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Archive for May, 2007

A quick-hit but high-impact profile

Wednesday, May 23rd, 2007

I know I chose the right profession on days like yesterday. Days when I encounter someone I’d love to just take for coffee and talk about everything they’ve seen or experienced, days when I feel privileged to be in the company of some very interesting people.

No it wasn’t a dignitary or a politician. It wasn’t a basketball star or anyone famous. It was a bus driver. A guy whose length of service is more than twice my life, and whose matter-of-fact humor and story-telling ability made me wish (even more than usual) I had more than 10 inches to write the story. But ah las, that’s what I got. Reading the story today, I am almost glad. It forced me to choose only my best anecdotes and to get the impact he had on the community out there quickly. I think I succeeded.

I posted the story on the clips page because I really like it. Sadly, though it’s dominant on local in print, it didn’t make the front of the J&C site today, so the likelihood of people seeing it online drops about 99 percent. So, I’m going to post part of it here…

Bus wheels go ’round for 45 years

By MERANDA WATLING
mwatling@journalandcourier.com

ATTICA — When Attica Elementary School second-grader Austin Ross heard bus driver Russell Serie was retiring, his response was immediate: “Russell, are you really leaving?”

Followed quickly by a sigh and, “Who’s going to drive us?”

When the school district began busing students in the 1960s, Serie was one of the first people to sign up for a route.

Back then it was for the extra $7.50 a day. But for the past 30 years or so, it’s just been because Serie, who owns a farm and a lumber business, likes working with the kids.

Serie, 68, will retire Thursday after 45 years of service, during which time he missed only eight days.

“I’m not sad,” Serie said. “But I will miss it. I’ll miss it big time.”

But Serie said he wanted to be sure to leave the job he loved on his own terms. He said lately his legs have been bothering him a bit more, and he’s ready to hang up his days of shuttling children to the city’s east side and handing out Tootsie Rolls as they get off the bus.

He said he’s going to miss getting to know the kids and their families. He’s driving students now whose parents and grandparents used to ride his bus.

He’ll also miss driving the football and basketball teams. The highlight of his career was the night he drove the basketball team home from winning the state championship in 2001 and delivered them to a packed gymnasium.

“Josh Smith, our champion player, wanted to present me with the game ball,” Serie said. “You could have knocked me over. I probably had tears in my eyes.”

(The whole story is at the J&C)

This also was one of those cases where I wished I could empty my notebook with all the details I had. The grandparents sending off their kids. Serie’s neighbors who have sent four kids on his bus and the fifth who next year won’t get the privilege. The student whose life he impacted by helping her through a drug problem when he was her only trusted adult. The 5-pound Tootsie Roll bag he keeps stashed under the dash, which he easily goes through each week. The sad realization that the name painted on the side of his bus for the last several decades will, after this week, be another’s name for the first time ever. And so much more. Choosing the details (or in some cases amount of detail) and anecdotes to include was difficult, but the story pretty much wrote itself. It’s impossible to sum up a career in 10 inches, but I think you get the idea of the impact this driver made.

Rory Gilmore, online journalist

Tuesday, May 22nd, 2007

Last week was a long, stressful week for me. That explains my lack of posting. However, there was one item I wanted to be sure to mention. And it has to do with my beloved Gilmore Girls, the last episode of which aired last Tuesday. (What am I supposed to watch tonight? American Idol. Pshaw.)

Sorry if you missed the series finale, but I’m going to spoil it for you: Rory graduates, doesn’t have a job yet, breaks up with Logan rather than follow him to Silicon Valley, etc. Lorelai, her mom, plans this huge graduation party and a summer of touring amusement parks only to find out at Friday dinner that Rory landed a job — and that job entailed her being on a plane for Iowa in three days.

Why does this matter to anyone other than the one person I know who reads my blog and watches Gilmore Girls? BECAUSE Rory doesn’t get just any job. I rolled my eyes as she complained that she wasn’t getting a New York Times internship (you and like everyone else, honey) and as she mailed off 74 job applications at once to, well, pretty much everywhere. But I was impressed by the writer’s decision to give Rory a semi-realistic job, which she landed pretty much through networking, though the Yale degree wouldn’t hurt. What she landed was a gig covering Obama for an online magazine (doesn’t say which one, though if they got credentialed for the Obama campaign, I’m guessing it wasn’t just your average start-up).

The moral of the lesson? Sometimes the most amazing opportunities are where you would never look. So when the NYT doesn’t come calling, set your sights on something more realistic. Also, it doesn’t hurt to network.

Age goes both ways

Friday, May 18th, 2007

This is a follow-up to my “young but respectable” post earlier this week, when I lamented the fact that everyone feels the need to tell me I look, sound or am young.

I am putting together a package looking at the trend toward multiple valedictorians these days (seriously, half of the schools in my county have a dozen or more this year). As part of the package/graduation preview, I’m doing a profile on one valedictorian at each of the six area high schools.

I started the interviews with the students yesterday afternoon. The last interview was approaching the end of the school day and there wasn’t anywhere around the office to do the interview, so I offered to the secretary that we could go sit in the hall and do it. I joked that I’m still young enough to do that, and the kid laughed.

Later, the kid told me he goes by “DK, like Donkey Kong.” And I commented that, “I used to love playing Donkey Kong, but only the original on the super nintendo.” And he commented, “Oh, you are young.”

And then, I wanted to ring his neck. Of course I’m young. I’m only three years older than you are.

So, I guess it goes both ways and depends on what perspective you’re looking at it from. Sometimes being young is a good thing. And though not every adult I come across will look at me as a professional adult, I forgot how much kids just lump all adults into the category of “old.”

QOTD: … the chance to work hard at work worth doing

Monday, May 14th, 2007

“Far and away the best prize that life offers is the chance to work hard at work worth doing.”
— Theodore Roosevelt

time lapse video of creating and destroying a masterpiece

Monday, May 14th, 2007

This is an awesome video by the IndyStar.

Basically, they time lapse monks creating a sand mandala, which is beautiful and full of intricacies, over three days. At the end, they destroy it. The music it’s set to also works well. It helps give it an upbeat, constantly moving feeling, while still sounding traditional (not sure if it is?) enough to work with the subject.

This video makes the point about impermanence so much more real because I can see in a few minutes just how much work went into creating the masterpiece and also how quickly it could be wiped away.

Crazy things from craigslist

Sunday, May 13th, 2007

I’ve written before about the random things you come across on craigslist. Tonight, I happened to notice this posting:

High School/College Students – Sell Blogs – Make Money

Forget about MYSPACE – everyone is putting up their own Blog. Cash-in on the Blog explosion. If you are a high school or college student or anyone who thinks that they can sell a Blog, then respond to this ad. You will be paid $25 for each Blog that you sell – that’s it! You don’t have to set it up or support it – that’s our job. There is NO FEE for you to get started!

What?! Anyone else confused by this. Who are you selling blogs to? Whose blogs are they? How does one sell a blog anyway? And how about the suckers who buy them?

It sounds like one of those conversations you have with someone who tries to act like they know a lot more about something than they do. Like they’ll talk about designing a Web site and have no idea how it actually works, and it’s painfully obvious to you. And you just giggle inside at how dumb they sound. That’s what this post reminds me of — “anyone who thinks that they can sell a Blog” — as if it’s a house or a magazine subscription.

Someone bring me a copy of the Burr

Sunday, May 13th, 2007

OK, to the next person to come to Indiana from Kent I need to ask a favor: bring me a copy of the Burr. (I have a suspicion this will be Abbey since she’s slated to start work as an intern at the J&C on the 21st. I’m not sure when Ryan is starting in Indy, but I think I remember he said the 21st as well.)

I don’t know why, but for some reason although I’m interested in reading the stories, I can’t push myself to do it online. (I did read Abbey’s speed-dating story, and it was pretty interesting and well written.)

The Web-exclusive stories, several of which I was pretty interested in, don’t seem to be posted yet. There’s just a place holder for all of them that “This story is coming soon.” It was kind of annoying, but hey I’ve been there. When you’re the only person putting together the online magazine, and you get ALL the content dumped on you the last few weeks of school when you’re as busy as the next person, all you can really do is hunker down and pull a few all-nighters to get it up in time for the magazine’s release. I remember the semester I did Fusion I had to get the site up the same weekend I was down in Memphis. But I injured my right arm working. It hurt just to lie there, but still I sat there with my laptop every night that weekend coding the pages, resizing the photos, etc. all with one hand. Man, that sucked.

I don’t know if it’s the colors on the CyBurr (I really hate browns and oranges.) or what. Though looking at the cover, the colors seemed to have carried over. Or if it’s just the overwhelming nature of long feature stories in small type that just seems to scroll on forever. (I’m a fan of breaking up longer stories into a few pages. But that’s me.) I’m guessing based on my personal preferences, it’s actually quite a bit of both.

I could read the “e-book” but I have a strong dislike for long PDF documents, too. And I never really understood the point of the e-book. Thankfully it was an idea that came after my tenure as CyBurr webmaster. However, I guess for now it helped me see how everything was laid out and flip through the pages in about two minutes to survey what’s inside. (P.S. guys, I love the new departments and all the color. Has it just been awhile or is there really a lot more color this semester?)

Either way, though if you’d have asked me when I was a student I don’t think I’d have even considered it, but I may pay the $12 to get the magazine mailed to me each semester and support the student media cause while I’m at it.