I’d have sold myself way short. There are possibilities today that I could not have dreamed of three years ago. Yet with the passing of 1,098 days, one day at a time, they are my reality today.

This is the secret to life. It is not rocket science. Live life in the present, never plan results and do the work. Simple, no?

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

On Haunted Pond

I have a new fish in my pond. I didn’t put it there… I have no idea where it could have come from. I do have two “feeder’ gold fish that have grown so large they are more predator than prey - they are perhaps a little more than a year old, 18 months tops. They are the last of 20 such fish I put into the pond - net cost, $2.00. I call them Romeo and Juliet, but I have no idea if they are even of the opposite sex. How do you tell… look under their fins? But even if they did spawn this new fish, there are a couple of troubling details.

It is a little large to be a “baby” fish. Indeed, it is about the same size as the others when they were new. It looks like it might be a gold fish, but it’s dark grey, not gold. Although certainly not a deal-breaker, it is impossible to get a close enough look to determine its species. There is only one… maybe two, but I doubt it. Don’t fish ‘litters” number in the hundreds - even thousands? He (she?) is elusive and although I don’t believe gold fish are cannibalistic, Romeo and Juliet are known to play rough - especially around feeding time. Maybe the little one is smarter than the average bear?

And no, it is not a tadpole - I’ve had them and this is not one. I think my pond might just be haunted. You know - like “On Haunted Pond.” It could happen...

Thursday, August 02, 2007


Busy! Not me, my computer. It’s busy making a bootable backup of my entire 160 GB hard drive on my MacBook Pro. I am using my old 12-inch iBook G4 for the first time in quite some time. After skating on the edge of possible disaster for far too long, I finally purchase a ½ terabyte (terabyte!!) external backup drive. I was also spurred by more than a few sad tales of lost files… photos, prose, etc., that will never return. Ok, the last straw? I have more than 90 gigs of photos that are taking up far too much space on my internal drive. It’s slowing down my hotrod of a laptop like a smogged down, de-tuned mid seventies muscle car.

Ninety gigabytes of photos. I don’t even want to think about the time it will take to eliminate duplicates and catalog them. Indeed, the abundance of external space will relegate that task to the back burner - for now. Nevertheless, I can’t help but to sit here awestruck… it was only perhaps 15 or 20 years ago that my employer purchased its first network computer system. It had four or five workstations, ran only DOS text-based programs (WordPerfect and Lotus 123, if memory serves) and had a Novell Netware 3.x server. Oh, yes… the network interface was through the now obsolete Arcnet coaxial cable (the now ubiquitous Ethernet was brand new and therefore very expensive).

All of that is nothing more than gibberish to all but a few, but there is one part of that server that makes a pronounced point about the speed of technological progress. We had what was at the time a state-of-the-art, very high capacity hard drive - a Maxtor 400 megabyte unit. It ran on a SCSI interface (also considered very high end at the time - in some contexts it still is) and was more than big enough to handle our files for years to come. Like… two. The size of one’s hard disk drive (HDD), memory (RAM) and the speed of the processor (x.xx GHz) are the big three specifications, most everyone who has purchased a computer has some familiarity with these terms.

I am now the proud owner of a 500-gigabyte (1/2 terabyte… terabyte!) external hard drive. It is 1,000 times larger and many time faster than that old Maxtor unit. And it is only a mid-range unit. There are far faster and bigger drives available - for a price. This unit has more space than I can even fathom, yet I know that within a year, I will need more. I know it. I have been wrapped up in computers since very early on. I have been on the cutting edge and now (thank God!) I am an end user. The pace of technological advancement is dizzying and it is no longer a surprise that obsolescence is never far away. I remember my first 1-gigabyte hard drive like it was yesterday. It almost was.

Addendum - for perspective.
My 17" MacBook Pro has 2 gigabytes of RAM! Crazy!

A rare second addendum - In the process of moving old back-up files around, I inadvertently LOST all of my old archives. Although most of it is replicated elsewhere, not all of it is. I don't even know the extent of what I lost. I take solace in knowing this might be the last time I have to endure such an unexpected data purge. But hey, life goes on, I'm already past it. The upside? My MacBook is like its old self again.