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Archive for December 22nd, 2006


Friday, December 22nd, 2006

I am going to see The Pursuit of Happyness tonight. (Watch the trailer.)

It’s been awhile since I had time to go to the movies. I used to go every weekend, sometimes multiple times each week. This semester that dropped off. My TV-viewing habits also fell to empty, which perpetuated my lack of interest in movies. I didn’t see the trailers and thus didn’t know what I was missing.

This movie, which is about a single father who decides to make something more of himself by taking on an unpaid internship as at a brokerage firm, looks good and heartwarming. And I’m excited to have a few hours to spend doing nothing better than being entertained.

My only question is, who decided to spell it “Happyness”? That was honestly what made me click on the link to see what the movie was about. Apparently, the meaning behind the spelling is explained in the film. We’ll see if it’s justified. Either way.

Smart phones and reporters, a natural pair

Friday, December 22nd, 2006

I had a conversation the other day with someone planning to buy a new phone. My one suggestion to her was: “Don’t buy the Razr.”

I hate my Razr, as I have previously discussed. I bought it when it was still novel enough to amuse me and make me feel special. I love its size. I love what it’s capable of and all that. I hate the interface, the bad reception and the quirks (the most annoying being randomly resetting itself during conversations — a problem noted by several people I know with the same phone). The video is small, but decent for what it is, and the photo quality and camera abilities leave a lot to be desired. Aside from its small size, it has withstood the test of “Meranda is clumsy,” in that I drop it several times a week and it hasn’t broken yet. (I remember the first night I had it, I was at the store, and I dropped it so it chipped a little. My mom looked at me and asked, “Are you going to cry?” I didn’t. But if it had broken, I probably would have.) Altogether, it’s been an annoying phone. But it got the job done.

Now, I’m in the market to upgrade to a smart phone. Doing so would allow me easier and timelier access to my e-mail and the Web. I could more quickly send off breaking news notes or look up facts on the run. I also want a decent quality camera with video capabilities. Basically, I want it to allow me to condense my tech tools for work not replace them. (I have a digital camera, laptop and an iPod that I love. Why replace them?) I just need to find that perfect phone.

So, reading this story (“Forget the backpack, ‘pocket journalism’ is coming“) excites me. I want one of those phones. Also, as seen on Poynter, “Smart Phones and Reporters: Perfect Together?

Institutional knowledge

Friday, December 22nd, 2006

I spent the last few weeks of my editorship explaining as much as I could about how the Stater, the computers, the university worked to anybody who would listen. Although I worked to train my staff so they could replace me when I graduated, it was the last few weeks when I realized how much institutional knowledge I would take with me.

I passed on knowledge about everything from where to find stories the computer eats (there are backups on the originating computers), to the cell phone numbers of the top student leaders on campus (I posted sticky notes in the editor’s office for this reason), to how to search the Web archives before our relatively recent move to College Publisher (it’s at stater.kent.edu, but be prepared to wade through a lot of crap), to how to buy a pop from the can machine that won’t take dollars (put the dollar in the bottle machine and hit the change return button to get quarters)… Basically, I spent the last three years amassing all this institutional knowledge that was great when I was there. Anybody could simply say, “Hey Meranda, how do I…?” And I’d help him sort out the problem or sit down and work it through with him. Not so when I’m no longer there.

Tonight, I got a call from one of the soon-to-be top editors asking, “So, what do you do when there’s breaking news over break?” Doh. You find a reporter and post it to the Web asap and follow. Same thing you do when there’s breaking news and a paper the next day. Only this time, the follow also is on the Web. So I ask, “Well, what reporters do you have in Kent?” But, she doesn’t know. (Institutional knowledge learned from my own stint as a principal reporter when we had “on-call nights” — you need to know at all times who you have available and who you can call in. Otherwise, you waste time getting a lot of “I’m at work” or “I’m out of town” responses.)

I’m expecting she’ll find at least one reporter around. (I asked if she could just do it, but she, too, is at home in another state.) Then, I’m expecting to receive a call asking how to post it to the Web. There were only half a dozen of us who knew how to post to the Web. Only two will still work for the Stater next spring. Though I gave this “Web training” to all of my top eds last fall, the only two of us who ever used it were the AME/Web and myself. The incoming eds won’t learn until a week before the new semester starts.

These calls will be frequent the first month of semester, and then taper off as they do as I did and learn as they go. But still, it makes me feel useful, even as I am slowly removed from the listservs and bumped from the masthead.

The ticket wasn’t the annoying part

Friday, December 22nd, 2006

I consider myself relatively patient when I deal with bureaucracy. Last spring, when I couldn’t file my taxes because Social Security had my birth year wrong, I was understanding. Mistakes happen, I told myself. So I took a few hours out of my busy day to patiently wait in the Social Security office downtown to get it fixed. I didn’t even complain.

So, when I got a speeding ticket in Michigan this week I didn’t even bother whining or trying to get out of it. It happens to the best of us, I reasoned. But I’ve never gotten a speeding ticket before, and perhaps that was why I was so absolutely confused by the transaction that took place.

Apparently, in Michigan if you’re from out of state and you get a speeding ticket you have to do one of two things on the spot, a) you have to pay $100 toward your court costs right then or b) you have to surrender your license.

I didn’t understand what the officer was talking about. I really didn’t. I made her explain three times what she meant. She wanted to take my license? Why? What, like I wouldn’t need it anytime in the next month?! Or she wanted $100? Cash? Right now? Most people don’t carry that much cash with them.

Luckily for me, my grandparents had given me $100 for graduation the day before, which I had in my wallet waiting to be deposited in the bank upon my return home. Needless to say, I wasn’t about to give up my license and hope I didn’t need to produce it anytime in the next month or so. So, I handed her the $100 bill I couldn’t really afford to give up.

I asked her how much the fine would be. I was trying to gauge how much more it could possibly suck. She snapped back, “I deal with five different courts and they all have different fines. Call the number on the ticket.” She was needlessly vicious about it. I consider the cost of the ticket a perfectly legitimate question, and even if you do deal with five different courts the base price of a ticket should probably be something you know.

Today, I called the Eaton County number on the ticket to hear the damage. According to the recording, it is $95 for going 5 mph over in a 70 mph zone. OK. I can handle that. Except one thing: I already put down $100. So what becomes of that $5? I wanted to make sure I heard it right and wasn’t missing some type of other fine that would still be due if I mailed in the ticket without any other payment. So, I listened through the whole recording until the message said, “If you want to talk to a traffic clerk, press 1.”

I pressed 1, and I waited. And waited. And waited. Five rings. Ten rings. Two dozen rings. Four minutes. No one picked up. There was no message saying, “Hey we’re out to lunch,” or “Please call back during our normal business hours, between never and forever.”  There wasn’t even a voicemail where I could ask someone to get back to me. Nothing. Just an endless ring, ring, ring that apparently was going unheard.

Ugh. So I guess I’ll just send off the ticket and hope I wasn’t wrong. Let that $5 be absorbed the state of Michigan and put toward something like courtesy training for the officers who pull people over and phone training for the traffic clerks who are apparently too busy to pick up the phone.