Saturday, April 18, 2015

The Week in Review

This was the week of killer meetings. There's a group we report on that has a predictable and annoying trait. They will receive a presentation during which it is clearly stated, often more than once, that doing X will lead to result Y. After the presentation, the first question is always "What happens if we do X?" Always. Every single freaking time. And usually, the next question is "If we do X, what will be the result?" Yes, the exact same freaking question, stated slightly differently. It happens so often with that particular group that I have a "game" of predicting which member will say it first and how they will phrase it. Fortunately, I don't have to report on that group every time they have a meeting. This week I did. This week it happened. I texted my husband: "killmenow."

Going back to the start of the week, I was off-kilter all day on Monday while still recovering from my cold. I made the mistake of thinking I didn't have much to do Monday morning, only to rapidly realize once I reached my desk in the morning that I had more stories to finish than I had counted on, including two sports stories, extra briefs the editor had assigned to me after I left on Friday, and the medical supplier story from Friday. Add in some unfortunately interesting police reports, and it got tense. I didn't finish until right before deadline itself, 10:30 am. Ouch.

Usually on Mondays I'm getting ready to go to the city council meeting in the evening, but a co-worker traded with me so I went to another town's city council meeting on Tuesday instead. The other town's meetings are usually much shorter, so it was presumed I got the better of the deal. Sadly, that didn't turn out to be the case.

The big problem I faced this week was that I didn't have a subject for Thursday's photo page, and so I asked a co-worker for advice. She suggested I get photos of the workers cutting asparagus in local fields. I liked the idea... it tied in with today's asparagus festival. So I penciled in an early morning trip to a local asparagus field that's actually within walking distance of my house. I drove since I had to go to work after.

Early Tuesday, just after 7 a.m., I headed out to the field. I'm just going to say right now that the workers I saw are much stronger folks than I am. They are also really impressive in how easy they make it look. A long knife that looks like a very thin spatula is used to cut the asparagus shoot about an inch or so below ground level. The cutters pick sprouts that are a certain height, never touching the ones that are too short. The field, from the road, looks really barren... only close up do you realize what's growing there. Talking with one of the workers, she said they cut from about 7 a.m. to 1 p.m. each day.

I asked for permission to take photos before going into the field, then I tried, really hard, to get photos of one older woman who cackled gently at how I had to scramble to keep up with her. She was really good at the job, cutting so rapidly I was afraid the camera wouldn't be able to get a non-blurry shot of her. In my research, I read that asparagus cutting skills are extremely valuable to farmers and take a long time to perfect. Just out in the cold dusty field taking pictures I found myself impressed by the people I met.

I got three or four good shots, but I really needed at least a couple more to make the photo page work, so I decided to drive up later in the afternoon to the processing facility and see if I could get permission to get a couple of photos there. So, after deadline, which wasn't nearly as unpleasant as Monday's, I drove around the "factory" area of town until I spotted the distinctive orange crates I'd seen workers putting asparagus into earlier that morning.

I found the facility's office and went in and asked permission. To my slight surprise, I was granted a quick tour (complete with hair net!). I saw the freshly cut asparagus come into the building and get cut to a uniform height. Then workers deftly sorted them by diameter, checking for damage as they went. After sorting, the asparagus go to a packing table where they are bundled with a rubber band, weighed, and then packed into crates. The crates are loaded up and shipped that same day to markets all over the state (and further).

Overall, it was a truly humbling experience. The amount of work that goes into getting asparagus from the fields to the stores is labor-intensive and impressive.

Tuesday night I headed to the city council meeting in another town. There were three items on the agenda, none of which looked to be serious, so I was expecting a short meeting. In this town, the council meets in a workshop for an hour before the regular meeting starts, so I headed down to make sure I attended the workshop. I also decided to have dinner in town, since I don't usually make it down there. I realized after ordering my bacon cheeseburger that I wanted onion rings instead of fries and a chocolate shake instead of a 7Up, but I didn't change my order because I'm a wimp and they were really busy. Hopefully I'll remember for next time.

I got to city hall with only minutes to spare before the meeting. The council was already all present, and a couple of other people I knew and didn't know were in attendance. One of them, a security specialist, was there to give a presentation on lateral vascular neck restraint, a method of subduing people that looks like a chokehold but isn't, because it's cutting off blood to the brain and not air to the lungs. He said the presentation would take about a half hour, but he had technical difficulties and it actually went a full hour... right up to the start of the regular meeting. Regardless of what you think about police techniques, the presentation was fairly interesting. But with the regular meeting starting and most of the items on the workshop agenda still to go, I realized I was in for a long meeting.

Sure enough, the remainder of the meeting took two and a half hours. My co-worker on Monday had two meetings that totaled about the same amount of time. *sigh*

Wednesday was the parks and recreation meeting in which the lack of organized sports events put on by the city was discussed. It was depressing because a good man is considering quitting the group because progress is so slow.

Thursday I had the groundwater meeting. A group of people who basically despise each other, some for very good reasons, trying to solve a massive problem with the drinking water in the valley. Always a difficult meeting to sit through. This one wasn't nearly as bad as usual. Which is not to say it was fun... it's the one meeting that every reporter groans when they get it... it just wasn't as bad at my city council meeting this week.

Friday we had a bombshell dropped on us at work, figuratively. It's not certain if or how it's going to happen, so I can't explain... but if it does happen my job has the potential to change quite a bit. It's harrowing to go through. When you like what you do, change is feared. But life is change, so I can't really complain.

I'm working all weekend. I started Friday afternoon with baseball and softball pictures, then this morning I went out to a couple of houses that are being cleaned up and painted thanks to a local initiative. The volunteers make for good photos, especially the very little children carefully painting. Tomorrow I go to a "Meet your farmer" event that includes a pig roast, although I may not make it to the roast thanks to having to head to a concert and get a photo before the first event is over.

In other news, I finished posting my cosplay photos from Emerald City Comicon. If you'd like to look, here's a list of all the posts: