Saturday, December 12, 2009

My current Facebook status

I posted my status today on Facebook and apparently some folks like it. Here's what I wrote:

"James is keeping a food diary at the request of his doctor. A small weight gain from my last checkup prompted the doctor to make me keep a record of what and when I eat anything. I know what he's going to be treating me for at my next visit: Writer's Cramp."

Actually, I find that having to write everything down has actually kept me from eating things that were bad for me. Because I find it very difficult to lie, I'm now passing up snacks that I would have eaten so I don't have to write it down.

I think I've invited the "Writer's Cramp" diet. I feel my first book coming on.

Sarah Palin vs. William Shatner

This was pretty funny last night. In case you missed it: (You'll have to sit through a short commercial to get to the clip)

Friday, December 11, 2009

Two men kill three people, I get called a vulture

It's strange when old memories will pop up. This week I happened across a picture of a turkey vulture and it suddenly brought to mind a murder case I covered early in my career at the Oakland Press.

Before Rochester Hills was Rochester Hills it was Avon Township. One evening in July 1984, I monitored police scanner traffic that indicated a homicide had occurred at a home there. As more officers arrived it was apparent that this was pretty awful.

I drove to the scene and while watching the front of the house at one point a detective who I saw go into the house, emerged and vomited over the porch railing. That's when I knew it had to be pretty gory inside the house. It's pretty rare that a seasoned detective becomes nauseous at an accident or murder scene.

Later I learned that two men, high on drugs, booze or both, had been left home to party with a woman, her teenage daughter and a nine-year-old niece. At some point the murder frenzy began and all three females were stabbed to death. The nine-year-old was stabbed 27 times. Overkill in its purest form.

The two men took off after the triple homicide, but the husband, father and uncle of the three victims quickly provided detectives with names of the men he had left at home with his family and they were arrested.

Bill Fischer was a truck driver and Michael Kvam (I never forgot their names and check on their prison status at least once a year to make sure they serve every day of their life sentences) a young man that Fischer befriended. The links on their names will take you to a page with their photos and conviction information.

At their arraignment, a photographer and I staked out the back door of the courthouse so I could shout a question at the two men and the photographer could snap a photo. Members of Fischer and Kvam's family were also looking to see the two men and there was a brief confrontation between we and they.

At one point, a friend or family member of Bill Fischer shouted out to me and the photographer that we were "vultures." The irony of being called "vultures" by the family and friends of two men charged with killing a woman, her daughter and nine-year-old niece was not lost on the photographer or me.

This was the case that convinced a circuit court judge who had been opposed to the death penalty that in at least some cases it should be applied.

Just when you think Congress couldn't do something even dumber than it already has....

This today from a House subcommittee a plan to force college football into an annual championship playoff.

At least one Democrat had the intelligence to say this whole thing was ridiculous. Congress is so full of itself that we can only hope that they will recess for Christmas and not come back.

As I said on Facebook, it's probably time to retire the bald eagle as the national symbol and replace it with a whiny little baby in diapers or a big open hand waiting for "Obama money."

It's truly sad what is happening right now. Someone should ask these representatives to come home and face the out-of-work voters and find out how important a college playoff is to them.

My favorite quote in the story:

The subcommittee chairman, Rep. Bobby Rush, an Illinois Democrat who co-sponsored the bill, said, "We can walk and chew gum at the same time."

Can we take a poll on how the American people feel about that?

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Editor & Publisher to shut down

It may be the ultimate sign of the newspaper times that Editor & Publisher, the publication that tracks and writes about the newspaper business, is itself a reported casualty of the newspaper doomsday.

Thanks to an anonymous poster for providing the link and information for this post.

Reminder: Harold McIntyre's funeral arrangements

The arrangements can be found in an earlier post. Former FJ photographer Jane Hale gave me permission to post a couple photos she took on Harold's last day at the Flint Journal.

It's cold here and I have the pictures to prove it

This is mainly for my friends and family who live in warm weather states. Coming home from a school assignment this afternoon I spotted some ice forming on a small lake near the road. Temperatures dropped like a stone today and right now are about 10-degrees outside. These ice formations on dead trees and dead weeds sometimes end up looking kind of cool. (Click on photos for a larger view)

A little updated news from the Oregonian

In September, the Oregonian, an Advance publication, announced a buyout offer and we know now that 43 people accepted the voluntary buyout.

Word is that another 30 to 40 folks face lay offs to meet the company's staffing goals. That is supposed to happen soon.

This is huge for the northwest region where the Oregonian is a huge news source.

Booth (West) planning big changes Feb. 5?

Folks at Booth properties on the westside of the State are bracing for February 5th, the date of expected "changes."

With the end of the lifetime job pledge, some folks are expecting the worst.

Already this week training to help the copy desk and design functions to be consolidated with the Grand Rapids Press has been going on. Staff at the Kalamazoo Gazette is less than half of the staff there just five years ago.

Named Michigan's "Newspaper of the Year" just this year, the paper's redesign will make it into a clone of the Grand Rapids Press. Most likely to ease its production.

Cookie cutter papers take less time for a small crew to put together, more like plugging items in and out depending on which area.

The Kalamazoo Gazette, which was named the Michigan News Association's Newspaper of the Year a few weeks/months ago, will take on the design of The Grand Rapids Press.

President Obama lovers will need to strap on a sense of humor for this one

A friend sent me this overnight. I believe it is photo shopped.

Dad adds a few more household hazard exposures

We father pointed out in an e-mail to me that I didn't explain all the household hazards that he was raised with.

Here in his own words:

"Finally, I omitted our playing with asbestos as children. It is a mineral that we'd get a hold of somewhere and play with it. The fibers were all loose. Let's see, I was also raised in a house filled with cigarette smokers. There were many times when a pall of smoke lay so think it was difficult to see across a room. Hasn't bothered me yet!"

What he didn't mention was that he is in his 80s. Imagine, lead toys, playing with mercury, general aviation pilot, second hand smoke, asbestos exposure and he's still here.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Newspaper execs: "We're doing better we only lost 20 to 25 percent of our advertising"

This from Reflections of a Newsosaur.

A dangerous toy from my past forgotten

My father wrote in this morning to remind me that he purchased a 22-caliber, single shot rifle for my brother and I to shoot back in the 1950s. This obviously was in response to the toy safety item I wrote yesterday.

OK, it was not really a toy as the headline says, but my father taught us the safe way to use a gun and we had many wonderful hours of enjoyment with it.

The use of that rifle was strictly supervised by my father, but often involved "plinking," which was the shooting of green, plastic "army" men, jeeps and tanks in remote areas of a beach or field.

How I forgot that I don't know, but I do remember we never shot "American" army men, they were usually Germans and the occasional Japanese green, plastic army men. This was still a time in the shadow of World War II so I hope that's understandable, even if politically incorrect.

Green plastic men who were decapitated or left limbless by our "plinking" were given a proper disposal.

My father also remembered that he and his brothers often played with lead toys some that ended up in mouths. Dad has lived to a ripe old age and is reasonably sane, so it does not appear he suffered from any lead poisoning.

"Plinking," I believe is the sound of a 22-caliber bullet when it is fired.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Zhu Zhu pet gets reprieve, safe after all

I was relieved to hear today that the Zhu Zhu pet had gotten a clean bill of health from the government. The Zhu Zhu pet was on its way to a civil lethal injection after a do-gooder group discovered it had trace amounts of a metal that was supposedly going to hurt kids.

(Update: I received a comment to this story that included a website that the poster indicated was a contest for a free Zhu Zhu pet. Before posting that comment - and later rejecting the comment - I went to the website and it seemed a little odd to me so I did not post the comment on the concern that the website might not be safe for computer users. It is only about the fifth time I have had to reject a comment)

But the government (nice to know they have time for this) stepped in and said the Zhu Zhu pet met all government standards and was safe. The do-gooders now admit they used the wrong test.

My wife and I were just talking about how toy safety testing was done when we were kids. Well, actually toy safety testing wasn't done, we just had parents who decided whether we should, or should not have a certain toy.

I begged and pleaded for a b-b gun, but like the famous movie was told I couldn't have it because I could lose an eye. Parents were pretty good back then at deciding what toys were safe and which weren't.

Today, I guess we need the government to decide whether toys are good or bad.

It's a miracle I'm still alive based on what is considered toxic and dangerous today. As a kid my friends and I used to look for old or discarded mercury thermometers to break open so we could play with the mercury.

We used to shine up our dimes with the stuff using our bare hands. We would break up the beads of mercury and then put it all together again. Do that today and they'll clear your neighborhood, call out the fire department and the environmental clean-up company that employs the men in the moon suits and then bill you thousands of dollars for the clean-up.

Not ranting, just noting how things have changed. No one wants children harmed and if we can keep them safe good, but parents, in my opinion, are still the best arbiter of what is dangerous or safe for their children. But I do recognize some parents have slipped through the cracks.

I was kidding with my wife the other day that my father, a frequent visitor here, in today's world might be in big trouble for letting me ride on his lap and steer the car on some back street, without a seat belt.

My brother and I were spanked and although I can't say I liked it at the time, I'm a better man for it today.

Global climate change: Just to put your mind at ease

Are we heating up or cooling down? Here's a 1974 Time Magazine article that tried to scare us.

Here's my favorite paragraph from that story and the reason why I shut out the noise about the current global warming debate:

"Whatever the cause of the cooling trend, its effects could be extremely serious, if not catastrophic. Scientists figure that only a 1% decrease in the amount of sunlight hitting the earth's surface could tip the climatic balance, and cool the planet enough to send it sliding down the road to another ice age within only a few hundred years."

That's what many scientists believed just 35 years ago. Pssst! Here's a little secret from me to you, they don't know what is happening. They are just guessing. I'm all for saving energy and recycling, etc., but don't do the scare stuff, it's silly. Remember Y2K? Another media scare that fizzled.

Besides I enjoy driving my gas guzzling Chevrolet Tahoe. When Al Gore gives up his private jet and energy inefficient home, I'll think about down sizing my travel mode.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Inside Out is back with some fresh Booth info, video

The Inside Out blog is back with some new stuff on editor changes on the Booth management merry-g0-round and a cute video "Copy Editor's lament." Stop over and check it out.

Funeral arrangements posted for Harold McIntyre

From Swanson Funeral Home

Harold McIntyre
(May 29, 1947 - December 4, 2009)

Guest Book Sign Guest Book Send Private Condolences
Send Flowers

Mr. Harold McIntyre-62, passed away Friday, December 4, 2009 at Brians House. Family and Friends will gather in the sanctuary of Second Friendship M.B.C., 6046 Clio Rd., Mt. Morris, on Monday, December 14, 2009 at 10:00 AM with services starting promptly at 11:00 AM, Pastor Rodney Williams, Officiating. Interment Great Lakes National Cemetery. He may be viewed on Sunday, December 13, 2009 at Swanson Funeral Home from 1-6PM.

Cover the Legislature: $15 an hour

A lot that is currently wrong with journalism can be found in this posting from Illinois.

Computer skills helpful (no mention of journalism skills, although it would be helpful if you understood the legislative process). Sheeesh. The comments are delicious too.

Thanks to Omar Sofradzija, a Facebook friend, for the link.

Pete Hamill on writing and newspapers has a good interview with Pete Hamill with lots of stuff about newspapers and their demise.

Pete talks about the "old" days in newspaper journalism and offers some opinions about the future. He makes a really good point about the eventual destruction of newspaper libraries and what that will mean to historians.

When I first started at the Journal it had a Class A newspaper library. While many of those files remain, I'm not sure what attention is being paid to its maintenance.

Here's a couple snippets I liked from the fairly long Q&A.

"The does not pay its writers. Tina Browns’ does pay its writers. You have to be paid because this is not a hobby. You have to keep that standard. You can’t ask grandpa to loan you money because you have to go to Afghanistan. I walked the picket line for that to continue. "

"I’m so concerned with morgues and libraries of the newspapers. I know from writing historical novels, one of the great sources is bound volumes (of newspapers). They tell you all the detail that historians don’t. How much was a pair of shoes. What did a guy pay to go to the ballpark in 1934 during the Depression. How many people where there? The detail, you could find in the morgues, the bound volumes that have the advertising. At the very least there ought to be grant money somewhere to scan every page of it."

Still no word on Harold's funeral

You can find a short notice here, so keep watching.

Health Care debate's open process: Not so much

"What I am convinced of is if we actually hope to pass universal health care this time around we have to bring Republicans and Democrats together," said Obama. "We have to have an open and transparent process so that the American people participate in the debate and see exactly what we're doing."

On another occasion during the campaign President Obama mentioned that C-SPAN would be in the room during the health care deliberations so the American public would be party to the "open" process.

Over the weekend, Obama met privately with Democrats only to strong arm health care.

I turned to C-SPAN and guess what, couldn't find the broadcast anywhere. I get that he has given up on Republicans to cooperate, but he could still invite C-SPAN to the meeting as he promised.

Predictably, this thing has turned into a giant "Let's Make A Deal" where hold out senators and congress representatives will demand their little pork to get their vote for a bill that does not provide universal health care coverage.

I am angry (again) at both parties for not seeking a real solution, but rather a stridently partisan one.

And if you believe that the bill proposed by Congress right now will somehow save us money, make sure you put cookies out for the big man in a red suit on Christmas Eve.

There are so many lies flying around (on both sides) about this process that it would be great if someone in the media would actually break it all down. Instead of reporting on the ball game, do a little of your own inside calculations and reporting and get to the truth.

Riiiight, now it's me that will have to leave cookies out for Santa.