Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Discrepancies in News Reporting

Out of curiosity, I decided to pick a random news article within current events and see how various online news sources covered it. I chose the traffic accident involving Michelle Obama's van and the motorcyclist from Iowa.

The Swamp, Chicago Tribune
Michelle Obama's van involved in Iowa crash
The motorcycle was driven by Timothy Emerson, 41, of Iowa Falls, Iowa, according to the sheriff's department.

Salem News
Michele Obama's Van Crashes Into Motorcycle During Iowa Campaign
The motorcyclist, 40-year-old Tim Emerson of Iowa Falls, is a hydraulic mechanic according to media reports. The rider reportedly came to a landing on fairly soft ground, he did not have a crash helmet on.

Mason City Globe Gazette
Motorcycle, Obama campaign vehicle collide
The cyclist was 41-year-old Timothy Scott Emerson of Iowa Falls.

Chicago Tribune
Michelle Obama involved in crash
The cyclist, identified by the Franklin County Sheriff's Department as Timothy Emerson, 41, of Iowa Falls, Iowa, was injured and airlifted to a hospital. A nursing supervisor at Mercy Medical Center in Mason City, Iowa, said late Tuesday that Emerson was treated and released.

Associated Press
Obama's Wife's Vehicle in Collision
The motorcyclist was injured and taken to the hospital, said Katie McCormick Lelyveld, a spokeswoman for Michelle Obama. The vehicle was hit by the motorcycle as it attempted a left turn just south of Hampton, where Michelle Obama was due at a rally.

Chicago Sun-Times
Michelle Obama not hurt in Iowa car crash
The motorcyclist, whose name has not been released, was injured and a medical helicopter was at the scene.

FOX News
Michelle Obama Involved in Car Accident
The motorcyclist, who the Washington Post identified as 40-year-old Tim Emerson, was not wearing a helmet at the time of the accident. He was taken to a nearby hospital.

Hampton Chronicle
Wife of candidate delayed by crash
At the entrance to Maynes Grove Park, four miles south of Hampton on U.S. Highway 65, Obama witnessed a serious crash involving a van and a motorcycle. The motorcycle's rider was airlifted by Mercy Air Life to an undisclosed hospital.

Washington Post
Michele Obama in Iowa Accident
The motorcyclist, 40-year-old Iowa Falls hydraulic mechanic Tim Emerson, landed on grass softened by three inches of weekend rain and lay still with a cut on his head. He was not wearing a helmet."He got in a little bit of a hurry and tried to go around everybody," said Mark Kellar, a friend of Emerson's riding another motorcycle. "I didn't believe he was going that way at an intersection. He went around two other cars that he shouldn't have."

no coverage

It looks to me like there's no definitive information on how old he is. Some papers caught his nickname, others reported his full name and profession, and one claimed that information was not released. The Washington Post got a very good quote from a friend of the motorcyclist, that was unique among all the reporting I read.

Some papers had headlines that mispelled Mrs. Obama's first name (sloppy!), and others implied that the van hit the motorcyclist - only upon reading the article was it revealed that the motorcycle drove into the van. Stating that the van drove into the motorcyclist would be misinformation, but stating that the van "collided" with the motorcycle seems to be vague enough wording to insinuate that Mrs. Obama was at fault, but if called to task the article can testify that this was not precisely the case.

FOX News and Salem News both report the motorcyclist as being 40 and specifically indicate he was not wearing a helmet. I'd guess they draw their news from the same source. The Washington Post indicated these too but had substantially more information. I would wonder if FOX News and Salem News chose to cut out parts of the wire they received.

Friday, October 5, 2007

Last Night and Today

Class went very well last night. I had such weird reactions to the stories. The first one, in picture book format, was charming and reminded me of my own childhood. The next two were transitional readers or juvenile novels, so hard to nail these definitions down and I'm just not sure anyway. The first brought out the proofreader in me and I was highly critical of everything. I made sure not to speak up and kept my corrections to myself. The second was colorful and entertaining and I would have liked to have read much more. It had some of the errors of the first one but I didn't care so much. There's a layer of subtlety to this that part of my mind is working on, but I'm not conscious of it.

There's a teenager walking around the library (where I'm posting from) in a red-lined cloak. I'm unable to determine whether he's mentally retarded or just extremely awkward.
Boredom's really setting into my bones, and I'm past the point of resenting it. In the beginning of this week it fired me up and made me angry; now I just feel worn out. I sent out writing samples to three places: received automated messages from two sites, have heard nothing from the third. No reason to give up, certainly, and this is one wall against which it is most beneficial to bang my head. Must keep writing, submitting, or writing without submitting. Neil Gaiman gave me the simplest, almost exasperated advice: writers write.

Wednesday, October 3, 2007

Difficulty in Thought and Deed

As all things are cyclical, now I'm confronted with my lack of sophistication. It started a couple years ago, when I felt that black t-shirts and jeans were getting to be too childish for me, but I didn't have much else in the way of wardrobe. Some business apparel, but I couldn't imagine lounging around with friends in a tie and slacks. Then I fretted over details such as not being able to distinguish between Izod and Lacoste. That was easier to resolve, as there are many, many more important things about which to be concerned.

Now it's come back, both in the classroom and in social interaction.

I wrote a couple paragraphs that would go here, and have deleted and rewritten them a few times. I don't want to put out enough information that anyone besides me might be identified. I'm also trying to decide how to phrase these revelations without coming off as whiny. I might not be able to.

I'm taking a class in writing children's literature, and it's surprisingly sophisticated. I'm not surprised by this: you can take any topic and study it to incredible degrees, you can penetrate multiple aspects to any depth you like. So it is with children's books: 32 pages, 14 two-page spreads, balance here, meter there, watch your vocabulary, etc. Our instructor is endlessly cheery and supportive, and as time goes by we're given greater insight to her experience and wisdom. She can meet any student at their skill level and push it up just a notch: a highly personalized learning experience.

She does this for me, too, but... more. She is never scant in her praise, but her criticism is pretty insightful and adult. Almost hard, but maybe that's just because she believes I can take it, and if I'm going to be a serious author I'd do well to learn how to take it because I'm sure it'll get much worse. I'm not even worried about that, it's just... there have been a couple instances where I think she has pegged my character and shapes events accordingly. She has never been insulting, she has never embarrassed me in front of anyone, but if I'm able to read between the lines at all I would describe her as prematurely fed up with my arrogance. I try not to be arrogant, I just want to do well, but I think she sees it in me and is taking preemptive measures to keep it at bay. It's a humbling experience. It's one thing for any jackoff to call you arrogant, and most likely they have no idea what they're talking about, but for someone of perspicacity and depth to quell your inspiration to rant or preclude certain events from precipitating - and to become aware of these, even if no one else can see them (and they are all the more sagacious because no one else can perceive this private struggle) - it's a humbling experience. There's no other way for me to say it. It makes me want to hang my head and focus on working harder and pushing myself to correct the flaws in my writing, if the flaws in my character are too large to resolve in an evening.

"There's no other way for me to say it." This is another thing. I've gotten into arguments with friends and my girlfriend, and I'm confronted with my lack of education and reasoning capacity. I'm not sure how to work on this. I mean, education, I'm working on that. I'm going back to school, I have a wealth of research databases at my disposal. I can study anything on my own, I have plenty of time to read. I'm not sure how to form better arguments, though, I don't know how to resume critical analysis like I took in college. There are probably books on this, that teach you how to identify the kernel of someone's argument and clear away the chaff. There are probably other books that instruct you in patterns of argument, how to guide the flow of a conversation, or... I don't even know. I can't conceive. I know that simplifying arguments to their component parts isn't working for me. I want to get better at this because I'm tired of sounding like a little kid when I get angry.

Friday, September 21, 2007

Before the Storm

I've never heard of Schmap before: apparently they find photos they like and ask to include them on their interactive maps. They asked to use five of my pictures in my Flickr collection (I'm listed under "Christian Wilkie" - figured I'd better start adjusting my accounts to reflect what my name will be).

Yesterday I bussed up to the Central Library around 3pm; by the time I got out at 5:30pm, it was starting to rain. I took the bus down from the library to MCTC campus, not a great distance at all, but in that time it had unleashed into a deluge with some hail. I ran a block and a half to the building where I have class and got completely drenched - sucks, that they insist on air-conditioning that building regardless of the weather. Towards the end of class my fingernails were blue and I couldn't hold my voice steady.

But I got this nice phonecam shot of the library just as the storm started.
storm rising

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

A Rush and a Push

If anyone wants to ask me how relaxing my month off has been, I look forward to pasting one across their chops. After calling different locations for ceremony and reception, separately, then there's time to rest. Except there are still boxes to be moved in, unpacked, and contents to be distributed neatly, and then I can rest. Except there are still household chores that need attending, like garbage, recycling, keeping the dishes clean, scrubbing down the bathroom, etc. And then there's time to rest. Except for following up on my lesson plans, driving out to the library, or to class in St. Paul, online tutorials, critically analyzing a dozen children's books, etc.

But it's good work and I feel productive. I put the deposit down on First Universalist Church, yesterday, for our ceremony. Today I went to St. Anthony Main and took pictures of their event center, proposed location for the reception. Now, the wedding itself is going to be small, but the reception would likely be a bit larger. My concern is that there are people who would be offended about not getting invited to the wedding, even though they can show for the reception. Is that an unrealistic worry? I mean, actually, my invite list is pretty small because I imagine people don't give a rat's ass about weddings, much less my wedding in particular. Most people don't really know Rebecca, and my life isn't very interesting on its own, so I don't imagine there are hordes banging at the door to get in.

Yes, weddings are profoundly unpopular with people who aren't getting married, and now that I'm doing this work... I really have no contact with my friends. "Friends" itself is now redefined as "distant people I remember liking", since I don't hang out with anyone. I have all of September off and I've seen Logan because he installed my brakes; I saw Alexis at a party; and... Well, anyway. Just because someone's planning a wedding doesn't mean you can't relate to them anymore. And so I provide: Some Questions You Can Ask Someone Who's Planning A Wedding (especially if you've never been married).
  1. Where's the ceremony/reception (are they at the same place)?
  2. Thought of a theme yet?
  3. What's the damage for the caterers (unimaginative menu, $10,000 minimum?! For 100 people?!)?
  4. What's looking good/likely so far?
  5. What have been some of the most colorful failures so far?
  6. How's she (significant other) handling it?
  7. So, is she doing all the planning?
You'll note that some of these questions are meant for guys to ask other guys. That's because women have such a fucking hard-on for weddings that they really need no conversational guides. One girl says "I'm getting married," there's an atmosphere-rending shriek from a dozen other women, which is actually a connection signal like on a fax: a T3 connection sprouts from each of their skulls and they form a LAN whereby tremendous loads of information are disseminated. Women were genetically coded for file-swarming centuries before Bram Cohen ever spurted out.

But the thing is, I don't want to be alienated. I'm busy making phone calls, have forgotten all about looking for another, better job. I'm making noises to sell my car and have had a couple positive responses, so that'll be wrapped up. Classes are going well: Information Access has greatly enhanced my idea of libraries altogether, and Children's Literature is a surprisingly deep and technical world. But I've got all this fucking time off and I haven't hung out with my friends. It's really alienating, though it's going to simplify the invite list, of course.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Society - Young Parents

Michael and Iana Straw (25 and 23, respectively; Reno, NV) claim they were addicted to being online (specifically, playing Dungeons & Dragons Online), and that's why they failed to feed/tend to their 22mo. son, Brian, and 11mo. daughter, Shannon.

The son had a genital infection and was malnourished and weakened to the point of having difficulty walking; the daughter's hair was matted with cat urine, and weighed ten pounds and was dehydrated.

There was plenty of formula and food in the house, when social workers rescued the kids. It just wasn't given to the children. Mike (Navy veteran) had even received a $50,000 inheritance - and immediately spent it on a plasma TV and high-end computer system.

Mike's MySpace:
Iana's MySpace: (Be sure to read her "I love my kids" rant.)

Friday, June 1, 2007

Commerce - Local Stores

Two places I dislike: FinnStyle in Gaviidae, and Au Bon Pain in the City Center building.

Au Bon Pain sucks because it is so convenient and is full of so much delicious food. It's right next to where I work; I could step out from my desk, trip out to Au Bon Pain for a cream cheese danish or their amazing cranberry almond macaroons, and return to my desk within five minutes.

Unfortunately, I have received terrible attitude from their employees almost without exception. They're gruff, they speak tersely and frequently mumble, and they refuse to make eye contact, preferring to stare over my shoulder as if I were presenting a discussion they didn't care to acknowledge. There's a sign posted that says, "If we don't give you your receipt, your purchase is free!" It is their favorite tactic to yank my receipt from the machine, crumple it up right in front of me, and toss it into the trash can, resuming their glare over my shoulder, daring me to say anything. To date, I have never mustered the courage to claim my free purchase. Many people would say that's what I get for being such a pussy, but on the other hand... why should I have to be subjected to that? I'm going to a cafe and buying pastries. I'm giving them money for a service. Why do I have to be called to account for my manhood just because I want a danish? Who pays for food and confrontation? I don't - I won't go there again.

As for the Finnish store... I didn't intend to buy anything but thought I'd browse out of curiosity. The staff, conversely, had no curiousity about me. I was ignored by two roving clerks and two clerks seated behind the desk. No obligatory "can I help you" or any stripe of greeting. I got the sense I was inconveniencing their conversation. A lot of stuff looked interesting in that store but I'll look for similar products in other outlets. I don't want to reward lousy attitude.

Thursday, May 31, 2007

Society - Neighbors

Just got back from helping my neighbor upstairs. She's getting on in years and her faculties are eroding: she's convinced the tenant next door is constantly playing up-to-the-minute techno remixes of everything she does throughout the day. Kind of like Stranger Than Fiction if it were a rave. She thought the previous tenant was doing a similar thing. She refuses to consider any other explanation, and I don't have the heart to disabuse her of her conviction. I just try to help out when I can: fixed her VCR, changed her light bulbs, set her alarm clock, and just now I instructed her on how to use her new hand-held tape recorder. ...You know, to record the loud music next door. I think this is going to signal the beginning of the end.

I'll be moving out in a couple months. I haven't told her. I don't know what she'll do when I'm gone, I wonder how many supporters she has in this building. She's cantankerous like the elderly sometimes are. Her son passed away a couple years ago; her entertainment center is lined with pictures of a young woman and a few young children. They could be her great-grandchildren, who knows. I don't know how often she sees or is seen by her family, where they are, anything.